2017 AAUW Board of Directors Candidates Bios, Videos, and More

Vote now in the 2017 AAUW national election!

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The slate of candidates for election to the AAUW Board of Directors is now available. Select a candidate’s name or scroll down to see photos, profiles, and other details about each candidate. Visit the One Member, One Vote resource for additional information and links to the voting process.


AAUW Board Chair

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AAUW Board Vice Chair


AAUW Directors

Members select up to ten candidates

Joanna Amberger, Hawaii

2017-2019 AAUW Board of Directors candidate Joanna Amberger

Joanna Amberger
2017 Board Candidate


I am seeking re-election because I see AAUW at a crossroads where we need to make decisions that capitalize on the important work of those who have come before us and engage the next generation of diverse leaders. I serve on the AAUW Finance and CEO Search committees, which has given me insight into and experience with the critical decisions we currently face. I bring the viewpoint of a younger generation to the board while also having the maturity and experience of running a business and holding significant leadership positions.

I earned my undergraduate degree from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. I then earned my Masters in Business Administration from the University of Hawaii’s Shidler College of Business. I founded an independent financial services firm and am a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™.

As President of AAUW Honolulu, I guided the branch through a major governance crisis and merger, which successfully retained a significant branch asset.  Under my leadership, AAUW Honolulu was the first Charting the Course Branch Navigator. As Co-President of AAUW Hawaii, I worked to revitalize the state by engaging state leaders in strategic planning. I have served on the boards of several substantial nonprofit organizations dedicated to women’s issues as both a Director and the Chair, managing a CEO transition and merger.

Sound governance and strategic vision are vital to a successful board and organization. I ask for your vote to continue my work for you and AAUW.

Susan Barley, Missouri and Florida

Susan Barley, AAUW life member, Legacy Circle member, and 2017 AAUW Board candidate.

Susan Barley
2017 Board Candidate


As a long time AAUW member and a lifelong community volunteer, I am a strong candidate for re-election to the AAUW Board. With my vast AAUW knowledge and extensive involvement on the branch, state, and national level, I will continue to bring my knowledge, experiences, and passion to help lead AAUW into the future.

AAUW has made major strides as a leader in equity and education and as a powerful advocate for women and girls. I will work toward the continued connection of members, branches, and states, working with AAUW national, to build enthusiasm and support to further increase visibility.

I joined AAUW in 1970, and am currently a member of the Ballwin-Chesterfield MO Branch, the St. Louis MO Branch, and the Greater Naples FL Branch. I am a life member and a Legacy Circle member. From 1995 through June 2016, I served on the AAUW Missouri Board.  Nationally I served on the Breaking through Barriers Major Gift Campaign Committee, the Leadership Corps, the Fundraising Committee, and the Charting the Course Honorary Advisory Committee.  I am an AAUW Director, a member of the Legacy Circle Team since 2012, chair of the Committee Appointments Task Force, and serve on the 2017 National Convention Committee.

As a community volunteer in the St. Louis area, I have been an organizer, teacher, trainer, innovator, and leader. I am a life member of the Girl Scouts and a volunteer for over 40 years. I serve on a board of The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis. Visit www.susanbarley.info.

Alex Bellenger, California

Alex Bellenger, AAUW California Membership VP and 2017 AAUW Board candidate.

Alex Bellenger
2017 Board Candidate


I have a Master’s in Applied Anthropology from California State University, Long Beach (CSULB), where my focus was human trafficking. I have a Bachelor’s in Anthropology from CSU Northridge. I am currently pursuing a Master’s in Public Policy and Administration also from CSULB. Regarding employment, I am a research assistant on a campus project to evaluate CSULB’s sexual assault prevention efforts.

I am the CSULB Secretary for City Affairs, in which I attend and report on City Council meetings and advocate for students. I was the Secretary for Women’s Affairs. Through this, I organized a march for equal pay, worked with the Women’s and Gender Equity Center, and sat on the President’s Commission on the Status of Women. Through the California State Student Association, I sit on a transgender policy workgroup, tasked with addressing transgendered students’ rights on CSU campuses.

Concerning my AAUW activities, I have been a member of the Long Beach Branch for four years. I was the co-Vice President of Membership for the branch and am Historian. I am serving on the AAUW California Board of Directors as Membership Director. Moreover, I am a co-founder of the Younger Women’s Task Force, Long Beach Chapter as President and am the Membership and Outreach Director. Considering my varied and vast expertise with AAUW and related issues, I ask to serve on the AAUW National Board of Directors so that I may help further its mission in providing equity to women and girls.

