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.


Mary Leadbetter asks you to support the CWC Moxie Project for GiveUNC today!

The Carolina Women’s Center (CWC) contributes to making UNC a more inclusive community by celebrating achievements towards gender equity and ensuring there are no gender-based barriers to success. Whether you are a woman or gender non-conforming, our approach to equity embraces gender with all its intersections, including but not limited to race/ethnicity, class/socioeconomic status, age, gender identity and expression, ability, parent/caregiver status, religion, nationality, and sexual orientation.

Today, on GiveUNC, your gift of any amount will support the Moxie Project, which equips UNC undergraduate students with the knowledge and tools to serve as change agents for social justice and gender equity, through summer internship experiences at local non-profit organizations that are committed to a fair and just society.

CWC is striving to achieve at least 100 new donors today – help us reach our goal!



Meet the 2020 Faculty Scholar Grant Winners

Congratulations to the Winners of the 2020 Faculty Scholar Grant!

Abbie E. Smith-Ryan, Ph.D., CSCS*D, FNSCA, FACSM, FISSN is an associate professor in the Department of Exercise and Sport Science, where she serves as the Director of the Applied Physiology Lab. She is also an adjunct associate professor in the Department of Nutrition and Allied Health Sciences. Her research interests center around exercise and nutrition interventions to modify various aspects of body composition, cardiovascular health, and metabolic function.  She is an active researcher in the field of metabolism, sport nutrition and exercise performance, in both healthy and clinical populations, leading projects funded by the National Institutes of Health and international and national industry sponsored clinical trials.  Dr. Smith-Ryan contributes to the current body of scientific literature with over 130 peer-reviewed manuscripts; a number of scholastic books and book chapters; and international/national presentations. Dr. Smith-Ryan currently serves as a University liaison for the ‘Working on Women in Science (WOWS)’ initiative, Faculty Athletics Committee, and the Institutional Review Board. She has a passion for improving the health and quality of life of others through evidenced-based research. In her research project funded by CWC, her goals are to “comprehensively evaluate body composition, metabolic parameters, and exercise capacity in women at all stages of the menopause transition” and “identify relationships between body composition, lifestyle factors, physical activity, and metabolism through the progression of menopause.”


Julia Gibson is the head of the Professional Actor Training Program at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill where she is an associate professor in the Department of Dramatic Art and a resident acting company member of PlayMakers Repertory Company.  She has performed as an actor on and off Broadway and at major theatres across the U.S. as well as on TV and film.  She has directed at the Rattlestick, Chautauqua Theatre Company, Portland Stage, Gulfshore, and other theatres, as well as Juilliard, NYU, SMU and Stella Adler.  She received her MFA from New York University, is a founding member of The Actors Center in New York City, and the National Alliance for Acting Teachers, and is a Fox Fellowship recipient.  Julia has narrated over 160 audio books.  She has written two full-length plays, one of which was a semi finalist for the O’Neill National Playwrights Conference, and is currently working on her third, which she started with the assistance of a Junior Faculty Development Award.  She just completed a year with the Center for Faculty Excellence’s Leadership Fundamentals Program. In her CWC-funded research project, she aims to “fully shine the spotlight on mature women, provide roles for older actresses, tell their stories and give them visibility” in the world of theater.

Sarah E. (Betsy) Bledsoe is associate professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Social Work and an associate at the Family Informed Trauma Treatment Center in Baltimore, MD. Her training includes a doctorate in social work from Columbia University, a master of social work from the University of Pittsburgh, and a bachelor of arts in psychology from the University of Tennessee. Her research has long focused on the emotional health and wellbeing of women with a special focus on mothers. She has spent over 20 years working to understand the best practices for supporting the mental health and wellbeing of mothers and their children. This work has led her to projects focused on adapting evidence-based interventions for low-income, racial/ethnic minorities and other disenfranchised groups of mothers, to studies aimed at better understanding the impact of traumatic and violent experiences on subsequent mental health and wellbeing, and most recently to community based research with mothers, colleagues, and community partners here in NC aimed at understanding the strengths, challenges, and gaps in services around maternal health and wellbeing. Her CWC-funded research will “address gaps in services and support for rural mothers with a focus on improving maternal mental health and addressing associated disparities in maternal and child health to increase health equity.”

