2023 Devon T. Wade Award Winners: Tyler Campbell and Della Maggio

July 25, 2023

Devon T. Wade was a community builder, activist, and scholar who came to Columbia’s Graduate School of Arts and Sciences in 2011 to study sociology. Wade’s dissertation focused on stigma, trauma, and discipline in the school setting. Wade was looking at ways to create better community systems to help reduce violence and prevent incarceration. He was also devoted to building networks of support for students from groups that historically have been underrepresented in the academy. Devon Wade received multiple awards for his work, including the Harry S. Truman Scholarship, the Ford Foundation Predoctoral Fellowship, and the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship. He was a founding member of the Columbia University Graduate Students of Color Alliance (SoCA). Columbia University’s GSAS awarded Devon T. Wade his doctoral degree posthumously, in recognition of his scholarly achievements and of the impact he made on others. In 2018, the Dr. Devon T. Wade Mentorship, Service, and Advocacy Award was established in his honor. The award is given to a GSAS student whose studies and leadership continue the work that the late Dr. Wade began. In 2023, there were two award nominees so strong that the selection committee voted to recognize two winners: Tyler Campbell (’23MA, African American Studies) and Della Maggio (’23MA, Human Rights Studies).

When accepting the Wade award in a May 6 ceremony, Tyler Campbell said, “I knew Devon Wade’s name long before I heard of this award. It’s important to honor his legacy.” Campbell is an educator, writer, and community organizer who grew up in Philadelphia. He is the lead instructor for the Justice Ambassadors Youth Council of Columbia University’s Center for Justice. Campbell said in his personal statement, “My most proud achievement in working at JAYC is helping young people who are gang-involved go through the difficult process of disaffiliation and land jobs working as youth mentors.” He designed and teaches a seminar that brings justice-involved youth and city officials together to create better policies for New York’s most vulnerable young people. Seminar participants work in small groups to create a project, proposal, or community initiative that they commit to helping implement with a community partner. One such initiative from this seminar has been implemented in Brooklyn as a pilot program funded by the Mayor’s office, Project Restore Bed Stuy (PRB)— where Campbell also works. Tyler Campbell also led a class at Rikers Island on Black Studies and Critical Race Theory, engaging participants to explore and understand these subjects in relation to their own lives. Campbell explained, “My job as someone with a voice is to bolster the voices of others so in the end we are all sitting around that table making the decisions together to better ourselves and our communities.” 

Della Maggio received the Devon T. Wade Mentorship, Service, and Advocacy Award on May 6, as well. She is an accomplished researcher, community leader, and advocate. In her personal statement, Maggio said, “Similar to Devon, I am tirelessly driven to combat punitive state violence and its disproportionate consequences for people of color, especially those who are without status, queer, low-income, or disabled.” Maggio wrote her master’s thesis on the experiences of gender-variant migrants in our immigration system. Much of her scholarship has focused on healthcare for marginalized groups, such as LGBTQ+ disabled people living in Asia during the COVID crisis, and trans and gender-nonconforming people of color who are detained or incarcerated. Maggio has worked with Columbia’s Institute for the Study of Human Rights (ISHR), serving as a liaison for its student groups, and as a mentor to other human rights students – helping them organize ideas and helping them seek jobs. Beyond Columbia, Della participates with non-profit organizations Unlock the Box and Don’t Call the Police, grassroots efforts to end solitary confinement and to promote alternatives to calling the police, respectively. As an immigration justice fellow at Project Rousseau, Della worked to secure legal representation and educational opportunities for undocumented teens. Proud to be a Devon T. Wade Award winner, Maggio said, “Like Devon, I am a queer person from the South. However, unlike Devon, I have positionality and privilege as a white woman. I believe it's my job to use this power as a means to empower others. I carry his legacy forward with me, ensuring educational inclusivity and bringing those on the margins of society to the center in both research and activism.” 

Please join Columbia University’s Graduate School of Arts and Sciences in congratulating Tyler Campbell and Della Maggio, and wishing them luck as they continue their work.