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

April 26, 2012

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:

Kacy AbelnM.A. CommunicationLombard
Amanda AntoniniB.S. NursingYorkville
Teresa BozikisB.S. Allied Health and Communicative DisordersPark Ridge
Heather BrownEd. D. Adult and Higher EducationWaukegan
Kristin BryntesonEd. D. Instructional TechnologyGenoa
Lucero CastilloB.A. EnglishDeKalb
Amanda CecchiB.S. NursingLisle
Katherine CockleM.M. Music HistoryJenison, Mich.
Jessica CoxB.S. NursingRockford
Christine DemoryEd.D. Educational AdministrationKirkland
Erin FallisB.S. NursingWadsworth
Laura FenwickB.F.A. PhotographyMcHenry
Tricia FremouwM.S. Industrial and Systems EngineeringDeKalb
Anahi GasseB.A. Communication/Spanish Language & LiteratureForest Park
Cody HappM.A. SpanishDeKalb
Jasmine HarvellB.A. CommunicationWadsworth
Kristin HoffmanB.A. HistoryBatavia
Jessica IbaresB.A. Spanish Language and LiteratureBensenville
Michele KerulisEd. D. Counselor Education and SupervisionChicago
Abbey KnurB.S. NursingGenoa
Nora LindvallB.A. English/Politcal ScienceDeKalb
Amanda McCarthyEd.D. Counselor Education and SupervisionDeKalb
Julie MoteauM.A. French Languages and LiteratureElgin
Amanda NaydenoffM.A. HistoryAurora
Heather OlsonB.S. BiologyPalatine
April ParkerB.A. International PoliticsRockford
Jenifer PuetzB.A. Political ScienceLoves Park
Tanya RachanB.S. BiologyAlsip
Erum K. RajaPh.D. Organic ChemistryDeKalb
Amy RengusoB.A. Spanish Language and Literature, Teacher CertificationSchaumburg
Lisa RothM.A. CommunicationCongerville
Natalie SantiagoM.A. EnglishDeKalb
Jessica SilvesterB.F.A. Painting/B.A. SpanishDowners Grove
Jenner SioB.S. ManagementRockford
Daria SkrzypczynskiB.A. CommunicationDowners Grove
Judy SotoJ.D. LawStreamwood
Korrey StralkaB.S. Operations & Information ManagementLeland
Anna StratiEd.D. Educational PsychologyGilberts
Anna StrozzaB.A. French Language & LiteratureLisle
Yasmeen VillasenorB.A. Spanish Language and Literature/B.S. Nutrition Dietetics & Hospitality AdministrationChicago
Jennifer WestonJ.D. LawDeKalb
Jessica WierdakB.S. Health SciencesOak Lawn
Gabrielle WrightB.A. JournalismLisle

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.