One of the four finalists in the ATHENA Young Professional Awards that honor emerging leaders by recognizing young women for their service and professionalism was a 2015 Gannon University graduate.
The ATHENA award is given to an outstanding university student with the potential to be a leader in her demonstration of excellence, time given to service and position as a role model for other young women.
Brianna Woods, who graduated from Gannon in 2015 with a degree in theatre and communication arts, was nominated by Jax Vadney, the technical director of theatre, for exhibiting such values inside and out of the classroom.
Other nominations were Megan Kunst from Edinboro University, Chelsea Chase from Penn State Behrend and Emily Francis from Mercyhurst University. Francis, who majored in intelligence studies and public health with a minor in political science, was the recipient of this year’s ATHENA Award.
“It was a natural connection for me,” Vadney said of her decision to nominate Woods. “I saw the description and thought ‘that’s her.’”
Vadney said she has known Woods since she attended a Gannon theatre camp in high school.
“I literally watched her grow from a bubbly but shy young girl into a professional young woman,” Vadney said. “Through her studies here at Gannon, she’s shown not only competency but a level of mastery in subjects she’s studied.”
Vadney said Woods was able to take that knowledge and blend it in leadership roles.
“That’s what makes a strong leader — taking knowledge from very different aspects and extending confidence and leadership,” Vadney said. “That’s what I’d hope for any professional — grace, knowledge and leadership.”
Vadney taught Woods in her scene technology and production and performance and worked with her in Schuster theatre productions Woods choreographed.
Woods served as the vice president of the theatre honors fraternity, Alpha Psi Omega.
“She never expected or asked anyone to do anything she wasn’t willing to do,” Vadney said. “She’s just nifty.”
During her senior year, Woods also worked at two internships, co-founded the art club, was part of the WERG radio staff, served as the Arts and Leisure editor for The Gannon Knight and the multimedia editor for Gannon Edge.
Woods said these extracurricular activities are still helpful to her.
“[They] gave me the skills not only in event-planning but also in how organizations work,” Woods said.
“It gave me skills in internships for professional advancement.”
Woods said she was shocked to receive the nomination because it’s such an honor to receive this among distinguished peers.
“I know so many hard-working, talented people at Gannon that it truly feels like such an honor,” Woods said.
Woods acknowledged Mary Carol Gensheimer and Anne O’Neill for being such exemplary role models and encouraging her to be such a professional.
Since graduation, Woods said she has been looking into master’s programs after traveling to Florida and France over the summer.
“I’ve been testing out the waters; seeing what I like,” Woods said.