Commission on the Status of Women

CSW Outstanding Achievement and Contribution Awards

2011 Award Recipients

Debra “Page” Baluch, Assistant Research Scientist & Manager of W.M. Keck Bioimaging Laboratory
As a leader, teacher, and manager, Dr. Baluch is an exemplar; one who strives to develop opportunities with lasting impact in the support of the interests and career aspirations of women and minorities at ASU, in the Arizona research community and nationally.  She has engaged in a number of important projects to encourage women in the sciences.  In 2010, as President of the Arizona Imaging and Microanalysis Society (AIMS), she spearheaded an “Ugly Bug” contest which provided an opportunity and an entry point for young students to explore the world of insects and microscopy.  Over 37,000 people voted for the ugliest bug, exemplifying the reach of the program.  As treasurer of Central Arizona Chapter of the Association for Women in the Science (AWIS).  Recognizing the need to develop tools and mentorship for women and minorities at ASU and beyond, Dr. Baluch sought funding through the National Science Foundation’s ADVANCE program to spearhead a “Forward to Professorship” conference.  This life-changing program is designed to provide resources and mentoring opportunities in support of the advancement of women and minorities (men and women) in academia.  Forty-two individuals were accepted from all over Arizona and from a wide variety of disciplines, were able to attend a variety of workshops on topics relevant to career development.  The opportunity was unique and one that has been recognized nationally.  In the words of her nominators, “Dr. Baluch is a change maker at ASU, as a leader who strives to create opportunities for women, minorities, students and her colleagues.  She has been a hardworking, committed innovator at ASU.”


Elodie Billionniere, Doctoral Student, Computer Science
Elodie Billionniere is a graduate student who epitomizes great leadership qualities, academic success, and humanitarianism.  To promote success of women students, Elodie has been instrumental in facilitating “GC Diversity Across the Curriculum” seminars which invites ASU students from diverse populations, across disciplines, to gather and mentor one another, and to share research ideas and methods.  This has provided a valuable development opportunity for countless students.  As President of the Black Graduate Student Association, Elodie consistently and successfully raised the bar on all goals set by the association.  She created the ASU Annual Women Empowerment Series which highlighted motivational speakers that brought both ASU and the local community together on topics surrounding women overcoming obstacles.  With this series, Elodie rallied with organization to support the series, creating a strong coalition behind the event.  Her dedication to the Black Graduate Student Association is genuine in that she led the organization in a design to serve the community through “We Care We Share.”  This program that she created with the support of BGSA membership seeks to feed the hungry and homeless of Phoenix.  This was a task that involved formal proposals as well as preparing food baskets and scheduling speakers for charity events.  In one year alone, Elodie clocked over 300 hours of community services – keep in mind that she did this while as a graduate student in not one, but two separate graduate degree programs – a doctoral program and an M.A. program in a completely different college.  In the words of her nominator, “Elodie has sought to establish a voice for Black women at ASU and identify a need for social expression … To know and work with her is to understand that what appears to be an obstacle can easily be empowerment.  Elodie is committed to a social mission of creating a better life for everyone through education, communication, and engagement.”


Nicole Bruno, Graduate Student, in Masters of Social Work & Master of Public Administration
Nicole Bruno is a tireless advocate who not only understands the challenges women face as students, but she takes it upon herself to create change.  In Fall 2009, Nicole Bruno established the “Woman As Hero” student organization at the Downtown Phoenix Campus – a unique organization which is solely focused on the issues affecting women worldwide.  Through community outreach, student engagement, and collaboration with other organizations, Woman As Hero, provides the path for student advocates to address issues affecting women, and to shape the culture and climate surrounding women’s issues at ASU and beyond.  Under her direct leadership, Woman As Hero, coordinates and hosts a “The Female Contemporary Issues Summit” each Spring on a variety of important issues affecting women.  The Summit boasts a large, diverse audience, and many who have attended have commented on how the Summit provided them with the tools and encouragement to change their lives and those around them.   In the words of her nominator, “Nicole clearly understands the problems women face and seeks to address them: childcare, care of aging family members, visibility of gendered problems, cultural expectations of women who have family responsibilities … the list goes on.  While she has not been able to address all of these issues, yet, her advocacy and the development of programs linked to Woman As Hero demonstrates that she understands the need for change and is willing to work hard to create it.”


Dr. Omayra Ortega, Assistant Professor, Math & Natural Sciences
Dr. Omayra Ortega is a tireless advocate for the advancement of women and other underrepresented groups at ASU and beyond.  In 2008, Dr. Ortega organized the first Sonia Kovalevsky High School Mathematics Day at ASU .  SK Days are events for female high school students, their teachers, parents, and mentors designed to encourage young women to continue their study of mathematics and to assist with the transition between high school mathematics to the demands of college mathematics.  Omayra organized the first SK Day as a graduate student at Univ of Iowa before joining the faculty at ASU.  The event has grown from 50 participants in the first year to over 100 last year, with an extensive waitlist of individuals wanting to participate.  This event benefits all those who participate from the students, to those who assist with the event, to expanding the reach of ASU to our community.  In addition to her work on the SK Day, Dr. Ortega also devotes countless hours to mentoring and promoting diversity.  To name just a few:  she has done extensive work on the organization of MLK Day celebrations at West Campus, mentored the Black Student Union and the Black Graduate Student’s Association, and she is a member of the national Organizing Committee for the Infinite Possibilities Conference, which promotes the participation of women of color in the mathematical and statistical sciences.  In the words of one of her nominators, “she has been a leader in promoting the status of women in the mathematical sciences at ASU and in the mathematics profession.  She is amazing.”

Alexandra Brewis Slade, Executive Director, School of Human Evolution and Social Change 
In role as Executive Director of the School of Human Evolution and Social Change, Alexandra Brewis Slade had had a profound and positive impact upon the lives and development of students and faculty within the School.  Her list of accomplishments and contributions are long, and thus, we will focus on a few that were referenced by many of her nominators. 

For the students, SHESC, Alexandra promotes the fact the women can play a powerful role in finding the solutions to today’s problems in social science and administrative fields.  As director of the Global Health program, Alex takes an experiential approach to instruction which means that students learn best when given opportunities to participate in active research related to a concept taught in a classroom.  This teaching philosophy has been institutionalized in the Global Health curriculum and into the development of student abroad programs, internship programs, and senior seminars within the School.  A result of this philosophy is that every student is given the opportunity to participate in research and get training in practical skills related to social science.  In a very subtle way, Alexandra elevates the role of women in science by allowing everyone equal opportunity to select into an experiential-based program.  As a result, the number of women students involved with student abroad/internship programs and lab research has exponentially increased as a direct result of the changes Alexandra has implemented at ASU.  Furthermore, due to her development of specialized interdisciplinary programs, ASU is now training researchers to address an issue that disproportionately affects women – global health.

For the faculty of SHESC, Dr. Brewis-Slade has proven to be a strong advocate for faculty women.  In her role as Executive Director, she has actively mentored several junior faculty women, making sure that teaching and research opportunities relevant to their interests are made available to them, and that they are in work environments in which they can thrive.  She has made the unit family-friendly in a way that was not thought before, an issue of particular importance to junior faculty.  Junior faculty are now able to achieve stronger work/life balance.

In the words of one of her nominators, “I have learned from Alexandra Brewis Slade that women can be a powerful force for change by simply being true to their own identity and passions.”