Meet the Winners of the 2021 University Awards for the Advancement of Women

Winners of the 2021 University Awards for the Advancement of Women!

Vaishnavi Siripurapu is a junior double majoring in Biology (BS) and Women’s and Gender Studies with a minor in Medical Anthropology. She is originally from Mooresville, NC and an Indian immigrant. Vaishnavi is particularly interested in reproductive health, reproductive justice, and sexual education. She has previously created a gynecology education seminar and conducted published research in the reproductive health field, works as a birth doula at UNC hospitals, and also collaborates on a YouTube Channel for reproductive and feminist education called The Vagilantes. Vaishnavi has collaborated with Duke Global Women’s Health Center, The InnovationNext Reproductive Health Grant, and scholars from various universities to push for reproductive health development and accessibility. She is also a peer instructor in the Biology and Chemistry departments, encouraging the retention of women in STEM at UNC. Vaishnavi aspires to be an advocate for gender equality, reproductive health, and reproductive justice.


Candice Crilly is a fifth-year Chemistry PhD student in Gary Pielak’s research group and a former leader of the WinSPIRE (Women in Science Promoting Inclusion in Research Experiences) organization at UNC. Candice completed her undergraduate studies at Occidental College with a B.A. in biochemistry and the first in her family to obtain a bachelor’s degree. She learned in college the value of mentorship, which inspired her to volunteer for numerous STEM outreach and mentorship opportunities throughout her academic career. In 2018, when the WinSPIRE program founder Samantha Piszkiewicz graduated, Candice stepped up to lead a team of passionate graduate student volunteers to organize, improve, and expand the then 2-year-old WinSPIRE summer research and mentorship program for woman-identifying and non-binary high school students.Under her leadership, the WinSPIRE organizational team devised and implemented innovative strategies to recruit students from less privileged backgrounds, leading to a 225% increase in program size and an over 20% increase in applications from students who would be the first in their family to attend college. Candice also worked with her fellow co-president Megan Luedeman to ensure the sustainability of WinSPIRE program by introducing a formal structure to the organizational team and by initiating partnerships with the Carolina Women’s Center, the Office of Graduate Education at UNC, and the after-school youth program StudentU in Durham. In the Fall of 2020, Candice stepped down from the co-president role to focus on completing her dissertation research, but she continues to support the program through grant-writing and meeting with potential community partners. Outside of researching biological phenomena at the molecular level and participating in STEM outreach, Candice enjoys attending concerts, hiking, and traveling.

Dr. Jillian Dempsey, PHD is an Associate Professor of Chemistry and the Bowman and Gordon Gray Distinguished Term Professor. Her research laboratory seeks to develop efficient solar energy conversion processes and she is currently the Deputy Director of the Center for Hybrid Approaches in Solar Energy to Liquid Fuels (CHASE), a Department of Energy Fuels from Sunlight Hub. She serves as the program director for the Clare Boothe Luce Fellowships for Graduate Women in Chemistry and is the co-founder of the Chemistry Women Mentorship Committee.

Maria Mangano joined the Career Development Office (CDO) of UNC School of Law in January 2005. She has a special interest in women’s career issues and working with students and alumni who are members of groups historically underrepresented in the legal profession. She received a BA with highest distinction from the University of Virginia and an MA from Duke University, both in English, and her law degree from UNC. Prior to joining the CDO, Maria served as a staff attorney at the North Carolina Court of Appeals, practiced law with small firms in Raleigh and Durham, and worked at Duke Law School in the Office of Career Services and on the faculty as a Legal Writing instructor. She is a longtime member and past president of the North Carolina Association of Women Attorneys, was on the Board of Directors of NC LEAF (Legal Education Assistance Foundation) from 2005-2012, and has been a member of the North Carolina Bar Association’s Minorities in the Profession Committee since 2005, co-chairing that Committee’s Summer Associates Program subcommittee in 2008-2009. She is a member and Carolina Law’s school representative of the Susie Sharp Inn of Court, serving as president of the Inn from 2011-2013.