A-Z Index

News Release

Northwest celebrated its "Influential Women" Friday. Left to right, Pat Wyatt, Bryana Jones and Kat Bilbo received the awards for staff, students and faculty, respectively. (Photo by Todd Weddle/Northwest Missouri State University)

Northwest celebrated its "Influential Women" Friday. Left to right, Pat Wyatt, Bryana Jones and Kat Bilbo received the awards for staff, students and faculty, respectively. (Photo by Todd Weddle/Northwest Missouri State University)

March 15, 2019

University celebrates ‘Influential Women of Northwest’

Northwest Missouri State University on Friday recognized its “Influential Women of Northwest” to culminate a series of activities commemorating Women’s History Month.

“The influence of Northwest women in particular is far reaching and has a very prominent ripple effect here on our campus and beyond,” Kenna Johnson, an advisor and coach in Academic and Retention Services, said during the celebration at B.D. Owens Library.

The Northwest community in February nominated female students, faculty and staff at Northwest who have positively influenced lives and made outstanding contributions to the University community. More than 100 nominations were submitted.

“We were just really humbled by reading the nominations we received,” Johnson said. “You can imagine the task that our planning committee was given with that overwhelming response.”

Ultimately, Johnson said, the committee identified three to five outstanding nominations in each of the three categories – faculty, staff and student. Kat Bilbo, an assistant professor of theatre, received the faculty award, and Pat Wyatt, the University’s accessibility coordinator, received the staff award; the names of each of the outstanding nominees and their nominators’ comments are provided below.

But the celebration turned especially poignant when Johnson introduced the student award. Lonnae Young, a Northwest student who died unexpectedly last month, had been nominated in the student category.

“Her nomination spoke to her influence and impact as a campus leader,” Johnson said. “‘Nae’ was a leader and a role model who smiled all the time and served others and our campus tirelessly. The roles she assumed on this campus were resident assistant in Dieterich Hall, she devoted her summers to the Upward Bound program on campus, and she was also a devoted member of Sigma Society. Her nomination went on to say, ‘She made a giant impact on me and that impact I will carry with me for the rest of my life.’ She was a kind and loving and understanding and helpful to everyone she encountered.”

In remembrance of Young and to honor her positive impact and influence on the Northwest community, the Influential Woman of Northwest Award for students now bears her name. Young’s parents, David and Marie Dawson, were on hand to accept the special recognition and present the first Lonnae Young Influential Student Award to Bryana Jones.

“Lonnae meant a lot to us and we’re glad to see what she meant to everyone around us,” Marie said. “Lonnae would have been like, ‘ok, yo, this is too much.’ She had a dry sense of humor and she didn’t like people to overdo affection. I just thank you that her legacy will live on and that she meant so much to everyone here on campus. She was away from home, and so to know that she was in loving hands and that so many people cared about her means a lot.”

Additionally, Northwest President Dr. John Jasinski, in a surprise recognition, honored Dr. Jamie Hooyman, who was named Northwest’s first female provost in 2017. Hooyman joined the Northwest staff in 2016 after 10 years at North Central Missouri College in Trenton, Missouri, where she served as vice president of institutional effectiveness, dean of instruction and associate dean. Her professional experience also includes service as a faculty member at the University of Central Oklahoma, where she taught undergraduate and graduate courses in its Department of Kinesiology and Health Studies and served on numerous committees.

“Jamie is a wife, a mother, but I think you all need to understand she’s highly respected across the two-year sector in the state of Missouri and the four-year sector in the state of Missouri and well beyond,” Jasinski said. “She’s respected by the Higher Learning Commission, and they understand her passion for and the relevance she provides to the accreditation society. She is indeed a woman of influence at Northwest Missouri State. We are grateful to call her our provost.”

During the remarks, Johnson and Dr. Marilou Joyner – who serves as the vice chair of Northwest’s Board of Regents and is one of just 12 female Regents in the University’s history since Laura Schmitz, of Chillicothe, became the first in 1925 – reflected on other “influential women” during Northwest’s lifespan. They include Eliza Munn, the first student to enroll at Northwest in 1906; Olive DeLuce, who became the head of Northwest’s art department in 1915; Jean Jennings Bartik, a 1941 graduate who became a pioneer in computer programming; and Emma Lee Morgan, a 1939 graduate who, at age 101, is the oldest of Northwest’s living alumni.

The celebration was sponsored by the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, the Missouri Gold Program and Today’s Civic Women. Additionally, the reception marked the opening of a special exhibit, which will remain on display in the library through the end of the month.

