When the Joplin Business Journal recently unveiled its 2014 class of Most Influential Women, the list of 15 names included two from Missouri Southern.

Among this year’s honorees are Debra Fort, an academic skills specialist with the Student Success Center, and Nicole Brown, director of Career Services. They were among those recognized during a luncheon on June 19 at the Holiday Inn.

Nicole Brown and Debra Fort.

Nicole Brown and Debra Fort.

This marks the eighth year for the annual awards, said Larry Warren, owner of the Business Journal.

“Since 2007, we’ve recognized 15 women each year,” he said. “We receive nominations, and the nominees then send us their resume. We then take it to a panel of judges, which includes several past winners, and they submit scores and rank them accordingly.

“The biggest thing the judges look at is community involvement; such as social groups or not-for-profits. All of the nominees are working women who have made contributions to the community.”

He said that between 45 and 50 nominations were received this year.

Fort, who has been with Southern for a year, spent 33 years in education – 25 of those in Joplin. A former principal at Irving Elementary, she was elected to the Joplin School Board in April.

She said she’s humbled by the honor.

“There are a lot of wonderfully influential women out there doing phenomenal things every day,” she said. “I’ve tried to do my best for students and when working with their families. This affirms to me that the work I put in had an effect … that it helped make a difference for people.”

Brown has been with Southern for four years and is heavily involved with the Young Professionals Network and several of the subcommittees of the Joplin Area Chamber of Commerce.

“It’s an amazing group of women to be included with,” she said. “I was pretty floored by it. The energy and attitude of everyone is fantastic.”