Campus News

UK Women’s Forum Announces 2021 Sarah Bennett Holmes Awardees

LEXINGTON, Ky. (April 12, 2021)  Four outstanding recipients who profoundly contribute to issues that affect women at the University of Kentucky and across the Commonwealth received the Sarah Bennett Holmes Award Tuesday, March 23, during a virtual awards ceremony. Christina Walker, staff winner; Hana Khamfroush, faculty winner; Mel Lesch, graduate student winner; and UK Department of Neurology's Wellness and Resiliency Committee, team winner, received the 2021 Sarah Bennett Holmes Award.

The award historically recognizes one female faculty member and one female staff member who promote growth and well-being of women at the university and across Kentucky. The UK Women’s Forum decided to expand the award criteria to allow UK faculty and staff of any gender to be eligible plus created a team award and graduate student award. The faculty, staff and graduate student recipients receive a monetary award plus a plaque. The team and its members receive a plaque for their achievement. The Sarah Bennett Holmes Award is among the most esteemed recognition bestowed at UK and brings recognition for efforts that might otherwise go unnoticed.

Hana Khamfroush is an assistant professor in UK College of Engineering's computer science department. Khamfroush received her doctorate from University of Porto, Portugal, in 2014 and moved to the U.S. in 2015. She is the advisor for the UK chapter of the Association of Computing Machinery Women (ACM-W) where she is helping with mentoring and empowering women in computer science through organization of several panels and other programs. Khamfroush's main research interests include network modeling and analysis, edge computing, Internet-of-Things (IoT), and cyber-physical-social systems of several panels and other programs.

Christina S. Walker of UK Online analyzes legal compliance, regulation and policy at UK. She has educated womxn+ on best policy practices in consideration of diversity, equity and inclusion. In 2020, she provided over 70 hours of pro bono representation solely to womxn+ experiencing financial hardship. Walker founded “A Cause for the Holidays,” an initiative that aids deserving children and eases financial stress during the holiday season.

Mel Lesch (she/they) is currently a doctoral candidate in gender and women’s studies at the University of Kentucky. They have worked at and attended UK off and on since 2001. While she was an undergraduate, Lesch was president of the Lavender Society, a queer women’s organization, helped to start the first version of Safe Space trainings, and worked with a group of people to help found The Outsource, a student-led volunteer organization that eventually became the Office for LGBTQ* Resources at UK. Since their undergraduate years, Lesch has gone on to teach high school English, earn two master’s degrees, co-chair the Gender and Women’s Studies Conference, and work at the Office of LGBTQ* Resources.

After 10-15 years of entry into medical training, the average physician/provider has significantly higher levels of burnout than professionals in other fields. To combat the organizational pressures, emotional and mental stress facing physicians and providers, especially the challenges faced by young women faculty, the Department of Neurology organized the Wellness and Resilience Committee. The overall aim of the committee is to promote faculty and trainee wellness, along with personal career satisfaction and facilitate short/long-term goals. The effort expanded in 2019 with the formation of the College of Medicine Wellness Committee. Committee members include: Larry Goldstein, Zabeen Mahuwala, Padmaja Sudhakar, Timothy Ainger, Julie Gurwell, Lindsey Noll, Zahra Haghighat and Ann Stowe.

Guest speakers at the Sarah Bennett Holmes Award Luncheon were the 2020 award recipients Deborah Reed and Fadyia Lowe.

Nominees for the 2021 Holmes Award included 14 faculty members, 11 staff members, 10 graduate students, and six teams.


  • Yoon Bae, Theatre and Dance
  • Rebecca Alley, Art and Visual Studies
  • Crystal Gregory, Art and Visual Studies
  • Lori Hetzel, Music
  • Clare Rittschof, Entomology
  • Kathryn Cardarelli, Health, Behavior, and Society; Faculty Affairs
  • Robyn Brown, Sociology
  • Hollie Swanson, Pharmacology and Nutritional Sciences
  • Arcelia Gutiérrez, Hispanic Studies
  • Anne-Frances Miller, Chemistry
  • Monica Chau, Neurosurgery, College of Medicine
  • Hana Khamfroush, Computer Science
  • Sharon Brennan, Office of Clinical Partnerships and Curriculum and Instruction  
  • Mary Lloyd Ireland, Orthopedic Surgery and Sports Medicine


  • Kristie Colón, College of Pharmacy
  • Christina Walker, Associate Provost Office for Teaching, Learning, and Academic Innovation
  • Emilee Stites, EVPHA Corporate Communications
  • Niamh Minion, International Center - Education Abroad and Exchanges
  • Miko McFarland, International Center - Education Abroad and Exchanges
  • Belinda Rubio, College of Fine Arts
  • Melissa Beaven, Gatton College of Business and Economics
  • Eva Hicks, Political Science, College of Arts and Sciences
  • Kelsey Loeslie, Opera Theatre
  • Adrienne McMahan, Student Success
  • Kathy Ice-Wedding, Computer Science

Graduate Students

  • Emily Kaufman, Geography
  • Tammy Clemons*, Department of Anthropology
  • Brittany Rice, Pharmacology and Nutritional Sciences
  • Whitney Barber, International Center - Education Abroad and Exchanges
  • Katherine (Katie) Bain, Rehabilitation Sciences
  • Mel Lesch, Gender and Women's Studies
  • Jannell McConnell Parsons, English
  • Rachel Womack, Social Work
  • Mujan Seif, Chemical and Materials Engineering
  • Parto Babaniamansour, Biomedical engineering


  • Louisville Team, Kentucky Small Business Development Center
  • Team #iCANendthetread, UK College of Education
  • Women’s Leadership Week Team, Alli Lake(Team Lead)
  • Healthy Hearts for Women Symposium Team, Pharmacology and Nutritional Sciences
  • The UK Wellness and Resilience Committee, Neurology Department
  • UK Education Abroad Team, Education Abroad & Exchanges, International Center

For a list of past winners, visit

Bennett Holmes, a distinguished former dean of women at UK, tirelessly championed the rights of women throughout her career. Widowed at a young age, Holmes raised four children while completing her own education. She then began a successful career at the university where she inspired young women to persevere in the face of hardship and pursue their career goals. Among her accomplishments, Holmes developed work programs for women during the Depression.

In her honor, the UK Women's Forum created the Sarah Bennett Holmes Award and since 1994 has been honoring women at UK who demonstrate the same principles as Holmes through their work and service.

The UK Women's Forum is an organization for all employees of the university faculty and staff. Its mission is to exert a leadership role in empowering, validating, informing, including and celebrating all women employed at UK by addressing challenges, communicating issues and recognizing successes within the context of the workplace.

The University of Kentucky is increasingly the first choice for students, faculty and staff to pursue their passions and their professional goals. In the last two years, Forbes has named UK among the best employers for diversity, and INSIGHT into Diversity recognized us as a Diversity Champion four years running. UK is ranked among the top 30 campuses in the nation for LGBTQ* inclusion and safety. UK has been judged a “Great College to Work for" three years in a row, and UK is among only 22 universities in the country on Forbes' list of "America's Best Employers."  We are ranked among the top 10 percent of public institutions for research expenditures — a tangible symbol of our breadth and depth as a university focused on discovery that changes lives and communities. And our patients know and appreciate the fact that UK HealthCare has been named the state’s top hospital for five straight years. Accolades and honors are great. But they are more important for what they represent: the idea that creating a community of belonging and commitment to excellence is how we honor our mission to be not simply the University of Kentucky, but the University for Kentucky.