Stanford awards inaugural Faculty Women’s Forum Awards at virtual ceremony

The Faculty Women’s Forum presented the Outstanding Leader Award to Jisha Menon, an associate professor of theater and performance studies, and the Outstanding Sponsor Award to Rebecca Aslakson, an associate professor of medicine and of anesthesiology.

The Faculty Women’s Forum, which acts to enable women faculty members to thrive at Stanford, presented its inaugural awards – for outstanding leadership and outstanding sponsorship – to two faculty members on Monday at a virtual ceremony.

The Faculty Women’s Forum presented its Outstanding Leader Award to Jisha Menon, an associate professor of theater and performance studies in the School of Humanities and Sciences, director of the Center for South Asia and faculty director of the Stanford Arts Institute.

This year’s recipient of the Faculty Women’s Forum’s Outstanding Sponsor Award is Rebecca Aslakson, an associate professor of medicine (primary care and population health) and of anesthesiology (perioperative and pain medicine).

The Faculty Women’s Forum, which is supported by the Office of Faculty Development, created the two honors, which it plans to award annually, to recognize faculty members who have fostered a constructive and inclusive culture for women faculty.

“The Faculty Women’s Forum’s new awards program expresses important institutional values in support of the success of women faculty at Stanford,” said C. Matthew Snipp, vice provost for faculty development, diversity and engagement. “We all benefit from recognizing and celebrating faculty members’ leadership and sponsorship in developing our colleagues’ success.”

Mary Hawn, co-chair of the organization’s steering committee and chair of the Department of Surgery in the School of Medicine, said the committee received nominations attesting to the extraordinary efforts of many individuals across the university.

“Given these were not only inaugural awards and the solicitation occurred during the beginnings of a global pandemic, the number of nominations speaks volumes to impact of the efforts by the nominees,” Hawn said.

2020 Outstanding Leader Award – Jisha Menon

The Faculty Women’s Forum Outstanding Leader Award recognizes an individual leader of a Stanford department, school or institute who has an outstanding record of developing a culture of inclusion and promotion of women faculty in their organization.

Jisha Menon (Image credit: Michael Byun)

In its award citation, the Faculty Women’s Forum honored Menon “for her exemplary and dynamic leadership, for including, mentoring and promoting many female colleagues and for being a trailblazer for women in the academy, and for women of color in particular.”

In a nomination letter, Jennifer DeVere Brody, a professor of theater and performance studies, and director of the Center for Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity, said Menon has demonstrated “extraordinary leadership” by fostering diverse programming that develops a culture of inclusion and the promotion of women faculty members.

For many years, Menon has brought numerous queer-identified women of color to address various constituents – students, faculty and staff, DeVere Brody said.

“By doing so, Professor Menon has given the campus repeated opportunities to engage such artists and scholars,” she said. “Her longstanding dedication to feminist praxis can be seen in the number of women she has added to her boards and the junior colleagues she has championed. Finally, in this time of uncertainty, she rushed to give an online community platform for the Center for South Asia in the form of a weekly community hour which, needless to say, has already brought more women to Stanford.”

Three assistant professors of theater and performance studies – Samer Al-Saber, Aileen Robinson and Michael Rau – described Menon as “the quintessential scholar activist” in a joint nomination letter.

“We have witnessed her in faculty meetings and town halls speaking up for women of color, international students and diverse precarious subjects,” they said. “When it is necessary to negotiate issues of race, gender, sexuality and their intersections, Menon’s comprehensive and thoughtful approach leads the way.”

The three assistant professors said Menon promoted people of color and their inclusion in academia as graduate students, postdoctoral scholars and faculty.

“Menon exemplifies the role of the ally, lawyer and champion who is sorely needed in this day and age,” they said. “We believe there is no better candidate for this award than this scholar who acts her conscience and speaks her mind to the betterment of all of us.”

In another nomination letter, Lalita du Perron, associate director of the Center for South Asia, described Menon as “a trailblazer for women in the academy and for women of color in particular” who has created a climate in which female faculty members – junior and senior – feel safe and supported.

“Jisha Menon’s insistence that women faculty, and women faculty of color in particular, are fully represented in our programming, in our committees, as the recipients of funding, on our website and in our publicity materials, gives our colleagues the respect they are due, and creates an atmosphere in which all women can feel able to thrive,” she said.

“Her leadership raises the visibility of women faculty through everyday consistent modeling. She deserves to be recognized for her truly transformational leadership.”

2020 Outstanding Sponsor Award – Rebecca A. Aslakson

The Faculty Women’s Forum Outstanding Sponsor Award recognizes an individual who has consistently created opportunities for the academic advancement of women at Stanford.

Rebecca Aslakson (Image credit: Courtesy Stanford Medicine)

In its award citation, the Faculty Women’s Forum honored Aslakson “for tangibly creating opportunities and opening doors, with bottomless energy, relentless advocacy for women trainees and enormous generosity of spirit.”

In a nomination letter, Meghan Marmor, a clinical assistant professor in the School of Medicine, said Aslakson took an interest in her career goals when they met in 2018 and immediately proposed a project they could work on together to contribute to that goal. They met regularly, and within six months completed the project – a systematic review evaluating opportunities to better utilize palliative care for adults with cystic fibrosis.

“At each meeting, Rebecca would ask more about how I was doing and if I felt on track to achieve my career goals, and immediately offer incredibly helpful guidance and ideas on how to get there,” Marmor said.

“I have now developed several additional projects and leadership opportunities that were a direct result of Rebecca’s mentorship. She is the best mentor I’ve had in medicine to date and clearly a very strong proponent of women’s success.”

In another nomination letter, Adjoa Boateng, an Anesthesiology Critical Care Medicine Fellow in the School of Medicine, said Aslakson introduced her to national and international colleagues whose work would be fruitful to her career – introductions that led to a systematic review exploring racial and ethnic disparities in critical care, and an invitation to present the review at Anesthesiology 2020.

She said Aslakson sought her out early in her fellowship, inviting her to co-author an open review article in the American Journal of Bioethics that was published in 2019. Aslakson also spent time delineating the career trajectory and promotion track of an academic clinician – insights that helped Boateng make career decisions as opportunities arose.

Aslakson also reassured Boateng that she could combine her career and motherhood.

“Suffice to say, the tentacles of my time with Dr. Aslakson are vast and extend beyond theoretical advice,” she said. “She has tangibly created opportunities and opened doors to make my burgeoning career of much greater yield than it would had I not met her.”

In her nomination letter, Shana Segers, a critical care medicine fellow at the School of Medicine, said Aslakson’s mentorship has been vital to her career as a rising critical care physician.

“Dr. Aslakson makes sure I’m on track to graduate, but also that I make time for self-care,” Segers said. “She has introduced me to so many wonderful people in my short time with her. My interactions with these people have the potential to change my career trajectory.”

Segers said she has countless emails from Aslakson suggesting different conferences, meetings and projects to consider, while also giving her the latitude to make her own decisions about which ones to participate in.

“I am a woman of color, and Dr. Aslakson recognizes the past, present and future potential challenges to my journey,” Segers said. “She recommended me for Stanford Medicine’s Leadership Education in Advancing Diversity program, a multi-disciplinary program designed to enrich our experiences as individuals and to equip us with tools for success. It has been a wonderful experience for me.”

Segers said Aslakson’s positive energy is infectious.

“It is felt by her colleagues, the trainees and the patients alike,” she said. “Dr. Aslakson is the textbook definition of what a good mentor should be.”

For more information, visit the Faculty Women’s Forum website.