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University Gazette

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Spotlight shines on five 2018 UAAW winners

Gloria Thomas, director of the Carolina Women’s Center (far left), and Chancellor Carol L. Folt (far right) honored these five winners of the University Award for the Advancement of Women at a March 5 ceremony. From left, the winners are Emily Hagstrom (undergraduate): Katrina Morgan and Francesca Bernardi (graduate student, shared), Erica Wallace (staff) and Marcey Waters (faculty).

Five women who spend much of their time helping other women and girls had their moment in spotlight March 5. Chancellor Carol L. Folt presented the 2018 University Awards for the Advancement of Women at a ceremony hosted by the Carolina Women’s Center in the Pleasants Room of Wilson Library.

The awards, created in 2006, honor individuals who have mentored or supported women on campus, elevated the status of women or improved campus policies for them, promoted women’s recruitment and retention or promoted professional development for women.

This year’s honorees are:

The winners receive a monetary award ($5,000 for faculty and staff winners, $2,500 for the undergraduate and graduate student winners).

“I think it’s a privilege that you allow us to thank you,” Folt said to the award winners. “Even when it’s embarrassing, you allow us to put you up here and be representatives.”

Waters, the first to be honored, was recognized for her advocacy for women scientists in ways large and small. Of her 29 doctoral students, 52 percent have been women, compared to the national average of only 27 percent. Waters co-organized the University’s first Summit on Women in Science in 2013, which attracted more than 150 women, works with the graduate student organization WISE (Women in Science and Engineering) and has helped a new undergraduate organization get established.

Waters, who came here in 1999, spoke about being the first female chemistry professor at Carolina to have children and waiting another decade before another woman professor was hired in her department. “The hardest thing is hiring,” she said, but not because of what some call “the leaky pipeline in the sciences” of qualified female applicants. In a recent search, she said, “only 20 percent of the applicants were women, but those female applicants were the cream of the crop. It doesn’t take 50 percent of the applicants to have people who are eminently hirable.”

Wallace, in addition to her peer mentoring duties, is also a founder and member of the advisory board for Women of Worth, an initiative that creates and sustains a community for women of color and women who identify as members of underrepresented racial and ethnic populations.

“This is super uncomfortable for me,” Wallace admitted when she received her award. “But I turned 30 years old and this is my year to say yes to everything that scares me.”

Graduate students Morgan and Bernardi were honored as the co-founders of Girls Talk Math, a two-week summer day camp to encourage high school girls to consider careers in mathematics. At the camp, the students explore interesting mathematical concepts, learn about the rich history of women in mathematics and create a blog and podcast series. The camp will meet on campus for the third time this summer.

They came from different backgrounds—one from a non-academic family in Italy and the other from an American math family—but united in the same goal of showing girls how they can pursue math as a major and a career.

“We all have more power than we think we do,” Morgan said. “No matter who you are, you’re capable of making an impact.”

Hagstrom is co-founder of the Carolina Feminist Coalition, co-chair of Carolina Advocating for Gender Equity, senior print editor of The Siren Magazine and a program developer and volunteer at the Carolina Women’s Center. “It’s all been about community and about the future,” Hagstrom said.

“The feminist community that we have created here has been my life blood. It sustains us. It fills us. It gives
us hope.”