March 24: Poet to highlight Women’s Recognition, Symposium

By Steve Nakata, Administrative Services

Flenniken-80PULLMAN, Wash. – American writer, poet and educator Kathleen Flenniken will deliver the keynote address during Washington State University’s Annual Women’s Recognition and Symposium 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m. Tuesday, March 24, in the CUB ballroom. The event also will recognize exemplary women.

Tickets cost $15 and can be purchased by visiting A limited number of sponsored tickets are available free for students by contacting the Women’s Resource Center.

From engineering to poetry

The 2012-14 poet laureate of Washington state, Flenniken earned a bachelor of science in civil engineering from WSU in 1983. After working eight years as a civil engineer and hydrologist, three of them on the Hanford Nuclear Reservation, she discovered poetry.

Turea Erwin, director of WSU’s Women’s Resource Center and event organizer, said Flenniken fits nicely with the National Women’s History Month theme of “weaving the stories of women’s lives.”

“I believe the audience will be very interested to learn of her transition from being an engineer at Hanford to writing poetry,” Erwin said. The title of Flenniken’s talk is, “The Fabric is Stronger with Women’s Stories: A Look Back at Hanford.”

Her first book, “Famous,” focused on her daily domestic life. Then for six years she wrote almost exclusively about Hanford and her hometown, Richland, Wash. That led her to publish a full-length collection of poems in her book, “Plume.”

“‘Plume’ is part memoire, part history, part cautionary tale, part quest,” Flenniken shares on her website. “Now I am at work on a new obsession – my own problematic, star-crossed love affair with my country, and my parallel relationship with romance itself.”

Flenniken has received numerous awards for her writing, including the Washington State Book Award for “Plume” and the Notable Book Award of the American Library Association for “Famous.” She is editor and president of Floating Bridge Press, a nonprofit dedicated to publishing Washington poets. She is president of the Jack Straw Foundation, which supports an audio arts studio and cultural center in Seattle.

Recognizing extraordinary contributions

The event will recognize WSU’s Woman of the Year and Women of Distinction. Named 2015 Woman of the Year is Nikki Finnestead, violence prevention coordinator for WSU Health and Wellness Services. She is described by nominators as a champion of women’s issues as a professional, activist, advocate and mentor.

Nikki Finnestead

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, one in five young women and one in 16 men is sexually assaulted while in college. Almost 15 percent of WSU’s undergraduates reported last year that they experienced some form of interpersonal violence, which includes sexual assault, dating violence and stalking.

Finnestead is credited with expanding WSU’s violence prevention programs to include mandatory bystander intervention programming for all incoming students. She is also widely known on campus as a mentor to female students.

“Nikki is a wealth of knowledge on gender-based violence, primary prevention and bystander prevention, but she delivers such information to students, faculty, staff, administrators, law enforcement and other violence prevention professionals with ease,” wrote her nominators. “She gauges her audience and delivers content so that those in the room not only grasp it, but critically think about the issues presented.”

WSU’s Women of Distinction for 2015 are:
Catherine Cooper, associate professor, School of the Environment
Lynn Becerra, graduate student, College of Education
LaKecia Farmer, senior, political science and philosophy
Jalisa Harris, junior, communication and digital technology & culture
Sita Pappu, director, Office of Commercialization
Beatriz Schweitzer, director of business development, Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories, Inc.

“It’s inspiring to come together to salute the women who receive the awards, the women who were nominated and all the women – and men – who support extraordinary contributions,” said Julia Pomerenk, program chair for the Association of Faculty Women.

In addition to attending the Women’s Recognition and Symposium, Erwin encourages everyone to participate in Reinterpreting Reality, an all-women art show. Artist and photographer Ayana V. Jackson will present the Jo Hockenhull Distinguished Lecture at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, March 26, in the CUB auditorium.


Turea Erwin, WSU Women’s Resource Center, 509-335-8200,
Steve Nakata, WSU Administrative Services communications, 509-335-1774,