A Staunch Ally: Professor DuBois Honored for His Advocacy

NYU Tandon Professor R. Luke Dubois and Student Cadence Daniels

Professor R. Luke Dubois was nominated by his student Cadence Daniels for the 2018 NYU Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Faculty Award.

There has been increased public discourse in recent years about how important it is that underrepresented or marginalized groups gain allies — people in positions of privilege or power who can advocate for them or represent their interests to an audience that might not otherwise be paying attention. Although R. Luke DuBois — who co-directs the Integrated Digital Media (IDM) program in Tandon’s Department of Technology, Culture and Society and is an integral part of NYU’s multidisciplinary Ability Project — has made it his mission to diversify the department, his program, and the projects his students create, he brushes off praise of his efforts. He is, he asserts, simply doing his job.

IDM student Cadence Daniels, who counts DuBois as an important mentor, was among those who nominated him for the laurel. “He’s played a crucial role in my intellectual development as it relates to innovation, moral literacy, and interaction,” she says, pointing to his role in the Ability Project, which seeks to make technology more accessible to all, and his participation in grassroots activist projects like the recent NYU hackathon Hack the Ban, which sought to aid undocumented immigrants. “He inspires us to create things that can be used by as many people as possible, and I sincerely believe he embodies the qualities of an individual who is committed to the values upheld by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s life and legacy.”Most people who know him do not share that characterization, however, and in recent weeks, DuBois has won not one, but two awards for work that benefits and uplifts others. In early February, during NYU’s MLK Week, he was presented with a Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Faculty Award, which recognizes outstanding faculty who exemplify the spirit of the civil rights leader through teaching excellence, leadership, social justice activism, and community building.

[Luke] really exemplifies what an instructor should be, and we’re proud that Tandon is diversifying our student body, courses, and projects with his help.”
— Elizabeth Ensweiler

Daniels, who intends to continue working at the intersection of technology, ethics, and accessibility, says DuBois has given her more than just inspiration. He has “walked the walk” by providing countless hours of concrete help, advice, and networking opportunities. “When he learned that I was interested in ways to get engineers to consider the long-term effects of the technology they were working on, recognize their biases, and understand how to innovate in ways that will benefit diverse groups of potential users, he knew just who to introduce me to, both in and outside of NYU,” she recalls. “He said, ‘My contacts are your contacts,’ and that’s been invaluable.”

Later in the month, DuBois was again honored, this time at the NYU Tandon “Celebration for Woman,” which recognized him as Male Ally of the Year. “Female students at an engineering school are generally in the minority, and they are sometimes made to feel as though they do not have a place at the table,” Elizabeth Ensweiler, the Senior Director of Graduate Enrollment and Graduate Admissions and an active member of Tandon’s Women in Engineering, Science, Technology and Math (WESTM) initiative, says. “We are working hard to ensure that this isn’t the case at NYU Tandon, and male professors like Luke are instrumental in so many ways. He really exemplifies what an instructor should be, and we’re proud that Tandon is diversifying our student body, courses, and projects with his help.”

MLK Award Recognizes NYU Tandon Faculty

DuBois’s 2018 win marked the second consecutive time that a member of the Department of Technology, Culture and Society was honored with an MLK Faculty Award. In 2017 Senior Lecturer Allan Goldstein garnered the prize, which is one of the most important and prestigious bestowed by the university. Discussing its significance at the awards ceremony, NYU Provost Katherine Fleming explained that honorees like Goldstein, and now DuBois, “push the envelope and encourage us to think in new ways and . . . to venture outside the walls of the university and align our scholarship and teaching with our actions.”