This President of the university’s Commission on Women Issues gives awards at Celebration of Women
While women still struggle to get leadership positions in many professions, the university recognized and honoured several women yesterday who excel in their fields and work also to assist too in the field.
This President of the university’s Commission on Women Issues recognized and honoured five women yesterday for excellence in serving as leaders and advocates for all women in the university community.
The annual Celebration of Women is aimed at “honoring women in the university who seek to change the structure and working climate for female gender (girls and women),” as stated by Ellin Scholnick, commission chairwoman. The commission has distributed these awards for more than 40 years, but Scholnick said women on the campus still face challenges in achieving success.
“People think that the issues related to women have been solved, but they haven’t ,” she said.
The University President Wallace Loh said that while progress has been made with the roles of women in academia, he does not think full participation and equality will be achieved during his time.
“Although enormous progress has been accomplished here and elsewhere in academia about the role of women as students, as faculty, as staff and in terms of the progression into leadership roles eventually, this is a journey, it’s not a destination,” Loh said.
Krishna Bhagat, a doctoral candidate in the behavioral and community health department, received the award for Outstanding Graduate Student. Bhagat works with the College Park Scholars Global Public Health program, Public Health Without Borders and the Half the Sky Movement to raise awareness of women’s health issues, female empowerment and gender equality.
Bhagat stated several personal experiences she had, from teaching classes to navigating her own role as a wife, daughter, sister and friend, all connect to the powerful role of women.
“The least I can do is to challenge myself and every other student out there who has hopes of making a difference in the world, to continue to actively and meaningfully draw parallels between everything we do and the larger sociocultural context,” Bhagat said, “which inevitably includes women’s issues whether it’s labeled as such or not.”
Carol Bonkosky, recipient of the Outstanding Non-exempt Staff award, became an HVAC apprentice at this university in 2005 after being laid off from her previous photo-finishing job of 31 years. She has since become a mechanic.
“This wasn’t an easy starting over kind of thing to do when I was that far past ‘girl,’” Bonkosky said. “Those who helped me helped me succeed, and I hope to be able to help other people succeed in the future.”
University Police Maj. Carolyn Consoli received the award for Outstanding Staff member. Consoli began her career as a police aide more than 20 years ago and said she faced many challenges as she elevated through the ranks of a male-dominated field.
The department of 104 sworn officers has 16 women, Consoli said, and they often rely on one another for support.
The commission named Nina Harris, public policy school assistant dean, Outstanding Woman of Color for her efforts to promote diversity and leadership. Harris leads the College Park Scholars Public Leadership Program and the Rawlings Undergraduate Leadership Fellows Program, and she strives to develop students into the “next generation of leaders.”
“Humans are capable of creating a world full of justice, equity and peace where race, gender and orientation do not define us but unite us, where responsible and ethical decisions are the norm,” Harris said.
Brooke Lecky Supple, the Division of Student Affairs Work-Life Initiative chairwoman, received the award for Outstanding Woman of the Year. Supple said she decided to study work-life balance after she got married and had a baby and found it difficult to combine childcare and work.
The Work-Life Initiative has worked for six years to create more opportunities for employees and has attempted to change the culture of this university, she said.
Loh said it is imperative to always celebrate individuals who contribute immensively to this progress and promote women’s engagement and leadership.
“To effect change is not just changing individuals, is changing the culture of organizations,” Loh said.