Living King’s Legacy: Social Work members awarded during 2024 ceremony 

University of Kentucky's Rujeko "Rue" Machinga-Asaolu and Assistant Professor Laneshia Conner receive prestigious Living Legacy Awards for their exceptional contributions to social justice and leadership in the spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

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LEXINGTON, KY – The University of Kentucky College of Social Work (CoSW) proudly announces that two of its esteemed members, doctoral student Rujeko “Rue” Machinga-Asaolu and Assistant Professor Laneshia Conner, were honored at this year’s Living Legacy Awards, hosted by the UK Martin Luther King Center. 

Machinga-Asaolu, a doctoral international student at CoSW, was presented with the Leadership Legacy Award for graduate students. This award, which celebrates the spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s thoughtful leadership and vision, recognizes Machinga-Asaolu’s exceptional community leadership, innovative advocacy, and her impactful efforts in driving social change. 

“Receiving this award is not just an honor; it’s a reminder that we have the power to shape a future rooted in equity wherever we are. It affirms that regardless of our origins, we can contribute to a legacy of effective leadership, unity, justice, and positive social change,” Machinga-Asaolu said. “The work we do in the spirit of Dr. King’s legacy is vital and inspires me to continue striving for social justice in our communities.”  

Earlier this fall, Machinga-Asaolu was also recognized with the prestigious Lyman T. Johnson Torch Bearer Award. 

Dr. Conner was honored with the Catalyst Award, a recognition given to faculty or staff members who actively engage in addressing injustice and inequality in the spirit of Dr. King. Conner’s dedication to student support, her engagement in addressing systemic inequalities and racial equity, and her role as a champion for an inclusive campus environment embody the core values of this award.  

Recently, Conner was also acknowledged for her exceptional research achievements by the Society for Social Work and Research (SSWR). Her scholarly article, “Black Experiences Matter: Reflections on Black Faculty Interactions with Black Administrators,” was featured in the Journal of Social Work Education in 2022. 

“This award is a reflection s of a commitment from the university to Dr. King’s vision of a just society and building community. It’s a privilege to be a part of the ongoing journey to increase knowledge and address challenges that align with the work of Dr. King through my research and  scholarship, aiming to build a more inclusive and equitable world,” remarked Dr. Conner. 

The MLK Center, a cornerstone of the University of Kentucky, is dedicated to empowering students through academic, civic leadership, and cultural exchange opportunities rooted in Dr. King’s philosophy. The Center’s commitment to cultural awareness, leadership development, and fostering community aligns closely with the achievements and values demonstrated by both award recipients. 

The mission of the University of Kentucky College of Social Work is to advance and apply knowledge about social problems and social work practice, promote human well-being, and foster social and economic justice. Both Machinga-Asaolu and Conner exemplify this mission through their transformative leadership, advocacy for equity, and dedication to social change. Their achievements and ongoing work not only embody the values of the College but significantly contribute to actualizing its mission of fostering a more just and equitable society. 

For more information about the Living Legacy Awards or the MLK Center at the University of Kentucky, please visit

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For 85 years, the University of Kentucky College of Social Work (CoSW) has been a leader in social work education. As a college, we promote community and individual well-being through translational research and scholarship, exemplary teaching, and vital community engagement. We are committed to the people and social institutions throughout Kentucky, the nation, and the world. Like the University, CoSW is an organization that cultivates a diverse academic community characterized by interpersonal fairness and social justice. We are fiercely committed to developing outstanding social work professionals — leaders who will serve individuals, families, and communities through innovative and effective practices that are guided by cultural competency, systematic ethical analysis, and a keen and pragmatic understanding of the human condition.