USI recognizes nine “Phenomenal Women”


Photo by Tegan Ruhl

USI Recognizes nine “Phenomenal Women” on campus and in the community at large. Top row from left to right: Denise Johnson-Kincaid, Trinisia Brooks, Megan Wagler, and Jillian Brothers. Bottom row: Ann White, Renee Frimming, Paige Walling and Christy Ski. Not pictured: Paola Marizan.

Tegan Ruhl, Staff Writer

USI honored nine women at the 21st annual “Phenomenal Women” recognition ceremony Tuesday in Carter Hall. There were seven categories of women recognized: undergraduate student, graduate student, alumna, support staff, administrative staff, faculty and community-at-large. 

“It’s such a special night where we get to celebrate the essence of what women bring to society,” said Jada Hogg, outreach coordinator and student mentor in the Multicultural Center. “They bring that extra touch of nurture and care that helps propel us forward, and I hope that all women, whether they were recognized tonight or not, still know the importance of their value in our world.” 

The keynote speaker of the evening was Melissa Morehead Moore. Moore has been a great contributor to the community of Evansville in the past years, serving on various boards across the city of Evansville and receiving the University of Evansville 2017-18 Office of Diversity Initiatives award and African American association mentor of the year award. She also served in the US Navy for nine and a half years, founded her own coaching and consoling company called Melissa Moorehead LLC, received her license in ministry under Greater Hope Church and is a published author of her book “If These Walls Could Talk.” 

Moore opened the ceremony by giving a speech celebrating and emphasizing the power and influence women have on the lives of the people around them. She quoted the entirety of Maya Angelou’s poem “Phenomenal Woman” in her speech. 

“I walk into a room/ Just as cool as you please,/ And to a man,/ The fellows stand or/ Fall down on their knees./ Then they swarm around me,/ A hive of honey bees./ I say,/ It’s the fire in my eyes,/ And the flash of my teeth,/ The swing in my waist,/ And the joy in my feet,” Moore quoted. “That is the power of being phenomenal.” 

Moore was not shy to acknowledge the massive amounts of change women have brought to the world. She celebrated women across the world’s perseverance to keep striving toward success and not letting the world hold them back from the potential they all possess. 

“That is why we are here tonight,” Moore said. “Celebrating the women in our community, celebrating the women in education, celebrating the women in professions that have broken glass ceiling not to be put back together again. I know that Mrs. Hopson said that I am a minister, and if I was in church, I would repeat that one more time because I’m looking for a clap and that is something to clap about.” 

Cesar Berrios Chavarria (left), program advisor for the Multicultural Center, and D’Angelo Taylor, associate director of the Multicultural Center, patiently wait for the event to begin. (Photo by Tegan Ruhl)

D’Angelo Taylor, the associate director of the Multicultural Center, and Cesar Berrios Chavarria, advisor for the Multicultural Center, emceed the ceremony. 

The first award of the evening went to alumna Jillian Brothers. Brothers works as a professional social worker for the Mount Vernon School Corporation and works toward creating an environment of kindness and inclusion in schools and the community. She initiated the Be Nice campaign and the podcast Bobcat Strong that focuses on supporting social and emotional health, coping skills and anti-bullying messages. 

Her other community involvement includes coaching a youth soccer team, being a Vacation Bible Study leader as well as a praise and worship leader in her local church. She’s the youngest woman to be elected to the city council, and she has had an important role in the beautification of Mount Vernon and advocating for a historic Black monument in the town as well. 

The second award went to Megan Wagler, a senior secondary mathematics education major who has already received her degree in elementary and secondary education. A member of both the cross country team and the track team, Wagler was chosen to be a representative in leadership through the Great Lakes Valley Conference. She is also a member of the Student Advisory Board and the Pott College Mentoring Program. Chavarria acknowledged her for her “new insight to the world” and her ability to have “no predetermined opinions about anyone.” 

