HerDU 2022

HerDU Virtual Conference: March 2nd - 4th, 2022


Hosted by the DU Women's Coalition, HerDU is the University's primary conference and event centered around women's issues. Featuring acclaimed guest speakers from the worlds of academia, entrepreneurship, wellness, art, and beyond, HerDU strives to bridge the gaps between women across fields and industries while fostering a collaborative atmosphere for the sharing of ideas, resources, and support. Workshops and panel discussions facilitate meaningful conversation between groups and perspectives, providing opportunities for networking and coalition-building among women and their organizations. It's also an opportunity to recognize women for their accomplishments in the DU community and beyond.

bell hooks image

Justice Empowers the Future

In her essential work, Teaching to Transgress, bell hooks asserts, “all of us in the academy and in the culture as a whole are called to renew our minds if we are to transform educational institutions – and society – so that the way we live, teach, and work can reflect our joy in cultural diversity, out passion for justice, and our love of freedom.”

Justice. The heartbeat of a movement. The demand for integrity. The challenge of a system toward the rendering of bodies, experiences, and (her)stories as imperative to the establishment of equity.  Justice brings illumination to our past(s), possibility to our present, and empowers our future. 

This year, HerDU will explore the ways in which justice grounds our forward movement through conversations, presentations, workshops, and film screenings that consider the many ways gender equity, in its complex, intersectional, and creative forms is moving beyond the binaries.  As we enter 2022 and the upcoming midterm elections, we will engage the various ways we can be involved in our continued praxis from institutional, local, and nation contexts.  Join us.


View the HerDU Session Recordings on YouTube

Thank you for joining us at the HerDU 2022 Conference. Please visit the University of Denver YouTube playlist to view the recorded sessions, asynchronously.

HerDU 2022 Playlist

HerDU 2022 Conference Schedule

Day One: March 2nd, 2022

  • RECORDING AVAILABLE | Interventions in Filmmaking: A Conversation on the Possibilities of Film and its Intersections with Social Justice, Race, Gender, and Identity
    Watch the recorded session, here! 


    Focusing on the possibilities of filmmaking as interventions that interrupt and disrupt spaces that have historically excluded Women of Color, this conversation—led by Media, Film and Journalism Studies Associate Professor Lauren J. DeCarvalho with documentary filmmaker Rebekah Henderson and award-winning film producer and festival founder Kweighbaye Kotee—explores the implications and impact of filmmaking within the U.S. political landscape and independent film industry. Henderson and Kotee epitomize two different approaches in interventions: Henderson created her own production company to produce films that showcase the journeys of underrepresented individuals, while Kotee created her own film festival to provide opportunities for minoritized experiences to have a platform within the independent film festival circuit. This discussion will place a special focus on Henderson’s first feature length documentary, Running with My Girls, which premiered at the Denver Film Festival this past November, and Kotee’s Bushwick Film Festival, which is currently in its 15th year.   


    Speaker Biographies: 

    • Lauren DeCarvalho (She/Her) Lauren J. DeCarvalho is an associate professor in the Department of Media, Film and Journalism Studies here at DU, where she teaches mostly film studies courses. In addition to that role, she also serves as Faculty Director of DU's Social Justice Living and Learning Community. Her main areas of research explore the intersections of gender, race, ethnicity, and other identity markers within popular culture. Most recently, she has been exploring depictions of women's incarceration and has previously worked with real-life women inmates to help bridge the gap between onscreen and offscreen narratives. Dr. DeCarvalho's research has been published in Feminist Media Studies, Critical Studies in Media CommunicationWomen's Studies in Communication, and Television & New Media, among other venues. 


    • Rebekah Henderson (She/Her)Rebekah E. Henderson is a writer, podcaster, and independent documentary film producer based in Denver, Colorado. She has directed and produced two short documentaries, What Makes a Mother and All Mixed Up: Our Changing Racial Identities. Her first feature length documentary with a focus on women of color in local politics Running With My Girls premiered at the 2021 Denver Film Festival.


    • Kweighbaye Kotee (She/Her)Kweighbaye Kotee is a Liberian born, Brooklyn based entrepreneur, film producer and writer. Developing creative platforms that equally include women and other underrepresented voices is a personal mission of hers and a significant component of her projects and businesses including Bushwick Film Festival, Bushwick Film Institute and Local Citizens. She has been featured on NBC, Fox, NY1, Huff Post, and AMNY and was featured in a national campaign by PopSugar and Delta Airlines for her work in putting women of color behind the camera. In 2021, Kweighbaye was recognized by Lucy Lui, for her groundbreaking work in Film & Entertainment.


