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Inspirational Woman of the Year Award

Banner: Inspirational Woman of the Year Award 2020Join us at the 2020 IWOTY Reception

Join us for an evening celebrating the 2020 Inspirational Woman of the Year Award recipients! Women and femme-identified individuals from the MSU & Mid-Michigan community will be recognized. 

Date: Wednesday, March 18, 2020
Time: 5:30PM - 7:30PM
Location: Wharton Center (Jackson Lounge)
Tickets: $10, Purchase Tickets
Ticket price includes entrance, hors d'oeuvres, and one drink ticket. There will be a cash bar available. Event to be held in the Jackson Lounge of the Wharton Center. 


We're proud to partner with these organizations:
MSU Student Affairs & Services (Premium Sponsor)
Waggoner Financial (Premium Sponsor)
Asian Buffet
Health & Harmony Massage & Wellness Center
Henry's Place
Kellogg Catering
Kellogg Hotel & Conference Center
Lansing Brewing Company
Lansing City Pulse
Lansing First Presbyterian Church
NCG Cinemas
Williams Subaru

Email us to become a sponsor!


Congrats to the 2020 Inspirational Woman of the Year and Woman Student Leader of the Year Awardees!

MSU Community Engagement

Ashley Lathrop of the Department of Plant, Soil, and Microbial Science
Estrella Torrez of the Residential College in the Arts and Humanities

MSU Culture of Empowerment

Rebecca Campbell of the Department of Psychology

MSU Professional Achievement

Nwando Achebe of the Department of History

Mid-Michigan Community Engagement

Katie Brewer, President of the Laingsburg High School Drama Boosters

Mid-Michigan Culture of Empowerment

Polly Mallory, former Chief Operating Officer of the LACASA Center in Howell

Undergraduate Student Leader of the Year

Kadie Alpers, Marketing

Graduate Student Leader of the Year

Morgan PettyJohnHuman Development and Family Studies


Sixth Annual Award - Spring 2020

The GenCen is proud to administrate the sixth annual Inspirational Woman of the Year Award, previously overseen by the MSU Women's Resource Center. The Inspirational Woman of the Year Award highlights women or femme-identified individuals who demonstrate integrity, leadership, quality performance, integrative and inclusive action, and influence on campus and in the greater Lansing/global community.

Community Engagement (MSU Employees)

The individual selected for the Community Engagement Award will demonstrate a commitment to engaging and advancing communities and organizations at Michigan State University and/or in communities beyond campus, through service/volunteerism, leadership and/or involvement. 

Nominations are due October 31, 2019 to gencen(at)msu.edu.

Nomination Criteria:

  • Nominee must be affiliated with Michigan State University (including main campus, and all off-site/satellite campuses)
  • Nominee must be woman- or femme-identified 
  • Nominee must exemplify leadership, integrity and influence on campus and/or greater Lansing/global community
  • Nominee must demonstrate a commitment to improving the lives of women through service/volunteerism, mentoring and/or innovative initiatives
  • Nominee must contribute to advancing equality at MSU and/or the greater Lansing/global community

Nomination Packet:

  • MSU Employees Community Engagement Entry Form [pdf]
  • Letter of Nomination
        *Nominee qualifications
        *Nominator’s relationship with nominee (i.e. supervisor)
        *Explanation of how nominee fits selected category
  • 2 Letters of Support from colleagues
  • Nominee Resume/CV
  • Optional supporting documents

Culture of Empowerment (MSU Employees)

The award for the Culture of Empowerment will recognize an individual who has demonstrated dedication to the advancement and empowerment of women on campus and/or across the globe through mentoring, programs or other leadership opportunities.

Nominations are due October 31, 2019 to gencen(at)msu.edu.

Nomination Criteria:

  • Nominee must be affiliated with Michigan State University (including main campus, and all off-site/satellite campuses)
  • Nominee must be woman- or femme-identified 
  • Nominee must exemplify leadership, integrity and influence on campus and/or greater Lansing/global community
  • Nominee must demonstrate a commitment to improving the lives of women through service/volunteerism, mentoring and/or innovative initiatives
  • Nominee must contribute to advancing equality at MSU and/or the greater Lansing/global community

Nomination Packet:

  • MSU Employees Culture of Empowerment Entry Form [pdf]
  • Letter of Nomination
        *Nominee qualifications
        *Nominator’s relationship with nominee (i.e. supervisor)
        *Explanation of how nominee fits selected category
  • 2 Letters of Support from colleagues
  • Nominee Resume/CV
  • Optional supporting documents

Professional Achievement (MSU Employees)

The category of Professional Achievement will be awarded to an individual who demonstrates a unique drive and passion for her career and contributes positively to MSU’s culture.

