AAUW’s Title IX Champions!
Recognizing AAUW’s incredible Title IX work
The Title IX Champion award celebrates the vital Title IX advocacy work of AAUW supporters across the country. Since Title IX was passed, AAUW members and supporters have done amazing work to promote gender equity in education. They have investigated Title IX compliance, cheered on women athletes, supported educators who called for fairness, lobbied for equitable school policies, and helped teach students, parents, educators, coaches, and administrators about the law’s requirements. We have much more work ahead of us to fulfill Title IX’s promise, and AAUW Title IX champions inspire us to press on!
Nominate a Title IX Champion
Send a summary of their Title IX work and a picture to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Barb Rice, AAUW Iron Mountain/Kingsford (MI) Branch
Nominated by Jan Van Gasse, AAUW Iron Mountain/Kingsford (MI) Branch President
Barb Rice is chair of the AAUW Iron Mountain/Kingsford (MI) Branch’s public policy committee. She led the committee in its mission to deliver Title IX materials to 10 different school districts in her area. These materials included the Title IX resource guide from the U.S. Department of Education, her committee’s own “Title IX Resource Guide Highlights” document, and other important pieces. The committee members prepared a script to ensure that they relayed the same information to each school and met with each school’s Title IX coordinator(s). Under Barb’s leadership, the branch ensured that local public schools and community colleges have designated Title IX coordinators with the necessary resources to protect students and staff.
Shirlyon McWhorter, AAUW Tamiami (FL) Branch
Nominated by Susan V. Berlin, AAUW Florida Co-President
Shirlyon McWhorter is the director of equal opportunity programs and diversity and the Title IX and equal opportunity coordinator at Florida International University. These roles allow her to strengthen Title IX and help protect students, faculty, and staff at the university. She develops and administers equal opportunity, affirmative action, and diversity policies and programs while also overseeing discrimination, harassment, and sexual misconduct complaints. Shirlyon also participated in an “Equal Pay Equal Play” panel at AAUW’s Florida state convention with other Title IX leaders.
Wendy Smith, AAUW Monterey Peninsula (CA) Branch
Nominated by Pat Fletcher, Monterey Peninsula (CA) Branch Co-president
Wendy Smith is not only a Title IX champion — she’s a Title IX trailblazer. She is the Title IX coordinator and discrimination, harassment, and retaliation prevention officer at California State University, Monterey Bay (CSUMB). Prior to working at CSUMB, Wendy spent many years helping other colleges strengthen their Title IX policies. She was invited to speak to a special select committee for the California legislature on diversity issues. She also presented at a panel discussion with the U.S. Congress on Title IX issues. She continues her Title IX endeavors at CSUMB by responding to and preventing future discrimination.
Katherine Kelly, AAUW Lubbock Betty Anderson (TX) Branch
Nominated by Deirdre Kelly Trotter, AAUW Lubbock Betty Anderson (TX) Branch President
Before she was even an AAUW member, Katherine Kelly was working with her local branch on Title IX issues. She assisted the AAUW Lubbock Betty Anderson (TX) Branch in sharing AAUW Title IX materials with all schools in Region 17 of the Texas Panhandle. With her help, the branch contacted 61 schools and ensured that their coordinators have access to important Title IX resources.
Sen. Harry Reid
Throughout his decades-long service in Congress, Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has been a champion for Title IX, seeking to strengthen its protections and defend it from attacks. He led efforts to create more opportunities for women in STEM fields through the America COMPETES Act and lent his critical support to legislation to end campus sexual violence; most recently, he was one of seven U.S. senators to earn a 100 percent score in the AAUW Action Fund’s 2015 Congressional Voting Record.
Janet Larkin, AAUW Scottsdale (AZ) Branch
Nominated by Cindy Hartel, AAUW Scottsdale (AZ) Branch President
Janet Larkin is a natural-born Title IX leader! She is actively promoting, examining, and improving Title IX compliance in the Scottsdale, Arizona, region. She began conducting research on Title IX compliance for local school districts by surveying administrators and Title IX coordinators on their compliance with Title IX and reporting her findings to her local AAUW branch. Larkin’s efforts have improved Title IX compliance for school districts in the Scottsdale region and encouraged other AAUW members to learn more about their own school districts’ compliance.
