Eight women including a team of IT professionals, a faculty member and a doctoral student were honored April 24 during the Breaking Barriers awards banquet, which recognizes faculty, staff and students who have worked to advance gender equity at Oregon State University.

Presented by the President’s Commission on the Status of Women, the Office of Institutional Diversity and OSU Athletics, the awards are given to those who have gone above and beyond in their efforts to lift up women and other historically marginalized genders at the university.

The PCOSW Community Builder Award went to the Women in IT group:

  • Kristina Case, director, academic technologies, University Information and Technology.
  • Polly Harrell, director of business architecture, Finance and Administration Information and Technology.
  • Chrysanthemum Hayes, associate director, decision support, UIT.
  • Emily Longman, lead security analyst, UIT.
  • Marjorie McLagan, deputy chief information security officer, UIT.
  • Weiwei Zhang, educational technologies product manager, UIT.

The six women created a “Women in IT” Teams community after participating in an Educause training for central IT workers in spring 2022. Through that training, the group recognized the need for more open and vulnerable dialogue about the unconscious biases that hindered IT from being a welcoming work environment for women. They wrote a report on their experiences and shared it with the broader IT community at OSU, where it was well received not only by women, but also by the broader IT community. Some of these colleagues shared that they’d encountered similar challenges, while others expressed a desire to be better allies. The Women in IT Teams channel now has 472 women and allies in IT positions across the university and fosters conversation around making their workforce truly inclusive. Moving forward, they are creating a committee and electing an advisory chair to keep the group running long-term as a community of practice.

The Breaking Barriers in Athletics Award went to Colleen Bee, head of the School of Marketing, Analytics and Design in the College of Business and OSU’s first female Faculty Athletics Representative. In that role, Bee engages with the Athletics department in several ways, including compliance with NCAA rules and legislative governance within the PAC-12 and OSU. She supports the academic integrity of the university’s athletics programs and acts as an advocate for OSU student-athletes. She works closely with the academic counselors supporting student-athletes and provides updates to the Faculty Senate on what’s happening in Athletics. Bee’s past experiences as a member of the Athletic Advisory Committee and as OSU’s Coalition of Intercollegiate Athletics representative, along with her academic research in sports marketing, give her unique insight into the needs of student-athletes. She is dedicated to promoting holistic support and increased resources for student-athletes’ academic, physical and mental well-being.

The Harriet “Hattie” Redmond Award, which celebrates members of the OSU community who work as agents of change in service of racial justice and gender equity, went to Savanah Leidholt, a fourth-year doctoral student in microbiology. Leidholt, who works under Rebecca Vega-Thurber, was honored for the weeklong camp she organized at OSU last summer to give high school students from underrepresented backgrounds a chance to learn about college-level lab techniques and career pathways. Students spent half of each day in the lab and half on field trips, where they learned about a wide variety of careers within STEM and microbiology specifically. The camp also focused on building confidence and a sense of belonging: Leidholt’s goals were to create something she herself would have loved to attend as a kid, and to let students see people who look like them succeeding in STEM fields. Leidholt worked closely with Vega-Thurber to make the camp accessible by providing scholarships to most attendees as well as covering the cost of transportation and other aspects that might otherwise keep low-income students from attending. They are currently working with the microbiology department to secure funding that will help turn the camp into a sustainable annual program.

— Molly Rosbach