Faculty Members Awarded Inspirational Woman of the Year Awards


Two College of Arts & Letters faculty members will receive MSU’s Center for Gender in Global Context (GenCen) Inspirational Woman of the Year Awards.

Rocío Quispe-Agnoli, Professor in the Department of Romance and Classical Studies, and Yomaira Figueroa, Assistant Professor in the Department of English, each are being honored for the impact they have made on and off campus and will be presented with Inspirational Woman of the Year Awards at a reception on Thursday, February 7, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. in the Jackson Lounge of MSU’s Wharton Center.

Created in 2014, the Inspirational Woman of the Year Award celebrates and features the accomplishments of women-identified faculty and staff at Michigan State University in order to highlight and recognize the achievements of woman-identified individuals who demonstrate integrity, leadership, quality performance, integrative and inclusive action, and influence on campus and in the community.

We are a community and this year’s award recipients so clearly demonstrate that throughout their work and dedication to inspiring and encouraging those around them.

Lydia Weiss, Selection Committee Chair

This year, the fifth annual year for the awards, the Greater Lansing category was added to recognize women outside of MSU who inspire and influence the Lansing community and MSU’s campus.

“This award continues to be important in recognizing the powerful and influential work of women-identified folks in our community,” said Lydia Weiss, Selection Committee Chair. “I am excited that we’ve added the Greater Lansing Award this year, as it symbolizes the bridging and collaborative work that MSU engages in every day. We are a community and this year’s award recipients so clearly demonstrate that throughout their work and dedication to inspiring and encouraging those around them.”

Award recipients are chosen by a Selection Committee which consists of a diverse group of MSU staff and faculty. The two other 2019 recipients are Tashmica Torok, Founder and Executive Director of the Firecracker Foundation, who will receive the inaugural Greater Lansing Award, and Terah Venzant Chambers, Associate Professor in the Department of Educational Administration, who will receive the Community Engagement Award.

Visiting Scholar and Distinguished Professor from UCLA, Dr. Sandra Harding, will present the awards at the February 7 reception. Tickets to the reception are $25 each and available on Eventbrite at https://tinyurl.com/iwoty2019.

Rocío Quispe-Agnoli

Rocío Quispe-Agnoli will receive the Professional Achievement Award, which highlights women‐identified individuals who demonstrate integrity, leadership, quality performance, integrative and inclusive action, and influence on campus and in the global community. The goal is to elevate and advance Michigan State University’s culture of appreciation for the courageous and empowering work of women change agents at MSU.

woman who is wearing a black turtle neck and is smiling in front of a colorful bookshelf
Dr. Rocío Quispe-Agnoli


"I am infinitely thankful to colleagues and students who put forward my nomination for this award,” Quispe-Agnoli said. “We have gone through good and, sometimes, challenging times, and together we have seen the lights at the end of the tunnel, we have shared discoveries about our interests, and we have basked in the sunlight of our success. I share this recognition with all of them, especially with Professor Babana-Hampton for her efforts and enthusiasm to put my name forward for this year's award. Having the capacity to inspire is a two-way journey.”

Quispe-Agnoli is Professor of Colonial Latin American Studies and a core faculty of the Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies and the Center for Gender Studies in a Global Context. From August 2017 to August 2018, she served as Interim Co-Chair of the Department of Romance and Classical Studies. She also is an affiliated faculty member in the American Indian and Indigenous Studies program and served as Director of the Center for Integrative Studies in the Arts and Humanities from fall 2007 to fall 2010.        

We have gone through good and, sometimes, challenging times, and together we have seen the lights at the end of the tunnel.

Dr. Rocío Quispe-AgnolI

“To inspire others, one must have the capacity to be inspired — I have been/am inspired by Safoi, Leann, Zenaida, José Adrián, Claudia, and Osvaldo, among others, to sit down, listen, and reflect together to find the best path to our journeys,” Quispe-Agnoli said. “Finally, the brave young women and their families who did not let their voices be silenced have inspired the ‘Go Teal-Speak Up’ movement. Their courage, in spite of any and all fears, is extraordinarily inspiring, and we all take our hats off to them."

Quispe-Agnoli has been the recipient of multiple awards in teaching, writing, academic leadership, impact on the community, and research. For more information on her activities, visit: https://rocioquispeagnoli.com/.

Yomaira Figueroa

Yomaira Figueroa will receive the Culture of Empowerment Award, which recognizes an individual who has demonstrated dedication to the advancement and empowerment of women on campus and/or across the globe through mentoring, programs or other leadership opportunities.

woman who is wearing a white shirt and is looking off the the side and laughing
Dr. Yomaira Figueroa


"I am so honored to have been nominated for this award and am thankful to those who nominated me and wrote letters of support, namely my department chair, Cara Cilano,” Figueroa said. “I feel fortunate to be part of a community of insurgent and creative women at MSU and in the Lansing community who spearhead and support so many critical outreach initiatives.”

Figueroa is an Assistant Professor of Global Diaspora Studies in the Department of English. She has committed herself to seeking out literature written by Afro-Latinx, Caribbean, and African writers and showing the contributions they make to the way we think about ourselves and the world.

Through her research and the courses she teaches, Figueroa is shining a spotlight on Afro-Latinx literature, Latinx Caribbean literature, and literature from Spanish-speaking Africa, and she is inspiring new generations of students and exposing them to whole new worlds of literature. Her book, Decolonizing Diasporas: Radical Mappings of Afro-Latinx & Afro-Hispanic Literature, focuses on diasporic and exilic Afro-Puerto Rican, Afro-Cuban, Afro-Dominican, and Equatoguinean literary and cultural works in contact.

I feel fortunate to be part of a community of insurgent and creative women at MSU and in the Lansing community who spearhead and support so many critical outreach initiatives.

Dr. Yomaira Figueroa

Figueroa is a 2017-2018 Ford Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow, a 2015-2017 Duke University Mellon Mays SITPA Fellow, and was awarded a 2017-2018 Woodrow Wilson Career Enhancement Fellowship. At MSU, she founded and co-chairs the Womxen of Color Initiative, an effort to organize events, speaker series, and residencies for womxn of color and their allies on the MSU campus and in the greater Lansing community. Figueroa also has helped develop the MUSE program (Mentoring Underrepresented Students in English), an effort to recruit historically underrepresented scholars to the graduate program.

In the wake of Hurricane María, Figueroa and a team of MSU faculty and intercollegiate graduate students developed #ProyectoPalabrasPR, a strategic partnership with Salon Literario Festival de la Palabra, an arts and community development organization based in Puerto Rico. With the support of the Center for Latin American & Caribbean Studies and departments and programs in the College of Arts & Letters and CSS, the team – including MSU faculty Xhercis Méndez, Delia Fernandez, Estrella Torrez, Tamara Butler, and Angelica De Jesus (University of Michigan) and Keishla Rivera-Rutgers –conducted interviews and helped with water filter, mosquito net-making, and creative arts workshops in some of the most affected communities on the island.

Learn more about Figueroa’s work on her website at http://www.yomairafigueroa.com/.