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Evolving Equity: Challenging Power and Privilege

March 16, 2009 – This year’s University of Utah Women’s Week keynote presenter, Rev. Irene Monroe, speaks for a sector of society that is frequently invisible. An African American feminist theologian and religion columnist, she writes about women’s spirituality and gender issues and has written extensively on African American gay and lesbian history, African American sexuality and anti-Semitism in both the black Christian and black Muslim communities.

Monroe will speak at noon on Wednesday, March 25, 2009 in the University of Utah Olpin Union Ballroom. Her presentation marks the beginning of this year’s Women’s Week celebration, which runs March 25 – 31. The theme for the celebration is “Evolving Equity: Challenging Power and Privilege.”

Monroe notes that she tries to inform the public of the role religion plays in discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered people. “I believe that religious intolerance and fundamentalism not only shatters the goal of American democracy,” she says, “but also perpetuates other forms of oppression, such as racism, sexism, classism and anti-Semitism.”

“The Rev. Irene Monroe personifies this year’s theme,” says Debra Daniels, LCSW, director of the university’s Women’s Resource Center and chairwoman of the Women’s Week committee. “She takes on the issue of challenging power and privilege from the perspective of those who live in the cross sections of our society and are seeking equity. She examines race, gender, sexual orientation and religion and how we must address these issues in order to have an equitable society. These are all topics of great relevance today.”

“Women’s Week is an opportunity to acknowledge the valuable accomplishments and contributions of women in every sector of society,” says Octavio Villalpando, associate vice president, Office for Equity and Diversity at the University of Utah. “The university is fortunate to be able to work with campus and community partners to present this year’s lineup of events for women, and men, of all ages and backgrounds. The topics presented give voice to many people and issues that are not often raised in this thoughtful, in-depth manner.”

The Linda K. Amos Award for Distinguished Service to Women will be announced during the Women’s Week festivities. This year’s winner is Leigh Neumayer, M.D., professor of surgery and co-director of the Integrated Breast Program at the Huntsman Cancer Institute. The award, presented by the Presidential Commission on the Status of Women, the Annual Women’s Week committee and the Office for Equity and Diversity, recognizes an outstanding female faculty or staff member who has selflessly devoted time and energy to improving the educational and work environments of women at the U.

Women’s Week will include the following events:

The Wilderness Quilt: an exhibit by Women Protecting Wilderness featuring personal reflections, testimonials and photos expressing the beauty of Southern Utah, the meaning wild places hold in our lives and what we can do to protect them. The exhibit runs March 25 – April 3 with an opening reception Thursday March 26, 4:00 pm in the Olpin Union foyer.

High School Conference: Young women from area high schools are invited to explore issues of equity, power and privilege and the importance of obtaining a higher education while learning how to access and enroll in college. Lynette Danley, Ph.D., founder/director of Black Butterflies will offer the keynote address. The event is free. Lunch is provided. According to conference organizer Karla Motta, “The conference provides a perfect opportunity for young women, especially those from marginalized communities, to explore, with university faculty, staff and community, ways to become empowered through higher education.”

Community Panel, “More Power to You: Empowering Marginalized Groups”: Community activists will join in an interactive discussion about the role of education and spirituality in the empowerment of women, Monday, March 30, 3:00, Olpin Union Theatre, the University of Utah. Panelists include: Judi Hillman, executive director of the Utah Health Policy Project; Phyllis Nassi of the Huntsman Cancer Institute; Samah Ibrahim from the YWCA; Karla Motta, an academic advisor in the office of the University of Utah Associate Vice-President for Enrollment Management.

“Self-Empowered Professional Development: Presenting yourself with Confidence”: Presented by Judith Kapustin Katz, Ed.D., a transition consultant, career counselor and executive coach offering tools on constructing a personal narrative and leveraging your personal and professional achievements. This is the annual Edie Kochenour Memorial Lecture and will be presented Tuesday, March 31, 11:30 am, Victory Room in the Rice-Eccles Stadium Tower, sixth floor. Registration required at

Women’s Week sponsors at the University of Utah include the Office for Equity and Diversity, University Marketing & Communication, The Women’s Resource Center, ASUU Diversity Council, Office of Student Recruitment & High School Services, Chartwells and the Presidential Commission on the Status of Women. The community sponsor of Women’s Week is the YWCA.

For more information about Women’s Week visit or call 801-581-4250. Interviews with Monroe available upon request also by calling 801-581-4250.