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Clemson Commission on Women bestows 2021 ‘Outstanding Women’ awards


The Clemson University Commission on Women presented the 2021 Outstanding Women awards in a socially distanced ceremony at the Madren Center on April 26.

The awards are given in five categories. This year’s winners were:

  • Faculty — Jessica Larsen, assistant professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering.
  • Staff — Paige Thomsen, program coordinator for the provost and vice president of Academic Affairs.
  • Graduate students — Akiebia Hicks and Katie Thurson, doctoral and master’s students, respectively, in the College of Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management.
  • Undergraduate student — Eden Wallace, a senior studying Political Science and Women’s Leadership.
  • Gender Equity Champion — Martine LaBerge, department chair of Bioengineering.

“I want to express my gratitude to each,” said President Jim Clements during his speech at the ceremony. “I consider myself very fortunate to be at a university that has a strong, active and passionate Women’s Commission. I especially appreciate everyone’s hard work this year, which has been challenging for everyone. You are all helping Clemson be a better university for future generations of women who will study here or work here.”

Clements said a notable result of the commission’s hard work is the new Child Development Center, which opened at the beginning of the Fall semester.

“I know that was a priority for the Women’s Commission for decades, and I’m glad that it is finally open for our faculty and staff families to use.”

Clements also praised the commission’s work to improve gender equity on campus, efforts that complement the TIGERS Advance program, which was created to increase the participation and advancement of women in academic careers in STEM fields.

The commission annually honors individuals who have made outstanding contributions to improve the quality of life for women and inspire women’s leadership and success at Clemson University. The awards honor women whose actions and accomplishments meet one or more of the following criteria: 

  1. Demonstrates a commitment to advance gender equality, diversity and inclusion.
  2. Engages in work that positively affects women’s lives, especially Clemson University faculty, staff and students.
  3. Serves as a role model or mentor in the lives of Clemson University women.
  4. Serves as a role model or mentor within the community. Exhibits active involvement in causes and organizations directly impacting the status of women (e.g., pay equity, violence against women, women’s health, etc.).

Faculty award-winner Larsen added to a growing list of accolades this year. She also is this year’s recipient of the Bradley Mentoring Award and a National Science Foundation CAREER award.

Organizers were proud to add the Gender Equity Champion award this year, said Lori Dickes, associate chair of Political Science and program director for the Master of Public Administration program in the College of Behavioral, Social and Health Sciences and outgoing chair of the Commission on Women. The award recognizes an individual of any gender identity who has made significant and positive contributions to the advancement of gender equity and inclusion at the University, and may include alumni, administrative faculty and major gift donors.

“We were excited to honor Dr. Martine LaBerge as our inaugural recipient of the Gender Equity Champion Award,” said Dickes. “This award was newly created to honor any faculty, staff, University donors, alumni or other Clemson community members that promote and advocate for general equity.”

The commission also honored the following eight essential workers at the ceremony:

  • Lisa Wray, office manager for Occupational and Environmental Safety
  • Emily Preston, Landscaping Service’s staff horticulturist and greenhouse manager
  • Leasa Evinger, director of COVID operations for Clemson Home
  • Cindy Case, interim supervisor for Housing maintenance
  • Liz Sturgis, marketing manager for Dining (Aramark)
  • Tina Land, building grounds specialist for Clemson Home
  • Dionne Holt, personnel coordinator for Clemson Home
  • Mary Erin Morrissey, deputy emergency manager, Housing

“After the year we’ve all had, it’s more important than ever to show appreciation to essential workers,” said Dickes. “We were pleased this year to honor a few of the amazing women essential workers that have sustained operations and kept all of us safe over the past year.”

The Clemson University Commission on Women was established to improve the quality of life for women at Clemson. The commission’s charge is to discern the status of women at Clemson University and document findings; discover and pursue the removal of institutional barriers identified by the commission; collect information and/or conduct research regarding issues affecting women, including the study of practices followed at other Universities’ Commissions on Women; and explore problem areas limiting equal opportunities and advancement.

From left: President Jim Clements, Paige Thomsen, Katie Thurson, Akiebia Hicks, Eden Wallace, Jessica Larsen, Martine LaBerge, Lori Dickes, and Provost Bob Jones.