October 20, 2021

This article originally appeared in the Barre Montpelier Times Argus on October 4, 2021.

Monique Priestly is Project Manager, COVID Business Recovery in CWE&'s Vermont Women Business Center.

BERLIN, VT — The Vermont ATHENA Leadership Awards, organized by the Central Vermont Chamber of Commerce, were announced Monday.

Three finalists each were named for the ATHENA Leadership Award and for the ATHENA Young Professional Leadership Award for 2021.

The awards are granted through a partnership and license with ATHENA International based in Chicago.

The finalists for this year's 3rd annual awards are Lisa Keysar, president & CEO of Union Mutual; Tara Kulkarni, associate professor and civil engineering and department chair at Norwich University; and Monique Priestley, COVID Business Recovery project manager for the Center for Women and Enterprise and founder and executive director of The Space on Main.

Finalists for this year's VT ATHENA Young Professional Leadership Award are Sarah Lang, Southern Vermont Economy project manager for the Brattleboro Development Credit Corporation; Page Spiess, lecturer in chemistry and biochemistry, and University Academic Integrity Officer for campus programs at Norwich University; and Monique Priestley, who was nominated in both categories.

The finalist were selected by a six-person panel representing various businesses, according to Tonya Barnett, CVCOC operations manager. Twenty candidates were nominated — 14 for the Leadership Award and six for the Young Professional Leadership Award.

The winners will be announced and presented with their awards Saturday, Nov. 6, at the Capitol Plaza Hotel in Montpelier.

Lisa Keysar was elected president and CEO at Union Mutual in October 2020, the first female President of the company's 147-year history and the first, second-generation president and CEO. She has been with the company for over 25 years and has managed and influenced nearly every department including Claims, Underwriting, Marketing and Customer Support.

Monique Priestly telecommutes from Bradford, as the COVID Business Recovery project manager for the Vermont office of the Center for Women & Enterprise. She is the director of Digital for Campus CE Corporation in Seattle, Washington, a software company she has worked for since 2010. She serves as executive director for The Space On Main (a nonprofit community-based conference, event and gallery space in Bradford), which she founded as a nonprofit in 2017 in hopes it would promote a greater sense of community and connection for people living and working in the Northern Upper Valley of Vermont and New Hampshire.

Page Spiess received a bachelor's degree in biochemistry and a master's and doctorate in pharmacology and toxicology. She has taught at the University of California-Davis, UVM, VTC, and joined the departments of chemistry and biochemistry at Norwich University in 2017. She was named a fellow of the Institute for Innovation in Teaching and Learning in 2021, and serves as NU Academic Integrity officer helping students and faculty honor their own academic efforts.

Sarah Lang works at the Brattleboro Development Credit Corporation and manages the Southern Vermont Economy Project which provides capacity and capacity-building opportunities for communities and nonprofits in Southern Vermont. Additionally, she runs the Town Funding process which provides the organizational funds to support the work done in the region for communities.

Lang is a graduate of the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, recently earning a master's degree in regional planning and master's of science in sustainability sciences. Prior to BDCC, she has spent several years as a research associate with the UMass Center for Economic Development, as well as working as a maker space coordinator in Massachusetts and a project manager at a community development corporation in Cleveland, Ohio.

Tara Kulkarni is an associate professor and chair of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Construction Management, and director of the Center for Global Resilience and Security at Norwich University. She has a doctorate in civil engineering from Florida State University and is a licensed professional engineer. Her experience spans across state government, consulting, and academia. She is a strong advocate for adding diverse and multilingual voices to address complex challenges and creating a culture of collaboration and support.

The ATHENA Leadership Award is presented to a woman or man who is honored for professional excellence, community service and for actively assisting women in their attainment of professional excellence and leadership skills.

The ATHENA Young Professional Leadership Award honors a woman leader under 40 who demonstrates excellence, creativity, and initiative in their business or profession, and serves as a role model for young women personally and professionally.