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Women in Higher Education in Tennessee honors 4 MTSU women

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Women in Higher Education in Tennessee honors 4 MTSU women

MTSU chemistry professor Judith Iriarte-Gross, recipient of the 2020 Woman of Achievement Award from the Women in Higher Education in Tennessee, holds the award inside her office in the Science Building. (MTSU photo by Andy Heidt)
MTSU chemistry professor Judith Iriarte-Gross, recipient of the 2020 Woman of Achievement Award from the Women in Higher Education in Tennessee, holds the award inside her office in the Science Building. (MTSU photo by Andy Heidt)


Women in Higher Education in Tennessee is singling out four members of the MTSU community for their professional and academic achievements. 

Judith Iriarte-Gross, a professor of chemistry, shares the 2020 Woman of Achievement Award with Wendy Thompson, vice chancellor for organizational effectiveness at the Tennessee Board of Regents. Nominees for the award must be students or faculty/administrative personnel enrolled in or employees of Tennessee colleges or universities.

Also honored by WHET with scholarships are MTSU graduate student Nicole Gammons, a biology graduate teaching assistant, and seniors Marena Mikaiel, who is majoring in risk management and insurance, and Rosemary Reid, a hospitality and tourism management major.

Nicole Gammons, a senior from Antioch, Tennessee, is the recipient of the 2020 Patricia Pierce Conference Scholarship from Women in Higher Education in Tennessee. (Photo submitted)
Nicole Gammons


Rosemary Reid, a senior from Riceville, Tennessee, received a 2020 Book Scholarship from Women in Higher Education in Tennessee. These $500 scholarships, which offset expenses associated with textbooks, is presented to deserving female college students between the ages of 18 and 40. (Photo submitted)
Rosemary Reid


Marena Mikaiel, a senior from Antioch, Tennessee, is a recipient of a 2020 Women in Higher Education Book Scholarship. These $500 scholarships, which offset expenses associated with textbooks, is presented to deserving female college students between the ages of 18 and 40. (Photo submitted)
Marena Mikaiel


WHET’s website defines a Woman of Achievement as “a dedicated leader who has earned admiration and respect; has vision and can inspire others to help implement it; faces challenges with grace and courage; lives with dignity, integrity and honor.”

• Iriarte-Gross dedicates her academic life to promoting women in science. She is director of MTSU’s Women in STEM (WISTEM) Center, an incubator for women interested in science, technology, engineering and mathematics and the only one of its kind in Tennessee. She also initiated MTSU’s Expanding Your Horizons conference, an annual event for middle-school and high-school girls who are interested in science.

Upon receiving her award, Iriarte-Gross referred to Abigail Adams’ 1776 letter to the Continental Congress to “remember the ladies” in the creation of the nation to be called the United States.

Dr. Judith Iriarte-Gross, chemistry professor, director of the Women In STEM (WISTEM) Center at MTSU, and founder and director of Tennessee’s first Expanding Your Horizons girls’ STEM education workshop
Dr. Judith Iriarte-Gross

“Today, I am a professor of chemistry because a mentor told me that I could succeed as a chemist,” Iriarte-Gross said. “Therefore, I give back so that girls and women can achieve their goals in STEM. I am honored to receive the 2020 Woman of Achievement Award. Thank you for ‘remembering the ladies.’”

A fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Chemical Society and the Association for Women in Science, Iriarte-Gross is the recipient of numerous honors. Some of these include the 2010 TRIO Achievers Award from the Council for Opportunity in Education and the 2014 Athena International Leadership Award from Rutherford CABLE.

• Gammons of Mount Juliet, Tennessee, received the 2020 Patricia Pierce Conference Scholarship. This $500 stipend, named for a former WHET historian, is for women graduate students and professionals and covers registration fees at WHET’s annual conference.

“So often, the achievements of women in science education and STEM fields are overlooked,” Gammons said. “Winning the Patricia Pierce Scholarship validated all the work I have accomplished with the MTSU WISTEM Center. The recognition I receive from winning this scholarship will open the doors for future funding opportunities during my graduate school career.”

• Mikaiel, of Antioch, Tennessee, and Reid, of Riceville, Tennessee, are recipients of 2020 Book Scholarships. These $500 scholarships, which offset expenses associated with textbooks, is presented to deserving female college students between the ages of 18 and 40.MTSU wordmark

“Winning this scholarship meant extra aid and encouraging me to further my education,” Mikaiel said. “Also, I met wo many inspiring women who are motivating and uplifting women in education.”

“Being awarded this scholarship is important because it financially assists me toward graduation next year,” Rice said. “This might sound like a small scholarship, but applying for scholarships from organizations in my field, as well as at MTSU, has allowed me to attend college without incurring any student loans. I am very grateful for this!”

Dr. Cheryl Torsney, vice provost for faculty affairs
Dr. Cheryl Torsney

“We couldn’t be prouder of our WHET honorees,” said Cheryl Torsney, MTSU vice provost for faculty affairs. “Their achievements speak volumes about MTSU’s dedication to student and faculty success.”

“For over 40 years, Women in Higher Education in Tennessee has supported the advancement of women in achieving their personal and professional potential,” said Jennifer L. Thompson, director of content and social media for the Tennessee Board of Regents.

“Our organization is devoted to identifying, developing and providing professional development, growth, mentoring and networking opportunities for all women in higher education in Tennessee.”

— Gina K. Logue (gina.logue@mtsu.edu)

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