Esprit de Femme Awards highlight LSU Women's Center's commitment to advocacy

In the spring of 2013, women comprise 51.6 percent of the student population at LSU, the highest percentage since the spring of 2008. As the female population continues to increase at LSU and at universities across the country, the need for women's advocacy and programming is no longer a luxury, but a necessity.

LSU Women's Center rendering
On Thursday, May 2, the LSU Women’s Center will hold a ribbon-cutting ceremony to officially open its new 5,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art facility in LSU Union Square.

The LSU Women's Center provides support, referral and information to students, faculty and staff on issues and concerns related to women. The center also promotes the advancement of women's issues and well-being through its services, educational programs and advocacy efforts.

"At LSU, female students outnumber male students in both the undergraduate and graduate populations. While this is numerically significant, we know that the social climate for women is slowly adjusting to this change," said Katrice Albert, LSU's vice provost for equity, diversity and community outreach. "The LSU Women's Center provides necessary resources, services and educational opportunities that promote gender equity, leadership development of women and campus safety for all."

New LSU Women's Center

On Thursday, May 2, the Women's Center will hold a ribbon-cutting ceremony to open its new home. The 5,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art facility will be located on campus in LSU Union Square in the same building as the Barnes & Noble at LSU bookstore, the new African American Cultural Center and the new parking garage. The new Women's Center will provide an expanded library and computer room to provide visitors with greater resources related to gender and women's issues, and enhanced programming with increased classroom space.

"The new Women's Center will allow us to greatly increase our impact on campus and in the community through expanded programs and initiatives, increased access to our library and resource materials, and our ability to provide space for campus and community organizations to host programming," said Summer Steib, director of the LSU Women's Center.

Esprit de Femme Awards

2013 Esprit de Femme and Men Who Champion Women award winners
In 2013, the Esprit de Femme and Men Who Champion Women awards were presented to (from left to right): Amy Mitchell-Smith; Mary-Brent Brown; Jeanette Alcon; Laurinda Calongne; Hillar Moore III; Sherri Brock; Angie Jefferson accepting for her sister, Lolo Jones; and Jacqui Vines. Not pictured is Lindy Boggs.
Jim Zietz/LSU University Relations

In honor of Women's History Month in March, LSU annually celebrates women from all walks of life. This year, the LSU Women's Center presented the annual Esprit de Femme and Men Who Champion Women awards during the first ever sunrise celebration on Thursday, March 14. Proceeds from the Esprit de Femme Awards Sunrise Celebration will support the mission and goals of the Women's Center.

Established in 2009, the Esprit de Femme award is an annual acknowledgement of a person who has made exceptional efforts toward the advancement of women. This award honors individuals who elevate the status of women in the community through their contributions to the arts, education, healthcare, business and industry, charity and civic engagement.

"The annual Esprit de Femme awards give the Women's Center the platform to honor, recognize and celebrate the accomplishment of women who have made the advancement of other women a priority," said Steib. "Since its inception in 2009, we have had the vision of creating a special event for the presentation of the Esprit de Femme awards. It was important for us to ensure that the Esprit de Femme honorees were recognized in a way that celebrated their amazing accomplishments and achievements."

In 2013, the Esprit de Femme award were presented to eight deserving recipients. These recipients were Jeanette Alcon, Lindy Boggs, Sherri Brock, Mary-Brent Brown, Laurinda Calongne, Lolo Jones, Amy Mitchell-Smith and Jacqui Vines. In addition, the Men Who Champion Women award was presented to Hillar Moore III.

The executive director for the Lafayette Community Health Care Clinic, Alcon was the founding executive director of the Inter-Tribal Council of Louisiana, which she directed for 18 years, and was instrumental in setting up the Institute of Indian Development. The Lafayette resident also worked with then-governor Edwin Edwards when he created the Governor's Office of Indian Affairs.

The first woman elected to Congress from Louisiana, Boggs was the permanent chairwoman of the 1976 Democratic National Convention, making her the first female to preside over a major party convention. The co-founder of the Congressional Woman's Caucus, the New Orleans resident was also an ambassador to the Vatican. Boggs' cousin, Martha Jewel, accepted the award on her behalf.