  • Nice White Ladies of DU

    The University of Denver, like many other institutions of higher education, is heavily populated with white women. About 33% of faculty and 43% of staff are white women, and in populations like education and social work faculty or student affairs and health care staff, the percentage is much higher. In this session, we will explore the social construction of “nice white ladies” and the implications for our work at DU. We will identify the ways racism and patriarchy intersect and the (often unwitting) harm done by and on behalf of nice white ladies. Finally, we will explore together alternatives that allow for liberatory relationship with each other and with other members of the DU community, especially our BIPOC students and coworkers.

    Speaker Biography: 

    • Elise Goss-Alexander (She/Her): Elise Goss-Alexander works at DU as Assistant Director of Student Employment, supporting student employees and their supervisors in creating meaningful employment opportunities to prepare students for post-graduation career outcomes. In her role, Elise builds partnerships across campus and provides training to student employees on professional development and diversity, equity, and inclusion topics. Before joining DU, Elise worked as a career advisor with American University’s School of International Service, where she supported service-oriented students in pursuing impactful, sustainable careers. Elise holds a BA in international studies from American University and an MTS in religion, ethics, and politics from Harvard Divinity School.


  • RECORDING AVAILABLE | Representation Matters: A Conversation with Three DU Latina Alumna on their Path to Experiences in Colorado Politics
    Watch the recorded session, here!


    Speaker Biographies: 

    • Crisanta Duran (She/Her)Crisanta Duran was the first Latina to serve as a state Speaker of the House in the United States and was the youngest woman in Colorado to do so. She has served as a board member of Let America Vote, the National Association of Latino/a Elected and Appointed Officials, and is a National Co-Chair of the Voto Latino Impact Council. Crisanta is a firm believer that purpose is more important than title. Her career has largely focused on transformative change by advancing economic security, equity in education, racial justice and addressing climate change. She's a graduate of Harvard Kennedy School Executives in Government program, the University of Colorado School of Law, the University of Denver and the Aspen Institute's Rodel Public Leadership Fellowship.


    • Rhonda Gonzales (She/Her/Ella): Rhonda M. Gonzales is dean of the College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences and professor of African History at the University of Denver. Her research combines the use of comparative linguistics, ethnography, oral tradition and more to recover early history. Sample publications include, Societies, Religion, and History: Central East Tanzanians and the World They Created, c. 200 BCE to 1800 CE published by Columbia University Press, Bantu Africa, 3500 BCE to Present, published by Oxford University Press, “Gender, Authority, and Identity in African History: Heterarchy, Cosmic Families, and Lifestages,” in The Palgrave Handbook of African Women’s Studies and a book forthcoming with Cambridge University Press, Family before Gender: history in Central and Eastern Africa, ca. 500-1900.


    • Candi Cdebaca (She/Her): 

      Candi CdeBaca is a fifth-generation northeast Denver native and was the first and youngest dual-degree graduate from the University of Denver Graduate School of Social Work. She is also the first LGBTQ Latina and first Democratic Socialist to serve on Denver City Council. She has proven that candidates whose “radical” politics are rooted in their lived experience can still fight for and win a seat at the table, even when a corrupt political system stacks the odds against them.

      As a member of City Council, Candi co-sponsored the Eviction Defense Right to Counsel ordinance, which provides a free lawyer for income-qualified tenants facing eviction proceedings in Denver. She continues to be a fierce advocate against the criminalization of poverty, environmental racism, and the displacement of Denver’s Black and Brown communities. Looking forward, she will continue to fight for community every day, and infuse city government with  policy expertise, a lens for justice, and ancestral wisdom.


    • Crystal Murillo (She/Her): Crystal comes has accomplished an impressive list of firsts. She is the first in her family to graduate high school and college. In 2015 she received her Bachelor of Science and Business Administration from the University of Denver. In 2017 she became the first in her family to be elected to office, first Latina and at 23 became the youngest person ever elected to Aurora City Council, the third largest city in Colorado. In 2020 she was appointed to the RTD Accountability Committee and selected as Co-Chair. She was re-elected to the Aurora City Council in 2021 and currently serves as the Chair of the Housing, Neighborhood Services and Redevelopment Committee. She led the effort to develop Aurora’s first strategic housing plan to preserve and expand the affordable housing stock and will continue to push for more equitable growth and development throughout the City. In addition to her role on the City Council, she was most recently a part of the University of Denver Admission Office as an Assistant Director of Admission and the Director of the Pioneer Prep Leadership Institutes which focuses on leadership development, cultural identity and college access. Crystal is committed to be an advocate for the community and helping others become change-makers in a way that honors her Mexican-American heritage.
  • "Her"ray Hour, Robin Morgan Outstanding Woman Award & John Nichols Ally Award

    Join us as we celebrate the incredible work of members of the DU community who promote, empower, and advocate for women at DU.

