Save the Date: Wednesday, June 21, 2023 for the Women of Distinction event.
About Women of Distinction
YWCA Madison is proud to have recognized 251 women since the first Woman of Distinction was bestowed the honor in 1974. Their community service, professional achievement, integrity, leadership, and dedication to the lives of others and to the quality of life for all stand as a reflection of YWCA Madison’s historic mission and values. These awards were established to increase community awareness and appreciation of the diverse contributions of women in the workforce and in the community.
Click Here for 2023 Sponsor Opportunities
Thank You to Our 2023 Women of Distinction Sponsors!
On behalf of the women and families we serve, we salute our sponsors and partners with heartfelt thanks. Our incredible sponsors provide critical financial support for YWCA programs and initiatives.
Additional Thanks To:
2022 Women of Distinction Honorees
Christy Clark-Pujara is an Associate Professor of History in the Department of Afro-American Studies and an affiliate in the Department of History at the University of Wisconsin-Madison; she is also the Director of Graduate Studies for the Department of Afro-American Studies. She received her B.A. in History and Social Science from the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota, and her M.A. and Ph.D. in History from the University of Iowa-Iowa City. Her research focuses on the experiences of Black people in British and French North America in the 17th, 18th, and early 19th centuries. She is particularly interested in retrieving the hidden and unexplored histories of African Americans in areas that historians have not sufficiently examined—small towns and cities in the North and Midwest. She contends that the full dimensions of the African and African American experience cannot be appreciated without reference to how Black people managed their lives in places where they were few. An absence of a large Black populace did not mean that ideas of blackness were not central to the social, political, and economic development of these places.
Her first book Dark Work: The Business of Slavery in Rhode Island (NYU Press), examines how the business of slavery—economic activity that was directly related to the maintenance of slaveholding in the Americas, specifically the buying and selling of people, food, and goods—shaped the experience of slavery, the process of emancipation, and the realities of black freedom in Rhode Island from the colonial period through the American Civil War. Her current book project, Black on the Midwestern Frontier: From Slavery to Suffrage in the Wisconsin Territory, 1725—1868, examines how the practice of race-based slavery, Black settlement, and debates over abolition and Black rights shaped race relations in the Midwest. Clark-Pujara was awarded the UW-Madison Vilas Faculty Early Career Investigator Award (2018), the UW-Madison Outstanding Woman of Color Award (2020), Outstanding Woman of Color in Education Award (2019), the Feminist Scholar’s Fellowship from the UW-Madison Center for Research on Gender and Women (2019), and the Honored Instructor Award from University Housing in (2014, 2017, and 2020). Clark-Pujara is also a co-principal investigator on an Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Just Futures Grant, “Humanities Education for Anti-racism Literacy (HEALSTEM) in Sciences and Medicine,” for the University of Wisconsin Madison, 2021-2024. Clark-Pujara is committed to both academic scholarship and public history. She most recently published “In Need of Care: African American Families Transform the Providence Association for the Benefit of Colored Orphans during the Final Collapse of Slavery, 1839-1846,” Journal of Family History Volume 45, Issue 3 of Journal of Family History (Spring 2020). Her public history work includes a piece in the Smithsonian American History Magazine, “Many Tulsa Massacres: How the Myth of a Liberal North Erases a Long History of White Violence (August 2020).”
As director of community relations, Brenda González serves as UW-Madison’s primary point of contact with local community and nonprofit organizations. She is responsible for developing strategies to ensure the university is engaged with these organizations and the broader community. Prior to joining UW-Madison, she worked as the diversity manager for Agrace Hospice & Palliative Care and as a community marketing and health equity manager for Group Health Cooperative of South Central Wisconsin. On-campus, she served as the the health equity career development program manager with the Collaborative Center for Health Equity at the School of Medicine and Public Health.
Andrea Jones is the founder and CEO of Kreative Kidz Academy preschool. She earned her master’s degree from Edgewood College majoring in Education Leadership in 2019. She attended Undergrad at Tennessee State University and received her bachelor’s degree in elementary education.
Her desire to become an educator was inspired by her 8th grade teacher (Mrs. Wright) and her high school counselor (Mrs. Edwards). For the past 20 plus years, she has dedicated her professional career, time, and energy wholly to ensuring that all children receive the best education, nurturing, and guidance Andrea could possibly provide. Yet, she has only been left wanting to give more.
Andrea currently serves as the Multicultural Services Coordinate, the Black Student Union Advisor, and the Coordinator of African American Parent Council P.U.R.E (Parents United for Responsible Education) at Vel Phillips Memorial High School. Her educational philosophy is very simple, students do not care how much you know, until they know how much you care. Caring is what they need first, after they know she cares, then they open their hearts and minds, and she can counsel them. Andrea shows her caring by forming relationships with students and trying to help them find their dreams and strengths so they can believe in themselves the way she believes in them. Either way they are the future and have unlimited value. She too was a student just like the ones she works with, and somebody believed in her and now she is paying it forward.
Andrea is an active member in this community. She is a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Incorporated. She is also a member of the Madison Metropolitan Chapter of LINKS Incorporated. She has been married to her college sweetheart Max Jones for 25 years and together they have two beautiful and talented daughter’s, Kaylahn Jones, a 2020 graduate of Hampton University and Krystyn Jones, a current student at Tennessee State University. She enjoys reading, listening to music, traveling and spending quality time with family and friends.
