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History of the Awards

Previous Inspiration Award Recipients

2021 Inspiration Award Recipient Announcement Picturing the 6 winners: Hui Liu, Beronda Montgomery, Farha Abbasi, Linda Vail, Taylor Belyea, and Chelsie BoodooSpring 2021 Recipients

Student Leaders

Taylor Belyea, Undergraduate Student
James Madison College & GenCen
Chelsie Boodoo, Graduate Student
Biomedical Engineering Department

Culture of Empowerment

Beronda Montgomery, Michigan State University
MSU Foundation Professor, Biochemistry & Molecular Biology and Microbiology & Molecular Genetics

Community Engagement

Farha Abbasi, Michigan State University
Assistant Professor, Department of Psychiatry
Linda Vail, Mid-Michigan
Health Officer, Ingham County Health Department

Professional Achievement

Hui "Cathy" Liu, Michigan State University
Professor, Department of Sociology

Spring 2020 Recipients

Student Leaders

Kadie Alpers, Undergraduate Student
Department of Marketing
Morgan PettyJohn, Graduate Student
Department of Human Development and Family Studies

Culture of Empowerment

Rebecca Campbell, Michigan State University
Professor, Department of Psychology
Polly Mallory, Mid-Michigan
Former Chief Operating Officer, LACASA Center in Howell

Community Engagement

Ashley Lathrop, Michigan State University
Research Administrator II, Department of Plant, Soil, and Microbial Science
Estrella Torrez, Michigan State University
Associate Professor, Residential College in the Arts and Humanities
Katie Brewer, Mid-Michigan
President, Laingsburg High School Drama Boosters

Professional Achievement

Nwando Achebe, Michigan State University
Jack and Margaret Sweet Endowed Professor, Department of History

2020 Winners (Kadie Alpers, Morgan PettyJohn, Rebecca Campbell, Polly Mallory, Ashley Lathrop, Estrella Torrez, Katie Brewer, Nwando Achebe)


Spring 2019 Recipients

Community Engagement Award: Terah Venzant Chambers, Associate Professor, Department of Educational Administration
Professional Achievement Award: Rocío Quispe-Agnoli, Professor, Department of Romance and Classical Studies
Culture of Empowerment Award: Yomaira Figueroa, Assistant Professor, Department of English
Greater Lansing Award: Tashmica Torok, Founder and Executive Director, The Firecracker Foundation

Spring 2018 Recipients

Professional Achievement Award: Tamara Reid Bush, Associate Professor in Mechanical Engineering
Professional Achievement Award: Brenda Nelson, East Neighborhood Dining Manager
Culture of Empowerment Award: Kristin St. Marie, Executive Development Programs, Broad College of Business
(No award was given in the Community Engagement category this year, but two winners were selected for the Professional Achievement Award.)

Spring 2017 Recipients

Community Engagement Award: Sophia Koufopoulou, Instructor, Department of Sociology
Professional Achievement Award: Dr. Filomena Nunes, Professor of Physics in the National Superconducting Cyclotron Laboratory and Department of Physics and Astronomy
Culture of Empowerment Award: Dr. Denise Troutman, Associate Professor in Linguistics and Writing, Rhetoric and American Cultures

Spring 2016 Recipients

Community Engagement Award: Officer Melissa Congleton, MSU Police Department
Professional Achievement Award: Mona Hanna-Attisha, Director, Pediatric Residency Program, Hurley Medical Center and Assistant Professor, Department of Pediatrics and Human Development
Culture of Empowerment Award: Holly Rosen, Director, MSU Safe Place

Spring 2015 Recipients

Community Engagement Award: Audrey Bentley, Community Outreach Senior Coordinator, Office for Inclusion and Intercultural Initiatives
Professional Achievement Award: Jeanne Wald, Professor, Department of Mathematics
Culture of Empowerment Award: Karin Wurst, Advisor to the Provost for Intercultural Learning and Engagement, Office of the Provost

History of the Inspiration Awards

In Fall 2014, the MSU Women's Resource Center created the Inspirational Woman of the Year Award. The award was developed by Lydia Weiss, Educational Program Coordinator at the Women’s Resource Center, in order to recognize and celebrate the accomplishments of women-identified faculty and staff at Michigan State University. Ms. Weiss created the award as a response to the low numbers of women being nominated for and receiving university-wide awards. There were years when no woman won any university award, and Ms. Weiss decided that an award dedicated to the inspirational and undervalued work that women do at MSU was in order. After the Women’s Resource Center was dissolved and some of its responsibilities moved into another office, the GenCen took responsibility for administering the award.

The 2018 Inspirational Woman of the Year Awardees. Left to right: Brenda Nelson, Tamara Reid Bush, and Kristin St. Marie.
The 2018 Inspirational Woman of the Year Awardees. Left to right: Brenda Nelson, Tamara Reid Bush, and Kristin St. Marie.

Since 2014, three awards have been given to woman-identified individuals who demonstrate integrity, leadership, quality performance, integrative and inclusive action, and influence on campus and in the community. The award categories are: Professional Achievement, Community Engagement, and Culture of Empowerment. The Inspirational Woman chosen for Professional Achievement demonstrates a unique drive and passion for her career and contributes positively to MSU’s culture of excellence. The woman selected for the Community Engagement award demonstrates a commitment to engaging and advancing communities and organizations at MSU and in the greater Lansing community through service/volunteerism, leadership and/or other involvement. Lastly, the woman who best demonstrates dedication to the advancement and empowerment of women on campus and in the community through mentoring, programs, and other leadership opportunities, is awarded the Culture of Empowerment award.

In 2019—recognizing that the impact of women’s inspirational work reaches far beyond the walls of MSU, and through the collaborative relationships that the GenCen has with the Greater Lansing community—we introduced the Greater Lansing Inspirational Woman of the Year Award. This award was added to recognize a woman who is a non-MSU employee and who demonstrates integrity, leadership, quality performance, integrative and inclusive action for the betterment of the community. In 2020, we are excited to further expand this category into the Mid-Michigan Culture of Empowerment and Mid-Michigan Community Engagement awards.

Tashmica Torok, the inaugural recipient of the Greater Lansing Inspirational Woman of the Year Award, in 2019.
Tashmica Torok, the inaugural recipient of the Greater Lansing Inspirational Woman of the Year Award, in 2019.

Recipients are chosen by a Selection Committee which consists of a diverse group of MSU staff and faculty, and a member of the GenCen Community Board (which consists of local community organizations that work collaboratively with the GenCen). As a land-grant university, we know that building inspiration throughout the local community is vitally important, and that this award can highlight women across our area who are serving as inspirational leaders.

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