Women and Gender office

Six women were awarded for being community leaders who have generated positive social change.

Six members of female faculty, students and alumni of East Carolina University were celebrated as Women of Distinction in a virtual award ceremony on Sept. 29 for their achievements and impact on the university.

Created by Women’s Studies and the former Chancellor’s Committee in 2007, the semi-annual Women of Distinction awards recognize individuals who have contributed to the success of others and created positive social change through service, research and education, according to Ashley Cleland, associate director of ECU’s Women and Gender Office (WGO).

Cleland said the recipients of the awards included Eboni Baugh, Cheryl Dudasik-Wiggs, Jill Matarelli Carlson, Harvey Sharp Wooten and Emily Taylor Stewart.

The keynote speaker at the event was Sheriff Paula Dance, the first Black woman to serve as a Sheriff in North Carolina, Cleland said. She said there were six Women of Distinction Awards and one Dr. Linda Allred Profiles in Leadership Award given that night.

The Women of Distinction award ceremonies are typically celebrated in-person, but the spring event was postponed until Sept. 29 due to COVID-19, Cleland said.

“The Women and Gender Office strives to cultivate a supportive, safe, and affirming environment for women, all genders, and gender equity allies in the ECU community,” Cleland said. “We (WGO) provide intentional opportunities for transformative learning through events, training, workshops, and student advisement on gender issues.”

The nominees are selected from a jury made of students, faculty and staff, according to Chairwoman of the Women of Distinction Jury LaNika Wright. She said the jury was composed of five members of the ECU community representative of faculty and students. Wright said together the jury selects five to six Women of Distinction and one Linda Allred Profiles in Leadership Award.

Wright said women are nominated by their peers through an online Qualtrics survey. She said the WGO Advisory’s elected jury then reviews each application along with their letters of support and resume.

“As the chair of the jury, my role was to assemble the jury (requests that members join), create the rubric used to score the nominees, coordinate the meeting to review the nominees, lead the winner selection and report back to the WGO advisory board who was selected and why,” Wright said.

Awarded the Linda Allred Profiles in Leadership Award and a Woman of Distinction at the ceremony for her with gender equity and education on and off campus, Cheryl Dudasik-Wiggs said in an email statement she was proud to receive both awards and particularly humbled to receive the Allred Award, ECU’s top leadership award for women.

Dudasik-Wiggs received a multitude of other awards in the past such as the Bertie Fearing Excellence in Teaching Award, the Chancellor’s Centennial Award for Excellence in Ambition, and most recently the Democratic Woman of North Carolina “STAR” Award, a statewide honor that recognizes her work with gender equity.

Dudasik-Wiggs said she is the co-director of the Gender Studies Program at ECU and chair of its executive board. She said she directed the Women’s Studies Program at ECU for over 10 years and coordinated the biennial Women’s Agenda Assembly in Greenville, North Carolina for the past 12 years. She said she has served on various ECU committees over the years where she’s given voice to gender issues.

“Society needs leaders of all genders who can offer perspectives not found in the traditional, patriarchal power system. Having a diversity of voices makes for a more balanced and just world; and in this – the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment – we need to honor those women who came before us, appreciate those who are marching alongside us, and fight for the rights of those who will succeed us,” Dudasik-Wiggs said.

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