Women are prominent figures on the Keene State College campus, throughout the Monadnock region and across New Hampshire, but it may not always seem that way.
On Feb. 24, in celebration of National Women’s History Month in partnership with the National Women’s History Project, KSC President Anne Huot announced five women as Outstanding Women of New Hampshire, two of them Keene State College students.
KSC senior and Holocaust and Genocide Studies major Kya Roumimper and KSC senior, sociology and Holocaust and Genocide Studies major Alyssa DeMarco are the student recipients of the awards.
Roumimper said she found out when she received a call from President Huot while eating dinner in the Zorn Dining Commons on campus.
Roumimper is the coordinator of education advocacy in the community service office where she has implemented a lot of programs to educate the community and the campus about prevalent social justice issues such as hunger, homelessness, poverty and diversity.
She is also an alternative break leader and a member of Phi Sigma Sigma, formerly sitting on the executive board.
She has put on various events such as The Walk to End Alzheimer’s, The Hunger Banquet and Live Below the Line Campaigns, as well as presenting on topics at national conferences.
Roumimper said it feels both humbling and a little bit uncomfortable to be recognized in this way.
“At the end of the day, it’s nice to have the recognition for the work that I’ve done. All the education, the learning and all the obstacles I’ve faced have been for educational purposes to help bring awareness to the community, to help my peers, my family, staff and students to understand that there are issues that people may not see that are really important and they’re happening in this community. So it feels good. I feel empowered, although it sounds so cliché. I feel like the stuff that I’ve done even in those cases where I feel like people aren’t receiving the stuff I’m doing well or maybe there was a roadblock, I feel like it was all worth it chugging through,” Roumimper said.
Roumimper said it feels good to know that women are being recognized for the work that they do. She said, as part of her identity as a woman and through learning about all of the obstacles that women face in recognition, both in higher education and throughout their lives, it feels good to be recognized because women should be proud of what they’re doing.
DeMarco is the other student recipient of the Outstanding Women of New Hampshire award and has her hands in a little bit of everything around campus. She is interning with the American Democracy Project and serves as the Vice President of KSC’s Debate Club.
Through these two organizations, DeMarco said she has hosted and planned many events around the presidential campaign, as well as other general events that were civic engagement oriented. She is also involved in the sociology and psychology honors society, which has led to many volunteer opportunities on and off campus.
Last June, the Debate Club attended a national conference in New Orleans, Louisiana, where she presented to a group of students. DeMarco said this was a turning point for her, in terms of discovering how interested she was in hosting events and raising awareness among students.
DeMarco said it’s an honor to have this year’s theme for the awards be about government and public service.
“I think [there are] gender disparities in these official positions in government and especially in public service, there’s not enough women. So I’ve said before now, a lot of these planning meetings that I go to for different events and different projects, I am sometimes the only female and if I’m not, I’m at least the only younger women, so I’ve had to overcompensate. I definitely make sure I’m heard. That’s been a struggle, so just being recognized with this really cool honor and award is just nice to know that even though sometimes I feel like I’m just being a big mouth or I maybe need to back off, it’s like, ‘No, I’m just doing what I need to do and I’m getting things done,’” DeMarco said.
DeMarco said it’s neat to be honored with these other women who are interested in the same things that she is interested in.
She said it’s important that they’re not “shutting up” when they might be told to so they can succeed and make amazing things happen.
Each year, the Campus Commission on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion collaborates with the President’s Office and the National Women’s History Project to determine what the criteria and theme for the awards will be. This year, the theme was Working to Form a More Perfect Union: Honoring Women in Public Service and Government.
The awards are chosen through a systematic process, said KSC Professor of Sociology Therese Seibert, who is a part of the Campus Commission on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.
The Outstanding Women of New Hampshire is a subcommittee of the commission.
Seibert said the commission contacts newspapers, websites and nonprofit organizations to encourage people throughout New Hampshire to nominate outstanding women.
Once nominations come in, Seibert said the commission meets to create a scoring rubric, comes up with criteria for consistency, and legitimately scores the women who have been nominated. The commission collaborates, tallies up the scores and works with the president to discover the final award recipients.
Specifically, Seibert said the committee looks for strength of recommendations, tenacity, inspiration, leadership, diversity, championship and impact of those nominated.
Those who score highest in these categories are then recommended to the president and ultimately chosen by her.
“A lot of committee work we do on campus is to solve problems or to address issues, but this is such a happy committee. This is such a wonderful, fun committee. When you get to go to the event, there’s such a spirit in the room and it’s a pleasure. I was just so proud of this campus to be there that we recognized,” Seibert said.
Assistant Director of Emotional Health Programming and Outreach and Coordinator of Sexual Violence Prevention Forrest Seymour is also a part of the Campus Commission on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. Seymour said a sign that there were such great nominations this year was that two students were selected, which is unusual.
“The mission has always been to both congratulate women on their outstanding achievements whatever the theme of the particular year is, but also to provide, highlight and promote role models for other women, given that in our society it’s still that women experience a lot of different kinds of oppression,” Seymour said.
Seymour continued, “This is about continuing to shift our culture into one that recognizes the equal and important value that women and all people have in our society. I think it has an important political and cultural, as well as a celebratory purpose.”
Roumimper will be hosting Social Justice Uncensored on April 22.
The event will provide education on ways to take action in eliminating oppression and creating more inclusive, equitable and just communities.
Also, the Outstanding Women of New Hampshire ceremony to honor these women will be held in Centennial Hall in the Alumni Center on March 24, at 7 p.m.
Jessica Ricard can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org