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Women of Excellence Awards Recognize Outstanding Local Business Women

In celebration of Women’s History Month, the Business Women’s Round Table (BWRT) of the Charlottesville Regional Chamber of Commerce will present three awards to extraordinary local women at the Women of Excellence Awards Luncheon on Thursday, March 16, 2023.

“Women’s History Month is a perfect time to celebrate the vast impact of professional women on our local economy, workforce, and community,” said Andrea Copeland, Interim President & CEO of the Chamber.

“For almost 20 years, the Chamber’s Business Women’s Round Table has brought women together to inspire and support each other,” Copeland said. “At this year’s inaugural BWRT Women of Excellence awards luncheon, our three award recipients perfectly exemplify women in our Chamber and community who are leading in excellence in their own way.”

Nicole Hawker, Founder of Heart and Soul Fitness with Nicole, will receive the BWRT Excellence Award. The award recognizes an extraordinary woman who has manifested a legacy that continues to inspire others.

Jessica A. Harris, Founder and CEO of Jessica A. Harris, LLC, will receive the Mentor of Excellence Award. This award recognizes a woman who has a powerful commitment to advising other women and helping them advance.

Nadirah Muhammad, Brand Storyteller for Story House Real Estate, will receive the Emerging Professional Award. This award recognizes an up-and-coming professional woman who makes an impact through her personal involvement in business, community projects, and volunteering.

Ashley Reynolds Marshall, the City of Charlottesville's Deputy City Manager for Racial Equity, Diversity & Inclusion, will present a keynote address.

The Women of Excellence Awards Luncheon will take place at Hilldale Conference Center from 12pm to 2pm on March 16.

Reserve your seat today!

BWRT is proud to be working with two woman-owned Chamber member businesses for this event. A Seat At The Table Events will provide catering, and Tuel Jewelers will create the keepsake awards.

The event is sponsored by Our Lady of Peace Retirement Community, GO Mortgage, Croby's Urban Viddles and The Murray Group – Goosehead Insurance.

About the Award Recipients

Nicole Hawker is an ACE Certified Personal Trainer and CrossFit Level 1 Coach. She started her fitness journey in CrossFit in 2012 when she made the personal decision to increase her overall health and wellbeing. She continued her journey to become a personal trainer in 2016.

Nicole incorporates her passion for physical fitness and emotional well being into Heart and Soul Fitness. Nicole holds a Masters Degree in Professional Counseling from Johnson University. She recently completed her first Richmond Marathon. Nicole is also a proud supporter of our United States Military community.

“Throughout her career Nicole has looked for ways to improve the lives of those around her,” said Jon Hawker in a nominating statement. “In her time with Albemarle County DSS, Nicole was responsible for the overall care and well-being of countless children in the foster care system, yet she always made time for pouring into her case managers in a way that made them better people… Anyone that knows Nicole knows that there are very seldom short conversations with Nicole. Her authenticity and compassion won’t let you stop at 'Hello.'”

Jessica A. Harris bring over a decade of experience in STEM education and public outreach. She has supported students to achieve educational outcomes at Space Telescope Science Institute and led public advocacy initiatives to drive change in programming efforts at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO). Most recently, she was the Program Director for the Clark Scholars Program at the University of Virginia (UVA) in the Engineering School in Charlottesville.

She is the Founder and CEO of Jessica A. Harris, LLC, a consulting firm focused on three pillars: Diversity, racial equity, and inclusion; Education and public outreach; and the Auntie Jess Mentoring Program.

Jessica is currently the Chair of the Human Rights Commission in the City of Charlottesville and serves as an outside expert on the National Astronomy Consortium (NAC) Advisory Council. She is a proud alumna of two Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). She obtained her B.S. in physics from Grambling State University and an M.A. in physics from Fisk University as part of the Fisk-Vanderbilt Bridge Program.

“Jessica (#AuntieJess) has been an extraordinary mentor to countless STEM undergraduate and graduate students from marginalized communities,” said Lyndele von Schill in a nominating statement. “STEM is an especially challenging environment for students of color, arguably, especially women of color. As a Black woman who has herself navigated a STEM academic career (obtaining a MS in Physics/Astronomy), Jessica is uniquely positioned to offer the kind of mentoring that is not readily available to young people of color… Jessica understands the impact of representation and goes out of her way to be a role model for earlier career students.”

Graduating from George Mason University in 2020 with a Bachelor of Arts in English and a concentration in writing and rhetoric, Nadirah Muhammad is passionate about writing and editing. Her experience as an editorial assistant for prominent local magazines in the Charlottesville area connects her with the local community and has allowed her to develop her skills in writing and editing. Contributing to publications in the Northern Virginia area before moving to Charlottesville in 2021, Nadirah has experience with publishing and has an affinity for public speaking and spoken word poetry.

Outside of work, Nadirah enjoys visiting local wineries, attending Spenga workout classes, visiting local libraries (especially if they have attached cafés) and listening to the same songs over and over and never growing tired of them. You can often find her and her boyfriend Devin exploring the Charlottesville area through various restaurants, breweries, parks, hiking trails and anything and everything the city has to offer.

“Along with her drive to always go above and beyond, Nadirah genuinely cares about delivering excellent quality work and is dedicated to her role within the company and community,” said Sasha Tripp in a nominating statement. “Nadirah is a visionary leader and works tirelessly to grow within the Charlottesville community… Part of Nadirah's success is her ability to think through things and build trust and confidence among her team. She is able to take a vision from team members and build it from the ground up.