MIAD Values Recognition Award: Rithi Punyamurthula
The Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design (MIAD) has announced the February recipient of the MIAD Values Recognition Award. Rithi Punyamurthula, Coordinator of Equity + Inclusion, received nominations for many of MIAD’s Core Values, particularly Kindness, Inclusion and Community.
Nominators commended Punyamurthula’s passionate commitment to engaging staff, faculty and students in the work of the Equity + Inclusion Center. “In the past year, I have approached Rithi countless times with ideas for collaboration,” says one nominator. “Every time, she has attentively listened to my idea and why it would be a great impact on the students, and is ready to help make the idea a reality.”
The MIAD Values Recognition Award (VRA) celebrates faculty and staff who consistently model MIAD’s values of courage, integrity, kindness, community, innovation and inclusion. After employees nominate a colleague for the award, a committee made up of faculty, staff and previous VRA winners convenes to vote on the month’s recipient. Awardees receive a $250 prize.
Connecting with students is central to Punyamurthula’s work at MIAD. “Really it’s just listening and trying to find out ways to connect with them,” she says. “That allows me to talk about parts of my life as a Brown woman, to be able to connect to students … opening the vulnerability for it to go both ways.” From the student potluck to helping bring the Community Closet to life, examples of Punyamurthula’s dedication to the MIAD community abound. “I have worked interdepartmentally with her and have seen an admirable dedication to the continuous improvement of culture and inclusion at MIAD,” said another nominator.
Punyamurthula worked as a kindergarten teacher before coming to MIAD. She says the experience made her realize that everyone has the innate ability to be creative. “A huge part of what drew me to teaching kindergarten and working with students in general, especially art students, is this boundless form of curiosity,” she says. Now at MIAD, Punyamurthula has enjoyed exploring her own creativity. In fact, she currently has work available on consignment at MIAD Gallery at The Ave. “I feel like I’m able to live out this … dream of creating and making and talking to other people who are creating and making in a really special way,” she continues.
“I’m so glad to be recognized,” says Punyamurthula. “The only reason that I am the person I am today is because of the people around me. I’m really lucky to have gone through what I went through and to be supported by the people that love me.”
Learn more about MIAD’s Values Recognition Award or nominate a colleague at miad.edu/vra.
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