Keene State College’s Campus Commission on the Status of Women collected 16 nominations for the 22nd annual Outstanding Women of N.H. awards, for which nominations closed last Friday, January 20.
The award, created by the President’s Commission, seeks four women each year who contribute to the furthering of women in society and who exemplify leaders and role models in the community. The college will award a KSC student, a KSC faculty or staff member, a greater Monadnock community resident, and a N.H. resident at a ceremony, to be held on Wednesday, March 28.
Last year’s student recipient Kristin Mehalick, of the class of 2011, said her award gives her a standard by which she continues to live by, even after graduating from KSC.
“Receiving the Outstanding Women of N.H. award has truly set the tone for the rest of my life,” Mehalick said. “It was such an honor to be recognized for being an ‘outstanding woman.’ It truly has impacted my future; I continually strive for more and to uphold my award.”
Mehalick received her award for her volunteer work in the Keene community. She was the president of Habitat for Humanity for two years and established a chapter of Girls, Inc. at Keene Middle School, where she worked with young girls to teach them to become leaders.
She now teaches second grade in Nashua and will begin her graduate degree in Boston this summer in Northeastern University’s graduate program for a Master’s of Science in leadership.
The commission, co-chaired by Forrest Seymour, Meriem Pages, and Patricia Pedroza, accepted nominations for the awards from early December until last Friday. Individuals who wished to nominate someone filled out the nomination form, including which category they were nominated for, and submitted it by the deadline.
The award is presented to winners during Women’s History Month.
“We’re taking part in a larger recognition of women,” Pages said, emphasizing the importance of the event to the cause of furthering women in society. “It really helps to single out women who have done extraordinary things but may not have been recognized. It shows how important we think Women’s History Month is.”
Seymour worked to publicize the award in order to encourage nominations further away from the KSC campus. It’s typically easiest to get nominations for KSC students and faculty members, simply because it’s easier to publicize in the local community. Seymour used networking and various media outlets to reach those potentially interested in nominating someone for the Monadnock region or statewide awards. He said that while they received multiple nominees for both categories, they’re “always eager for more.”
He said that although significant progress has been made in the 22 years the award has been given out, women are still largely disadvantaged in today’s society.
“It is still important to identify and praise women leaders as role models for younger women, because women remain locked out of most of the most powerful positions in our society,” Seymour said. “Only three of nine US Supreme Court Justices are female, only 17 our of 100 US Senators are female, only 76 out of 435 US Representatives are female, and only 13 of the 500 largest US Corporations have female CEOs. Even in higher ed, only 23% of colleges are headed by women.”
A selection committee will review the nominations and submit its suggestions to the president’s office, though President Helen Giles-Gee will make the ultimate decision.
Pedroza spoke not only of the significance of the award in honoring women and breaking through the current gender socialization, but also of the nominations that arrive. She said it’s amazing to see peers nominating each other for the student award.
“It is not ‘we,’” Pedroza said of the committee. “People nominate. And that is the most wonderful thing. When women recognize women, to me that is something else.”
Amy Proctor, the senior administrative assistant to the president, said the committee is comprised of individuals from across the KSC community, none of whom are able to nominate anyone.
“A lot of perspectives are taken into account,” she said, noting that this promotes recipients who truly have an impact on the campus.
After President Giles-Gee picks the final recipients, which is expected to happen before the first week of February, winners are notified and they must accept the award. Individuals who are nominated but do not ultimately receive the award are not notified, and will not know they were nominated unless told by the person who nominated them.
Proctor will organize the ceremony honoring recipients for her second year in a row. She said it is free and open to the public and will occur at 7 p.m. in the Mabel Brown Room on March 28. All past recipients are invited.
“It’s really nice to have so many accomplished winners in one place,” Proctor said.
The event will include speeches by President Giles-Gee and each of the award recipients, as well as music from student bands and light refreshments.
Allie Bedell can be contacted at email@example.com.