Amy Blackwell, Colorado

Amy Blackwell, AAUW Colorado president and 2017 AAUW Board candidate.

Amy Blackwell
2017 Board Candidate


As AAUW Board of Directors immediate past member, current AAUW Colorado president, and AAUW delegate to UN CSW 60, I can help AAUW members and supporters to alter our landscape. By making change in our homes and communities, we can advance global gender equity and prevent erosion of hard-won rights. AAUW is uniquely positioned to help with the two UN goals: inclusive and equitable quality education and lifelong learning for all, and gender equality and empowerment of all women and girls. From salary negotiation workshops to branch sharing of community and global information, we provide learning and social networks crucial for women’s healthy lives.

Why vote for me? Vigor and vision. I have a robust undergraduate and graduate background in history and biology. Whether climbing a mountain; researching climate change impacts on Antarctic and Galápagos biodiversity; or studying women’s historic and current roles in China, Cuba, and South Africa – I take self-care, gender-care, and planet-care to new heights. As pharmacy chief marketing officer and STEM communications company owner, I bring executive-level strategic planning, visioning, financial, and fiduciary skills. Chair of a State of Colorado mental health regulatory board, I bring a cool head and expert facilitation skills even amid death threats. On the AAUW Board I kept my colleagues motivated and thinking outside the box, and my vast record of Colorado AAUW state and branch leadership speaks volumes. Blackwell4AAUW.com

Julia T. Brown, New Mexico

Julia Brown, AAUW life member, former Board member, and 2017 AAUW Board candidate.

Julia Brown
2017 Board Candidate


I believe my combination of vision, experience and skills makes me the ideal candidate.  I’m a life member with leadership experience spanning national, state and branch levels. My background in law, public policy and organizational development enables me to understand strategic planning and implementation of goals and objectives. I’ve served on nonprofit boards nationally and locally; worked at all levels of government, in Corporate America and served in the military. As a lawyer I applaud and support LAF and understand our need to be involved in establishing legal precedent.

We need to continually gauge the relevance of our programs and approaches.  We must refocus on promoting the mission of AAUW. Our bellwether issues of pay equity, campus safety and other Title IX concerns remain critical.  With the new administration there threats to such issues as public education, access to health care as well as voter suppression.

As Chairman, in concert with other board members and staff, I’ll bring bold new ideas for strategic partnerships needed for continued growth and expansion. I want to do what I call the ‘3 R’s of membership-Recruit, Reclaim & Retain.’  Adoption of a business model that recognizes the need to connect with today’s younger, diverse population is one facet of that plan; having Diversity & Inclusion work with Marketing is another.

I’m asking for your ideas, support and votes!  Please view my Facebook profile at: https://www.facebook.com/JuliaBrownforAAUWChairman

Janet Bunger, Utah

2015-2017 Board Director Janet Bunger

Janet Bunger
2017 Board Candidate


Please elect me as an AAUW Director for a second term so I can continue to bring my professional accounting and non-profit experience to AAUW.  I currently serve on the board as the Finance Vice- Chair. Two of the most important jobs as Finance Vice-Chair are to chair the Investment Committee and the Finance Committee.  The Investment Committee oversees the large investment portfolio for AAUW and AAUW Action Fund.  The Finance Committee reviews the monthly financial statements for the organization.  Under my supervision, the Finance Committee revised the Finance Toolkit and created various sample forms for the staff and all finance officers.

I have served four years on the AAUW Finance Committee and have been both branch and state treasurer and state president of AAUW of Utah for two terms.  I am a 23-year member of AAUW and have always sought opportunities to advocate for equity.

I have degrees in mathematics and in accounting.  I became a CPA after graduating from the University of Utah and worked for several years in the public accounting industry.  I spent 18 years as a financial advisor with a national financial services company. My education and work experience provide me the skills to work with the CFO and staff. Sharing my financial skills with AAUW and other non-profits is an important part of my life.

I ask for your vote so that I can continue to support the goal of equity for all.

I can be reached at jhbunger@aol.com and https://www.facebook.com/janet.bunger.5

Alicia Hetman, California

2015-2017 Board Vice Chair Alicia Hetman

Alicia Hetman
2017 Board Candidate


As the guiding light for women’s rights and equity, AAUW needs a dedicated leader to navigate these uncertain times. My plan to take AAUW forward rests on three pillars: vision, guidance and voice.

As we continue our groundbreaking research, advocacy and philanthropy so that all women and girls reach their highest potential, AAUW’s vision will advance its standing as the premier organization for gender equity, eliminate barriers stalling our diversity and inclusion efforts, and critically address intersectionality. With my steady-handed guidance, the board will embrace opportunities and challenges around our public policy priorities while strengthening AAUW with unbridled enthusiasm, curiosity and shared sense of purpose. AAUW’s expert voice will stand out even more in critical public conversations on women’s and girls’ issues.

