JSU recognizes women leaders at Women’s History Month reception

Anna GurganusCorrespondent

The Women’s History Month Committee hosted a Reception on Monday, March 9 where an awards ceremony was held and keynote speaker, Alabama State Senator Vivian Figures gave an empowering speech about women.

The head coordinators for this event were Audrey Simmons, who is the Resident Life Coordinator for Fitzptrick, Curtiss, and the Leadership House for Women, and Dr. Jennifer Gross, an associate professor of history. According to Simmons, the committee had been working on the Women’s History Month events since October. 

More than 50 nominations were submitted for three awards. Each nominee was recognized during the ceremony along with their achievements.

The first award presented was the JSU Woman of the Year Award for students. It was awarded to Hannah Merritt. Her nominator described her as “compassionate and kind to everyone she meets.”

Secondly, the JSU Woman of the Year award for faculty, staff, and administrators was presented to Dr. Chandni Khadka, the director of the International House program. Khadka was described as a woman who “leads with strength” and “exhibits qualities of a loving mother to her students.”

The final award was JSU Gender Advocate of the Year, which was presented to Dr. Erin Rider, a JSU professor of sociology. 

The remainder of the ceremony was an encouraging message given by Senator Vivian Figures. 

“I believe politics was a calling for me,” said Figures. “It wasn’t anything that I said, ‘This is what I want to do when I grow up.’ But I know that it’s a calling on my life to help others.”

Figures was the first African American woman elected to the senate from Mobile County, Alabama, and the second African American woman to be elected in the whole state of Alabama. After 24 years, she is now the longest serving female in the Alabama State Senate.

Figures began her speech by talking about how this year is special because it has been exactly one hundred years since women gained the right to vote. She encouraged the audience to vote, emphasizing that one vote can make a difference. 

Figures also discussed the hardships women endured to get to where they are today.

“I believe that God takes us through things in order to get us to what he has for us, and those things are struggles,” Figures explained. “Those things are hurdles that you have to jump over. Those things are mountains that you have to climb.” 

While Figures said that she does not aspire to go further politically, she is determined to continue her work for women’s rights.

“While we continue to fight for women’s rights, I will continue to do that.”

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