    The Robin Morgan Outstanding Woman Award recognizes women staff, faculty, students, and alumna who have gone to exceptional lengths to promote and support an empowering environment for women at DU. You can read more about the award and view past recipients here.

  • Equity and Inclusion in Crisis Response: A Values-based Toolkit

    Please join this dynamic duo, graduate student Abby Russell and MSW Director Kate Ross, in their session on Equity and Inclusion in Crisis Response: A Values-Based Toolkit. These two have partnered in developing a three-part approach to provide inclusive, accessible, person-centered care and resources to ensure people with disabilities (PWD) have the human right to dignity, safety, and social inclusion during a disaster or emergency. The audience will first engage with definitions of disability by navigating different perspectives reflecting implications of gender-based discrimination and ableism in the context of crisis planning, management, and recovery. Kate will be interviewed on her holistic approach navigating the challenges brought forth by the Covid-19 pandemic as lead coordinator for MSW programming the past three years. To conclude, the presenters will lead the audience in developing an individualized values-based toolkit to support practitioners in redeveloping and strengthening crisis management programming to be inclusive of PWD.

    Speaker Biographies: 

    • Abby Russell (She/Her): Abby Russell is a 2nd year graduate student at DU. She is graduating from the dual masters degree program with an MA in International Human Rights and an MSW, concentrating in Sustainable Development and Global Practice. Russell is an intern with the American Red Cross as a Youth Educator on Emergency Preparedness, Fire Safety, and International Humanitarian Law as well as acting Disability Integration Team Lead for the CO/WY Region. After 7 years in healthcare, she aims to explore and effectively implement inclusive and holistic solutions to promote social inclusion, activism, and protection of disability rights during a crisis.


    • Kate Ross (She/Her): Associate Professor of the Practice of Social Work Kate Ross has been teaching at GSSW since 2003. Ross helped to develop the foundation curriculum and the health and wellness concentration. She serves as co-chair for GSSW's inclusive excellence committee, serves on the provost's academic diversity council and is passionate about universal design for learning. Ross’s specializations are as listed: civic and community engagement, community organizing and development, culturally responsive practice, leadership and organizations, marginalized populations, and social justice. Ross strives to model authentic holistic social work as an advisor, in the classroom and in the field.

Day Two: March 3rd, 2022

  • RECORDING AVAILABLE | Womanism: Perspectives on Black Women's Experiences In and Influences On American Politics
    Watch the recorded session, here!


    Conversations and dialogues regarding the contributions of Black women in American politics have become more regular in today’s media landscape, yet, often they overlook the histories, origins, and concepts that have guided Black womens' engagement.  Join us for this panel discussion as we dialogue about womanism, its foundations, and how it may provide a mapping of the successes and challenges specific to Black women in American politics.  We will navigate the landscape of American higher education, in particular political science for Black women scholars, and consider the ways that DEI may provide tools for context and operation as we consider a focus on social justice in today’s politics.


    Speaker Biographies: 

    • Christopher Whitt (He/Him): Dr. Christopher M. Whitt is DU’s Vice Chancellor for DEI and serves as a member of the Board of Directors for the National Association of Diversity Officers in Higher Education (NADOHE). Dr. Whitt was previously the Inaugural Vice Provost for Institutional Diversity and Inclusion at Creighton University where he established the school’s Office of Institutional Diversity and Inclusion. 

      At DU, Dr. Whitt has embarked on refining the structure of DEI across the institution to grow from an Office of DEI to its own division. Along with partners across the university, Dr. Whitt hopes to expand DU’s footprint nationally as an innovator in DEI and a destination of choice for a wide variety of intersecting backgrounds.   

      Dr. Whitt holds a Ph.D. in government and politics from the University of Maryland, where he also earned an M.A. His dissertation was titled “Unaffordable Outcomes: The Wealth Gap, Black Political Participation and Public Policy Outcomes in the Black Interest.” He earned a B.A. in political science at Salisbury University. 


