ETSU Women’s Studies Program awarded Dr. Stacey Williams and Karen Brewster the honor of Notable Women 2017 on Wednesday.

According to Dr. Phyllis Thompson, Director of the Women’s Studies Program, the award focuses on female faculty members who have dedicated their careers and lives to improving women’s lives on campus and in the community.

“The award is to recognize women who have infused their feminism all throughout their lives whether through their teaching, their scholarship or their engagement in the community,” said Thompson.

Nominations for award winners come from other faculty members and staff and sometimes graduate students as well. The deadline for this nomination is in March. The Women’s Studies Steering Committee, which is an interdisciplinary group for the program, meets in April after reading all the nominee applications and ranks them. The two highest ranked are the winners, which this year were Williams and Brewster.

Brewster, is a professor of theater and chair of the ETSU Department of Theatre and Dance. She is also an author.

According to an Office of Relations Press Release, since joining the university in 2000 as the Theater Costume Shop Supervisor, she has served as the Costume Designer for over 40 theatrical productions at ETSU and as Costume and Makeup Designer for 100 external educational and professional productions. Likewise, she has co-authored books with Melissa Shafer, ETSU professor of theater and Technical Director for the program.

For Brewster, this award has been very humbling.

“I am very honored and humbled by this award,” she said. “I found out I was nominated and a winner at the same time. I had no idea I was even nominated until I was informed this past summer about getting the award.”

Brewster has been involved in theatre since her high school years and studied drama in high school. She has since combined her passion for theatre with her passion for feminism.

“I came of age in the ’70s,” she said. “My mother was a stay at home mom who championed the whole thing always supporting me. I’m a child of my time, but also a child of my parents.”

Brewster’s passions have been combined in her teachings.

“I teach theatre history, and I try to bring in that feminist perspective,” she said. “I try to have my students study women writers as much as possible. Now that I’m chair of the department, I try to be mindful of the feminist perspective. This season we are doing a season of all female playwrights.”

Williams is an associate professor in the Department of Psychology and Chair of the Institutional Review Board at ETSU. Her research examines sexual and gender minority stigma and health disparities.

According to the press release, Williams has given over 60 conference presentations, is author or co-author of 21 journal articles and has secured over $500,000 in grant support for her research. Her focus right now is how lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) individuals experience of unfair treatment or stress due to being a sexual or gender minority individual, particularly in this region of the country. 

Williams, who has greatly admired past winners, is honored to be a winner alongside Brewster.

“I feel quite honored to be the recipient of this award,” Williams said. “I believe strongly in role models and the impact that mentoring can have. Thinking back on my own experience as a young person and as a student through high school, college and graduate school, teachers and mentors were integral to my success. My hope is that I can have a positive impact in the lives of young people, just like my teachers and mentors had on me.”

According to a press release, Williams has been nicknamed the “Minister for Diversity” by colleagues.

The ceremony for the award consists of the two women being awarded the honor as well as brief presentations by both that consist of anything from their work to their personal stories.

It was free and open to the public.

“These women are definitely role models,” Thompson said. “These women are the mentors, these women are the women who step up.”