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Dr. Ada Cheng, adjunct professor of sociology and criminology at Dominican University and 2023-24 Lund Gill Chair, was recognized with a 2024 Public Humanities Award from the Illinois Humanities organization.

The award was presented to Cheng on Wednesday, May 22 in downtown Chicago.  Dr. Chad Rohman, dean of Rosary College of Arts and Sciences, and Dr. Cecilia Salvatore, interim associate dean of the College of Applied Social Sciences, were on hand as Cheng accepted the award. 

“A lot of people are doing great work in Chicago, so I feel very honored to receive this,” said Cheng, who delivered a speech with a panel of her mother's Chinese calligraphy displayed next to her. 

Illinois Humanities connects residents with free public programs, grants and events that make the humanities accessible for all. The Public Humanities Awards celebrate Illinois trailblazers in the arts, advocacy and community building, according to the organization’s website.

This year’s five award recipients demonstrated impactful work and support of the humanities, while “highlighting the power of storytelling and inclusion in strengthening the civic fabric of the state,” the organization said.

Cheng is a facilitator of storytelling workshops that create spaces to help others—often from marginalized communities—share their experiences and truths. In particular, she works to raise awareness of the experiences of BIPOC and LGBTQIA communities.

Cheng is also a scholar, performer, public speaker and writer who focuses on highlighting societal inequities while bringing about healing and change. 

“The stage that she creates is a lifeline for communities to explore how the humanities allow us to examine our role in a more just, safe, and vibrant future,” Illinois Humanities said.

Cheng describes her storytelling workshops of late as opportunities to see the humanity in others and build community during a very polarized time.

“You can disagree with one another while still seeing one another as human,” she said. “I want people to think about how they can use storytelling to connect to universality. I want to leave people with that particular skill set.”

Since 2019, Cheng has been a speaker for the Illinois Humanities' Road Scholars Speakers Bureau. This has allowed her to present storytelling programs across the state, often focusing on the Asian American and immigrant experience.

As Dominican’s Lund Gill Chair, Cheng taught an honors course in scriptwriting and delivered a performance-based, public address entitled “A Full Circle Home: Storytelling as a Path for Inquiry, Dialogue, and Transformation” in the fall of 2023.