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Faculty member recognized for commitment to diversity, inclusion

Laura Kina in front of her art
(Photo by Jeff Carrion/DePaul University)

Laura Kina wears many hats. At DePaul, she is a Vincent de Paul Professor in The Art School and an affiliated faculty member of American studies, critical ethnic studies, global Asian studies, and women’s and gender studies. She also currently serves on the diversity, equity and inclusion committee for the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences. Outside the classroom, she is an artist, curator, author, activist, and cancer survivor. 

Belonging and identity are just some of the themes Kina focuses on in her scholarly research and creative projects. She has spent her career collaborating both locally and internationally with diverse artists, working to bring Asian American, LGBTQIA+ and other intersectional stories to light. 

It is those decades of dedication that earned Kina the Illinois State Treasurer’s 2023 award for Outstanding Achievement in Education and DePaul’s 2023 Provost’s Award for Excellence in Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.

“Much of this work over the years has been a team effort,” Kina says. “Whether founding programs at DePaul or putting together shows across the country, working together in community is how you can get more done.”

In celebration of LGBTQ+ History Month in October, the treasurer’s award aims to highlight Illinois leaders’ dedication to justice and equal opportunity. Similarly, the purpose of the provost’s award is to recognize members of DePaul who have demonstrated excellence in the pursuit of diversity, equity and inclusion.

The intersectionality of her creative and academic works grew organically, Kina notes. She trained as an artist at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and the University of Illinois at Chicago, where she got involved with community artists from various disciplines and backgrounds. 

Kina’s career path then led her to DePaul in 2001. In addition to teaching in The Art School, she eventually co-founded the Critical Mixed Race Studies Conference​ and helped co-found the critical ethnic studies master’s program, both of which are rooted in interdisciplinary, cultural, community-based work. Kina also helped found ELEVATE, DePaul’s Asian/Asian American professional community.  

Whether creating a piece of art to serve as the backdrop for an Okinawan hip hop musician, illustrating an Asian American artists cookbook or writing about her cancer journey, Kina’s projects range in type and size, and that’s how she likes it. 

“By collaborating with different artists and experts, I’m always learning,” Kina says. “Ultimately for me, the goal is to open doors for other people. And we’ve been at it for more than 20 years now. It’s a long game, but you can make an impact.”

In addition to a forthcoming essay and cookbook, two shows Kina curated and co-curated are currently open through December 2024. “Shelly Jyoti: Indigo – The Blue Gold” is at the South Asia Institute and “Charm” is at FLXST Contemporary.