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UHS Health Equity Assistant recognized
Dantrell Cotton, a University Health Services (UHS) Health Equity Assistant, recently received a Graduate Student Peer Mentor Award.
Cotton is a second-year graduate student in the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies. Through both his research and position at UHS, Cotton assists in the affordable market basket initiative, a collaborative project with UHS, Slow Food UW, South Madison Partnership, and Growing Power, among others, which aims to provide high quality produce to all members of the community. Passionate about food access initiatives and unearthing untold narratives, Cotton is motivated to understand the complex mechanisms that develop food structures and engage communities as collaborative partners in food justice.
In addition to his studies, research, and work at UHS, Cotton mentors STEM students in the UW-Madison Chapter of the POSSE Program, of which he himself is a 2014 alumnus. In his work with students, he tries to get at the heart of motivation and holistically assist them in navigating UW-Madison. “It’s important for students to have outlets, not just to assist in academic trajectory but also development of the self,” says Cotton, “I want to create an open dialogue with my scholars and make a space safe enough where they can be 100 percent them.”
Cotton speaks highly of the ways his mentoring and community engagement tactics merge together in various aspects of his work. “I want to change how we see communities that are underprivileged,” says Cotton. “It’s important to recognize the beauty of what’s already happening in the community, and see it as enriched rather than depleted. Expanding that narrative is part of mentorship.”
But Cotton’s investment goes far beyond his scheduled appointments and hours. He stresses the importance of patience and genuine investment as a crucial component of effective mentoring. “I see my role in their lives as a long-term project,” says Cotton. Cotton’s empathy and depth of commitment is best summed up in a phrase he tells his scholars, deemed especially appropriate given his passion for food justice and sustainability: “I tell my scholars that if you’re not eating, I’m not eating.”
Written by Gina Nerone, UHS Web and Communications Assistant