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Women’s Commission Honors UM’s Finest

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    By Meredith Camel
    UM News

    CORAL GABLES, Fla. (March 31, 2016)—For 45 years, the University of Miami Women’s Commission has been celebrating the contributions of women at the U and honoring the women—and men—who advocate for gender equality. Held at the Shalala Student Center last Thursday, this year’s annual Women’s Commission Breakfast featured keynote speaker Michelle Gonzalez Maldonado, who delivered a deeply heart-warming and poignant address about the challenges of balancing a family with a successful career.


    Michelle Gonzalez Maldonado

    “I cruise around campus, always in my high heels, always running…I look like I have it under control, but I don’t,” said Maldonado, professor of religious studies and assistant provost for undergraduate education in the College of Arts and Sciences, as well as a wife, mother of two, and the Hecht Residential College faculty master. “We all need to be honest with each other, especially young women, about the joys and struggles of the elusive work-life balance.”

    Maldonado confessed to folding laundry at midnight because that’s the only time left and “writing emails in the middle of the night but not sending them, so I don’t seem psychotic.” She mentioned the sacrifices her mother made so her father could advance his career, sacrifices that took her years to acknowledge as strengths, not weaknesses: “I could see patriarchy everywhere else in the world, except in myself.” Her assertion that “I cannot be everything to everyone every single day” was an empowering truth that reminded listeners of the incredible value of self-acceptance.


    Lilian Abbo, left, and Shifa Akhtar

    Following the keynote address, the Women’s Commission presented its 2016 May A. Brunson Award, named in honor of the University’s second dean of women, to Lilian Abbo, associate professor of clinical medicine at the Miller School of Medicine and associate chief of patient safety and quality officer at UHealth—University of Miami Health System. Abbo is also the president of Women in Academic Medicine (WIAM), which supports career development for women on the Miller School faculty. WIAM will be hosting the first Women and Minority Leadership and Professional Development Symposium this May at the Shalala Student Center.

    Also at the breakfast, the Women’s Commission presented its Louise P. Mills Award, which recognizes students who exhibit “leadership, creativity, caring and high academic performance,” to Shifa Akhtar, a senior neuroscience major who is president of the National Organization for Women chapter at UM. Akhtar has raised awareness of women’s health disparities and other concerns through on-campus programming and spearheaded community service activities that benefit organizations such as Lotus House, a homeless shelter for women and children.

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