Meet the Winners of the 2020 University Awards for the Advancement of Women

Winners of the 2020 University Awards for the Advancement of Women!

Dr. Amelia Fischer Drake, MD, FACS, is Executive Associate Dean of Academic Programs, ND Fischer Distinguished Professor of Otolaryngology/Head & Neck Surgery, and Director of the UNC Craniofacial Center. After graduating from Cornell University with a major in Biology, she attended the UNC School of Medicine. She completed her residency at the University of Michigan Medical Center at Ann Arbor, and was a fellow in pediatric otolaryngology at the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, before returning to UNC. Her clinical and research interests focus on pediatric otolaryngology, pediatric airway disorders, and craniofacial anomalies. She assumed her role as Director of the UNC Craniofacial Center in the School of Dentistry in 2000. She assumed her role of Associate Dean in the UNC School of Medicine in 2011 and has actively served to promote women and other leaders within this context.


Anna Manocha is a sophomore at UNC-Chapel Hill who grew up in Cary, North Carolina. She is Business Administration major and Spanish for the Business Professions minor. She has worked with She’s the First (an international organization that provides financial and emotional support for girls that are the first in their families to go to secondary school) since freshman year and is now Vice-President. As Vice-President, she works to plan and execute fundraisers to finance the education of three scholars in India and one in Guatemala. She also works to attract new members to the club so that the chapter at UNC can fund the education of even more scholars worldwide. Anna is also a Buckley Public Service Scholar and volunteers at Club Nova and local homeless shelters in the Chapel Hill community. Further, Anna works with the From Houses to Homes Club at UNC and recently travelled to build a house in Guatemala during spring break.


Shannon Speer is a Ph.D. student in the Chemistry Department at UNC-CH in Gary Pielak’s lab. Throughout her graduate studies, she has been passionate about the recruitment and promotion of women in STEM and involved with Women in Science (WinS), Allies for Minorities and Women in Science and Engineering (AM_WISE), WinSPIRE (Women in Science Promoting Inclusion in Research Experiences), and the Inspiring Meaningful Programs and Communication through Science (IMPACTS) program. As a way to target the next generation of scientists, Shannon became Director of Grant Writing and Fundraising for WinSPIRE and has raised $20,000 to support underprivileged and underrepresented young women in science. This funding helped increase the diversity of the program: 40% African American and Latinx compared to 5% the year before and a 25% increase of first-generation college students. In addition to service in the organizations mentioned, Shannon works closely with young women in the community through tutoring and academic consulting to help promote the next generation of women in science. After the completion of her Ph.D., Shannon hopes to pursue a career in academia and galvanize young women from rural and underrepresented backgrounds to pursue science and research as a career.


Valerie Tan is the Associate Chair for Administration in the Department of Allied Health Sciences, School of Medicine. She has been with UNC since 2004 and was the recipient of the 2019 University Managers Award. Prior to coming to UNC-Chapel Hill, Valerie worked for Carnegie Mellon University as Program Coordinator for International Programs in the Tepper School of Business. Her career in administration began 25 years ago at the National Center for Earthquake Engineering Research at SUNY Buffalo. Valerie is currently a board member for the Association for Women Faculty and Professionals, an organization that offers programs and facilitates networking among professional women across campus. Outside of work, her personal interests include supporting local organizations, including the Compass Center, with her artwork and volunteering with Cinderella’s Closet.


Congratulations to our 2020 UAAW winners, and a huge thanks to all who submitted nominations!

To all the nominees, thank you for your hard work, diligence, and commitment the Carolina community through your efforts to advance the status of women on campus.

