2020 Award Categories & Nomination Forms

The CT ACE Women's Network regularly recognizes and honors those individuals who have distinguished themselves in advancing and supporting women in higher education. These awards are Sponsored by the Connecticut ACE Women’s Network (CTAWN) in Higher Education ACE National Network of Women Leaders.


2020 Award Recipients


Distinguished Woman in Higher Education Leadership Award

This award honors a senior-level CT woman in higher education who has distinguished herself by providing outstanding leadership to women at her institution, in her profession, and in society at large.

Eileen Peltier, Dean at Asnuntuck Community College
As a graduate of Leadership Greater Hartford, Dean Peltier understands the importance of fostering great leaders. In 2014, she spearheaded the launch of the Women’s Leadership Institute (WLI) at Asnuntuck Community College (ACC). The WLI promotes female student success and retention through the development of leadership skills, abilities and attitudes; provides life changing experiences for women who passionately desire to become the leaders they believe they can be; and fills the gap for the segment of the community of ACC women for whom traditional leadership development opportunities have been unavailable or financially out of reach.

Ms. Peltier has spent her career supporting women in becoming empowered, economically self-sufficient, and confident in their abilities. She believes that leadership is not limited to holding senior positions in the work world, but rather is demonstrated through taking action on matters that are important to the individual and influencing others to do the same. These principles have helped to shape her career and her work on behalf of women.



Emerging Leader Award

This award recognizes and honors a woman with at least five years of professional experience in higher education who has been a leader in the development and/or operation of an office, program, or service that has significantly advanced women’s learning and development in the state of Connecticut.


Laurie Bonjo, PhD, NCC, PSC-Southern Connecticut State University
Dr. Bonjo works from a true feminist and multicultural perspective and her work on developing a new doctoral program in counselor education is evidence of her commitment and effectiveness. Dr. Bonjo envisioned this program as a point of access into academia that women and people with marginalized identities may not have in other settings. She intentionally created the framework, duration, class times, and course sequence to be accessible and inclusive, particularly for those with financial limitations.Even though the counseling field is predominantly made up of women, counselor educators, particularly those who make full professorship in most institutions, are still dominated by white males. Access to higher education institutions, support and cultivation of research skills, are often limited by race and gender, among other intersectional identities.

Dr. Bonjo not only has developed this program and performs research in these areas, she is cultivating future women leaders and researchers, has provided advocacy for women and marginalized people in the creation of this program, and is advancing opportunities for women in academia and in the field of counselor education. She is a five-time cancer survivor, a mother, an activist, an educator, and a leader in all senses of the word. She brings her authentic self, her strength as a woman, and her intersecting identities into her work. She paves the way for other women to find their own power in being their authentic self, embracing and decolonizing education, using their voice in positions of power, and representing and supporting women in academia.



Friend of Women in Higher Education

This award honors individuals who have distinguished themselves by creating opportunities for women to complete their higher education and/or pursue careers in higher education in the state of Connecticut.

Paddi LeShane, CEO at Sullivan & LeShane Public Relations
Ms. LeShane’s role in advocating for and providing support for women in higher education is extraordinary. Through her volunteer and community service she has had a profound and lasting effect on the lives ofmany women and on organizations that promote women’s interests. She has used her philanthropy, professional skills, and advocacy to create multiple opportunities for women to complete their higher education degrees and/or pursue careers in higher education in Connecticut. 

Ms. LeShane has been a long-time supporter of programs for women, with particular emphasis on promoting college completion. In 2000, Ms. LeShane was one of the women who came together to fund and launch the Aurora Foundation, an organization that serves as a catalyst for change in the lives of women and girls in the Greater Hartford area. Aurora conducts research on gender issues, educates women about the power of philanthropy, and implements strategies – including targeted grant-making – to empower women and girls. In recent years, Aurora’s primary focus has been on grants and scholarships that promote college completion by women, especially those from under-represented groups. 

Among her other volunteer roles, Ms. LeShane sits on the Board of Directors of the Connecticut Women’s Council (CWC), which brings together women who share a common commitment to making a difference in their professional and community lives, allowing them to establish friendships and professional contacts. She is a member of the International Women’s Forum Connecticut (IWFCT), a chapter of the worldwide network of International Women's Forum (IWF) affiliates. Chapter members exchange ideas and experiences to learn, inspire, and promote stronger leadership and the advancement of women. And, she serves on the Board of Advisors of the Governor M. Jodi Rell Center for Public Service at the University of Hartford, which works to provide a community and academic forum for the discussion of ethics in government, the importance of civil discourse in politics, and citizen involvement in public service, while encouraging students to pursue careers in public service and providing a clearinghouse for student public service internships.



Graduate Student Scholarship


This scholarship in the amount of $2000 supports graduate students who have been accepted to or is currently enrolled in a graduate program in the state of Connecticut and whose academic interests are in the area of social justice or gender equality.

Zelipha Gitari, Global Development and Peace, University of Bridgeport
Zelipha, originally from Kenya, via the United Kingdom, and Bermuda, is a in the Global Development and Peace program at the University of Bridgeport. She balances the demands of her degree program while mentoring her peers and meeting the challenges of parenthood. Zelipha is committed to the education of women, especially in and from Global South countries, to take advantage of opportunities to advance their professional and personal prospects. Her passion is clear in her course work, her demeanor toward peers, her disposition more broadly, and her goals as a professional and a mother.

Brittany M. Bard, Public Health, Southern Connecticut State University (SCSU)
Brittany, a Graduate Assistant in the Department of Public Health at Southern Connecticut State University, is recognized in part for her invaluable contributions to  promote food security on campus. She has been essential in campaigns to expand awareness of the Department of Public Health’s food pantry. She solicits donations, assesses need, and evaluates the impact of this important component of a greater campus initiative. Brittany is passionate about community service, social justice, and food security. She completed her internship at the Keefe Community Center, where she supported their food and diaper banks and related programs. Despite having been confronted with many challenges in her life, Brittany has mastered the ability to overcome obstacles and excel. She is a hard worker and leads by example with compassion, intelligence, and compassion.

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