Sandy Backowski and Jean Schaeffer, AAUW Brainerd (MN) Branch
Nominated by Deborah Griffith, AAUW Brainerd (MN) Branch President
(Pictured left to right, Sandy Backowski and Jean Shaeffer)
Sandy Backowski and Jean Shaeffer’s dedication to Title IX stems from their experiences growing up without the protections and opportunities that Title IX offers young women today. “This truly has been something I’ve been passionate about for some time. I don’t think the young girls and women of today realize what it was like when my generation was young and didn’t have ANY sports available to them!” says Shaeffer. Both women are working hard to ensure that schools continue to empower young women and provide equal opportunities in education. Backowski and Shaeffer took it upon themselves to independently survey 14 local school districts and find out whether or not the superintendents and Title IX coordinators were aware of and complying with the updated Title IX policy. Their findings were then reported and published by the AAUW Brainerd (MN) Branch.
Zoe Winston, AAUW Tuscaloosa Area (AL) Branch
Nominated by Jaclyn Northrup, AAUW Tuscaloosa Area (AL) Branch President
Zoe Winston has educated University of Alabama students on bystander intervention techniques and student rights under Title IX since 2011. She first did this work as a volunteer member of the Women and Gender Resource Center’s (WGRC) Student Leadership Council. In 2014, Winston recommitted to violence prevention and education work when she joined the WGRC staff as the peer education coordinator and took on the University of Alabama’s formal UAct. Through UAct, Winston informs students, faculty, and staff members about the appropriate reporting channels and resources offered to deal with discrimination, harassment, sexual assault, and sexual violence. Currently, she serves as the Tuscaloosa Area branch communications chair and is the president of the Tuscaloosa Delta Gamma Alumnae Association.
Mary Grainger, AAUW Ithaca (NY) Branch
Nominated by Mitzi Witchger of GREAT! (Girls Really Expect a Team!)
Mary Grainger was already in high school when Title IX was adopted. After she became the mother of three daughters, she recognized the lack of empowerment for girls in athletics and dove into advocacy. Grainger was instrumental in starting varsity girls’ ice hockey teams in Ithaca public high schools, a state-wide league for the first girls’ varsity teams, and both girls’ and women’s ice hockey divisions in the Empire State Games. She is also the head of three Girl Scout troops and has coordinated Ithaca’s Sister2Sister event for middle school girls.
Annette Lynch, AAUW Cedar Falls (IA)
Nominated by the board of directors of the AAUW Cedar Falls (IA) Branch
Annette Lynch has been working for more than 15 years to eliminate gender-based violence on college campuses. During the early 2000s, Lynch was director of women’s and gender studies at the University of Northern Iowa (UNI). She began working with a team to write federal grants to support the implementation of bystander-based gender violence prevention strategies, improved sexual misconduct policies, and enhanced victim services at the university. Five years of federal funding for UNI set the stage for a successful 2007 application for a $1 million federal grant to lead a flagship award project on all three public university campuses in Iowa. This grant has since been renewed. In 2007, Lynch was given an Iowa Board of Regents Faculty Excellence Award. In 2011, she helped found the Center for Violence Prevention at UNI. Lynch is the incoming interim director for the university’s school of applied human sciences.
Charlotte Nelson and Lori Schrader-Bachar, AAUW Des Moines (IA)
Nominated by the AAUW Des Moines (IA) Branch
Both Lori Schrader-Bachar and Charlotte Nelson had distinguished careers with the Iowa Commission on the Status of Women (ICSW) where they advocated for gender equality and Title IX compliance at Iowa’s universities. They documented Title IX’s impact on women’s athletic opportunities and produced a brochure titled Sexism in Education: Does Gender Equity Exist in Your Community School District?, designed to explain how Title IX forbids gender-based discrimination in education. The brochure was widely distributed by the ICSW. Both women have continued to speak about the importance of Title IX at presentations and workshops.
Donna Seymour, AAUW St. Lawrence (NY) Branch
Nominated by Mitzi Witchger of GREAT! (Girls Really Expect a Team!)
