Three Butler women receive Woman of Distinction Award


On Thursday, three women will be honored as part of the Woman of Distinction Awards Ceremony and Reception in the Efroymson Diversity center. This year, the winners are Margaretha Geertsema-Sligh, Sonya Hopkins and Cristina McNeiley. This annual event is part of Butler’s Women’s History Celebration that has been happening over the past month.

Other recent women’s history events have included speakers, film viewings, discussions about women’s issues, and a spoken word night and art exhibit.

The Woman of Distinction Awards, according to the description released by Butler’s diversity center, honor women on campus who are strong leaders and positive role models, and who promote the empowerment of women.

There are three awards given annually as a part of the ceremony. They are given to a faculty member, a staff member and a senior student.

Geertsema-Sligh, the faculty member being awarded, is the director of the Eugene S. Pulliam School of Journalism and an associate professor of journalism. She has been at Butler for 12 years and also has experience working for a newspaper in South Africa.

Geertsema-Sligh is being recognized for promoting the empowerment of women on campus, primarily pertaining to her research about women in news media around the world and her work in furthering feminist education.

“Our jobs are divided into three parts: research, teaching, and service,” she said. “In all three of those categories, I’ve been trying to empower women.”

She also initiated and helped develop the “Global Women” global and historical studies class and teaches a journalism class about women in news media around the world.

The second woman receiving honors tomorrow is Sonya Hopkins, the associate director of academic support for the department of athletics.

Hopkins is on the student athlete advising committee, involved in life skills programming, and considered a positive role model for many female athletes.

“I was an athlete and a coach, so I understand these young people,” she said. “I understand their disappointments and their celebrations. I love helping them, and I think they appreciate my genuine care and concern.”  

The third person being honored with a Woman of Distinction Award is Cristina McNeiley, a senior criminology major who also minors in Spanish and art + design. She is from Hammond, Indiana.

McNeiley is the director of Diversity and Inclusion under the Student Government Association and was the president of the Pre-Law Society for a year and a half. She said she hopes that as one of the few women presidents under Butler’s SGA she can be a role model for other female students who want to get involved.

To the future female leaders of Butler, she said to always go for your dreams.

“Don’t second guess yourself, and don’t let people convince you that you aren’t ready yet when you are. As a woman, society always tries to put holds on us or question us,” she said, recalling when she was first accepted to Butler and a male high school student told her she was only accepted because she was a woman of color. “But that’s why it’s important to celebrate women leaders, to show people that we’re just as capable as anyone else.”

McNeiley, Hopkins and Geertsema-Sligh will receive their awards tomorrow at 4 p.m. in Atherton Union 004. The event is open to the public.