WSU Vancouver honors women who ‘inspire, mentor, empower’

Women’s History Month has inspired many events throughout the month of March, from library exhibits to radio dramas at Kiggins Theater. On March 31, Washington State University Vancouver wrapped them up with the seventh annual Women of Distinction event.

The WSU Vancouver community nominated 32 women for recognition. The award was broken up into three categories. The categories were high school students, WSU Vancouver students, and community members.

Guests arrived to hors d’oeuvres set on tables covered with tiny gems that sparkled under the lights of the Firstenburg Student Commons. Small photographs of each nominee surrounded by flower centerpieces were placed on each table.

ASWSUV Vice President Julie Mercado and OSI Programming Intern Stephanie Leeper opened the event by presenting past nominees as well as this year’s nominees for each category. As each woman was announced, they were presented with a red rose. Afterwards, keynote speaker Diana Gregerson Bowe, board president of One By One, spoke about her organization.

One By One provides assistance to women in rural communities in Western Kenya who are currently struggling with fistula or have experienced it. Fistula is a childbirth injury caused by severe labor complications when a woman does not have access to emergency medical care. The organization not only educates people about fistula but also helps by screening young women and girls to identify patients in need of treatment.

Finally, recipients of the Distinguished Woman of the Year Awards received their recognition. Kiana Rahni, a senior at Union High School in Camas, won the high school category. She has a passion for volunteer work and is active with her school’s Future Business Leaders of America and DECA chapters. Kiana is currently in New York competing for speech and debate so her parents accepted the award on her behalf.

Peggy Carlson was this year’s winner in the community member category. She is the district liaison for Students in Transition for Evergreen Public Schools. Carlson coordinates and provides support to students and families facing homelessness.

Dustina Haase-Lanier was the recipient of the WSU Vancouver student category. Haase-Lanier is a senior here at WSU Vancouver majoring in social sciences. She has fought for social justice and has been a domestic violence/sexual violence advocate for 15 years.

Upon receiving the award Haase-Lanier said that it was important to reflect on inspiration that women in your life have provided, not just during Women’s History Month, but all year. “We don’t want to have to recreate the wheel,” she said, “so by looking at the women who have been doing the work for so long we can first give credit where credit is due, and second take that inspiration to move the movement forward.”

Photo: Peggy Carlson (left) and Dustina Haase-Lanier | Photo Credit: Laurie Mitchell

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