Thanks also to the selection committee who took the time to review all the nominations and select this year’s winners.

2020 UAAW Selection Committee members:

Beth Moracco, Chairperson

Charla Blumell

April Callis

Bailey Fattorusso

Barbara Friedman

Michelle Hoffner

Bob Pleasants

Kristan Shawgo

2020 UAAW and CWC Faculty Scholar Grant Deadlines Extended

Information regarding the nominations for the 2020 University Awards for the Advancement of Women and applications for the CWC Faculty Scholar Grant:


Due to the additional burdens placed on campus community members as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Carolina Women’s Center is extending the deadlines for nominations for the 2020 University Awards for the Advancement of Women (UAAW) and the Carolina Women’s Center Faculty Scholar Grant. See details for both the UAAW and Faculty Scholar Grant at their respective links.

Call for Nominations: 2020 University Awards for the Advancement of Women

The deadline for the University Awards for the Advancement of Women has been extended to Tuesday, March 31st, 2020

On behalf of the Offices of the Chancellor and the Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost, the Carolina Women’s Center is pleased to announce the call for nominations for the 2020 University Awards for the Advancement of Women. These awards recognize contributions to the advancement of women at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill by people of all genders.

This year, four individuals– one faculty member, one staff member, one undergraduate, and one graduate/professional student or postdoctoral scholar–will be selected to receive these awards. The faculty and staff recipients each receive $5000. Each undergraduate student award and graduate/professional student/postdoctoral scholar award is $2500.

While we have made the decision to cancel the ceremony for the annual University Awards for the Advancement of Women out of an abundance of caution, we will, however, still be evaluating all of the nominations and announcing all award winners. Each winner will be featured on CWC’s website, via social media, in campus publications, and will be presented with an actual award. We understand the disappointment that may occur due to this cancellation, but the safety of our campus community is of the utmost importance. The lack of a ceremony certainly does not diminish the great work being done towards advancing gender equity campus-wide.

Please submit nominations at the link below for individuals who have contributed in one or more of the following ways:

  • Helped to improve or establish campus policies and practices that positively impact women;
  • Promoted and advanced the recruitment, retention, and upward mobility of women at UNC Chapel Hill;
  • Participated in, assisted with, or established professional development opportunities for women; and/or
  • Participated in, assisted with, or established academic mentoring opportunities for women.

Please describe how the nominee meets one or more of the award’s specific criteria (in 300 words or less per section), using clearly defined examples to support nomination.

The deadline for nominations is Tuesday, March 31st, 2020 at 11:59pm. All nominations should be submitted via Qualtrics at this link.

If there are any questions, please contact Dr. Gloria Thomas at

Graduate Student Dissertation Awards

The Carolina Women’s Center (CWC) is offering two research awards to UNC-Chapel Hill doctoral students for their gender-based research. Graduate students must have coursework completed and be engaged in the dissertation process. Two awards of $5,000 each will support dissertation projects that address topics related to women, sex, gender equity, and/or all intersections of gender.

Research projects may focus on a wide range of questions. For example, they might explore any of the following: gendered identities and experiences, including but not limited to femininities, masculinities, and gender non-conforming identities and experiences; intersectional analyses of gender; differences based on sex; difference and diversity within and between categories; and gender equity and gender equality. Projects might also bring a gendered analysis to bear on topics seemingly not connected to gender. Projects should clearly articulate how they fulfill this requirement, and applications from doctoral students in all units of the University are welcome.


Submit the following materials via email with “GRAD STUDENT DISS RSRCH AWARD” in subject line to by Saturday, November 30, 2019.

  • The completed application form (click here to download)
  • Double-spaced narrative of no more than 1,000 words describing the dissertation project, its guiding gender-related questions, its relationship to existing scholarship, and anticipated project completion date
  • Curriculum vitae, not to exceed three pages
  • Letter of endorsement from your advisor/dissertation chair (sent separately from advisor/chair to 

Requirements of Graduate Student Awardees: Award winners must make a public presentation about their project or their work-in-progress (usually during the following Fall semester) and write a column about their work for the CWC newsletter. 


