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Awards salute champions of gender equity


May 15, 2007

The ASU Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) held its eighth annual Outstanding Achievement and Contribution Awards April 25, recognizing the men and women who helped improve the status of women at ASU and beyond.

The 2007 award recipients are:

• Michelle McGibbney Vlahoulis, a women and gender studies lecturer.

• Shelly Sass, a student activist for the Women's Coalition.

• Joan Allen, a senior counselor in the Employee Assistance Office.

• The Women Beyond Borders organization.

• The Sun Devil Combat Sports Association.

“The award has been given for eight years, and each year the executive committee, who selects the award winners, are increasingly overwhelmed by the caliber of the nominees,” says Karen Engler, an academic associate for CSW. “Our mission is to identify, advocate for, and increase awareness of needed changes in the university environment in order to enhance opportunities for women and other underrepresented groups. This award speaks volumes on the passion and dedication that numerous members of the ASU community have toward achieving gender equity and improving campus climate.”

As an instructor and adviser in the women and gender studies department, McGibbney Vlahoulis' commitment to serving women students and faculty is unparalleled. She has accomplished a number of important endeavors to help women students, faculty and staff, including organizing numerous fund-raising events, working with the undergraduate committee to redesign the women and gender studies introductory course, serving on the university's Campus Environment Team, taking a leadership role in the ASU body pride committee, and organizing efforts that led to the successful nomination of a women and gender studies graduate student for the 2007 Young Alumni Award.

In addition to all of these accomplishments, McGibbney Vlahoulis fosters activism through her involvement with internship students. Each year, she leads these students in running the annual Women's Leadership Conference, which allows them to engage in the process of social change so that they can, in turn, empower other women at ASU and beyond.

Sass' enthusiastic and tireless work as a feminist activist has made her known among various ASU student activist groups as the “go-to” person. Her efforts promote awareness of women's issues, as well as LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual, Transgender, Questioning) issues as well. Sass has taken on leadership roles in projects such as VDay, HRC@ASU, Women Beyond Borders, the Women's Coalition and the LGBTQ Coalition. As a producer for the “Vagina Monologues,” Sass secured funding from beneficiaries and coordinated the efforts of various women's organizations. She also helped organize the painting of the “A” on Hayden Butte for National Coming Out Day and provided the Women's Coalition with the opportunity to take a public stance on Proposition 107 by participating in the awareness rally coordinated by the HRC.

Allen often goes beyond the call of duty as a senior counselor at the Employee Assistance Office. For years, Allen has presented a number of workshops on the subject of preventing and addressing stalking behavior, which primarily affects women employees. Additionally, Allen has worked closely with ASU Police and has been called on numerous occasions to provide counseling to women suffering from domestic abuse, stalking and date rape.

Allen provides this vital support well into the nights and weekends, giving victims her private cell phone number, so that she can be there for them through some of their most painful and frightening times. Because of the nature of her profession, much of Allen's impact cannot be listed, but countless individuals who have been counseled by Allen have commented on how her guidance and mentorship deeply affected their lives professionally and personally. Allen is being honored for her astounding energy and dedication that make the university a better place for women.

Women Beyond Borders (WBB) was the first student group to suggest that advocacy for women in other countries, such as the plight of a woman under a burqa in Afghanistan, was a priority. In doing this, the WBB conducted educational film screenings, which have evolved over the past two years to include presentations on women in Afghanistan, a craft sale originating in Afghanistan for the benefit of those women, a “Sew-In” overnight fundraiser, a global women's activism book club, a program to sponsor teachers in Afghanistan, and an art exhibit to benefit women in Juarez. In their work to support women around the world through local efforts, the activists of WBB have embodied the message that advocacy for women should never be limited to our immediate environment, but should extend beyond borders.

Composed mainly of male members, the Sun Devil Combat Sports Association (SDCSA) is a student organization that is dedicated to changing the culture of violence against women. In the fall of 2005, SDCSA collaborated with Sigma Alpha-Alpha Nu Chapter and Student Counseling Services in developing and conducting a four-session Women's Self-Defense Assault and Rape Prevention workshop series at no cost to the participants. The organization's goal was to provide women on campus and in the community with realistic, hands-on, close-quarters self-defense skills. Given that college age women are at the highest risk for acquaintance rape, the need for self-defense skills was clearly evident. Since the first self-defense workshop series, SDCSA has continued to conduct the series every semester. Additionally, the group has also raised awareness of women's safety issues by effectively promoting the workshops across the Polytechnic campus.

For information on the CSW, visit the Web site http://aspin.asu.edu/csw.