2013 Outstanding Women awards presented


Mississippi State University President Mark E. Keenum, center, presented the 2013 Outstanding Women Award winners. From left are Linda Couvillion McGrath, Aretina Hankerson-Daniels, Aparna Krishnavajhala, Leigh Jensen-Crawford, Keenum, Rhonda Carr, Hannah Humphrey and Kelsey Unruh. PHOTO: Megan Bean | University Relations

Seven campus and community women are being honored with 2013 Outstanding Women Awards by Mississippi State.

The university President's Commission on the Status of Women recently announced the group and hosted a reception for them:

-- Rhonda Carr of MSU-Meridian, Outstanding Faculty Woman.

-- Aretina Hankerson-Daniels, Outstanding Support-Staff Woman.

-- Leigh Jensen-Crawford, Outstanding Professional-Staff Woman.

-- Aparna Krishnavajhala, Outstanding Graduate Woman.

-- Linda Couvillion McGrath of Starkville, Outstanding Community Woman.

Also, seniors Hannah Humphrey of Burnsville and Kelsey D. Unruh of Macon received the organization's Student Leadership Awards.

"Very strong women -- our students, our faculty and our alumni -- are filling important leadership roles here," said MSU President Mark E. Keenum, keynote speaker and awards presenter. "Congratulations to these women, just a few of the many who are helping to make our university so special. We're going to continue to look to you and lean on your guidance and counsel."

Carr, an assistant professor who directs MSU-Meridian's Division of Arts and Science, was recognized for expanding the social work program and serving as a mentor for many female students. Nominator Marian L. Swindell, an associate professor at MSU-Meridian, also said Carr works to bring better jobs, higher pay and improved working conditions to women throughout the region, state and world.

"I am as good of a leader as those who follow me. I can't do anything in the social work program without my colleagues," Carr said.

Hankerson-Daniels, administrative assistant in the Outreach and Sexual Assault Services office, was recognized as an advocate for healthy relationships. She helped secure a $300,000 federal grant to address violence against women. Her years of work with Safe Haven, a local domestic abuse shelter, and Mississippi Coalition against Sexual Violence has shown her commitment to serving women, especially victims of abuse, said nominator Laura Walling, MSU recreational sports director.

"This is such an honor and I am very humbled to be the recipient of such an award, dedicated to the service and empowering of women," Hankerson-Daniels said.

Jensen-Crawford, director of Student Counseling Services, has made a difference locally through her mentorship of numerous women, professional and personal support for victims of sexual violence, and her continuing focus on education and training to help prevent such violence, said nominator Adele Crudden, professor of sociology.

"This award reminds me of all those women who have made it possible for us to be here today celebrating the accomplishments of women on our campus and in our community," Jensen-Crawford said. "I feel that I truly stand on the shoulders of those women who built the foundation for all of us."

Krishnavajhala, a native of India pursuing a doctoral degree in veterinary medicine, has not let her demanding graduate studies slow her from working to benefit young women in her native country, said nominator Todd Pharr, an associate professor in the college. A Facebook campaign to collect donations for her home school and provide students with uniforms and school supplies, along with her support of disadvantaged women wherever they may be, were among her many accomplishments.

"This recognition encourages me to do more, so I promise you, I will do more," Krishnavajhala said.

McGrath, a bachelor's, master's and doctoral graduate of MSU, is part of the university taskforce that developed the MSU Breastfeeding Support Program. Though widowed in 1992 with five children, she led regional efforts to educate women about the health benefits of breastfeeding and pursued her own education, according to nominator Jack Blendinger, professor of leadership and foundations.

"Family life has always been my heart and soul," McGrath said. "Community is important for us in family life, and start early nurturing those babies. Every life is so precious; you've got to support these babies and guide them."

Humphrey, the daughter of Roland Humphrey of Burnsville and Tracey Locke of Iuka, is a double-major in English and foreign languages, while Unruh is an agribusiness major and the daughter of Dorsey and Lynda Unruh. Both are President's List Scholars; Humphrey is a member of the Shackouls Honors College.

Leah Barbour | University Relations

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