Under this year’s national theme of “Visionary Women: Champions of Peace and Nonviolence,” other Women’s History Month activities at Northwest included a talk about sexual assault, a pop-up women’s center, Green Dot training and another iteration of the Clothesline Project.

Marion Blumenthal Lazan, a Holocaust survivor and author of the children’s book “Four Perfect Pebbles,” had been scheduled to share her experiences at 7 p.m. Tuesday, March 19, in the Charles Johnson Theater, but Blumenthal Lazan has informed the University of her need to cancel due to family issue.

Northwest’s Women’s History Month planning committee was chaired by Dr. Elyssa Ford and consisted of Dr. Joy Daggs, Dr. Devlin Scofield, Danielle Koonce, Adam Gonzales, Sarah Creason, Joshua Wilmes and Kenna Johnson.

Women’s History Month originated as a national celebration in 1981 when the U.S. Congress passed the first of several annual resolutions designating a week in March as “Women’s History Week. National Women’s History Month was founded in 1987 when Congress declared that it be celebrated each March. A presidential proclamation is issued annually to honor the achievements of American women.

Influential Women of Northwest

Faculty award, outstanding nominees

Kat Bilbo (award recipient) is an assistant professor of theatre in the Department of Fine and Performing Arts and joined Northwest in 2014. Her nominator’s comments included, “She genuinely cares about her students. A lot of times, finding a professor who wants you to succeed not only academically but in your life as a human is hard and she really does.”

Dr. Ashley Davis Black is an assistant professor of English in the Department of Language, Literature, and Writing, and works closely with secondary education students; she joined Northwest in 2013. Ashley’s nominator said she “puts students first, and as a result, it enriches the Northwest community. She puts learning and engagement at the front and center, promoting a path to student success like no one else on campus.”

Dr. Gretchen Thornsberry is an associate professor of biology in the Department of Natural Sciences and joined the Northwest faculty in 2009. Gretchen’s nomination noted she “goes above and beyond with outreach and promoting Northwest to future students.” Her nomination also highlighted her example to other women in STEM fields.

Dr. Robin Gallaher is an assistant professor of English in the Department of Language, Literature and Writing, and joined Northwest in 2003. She is the English composition coordinator and is the incoming chair of that department. Her nominator wrote, “Robin is a behind-the-scenes kind of leader.” “She has inspired a new culture in our department that has redefined the way many teach composition.”

Staff award, outstanding nominees

Pat Wyatt (award recipient) is the accessibility coordinator at Northwest. She earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees at Northwest and began her career in 1984 as a reference specialist in the B.D. Owens Library. She later assumed the role of managing the University’s Proctoring Center, coordinating testing and accommodations for students with disabilities. Her nominators shared: “Her years of dedication to Northwest’s students have made our campus a more inclusive and welcoming place. So much of my success stems from her support;” “Without her assistant and dedication, many students and faculty would be on their own to navigate a challenging learning environment;” “Pat puts her whole heart into her work each and every day to ensure that each student she helps has an equitable chance for success.”

Kristen Peltz earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees at Northwest and has worked since 2015 in Wellness Services, where she is assistant director of counseling services. Her nominators wrote: “She is supportive, growth-minded, and also has this calming effect on others. She can be the quiet one in the room, but when she begins to speak, most listen to her wise words,” and “Kristen is a dynamic and impressive woman who embraces the uniqueness of each individual and encourages those around her to be more open and caring.”

Megan DeShon-Runge is the assistant director of student involvement and coordinates Greek Life. Her nominations cited her hard work, dedication and the positive influence she has had on students and Greek Life. Nominators wrote: “Megan has always cultivated a welcoming environment for all students.  She is a breath of fresh air and will leave a substantial legacy at Northwest,” and “I wouldn’t be anywhere near where I am today without her help and I cannot thank her enough.”

Lonnae Young Influential Student Award, outstanding nominees

Bryana Jones (award recipient) is a sophomore international business major. She serves as a resident assistant and is a dedicated competitor on the Northwest speech and debate team. Her nominators wrote:

Alison Hanner is a graduate student pursuing her Master of Business Administration with a marketing emphasis and works as a graduate assistant in the Office of Career Services. Her nominator wrote:

Sierra Rains is a graduate student pursuing her Master of Business Administration with a management emphasis. She works within the Academic Success and Retention unit, serving as a graduate assistant for the academic success coaching program. Her nominator wrote:

Holly Hatfield is a senior agronomy and agriculture education major. She serves as president of Sigma Society, a service organization with 160 members. Her nominator wrote:

Megan Frerking is a senior communication major with a public relations emphasis. Her nominators wrote:


Dr. Mark Hornickel
Administration Building
Room 215