Assistant professor earns Addams award
April 1, 2009
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Pamela Forman, assistant professor of sociology, will receive the Jane Addams Outstanding Service Award from the Women in the Profession Committee of the Midwest Sociological Society April 2 to 5 in Iowa, the first UW-Eau Claire faculty member in her field to do so.
The award recognizes service to girls and women who have been traditionally under-rewarded in society. It was established to highlight positive role models who advance women’s issues, causes or status.
“I was really surprised,” Forman said. “I always think . that people get these awards after doing work for 20 or 30 years . It’s really a collaborative effort, and indeed it shouldn’t just come to me.”
Melissa Bonstead-Bruns, chair of the sociology department, thought Forman’s work fit well, and recommended Forman for the award. After nomination letters were written by several people, Forman found out she had won the award in February.
“I was very excited (for Pam),” Bonstead-Bruns said. “It is a great honor and it’s very well deserved.”
Forman received the award for her work with the Adventure Girls program and involvement as an adviser to the LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer) group on campus.
“I’m both someone who wants to empower people and youth, and I want the city of Eau Claire to be a better place for LGBT people to exist and coexist with everyone,” she said.
Adventure Girls is a collaborative between Eau Claire and Longfellow Elementary School, which started in 2006. It has developed into an eight-week afternoon program, with girls participating in activities such as the high ropes course, kayaking, scuba diving, hiking and gymnastics.
“These are kids at the poorest elementary school in Eau Claire and also the most racially and ethnically diverse,” Forman said. “We’re really not a tutoring program. We are something that is getting a lot of people in this community involved.”
The idea of the program, Forman said, is to match young girls with Eau Claire students. The university students hang out with the kids every Wednesday and meet with the girls an additional time at school. Forman said the college students provide mentorship and reinforce what they are learning through Adventure Girls.
“The college students expose them to the idea that they too can go to college,” she said.
Bonstead-Bruns said Adventure Girls is a fabulous program that has made a huge contribution to the community. She added Forman is good at applying her research into real-life situations.
“It’s helping build self-esteem among young girls, particularly girls who are overlooked with regards to educational opportunities,” she said.
Forman emphasizes Eau Claire’s service learning requirement, which is one reason why she came to the university.
“What I am trying to contribute for my students is their own sort of citizenship and their sense of belonging to communities,” she said. “I’m trying to inculcate the idea that they can be very capable . in mentoring and helping girls or whatever group of youth they seek out.”
Although Forman said she is honored to receive the award, she is most proud when her students succeed.
“To me, what makes me have the most pride as a sociologist is when my students achieve things,” she said. “To see them reach their career goals is what it is all about.”
Forman’s expertise also includes gender and sports. Forman said her background and discipline in sports helped her become a better student, something she wants other kids to do as well.
Senior Wendy Weimerskirch, who has had class with Forman and participated in Adventure Girls, said Forman is very deserving.
“Adventure Girls is a wonderful program that is really making a difference in young girl’s lives,” Weimerskirch said. “She truly cares about the . students who go through her program.”
Weimerskirch added that Forman organizes the events, finds college buddies, takes field notes and is constantly working to make Adventure Girls more successful. Along with this, she said Forman is an even better mentor.
“I can honestly say I would not be where I am today if not for Pam and the time she has taken to mentor me,” Weimerskirch said. “Researching Adventure Girls has taught me the most valuable skills I have learned as a sociologist.”