Anthropological viewpoint earns Chancellor’s Award

Apr 30th, 2009 | By | Category: April 30, 2009, Campus News, Issue, November 13, 2008, September 18, 2008

Diversity appreciation and inclusiveness are family values for Bill Waters.

A program coordinator for the Office of Academic Support and Intercultural Services, Waters grew up learning about different cultures and belief systems. His family moved a lot – his father working jobs in the meat-packing industry – and with each relocation, Waters absorbed the diversity of a new “hometown.”

“As we moved around, I was exposed to different communities, states, people,” said Waters. “That led me to develop this curiosity, a need to learn about people.”

He expanded that curiosity while earning bachelor’s and master’s degrees in anthropology at UNL and through fieldwork with Native Americans and rural Haitian farmers. His need to learn about people continues today, and led Waters to earn the 2009 Chancellor’s Award for Outstanding Contributions to the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Community.

The award – celebrating its 10h year in 2009 – recognizes outstanding efforts to create an inclusive, respectful and safe climate for the GLBT community at UNL. Waters received the award during an April 17 ceremony.

Bill Waters
AWARD WINNER – Bill Waters, a program coordinator for the Office of Academic Support and Intercultural Services, received the 2009 Chancellor’s Award for Outstanding Contributions to the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender community.

“The award came as a surprise,” said Waters. “I really enjoy my work in cultural programming for the university. I work with a variety of groups and I always strive to put on the best program possible, something that better informs and educates all who attend.

“For me, working with the LGBTQA community is no different than working with any other group.”

That thinking – and his overall dedication to students – is precisely why Pat Tetreault, assistant director of Student Involvement, nominated Waters for the award.

“Bill treats everyone equally,” said Tetreault. “He is sincerely willing to work with people, however they identify. He is a very caring and dedicated person.”

Waters discovered his love for people as a high school exchange student in Belgium. He lived with a family for six months and began working with the Oxford Family Relief program.

“OXFAM was developed during the Second World War,” said Waters. “I worked in a third-world shop, sort of like 10,000 Villages or Helping Hands. What we did was educate people about countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America.”

After completing high school, Waters helped build homes in Turkey with a group of volunteers organized by the United Nations.

“Those two opportunities led me to discover my love for people and culture,” said Waters. “When I returned in 1973, I enrolled in the anthropology program here at UNL. The rest is, as they say, history – with a lot of twists and turns.”

While at UNL, Waters worked with a variety of Native American tribes, and he was even adopted as a grandson by an Otoe-Missouri elder.

He moved to Syracuse Univers-ity to earn a doctorate, however a plan to work with tribes in Nicaragua was derailed by war between indigenous peoples and the Sandinista government. Waters ended up tagging along with a friend headed to Haiti. There he developed a new research topic.

“Initially, I started looking into the Western impact on traditional farming practices,” said Waters. “But, I found that there were no positive impacts and most western developments are capital heavy and money is hard to come by in developing nations.”

His interest landed on the traditional farming practices of Haitian cultivators. He started working with the Haitians in 1986, helping develop small-scale, low-cost farming improvements. One such project uses five-gallon buckets and inexpensive hoses to create drip-line irrigation systems.

“I continue to go down there to help develop culturally sensitive technology,” Waters said. “I plan on going back at the end of May.”

Working with Native Americans and the Haitians has helped Waters develop what he describes as the best tool of any anthropologist.

“I’ve learned how to listen,” said Waters. “Whether I’m working in Haiti or here on campus, I take time to listen to what people have to say. That’s the best way to learn about and meet the needs of any particular community.”

Tetreault said Waters’ ability to listen is his greatest asset.

“He just has this way about him that makes people feel comfortable,” said Tetreault. “He’s been particularly helpful working with LGBTQ students of color, which has allowed us to do more and be able to reach students who we might not have ever reached.

“Bill’s work has helped expand understanding of LGBTQA issues across campus.”

— Story and photo by Troy Fedderson, University Communications

A decade of GLBT honors

This is the 10th year UNL has presented a faculty or staff member the Chancellor’s Award for Outstanding Contributions to the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender community. Previous winners are:

* 2000 – Vernon Williams
* 2001 – Luis Diaz-Perdomo
* 2002 – Barbara DiBernard & Pat Tetreault
* 2003 – Louis Crompton & George Wolf
* 2004 – English Department, Robert Brown, James Griesen & Linda Major
* 2005 – Joy Ritchie
* 2006 – Debra Anne Hope
* 2007 – Jan Deeds & Don Hanway
* 2008 – Debbie Krahmer
* 2009 – Bill Waters

Harding collects student GLBT award

Heath Harding, a doctoral student in Agricultural Leadership, was presented with the Chancellor’s Outstanding Contributions to the GLBT Community Award for students. Harding was recognized for his work in the development the “Creating a Collective Vision” community event as well as his contributions as student co-chair of the UNL Committee for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Concerns.

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  1. Thank you for the great article.

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