Hillar Moore III
East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney and LSU Alumnus Hillar Moore III received the Men Who Champion Women award for focusing his resources on improving services for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault.
Jim Zietz/LSU University Relations

A graduate of LSU, Brock is currently the principal at Westdale Middle School in Baton Rouge, where she has recruited more than 3,000 volunteers to help make improvements to the school. She was also instrumental in bringing gifted and talented and immersion education programs to the school, and then played a key role in growing those programs. The 2005-06 Louisiana Principal of the Year, she was also a finalist for the 2006-07 National Association of Secondary School Principals' National Principal of the Year award.

Having founded Kids Wanna Help in 2007 at the age of 12, Brown is currently a senior at St. Scholastica Academy in Covington, La. Along with her younger sister, Brown's Kids Wanna Help organization has raised more than $115,000 for non-profit organizations since its inception through its Lemonade Brigade and annual fashion show. A National Merit Semi-Finalist, Brown was a 2012 Angel Award winner as presented by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana.

The chief academic officer at Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center in Baton Rouge, Calongne was appointed to the Council on Graduate Medical Education by president George W. Bush in 2001. A year later, Gov. Mike Foster appointed her to the Louisiana Health Works Commission. Prior to taking the position at Our Lady of the Lake, Calongne was the president of Robert Rose Consulting in Baton Rouge.

A two-time Olympian in the 100-meter hurdles, Jones won two World Indoor Championship titles in the 60-meter hurdles, three NCAA titles and was an 11-time All-American while at LSU. Training with the USA women's bobsled team this past winter, Jones earned a gold medal in the mixed team event at the 2013 World Championships in Switzerland. Jones has also started a foundation, the Lolo Jones Foundation, which hopes to help those with socioeconomic hardships to realize their potential. Her sister, Angie Jefferson, accepted the award on her behalf.

The former director of the Baton Rouge Film Commission who was instrumental in developing Baton Rouge's burgeoning film industry, Mitchell-Smith is now set to produce her first feature film, a depression-era movie, "Posheen," which is directed by LSU Professional-in-Residence Zachary Godshall.

Esprit de Femme award necklace
The eight recipients of the 2013 Esprit de Femme award received gold necklaces with oak tree pendants recognizing their exceptional efforts toward the advancement of women.
Jim Zietz/LSU University Relations

The senior vice president for Cox Communications' Southeast Regional, Vines oversees a $65 million payroll with 1,600 local employees. Having worked her way up from a receptionist in her first job in telecommunications, she is now the president of the La Capitale Chapter off The Links Inc. and serves on the board of the Louisiana Cable Telecommunications Association. Vines is also a member of the Baton Rouge Rotary, the Committee of 100, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc., Women in Cable and Telecommunications and the National Association of Minorities in Cable.

"We were particularly excited about the 2013 Esprit de Femme honorees," said Steib. "When we decided to the host the sunrise celebration, we also decided to increase the number of awards we give each year. This year, we were able to recognize the contributions and accomplishments of eight incredibly talented, dedicated and diverse women. Our 2013 honorees ranged in age from 17-97, came from around the state and represented diverse fields."

The 2013 Esprit de Femme awards were sponsored by the Coushatta Tribe of Louisiana. David Sickey, vice chairman of the Coushatta Tribe of Louisiana, addressed the crowd and spoke of his tribe's history and the importance of women in Native American culture and with the Coushatta Tribe in particular.

Past recipients of the Esprit de Femme award include Catherine "Kitty" Kimball, former chief justice of the Louisiana Supreme Court; Irma Thomas, "the soul queen of New Orleans"; Stephanie Anderson, senior vice president and chief financial officer at Woman's Hospital; Mary Terrell Joseph, member of McGlinchey Stafford PLLC; Jennifer Eplett Reilly, trustee and co-founder of City Year Inc.; and Becky Kondkar, deputy director of the Domestic Violence Clinic.

