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Gathering at the 2019 Women of Promise Dinner were, left to right, UD Vice Provost for Diversity Carol Henderson; keynote speaker Valerie Biden Owens, vice chair of the Biden Institute at UD’s Joseph R. Biden, Jr. School of Public Policy and Administration; and UD President Dennis Assanis.

2019 Women of Promise honored

Photos by Lane McLaughlin

Valerie Biden Owens encourages women to choose their own path

Women are primary forces, by nature, Valerie Biden Owens said. This is a fundamental truth, she told a room of mostly women students, faculty and staff during her keynote address at the University of Delaware’s annual Women of Promise dinner. The March 19 event, held in the Trabant University Center, celebrated the achievements of UD women and the power of mentorship.

Although the world continues to be hostile to women and there are many hurdles to jump though, building confidence is the first step to becoming a leader, Biden Owens said.

“UD gave me the freedom and the knowledge and the platform to nurture my confidence and to grow into myself and prove my brother right,” Biden Owens said, referring to her brother, Joe Biden, the former U.S. vice president and among UD’s most famous alumni. “Confidence begins with conviction. You must find your own true north — the values that you stand for and the things that you simply cannot abide.”

Biden Owens, who serves as vice chair of the Biden Institute at UD’s Joseph R. Biden, Jr. School of Public Policy and Administration, knows a great deal about finding courage throughout her career in politics. She was one of the first women in the United States to manage major campaigns, running all of her brother’s senatorial and presidential campaigns. She’s also served as a senior adviser to the United Nations and on the national board of the Women’s Leadership Forum of the Democratic National Committee. Biden Owens said she spent much of her career mentoring women on how to influence the political process.

She encouraged the women in the room to liken their journey to the famous words of the sculptor Michelangelo:

Every block of stone has a statue inside it and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it. I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.

“So many of us fail to see the angel in the marble when it comes to our own capacity to lead and that’s especially true of women,” she said. “So pick up your chisel, carve out your angel. Carve out your rightful place. When you’re finished carving your rightful place, turn around and hand that chisel to the woman behind you.”

Carol Henderson, UD vice provost for diversity, congratulated the women in the room on their journey to excellence. She reminded them of the purpose of this dinner.

“The Women of Promise dinner is one of those events that celebrates outstanding accomplishments of our student scholars and the mentors who inspire them to be their best selves — uniquely, creatively and courageously,” Henderson said. “This event was developed over 40 years ago by former assistant provost of women affairs, Ms. Mae Carter, to elevate the idea of mentoring on our campus.”

In addition to the women from all seven of UD’s colleges who were recognized as 2019 Women of Promise, Henderson also presented two diversity awards. Erin Rezich won the Mae Carter Scholarship Award, and the E. Arthur Trabant Award for Women’s Equity was awarded to Regina Sims Wright.

UD President Dennis Assanis said it is no accident that this celebration was held during March since it is Women’s History Month. International Women’s Day was celebrated on March 8. It’s also a significant moment in time, as this year marks the 100th anniversary of Congress passing the 19th Amendment that gave women the right to vote, though it wasn’t ratified by the states until the following year, so there are two chances to celebrate this important milestone, he said. Also this year, a record number of women took seats in Congress, he added.

At UD, many women have contributed to the University’s legacy, Assanis said. Historically, these women include Mae Carter, Amy du Pont, Bessie Collins and Winifred Robinson. More recently, it includes the women who are part of UD’s leadership team, including Provost Robin Morgan. Assanis also acknowledged his wife, Eleni Assanis, for her partnership throughout his life and career.  

UD Provost Robin Morgan

It is now time for the younger generation of women to continue to shape that history, he said.

“If we truly want to accomplish our biggest advances in science, technology, health and engineering and the arts, we absolutely need to be committed to bringing more and more opportunities to the women in the world,” he said. “We can’t afford to leave anyone out of these conversations, so we need your contributions. That’s especially important.“

Morgan said she has many fond memories of this event throughout the years. She encouraged the room of mentees and mentors to make the most of their time together and of the network of women at UD.

“You’re going to carve your path, too, and as you do that and go forward, remember this night,” Morgan said. “Remember all the women you’ve gathered with and keep those connections. They’re really important to you and they will help you. We’re here investing in your future. We’re very proud of where you are now and extremely excited about where you will be.”

Flanked by UD Vice Provost for Diversity Carol Henderson (left) and UD President Dennis Assanis (right), Regina Sims Wright won the E. Arthur Trabant Award for Women’s Equity at the 2019 Women of Promise dinner.

About Women of Promise

Through the years, Women of Promise has recognized exceptional female students at the University of Delaware. Women on UD’s faculty nominate both undergraduate and graduate students for this award. Each year a dinner is also held to celebrate and promote positive mentoring relationship between female faculty and the students they nominate. The event is organized by the Office of the Vice Provost for Diversity.

