Press Release

Four From Johns Hopkins APL Receive Johns Hopkins Diversity Awards

Four staff members from the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Maryland, were honored May 8 as recipients of Johns Hopkins Diversity Leadership Council Diversity Recognition Awards.

Since 2003, the annual awards have recognized team and individual efforts to increase diversity and inclusion across the Johns Hopkins community. This year David Díaz Márquez, Tania Díaz Márquez, Mayra Amezcua and Teresa Johnson were among the awardees.

Johnson received her award for bringing awareness to the valuable contributions neurodiverse and physically disabled people make to create innovative and diverse solutions for APL and its sponsors.

David Díaz Márquez, Tania Díaz Márquez and Amezcua shared the award as the executive committee for HOLA, the Laboratory’s Hispanic and Latinx Culture Club. David Díaz Márquez serves as the Lab’s HOLA co-lead, Tania Díaz Márquez is the interim co-lead, and Amezcua serves as treasurer. The team breathed new life into the affinity group after COVID hurt the club’s activity and attendance due to their inability to host in-person events.

“I remember when I stepped into the co-lead role last year, we were planning a social and biting our fingernails, crossing our fingers, hoping the Howard County transmission level wouldn’t go back to high; otherwise we would need to cancel our event,” David Díaz Márquez said. “It was nerve-wracking, and it made the job of coordinating these events even harder.”

He said the team learned from the challenges and incorporated virtual meetings to stay relevant and rebuild participation.

“There is a lot of work that goes into the affinity group space. A lot of it is unseen,” he continued. “For me, [the award is] a welcome validation of our efforts.

“I deeply mean it when I say I wish there was some way to recognize all of those incredible leaders and advocates who are advancing diversity, equity and inclusion at the Lab,” he added.

The HOLA team was also recognized for creating inclusive events for support staff members at APL. While preparing for Hispanic Heritage Month, HOLA leadership became aware that staff members in two particular departments operated on different schedules, impacting their ability to participate in events. Díaz Márquez and his team organized an event targeting both of these departments, breaking it into four sessions throughout the day so those staff members could rotate through and not have to rearrange their schedules to attend. The team coordinated presentations about the Lab’s facilities, part-time study program and internship opportunities, and provided information in both English and Spanish.

The HOLA team’s attention to inclusivity and diversity went a long way toward enhancing the group’s connection with APL as a whole. Overall engagement from staff members has increased, and participation at some events has more than doubled from the previous year. The club is for anyone who identifies with Hispanic or Latin American culture, regardless of language or position at APL.

Johnson, who serves as secretary for APL’s Advocates for Diverse Abilities (ADA) affinity group, was instrumental to a team effort to organize several of last year’s National Disability Employment Awareness Month events at the Laboratory. She helped arrange the keynote speaker, Royce Best from the Rochester Institute of Technology-National Technical Institute for the Deaf, who presented a session entitled, “Accessible Teaching: Can Ideas From the Classroom Benefit the Workplace?”

Other events included two brainstorming sessions to identify staff member priorities for the ADA to pursue in 2023. The brainstorming sessions resulted in the Labwide Accessibility Mapping Project with improvements like a list of fragrance-free restrooms, where to get earplugs for shared spaces and other accommodations.

“I was really honored by this award and I felt in very esteemed company,” said Johnson. “But the truth is, I would do these things regardless because I love it. The most important thing is you don’t know what you don’t know. You need different perspectives and experiences with people from various backgrounds.”

Johnson is also currently an active participant in two other APL diversity and inclusion affinity groups, APL Women in Technology and Allies in the Workplace.

All four recipients accepted their awards at a ceremony on Johns Hopkins University’s Homewood campus.