After 10 years of working in various UW system student affairs positions, Candace became the Founding Director/Assistant Dean of the UW Madison Multicultural Student Center. She led the organization for its’ first 22years of existence. During her tenure as Director, the MSC served approximately 50,000 students and helped to establish its’ pivotal campus role as a social justice education center and gathering place. She was a skilled manager specializing in student development and program development. She retired in 2010 and achieved ‘Emerita’ status recognizing her distinguished service to the University community. She considers herself to be “gainfully retired and wonderfully blessed”!
After her retirement Candace refused to sit idle and has been committed to actively serving the
Madison community in various capacities. She continues to advise and mentor former students and has volunteered her time with the Dane County Job Center as a food share and health benefits advisor; served as a representative payee for New Bridge (formerly known as the South Madison coalition of the elderly) and was an advisory board member for the Alzheimer’s and Dementia Alliance. She has volunteered her time with Mt. Zion Baptist Church in the food pantry, adult choir, and greeter ministries; served as Past President, 1 st Vice President and chair of numerous committees in the Madison Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. and currently serves as the Delta DEARS Coordinator for the State of Wisconsin; served as a Voter Education Ambassador and Election official for the City of Madison and is a member of and provides administrative support for the African American Opioid Coalition.
Candace has continued to serve the UW Madison community by serving as Chair of the
Multicultural Homecoming Committee, member of the fundraising campaign for the UW Madison Divine 9 Plaza, travel host for the Wisconsin Alumni Association and provides advice and counsel to the African American Alumni Affinity Group. Candace has received several awards and acknowledgements over the years including the Alumni Achievement Award that was presented in her honor.
Her passion for YWCA Madison has been very evident as she is a member of the Empowerment Society, served as Co-chair of the Circle of Women fundraising committee and continues to serve as a YWCA table captain.
Candace is blessed to be the wife of Charles McDowell for 51 years, a mother to two
phenomenal children, a wonderful daughter-in-love, and is extremely proud to have two smart
and beautiful grandchildren. Candace utilizes her free time to travel the world, attend live
music concerts and play productions and spending time with family and friends.
Lucía Nuñez just retired from Madison Area Technical College where she served as the first Vice President of Equity, Inclusion, and Community Engagement. She has thirty plus years of experience in the public, non-profit, social service, and education sectors. Nuñez served as the Director of the City of Madison Department of Civil Rights for ten years and prior to holding that position, she was the Equal Rights Division Administrator for the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development (DWD). She also served as the Deputy Secretary for the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development. From 1999-2003, she was the Executive Director of Centro Hispano of Dane County. Before moving to Madison, she was the Senior Curriculum Specialist at the Stanford Program on International and Cross-Cultural Education (SPICE) at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California. She has also been a teacher, a trainer, and a Peace Corps Volunteer.
She received her Masters in International Education from the University of Massachusetts in Amherst, Massachusetts. And received her Bachelors of Arts in Political Science and Hispanic Studies from Connecticut College in Connecticut.
She has published numerous educational books for teachers. Originally from Cuba, she grew up in the Caribbean from the Guantanamo Naval Base to the U.S. Virgin Islands before coming to the United States to study and live. She lives in Madison, Wisconsin with her partner Heidi Vargas of 30 plus years. They have two children, Carina who lives in Chicago working for Howard Brown Clinics and Mateo who is a sophomore at Northeastern University in Boston.
Hazel Symonette, Program Development & Assessment Specialist Emerita, is Evaluation Facilitator at the Wisconsin Center for Education Research—the LEAD Center (Learning through Evaluation, Adaptation and Dissemination) and the Wisconsin Evaluation Collaborative (WEC) at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Her work focuses on using assessment and evaluation as participant-centered self-diagnostic resources for continuous improvement, developmental innovation, and strategic image management. She moves this agenda forward through a variety of capacity-building strategies using multi-level assessment/evaluation processes to advance a diversity-grounded and equity-minded personal transformation, organizational development and social justice change agenda. That work undergirds her long-standing involvement in creating and sustaining authentically inclusive and vibrantly responsive teaching, learning, living, and working environments that are conducive to success for all. Her work draws on social justice and systemic change research to create meaningful and life-changing interactions among students, faculty, staff and administrators.
The cross-campus/cross-role incubators for this work was the UW Excellence through Diversity Institute (2002-2009) and the Student Success Institute (2010-2017). Both were year-long weekly communities of practice organized around mainstreaming assessment and evaluation in the service of diversity, equity, inclusive excellence and social justice for students, faculty, staff and administrators.
Dr. Symonette is very active within the professional evaluation community. She has served on the American Evaluation Association (AEA) Board of Directors, as Co-Chairs of AEA’s Building Diversity Initiative and the Multi-Ethnic Issues in Evaluation Topical Interest Group and many other progressive change initiatives. Currently, she serves on the AEA Task Force on Evaluator Competencies. Since 2008, she has also been serving on the Joint Committee on Standards for Educational Evaluation–initially as AEA’s Representative and now as an At-Large member. Hazel is an active Fellow within the University of Wisconsin Teaching Academy.