Winners of the 2009 Women's Commission Awards are Michelle Holt-Shannon, Ava Fields, Miranda Fillebrown, Prof. Sharyn Potter and Sue Bigonia (absent from photo)
Honoring Our Women Leaders 2009
25th Annual Women's Commission Awards Celebration
In honor of women's history month, the UNH Women's Commission Celebrated its 25th Annual Awards Presentation on March 26, 2009. The keynote address, Women in Poverty and What We Can Do, was delivered by Boston College counseling psychology professor, Lisa Goodman. She outlined how we can change the landscape for women in poverty through learning from them about the challenges inherent in the system and by building long-term and short-term goals with them. Goodman and two of her students outlined her advocacy program as a learning experience for both women in poverty and the students themselves.
The awards program honored social activists promoting equity in education and employment by increasing the status of women, serving as role models for women on campus, and making a difference with individuals, organizations, programs and policies.
The 2009 Graduate Student Award was presented to Miranda J. Fillebrown.
A member of the Golden Key Honor Society for academics and service, she has been true to its mission through her program work at the Office of Multicultural Student Affairs and the Women's Union, a collaborative women's group. As an advocate for women on our campus, she has confronted the issues of violence against women, pornography, and the objectification of women in the media, pay equity, affordable housing on a state and local level, and the economic disparity that affects women disproportionately.
Miranda has also been active in responding to bias incidents on our campus. She has helped to facilitate open and honest discussions between students and staff on several occasions through her work at SHARPP, the 2005 UNH Breakout Conference and the MLK Summit.
In her dialogue on behalf of those in need, she has been respectful and maintained her intellectual and personal integrity and deep appreciation of the complexity of the issues.
She has been active in the Diversity Support Coalition and the UNH Alliance. She has served as a student member of the Commission's Violence against Women Committee and is a trained Safe Zones facilitator who leads training workshops for the program. She continues to do Diversity Peer Education work as a graduate student.
Miranda has been a voice for issues of privilege, educating herself as she has helped enlighten others. She has worked for education on economic justice and how class differences and bias can be evident and at work in our community.
The 2009 Undergraduate Student Award was presented to Ava M. Fields. Ava has given her time to leadership positions in CONNECT, Black Student Union, the 1st Annual Black Family Weekend Planning group, Women's Union, MLK Summit, OMSA Brown Bag Lunch discussions and Safe Zones.
She has consistently questioned the status quo and has respectfully challenged old ideas and white privilege through developing dialogues, including ones for and by students of color to examine the possibility of misogyny and heterosexual privilege in their work. To this end, Ava worked with Shannon Marthouse in Residential Life to re-work the Bias Gallery in consideration of the mutual constituency of identities (race, sex, class).
Ava Fields has been a consistent presence in the Diversity Support Coalition and the Office of Multicultural Student Affairs working as a strong ally to the feminist community and the queer community, breaking down stereotypes between the black and queer community. In her academic work in English Literature and Cinema Studies, she regularly writes about female representation in media, the construction of masculinity, and homophobia as a fear and punishment of the feminine. Ava helped design discussion questions and facilitation guides for the Residential Life multimedia library, used by students, RA's, staff, and faculty at UNH. She directed "The Mind Body Dialogues", focusing on the advancement of women in relation to body size and representation. She has shared her talent and experience with The President's Commissions Office and she has worked as the Queer Studies Student Coordinator. From this position, Ava increased the visibility of black lesbian and queer identities. She is a role model for black women and feminists on this campus.
The 2009 Stephanie Thomas Staff Award was given to Michele E. Holt-Shannon, assistant director of Discovery at UNH. Michele is engaged in almost every community-building program across campus. An outspoken advocate for students and for diversity at every level of our community, she has been staff advisor to WildActs, the Social Justice Dance Troupe; she has been a facilitator for the MLK Summit; taught courses on community and social change; facilitated Sidore Lectures on Violence against Women; supported the Women's Studies program and better education and support for women and girls throughout our communities; designed creative ways such as "Rock Your Reality" to train staff and faculty as Social Justice Educators and facilitators, advocated for gender equity, affordable and inclusive family policies and child care on campus; supported SHARPP programming, the prevention of violence against women, the proposal for a Women's Center, and the training of Peacekeepers for the Genocide Awareness project. She organized a teach-in shortly after the 9/11 attacks and again after Hurricane Katrina. She encouraged reflection on student behavior after sporting events, post-inaugural racism and white privilege. She was also one of the chief designers of the Study Circles process engaging dialogue on diversity, alcohol and community conflict. Off campus, she is involved in Everyday Democracy and The National Coalition for Dialogue and Deliberation fostering participation and action.