    • Clarissa Peterson (She/Her): Dr. Clarissa Peterson is Professor of Political Science and Associate Dean at DePauw University where she teaches American Politics and Africana Studies. She earned her Ph. D from Emory University and joined DePauw University in 1997 serving as a consistent force for DEI issues. She was the first, and only, Black person to chair the department of Political Science. Professor Peterson has been instrumental in helping DePauw address systemic racism and helping Black students navigate DePauw. Her forthcoming book, Racial Attitudes Today: One Nation Still Divided, focuses on the relationship between racial resentment and American Politics


    • Julia Jordan-Zachery: Julia S. Jordan-Zachery is professor and chair of the Women's, Gender and Sexuality Studies Department at Wake Forest University. Her interdisciplinary research focuses on African American women and public policy. She is also the author of the award-winning book "Black women, cultural images and social policy" (2009 Routledge) and "Shadow Bodies: Black Women, Ideology, Representation, and Politics" (Rutgers University Press, 2017) and several articles and edited volumes including "Black Girl Magic Beyond the Hashtag" (Arizona University Press, 2019). Jordan-Zachery has also produced the documentary Healing Roots. Jordan-Zachery was awarded the Accinno Teaching Award, Providence College (2015-2016). Jordan-Zachery serves as the President of the Association for Ethnic Studies.
  • Valverde Movement Project

    As diverse DU community members, how can we answer Dr. bell hook’s call to live, learn, and work together in ways that “reflect our joy in cultural diversity, our passion for justice, and our love of freedom”? Responding to this powerful call to action, DU faculty, staff, students, and alumni partnered with diverse, multi-sector community leaders to create the Valverde Movement Project (VMP) in 2021. With support from a National Science Foundation Civic Innovation grant, VMP partners created a culturally responsive, community-engaged approach to applied resilience research designed to name harm, center joy, and build on collective strengths of numerous individuals and organizations – especially those leading on the frontlines of environmental justice. In this interactive session, participants will learn from VMP leaders about their approach to building intergenerational, community-rooted health and wealth in historically marginalized neighborhoods and explore how to apply principles and practices from VMP in their own work.

    Speaker Biographies: 

    • Elizabeth A. Walsh (She/Her): As Program Manager for DU Grand Challenges (DUGC), Elizabeth supports faculty, students, staff and community members in advancing collaborative actions that make a real impact for Denver communities and build toward a vision of a world in which all communities thrive. While completing her masters and doctoral degrees at the University of Texas at Austin, Elizabeth collaborated on equity-centered, regenerative initiatives ranging from green and healthy housing to urban agriculture. As a professor at the University at Buffalo and the University of Colorado at Denver her research focused on civic engagement and collective action for climate justice and resilience.


    • Cara DiEnno (She/Her)As the Executive Director of the Center for Community Engagement to advance Scholarship and Learning (CCESL), Cara supports faculty, staff, and students in their community-engaged work – collaborating with diverse communities to advance social justice and live out the university's public good vision. She has a background in social aspects of natural resources with an emphasis in environmental communication focused on urban residents' interactions with city greenspaces. Cara is an interdisciplinary practitioner-scholar who works with residents and city staff in designing engagement opportunities that build capacity to participate in complex decision-making in the natural and built environments.


    • Evon Lopez (She/Her/Ella)Evon Lopez is the daughter of Fred and Elaine Lucille Ulibarri. Evon spent more than 25 years in service to the City and County of Denver. During her remarkable career she served as a human resources professional and systems analyst, recognized by colleagues for her commitment, compassion, and care for others. Evon is currently in her 3rd year of studies at Colorado State University Global working towards her BS in Human Resources Management. Through her collaborative work with DU partners in the Valverde Movement Project, Evon was so re-inspired about the power of higher education that she decided to go back and finish her degree.


    • Adriana Lopez (She/Her)Adriana Lopez serves as President of the Valverde Neighborhood Association. Under Adriana's leadership, VNA has expanded advocacy for the Valverde neighborhood, supporting Covid-19 emergency response in partnership with state and local government, as well as other registered neighborhood organizations, to bring a vaccine clinic to the area which supported hundreds of neighbors. She also launched new communication methods, which have brought awareness to the neighborhood’s wants and needs. Adriana earned her master’s degree in International and Intercultural Communication from the Josef Korbel School of International Studies, and the Media, Film and Journalism School at University of Denver.


    • Yessica Holguin (She/Her/Ella): Yessica Xytlalli Holguín is the Executive Director of the Center for Community Wealth Building (CCWB), an organization she co-founded in 2017, focused on building an economy that works for all.  Her professional focus areas include developing innovative strategies to increase opportunities for small businesses and working with anchor institutions to advance racial equity and sustainability.  Yessica grew up in Denver’s Swansea neighborhood and has done grassroots community organizing with immigrant groups and low-income communities across Metro Denver since 2000. She has dedicated her life to creating opportunities for disenfranchised communities to break the cycle of poverty through education and entrepreneurship.


