Moving Gears to Create Change

Kent State University’s Women’s Center is kicking off its newest annual event: the Gender, Equity, Advocacy, and Representation (G.E.A.R.) Awards. The event will be held on March 19 from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Kent State Hotel and Conference Center. Registration is required, and the fee is $10 for students and $25 for general admissions.

Cassandra Pegg-Kirby headshot.
Cassandra Pegg-Kirby

Cassandra Pegg-Kirby, director of the Women’s Center, mentioned the G.E.A.R Awards was born out of a previous event called Mothers, Mentors, And Muses, which recognized and elevated Kent State’s faculty and staff who made a difference in a student or colleague’s life. 

The last class of Mothers, Mentors, And Muses was in 2020, and while the event elevated women on an individual level, Pegg-Kirby mentioned a need for more impact as a collective. During the COVID-19 pandemic, she wondered how to continue the networking, acknowledgment, and celebration the previous event provided while also moving forward with the conversation and action around gender equity, advocacy, and representation. 

Pegg-Kirby thought about how gears work. When one gear moves, it moves the next gear, then another, and so forth. 

“By moving this one gear a little bit, you’re moving a gear way over there and maybe not even knowing,” she said. “One person makes a change in one area, and it impacts something [somewhere else].” 

Sonia Karkare headshot.
Sonia Karkare

She knows people who are constantly working toward gender equity whom others might not know. By bringing these people together in a room and sharing stories, they can inspire positive change exponentially. 

Pegg-Kirby hopes the G.E.A.R Awards will elevate gender equity within the community. For the first event, she coordinated the awards’ design and creation with Isabel Farnsworth, an associate professor at Kent State’s School of Art. When deciding who the keynote speaker should be, Pegg-Kirby knew that elevating the voice of someone whose story people might not know was the right direction. She asked Sonia Karkare, program coordinator of the Women’s Center.

Karkare joined the center’s team in January 2024, and this is a way for her to be introduced to the community and share her story as an immigrant woman of color who has broken barriers and advocated for gender equity in her 27-year career across continents and disciplines.

Her last position was an inaugural role as the first director of digital transformation for Doctors Without Borders in West and Central Africa. In addition to her work at the Women’s Center, she is an adjunct faculty member of Kent State’s Ambassador Crawford College of Business and Entrepreneurship and a doctoral student in the Interprofessional Leadership program at the College of Education, Health, and Human Services. 

The inaugural G.E.A.R Awards has 24 nominees and five award categories: student, faculty, staff, alumni, and community. However, all nominees will be recognized at the event with their names, photos, and reasons for being nominated. The event’s content is co-created by the community since they are the ones who submit nominations for someone who has impacted their lives. 

“We’re going to highlight and celebrate the five awardees,” Pegg-Kirby said. “But being nominated is exciting, and those stories also need to be told.” 

The list of nominees includes:

  • Bekkah Berryhill (Staff): Grounds, University Facilities Management

  • Charmaine Crawford (Faculty): Africana Studies, College of Arts and Sciences

  • Emmanuel David (Student): Computer Science/Criminology, College of Arts and Sciences

  • Isobel Day (Alum): Political Science, College of Arts and Sciences

  • Haley Dees (Student): Aerospace Engineering, College of Aeronautics and Engineering

  • Amy Densevich (Staff): Academic Services, Athletics

  • Judy Devine (Community): Athletics

  • Amoaba Gooden (Staff): Division of People Culture and Belonging

  • Cathy Hackney (Community): AAUW (American Association of University Women)

  • Linda Hoeptner Poling (Faculty): Art, College of the Arts

  • Suzanne Holt (Faculty): Women's Studies, College of Arts and Sciences

  • Caitlin Kane (Faculty): Theatre, College of the Arts

  • Maureen McFarland (Staff): Academic Affairs, College of Aeronautics and Engineering

  • Ruth Miller (Student): Aerospace Engineering, College of Aeronautics and Engineering

  • Nell Orndorf (Community): Indigenous Elder

  • Erica Pelz (Staff): Energy Operations, University Facilities Management

  • Cassie Pegg-Kirby (Staff): Women's Center, Division of Student Life

  • Sohaela Rojas (Student): Fashion Merchandising, College of the Arts

  • Sherry Rose (Community): League of Women Voters

  • Jessica Roshak (Staff): Center for Student Involvement, Division of Student Life

  • Katie Schilling (Staff): Student-Athlete and Alumni Engagement, Athletics

  • Andrew Snyder (Staff): Outreach Program, College of Public Health

  • Jessie Starkey (Student): Political Science, College of Arts and Sciences

  • Cole Wojdacz (Alum): Public Health, College of Public Health 



POSTED: Thursday, March 7, 2024 02:26 PM
Updated: Thursday, May 23, 2024 10:24 AM
Eduardo Strobel