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‘Outstanding Women' to be honored at MSU

March 28, 2011


Eight outstanding women will be recognized for their significant contributions to Mississippi State University and the community.
The President’s Commission on the Status of Women will formally announce this year’s winners, as well as recognize all the nominees, in an awards reception set for Tuesday, April 5, from 3 to 5 p.m. in the first floor lobby of the Bryan Building located on the MSU campus.
Sheena Gardner, member of the MSU President’s Commission on the Status of Women, said the Commission was created in the late 1970s to advise the university president on issues affecting the status and role of women on campus. “For more than three decades, it has continued to provide informational and educational programs to address the concerns of women at the university,” Gardner said. “The Outstanding Women Awards have been given out for over 30 years to recognize the work that women do on campus, in the community, and across the state.”
Gardner said the commission opens up nominations in nine different categories for women who have excelled in these positions.
“Once nominations are closed, members of the committee are assigned to various groups and are asked to rate the women based on their accomplishments, professional/campus involvement, leadership roles and community service,” Gardner said.
Mary McLendon, chair of the PCSW, said reviewing the nomination packets is one of the best parts of being involved with the MSU President’s Commission for the Status of Women. 
“It’s a great reminder of the hard-working, creative, and accomplished women that we have on our campus and in our community,” McLendon said. “All of the nominations are just incredible and selecting just one woman to recognize in each category is always a challenge.”
Rose Mary Dill, chair of the the PCSW Awards Committee said the group is looking forward to a wonderful afternoon with the nominees, winners and guests.
“Every year, we take time to celebrate women who have made significant contributions to the university, as well as to our local communities,” said Dill in a MSU press release.
The committee has listed the eight winners and their accomplishments, including:
Kristen L. Williams, the undergraduate award winner, is an elementary education major who is finishing her first semester at MSU after transferring from community college.  Kristen was nominated for this award to recognize her for her ability to juggle the responsibilities of being a student, an employee, and a caregiver.  Over the past several years, the 22-year old has assumed full custody and care of her sister’s two young children and is currently seeking to establish permanent custody. She has unselfishly given up a portion of her youth to raise two children. She continues her education at MSU with the purpose of providing the best future possible for her family.
Rachel Wheeler is the graduate student award winner. She is a Ph.D candidate in mechanical engineering and has been awarded the Bagley Fellowship, a competitive supplemental fellowship given to exceptional students. Wheeler is a member of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, the Society of Women Engineers, Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society and Zeta Tau Alpha Sorority, to name a few. She has also participated in competitions such as the EcoCAR Challenge and the Society of Automotive Engineers 2009 Noise and Vibration Conference poster competition. In addition to her academic achievements, Wheeler also volunteers in the community working with organizations such as the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure, the Salvation Army, Habitat for Humanity, and vacation bible school.
Mary Reese, a professor in agricultural science and director of undergraduate advising, is the faculty award winner. Reese’s many accomplishments include being named a National Academies Teaching Fellow, being recognized as the Departmental Teaching Assistant of the Year, and being honored by the MSU IMAGE/NSBGE for enhancement of academic environment. Reese is a member of many professional organization having served on the undergraduate curriculum committee, the AIM committee within the College of Arts and Sciences, and as a member of the Internal Review Committee for the University Academic Advising Center. Aside from her professional accomplishments,
Reese has always maintained an open door policy and has helped thousands of students meet their professional dreams of attending medical school, dental school, physical therapy school, and nursing school, to name a few.
Joy Odom is the recipient of the award for Outstanding Secretarial/Clerical Woman of the Year. Odom works as the administrative assistant to the department head in the Agricultural Economics Department. She has served as both secretary and chair of the Professional Support Staff and Advisory Council, as secretary and treasurer of the Association for International Agricultural and Rural Development, and is a member of the National Board of Directors for the MSU Alumni Association. In addition to her professional accomplishments, Odom serves as a Parish Council Member for St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Starkville and is a member of the International Trade Council of Mississippi.
Thelma Neal is the winner of the Outstanding Service/Maintenance Woman of the Year. Neal has served in the Ministry Department and is a member of both the choir and food service committee at the Second Baptist Church in Starkville and is a member of the Starkville High School booster club volunteering at the concession stand at home games. In addition to her work within the church and school district,
Neal also spends her spare time with the sick and elderly in nursing homes in the community.
Michele Anderson is the recipient of the award for Outstanding Professional Woman of the Year. Anderson is a business manager and project coordinator at the Sustainable Energy Research Center and in Agricultural and Biological Engineering. Anderson is a member of the National Council of University Research Administrators and a member of the Delta Mu Delta International Business Honor Society. In addition to her professional accomplishments, Anderson also serves as vice president and has been a member of the board of directors at the Oktibbeha Humane Society and is an Action Team Mentor/Community Partner for the MSU Day One Program.
Lori Bruce is the Associate Dean for Research and Graduate Studies in the MSU Bagley College of Engineering and is the recipient of the Executive/Administrative/Managerial award. Bruce has many professional associations and has serves on the board of directors for the American Society of Engineering Education,  is a senior member of the IEEE, and was an Outstanding Junior Faculty Nominee in Eta Kappa Nu. Bruce has published in 33 refereed journal articles and nearly 100 refereed conference articles in her area of digital signal processing. She has also won many highly competitive grants over her time at MSU. In addition to her professional commitments, Bruce teaches bible school at Starkville Church of Christ, served on the Junior Auxiliary of Starkville, and has organized a workshop on engineering for the Girl Scouts.
M. Clare Mallory is the recipient of the Outstanding Community Woman Award. Mallory attended the Northwest Institute of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine in Seattle, Washington and now works as a contract editor for a variety of sources, including medical and nursing journals, online medical sites, newspaper articles, magazines, websites, and books. Mallory’s community service includes serving as publicity chairman of the Starkville Area Arts Commission, serving as a founding board member of the The O’Nan Project for Change - an organization dedicated to empowering Mississippi’s children and youth to succeed, and serving as founder/coordinator of Dessert First - a monthly luncheon hosted for women to provide inspiration, empowerment, presentations, networking, food, gifts, prizes, and laughter.
For additional information about the PCSW or the Outstanding Women Awards, visit the website at http//

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