    • Jessica Villena Sanchez (She/Her)Jessica Villena Sanchez is a PhD Candidate in the Department of Geography and the Environment at the University of Denver (DU).  Her research interests focus on transportation and urban equity issues.  For her doctoral dissertation, she studies the everyday mobility of older adults in Mexico City, her home city. As a Community-Engaged Fellow at the Center for Community Engagement to advance Scholarship and Learning (CCESL), she supports CCESL by processing spatial and participatory data, translating materials into Spanish, offering support at community engagement events, and organizing and processing neighbors’ narratives into online story maps using cloud-based mapping.
  • RECORDING AVAILABLE | C+V Women's Herstory Community Talk
    Watch the recorded session, here!


    “Dominator culture has tried to keep us all afraid, to make us choose safety instead of risk, sameness instead of diversity. Moving through that fear, finding out what connects us, revelling in our differences; this is the process that brings us closer, that gives us a world of shared values, of meaningful community.”

    ― bell hooks, Teaching Community: A Pedagogy of Hope

    This month’s Women’s Herstory Community Talk is a part of the phenomenal annual HerDU conference and draws inspiration from the conference theme, inspired by bell hooks: Justice.  Provost Mary Clark and panelists will delve into the need for a community-based approach to truly transform institutions and society. In order to see a true transformation, structures and communities of support for all women are critical as systems are challenged and new ways of carrying out work are brought to the forefront.

    With seven unique and empowering community groups to support the experience of women at DU, this C+V Community Talk will dive into why it is so important to be in community together as women and how the DU community can, as the Women's Coalition states, “foster an inclusive, safe and empowering environment at DU and beyond” through “partnering with women and groups with different cultural and social backgrounds and goals.” The panelists will engage in conversation around how a community can push boundaries, take on systems of inequity, and make institutional and societal change—all while learning from each other, and lift one another up. This talk will highlight how women have done this throughout history at DU and beyond and will continue  to do so as an empowered group of women in solidarity, together.

    Learn more about this event, at the Community Plus Values webpage 

  • RECORDING AVALALBLE | Ballot Access: Women and the Protection of Voter Rights
    Watch the recorded session, here!


    This session will include a panel of dynamic professional women whose interests, research, careers, or activism have intersected with protecting voting rights and ensuring access to the ballot. As steps are being taken by many across the country today to erode voting rights and ballot access, it is incumbent to understand how women have generationally lent to expanding voting rights and how women of today are leaning in to protect voting rights and taking actions to prevent the erosion of exercising the franchise. By participating in this session, one can expect to gain enhanced understanding and knowledge about women and their connectivity to voting rights and access to the ballot, about the criticality of need to further protect voting rights and ballot access, and about how women can continue to show up and ensure that their vote is protected and exercised.

    Speaker Biographies

    • Stephanie O'Malley (She/Her): Stephanie Y. O’Malley is a licensed attorney in the State of Colorado and serves as the Associate Vice Chancellor of Government Relations and Community Affairs for the University of Denver. In this role, Ms. O’Malley supports the University of Denver by building effective partnerships between the university and federal, state, and local governments as well as community residents, businesses, and non-profits. She is an integral piece of DU’s advocacy for University needs, interests, and its mission to serve for the public good. Prior to joining DU, Ms. O’Malley attended as a public servant leader for over sixteen years. Her professional career as a public servant has spanned across three mayoral administrations including a four-year term serving as Denver’s first elected County Clerk and Recorder. As a public servant with a legal background, Ms. O’Malley has entrenched herself with weighing, analyzing, and advocating legal and policy positions associated with multitudes of complex regulatory, public policy, disciplinary, and community centric issues that span across scores of disciplines including licensing, elections, real property, minority, women, and small business, contracting, safety, and social equity. Within the public sector, she led a total of three municipal departments with annual aggregate budgets totaling more than $550,000,000 and served as a trusted advisor to two elected Mayors. Recognized as a change agent, Ms. O’Malley has repeatedly transformed challenged municipal government environments into thriving ones including a licensing division and Denver’s elections division. “Denver Votes”, the city’s current election platform was her brainchild. In addition to eliminating long lines and voting challenges for Denver’s voters, her vision and leadership served to creatively integrate technology into the elections environment by offering tools to voters such as Ballot Trace, paper mail ballots, voter service centers, and electronic voting for overseas and military voters.


