With light drum music filling the room, assistant professor in the School of Theatre Susan Russell stood on stage facing 100 people in the audience.
“I thank the gentlemen in the room for the support, but today is about the women,” Russell said.
Tuesday morning in the Nittany Lion Inn Alumni Ballroom, Penn State’s University Office of Global Programs held a breakfast to award five winners of the 2013 Spirit of Internationalization Award. Russell opened the event with a speech called “The Obligation of Opportunity,” which reflected on women’s roles in the modern culture and sexual abuse.
Established in 2008, the annual award recognizes women from Penn State or the local area who reflect the importance of internationalization, University Office of Global Programs Special Events Coordinator Sandi Richter saidvia email.
The winners were chosen by a panel of individuals based on international involvement and the dedication to advancing women’s status, Richter said.
“It’s important for Penn State to bring attention to International Women’s Day because the struggle for women’s equity worldwide is ongoing,” Richter said.
This year’s winners consisted of doctoral student Elif Balin, professor emeritus of food science and nutrition Audrey Maretzki and instructor and coordinator for the Center for Experiential Education at Penn State Fayette- the Eberly Campus Gina Jones. Also, associate professor of horticultural marketing and business management Kathleen Kelley and medical student at the College of Medicine Global Health Scholars Program Sarah Smith received awards.
Women make up half the planet’s population, and it is essential for people to look at women “in all walks of life,” Maretzki said. Maretzki, co-director of Interinstitutional Consortium for Indigenous Knowledge,has worked in Africa, organizing groups to use local crops to develop markets.
Jones — co-creator of the MyOWN Campaign, a program to enforce the positive image of women — said it is important to recognize issues that impact women and girls.
“Unfortunately, we are still fighting for equal pay,” Jones said. “Still fighting the same battles [as before].”
Jones said she was nominated for “just doing work that needs to be done” and is honored, adding that she does not do the work to win awards.
As an international student from Turkey, Balin said she hopes the award will bring attention to the international program at Penn State because she thinks it is “invisible operation,” she said.
Balin is a doctoral candidate in counseling education, international studies and women’s studies. She does research on the life, work and illnesses of women in Turkey and has received previous awards and grants for her work.
“I think it is empowering for women to have a day to stop and recognize what women do,” Smith (graduate-medicine) said, who set up a site in Kenya for College of Medicine students to travel to and learn about medicine.
Debra Greenleaf, of State College, attended the breakfast with friends. She said awarding women’s work internationally is part of recognizing that international issues impact everyone.
A member of the selection committee of the winners, Tamra Fatemi of Global Connections said women’s roles in society have always been imperative, but they are still growing.
All proceeds raised at the breakfast are to help support the local Stormbreak Girls Group home, Richter said .