Six Women of Distinction winners holding their awards and standing in front of black and white portraits of themselves

Six leaders honored as 2024 WSU Tri-Cities Women of Distinction

Washington State University Tri-Cities recognized six female leaders as Women of Distinction for their contributions to the campus and Tri-Cities community as part of a March 28 inductee ceremony.

The winners exhibit exceptional leadership in their discipline or area of expertise, serve as role models and mentors to other women, advocate for positive social change and demonstrate a commitment to WSU Tri-Cities’ mission.

“The WSU Tri Cities Women of Distinction Awards were created as a means in which to inspire our campus and community alike, and the future generation of women leaders,” said Sandra Haynes, chancellor of WSU Tri-Cities. “The women chosen for these awards have dedicated their lives to improving our community and represent the very best of what the Tri-Cities has to offer.”

This is the seventh year of the award program and during that time more than 222 submissions have been received. Nominations were open to the campus and the Tri-Cities community.

Michelle WhitneyMichelle Whitney

Woman of Distinction Legacy Award, 2024
Superintendent, Pasco School District

With almost three decades devoted to the Pasco School District, Michelle Whitney’s journey is a testament to her unwavering commitment to education. Beginning her career as a devoted kindergarten teacher, Michelle progressed through various impactful roles, from a 4th-grade teacher to a counselor, then advancing to Assistant Principal and eventually Principal at McLoughlin Middle School. Her versatility became evident as she assumed pivotal district positions, including Director of Human Resources and Executive Director of Teaching and Learning.

In 2016, Mrs. Whitney embraced the role of Superintendent with determination, propelling Pasco School District to new heights. Leading a district of 2,500 employees and 19,000 students, her dynamic leadership positively impacts countless lives in our community.

A Columbia Basin College alumna, she earned her associate’s degree, followed by bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Education from Washington State University. Michelle also received her Principal’s certification and Superintendent’s credential from WSU. In her capacity as superintendent, Michelle has supported several educational initiatives in partnership with WSU such as the Alternative Route Program and Teaching Bridge Program, along with many more. Her educational journey and commitments reflect a dedication to continuous learning and professional growth.

Michelle’s commitment to her community is further exemplified by her several other honors as the Columbia Basin College Alum of the Year, Women of Distinction from Girl Scouts of America, and District Administrator of the Year from the Nation and Speech Debate Association.

Michelle’s story is one of passion, resilience, and a relentless pursuit of educational excellence.

Naima ChambersNaima Chambers

Woman of Distinction Community Member Award, 2024
Chief Executive Officer and founder, Tri-Cities Diversity & Inclusion Council
Manager of Equity, Inclusion and Organizational Change, Oregon Department of Corrections

Naima stands as a beacon of excellence in the realm of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives. With over two decades of progressive experience spanning law enforcement, non-profit management, and training roles, she has exemplified a profound commitment to fostering equitable practices within organizational and community settings. Naima holds twelve certifications that underscore her expertise in DEI and leadership skills in her field.

Currently serving as the Manager of Equity, Inclusion & Organizational Change at the Oregon Department of Corrections, Naima leads agency-wide DEI initiatives, embedding principles of equity and inclusion into organizational policies and practices. Naima’s impact today also certainly stems from her 16 years as a supervising correctional officer, during which her passion for the well-being of others was always at the forefront.

In addition to her role at the Oregon DOC, she also takes on double duty as the Chief Executive Officer & Founder of the Tri-Cities Diversity & Inclusion Council. She established this nonprofit, dedicated to fostering a unified community, embracing cultures, and celebrating diversity through education, advocacy, and the promotion of cultural competence and compassion. Under her leadership, the council managed over $2 million in federal and state grants.

This recipient’s dedication and contributions have not gone unnoticed as she recently received the 2022 MLK Spirit Award from Columbia Basin College, recognizing her outstanding commitment to social justice and community empowerment.

Kathryn BraultKathryn Brault

Woman of Distinction Alumna Award, 2024
Owner and former diabetes specialist, Tri-Cities Diabetes

Kathryn earned a Bachelor of Science in Nursing in 2001 and a Master of Nursing in 2005 while working as an RN at Lourdes and Kadlec hospitals. She also joined the faculty at Columbia Basin College as a nursing instructor. Kathryn then continued her work in education as a preceptor for nursing and nurse practitioner students at WSU Tri-Cities. Her legacy of supporting health care education at WSU continued as she has served as a host for WSU Tri-Cities medical students under the Community Hosting and Homestay Program since its inception.

Kathryn was drawn into her specialization in the medical field by her experience as a parent of a son with Type 1 diabetes. Her expertise in diabetes care is peerless in the area. She is the owner of Tri-Cities Diabetes, where she served as a diabetes specialist, and she retired from private medical practice in 2023.

Beyond her educational and professional work, she has had a tremendous impact on the community through her service. For more than 20 years, she has volunteered as a medical provider at Grace Clinic, which plays a significant role in health equity in the Tri-Cities, and for the last 13 years, she has served as the clinic’s volunteer medical director.