    • Theresa Liguori Hernandez (She/Her): Theresa Liguori Hernandez is the Assistant Vice Chancellor of IT Campus Partnerships at the University of Denver and serves as the Co-Chair of the University of Denver Women’s Leadership Council. Theresa is a thoughtful and dedicated leader with proven experience developing productive relationships throughout campus and beyond. She is a versatile and results-oriented professional with years of working with high-performing teams that consistently excel in customer support and satisfaction. Theresa came to the University in 2004 and has been a part of the University of Denver Women’s Coalition for over 18 years, serving in a variety of capacities across the various groups. She is a trusted, pragmatic individual with a collaborative attitude and the ability to lead change. She has a passion for making a difference and she works cross functionally to ensure resiliency is accomplished in all that she does.


    • Amber McReynolds (She/Her): Amber McReynolds was appointed to the Postal Service Board of Governors by President Joseph R. Biden and was confirmed by the Senate on May 13, 2021. McReynolds will serve for the remainder of a seven-year term that expires on December 8, 2026. She currently chairs the Board’s Election Mail Committee and serves on the Strategy and Innovation Committee.

      McReynolds is a leading expert on election administration and policy. Her professional career has been focused on strengthening democratic institutions with a goal of improving the voting experience for all. She is the Founding CEO of the National Vote at Home Institute, a non-partisan non-profit dedicated to expanding and improving vote-by-mail systems in all fifty states.

      As the former Director of Elections for the City and County of Denver, Colorado, McReynolds led the implementation of a first-in-the-nation ballot tracking, reporting, and communication program to increase accountability and enhance security for mail ballots. Her efforts garnered national and international awards and helped to shape Colorado’s vote-by-mail expansion in 2013. In 2018, Governing Magazine named her as a Top Public Official of the Year for her work to improve the voting process. She was also recognized as a 2020 Top Women in Business in Colorado.

      McReynolds is the co-author of the book “When Women Vote.” She also serves on the National Election Task Force on Election Crises, the National Council on Election Integrity, as an advisory board member for the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Election and Data Science Lab, as a board member for Represent Women, as a board member for City Year Denver, and on various advisory boards for other national organizations focused on improving election administration.

      McReynolds is a graduate of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and the London School of Economics and Political Science.


    • Bianka Emerson (She/Her): Bianka is a Campaign Strategist and has spent most of her professional career in electoral politics and the public & non-profit sector. She worked on several political campaigns, presidential and gubernatorial. She was the Coalitions Director for the Biden Harris campaign in Colorado, hosting the highest number of events for the Mid-Western Region. Due to the pandemic, ninety percent of events were held virtually, which was a historic undertaking. Bianka was the Deputy Political Director for Colorado Governor Jared Polis’ campaign and Campaign Coordinator for Denver Mayor, Michael Hancock. She worked as a graduate fellow for the Democratic National Convention Committee in Denver, Colorado, which led to her work on President Barack Obama’s 2007 campaign as a Field Organizer. Bianka was the Program Manager for the Colorado Civic Engagement Roundtable, where her role was to provide resources and organizational development for Progressive non-profit organizations throughout the state. She provides strategy regarding legislation in healthcare public options, financial equity, and education services in her consulting capacity. Bianka has a master's in social science and a law degree. Recently appointed by Governor Polis to the Environment Justice Advisory Board, she serves on many community and civic boards, including, Blue Flower, an organization that raises money for women running for public office, and President of Colorado Black Women for Political Action.


    • Leslie Karnauskas (She/Her): Leslie Karnauskas is a retired Corporate Accountant.  Many years ago she developed a passion for women’s history and has taken the opportunity since her retirement to focus on that passion.  Leslie is a volunteer at the Center for Colorado Women’s History which is part of History Colorado.  Some of her volunteer efforts have been focused on doing research and writing about Colorado women.  During the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage in 2019, Leslie devoted her research efforts around how Colorado women obtained the vote in 1893.

      In her professional career, Leslie spent over 30 years in corporate accounting in the medical device and consulting industries, rising to the level of CFO in her last position.  She holds a BSBA in Finance from the University of Minnesota and an MBA from the University of Colorado – Denver.

      Leslie has volunteered with many organizations over the years serving in various capacities on their boards – Business and Professional Women (BPW), the Colorado Women’s Hall of Fame, the Women’s Bean Project, and Financial Executives International (FEI) to name a few.


