Student Awards 2023

The Drs. Barbara and Carlton Molette Scholarship

Drs. Barbara and Carlton Molette decided to pursue careers in theater while both were students at Spelman and Morehouse Colleges, respectively. They began playwriting collaborations in the 1970s and have received numerous awards, including lifetime achievement awards. Carlton, professor emeritus of dramatic arts and Africana studies, retired from UConn in 2008. He and his late wife, Barbara, who was professor emerita at Eastern Connecticut State University, wrote more than 20 plays together, and many were produced by university theater departments, including UConn’s.

Ruth Decosse ’20 (CLAS), who received the Molette Scholarship, said it came at a critical time.

“The scholarship helped to pay for the fees that were on my student account, which was a relief considering the impact the pandemic had on me,” she said. “I had lost my job and was dealing with the news of so many things being canceled and people passing away. This helped me pass my senior year and graduate. I am forever grateful for the Molette scholarship.”

Learn more about Dr. Barbara Molette and Dr. Carlton Molette

Africana Studies Institute Annual Student Awards

The Drs. Barbara and Carlton Molette Scholarship Award is awarded to a graduating senior who majored in Africana Studies and has demonstrated academic achievement.

The Academic Excellence in the Minor Award is awarded to a graduating senior with a minor in Africana Studies who has demonstrated academic excellence.

The Community Engagement Award is awarded to a student who has either majored or minored in Africana Studies and has had a significant impact on their community through public outreach, civic engagement, or social advocacy.

Africana Studies Institute Past Award Recipients

2023 Award Recipients

Taylin Santiago, Class of 2023

Drs. Barbara and Carlton Molette Scholarship Award

Majors: Africana Studies

Minor: Urban and Community Studies

Taylin plans on obtaining a  master’s degree for teaching to  become a history teacher focusing on Black/Ethnic Studies

Taylin also presented her research on Youth Led Movements Dismantling Systemic Racism in Education in Washington D.C this past February, which was a beautiful experience. She has worked on this research with a Professor and a colleague for over two years now!




Derby Egyin, Class of 2023

Academic Excellence in the Minor Award

Major: Sociology and Human Rights

Minor: Africana  Studies and Women. Gender, and Sexuality Studies

Derby (she/her) is a senior studying Sociology and Human Rights with minors in Africana Studies and Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. Some of her particular areas of interest include educational equity, access to clean water, gun control, women’s rights, reproductive issues, immigration, and more. As a student at UConn, Derby serves as a Pack Ambassador,  the President of the Student Union Board of Governors, and the President of the UConn chapter of Leading Women of Tomorrow, a bipartisan student-led organization centered on bridging the gender gap among public representatives. After graduating from UConn, she plans to obtain a Juris Doctor degree specializing in Human Rights and Public Policy to better advocate for marginalized populations within the US. In her spare time, she enjoys cooking, trying new foods, reading, and watching Marvel movies.



Foluke Akinkunmi

Community Engagement Award

Major: Political Science

Minor: Africana Studies

Foluke Akinkunmi is a sophomore at University of Connecticut, majoring in Political Science with double minors in Africana Studies and Human Rights. Her passion for social justice and advocacy for Black communities has led her to become one of the founders of the Black Female Learning Community, which is set to launch this fall. As a leader and advocate, she is dedicated to empowering Black people around the diaspora and fighting for their rights. Her future plans include attending law school after completing her undergraduate studies, where she hopes to continue her work as a legal advocate for marginalized communities.




Semaj Skillings

Community Engagement Award

Major: English

Minor: Africana Studies

Semaj Skillings is a Junior with a major in English, a minor in Africana Studies, and a passion for education and community building. His other passions include but are not limited to music, photography, art, books, and film. Semaj’s research is an auto-ethnography that focuses on the intersections of his original artwork and scholarship. Specifically, Semaj provides us with an introduction to his theoretical and structural approaches for developing anti-oppressive learning communities at the intersections of youth culture, popular media, and radical imagination.  After graduation, Semaj wants to be an English professor who reimagines the way English is traditionally taught through the use of Hip Hop culture and music, poetry, plays, and other culture-forward art media forms. He plans to join the community of Hip-Hop educators that are changing school curriculums across all subjects around the world. Africana Studies have contributed to my community service career path because part of my teaching pedagogy involves introducing Africana Studies in the classroom at a younger age. Students in middle school and high school should be introduced to the field, and they should be reading the works of authors in Africana Studies. These books should be honored and seen as academic and scholarly, not niche. Some of his extracurriculars this school year involve participating in the Concert Committee in Student Government, being a member of UConn Bros, and contributing to the Life section of the School Newspaper.