Kathryn described that winning the Women of Distinction award is an immense honor as a recognition for the hard work, dedication, and commitment that she has made to her profession as a nurse practitioner. More than a personal achievement, she expresses that this award celebrates the strength and resilience of countless women in healthcare, who tirelessly work to effect positive change on a daily basis. Above all, she humbly accepts this award as a testament to the power of women’s leadership and the profound impact they make on lives every day.

Ameera Fayad

Woman of Distinction Faculty Award, 2024
Assistant clinical professor, WSU Tri-Cities College of Nursing

Dr. Fayad is an assistant clinical professor in the college of nursing at Washington State University Tri-Cities. Before earning her PhD at the State University in Buffalo, New York, Dr. Fayad received her foundational nursing education in Jordan at the Jordan University of Sciences and Technology and Rufaidah Al-Aslamiah College.

Dr. Fayad’s focus on pediatric oncology earned her the King Hussein Cancer Center Certificate of Excellence in 2004 and led her to continue studying young adult survivors of childhood cancers. She was an advisor for the pre-nursing cohort from Saudi Arabia in 2022-2023 and currently serves on the Undergraduate Admission and Progression Committee (UAP) as an elected member. Dr. Fayad’s nursing experience both in Jordan and the United States have supported her pedagogy and research, advocating for positive social change and helping students foster relationships with patients and clinical agencies.

Her dedication to her community extends beyond WSU. She currently volunteers with Meals on Wheels of Mid-Columbia as a driver, delivering meals to local homebound senior citizens, and has devoted time with both the Richland School District for annual vision and hearing screenings and the Benton Franklin Health District for vaccination clinics.

A piece of wisdom that has guided her journey is encapsulated in the phrase “No matter where life takes you, build your village.” Dr. Fayad believes that teaching is a reciprocal journey, and while it is her duty to impart knowledge, students equally bear the responsibility to actively engage in learning. Dr. Fayad continually ponders how she can enhance this dynamic for her students, and it is a driving force for her ongoing improvement.

Reem OsmanReem Osman

Woman of Distinction Student Award, 2024
Computer science and mathematics student, WSU Tri-Cities

Reem Osman is a senior at Washington State University TriCities studying computer science and mathematics. As a Sudanese American, born and raised in Saudi Arabia, Reem moved to the United States in 2018 to pursue higher education. As a WSU Tri-Cities student, she set a precedent through her involvement on campus in numerous clubs and leadership roles, including her appointments as a founding member, president, and vice president of the Black Student Union, president of the Coding Cougs club, and vice president of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers club.

Reem’s involvement and excellence in academics have earned her several awards, namely the WSU President’s awards for leadership and the Student Leader of the Year award in 2022, the Student Civic Leadership award in 2023, and the Top Ten Senior for Campus Involvement award in 2024. She has also been on the President’s honor roll list since her Freshman year. Each of these accomplishments have fulfilled her goal of making the most out of her time in college.

She aspires to pursue a career as a front-end developer, where she can leverage her technical expertise to enhance user experiences and meet client needs. Reem’s talents have already been displayed through her employment with the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory as an intern, and with WSU IT. As she progresses, she aims to further develop her skills and serve as a mentor and leader for teams and projects.

Her mindset has been instrumental in her journey in getting her to where she is today. She has learned the importance of taking action and being proactive in creating the change she wants to see, rather than relying on others to do it for her.

Laura SanchezLaura Sanchez

Woman of Distinction Staff Member Award, 2024
Director of Student Services, WSU Tri-Cities

Laura Sanchez holds a Master’s degree in Communication and a Bachelor’s in both Communication and Sociology, an academic journey that laid the foundation for an impactful career. As the Director of Student Services at Washington State University, TriCities, Laura supervises various departments crucial to student success, leading with a focus on equity and inclusion. Her impact on the Washington State University, Tri-Cities campus, and the broader community is nothing short of transformative.

In the words of her nominators, Laura’s leadership is marked by a steadfast commitment to equity and inclusion in all things. She leads with intentionality and a commitment to transparent and accessible workplace structures and workflows, elevating the quality and productivity of every unit she oversees.

Laura’s role on the team that is working to put together an application for the Seal of Excelencia exemplifies her dedication to advancing Latino Student Success on campus. Along with her colleagues, Laura’s tireless efforts have been instrumental in laying the groundwork for a campus where students can bring their whole selves and thrive.

Beyond her professional responsibilities, Laura’s impact extends into the broader community, where she is regarded as a beacon of inclusive leadership. She has been involved in various community endeavors, including serving as a member of the Hispanic Business/ Professional Association of Spokane and volunteering her time to support initiatives that uplift underserved communities. Laura’s recognition as the 2023 Latina Educator of the Year by the TriCities Hispanic Chamber of Commerce is a testament to her intentional, passionate, and inclusive leadership.