Earlier this month, the Council for Advancement & Support of Education (CASE) announced their District VII Circle of Excellence Awards, and the Leatherby Libraries is delighted to share that we are a silver medalist for our project, Sikh Initiatives at Chapman University. Development Coordinator and librarian Essraa Nawar submitted information about the project, one of our proudest accomplishments, into the Diversity and Inclusion category, and highlighted the rich partnership that the Leatherby Libraries, and Chapman University as a whole, has enjoyed with Sikhlens and other Sikh organizations in Orange County since 2012.

The project is a collaborative partnership between the Leatherby Libraries and Sikhlens founder Bicky Singh, Chapman University Board of Governors member, and was established in 2012 to promote a variety of Sikh initiatives across campus. This partnership has provided an avenue to increase the understanding of Sikh values in order to raise awareness of the impact on Sikh culture both on campus and around the world. Since this collaborative partnership was formed eight years ago, Sikh initiatives have focused on telling the story of Sikh religion and culture through exhibits, lectures, and interfaith programs. As a result of the overwhelming success of these library initiatives, Sikhlens has expanded their collaborative efforts and has worked with Chapman University’s Dodge College of Film and Media Arts to create a program that enabled film students to travel abroad to immerse themselves in the Sikh culture. Sikhlens has also partnered with the university to curate various events and experiences to enrich the lives of both students and the local/regional community. Opportunities included the creation of a travel course to India to learn about the Sikh culture and heritage, a series of Sikh music and dance performances at the new Musco Center for the Arts, an annual dinner for Chapman’s 200+ international students, a yearly Vaisakhi (Sikh New Year) celebration at the Fish Interfaith Center, and an annual Sikh art exhibit displayed at Chapman’s Leatherby Libraries. This collaborative partnership provides a way for the university to continue its commitment to enriching diversity and inclusion and supports its mission of nurturing students to become global citizens.

Four framed photos on a wall

Photographs from the 2019 Sikhlens art exhibition, “Lost Heritage: The Sikh Legacy in Pakistan – A Glimpse of Guru Nanak’s Travels.”

One of the other results of the Sikh initiatives at Chapman is the Sikhs and Sikhism in America Group Study Room, in which Chapman students can study while surrounded by information, photographs, and important objects that all teach about the Sikh faith and Sikh community in the United States.

Speaking about the partnership, Sikhlens founder Bicky Singh wrote, “Congratulations to the Leatherby Libraries—the award is well-deserved. Sikhlens has enjoyed working with the Leatherby Libraries over the last ten plus years. The library has been instrumental in providing Sikhlens a platform to share stories related to a better understanding of Sikh culture and heritage, and bringing diversity to Chapman University”

Close-up of a man in a red turban and a woman in an off-white hijab, both smiling at the camera.

Bicky Singh, left, and Essraa Nawar

Essraa writes about the partnership and the award, “This season, over 540 entries were submitted for consideration and 166 were chosen as award winners at various levels, in various categories. We are very excited to see that our work with Sikhlens for the past ten years is being recognized from such a reputable organization as CASE.” Essraa’s professional friendship with Bicky and her experience getting to know more about the Sikh faith and community inspired her to write an article several years ago about “Breaking Barriers.”

You can see more of the winning submission here.

Image of Bicky and Essraa courtesy of Michael Singh and Smithsonian Magazine.

Cover image features, from left to right, Leatherby Libraries former Dean Charlene Baldwin, Bicky Singh, and Ray Huerta. Image courtesy of Jag Reyatt and Sikhlens.