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Eastern Honors Recipients of Annual Ella T. Grasso Award

Written by Gabrielle Little


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Winners of Eastern Connecticut State University's 2013 Ella T. Grasso Distinguished Service Award, left to right, Starsheemar Byrum, coordinator of the Womens Center,; Ann Higginbotham, professor and chair of the History Department; Ruth Washington,  former professor of the University of Connecticut's Department of Molecular and Cell Biology; Eastern student Isaiah Roby; and Eastern President Elsa Núñez.

Willimantic, Conn. - Eastern Connecticut State University hosted the annual Ella T. Grasso Distinguished Service Award on March 20 at 6 p.m. in the Paul E. Johnson Sr. Community Conference Room of the J. Eugene Smith Library. Senior Isaiah Roby; Ann Higginbotham, professor and chair of the History Department; and Ruth Washington, former professor of the University of Connecticut's Department of Molecular and Cell Biology, were named recipients of the award. The award recognizes leaders who have made contributions towards advancing women's rights and issues of gender equality in memory of former Connecticut Governor Ella T. Grasso.

We are an institution built on values and among those are the values of inclusion, empowerment, and integrity," said Eastern President Elsa Núñez. "I believe that protecting women's rights and recognizing those who are taking the lead in working for gender equality is fundamental to upholding the values of our institution, so, tonight is not simply a celebration; it is an affirmation,." "Governor Grasso once said, "It is not enough to profess faith in the democratic process; we must do something about it." Our three awardees tonight already understand what it means to step up to the plate."

Roby '13, a senior with a double major in psychology and women and gender studies, is carrying a 3.71 GPA. He serves as the president of student organization Pride Alliance, and is a student representative to Eastern's Diversity and Social Justice Council. Roby also serves as
volunteer for St Paul's Church, helping church members clean up Willimantic, plant trees and raise money for the Covenant Soup Kitchen. Roby interns in the Women's Center, which promotes the advancement of women's rights and gender equity. "My mother taught me that you can be raised in a nontraditional single family home and still do great things for the community. I want to be a strong role model for those in the LGBTQ community, and help create a space for them on campus and in the world."

Higginbotham, is the Professor chair of the History Department. She serves on the Committee for the Status of Women of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), and is a member of the Connecticut/Rhode Island Conference of Women's Studies Directors/Faculty; and a senator for the University Senate. She received Eastern's Distinguished Professor Award in 2004, for her teaching and mentoring at Eastern, and has led the History Department in developing several courses on family and women's history and family in Western Society. "My life was like one of those sitcoms that my students watch at night on TV land that displayed a typical household in the 1950's. From there, I began to see the problems that women faced. So I've been able to teach, write, and advocate for womens history, only to realize that some of those problems still exists and need to change"

Washington, is a founding member of Know Your Value: Women of Color Alliance, a new not for profit organization, created to examine the wealth gap between women of color and other groups of women. Washington also started Forward Education and Consulting LLC, which provides comprehensive services specializing in diversity in higher education especially in technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). "I want to be able to help women understand the history of the wealth gap. That is the goal of the "Know Your Value: Women of Color Alliance," to change the statistics for future generations."

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