The third award went to Trinisia Brooks, a graduate student who is currently earning her Doctoral degree in educational leadership. Beginning her graduate career as a research assistant for a major project, Brooks was recognized for being a remarkable student. Her scholarly work has been shaped through national conferences, and she inspired a local series about youth mental health with the NAACP and other related community initiatives. 

Renee Frimming (left) and Ann White (right) converse after the event. Both of them were nominated as “Phenomenal Women.” (Photo by Tegan Ruhl)

The fourth award went to administrative staff, Ann White. White was the former dean of the College of Nursing and Health Professions, and she has worked at the university since 1994. She has been a major influencer and institutor in a holistic admissions initiative and successfully increased the number of diverse nurses and students in enrollment. White has been instrumental in grant writing throughout the state, and she has also been the primary grant writer for the national HRSA grant supported by the state nursing community to the Indiana Center for Nursing. 

“She leads the crusade for improvements in the healthcare and culture of health of our community through very extensive work in the community and hospital boards,” Taylor said. 

The fifth award went to Paige Walling, a support staff member. Walling is the circulating supervisor for the SwiSTEM Resource Center at USI. She delivers hundreds of STEM educational tools and resources to K-12 students every week, and she also delivers STEM supplies for free to teachers, program directors and parents who have education needs. She frequently contributes her expertise to after school programs for children, and she is valued by many parents, educators and students in nearly every county in Southwestern Indiana. 

“She is a hidden gem here at USI and is definitely one of our campus’ unsung heroes,” Chavarria said. 

Renee Frimming (left) was nominated as a phenomenal woman in faculty. Khalilah Doss (right) handed her a plaque to recognize her work on campus and in the community. (Tegan Ruhl)

The sixth award went to faculty member Renee Frimming. She serves as the chair of the kinesiology and sport department at USI, and she provides information and inspiration to Title One schools about the importance of good nutrition and exercise. She served as the mentor and supervisor for USI’s first postdoctorate, Remar Henderson and she has received awards, such as the Indiana Association of Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance Pathfinder award and the Shaped Midwest MACUPE Scholar Lecture award. 

The last three awards went to three phenomenal women in the community-at-large category. 

Denise Johnson-Kincaid is the vice chancellor for enrollment services and student success at Ivy Tech Community College. She also created and serves as the officer of diversity for the diversity awareness and tip certification program. She has been recognized as one of the top 20 women in business for serving as a board member and president of the YWCA, a seven-year volunteer for Junior Achievement and as treasurer for the girl’s soccer board. 

Paola Marizan is a USI alumna and is currently the project coordinator for Americans Amplify, a national program to increase community engagement for local news outlets. She is the creator of a bilingual podcast called ¿Qué Pasa, Midwest? which was honored with a national Edward R. Murrow Award for Innovation in 2020, and in 2021, received funding to expand into a regional reporting network. She has intentions to lead more authentic coverage of Latino audiences to create a better understanding between cultures, and she has established a national presence for her expertise and leadership among Latina journalists. 

The last phenomenal woman of the evening was Christy Ski, a USI alumna who has worked in various roles for the state of Indiana for 14 years. She received the Rising Star award for vocational rehabilitation in 2020. She has made countless contacts within the community at small and large businesses, trying to create more opportunities for the students with disabilities she works with. Ski is also on the commission of homelessness within the city of Evansville, part of the Business Advisory Council, Southwest Transition Cards Rate, Statewide Transition Advisory Council and Jasper Transition Co Op. She loves working with students and proudly advocated for inclusion, making sure ‘E’ really is for everyone.

Pamela Hopson, executive director of the Multicultural Center, enthusiastically recognizes all of the phenomenal women at USI, in the community and all over the world. (Photo by Tegan Ruhl)

Pamela Hopson, executive director of the Multicultural Center, closed the event by acknowledging the importance of all the phenomenal women out there, those recognized and not recognized. 

“All the women, you are very phenomenal,” Hopson said. “Keep tearing down those barriers and building bridges.”