  • An Urgent Need for Justice: Gender Apartheid in Afghanistan under Taliban Rule

    After the Taliban re-took control of Afghanistan, the Taliban rolled back women’s rights advances, limiting their access to justice. Despite the associated risks, Afghan women resist and are subjected to targeted assassinations, abductions, disappearances, and physical torture resulting in gender apartheid. There is neither law and order nor accountability. Due to the culture of impunity and lack of international accountability, the Taliban will continue atrocities without fear of legal repercussions. The international community has failed Afghan women whose access to justice for crimes against humanity remains tenuous. The session will pay tribute to the brave women of Afghanistan. The panelist will examine the threats women face under the Taliban rule and discuss the future of women and girls in Afghanistan. The panel will call for justice for crimes of violence against women and girls and put forward recommendations for the international and the DU community to get engaged.

    Speaker Biographies: 

    • Saba Ismail (She/Her)Saba is a Sie Fellow at the Josef Korbel School of International Studies, pursuing an M.A. in International Human Rights. She is an award winning, exiled human rights activist who has been working for the empowerment of young women for over two decades. She is the Co-Founder of Aware Girls, a young women-led organization working towards gender equality and peace. She has served as a speaker and an advisory group member at organizations such as the United Nations and the World Bank.


    • Palwasha Hassan: Palwasha Hassan is a senior fellow at GWIPS. She holds a master's degree in Post-war Recovery Studies from York University, UK, and is a former fellow at the USIP. Palwasha is a dedicated women's rights activist pioneering many critical works to promote women's rights and civil society in Afghanistan. Her achievements, among others, include the first women's legal support organization Roazana (1997) and Women and Street Children Center (1998). She co-founded a visionary women's rights movement in Afghanistan by setting up the Afghan Women Network that has played a pivotal role in Women's rights advocacy for the last 26 years.


    • Wazhma Frogh (She/Her): Wazhma Frogh is a peacebuilding expert from Afghanistan with over 10 years of direct mediation and conflict resolution. The President of Afghanistan appointed her on the country’s High Peace Council to mediate the peace negotiations with the Taliban during 2017 and 2018. She along with other key mediators initiated the first National Dialogue in Afghanistan that contributed towards the historical three-day ceasefire by the Taliban. In 2012, She founded Women & Peace Studies Organization that advises the government negotiation team on the perspectives of communities and implements local community based peacebuilding initiatives in Afghanistan led by women.


    • Gulalai Ismail (She/Her): Gulalai is pursuing an M.A. in International Human Rights. She is an award-winning, exiled human rights activist from Pakistan. She is the Co-Founder and Chairperson of Aware Girls, a young women-led organization working towards gender equality and peace. For her extraordinary work, Gulalai is the recipient of multiple international honors, including Humanist of the Year Award (2014), Commonwealth Youth Award (2015), Chirac Prize for Conflict Prevention (2016), Anna Politkovskaya Award (2017), and Women’s Rights Award (2021) by the Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy. In 2013, Gulalai was named among the “100 Leading Global Thinkers” by Foreign Policy.
  • Trans* 101

    This session will focus on how everyone can work harder to be more inclusive in their own language and will be exploring what gender means to them. First, we will go through some common terms to get everyone up-to-date on different types of identity. We will then look at what it means to be transgender in higher education and where there might be systemic issues affecting this community. Next, we will engage ourselves and ask questions about our own gender identities in the world. Finally, we will look through further resources that will allow us to dive into this work more fully. 

    Speaker Biography: 

    • Sho McClarence (They/Them)Sho McClarence is a current third-year student in the JDP Religious Studies Ph.D.  program here at the University of Denver and Iliff Theology School. They originally are from Illinois where they graduated with honors with their Bachelor's degree in History from Monmouth College, followed by their Masters in Interdisciplinary Studies at the Oregon State University. They have been involved in social justice advocacy in school, at their first GTA position working with the Transgender Taskforce at OSU, and helping to grow the nonprofit The Mid-Willamette Trans Support Network in Corvallis, Oregon.

Day Three: March 4th, 2022

  • RECORDING AVAILABLE | Indigenous Feminisms: Topics and Conversations
    Watch the recorded session, here!


    What is Indigenous Feminism(s)? What separates it from mainstream feminism? A holistic examination of Indigenous Feminisms through scrutinization of the structure that is settler colonialism and the tools utilized for colonization, as well as the influence of heteropatriarchy. By linking the past and present systems working for and against both Native men and women a greater understanding of the importance of recognizing sovereignty is found.

