Backstage Pass Returned in 2023 for Another Successful Event

By Melissa Powell

In a vibrant gathering this past February, the Women for Florida State University united for our signature event—Backstage Pass to the Very Best of Florida State. Women across the country came together for an evening celebration and a behind-the-scenes look at FSU programs. Together we were immersed in everything from art education to the Women's Leadership Institute and even ventured into the vast expanse of the planetarium and physics program.

This year marked the event’s return after a two-year hiatus due to the pandemic. Over 90 people gathered for the Celebrating Women dinner and awards ceremony that kicked off the two-day event Friday evening at the Champions Club. It was an excellent opportunity to reunite with friends and welcome newcomers.

Keynote speaker Dr. Stacey Patterson, Florida State’s vice president for research, shared her remarkable journey to FSU and her vision for expanding the university’s research and creative activities, highlighting women’s invaluable role in FSU’s success.

The evening also celebrated 2023 Gift of Wisdom Award recipient Sherrill Williams Ragans, who began her 44-year tenure at Florida State in 1959. She served as a residence counselor and director of University Housing before becoming the associate vice president for Student Affairs. The Gift of Wisdom Award recognizes exceptional women from our past, embraces today's strong women and encourages women's future growth. We were pleased to acknowledge Ragans at this year’s ceremony.

Attendees reconvened for breakfast Saturday morning with featured guests Samantha Fast, an undergraduate art history major, and Eilens Lopez-Saavendra (B.S. ’19), a physics graduate student. The duo shared their experiences in their respective programs, offering a glimpse into the day’s agenda.

Art education and art therapy activities

Backstage Pass attendees participate in art activities.

Participants then explored art education and art therapy through creativity and self-expression activities led by Dr. Sara Shields at the William Johnston Building. The experience was followed by a presentation on art history and women’s contributions to art from 20th-century U.S. visual culture expert Dr. Karen Bearor.

Lunchtime brought a stimulating panel discussion and Q&A session centered around women in leadership and the Women’s Leadership Institute. The afternoon continued with a visit to FSU’s planetarium in the Richards Building, where attendees viewed the stars and learned about the night sky.

The day concluded with a captivating dive into physics led by Dr. Mark Riley, professor and dean of the Graduate School, who guided attendees through constructing their own buckyballs while sharing the groundbreaking work of Sir Harry Kroto, 1996 Nobel laureate in chemistry.

Attendees create model buckyballs – molecular structures known for their strength in building materials.

Attendees create model buckyballs – molecular structures known for their strength in building materials.

Now in its thirteenth year, Backstage Pass continues to thrive by bringing together women with a shared love for FSU, fostering connections to new programs and areas, providing opportunities for networking and empowerment and encouraging shared stories and perspectives.

Save the date; Backstage Pass will return in February 2024.