Framingham State honors its Most “Phenomenal Woman”

Students and faculty came together to recognize some of the notable women in the FSU Community on March 9 in the Forum, in the annual Phenomenal Woman Ceremony.

The winner of the award was senior Kaila Braley, editor-in-chief of the student newspaper The Gatepost. Nominated by English Professors Desmond McCarthy and Kelly Wolfe, Braley was described as being a strong leader in her written recommendations.

“She has a vision for the newspaper and uses quiet authority to maintain the highest quality publication possible,” Wolfe wrote. “Every week, she guides and directs a staff of about twenty student journalists. She works tirelessly, making numerous editorial decisions.”

Braley was also commended for her impactful article “Coming to Terms with Rape: One Student’s Journey Toward Understanding.”

“A Phenomenal Woman is a leader who listens to and supports other women, and empowers them to make positive changes in their lives, or to understand and tell their stories,” McCarthy wrote in his nomination. “The most important article to appear in Gatepost in the last two years is ‘Coming to Terms with Rape: One Student’s Journey Toward Understanding’ (in the Dec. 10 edition). In this ground-breaking feature, Kaila creates a space where it is possible for an anonymous student, ‘Jane,’ to tell her story about coming to difficult realization that she had been raped by someone she loved and trusted. … This is an extraordinary piece of writing – one which had a transformative effect on our community at a time when a long-overdue national conversation about sexual violence on college campuses is taking place.”

Braley later said that winning the award was special, and that she felt honored to be nominated among so many other great candidates.

“It was very, very flattering, especially being nominated among a group of such incredible women, and truly phenomenal people,” she said. “When you win something you always feel really special, but when you win something that is such an important award to begin with, and also when all the people you are nominated with are such good people, it’s sort of extra special.”

Assistant Dean of Students David Baldwin led the ceremony, and Yves Salomon Fernandez, a vice president at Mass Bay Community College, was the event’s keynote speaker.

The ceremony started off with a video made by Yue Chen, a senior, in which some women in the FSU community recited the poem from which the ceremony gets its name – “Phenomenal Woman,” written by Dr. Maya Angelou.

After the video, alumni Meredith Amaral and Barbara Pierre sang “Strength, Courage, and Wisdom” by India Arie.

In her keynote speech, Fernandez stated the importance of gender equality, described her path to success and praised FSU.

“Framingham State University is a special place for me, as someone who has been very involved with teacher education, but also because of my work at MassBay,” she said. “Framingham State University is a key partner for us in advancing the status of women and men who walk through our doors from local areas, as well as from places far, far away.”

Fernandez called FSU a historic center for women.

“Framingham State University and its antecedent, the Normal School, holds a special place in history for women, as its foundation is rooted not only in providing opportunity for women to acquire a post-secondary credential, but also as a place to prepare teachers and ensure future generations receive a high-quality primary and secondary education,” she said. “As the Normal School, Framingham State University claims among its earliest Alumni Mary Elizabeth Miles, its first African-American graduate, and the first African-American graduate of any public teachers’ college in the United States.”

Fernandez explained that she immigrated to this country at the age of 12, and was the oldest of seven children. She was given many responsibilities from a young age.

Fernandez said that she worked hard to gain success, and that her background forced her to have “a strong work ethic.” Through hard work, Fernandez earned her bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate at UMass Boston, London School of Economics and Boston College, respectively.

Today Fernandez is vice president for Strategic Planning, Institutional Effectiveness and Grants Development at MassBay, as well as their Campus Executive for Framingham. She also described herself as a proud mother.

“I understand the statistical anomaly that I am,” she said. “For that, I work very hard to make sure that we create enough statistical anomalies so that we change the trend. Women who start, girls who start, where I started – I work very hard to make sure they can reach the heights that I have, so that they are more than just a point, an outlier, but really become the norm.”

Twenty-two FSU women were nominated for the Phenomenal Woman award, including both students and faculty.

The nominees were Education Department Administrative Assistant Carol Bacon-Nichols, English Professor Elaine Beilin, Dean of Students Office Administrative Assistant Kathy Bohner, Editor-in-Chief of The Gatepost Kaila Braley, Coordinator of Campus Events Shana Calvao, SGA Administrative Assistant Meg Carlisle, Curriculum Librarian Kim Cochrane, SUAB Vice President Sarah Cowdell, Education Professor Mary Grassetti, Director of the Health Clinic and Wellness Center Ilene Hofrenning, Director of the Center for Inclusive Excellence Kathy Martinez, Administrative Resident Assistant Jessuly McCabe, Black and Gold Orientation Leader Michelle McGonagle, Director of Career Services and Employer Relations Dawn Ross, Academic Diversity Fellow Patricia Sanchez-Connally, CHOICE Program Graduate Assistant Kristin Sementelli, Business Professor Beverly Soriano, Dean of Students Melinda K. Stoops, Administrative Professional Marjorie Sudmyer, Residence Life Administrative Assistant Terrie Sullivan, SGA President Kendall Valente and Sociology Professor and Associate Vice President of Academic Affairs Ellen Zimmerman.

McCabe, a junior, said that the nomination was “a very nice surprise!

“I wasn’t expecting it at all,” she said, “but it felt really good to be nominated.”

Valente said that the other nominees are “all amazing.

“I love sharing their stories, especially Kaila’s,” she said. “When they read all of them, that was very exciting. It’s amazing to know all the things that are happening on this campus. Sometimes we don’t appreciate it.”

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