Empowering, bold and resilient

The 2024 Women and Allies of Distinction Awards

Published by James Cressman, Date: April 9, 2024
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CONTENT WARNING: The following article contains mentions of depression and suicide. Please use discretion when proceeding.

The 2024 Women and Allies of Distinction Awards Ceremony took place Thursday, March 28 in the Smith Student Center Ballroom.

The event, sponsored by the Gender Studies Program and the President’s Commission on Women honored three women who set themselves apart in their mentoring and support of women on the SRU campus.

The event welcomed Joy Priest, an assistant professor of African American/African Diaspora Poetry at the University of Pittsburgh.

Priest read excerpts from her book, “Horsepower,” which is a collection of poems.

The event earned a full crowd of women and allies from across campus, including SRU president Karen Riley.

The awards ceremony has honored a student, faculty and staff member each year since its inception in 1997.

This year’s award winners were junior mechanical engineering student Angelina Fox, assistant professor of civil engineering Robabeh Jazaei, and management technician in the Student Engagement and Leadership Office Jennifer Turner.

Angelina Fox

In addition to being an honoree, Jazaei also served as Fox’s nominator.

“Angelina is dedicated to promoting inclusiveness, supporting women and advocating for gender equality on campus and in the community,” Jazaei said.

Fox, who currently serves as president of the Society of Women Engineers (SWE), also serves as the treasurer for the National Society of Leadership and Success (NSLS) and is a member of the SRU Marching Pride.

In addition to serving as president, Fox was the founder of SWE, an undertaking Jazaei encouraged her to take. 

Prior to being nominated, Fox was unaware of the existence of the Women and Allies of Distinction Awards. 

“I received an email from the President’s Commission on Women congratulating me on being selected to receive the award. I had to ask some questions and do some research because I was so unfamiliar with it,” Fox said.

Fox says being involved across campus has helped her understand her limits and decide where she wants to dedicate her time. 

“My experiences have been positive and negative but most importantly, informational,” Fox said. 

Through her various commitments, Fox has learned a great deal about herself and those around her. 

“I’m a very empathetic person and sympathetic to anyone regardless of who they are. Helping other people makes me happy,” Fox said. 

From a young age, Fox’s struggle with Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) shaped her into someone who wanted to be there for others. 

Fox says it was difficult for people around her to accept what she was dealing with because of her outgoing personality. 

“It was hard for me to accept that my feelings weren’t normal, because everyone was telling me, ‘You can’t be sad because you’re such a happy person,’” Fox said. 

During this period of her life, Fox met another student who she found a lot in common with and soon became friends.

“She was going through a similar situation and became someone I really looked up to,” Fox said.

Fox says the student helped her understand herself more and encouraged her to reach out for help.

Her friend died by suicide in February of 2021. According to Fox, the next several months were very difficult.

“I really struggled with motivation to keep going,” Fox said.

Fox says she eventually found the motivation to seek help for the loss and came to a realization.

“I want to make sure I can do everything in my power to help others, so [others] don’t feel the way she or I did,” Fox said.

For students who may be hesitant about getting involved, Fox offers some advice.

“As someone who always thinks about the worst possible outcome, it is hard to do or try anything new because of the ‘what if?’” Fox said. 

Fox says students should take the rise of doing something because the good could outweigh the bad.

“My biggest motivation to get involved is to help others,” Fox said.

As for other students, Fox says they need to find what motivates and encourages them.  

Robabeh Jazaei 

Nicole Dafoe, dean of the College of Engineering and Science, was the nominator for Jazaei.

In writing the nomination, Dafoe highlighted Jazaei as a female engineer and faculty member who embodies the role of a mentor for those who identify as women on campus and who are interested in pursuing a career in engineering. 

“[Jazaei] offers students an industry-oriented perspective. Her teaching philosophy emphasizes project-based learning and preparing students for successful engineering careers,” Dafoe said.

According to Dafoe, the first civil engineering graduating cohort has 100% placement. 

“In addition to teaching a diverse range of civil and mechanical engineering courses, Dr. Jazaei mentors senior design projects and research teams,” Dafoe said.

Dafoe described Jazaei as a person who can make professional connections like no other. 

Jazaei is dedicated to mentoring students from different backgrounds and is committed to representing underrepresented and minority students and women. 

Jennifer Turner

Aubrey Rader, the assistant director of Student Organizations and Leadership introduced the last recipient of the night, whom she nominated.

In her nomination, Rader described Turner as one of the hardest-working women she has had as a colleague.

“Jen is great at her job, but what makes her truly special is the way she cultivates relationships with our students and advocates on their behalf,” Rader wrote. 

Turner’s SRU roots run deeper than many may realize as she has been a lifelong resident of Slippery Rock, attending both the high school and the university. 

Turner’s lifelong ties to the community offer her a unique perspective when it comes to events held on campus.

“[I have attended events] as a student, a community member and now as somebody who works [here],” Turner said.

Turner says she can put that perspective together when planning events such as homecoming. 

Turner, who was originally hired as temporary staff in the psychology department, moved into her position at the Student Engagement Leadership Office. 

“My favorite thing is working with the students, the grad students as well as my coworkers,” Turner said.

Of all the events Turner has worked on, she says homecoming is an event that stands out. 

“By the time homecoming rolls around, to step back and watch everything that you helped plan be such a huge event and successful. I think it’s great,” Turner said.

Wrap-up

Emily Dolan, an associate professor in the Strategic Communication and Media Department serves as co-chair of the President’s Commission on Women alongside Andrea Miller-Grady, assistant athletic director.

Dolan has served on the commission for four years, the two most recent within a leadership position.  

Dolan, Grady and associate professor Julie Naviaux served as hosts for the event. Naviaux also serves as the director of Gender Studies at SRU.

The awards ceremony is an event Dolan looks forward to each year.

“I love his event because it celebrates those who identify as women and their allies who make it a daily part of their lives to advance and empower women through mentoring,” Dolan said.

Each year, the event is held during Women’s History Month, something that makes it special to Dolan.

While an official date has not been selected for the 2025 awards ceremony, the nomination period will open early spring.

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James is a senior Strategic Communication and Media major with concentrations in digital media production and multimedia journalism. He also minors in film & media studies. James serves as the News Editor at The Rocket and President of Lambda Pi Eta: the National Communication Association’s Honor Society. James is a movie enthusiast, a “Star Wars” fanatic and a fan of all things comedy. James previously served as the President of WSRU-TV (2022-2024).

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