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Kianna Bauer named 2024 Phenomenal Woman recipient

A woman with a plaque smiles. Aside her is another smiling blonde woman and a man in a suit with glasses. Three police officers stand in front, smiling too.
Meghan Spargo / THE GATEPOST

By Andrea O’Brien 

Staff Writer

Kianna Bauer, communication dispatcher for the University Police Department, was named the 2024 Phenomenal Woman for her dedication to the FSU community through her outreach events with SHAPE (Sexual Harassment & Assault Prevention and Education).

“Being phenomenal is a connection between all who identify as women - it is a sisterhood of knowing the struggles, knowing the pressure, and demanding better,” said Bauer.

The 17th annual Phenomenal Woman event was held in the McCarthy Forum in celebration of Women’s History Month and the many phenomenal women in the FSU community.

The first winner of this award was recognized in 2007 and since then, female students, administration, and staff members have won this award. Over 40 women across campus are nominated each year by their FSU peers.

The Phenomenal Woman ceremony is hosted by the Dean of Students Office and is inspired by the poem “Phenomenal Woman” by Maya Angelou.

The ceremony began with an opening statement from Rachel Lucking, assistant dean for campus engagement, followed by a greeting from President Nancy Niemi.

According to Niemi, 62% of the full-time employees at FSU are women and if you include part time faculty, that percentage increases to 65%. Sixty percent of students this year, graduate and undergraduate, identify as female.

“Here at FSU, women are a vital source for our students’ success, and we are so lucky. I am so lucky to be amongst phenomenal women,” said Niemi.

Melinda K. Stoops, former FSU administrator for 14 years including roles as assistant dean, dean of students, and associate vice president for student affairs, gave the keynote address.

Stoops now serves at the associate vice president for student health and wellness at Boston College.

When deciding what to discuss in her address, Stoops said she began by reading Maya Angelou’s poem, “Phenomenal Woman.”

Stoops recited the first line of Angelou’s poem in her address: “Pretty women wonder where my secret lies / I’m not cute or built to suit a fashion model’s size / But when I start to tell them, they think I’m telling lies.”

Stoops said, “I love that she starts off right away with a challenge of the status quo. In this case, a challenge of society’s definition of beauty, a challenge of stereotypes.”

During her keynote address, Stoops quoted a tweet from Ariana Huffington following the death of Maya Angelou. In her tweet, she referenced Angelou’s quote, “Nothing can dim the light which shines from within.”

Many of the attendees came dressed in purple, a color which is significant to the Women’s

Suffrage movement and, more recently, to International Women’s Day, celebrated on March 8.

LaDonna Bridges, dean of student success and persistence, gave a short speech about the color purple and its ties to feminism and celebrating women.

“Purple is associated with royalty, luxury, nobility, power, and ambition throughout the ages. It

represents creativity, extravagance, dignity, grandeur, independence, pride, peace, magic, and mystery. So, wear your purple proudly,” said Bridges.

The 2024 Phenomenal Woman nominees were announced by David Baldwin, director of human resources; Jay Hurtubise, associate dean of students, community standards, outreach and support; Ben Trapanick, executive director of human engagement; and Glenn Cochran, associate dean of student life.

This year, a total of 46 women were nominated.

Nomination forms are sent out to the campus community in early February and nominations close about a month prior to the ceremony.

A secret committee then reviews the nominations and selects the final recipient, according to Lucking.

The selection committee considers the following criteria for a Phenomenal Woman nomination – grateful and not accepting of the status quo, serves as a role model or leader to women in the FSU and local community, supports and encourages women around them, moves forward despite challenging circumstances, impacts or has impacted your life, and demonstrates confidence in daily life, according to Lucking.

“Sometimes, there’s a lot of debate, and then other times it’s pretty clear who the winner will be based on the quality of the nomination,” said Lucking.

After the presentation of the nominees, Lucking was joined by the 2023 Phenomenal Woman recipient, Joanne Britland, to announce the winner of this year’s award, Kianna Bauer.

“Being presented with the 2024 Phenomenal Woman award means that SHAPE is recognized, understood and valued at our University,” said Bauer.

She recently received a bachelor’s degree from FSU in sociology and anthropology and will be furthering her education through her recent acceptance into a graduate program, also at FSU.

Lucking read some of the comments Bauer’s nominators wrote about her.

One nominator wrote, “I am pleased to write this nomination letter for Kianna Bauer as I’ve had the opportunity to truly know her as a full-time employee. She is talented and truly dedicated to not only daily duties and responsibilities in our department, but also the FSU community.”

Another nominator wrote, “She is determined, organized, and wants to make FSU a better place. I formally met her when she began working in the Dean of Students Office for her internship where she focused on developing SHAPE programming.”

Bauer said, “Being in this room, everyone can definitely feel the energy of what a phenomenal woman is.”

Meg Nowak Borrego, dean of students and vice president for student affairs, gave closing

remarks and showed a video of women reading Maya Angelou’s “Phenomenal Woman” poem.

Senior Ryanna Coelho, a nominee, said the energy at the ceremony “felt so special.

“I just feel like we’re all phenomenal women. Just being able to celebrate women in general is

such a special thing. It almost has me speechless being here,” said Coehlo.

Nominee and Biology Professor Rachel Avard said, “So many of us were nominated and when

the winner was announced, everyone’s immediate reaction was ‘I am so happy for her,’ and I

think that is the heart of what a phenomenal woman is. It’s that support and that comradery.”

Rhonda Spindel, nominee and revenue accountant in the Business Office, said it “felt nice to be appreciated and recognized.”

Lauren O’Neill, associate director for career development, said she was “honored to have been nominated and recognized by the colleagues that I respect so much.

“It feels good knowing that the work we are doing in career development is going noticed and

appreciated, and that feels better than words can say,” said O’Neill.

Junior Kaylie Valente, a nominee, said, “I thought it was amazing to see how FSU honors their

majority-female community in such a fun way.

“There are so many phenomenal women on campus and the fact that I was recognized as one is one of my proudest moments,” she said.

Senior Willow Versackas, a nominee, said, “The nomination means everything to me, and I’m

grateful to have been recognized amongst so many other amazing women.

“As a queer, gender-nonconforming person, it’s wonderful to be recognized and represent a

community I love so much. I love being a part of the FSU community and I have so many

wonderful women at FSU to thank for helping me through college,” said Versackas.

During her greeting, President Niemi said, “To look at this room, and the women that do

amazing things every day, we have the honor and joy of not only working with each other, but

also making educational opportunities happen for every one of our students, no matter how they identify.”


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