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Virginia Wolf Distinguished Service Awards

2024 Virginia Wolf Distinguished Service Awards Reception and Celebration

12:30 – 2 p.m.
Wednesday, March 27, 2024
Clearwater-Whitewater rooms, First Floor, ISUB

Each year, members of the campus and local community are recognized with the Virginia Wolf Award for their continuous dedication to activism for gender justice.

Virginia (Ginny) Wolf was a professor of physical education at U of I from 1964-1982. Ginny took an active role in addressing issues affecting women on campus, including chairing U of I Women’s Caucus and helping to launch the campaign that brought about the establishment of a permanent Women’s Center.

The award was created in 2002 to recognize individuals who reflect a similar level of commitment and demonstrate a level of activism reverent of what Ginny gave more than 30 years ago. Selection of awardees is by review from a panel composed of past honorees. Women’s Center staff members serve as advisors to the nominations review committee but do not participate in the review process.

Upcoming Events

The Women’s Center offers a wide variety of events to help inform, educate, inspire and empower around women’s and gender-related issues.

Learn More

2024 Recipients

Senior, Art and Design

Melanie has been a student staff member at the Women's Center since Fall 2020, holding several different positions, including violence prevention assistant, programming assistant and office assistant. Her enthusiasm and action for gender justice have been evident throughout her entire experience at University of Idaho. She has truly thrown herself with passion and purpose into engagement at all levels of university life. Melanie started her academic journey at University of Idaho in Computer Science, passionate about better gender representation in a very male-dominant field. In her very first year at the Women’s Center, as an 18 year-old first year student, she organized and delivered a virtual workshop for female Moscow High School students, aimed at encouraging a new generation of young women to consider Computer Science or Virtual Technology and Design as a possible college degree program. In addition to her regular daytime duties as a Women’s Center student staff member, Melanie has also been a present and active volunteer over the years for many Equity and Diversity Unit (EDU) and Women’s Center programs such as Take Back the Night, LUNAFEST Women’s Film Festival, the Women’s March, F-Word Live! Poetry Slam and many others. She served as a residence hall assistant with university housing for two years, often bringing large groups of residents to Women’s Center programs and hosting informal discussions afterwards. While at University of Idaho, Melanie has sought to grow her skills in equity and justice work by serving on a number of university committees and groups, including the RHA Community Assembly, the Visual Arts Community (VAC), the Japan Club and the City of Moscow’s Intermodal Transit Center Sculpture Installation committee. She has taken many different trainings to develop her knowledge base around creating more inclusive environments, including conflict and diversity trainings, QPR (suicide prevention training), Green Dot Bystander Intervention, the LGBTQA Office’s Safe Spaces training and trainings on assisting students in distress. In the last couple of years, Melanie has really started walking the walk of feminist activism. She gently educates and encourages other students’ involvement in gender equity issues, lobbies for change at the legislative level, engages in difficult conversations with conservative family members and can often be found attending and supporting a wide variety of campus and community-based events designed to foster a welcoming and accepting environment on the Palouse and beyond.

Professor, Dept. of Culture, Society and Justice

Much of the work Debb does that is deserving of recognition does not appear on a CV or resume. She makes a huge contribution to the daily lived experiences of the people in her orbit, including students, staff and her colleagues. Debb has a clear sense of justice and consistently advocates for people whose voices are silenced. She recently took on a leadership role to review the faculty evaluation system at University of Idaho, passionate about developing a fairer system that eliminates unjust bias and highlights the important work women and faculty of color do on campus. Debb is a fantastic mentor to her colleagues, providing guidance and a kind ear when necessary. Debb calls out injustice when it arises and does so with such intelligence and steadiness, it is impossible to ignore. Further, she has taken on a role as leader in the Dept. of Culture, Society and Justice program, advocating for and with her women colleagues, amplifying their voices and fighting for fair treatment. Debb’s scholarship on consumer bankruptcy highlights the fact that a disproportionate number of women – especially elderly women and single moms – experience bankruptcy. Her findings have significant implications for policy on the economy and debt, and matter to people who are developing health care policy at the state and federal level. Debb's work has been featured in a number of popular news stories, including a series of podcasts as well as the Washington Post, The Atlantic, Financial Times and even John Oliver (among others). Her research is driving policy that will be more equitable for American women. Debb is uniquely dedicated to our campus, our community and to all disempowered citizens in this country.