I’ve spent my adult life in volunteer leadership service to women and girls: currently Board Vice Chair; was AAUW California President, Board Director, Foundation Board Director, held many state and branch positions. Formerly a teacher, gender equity became my professional calling as gender compliance consultant, California state regulations writer and trainer and Title IX expert for the California Department of Education.

As your Chair, I bring deep experience, continuity in transition, leadership by example, and visionary thinking towards helping AAUW make the world an equitable place for all women and girls. Details: http://www.ahetman.com

Melody Jackson, Virginia

Melody Jackson, U.S. Army veteran, educator, small business owner, and 2017 AAUW Board candidate.

Melody Jackson
2017 Board Candidate


I would consider it to be an honor and a privilege to serve as a member of the AAUW Board of Directors. As an entrepreneur and educator, I have spent the past 30 years committed to improving the lives of others through research, education, and information. As Owner and CEO of a small business, I serve as the executive responsible for the overall operation of the company. As a member of the Management faculty at a local university, I teach both undergraduate and graduate courses. For over three years, I have served as President of the Board for a small 501(c)3 nonprofit. My vision for AAUW is to increase organizational visibility and impact ensuring we are the global litmus by which the empowerment of women and girls is measured. If given the opportunity, my goal will be to use all that I am to represent each and every one of you. As a U.S. Army veteran, I would represent the diverse array of soldiers across the globe that make the daily sacrifice to live for others. As an African American citizen, I would represent the plethora of humans around the world achieving greatness through difference. As a woman, I would represent the virtual cornucopia of female perspectives. As an educator, I would represent the learners, teachers, and administrators committed to excellence through education. Most importantly as a human being committed to a life of service, I would represent the heart of all who serve others through the gift of sharing time, talent, and intellect.

Traci Jensen, Texas

2015-2017 Board Director Traci Jensen

Traci Jensen
2017 Board Candidate


I have a Doctorate in Curriculum and Instruction and over 24 years of experience in public education as an educator and advocate for underserved communities. I am the immediate Past-President of AAUW-West Harris County Branch in Houston, Texas. I enjoy being a strong role model for my 17 year- old son. I am a court appointed child advocate and board member for the Spring Branch Family Development Center, which serves thousands of low-income families. Other boards I serve on include the Spring Branch Education Foundation and Spring Branch Speaks, a legislative monitor for my community. I have organized Right to Vote celebrations and luncheons honoring Houston women who work behind the scenes to bring about equal pay, equal access, and community empowerment. My experience with politics includes a run for the Texas State Board of Education in 2012 and I have worked on both sides of the political fence on AAUW issues. When the Texas legislature is in session, I lobby regularly on public education and equal pay. I am currently the state Funds Vice President for AAUW Texas and a Director with AAUW National. As a Director, I work on the Future Directions Task force, the Convention Planning Task Force and the Committee Appointments Task Force. I also serve as liaison to the Branch Program Resources Committee. My favorite part of the job is visiting state conventions and talking with the state presidents of Iowa, Louisiana and Puerto Rico.


Melissa Cooke Johnsen, Colorado

2015-2017 Board Director Melissa Cooke Johnsen

Melissa Cooke Johnsen
2017 Board Candidate


Women’s, LGBTQ & Women of Color Rights are Human Rights – my personal mission. I incorporated my mission in my career & personal life beginning when I earned a BA @ the University of California @ Davis in Latin American History & was introduced to Latinos whose families were undocumented farm workers. In a 25+ year IT career at Fortune 500 cos. such as Starbucks, Express Scripts, Nationwide, SBC (CIO, CTO, VP-IT Ops, IT Dir., Mgr, IT Consultant) I have encouraged equality & opportunity in my work, by supporting women, LGBTQ & minorities w/ STEM opportunities & encouraging diversity in teams & leadership. I lead global teams & gained insights on different cultures & the value of diversity in teams & leadership in the success of an organization. I acted as CEO for a state healthcare technology non-profit with the opportunity to improve health care & reduce costs for citizens.

Support of women’s rights also includes being a board member, along w/leadership roles w/non-profits supporting social justice & healthcare. Boards include Planned Parenthood, NARAL Pro-choice, Progress NOW & AAUW National. All provide collaboration & action w/individuals supporting women’s rights. I established two University endowments. 1st supports women w/a Math scholarship. The 2nd supports Physicians’ education in Reproductive Health thru research. Political activism plays a role w/ leadership w/my political party supporting IT efforts & volunteering for candidates w/ human rights w/ a core value.

