URI women’s professional group names Gail Rashed Faris its 2009 Woman of The Year

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KINGSTON, R.I. – April 17, 2009 – Gail Rashed Faris is a teacher who inspires students and faculty alike at the University of Rhode Island, but she is not a professor.

As the assistant director of the University’s Women’s Center since 2002, she has woven teaching and learning into nearly every part of her official and unofficial duties. Students and professionals have called her a role model, an innovator and motivator, a visionary, and friend.

For all of her contributions to students, her colleagues and the entire University community, Faris has been named the Association for Professional and Academic Women’s 2009 Woman of the Year.

Faris will be honored at a reception and award ceremony, Wednesday, April 29 from 3 to 5 p.m. at the University Club, 95 Upper College Road.

“Gail Faris has been an inspiring influence among women in the URI community,” said student Michelle Caraccia. “She actively encourages students to become involved in the community, serving on a volunteer basis to those in need.”

Students and faculty commended her for developing an alternative spring break called Classroom Without Borders, which is a service learning 3-credit class. Faris travels with students to poor communities where they build homes as part of Habitat for Humanity.

“As the founder and nurturer of this program, she has spent countless hours over the last four years to bring students to a classroom where they are taught the value and meaning of service and the difference between volunteerism and service learning,” said student Deniele Lemire. “She has educated students about poverty, the working poor, civil rights and other important social issues.”

URI Political Science Professor Alfred Killilea said in his nomination letter that Faris has worked far beyond any job description.

“In my 40 years at URI, I have not known anyone on the faculty or staff who has contributed to the forming of our collective social conscience, particularly on issues affecting women, as much as Gail,” Killilea said. “This sense of commitment to URI drove Gail to work amazing hours on her own time as a certified trainer in the URI Center for Peace and Nonviolence, to make a film of University-sponsored trips to Civil Rights sites in the South, and finally to found four years ago, her amazing course that takes 25 students over spring break to build for Habitat for Humanity in desperate locations in the South.”

In her administrative role at the Women’s Center, Faris creates programming that includes workshops, lectures, films and performances. She supervises the center’s residential program for women, and she instructs in the Rose Butler Browne Women of Color Leadership and Mentor Program. She also works with area schools and community agencies.

From 1997 to 2002, Faris was the coordinator of URI’s Disability Services for Students, during which she supervised delivery of accommodations for courses, testing, housing and transportation.

Faris has also worked in URI’s Grants and Contracts Office, the Office of the Legal Counsel for the Office of Higher Education and as the executive director of the South County Chapter of the Rhode Island Association for Retarded Citizens Inc.

She volunteers her time with numerous nonviolence organizations and groups dedicated to the fight against racism.

Faris earned her bachelor’s degree in history from Salve Regina University and a master’s degree in education and a master’s degree in labor and industrial relations, both from URI.

For further information about the ceremony, contact Treasurer Paula Santos at psantos@advance.uri.edu or 874-2014. Tickets are $25 in advance and $30 at the door.