University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill: Four honored for advancement of women

A doula, a graduate mentor, a solar energy researcher and a career development director have received 2021 University Awards for the Advancement of Women. These women and the 2020 award recipients, whose ceremony was canceled because of the pandemic, were honored at a virtual event on March 8.

Chancellor Kevin M. Guskiewicz presented the awards. “Carolina endeavors to build a community where everyone knows they belong and has equal access to academic, professional and personal fulfillment and success,” he said, adding that the goal aligns with the Build Our Community Together initiative from the University’s strategic plan, Carolina Next: Innovations for Public Good. “Achieving this goal means tearing down barriers to equity and elevating the work of those who bring us closer to this goal.”

A collaborative effort of the Office of the Chancellor and the Carolina Women’s Center, the awards have recognized the efforts of nearly 50 advocates for gender equity since they were established in 2006. Faculty and staff recipients receive $5,000 each, and the student recipients $2,500 each.

Candice Crilly,a doctoral student in chemistry, led Women in Science Promoting Inclusion in Research Experiences at Carolina for two years. 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. She continues to support the program through grant-writing and meeting with potential community partners.

“After serving as WinSPIRE’s chief executive for several years, Candice made a conscious effort to ensure the longevity and financial stability of the program,” one of her nominators wrote. “She has worked tirelessly to decrease the gender gap in STEM research. It is clear Candice is a thoughtful, inclusive scientific mentor.”

Jillian L. Dempsey, Bowman and Gordon Gray Distinguished Term Professor of chemistry, is deputy director of the Center for Hybrid Approaches in Solar Energy to Liquid Fuels. Her research laboratory seeks to develop efficient solar energy conversion processes. 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.

“Jillian was relentless in acquiring a Clare Boothe Luce fellowship program for the chemistry department at UNC, a program dedicated to increasing the participation of women in the sciences, mathematics and engineering at every level of higher education,” wrote one of her nominators. “Jillian has increased mentorship opportunities in a multitude of ways, most notably through the international ChemWMN mentor matching program, her acquisition of the CBL fellowship for the UNC chemistry department and outreach efforts like WinSPIRE.”

Maria J. Mangano, career development director at the School of Law, 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 is a longtime member and past president of the North Carolina Association of Women Attorneys, served on the board of directors of N.C. Legal Education Assistance Foundation and has been a member of the North Carolina Bar Association’s Minorities in the Profession Committee since 2005.

“Maria has dedicated her career to advancing opportunities for others, especially women, in the legal profession,” wrote one of her nominators. “Two women professional career counselors in the Career Development Office are former students who were mentored by Maria, making one-third of the current counselors in our office Maria’s former students. In addition to recruiting women, Maria has also advanced the retention and advancement of women at UNC School of Law.”

Vaishnavi Siripurapu, a junior majoring in biology and women’s and gender studies, works as a birth doula at UNC Hospitals and 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 was involved in the Women of Worth program at UNC and encouraged other women of Asian backgrounds to join and engage in the program to promote mentorship and a sense of community among women at UNC,” wrote one of her nominators. “She has written two pieces for UNC publications regarding the advancement of South Asian women and transgender communities, including work for the UNC-based publication ‘Monsoon’ and the UNC Health Humanities Journal.”

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