Dot McLane, Pennsylvania

Dot McLane
2017 Board Candidate


I joined AAUW because of the mission, I am committed to advancing equity for women and girls with particular interest in ending the gender wage gap, getting more women into leadership roles both in corporations and government, and promoting STEM careers to women and girls. My experience spans all levels of AAUW leadership. Currently I am a Director on the national board, a member of the AAUW CEO Search Committee, and State President of Pennsylvania. Previously I served as chair of the national Branch Program Resource Committee and STEM Task Force, member of the Public Policy Committee; branch President, state Program Vice President, and liaison to the National Girl’s Collaborative Project. I have had the privilege of representing AAUW at the President’s United State of Women Summit, the PA Campaign for Women’s Health, and the UN Commission on the Status of Women.

I hope to continue as a Director to represent the interests of all AAUW members; to build AAUW’s efforts in advocacy and research as the preeminent organization for women’s equity while increasing its visibility and collaborations with other organizations.

I hold a Ph.D. in Biology, worked in the pharmaceutical industry for 10 years, and currently substitute teach in public schools along with my important volunteer work. My extensive experience in programming, advocacy, and coalition-building, and my commitment to our mission, has prepared me for this role. Please visit my website http://mclaneforaauw.weebly.com.

Leah Sakacs, Ohio

Leah Sakacs, YWTF Youngstown Chapter Director and 2017 AAUW Board candidate.

Leah Sakacs
2017 Board Candidate


I seek the director position to assist with advocating and developing programs that support AAUW’s mission for gender equity as well as to broaden our scope to include a closer examination of gender inclusion and intersectionality. Further, I aim to develop programming and outreach strategies to engage younger women and men. I am also qualified to serve in a financial role.

I have managed a budget, reviewed grants and scholarships, and created allocation summaries and weekly agendas. I have also developed budgeting charts to track expenses and income, created event budgets, and monitored accounts. Additionally, I wrote grants in a treasurer’s role and served on the AAUW of Long Beach finance committee as co-programming vice president.

I have co-founded a YWTF chapter in Long Beach as director of finance and am founding a YWTF chapter in Youngstown as chapter director. I served as programming vice president and parliamentarian in AAUW Long Beach. Currently, I am serving on a YWCA younger women’s engagement committee and am developing a program for the YWCA that teaches 7-8th grade girls construction skills. At CSULB, I served as Student Veterans of America chapter president and vice president of the liberal arts student council. I hosted programs and events to raise awareness of women’s rights and resources available to women for health, safety and counseling. In 2016, I received the advancement of women award from the CSULB President’s Commission on the Status of Women.

Cheryl (Cherie) Sorokin, California

Cherie Sorokin, AAUW Marin (CA) President and 2017 Board Candidate

Cherie Sorokin
2017 Board Candidate


AAUW is a major passion in my life. AAUW changes lives and makes a positive difference for women. I am committed to making it a more powerful presence. I have the leadership and collaborative skills to do so. I want us to become THE leading empowerment organization for women and girls: to achieve new levels of engagement on issues of importance to all of us and to build on our history and the loyalty AAUW inspires in its members.

To reach this goal requires more focused programming, better marketing and financial capacity, more collaboration with other organizations, increased diversity in membership, solid relations with our branch/state organizations, and vibrant board members. My experience enables me to focus quickly on critical issues and to work with people of vastly different perspectives in widely differing situations.

My BA and MA are from Indiana U. and my JD from Northwestern.  I started as a Spanish teacher, then became a lawyer and ultimately an Executive VP with major management responsibilities at a large corporation. I now consult on board governance matters. I’m on the board of Marin Villages and was a board member and President of The American Conservatory Theater. I’m a life member of AAUW and have held multiple positions in several AAUW branches: I am now President of AAUW Marin, a member of the national governance committee, and the CA Online Branch.  I’m an active and vocal supporter of AAUW’s vitally important mission to empower women.

Mardy Stevens, Oregon

Mardy Stevens, AAUW of Oregon President and 2017 AAUW Board candidate.

Mardy Stevens
2017 Board Candidate


Our voice for women and girls must be creative, relevant, and strong. I want to serve on our AAUW board – to be part of the national team that enhances the conversation, takes strategic action, and develops sustainable policy to promote our mission.

In my AAUW journey I served in the Leadership Corps, am a Start Smart facilitator, a member leader trainer, and am co-chair of the Branch Program Resources Committee. As AAUW of Oregon president I revitalized the state public policy program, and began a collaboration with Portland State University’s Center for Women’s Leadership. I am a mentor, have worked with AAUW staff, board members and other state leaders, and am currently collaborating to establish a Younger Women’s Task Force.