    Speaker Biographies: 

    • Hannah Yonas (She/Her): Hannah Yonas is a third year International Studies major minoring in Anthropology and Writing Practices. All members of this panel are enrolled in Indigenous Feminisms led by Kelly Fayard. Additionally all members recognize they are privileged in their ability to study, learn, and present this material whilst attending a University on Indigenous Land.


    • Isabella (Izzy) Eagan (She/They): Izzy Eagan is a 4th year at the University of Denver. She’s majoring in English with minors in Japanese Language and Leadership Studies. All members of this panel are enrolled in Indigenous Feminisms led by Kelly Fayard. Additionally all members recognize they are privileged in their ability to study, learn, and present this material whilst attending a University on Indigenous Land.


    • Nadine Ameer (She/Her): Nadine Ameer is a1st year at the University of Denver. Majoring in Environmental Science and minoring in History. All members of this panel are enrolled in Indigenous Feminisms led by Kelly Fayard. Additionally all members recognize they are privileged in their ability to study, learn, and present this material whilst attending a University on Indigenous Land.


    • Margot Fiegen (She/Her): Margot Fiegen is a third year student at the University of Denver majoring in Biology with minors in Chemistry and Anthropology. All members of this panel are enrolled in Indigenous Feminisms led by Kelly Fayard. Additionally all members recognize they are privileged in their ability to study, learn, and present this material whilst attending a University on Indigenous Land.
  • RECORDING AVAILABLE | How Driving toward our Goal is Driving us into the Ground
    Watch the recorded session, here!


    Black women are the most under-resourced entrepreneurial class lacking access to fiscal, social, and human capital, and yet we still show up for our clients, our friends, and our families in ways that often go without gratitude or reciprocation. This talk sheds light on the struggles Black women face in entrepreneurship and ways to rethink mental health, success, and tactics to help reach new levels of balance and wellness while reaching our fiscal goals.

    Speaker Biography: 

    • Jice Johnson (She/Her): Jice Johnson is the Principal of New Community Transformation Fund Denver. A proud Army Veteran and mother of three, Jice is an accomplished real estate investor and businesswoman based in Denver. A native of Oakland, California, Jice earned her Master’s Degree Cum Laude in Organizational Management and Leadership from Amridge University. Prior to launching NCTF Denver Jice founded the Black Business Initiative, an impact organization dedicated to building a strong economic base in Black Communities. Jice empowers Black entrepreneurs, leaders, and professionals with the information and tools needed to have an intergenerational stake in economic equity and liberation.
  • SESSION 14 | Half the Sky Fair


    1. Asian Inc. (Sports Clothing)
    2. Beauty Counter by Lia (Natural Make-Up) 
    3. Crafty Alumnae (Independent artists – CWC Alums; cards, stationary, etc.)
    4. DU Women’s Groups/Campus Safety (Informational Table)
    5. Essentia 5 (Essential oils, natural soaps, bath products)
    6. Filters for Families (Crafts providing education and filters for safe water – Arsenic mitigation – in Nepal; Educational/Informational presenter)
    7. Free the Girls (Informational. Helping girls rescued form sex trafficking)
    8. Friends of Gueoul (Support of school in Gueoul, Senegal [West Africa]; African crafts, textiles, etc.)
    9. Friendship Bridge (Colorado based non-profit helping Guatemalan women and families attain self-sufficiency through microfinance and education; Offering hand-crafted Guatemalan products – bags, jewelry, clothing, etc.)
    10. Jen G Studios, Independent Artist (canvas paintings, cards, textiles)
    11. Threads Worldwide (Fair Trade artisan jewelry supporting work for women around the world)
    12. Tupperware – Pauline Aranza-Wees
    13. Wedfuly (DU Alumna founded business; wedding planning services)
    14. Women’s Wilderness (Working to strengthen the courage, confidence, and leadership skills of girls and women through wilderness and community experiences; Educational/Informational presenter)
    15. Zonta Club of Denver (Advancing the legal, political, social, and economical status of women and children; Community service/Educational/Informational presenter)

HerDU Lounge!

Each year at HerDU, our Colorado Women's College (CWC) Scholars offer presentations and/or engagements, enlivening and deepening our conference. This year, our CWC scholar presentations will take place in person in the HerDU lounge. A huge thank you to all those who presented and participated in the Lounge sessions. 


Women's Mental Health Conversation

Presenters: Jasmin, Vanessa, Sam, Bernadetta, & Wren

International Women in the work of Women's Empowerment

Presenters: Sofia, Fatma, Ariana, Deya, Grace

CLAP: Collectively Learning about Periods

Presenters: Camila, Mia, Nicollette, Ahtziri, & Melanie

For more information, please visit the CWC webpage!