Ohio University Chillicothe celebrates Women of Distinction
As part of Women’s History Month, Ohio University Chillicothe celebrated women who contribute to Ohio University Chillicothe and the greater Chillicothe community at the annual Women of Distinction program on Tuesday, March 29, 2023, in the Stevenson Center Fireside Lounge.
The program featured recognition of the Women of Distinction Award winner and the Visionary Women Student Writing Contest winner, as well as The Women Build Chillicothe Panel featuring downtown Chillicothe business owners Jade Berry, Chelsea Bruning, Meg Gerber and Courtney Lewis. Adrienne D’Souza, enrichment coordinator of the Chillicothe & Ross County Public Library, served as moderator for the panel.
Roberta Milliken, dean of campus and community relations, welcomed community members, OHIO Chillicothe faculty, staff, and students to celebrate the accomplishments and contributions of women in the community.
“This is one of my favorite annual events,” Milliken said. “Wonderful things always happen when we gather women together and ask them to speak about their lives--what motivates them and what wisdom they would like to share. This panel is a perfect example of this. The discussion was inspiring, smart, and important.”
Berry is a Chillicothe business owner, author, public speaker and engaged community member. Berry sits on several city boards impacting the health and growth of Chillicothe. She was named Chillicothe Ross Chamber of Commerce 2022 Young Professional of the Year. In 2020, she launched Life Ready, a free career development program for local youth and young adults.
Lewis is the past owner of Totem Supply Co., a shop that encouraged pride in Chillicothe for over nine years. After graduating from Ohio University with a BFA in graphic design, she moved to Cleveland for a few years working in web design and general marketing. After moving back to Chillicothe in 2009, she has been involved in many things – from downtown revitalization with her shop, co-founding the Mighty Children's Museum, serving a term on City Council and now serving as the marketing and communications manager for the Chillicothe & Ross County Public Library.
Gerber is the owner of Paper City Coffee and The Page and co-founder of The Paper City Mentoring Project. After teaching high school English for six years and seeing a gap in resources for Ross County teenagers, she left the field to help bridge that gap by connecting students with adult mentors. She is passionate about providing an inclusive and accepting space for all people and supporting her team.
“I started to do research and realized specifically for underserved youth, if you can connect to them with one adult mentor, that is one of the greatest factors enabling them to change the trajectory of where they're headed and to be able to rewrite the narrative of their family, the generational cycles that maybe their parents weren’t able to break,” Gerber said, explaining why she decided to launch the Paper City Mentoring Project and the coffee shop that funds the project.
Bruning, who is a pharmacist and owner of Wheatberry Books, said she had no business background, so when she decided to open her bookstore she sought advice from local women entrepreneurs like Lewis, Gerber and Berry.
“These ladies are the scaffolding for us to learn from and to build upon,” she said. “Nobody could do it alone. It's so comforting to have a network of women who are willing to share what they've learned the hard way and just support each other.”
Associate Professor Karen Corcoran, along with a group of students, presented the Women of Distinction award to Associate Professor Deb Nickles.
Nickles teaches an undergraduate English writing course at Ohio University Chillicothe and lectures for the Women, Gender and Sexualities Studies department on the Athens campus. She is also the director of the OHIO Chillicothe Writing Center, where she facilitates tutoring across the curriculum and develops writing workshops. A recipient of the Regional Higher Education Outstanding Instructional Faculty award and the Outstanding English Language Arts Educator award, Nickles serves her campus through committee work and is active in a number of professional organizations.
“I nominated Deb for this award because of our mission,” Corcoran said. “Our mission here and passion for most of us here centers around serving our students. Deb Nickles shows her students every day that she loves them and that she wants to be part of their journey so they can become the best version of themselves.”
Junior Social Work Major Kristen Cox read her Visionary Women Writing Contest winning poem about her mother and helped present the Women of Distinction award to Deb Nickles.