A high point of Sacramento State’s annual celebration of women – Women’s “Herstory” Month – was the sixth annual Women of Influence awards, held Tuesday, March 15, in the University Union, Redwood Room.

The University honored seven Sac State women for their outstanding leadership on campus and in the community:

Women of Influence 2016Women of Influence speakers and award recipients (from left): Norma Mendoza, Staff Award recipient; Lisa Cardoza, President Nelsen’s chief of staff; Dr. Jenni Murphy, Faculty Award recipient; Dr. Seunghee Wie, Faculty Award recipient; Sierra Mahaffey, Student Award recipient; Desiree Valdez Chavez, Student Award recipient; and Jody Nelsen, keynote speaker. (Sacramento State/Josh Allen)
  • Brigitte Clark, associate director of the Career Center – Unsung Hero Award
  • Seunghee Wie, professor and chair of the Department of Family and Consumer Sciences; and Jenni Murphy, interim dean of the College of Continuing Education – Faculty Award
  • Norma Mendoza, interim outreach specialist with the College Assistance Migrant Program (CAMP) – Staff Award
  • Lauren Lombardo, past president of Associated Students Inc. (ASI) – Student Award
  • Desiree Valdez Chavez and Sierra Mahaffey – Residential Student Award

The evening’s theme was “Personal Narratives: Telling Our Stories with Lessons Learned.” More than 150 women and men came out to support their female friends and colleagues, and to hear Jody Nelsen, wife of President Robert S. Nelsen, share her personal story and the lessons she has learned.

Nelsen earned her MBA at the University of Texas-Dallas and retired as executive vice president for finance and administration at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi when her husband became president of the University of Texas-Pan American. Since she and her husband came to Sacramento State last summer, Nelsen has joined the advisory boards of the Sacramento Regional Family Justice Center Foundation and the Associated Students Inc. (ASI) Food Pantry on campus.

During her keynote address, she advised women to embrace the unexpected; to do what’s right for them and their family despite social pressure; to set goals and keep plugging away; to understand that none of us can fix everything; and to know when the time is right to move on.

“Sometimes success looks different than you thought it would,” Nelsen said.

She spoke of the couple losing their only child, Seth, to suicide. “He was the joy of our life. Our world changed that day.”

And she advised women to reach out and help other women when they fall or fail.

Rounding out the evening was an inspirational talk by the President’s chief of staff, Lisa Cardoza, who spoke about her experience of growing up in a rural south Texas community, her journey to Stanford University, and the perceptions and challenges she faced along the way. Also a part of the festivities were a spoken-word reading about female friendships by student Shyanne Benjamin and a performance by three members of Sacramento/Black Art of Dance.

The Women of Influence awards and reception were sponsored by ASI, Housing and Residential Life, Student Organizations and Leadership, Student Affairs, the Women’s Resource Center, the Residence Hall Association, Epicure Catering, and the President’s Office.

Women’s “Herstory” Month was scheduled to wrap up Tuesday, March 29, with a 1:30 p.m. screening of Out in the Night (2014), a documentary about four African American lesbians who faced charges for defending themselves against street harassment and assault in New York City. The film was shown at the University Union, Hinde Auditorium. Following at 5 p.m. at the Multi-Cultural Center, a reception was scheduled with Out in the Night director Blair Dorosh-Walther and Renta Hill, one of the real-life “New Jersey 4” portrayed in the documentary.

The campus has celebrated women all month with a variety of educational and entertaining events and activities. Among them were concerts by female beat-boxer Butterscotch, singer-songwriter Xochitl, and the acoustic pop/R&B band The Jams.

On a more serious note was a discussion about breaking the patriarchal myths of femininity and another about the harmful effects of hygienic chemicals on reproductive health and the environment. And the campus community turned out for screenings of No Más Bebés (2015), a documentary about Mexican immigrants pushed into sterilizations while giving birth at a Los Angeles County hospital; and American Revolutionary: The Evolution of Grace Lee Boggs (2013), the story of a 97-year-old Chinese American woman who immersed herself in social activism for seven decades.

Among the month’s liveliest presentations were a pop-up art show by the Creative Queens, a group from Sol Collection, and “Fairytale Castle Deconstruction,” which featured the demolition of a castle collage representing stigmas and stereotypes of women, and the creation of new feminist fairytales – all over cupcakes. – Dixie Reid