Annual awards shine spotlight on university’s outstanding women students, faculty and staff

The 2012 Outstanding Women Student Awards have been presented to 43 women from across all disciplines at Northern Illinois University and representing undergraduates, graduate students and law students graduating in the 2012 calendar year.

The NIU Presidential Commission on the Status of Women distributed the awards during its April 22 reception at NIU’s main DeKalb campus.

The recognition program was created in 1980 and is held annually to:

  • encourage the full participation of women students in all facets of the university experience and in their communities;
  • support female students’ development of corresponding strengths, both cooperative and competitive; and
  • celebrate women students for their achievements and contributions.
Outstanding Women Award winners

Outstanding Women Award winners

President John G. Peters addressed the award recipients, noting, “The skills and tools gained and forged here at NIU will serve you well. I challenge you to put them to the use for the good of all.”

Award winners are listed below, along with their majors and hometowns:

Awardee Degree/Major Hometown
Kacy Abeln M.A. Communication Lombard
Amanda Antonini B.S. Nursing Yorkville
Teresa Bozikis B.S. Allied Health and Communicative Disorders Park Ridge
Heather Brown Ed. D. Adult and Higher Education Waukegan
Kristin Brynteson Ed. D. Instructional Technology Genoa
Lucero Castillo B.A. English DeKalb
Amanda Cecchi B.S. Nursing Lisle
Katherine Cockle M.M. Music History Jenison, Mich.
Jessica Cox B.S. Nursing Rockford
Christine Demory Ed.D. Educational Administration Kirkland
Erin Fallis B.S. Nursing Wadsworth
Laura Fenwick B.F.A. Photography McHenry
Tricia Fremouw M.S. Industrial and Systems Engineering DeKalb
Anahi Gasse B.A. Communication/Spanish Language & Literature Forest Park
Cody Happ M.A. Spanish DeKalb
Jasmine Harvell B.A. Communication Wadsworth
Kristin Hoffman B.A. History Batavia
Jessica Ibares B.A. Spanish Language and Literature Bensenville
Michele Kerulis Ed. D. Counselor Education and Supervision Chicago
Abbey Knur B.S. Nursing Genoa
Nora Lindvall B.A. English/Politcal Science DeKalb
Amanda McCarthy Ed.D. Counselor Education and Supervision DeKalb
Julie Moteau M.A. French Languages and Literature Elgin
Amanda Naydenoff M.A. History Aurora
Heather Olson B.S. Biology Palatine
April Parker B.A. International Politics Rockford
Jenifer Puetz B.A. Political Science Loves Park
Tanya Rachan B.S. Biology Alsip
Erum K. Raja Ph.D. Organic Chemistry DeKalb
Amy Renguso B.A. Spanish Language and Literature, Teacher Certification Schaumburg
Lisa Roth M.A. Communication Congerville
Natalie Santiago M.A. English DeKalb
Jessica Silvester B.F.A. Painting/B.A. Spanish Downers Grove
Jenner Sio B.S. Management Rockford
Daria Skrzypczynski B.A. Communication Downers Grove
Judy Soto J.D. Law Streamwood
Korrey Stralka B.S. Operations & Information Management Leland
Anna Strati Ed.D. Educational Psychology Gilberts
Anna Strozza B.A. French Language & Literature Lisle
Yasmeen Villasenor B.A. Spanish Language and Literature/B.S. Nutrition Dietetics & Hospitality Administration Chicago
Jennifer Weston J.D. Law DeKalb
Jessica Wierdak B.S. Health Sciences Oak Lawn
Gabrielle Wright B.A. Journalism Lisle

Additionally five presentations were made to faculty and staff.

Health educator Andrea Drott earned the Women Who Make a Difference Award. Her nomination letters highlighted her dedication to the health of women across campus, most importantly her work with the student group, “Pause Off.” Group President James Huenzinga presented Drott with the award and talked about her passion, dedication and total commitment to NIU.

Judy Santacaterina received the Women Who Make a Difference Award. It was presented by Lauren Scott, the vice president of NIU forensics, who spoke of Santacaterina’s longtime nurturing roles as forensics coach and adviser on campus. For many students, Santacaterina has been like “a second mom.” She also is known for always going “the extra mile” to assist others.

Professors Elizabeth Gaillard from the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry and Karen Whedbee from the Department of Communication earned Outstanding Mentor Awards.

Professor Petr Vanýsek from the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry presented the award to Gaillard and referred to her outstanding work with female students in a male-dominated field.  Gaillard not only encourages students but also collaborates with them and has mentored them in numerous research endeavors. Her work has been vital for NIU students in the field of chemistry.

Lisa Roth, a graduate student in communications, presented the award to Whedbee. Roth highlighted Professor Whedbee’s work with undergraduate and graduate students in the area of ethics and freedom of speech. Whedbee’s influence and teaching was lauded for helping women “find their voice.”

The prestigious Wilma Stricklin Award – named for Wilma D. Stricklin, who was instrumental in Title IX initiatives being implemented at NIU – was presented to Professor Laura Vazquez in the Department of Communication. Vazquez was recognized for demonstrating exemplary leadership and service over an extended period of time that resulted in lasting positive changes for women at NIU. The award was presented by Kacy Abeln, a graduate student in the Department of Communication. She highlighted Vazquez’s work on the commission and with the Women’s Alliance as well as her documentary film, “On the Edge,” exploring the issue of homeless women and children.

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