My skill portfolio stems from my career in education, creating and implementing programs for students and adults. While serving on boards of a sister city association, a historical society, an arts and culture council, a homeowners’ association, and a county library advisory board, I have developed specific skills including using electronic communication, budgeting, strategic planning, governance, consensus building, and linking individuals with resources. Through the many leadership positions I have held, listening, collaborating, and organizing are my friends.

I want to ensure AAUW’s strong and vital, nonpartisan voice continues to be heard and influential.

From the grassroots, let’s talk: www.aauwmardy.com

Debra J. Touchton, Florida

Debra J. Touchton, Associate Professor and Program Coordinator for Educational Leadership programs at Stetson University in Florida and 2017 AAUW Board Candidate

Debra J. Touchton
2017 Board Candidate

I’ve marketed, recruited and built Graduate programs at Stetson, wrote/submitted state-approved Leadership portfolios and annual reports. I am active in my state professional association, the Florida Association of Professors of Ed. Leadership (FAPEL); serving as president-elect, president, past-president, and facilitating strategic planning and change.

I believe we must strengthen: advocacy and support for women in leadership, LGBT women, and women of color; university partnerships; and STEM programs in k-12 school systems, universities and technical schools.

My passion is teaching, research, and leadership development/advocacy for women and girls. I believe quality education is the true equalizer and levels the playing field for women and girls, and is why I have dedicated my life work to it. When I am not teaching, researching, and advocating for women and girls, I enjoy riding my horse, MysNova. She keeps me grounded.


Peggy Ryan Williams, Vermont

Peggy Williams, first woman president of Ithaca College and 2017 AAUW Board candidate.

Peggy Williams
2017 Board Candidate


After earning a BA from the U. of Toronto, an M.Ed. from the U. of Vermont and a doctorate from Harvard, I enjoyed a 36-year career in higher education—19 as a college president. I was the first woman president of Ithaca College.

I served two terms on the AAUW board (2011-2015) and currently co-chair the CEO search committee. I wish to serve AAUW as Vice Chair of the board because of my commitment to the mission and goals of the organization. I bring significant executive experience and board experience to the role, and understand the difference between the role of the executive and the board—critical to effective governance. I currently chair the board of Vermont Public Radio.

Throughout my career, I demonstrated commitment to women’s issues, including board service for: American Council on Education (ACE) Commission on Women (chair); Vermont Women’s Fund; Sacred Heart School of Montreal (chair); Vermont Women in Higher Education (chair); AAUW (director); Vermont YWCA. I belong to the International Women’s Forum.

In March 2016, I was one of four US women academics to conduct a “Women’s Leadership Forum” for 80 women higher education administrators in Saudi Arabia.

My commitment to women’s issues has been recognized with these honors: J. Gribbons Leadership Award and M. Williams Emerging Professional Award (VWHE); and “Donna Shavlik Award” (ACE), honoring one who has demonstrated “…a sustained and continuing commitment to the advancement of women….”

Thank you for your support.

Mary L. Zupanc, California

Dr. Mary Zupanc, professor, chief of pediatric neurology at the University of California-Irvine, and 2017 AAUW Board candidate.

Dr. Mary Zupanc
2017 Board Candidate

Public service and academics have been the twin passions of my life. As a professor and chief of pediatric neurology at the University of California-Irvine, I am now at the pinnacle of my profession and I want to share my experiences and passion with younger women. I also want to use my struggles and successes in a tradition-bound, male dominated field to create the strongest AAUW ever. I will bring to the board the following personal qualities: Proven leadership, strong educational focus, excellent public speaking skills, high level of focus and drive, and extensive administrative experience. Some of the achievements of my academic and professional life are: First woman to graduate top of class at UCLA Medical School; leadership in national medical organizations; Board of directors of the American Affiliate of Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, winner of Nobel Peace Prize 1986; Named one of the Ten Outstanding  Young Women-1986;. I am also the mother of four successful daughters.

One of the strongest influences in my early life was the Girl Scouts of America. It was in Scouts that I was first inspired by several strong women to reach for the stars, not let hurdles stop me, and to be everything I could be. They pushed me to try new things and then placed me in leadership positions to use my skills to help and to lead. Those skills formed my character and honed my stamina. I am eager to help AAUW extend its outreach to younger women in their formative years.



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National, State, and Branch Leadership Positions

Other than the specific administrative and financial responsibilities to AAUW, job descriptions are flexible according to your organization’s resources and interests.