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Saturday, May 28, 2022
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Pictured are some of last year's winners of the annual Outstanding Women of Color Awards. 

UW-Madison women of color take center stage at annual awards

In 2019, a woman’s place is not in the kitchen nor in a daycare center, but wherever she wants to be. At UW-Madison, there are thousands of female students succeeding in academics as well as professors and researchers who continue to contribute to campus and the community. 

This year marks the 150th of women graduating from UW-Madison and the 11th of recognizing women of color with the Outstanding Women of Color Awards

Over the years, more than 50 women have been honored.

“This award was established to supplement the UW System award honoring outstanding women of color,” said Dr. Cheryl Gittens, the assistant vice provost of the Division of Diversity, Equity and Educational Achievement. “Therefore, each year, one of the UW-Madison honorees are also selected to receive the UW System award.” 

The recognition also serves as a reminder of the history of gender and racial inequality on campus. 

In fact, the university only admitted male students for years after its doors opened in 1848. It was not until the 1860s when six women became the first to receive undergraduate degrees. Even then, controversy erupted when the Board of Regents decided to award them the same degree as their male counterparts.  

Back then, female students could only attend the Normal School, which had a separate curriculum. They could not be admitted to all departments and were not allowed to study alongside male students until 1872. 

Fifty years after the first six white women graduated, Mabel Watson Raimey — the first black woman to receive a UW-Madison degree — graduated in 1918.

Now women of color at UW-Madison are not only students, but professors, researchers and leaders. 

As a historically white institution, UW-Madison has taken steps, including giving awards, to celebrate outstanding people of color. 

The tradition of celebrating outstanding women on campus dates back to 2007-08. These women are dedicated to the campus and local community through their hard work, outreach and impact. 

“The recognition reception honors exemplary women on campus and in the local community who have made significant impact and contributions to scholarship, research and service,” Gittens said. 

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The honorees this year include assistant professor Bianca J. Baldridge, graduate student Mariela Quesada Centeno, associate professor Jennifer Young Choe Edgoose, academic support coordinator Melissa Metoxen and professor Cherene Sherrard-Johnson.

The reception provides an opportunity to network and formally acknowledge the honorees. 

According to Gittens, both Chancellor Rebecca Blank and Deputy Vice Chancellor for Diversity and Inclusion Patrick J. Sims will attend to formally give accolades to the honorees. Each woman will have time to share their stories.

The 12th Annual UW-Madison Outstanding Women of Color Reception will be held on March 5, 5-7:30 p.m. at the Pyle Center. The school invites all to celebrate the diversity and achievements that these women have contributed and accomplished. 

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