Giving Voice to Gender Justice
Virgina Wolf Service Award Winners: Christopher Bidiman, Christine Moffitt, Chelsia Rice and Lynn McAlister
Following in the footsteps of strong leaders on the University of Idaho campus working to advance and advocate for women, four honorees were awarded the Virginia Wolf Distinguished Service Awards in March.
The Women’s Center honored students Lynn McAlister and Chelsia Rice; fish and wildlife resources professor Christine Moffitt; and community member Christopher Bidiman for their commitment to gender justice.
“These are people who are especially involved and very committed to activities and outreach for gender justice,” says Women’s Center coordinator for programs Lysa Salsbury. “All of the honorees are extraordinary leaders.”
The award was created in 2002 and named after physical education professor Virginia Wolf , who taught at the University from 1964-82. Wolf took an active role in addressing issues that affected women on campus; she chaired the University’s Women’s Caucus and helped to launch the campaign that brought about the establishment of a permanent Women’s Center.
“Ginny left a legacy of leadership at the University, and we wanted to not only honor those who are currently leading by example, but the roots of that tradition,” says Salsbury.
Salsbury says the awards process has grown into its own, with a keynote speaker and recognition ceremony, which was held March 23. Honorees are chosen by a committee composed of previous winners.
This year’s winners include:
Lynn McAlister is a graduating senior in sociology and pre-medicine. She also is an activist, a feminist and a socially conscious student. At the heart of her activism is work to create inclusive environments where dialogue can occur. For the past three years, McAlister has run the University’s Women’s Mentoring Program, which provides a feminist mentoring experience through pairing undergraduate first-year women students with upper-division students, faculty, and staff. This program is critical for creating an inclusive campus community and retaining female students. She also is past president of the University‘s Social Forum, and has been instrumental in bringing to campus noteworthy events and speakers that challenge convention and urge action versus passivity. She is a peer mentor in the sociology department and a volunteer with the horse rescue shelter Orphan Acres. In 2009, McAlister was recognized as the University’s Student Employee of the Year, and the following year, she received the Idaho Inclusiveness Coalition Human Rights Leadership Scholarship.
Chelsia Rice is a graduate student in the University of Idaho MFA program and a teaching assistant in the English department. She has shared her advocacy for gender equality through numerous speaking engagements and diverse social activism, through her writing in her online blog Wobbly Little Legs, and through her role as a member of the University community. Rice is a gifted teacher who moves and inspires her colleagues, students, and peers, breaking through power structures to create safe spaces for all who interact with her to share opinions and grow. She has served as a strong and steadfast role model, broadening minds and changing stereotypes by fostering an atmosphere of scholarship and inclusion on campus.
Christine Moffitt has been a long-time advocate for diversity in fishery resources, a field historically dominated by white men. In 1979, she became the first woman to complete a doctorate in fisheries science at the University of Massachusetts. Moffit has been an advocate for higher education and the increased involvement of underrepresented groups in fisheries science. She has mentored graduate students from a variety of ethnic backgrounds and is actively involved in promoting and providing research opportunities for undergraduate students through the Research Experience for Undergraduates and Center for Research on Invasive Species and Small Populations programs. She provides opportunities for Native American high school students interested in fisheries research through the Helping Orient Indian Students and Teachers program. She promotes diversity through her professional roles with the U.S. Geological Survey and American Fisheries Society, in addition to her role as a professor, research scientist, and graduate student adviser.
Christopher Bidiman, a recent graduate of the University of Idaho, was a prominent student activist during his time on campus. He wrote a sex and sexual health advice column for The Argonaut and was also a student-liaison for the group OUT THERE, a WSU-based safer sex promotion group. He served as a safer sex educator for University of Idaho residence halls, living groups and classes. He organized the first free and confidential HIV testing program at the University of Idaho and later established Inland Oasis’ HIV programs, which he currently directs. He is also the Ryan White Part B Medical case manager, where he serves as the point of contact in six counties between low-income HIV-positive individuals and the State of Idaho Department of Health and Welfare. Bidiman currently serves on the board of the Idaho Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS where he works to establish and guide state policies on education surrounding, as well as, care and treatment of HIV/AIDS, in the state of Idaho.