MSU Outstanding Women Awards announced

At an MSU ceremony this week, the President’s Commission on the Status of Women presented its 2016 Outstanding Women Awards. Featured speaker was Allison Pearson (fourth from left), interim associate vice president for academic affairs. The seven honorees included (from left) Bailey McDaniel, Anne Buffington, Courtney Headley, Sharon Avant, Sarah Lee, Vineetha Menon and Kennedy Brown. PHOTO: Megan Bean | Public Affairs

Mississippi State is honoring seven individuals with the university’s latest Outstanding Women awards.

During a campus ceremony last Wednesday [April 6], the MSU President’s Commission on the Status of Women recognized (listed alphabetically):

-- Sharon Avant as 2016 Outstanding Community Woman;

-- Anne Buffington, Outstanding Professional Staff Woman;

-- Courtney Headley, Outstanding Support Staff Woman;

-- Sarah Lee, Outstanding Faculty Woman; and

-- Vineetha Menon, Outstanding Graduate Woman.

Additionally, senior Kennedy J. Brown of Columbus and sophomore Bailey S. A. McDaniel of Corinth received Student Leadership Awards. Brown is an industrial engineering major; McDaniel, a criminology major.

“We had close to 30 nominations this year,” Kim Kavalsky, commission vice chair, told those in attendance.

“In addition to recognizing our award winners, we want to make sure to acknowledge all of those women out there doing remarkable things and encourage them to continue with their efforts,” Kavalsky added.

Allison Pearson, interim associate vice president for academic affairs, was keynote speaker for the Griffis Hall ceremony. A 20-year faculty member, she is the William L. Giles Distinguished Professor of Management and holds the Jim and Julia Rouse Professorship in the College of Business.

Pearson said MSU “female faculty, staff and students clearly are performing at levels that enhance the quality and reputation of our university through their contributions in every walk of life. Today’s honorees make that abundantly clear to us, and they have certainly earned the respect of their peers, the campus community and the citizens of our state.”

The MSU administration remains committed to recruiting more female faculty “so that our female students get to see that role model in front of them each and every day in the classroom,” she emphasized.

“We’re a better and stronger university because of our diversity, including our gender diversity,” Pearson said.

As for this year’s honorees:

-- Avant has worked for nearly three decades as site supervisor with the Starkville-Oktibbeha Consolidated School District’s Extended Day Program. She also is a teacher’s assistant at Sudduth Elementary School. Additionally, she serves as a mentor for community parents and is a member of the usher staff at Christian Faith Missionary Baptist Church.

-- Brown is president of the student Institute of Industrial Engineers chapter on campus, as well as system safety engineering manager on MSU’s award-winning EcoCAR 3 team. A member of the Shackouls Honors College and Pi Kappa Phi national honor society, she works outside of class in the MSU President’s Office and as an industrial engineering undergraduate researcher.

-- Buffington, an MSU education alumna, directs the MSU Social Science Research Center’s EMPOWR peer mentoring program for non-traditional female students enrolled at East Mississippi Community College-Golden Triangle. She also leads the Mississippi KIDS COUNT policy effort targeting chronic student absenteeism in the state’s public schools. Additionally, she has devoted more than a quarter-century of volunteer service to the Starkville-Oktibbeha Consolidated School District and, as a First Presbyterian Church member, led numerous Central American mission trips.

-- Headley is an office associate with the MSU Extension Service’s 4-H Youth Development program. She is founder and leader of Oktibbeha County’s Clover Dawg 4-H Club that involves more than 50 children and 30 volunteers. A recent MSU interdisciplinary studies graduate, she continually has held leadership duties with faith- and community-based initiatives to promote the wellbeing of families and children.

-- Lee is an assistant clinical professor who directs undergraduate studies in the Bagley College of Engineering’s computer science and engineering department. Along with the university’s Mississippi Aspirations in Computing awards program that encourages young women to pursue technology and computing careers, she has helped create and administer the Bulldog Bytes Digital Divas summer computing camp for middle and high school-aged girls. Her diversity promotion efforts have been recognized with a national Dow Diversity Fellow award, among other honors.

-- McDaniel is president of the student LGBTQ+Union, a campus group focused on advocacy, awareness and education of issues related to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals. She also is a founding member of Humans for the Inclusion of Gender Equality. Outside of class, she has volunteered at Starkville’s Rolling Hills Development Center through the MSU Day One Leadership program and presently works with Clay County’s family and children services.

-- Menon is a native of India currently pursuing a doctoral degree in electrical and computer engineering. Committed to increasing female enrollment in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics -- or STEM—fields, she is a student ambassador for both the Bagley College and her department’s graduate program. She has been honored with induction into the college’s Student Hall of Fame and selection for a campus-wide Spirit of State award.

For more than three decades, the MSU President’s Commission on the Status of Women has advised the university chief executive on issues affecting the status and role of women on campus, as well as sponsored informational and educational programs that promote advocacy, leadership and inclusion. Learn more at

MSU is Mississippi’s leading university, available online at

Sasha Steinberg | Public Affairs

Return to Memo

Mississippi State University  •  Mississippi State, MS 39762  •  Main Telephone: (662) 325-2323  •   Contact: The Editor  |  The Webmaster  •   Updated: April 11, 2016Facebook Twitter