Michele has also been a trusted mentor and confidante of many female students. She is one of the feminist role models that campus ministry has referred students to - for guidance and consultation for many years. Faith and religion carries much joy and many obstacles for women, and Michele Holt-Shannon recognizes this in planning discussions. She is one the primary leaders for the annual inter-faith Baccalaureate Service and the inter-faith MLK Spiritual Celebration.
Through the Discovery Program, she has also been one of the primary engineers of the University Dialogue series, and her work has helped address issues of oppression, justice, and diversity. Michele Holt-Shannon has helped to inspire passion for inclusion and equity at UNH.
The 2009 Faculty Award was presented to Sharyn J. Potter, Associate Professor of Sociology and Undergraduate Chair of the Department of Sociology. She is also an adviser to a number of graduate and undergraduate students, mentoring them through their research and writing. She is a member of the American Sociological Association and has been published several times in academic and scientific journals on the topic of women's issues. Because she is recognized as a model of outreach scholarship, the Outreach Scholars Program at UNH invited Sharyn to mentor current faculty members in that program.
As an activist, she spends much of her time promoting an environment free of sexism and discrimination. She is the chair of the SHARPP Advisory Board and is a co-creator of the Bringing in the Bystander social marketing campaign as well a Co-Director of Prevention Innovations.
Her activism and research on behalf of women extends to the state level to include her co-authorship of the New Hampshire statewide violence against women report. This report, co-sponsored by the New Hampshire Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence, illustrates her commitment to doing vital research that encourages informed state policy. It is no accident that when the results of the statewide survey on interpersonal violence in women's lives was released, it made banner headlines in every New Hampshire state newspaper. Her work is gaining notice on the national level to the extent that she has been asked to consult with the U.S. Army.
Sharyn's work is collaborative and inclusive. While she encourages those around her to do their best work on behalf of women and other oppressed people, she willingly walks the walk, inspiring her colleagues by never giving up her optimistic view. She knows that change begins in our own lives, with our own neighbors and in our own communities, and she never wavers from her work to prevent the continued violence against women.
One of her nominators wrote: "I have come to know Sharyn as an organized, motivated, and highly productive scholar, teacher, and community member. In all that she does, she works toward the advancement of women through ending the violence that all too often touches women's lives. . . . " . . . What is more, her scholarship makes a real difference in women's lives. For example, the research reported above is now being used by statewide organizations like the Coalition to push for new policies that assist survivors of violence and money for new programs to support them. More recently she is the co-investigator on a CDC funded grant to develop and evaluate the effectiveness of innovative strategies for sexual assault prevention. She has worked for months creating the know-your-power social marketing campaign that is now raising awareness around our campus community about the widespread problem of sexual and relationship violence and helping mobilize all of us to play a role in ending this problem."
Sharyn Potter's passion for improvement, especially in women's lives, is remarkable.
Sue B. Bigonia of Health Services won the 2009 Joyce Gibbs Award. One nominator praised said, "Through all the years I have known her, Sue has put the student first, giving education an important role in her work within the field of Women's Health. When Sue worked for the Health Services in the early 70's, she talked with members of the Student Senate to encourage their efforts to advocate for the hiring of a gynecologist in order to help Health Services better serve female students. When Sue returned to Health Services in the early 80's, she worked as a nurse in the women's health department. She has provided high-quality clinical care, as well as education and support for issues faced by female students. Sue encouraged female students to be informed about their bodies and to advocate for themselves within the health care system. She also challenges students to take responsibility and to care for mind, body and spirit.
Sue has worked on SHARPP's Sexual Assault Response Team and the President's Commission on the Status of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Issues. She has done outreach in the classroom. The Triage position she holds at Health Services requires a rather unique blend of parent-like caring and interpersonal skills. She helps students navigate our healthcare system in ways that are . . . meaningful for them. Her colleague said, "She has consistently demonstrated a level of service . . . well above and beyond anyone's greatest expectations".
Being a strong advocate for individual rights has always been at the core of Sue's interactions with students. She supports students finding their individual and collective voices, and consistently shares her thoughts, opinions and values when she speaks about issues that affect women's lives. Another nominator wrote: "She can help an 18-year old new student who needs a hand to hold and be just as effective with a professor, or anyone else."
One of her colleagues at Health Services wrote: "Many times I have sat in her office and listened to stories as she recounted the women's health movement and what it was like to be in the middle of it. It is this historical basis that I really value having at Health Services. Sue reminds our staff and our students about the importance of women's health, reproductive health and contraceptive choices. She often counsels students about their birth control options, explains emergency contraception or just talks with women who walk in the door to see who and where would best meet their individual needs. Sue stands for all that is right in the world and is an advocate for women."
More than 60 people gathered to honor these trusted colleagues. President Huddleston, Vice Provost and Chief Diversity Officer Wanda Mitchell, Co-Chairs of the Women's Commission Trece Mettauer, and Dawn Zitney joined in thanking the 2009 commission award winners for their important work.