Student, Washington State University

Iris signifies the profound hope that a younger generation can bring to a time of divisive rhetoric, repeal of human rights and heartache that cuts deep. Last fall, Iris became aware of Advocates for Youth, a non-profit organization that runs an emergency contraception network. Iris was immediately interested, applied to join the network, was granted access and attended training to learn how to effectively assist young people. She got to work quickly, talking with her supervisor, the director of the WSU Women*s Center and her peers. She didn't wait for a strategic plan, a working group or a committee — she got to work. She immediately began assisting WSU students she knows. Through them, she also began assisting others she didn’t know. Her sphere of impact expands on and on. Her ears are open, her eyes are focused, she is alive in this political time and she is rising to the moment. This is grassroots movement. She is moving, and she is moving towards others. Gloria Anzaldúa says, “Borders are set up to define the places that are safe and unsafe, to distinguish us from them.” Our Palouse community transcends the border, our solidarity transcends borders, our love transcends borders and so do our needs. Iris’ work transcends the borders of her roles as a student and peer health educator. And, as the needs of this moment transcend borders, so does Iris. She is stepping up to pave a road for herself, her peers and those who will come after. Iris is quiet, thoughtful, well-spoken and organized. Her influence and her work are welcome in creating the world that future generations of women are growing up in. This world needs gender justice advocates like Iris.

Past Recipients

2023 - Akorede (Koko) Seriki (student), Emilie McLarnan (staff), Rebecca Scofield (faculty), Rev. Elizabeth Stevens (community member)

2022 - Farjahan Shawon (student), Kristin Haltinner (faculty), Amy Sharp (community member)

2021 - Briana Navarro (student), Erin Chapman (faculty), Maureen Laflin (community member)

2020 - Samragyee Gautam (student), Leontina Hormel (staff), Maureen Taylor Regan (community member)

2019 - Ashley Ayala (student), Julia Keleher (staff), Christine Wall (community member)

2018 - Catherine Yenne (student), Christina Vazquez-Ayala (staff), Nancy Nydegger (community member)

2017 - Madeline Scyphers (student), Rula Awwad-Rafferty (faculty), Erin Tomlin (community member)

2016 - Courtney Kersten (student), Ryanne Pilgerem (faculty), Sally Fredericks (community member)

2015 - Sara Spritzer (student), Maribel Franco (student), Laura Putsche (faculty), Kathy Sprague (community member)

2014 - Kaitlin Moroney (student), Yolanda Bisbee (staff), Deb Payne (community member)

2013 - Whitney Chapman (student), Colleen Kulesza (student), Virginia Solan (staff), Heather Shea Gasser (staff), Lela Ames (community member)

2012 - Micah Kehrein (student), Jane Lear (staff), Jama Sebald (community member)

2011 - Lynn McAlister (student), Chelsia Rice (student), Christine Moffitt (faculty), Christopher Bidiman (community member)

2010 - Rachel Todd (student), Francesca Sammarruca (faculty), Liz Sullivan (community member)

2009 - Anne-Marije Rook (student), Rebecca Rod (staff), Joann Muneta (community member), Jeannie Harvey (lifetime activist)

2008 - Tara Malmquist (student), Liz Brandt (faculty), Amy Stone Ford (community member)

2007 - James French (student), Traci Craig (faculty), Mary Jo Hamilton (community member)

2006 - Cassie Searle (student), Kathy Aiken (faculty), Ginny Foote (community member)

2005 - Selena Lloyd (student), Betsy Thomas and Valerie Russo (staff)

2004 - No awards given

2003 - Lori van Buggenum (student), Debbie Storrs (faculty)

2002 - Emily Sly (student), Kay Keskinen (staff)

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Mailing Address:
875 Perimeter Drive MS 1064
Moscow, ID 83844-1064

Phone: 208-885-2777

Fax: 208-885-6285


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