As the district attorney for East Baton Rouge Parish, Moore has focused his resources on improving services for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. A graduate of LSU, he has supported the move of the Rape Crisis Center from the district attorney's office to a non-profit status to better serve the victims of sexual assault in Baton Rouge. The president of the LSU Baseball Coaches' Committee and past president of the Catholic High Men's Club, Moore is also on the board of directors for Ecumenical House, Sam's Helping Hands and Dellucci's Dream Foundation. Past recipients of the Men Who Champion Women award include former LSU Chancellor Michael Martin and Louisiana Business Inc. CEO Rolfe McCollister Jr.

Katrice Albert
Katrice Albert, LSU’s vice provost for equity, diversity & community outreach, welcomed the honorees, their families and guests at the 2013 Esprit de Femme Awards Sunrise Celebration.
Jim Zietz/LSU University Relations

"Men can play a tremendous role as allies and advocates in advancing women and issues that impact women. The more that we as a society can recognize and embrace the positive impact of equality, the greater chance we have of seeing true equality and equity become a reality," said Steib. "When men step up as advocates and allies, it's important to recognize and honor the contributions they make. When elected, Hillar Moore III made the safety of women a top priority of the district attorney's office, and he and his staff have worked tirelessly to increase safety for victims and increase accountability for perpetrators."

Throughout the sunrise celebration, an art patron's auction took place and attendees sponsored works of art that will be displayed in the new LSU Women's Center.

LSU Women's Center Programming

In addition to the Esprit de Femme Awards Sunrise Celebration, the LSU Women's Center is also involved in several signature programs and initiatives, including the annual Take Back the Night candlelight vigil and march, Women's History Month programming, the Women's Transition to Work series and the Healthy Masculinity Initiative.

"With excitement, the new 5,000-square-foott Women's Center will be dedicated in early May. The new space will allow us to continue and expand the learning communities and educational opportunities around concerns of women and gender equality," said Albert. "Programs like 'Negotiating Your First Salary' and 'Budgeting Your First Salary' help students increase their knowledge on the critical nature of money management. Leadership trainings like 'Elect Her: Campus Women Win' focuses on increasing the number of women in elected office, beginning with campus elections. Supporting initiatives like the Cinderella Project allows LSU students to interact with promising high school students and potential LSU recruits during prom season, a special time in every young girl's life. Co-sponsoring artistic productions like the 'The Vagina Monologues' and 'Natural Woman' allow LSU to be transformed by the women in the arts. These programs and others allow the LSU Women's Center to shape our campus climate around women's and gender issues."

Esprit de Femme award event
Established in 2009, the Esprit de Femme award is an annual acknowledgement of a person who has made exceptional efforts toward the advancement of women, and the sunrise celebration ensured the honorees were recognized for those amazing achievements.
Jim Zietz/LSU University Relations

Upcoming Women's Center programs include "Women in Media: An Evening with Brianne Joseph" on Wednesday, March 20, at 6 p.m. in Room 225 of Peabody Hall; "Transition Series: Negotiating Your First Salary" on Tuesday, April 9, at 6 p.m. in Room 225 of Peabody Hall; "Transition Series: Budgeting on Your First Salary" on Tuesday, April 16, at 6 p.m. in the LSU Student Union Capital Chamber Room; "Critical Conversations: Prison Rape Elimination Act" on Wednesday, April 17, at 6 p.m. in the LSU Student Union Castilian Room; and "Transition Series: Understanding Benefits" on Tuesday, April 23, at 6 p.m. The location of this program has yet to be determined.

"Over the past year, we have continued long-standing programming and introduced new programs and initiatives from the Women's Center. We are actively engaging in conversations with students, faculty, staff and the community to better understand the types of programs and initiatives that are most needed on campus and in the community," said Steib. "With the expansion of the new Women's Center and support from the funds we raised at the inaugural Esprit de Femme Awards Sunrise Celebration, we are looking forward to providing new and innovative programming at LSU."

For information about the LSU Women's Center, or to find out more about donating to the new LSU Women's Center and a variety of naming opportunities, please contact Steib at or 225-578-7563, or visit