SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — Two of Syracuse University’s very own, are recipients of the Atlantic Coast Conference UNITE award.

Cross country/track and field student-athlete Emily Nugent, and former Orange men’s basketball standout Dedrick Etan Thomas are receiving the second annual award.

A junior at Syracuse, Nugent is the co-president of the Orange Student-Athlete Advisory Council
(SAAC) and is a member of Syracuse Athletics’ Diversity and Inclusion Student-Athlete Board (DISAB). She has advocated for urban kids during the last few years by helping to lead the #44HoursofChange fundraising initiative, which benefit Blessings in a Backpack, an organization that mobilizes communities, individuals, and resources to provide food on the weekends for elementary school children across America who might otherwise go hungry. The funds raised through the #44HoursofChange initiative directly benefit young students in the city of Syracuse, ensuring that they go home on Fridays with a backpack full of satisfying and nutritional food.

Syracuse University

The award was created to honor those affiliated with the league who have made an impact in the areas of racial and social justice.

Thomas is a Syracuse University alumnus and former collegiate basketball player who played for the Washington Wizards, Oklahoma City Thunder, and Atlanta Hawks in the NBA. He is a published author, poet, freelance writer, activist, and motivational speaker, as well as a co-host for the ‘Centers of Attention,’ a sports talk show on ESPN Radio Syracuse in Syracuse, New York. He also blogs for The Huffington Post and runs a podcast for Basketball news.

On August 16, 2008, Thomas appeared with Democratic National Committee chair Howard Dean at stops in northern Virginia as part of the Democratic National Committee’s “Register for Change” bus tour to encourage local voter registration drives. Thomas gave speeches at two stops in Fairfax County and the City of Alexandria. In January 2010, Thomas donated $30,000 to the Haiti relief efforts after the 2010 Haiti earthquake.

In his efforts, Thomas has advocated for student-athletes, fatherhood, and against police brutality. In his book, We Matter: Athletes and Activism, Thomas interviews a number of NBA and professional athlete staples ,including Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Laila Ali, Carmelo Anthony, and Dwyane Wade, sharing encouragement and positive messages. Thomas continues the advocacy conversation efforts by holding Town Hall panels throughout the country at prisons, churches, Universities, schools, and various conventions where he inspires, motivates, and supports generations of people.

Syracuse University

The UNITE Award is an initiative of the ACC’s Committee for Racial and Social Justice (CORE – Champions of Racial Equity) and was developed and approved by its 15 member institutions.

2022 UNITE Award Recipients

Boston College: M. Quentin Williams & Dr. Constance Smith Hendricks

Clemson: Wayne Jenkins & Barbara Kennedy-Dixon (posthumously)

Duke: Michael Howard & Gracie Johnson

Florida State: Leonard Hamilton & Morgan M. Jones

Georgia Tech: Lucius Sanford & Lynn Houston-Moore

Louisville: Jim Freeman & Valerie (Owens) Combs

Miami: Corey Jones & Lauryn Harris

North Carolina: Charles Scott & Kathy Crawford

NC State: Dr. Marcus Martin & Charece Williams Gee

Notre Dame: Cason Wilburn & Niele Ivey

Pitt: Dr. Bettina Love & Herb Douglas

Syracuse: Emily Nugent & Dedrick Etan Thomas

Virginia: Marques Hagans & Hailey Barnett

Virginia Tech: André Davis & Reyna Gilbert-Lowry

Wake Forest: Jim Caldwell & Charlene Curtis (posthumously)