Eight women were honored at the fifth annual Phenomenal Women of USI and the Community awards program March 23 at USI. Sponsored by the USI Multicultural Center and the Evansville Chapter of the American Association of University Women, the event held during Women’s History Month honors and celebrates women from all walks of life who have made contributions to diversity in the USI and the Evansville communities. Through the annual recognition of these contributions, the Phenomenal Women program hopes to inspire others to embrace and promote diversity within their own lives.
Phenomenal Women undergraduate honorees for 2006 were NaCole Ball
and LaCresha Williams.
Ball, a radio and television major, has provided exceptional service to the Black Student Union, a campus organization for which she has served as president, vice president, and treasurer. She also assisted in implementing the first Black Student Union week at USI. She volunteers for many activities and is a frequent emcee for campus programs of the Multicultural Center, SpringFest, and USIdol.
Williams, a nursing and pre-med double major, volunteers for the Boys and Girls Club, Big Brothers/Big Sisters, St. Mary’s Hospital, and Albion Fellows Bacon Center. She is a member of the Biology Club, Gamma Phi Beta sorority, Student Government, Activities Programming Board, and Panhellenic Council, for which she serves as executive vice president. She also is an Amigo orientation leader and participates in Campus Outreach.
The Phenomenal Woman Faculty Member award went to Dr. Margaret Skoglund
, associate professor of art and a champion of diversity in her teaching. She created a section of Liberal Arts 497, Art and Diversity in the 20th Century, which introduces students to literature and music from diverse groups and cultures. She has led educational trips to Spain, Portugal, Italy and Morocco. Skoglund also plans field trips to museums that exhibit the art and artifacts of diverse cultures, and organizes events and guest lectures that reveal the customs of cultures other than our own.
Phenomenal Woman Support Staff member was awarded to Lisa Staples,
administrative assistant in the Biology Department. She cares deeply about student success, supporting the biology students’ efforts and providing helpful information to students and faculty alike. She is at the center of activity when the Biology Club raises money each year with its poinsettia sale, organizing materials, keeping track of orders, and helping students with the distribution of the plants.
Phenomenal Woman Administrative Staff member Darlene Fisher
is having her second run as a USI administrator. She was employed in the personnel department for eight years in the 1980s and returned in 2000 as director of Human Resources. She has contributed much to her profession, achieving lifetime certification as a Senior Professional in Human Resources, and assisting other human resources in earning their professional certification. She gives leadership to the Evansville Area Human Resources Association and was recognized as the Evansville Area HR Professional of the Year in 1995. As the Affirmative Action officer at USI, she ensures opportunities for people of all backgrounds and is dedicated to appreciation of diversity in our workplace.
The Phenomenal Women Community at Large awards went to Deena Laska-Lewis, Karen Ragland,
and Patti Swanson.
Laska-Lewis is the artistic director of the Children’s Center for Dance Education, fulfilling a profound commitment to providing access to the arts for underserved communities. She has developed outreach programs to center-city, at-risk, low-to-moderate income families and those with physical and mental disabilities, including after-school dance programming for 21st Century Schools and at Patchwork Central. She has helped develop programs of social significance, such as “Remember the Children,” a Holocaust Memorial, and “Amazing Grace,” on the history of African American spirituals, and “To Rosa,” an original ballet tribute to Rosa Parks, which debuted at USI’s Martin Luther King Day celebration in February. Laska-Lewis was the Arts Council of Southwestern Indiana 2005 Arts Educator of the Year. In May 2005, she and the Center for Dance Education received Leadership Evansville’s Jefferson Award for organizational leadership in the Arts.
Ragland is director of the YMCA and Evansville Housing Authority Diamonds program. The program is for girls ages 7-18 who come from difficult circumstances, but who are leaders in schools and communities. Ninety percent of them live in single parent homes and their families are working poor. Ragland is an member of the Evansville Vanderburgh School Board and is a USI field instructor for both bachelor’s and master’s degree students in social work, many of whom have gone on to accept positions of responsibility in community agencies and organizations. Among her honors is the Sue Woodson Award from the Human Relations Commission. A USI graduate, she is active on the Alumni Council and the Varsity Club, and is a charter member of the Black Alumni Society.
Swanson retired in December after a distinguished reporting career with the Evansville newspapers – working first for the Evansville Press, and then for the Evansville Courier and Press after the papers merged. She covered education for the largest part of her career and did so tirelessly, with great accuracy, and always with an ethical interest in the welfare of children. She helped readers of the newspapers understand complex issues such as school transportation, school lunch programs, access of the underprivileged to social and academic services, and budgeting priorities. She wrote compelling feature stories about students in need, and about those who achieved in spite of their circumstances. She received the highest award of the Indiana State Teachers Association and an honorary doctorate from Ivy Tech State.