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2010 Civic Engagement, Community Service, and Community Organizing (CECSCO) Honorees

On March 4, 2010, Gender and Women’s Studies honored Barbara Engel, Achy Obejas, and Aurie Pennick  during the second annual Civic Engagement, Community Service and Community Organizing (CECSCO) Awards Celebration.

About Barbara Engel Heading link

Photo of Barbara Engel

Barbara Engel has been an activist in the area of violence against women and girls for thirty-five years. She was an early pioneer of the anti-rape and domestic violence movements and was the director of a rape crisis center, battered women’s program and child sexual abuse treatment and advocacy center for eleven years. She initiated counseling and healing work with survivors, created the first sexual assault prevention programs for the Chicago public schools, while challenging institutional responses by law enforcement, the courts, and the medical and mental health systems. She co-authored protocols for the treatment of rape survivors and battered women in hospital emergency rooms and developed a protocol for Chicago police department response to rape survivors that is now promulgated as a national model.

Barbara embraced the importance of working in coalitions and was co-founder of the Chicago Sexual Assault Services Network and the Chicago Metropolitan Battered Women’s Network and was active in the early development of the Illinois Coalition Against Domestic Violence, and the Illinois Coalition of Women Against Rape (later renamed Illinois Coalition Against Sexual Assault) and the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

In 1983 Barbara co-authored the Illinois sexual assault legislation and assisted in a statewide public education and action strategy that led to the model legislation’s passage. Since 1991 Barbara has been re-appointed by every Illinois Governor to the board of the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority where she serves as a public voice for victim services issues helping distribute federal funds and coordinate criminal justice policy and program initiatives.

In 1993 Barbara was asked by Mayor Daley to chair the task force that wrote the innovative sexual harassment policy for the city of Chicago and developed an implementation strategy and office to work towards harassment free workplaces.

Barbara has also been involved at The Chicago Foundation for Women and as board member for the National Network of Women’s Funds/ Women’s Funding Network.

She is also a co-founder of the Arab Jewish Partnership for Peace and Justice in the Middle East, a Chicago area group that brings together Arab Americans and Jewish Americans to advocate for a peaceful resolution of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict that ensures peace, justice and security for both peoples.

Barbara graduated with honors from the University of Chicago in 1975, received a Masters in Public Health and an honor citation from the University of Illinois School of Public Health in 1976. She has received numerous awards and recognition for her many decades of service.

About Achy Obejas Heading link

Photo of Achy Obejas

Achy Obejas is the author of Ruins (Akashic 2009,, Days of Awe (Random House, 2001) and Aguas & Otros Cuentos (Editorial Letras Cubanas, 2009), among several books. A former staff writer for the Chicago Tribune, she frequently contributes to the Washington Post, In These Timesand She is the editor and translator, into English, of Havana Noir(Akashic 2007), a collection of crime stories set in Havana, and translated Junot Diaz’s Pulitzer Prize-winning The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao(Riverhead 2008) into Spanish. Her translation into English of Ena Lucía Portela’s One Hundred Bottles is forthcoming from the University of Texas Press in 2010.

During her career, Achy has received a Pulitzer for a Tribune team investigation, the Studs Terkel Journalism Prize, several Peter Lisagor journalism honors, two Lambda Literary awards, a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship in poetry, and residencies at Yaddo, Ragdale and the Virginia Center for the Arts, among other honors.

Her work has been translated into Spanish, German, Hungarian and Farsi. She has lectured and read her work in the U.S., Cuba, Mexico, Spain, Argentina and Australia, and has served as the Springer Writer-in-Residence at the University of Chicago and the Distinguished Writer in Residence at the University of Hawai’i. Currently, she is the Sor Juana Writer in Residence at DePaul University in Chicago.

About Aurie Pennick Heading link

Photo of Aurie Pennick

Aurie Pennick is the Executive Director and Treasurer of the Field Foundation of Illinois, Inc., with responsibility for the oversight of approximately sixty million dollars in foundation assets. Ms. Pennick is an attorney with an extensive background in the nonprofit and public sector. Prior to her return to philanthropy she practiced law and served as a consultant to nonprofit organizations in the region. From 1992 to 2002, Ms. Pennick was the president and CEO of the Leadership Council for Metropolitan Open Communities, the only fair housing organization in the nation founded by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. From 1987 to 1992, Ms. Pennick was the Managing Attorney – Administration for the Chicago Transit Authority’s Legal Department. Before which she was the Assistant Director for Special Grants with the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation where she designed and implemented a multi-million dollar grant program for small and emerging community organizations. She began her career in philanthropy at the Chicago Community Trust as a fellow in the Trust’s Minority Fellowship Program.

Ms. Pennick has led several nonprofit organizations including founding Executive Director of the Greenhouse Shelter, the city’s first battered women’s shelter. She is an adjunct instructor in the Masters of Human Services Administration program at Spertus College and was a guest lecturer for the Center for Urban Redevelopment Excellence at the University of Pennsylvania. She co-authored an article on affordable housing in the book New Chicagopublished by Temple Press. Ms. Pennick was recently invited by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to be a panelist at their national conference in observance of the 40th anniversary of the passage of the Fair Housing Act.

Ms. Pennick has been the recipient of numerous awards and appointments which include appointment to the Chicago Police Board by the late Mayor Washington; appointment to the Official U.S. Delegation for the Habitat II Global Conference on Cities held in Istanbul, Turkey in 1996; awarded an Aspen Institute Fellowship in 2002; 2003 Human Relations Award by the Chicago Commission on Human Relations; and 2006 the Handy Lindsey Jr. Award and Lecture on Inclusiveness in Philanthropy by the Chicago African Americans in Philanthropy. Ms. Pennick’s oral history is documented on TheHistory Makers website.

Ms. Pennick serves on the Boards of Trustees of the Field Museum and the Rush University Medical Center and the Adler School of Professional Psychology. She is a member of the Economic Club and the Commercial Club of Chicago. Ms. Pennick is the proud mother of two creative and award winning daughters – Faith and Keidra.