Apply to be a 2020 Moxie Scholar!

2020 Moxie Scholars will complete a spring course on U.S. Women’s History to 1865 (WGST 354). During the summer, they will participate in eight-week internships at local nonprofit and public service organizations that do gender equity work. You can read more about the program at

The application is open through 11:59pm on Sunday, November 3rd and can be found at

Meet our 2019 Moxie Scholars!

2019 Moxie Scholars will complete a spring course on Women of Color in Contemporary U.S. Social Movements (WGST 368) taught by Meli Kimathi. During the summer, they will participate in eight-week internships at local nonprofit and public service organizations that do gender equity work. Read more about The Moxie Project at!


Aida Al-Akhdar

Aida Al-Akhdar is a sophomore, pursuing majors in English and Political Science with a minor in German Studies. Even though she was born in Danbury, Connecticut, she was raised and spent her most formative years in Basel, Switzerland. Her passions are in human rights. More specifically, she hopes to improve immigrant rights and foster social programs to bridge socio-economic gaps.





Ann Marie Ingram

Ann Marie Ingram is from Statesville, NC. She is a junior working on a double major in Political Science and Public Policy, as well as a minor in Women’s and Gender Studies. She is particularly interested in gender equity in legislative and other government spaces. She finds the underrepresentation of women, and especially women of color, in government to be an issue that cannot be ignored. When she graduates, she hopes to work on getting more women elected to public office.




Grace Langley

Grace Langley, from Elm City, NC, is a senior majoring in Psychology and Sociology with a minor in Women’s and Gender Studies. She is the current Resident Advisor for the Women Engaged in Learning and Leadership (WELL) residential learning program. Additionally, she is the Advocacy Co-Chair of Carolina Advocates for Gender Equity (CAGE) and the Interim Program Coordinator for Feminism For All. Her primary areas of interest regarding gender equity are trans rights and gender-based violence. Post-graduation, she plans on attending law school and entering into the United States Air Force Judge Advocate General’s Corps.




Brie McGhee

Brie McGhee was born and raised in Columbus, OH and moved to Rolesville, NC during high school. She graduated from Wake Tech Community College in 2017 before transferring to UNC, where she is a junior majoring in Psychology and Public Policy. She cares deeply about global, accessible education for women and is passionate about advancing women in the public spheres of business, government, and other positions of leadership.





Kate Shurtleff

Kate Shurtleff is a junior double majoring in Communication Studies (with a concentration in Interpersonal and Organizational Communication) and Women’s and Gender Studies. She is minoring in Social and Economic Justice. Her primary interest lies in how systems, both social and institutional, work to reinforce the structure of oppression with the hope of reversing these effects. She plans to go to law school and use her legal career and experience in her activism.




Vaishnavi Siripurapu

Vaishnavi Siripurapu is a first-year double majoring in Biology (BS) and Women’s and Gender Studies with a minor in Medical Anthropology. She is originally from Mooresville, NC. Vaishnavi is particularly interested in reproductive health, reproductive justice, and sexual education. She has previously created a gynecology education seminar and conducted published research on sexual education policies and their impacts on teenage sexual health in North Carolina. Vaishnavi aspires to be a gynecologist in the future and provide culturally competent care to people with female reproductive systems.

Apply to be an Alternative Spring Break Trip Leader

Looking for a meaningful way to spend your spring break? Consider applying to be a student leader for the Carolina Women’s Center Alternative Spring Break!

We are looking for sophomores, juniors, and seniors with strong leadership skills to co-lead a group of students to Eastern North Carolina over spring break. The group will work with local nonprofits that are doing gender equity and violence prevention and response work.

Please complete the following application and return to shelleygk@unc.eduor to the CWC by Thursday, January 24 at 5pm. CWC ASE Leader Application

Please email with any questions.

Look for the participant application in early late January or early February!