Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Women's Center hosts annual Spring Reception

By Courtney Westlake

The annual Women's Center Spring Reception was held on Wednesday afternoon, April 29, in the Public Afffairs Center Restaurant.

"Traditions like this are very meaningful to us," said Lynn Otterson, director of the Women's Center. "This has been a huge year of transition and transformation for the Women's Center. We moved to a wonderful, bigger space in the Student Life Building, and we are now part of the Diversity Center."

Announced during the reception were the recipients of two major Women's Center awards: the 12th Naomi B. Lynn Award for Outstanding Contribution to the Environment for Women at UIS and the 5th Women’s Issues Caucus Student Activism Award.

Nominees for the Naomi B. Lynn Award included Pat Langley, Hazel Rozema and Liz Murphy Thomas. The Women’s Issues Caucus Student Activism Award nominee was Renee Rathjen.

Langley was the winner of the Naomi B. Lynn Award. Several students stood up to recognize the impact Langley has had on their lives through her teaching and mentoring. Veronica Espina, a Spanish instructor at UIS, also spoke highly of Langley's impact, citing her work on important and meaningful issues on campus over the past few decades.

Langley expressed her gratitude for the honor.

"One of the things I love about this place and have always loved is working with my colleagues," she said. "There are people who aren't here anymore who helped me get where I am today, who helped me with all kinds of things. And I do that for people today because people did that for me."

Rathjen received the Student Activism Award. In her career at UIS, she has been involved in Queer-Straight Student Alliance, the LGTBQ Resource Center, a resident advisor, College Democrats and much more.

"Renee has advocated for the welfare of students and the right of everyone, regardless of gender, to be treated equally," said Candi Clouse, a UIS alum and the first Student Activism Award recipient who presented the award. "Because of her work, the future of UIS looks brighter every day. Her work has been described as powerful, breath-taking and selfless."

Rathjen acknowledged that UIS has been like a "testing ground" for her for social change.

"It is truly an honor to receive this award in front of all of you who have played a role in shaping me," she said. "The lessons, memories and relationships I will take with me have been invaluable."

Naomi B. Lynn, former UIS chancellor, was present during the event and commended the Women's Center for its work, as well as the efforts and dedication of the nominees.

In honor of the recipients of the Naomi B. Lynn Award, each year something is added to the Women's Center Peace and Friendship Garden, which was built in 1997. The garden, located by the UIS Pond, now contains features such as chimes, a bench, birdhouse and more. For the 2008 and 2009 recipients, a stone path has been started with the winners' names engraved on a new stone each year.

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