Nominations are due October 31, 2019 to gencen(at)msu.edu.

Nomination Criteria:

  • Nominee must be affiliated with Michigan State University (including main campus, and all off-site/satellite campuses)
  • Nominee must be woman- or femme-identified 
  • Nominee must exemplify leadership, integrity and influence on campus and/or greater Lansing/global community
  • Nominee must demonstrate a commitment to improving the lives of women through service/volunteerism, mentoring and/or innovative initiatives
  • Nominee must contribute to advancing equality at MSU and/or the greater Lansing/global community

Nomination Packet:

  • MSU Employees Professional Achievement Entry Form [pdf]
  • Letter of Nomination
        *Nominee qualifications
        *Nominator’s relationship with nominee (i.e. supervisor)
        *Explanation of how nominee fits selected category
  • 2 Letters of Support from colleagues
  • Nominee Resume/CV
  • Optional supporting documents

Mid-Michigan Community Engagement (Non-MSU Employees)

Last year, GenCen added the Greater Lansing Inspirational Woman of the Year Award for non-MSU employees. For 2020, we have split and broadened this category into Mid-Michigan Community Engagement and Mid-Michigan Culture of Empowerment.

Nominees for the Mid-Michigan Community Engagement award advance communities and organizations at MSU and/or communities beyond campus through service and volunteerism, leadership and/or other involvement. If you know someone who fits this description, we highly encourage you to nominate her for this prestigious award.

Nominations are due October 31, 2019 to gencen(at)msu.edu.

Nomination Criteria:

  • Nominee must not be an employee of Michigan State University (including main campus, and all off-site/satellite campuses)
  • Nominee must be woman- and femme-identified 
  • Nominee must exemplify leadership, integrity and influence on campus and/or greater Lansing/global community
  • Nominee must demonstrate a commitment to improving the lives of women through service/volunteerism, mentoring and/or innovative initiatives
  • Nominee must contribute to advancing equality within the greater Lansing/global community

Nomination Packet:

  • Non-MSU Employees Community Engagement Entry Form [pdf]
  • Letter of Nomination
        *Nominee qualifications
        *Nominator’s relationship with nominee (i.e. supervisor)
        *Explanation of how nominee fits selected category
  • 2 Letters of Support from colleagues
  • Nominee Resume/CV
  • Optional supporting documents

Mid-Michigan Culture of Empowerment (Non-MSU Employees)

Last year, GenCen added the Greater Lansing Inspirational Woman of the Year Award for non-MSU employees. For 2020, we have split and broadened this category into Mid-Michigan Community Engagement and Mid-Michigan Culture of Empowerment.

Nominees for the Mid-Michigan Culture of Empowerment award display dedication to the advancement/empowerment of women in communities locally and/or across the globe through mentoring, programs, and other leadership opportunities. If you know someone who fits this description, we highly encourage you to nominate her for this prestigious award.

Nominations are due October 31, 2019 to gencen(at)msu.edu.

Nomination Criteria:

  • Nominee must not be an employee of Michigan State University (including main campus, and all off-site/satellite campuses)
  • Nominee must be woman- and femme-identified 
  • Nominee must exemplify leadership, integrity and influence on campus and/or greater Lansing/global community
  • Nominee must demonstrate a commitment to improving the lives of women through service/volunteerism, mentoring and/or innovative initiatives
  • Nominee must contribute to advancing equality within the greater Lansing/global community

Nomination Packet:

  • Non-MSU Employees Culture of Empowerment Entry Form [pdf]
  • Letter of Nomination
        *Nominee qualifications
        *Nominator’s relationship with nominee (i.e. supervisor)
        *Explanation of how nominee fits selected category
  • 2 Letters of Support from colleagues
  • Nominee Resume/CV
  • Optional supporting documents

Previous Award Winners

Spring 2019 Winners

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 Winners

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 Winners

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 Winners

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 Winners

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 Inspirational Woman of the Year Award

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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