During the event, the recipients of the E. Arthur Trabant Award for Women’s Equity and the Mae Carter Scholarship are recognized. The E. Arthur Trabant Award for Women’s Equity is given annually to any individual, department, administrative unit or committee that has contributed to equity for women at the University. The Mae Carter Scholarship is awarded to a female undergraduate student at the University who carries the values that Mae Carter has represented to the University community of women. The award highlights someone who continuously works to advance the status of women on campus.

Flanked by UD Vice Provost for Diversity Carol Henderson (left) and UD President Dennis Assanis (right), Erin Rezich won the Mae Carter Scholarship Award at the 2019 Women of Promise dinner.

2019 Women of Promise award recipients

College of Agriculture and Natural Resources

Juliann Callan, Samone DeFreese, Lindsay Erndwein, Leah Ferguson, Erin Jackson, Alexa Johnson, Julia Kesselring, Melissa Langer, Lauren Mosesso, Jaclyn Soulas, Taozhu Sun, Xinwen Zhang.

Alfred Lerner College of Business and Economics

Leah Austin, Katelyn Beird, Julia Forster, Yuanxue Gao, Arynn Hernandez, Kelsey Lona, Iyanna McCoy, Shae Muller, Isabel Orticelle, Angelica Rivera, Caroline Ros, Kaitlyn Scott, Jacqueline Siino, Alisha Valdivia, Raveena Wadhwa, Emily Williamson.

College of Arts and Sciences

Simone Adkins, Lindsay Andrew, Christabelle Ayensu-Asiedu, Atieh Babakhani, Sierra Bacon, Seyanna Barrett, Maddie Cann, Amy Ciminnisi, Isabelle Cohen, Sydney Cole, Mary Grace Colonna, Mallory Coughlin, Ruiming Du, Dantae Elliott, Christiana Erba, Annabelle Fichtner, Amanda Flores, Anuththara Gangoda, Cara Giordano, Kirsten Gobb, Katherine Holden, Charquetta Hudon, Daykia Hunter-McKnight, Olivia Jaeger, Noor Jamal, Mariela Jimenez, Kate Kafonek, Samantha Kasehagen, Nicole Kushner, Jordan Langs, Lauren Lee, Linjin Li, Alison Lobo, Veronika Lynch, Heather Marsh, Katherine Mazur, Monica Mesa Alarez, Casey Moore, Brett (Mei) Moore, Kaitlyn Mounts, Katherine Nails, Natalie Pagenstecher, Ashley Paintsil, Jaina Patel, Diana Peterson, Olivia Reiff, Samantha Rex, Barbara Romero Duenas, Shannon Streisel, Caroline Tobin Luisa Turbino Torres, Laura White.

College of Earth, Ocean and Environment

Emily Aiken, Jacquelyn Attardi, Christina Baughn, Mindie Bitting, Saber Brasher, Katie Buell-Fleming, Alexis De Santi, Maryam Golbazi, Julia Guimond, Katie Hudson, Abigail Huebler, Laura Johnson, Jennifer Joseph, Emily Jaiser, Camille Kauffman, Kyra Kim, Rebecca King, Hannah Kirk, Emily Lewis, Carol Lyell, Haley Oleynik, Sophie Phillips, Nicole Rucker, Leanna Stackhouse, Rebecca Vandzura, Maoli Vizcaino, Zhaojun Wang, Rucha Wani, Emily Watson.

College of Education and Human Development  

Aly Blakeney, Natalie Brousseau, Claire Choi, Emily Harris, Libby Heiks, Laura Hougentogler, Jennifer Juarez, Imani Lawson, Samantha Leonard, Kathleen Manta, Suhey Matamoros, Hillary May, Nicole Mejia, Kaitlin O’Connor, Alexa Pedulla, Linette Ross, Angela Russo, Marissa Snyder, Deandra Taylor.

College of Engineering

Larissa Gaul, Ashley Gold, Zhang Guo, Emily Kolewe, Christina Le Febvre, Grace Mcllvaine, Shannon McNaul, Jennifer Medhaug, Laurie Metzler, Joy Muthami, Olivia Powell, Janelle Skaden, Haoran Wei, Katie Woodacre.

College of Health Sciences

Gercy Abad, Luisa Abadia, Kristin Alwell, Elanna Arhos, Elham Bakhshipour, Rachael Belinfontie, Cara Cicalo, Stephanie Davis, Kathleen Davis, Mingchang Ding, Jessica Eosso, Amy Jackson, Sarah Jacobs, Kate Koluch, Kathryn Krecicki, Tara McKenna, Shannon Murphy, Michelle Norton, Macy Oteri, Taylor Pearson, Rashiqah Syed, Christina Warden, Alexis Weikert, Madison Werth.

The 2019 Women of Promise dinner, held in the Trabant University Center, celebrated the achievements of UD women and the power of mentorship.

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