The University of Southern Maine’s Women and Gender Studies Program presented the annual “Outstanding Graduate of Women and Gender Studies” and “Friend of Women and Gender Studies” awards recently at a reception on the Portland campus. The “Friend” award is given each year to an individual or organization that has made an outstanding contribution to gender equity in Maine. The “Outstanding Graduate” award is given each year to an alum who has done outstanding service in the area of gender equity and/or has exhibited professional or academic excellence since graduation.
Laura Fortman of Newcastle, Maine is the 2012 “Friend” award recipient. Fortman currently serves as the executive director of the Frances Perkins Center, working to promote the legacy of Frances Perkins, former U.S. Secretary of Labor and the first woman cabinet member. Since moving to Maine in the mid-80s, Fortman has previously served as labor commissioner for the State for Maine, executive director of the Sexual Assault Crisis and Support Center in Augusta and the Maine Women’s Lobby/Maine Women’s Policy Center. Her tireless work promoting a wide range of women’s rights within the State of Maine made her an ideal candidate for this award.
Carolyn Cunningham, the 2012 “Outstanding Graduate” award recipient, is a 1997 graduate of the Women and Gender Studies Program. Cunningham went on to receive her Ph.D. from University of Texas Austin and is currently an assistant professor at Gonzaga University in Washington. Her research and curriculum examines social impacts of new technologies, with a particular focus on gender. Cunningham is passionate about media literacy and has worked with several nonprofit organizations aimed at encouraging girls' media production. She is currently researching the ethnography of girls' video games.