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Feminist of the Year Awards Announced

May 16, 2018


Amanda Reinhardt
Amanda Reinhardt, assistant director of Student Activities and Orientation, won a Feminist of the Year award in the staff category.

MIDDLEBURY, Vt. – On Saturday, May 12, students, staff, and faculty gathered in the backyard of Chellis House, Middlebury College’s women’s resource center, to celebrate the nominees for the center’s 25th annual Feminist of the Year awards. A total of 39 people were nominated for the awards, which honor a faculty member, a staff member, and students who actively engage with the College community around issues of gender, sex, and sexuality as they are experienced in relation to race, class, ability, and geography.

At the gathering, praise for the winners alternated with artistic contributions from those in the audience. Jordana Solomon ’20 opened the celebration by reading two of her poems.

Chellis House Director Karin Hanta announced that Amanda Reinhardt, assistant director of student activities and orientation, had won the award in the staff category. Hanta read from the nomination for Reinhardt, which commended her for bringing a feminist outlook and practice to her work. Reinhardt has been instrumental in encouraging student leaders of the MiddView Trips program—part of orientation for first-year students—to deepen their understanding of gender identity and to focus on engaging with others across difference. Reinhardt invited facilitators from the nonprofit Venture Out to a MiddView leader training session, where they offered recommendations on how to help create gender-inclusive trips. She is also an active member of the board of WomenSafe, a local organization that serves people across the gender spectrum who have experienced sexual violence, domestic violence, dating violence, and stalking.

Mikayla Hyman ’20 paid tribute to faculty winner Erin Eggleston, who joined Middlebury as an assistant professor of biology in fall 2017. Hyman commended Eggleston for her commitment to integrating the contributions of women, people of color, and queer people into class discussions and reminding students of their positions as scientists and community members. “Professor Eggleston often brings up the idea that while it is tempting to assume that science is apolitical and unbiased, in reality, science and scientists often focus entirely on white male contributions, perspectives, and experiences,” Hyman said. Eggleston’s ethos of inclusivity has helped students envision a future for themselves in this field, added Hyman.

Feminists of the Year
(from left) Cara Eisenstein ’18, Taite Shomo ’20.5, Treasure Brooks ’21, Natalie Cheung ’18, Pippa Raffel ’18, and Erin Eggleston, assistant professor of biology, were all named Feminists of the Year at a gathering at Chellis House.

Five students were recognized for their feminist work. Vishawn Greene ’21 and Itzel Diaz ’20 offered remarks about student winner Treasure Brooks ’21. The founder of the NGO Operation TOM, Brooks taught a workshop on body image at the yearly Sister-to-Sister Summit in November to an enthusiastic middle school audience. As the new copresident of the Black Student Union (BSU), she helped stage Apollo Night in March and the Night of Black Culture in April, which included a graduation ceremony for BSU members. Brooks also helped design the student contributions to this year’s Gensler Symposium on Feminist Reponses to Racism, organizing a productive discussion on the topic between various student groups.

Grace Vedock ’20 described the contributions of Taite Shomo ’20. as a Feminist of the Year. Vedock said that as the main organizer of this year’s “It Happens Here”—an event that brings to light stories of sexual assault—Shomo showed a deep commitment to bettering the College community by making all survivors of sexual assault feel safe and validated. Reading from the nomination for Shomo, Vedock said that Shomo, a survivor herself, is perceptive and respectful of other survivors’ needs. She is firm in her belief that survivors should be heard, validated, and believed. Vedock added that Shomo is an important source for people seeking emotional support, and she is fiercely committed to treating people with the utmost respect and kindness.

Isabelle Lee ’20 praised Natalie Cheung ’18 and Pippa Raffel ’18 for establishing the student organization SPECS (Sex Positive Education College Style). Over the past two years, Cheung and Raffel have developed a curriculum to educate their peers on contraception and consent. The two students have staged a wide variety of events such as a sex-positive Valentine’s celebration, a sex-ed bingo night, and informational tables in front of the dining halls on various occasions.            

Cara Eisenstein ’18 was also honored as a student Feminist of the Year. Annie Blalock ’20.5 commended Eisenstein for her work with the student organization Feminist Action at Middlebury (FAM) during the last three and a half years. As the copresident of FAM, Eisenstein set up a Generation Action chapter within FAM to collaborate with Planned Parenthood Northern New England. According to Blalock, the chapter’s events are harnessing the power, energy, and enthusiasm of young people to fight for reproductive freedom and for fundamental justice for all.            

The event concluded with Madison Jean Philippe ’20 performing his original song “Promise Me.”