Donna Seymour graduated from high school the same day that Title IX was signed into law. She has been a member of the AAUW St. Lawrence (NY) Branch since 1992 and is currently the public policy vice president of AAUW of New York. Through her work, Seymour has spent more than two decades fighting for gender equality and Title IX compliance in student athletics in New York state. Along with Mary Grainger of the AAUW Ithaca (NY) Branch and others, she worked to make girls’ ice hockey a recognized high school sport in New York. She applied for a 2013–14 AAUW Public Policy Impact Grant in order to bring a focus to state efforts regarding Title IX compliance with sexual assaults on campuses. In 2015, AAUW of New York’s impact grant has brought attention to STEM advocacy in the state.
AAUW Napa (CA) Branch: Oneta Afentoulis, Joy Barnes, Linda Dietiker-Yolo, Starr Green, Eva Joell, Mary Lu Kennelly, Sue Kesler, Pat Parker, Carolyn Stewart
Nominated by Toby Mitchell, AAUW Napa (CA) President
Linda Dietiker-Yolo and her team from the AAUW Napa County (CA) Branch have worked since 2014 to ensure the implementation of Title IX in Napa County High Schools. Dietiker-Yolo’s team surveyed all five Napa Valley high schools to assess how each school was doing. The survey focused on the school’s implementation of Title IX with respect to athletics, sexual harassment, and pregnant teens. Not content just to provide raw data, the team followed up with the high school’s athletic directors, Title IX coordinators, and the Napa Valley Unified School District attorney to discuss suggested actions that the school district can take to improve compliance with Title IX. She spoke at the January 20, 2015, California State Senate Judiciary Committee’s informational hearing on how California schools are complying with Title IX. Additionally, Parker has established a group called the Title IXers, which has been attending Napa girls’ high school sporting events.
AAUW Roseville-South Placer (CA) Branch
Nominated by Cindy Faulkner, AAUW Roseville-South Placer (CA) Branch Vice President of Outreach Projects
The AAUW Roseville-South Placer (CA) Branch sells Title IX pins to commemorate 40 years of Title IX and celebrate AAUW’s Title IX work. The pins remind wearers “that after 40 years, the task is not complete,” says Cindy Faulkner, AAUW Roseville-South Placer (CA) Branch vice president of outreach projects. “Wearing the pin creates the opportunity to promote AAUW as a conversation starter and to celebrate the advances made by Title IX.”
Alicia Hetman, President of AAUW of California
Nominated by Krys Wulff, AAUW Membership Committee Chair
“Title IX has been her passion,” says AAUW Membership Committee Chair Krys Wulff of AAUW of California President Alicia Hetman. In addition to her work with the Los Angeles Sparks basketball team, Alicia helped foster AAUW of California’s work as part of the California Title IX coalition. “This coalition developed a Title IX checklist, expanding upon the AAUW Program in a Box in order to look at additional components of Title IX, including equal access to athletic opportunities, policies against sexual harassment, and prevention of discrimination against pregnant and parenting teens. I can think of no one else … who has been such a longtime Title IX Champion,” says Wulff.
Nominated by Carole Rein, AAUW North Shore (MA) Branch
For two years Cathryn Garrett played on both the lacrosse and soccer teams at her small high school. When she learned earlier this year that her school planned to cut the girls’ lacrosse team, she couldn’t believe it. Cathryn asked the school’s athletic director about the rumored cut, and he told her that there wasn’t enough interest in the girls’ team to keep it around. “Someone had to take the initiative and make the team happen,” Cathryn said. With the administration’s support, Cathryn rallied her teammates and other girls to sign up for the team — and it worked!
Cacilia Kim, AAUW Long Beach (CA) Branch
Nominated by Sharon Westafer, AAUW Long Beach (CA) Branch
As a senior staff attorney at the California Women’s Law Center, Cacilia Kim has made a career out of championing Title IX. Together with fellow Title IX Champion Elizabeth Kristen, Kim represented student athletes who sued the Sweetwater Union High School District in California for violating Title IX. In 2012, a trial judge held that the school district had failed to provide equal athletic opportunities for female students. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals later upheld the ruling. Says nominator Sharon Westafer, “Cacilia works tirelessly to make sure women and girls have a fair chance.”
Cindy Wolff, AAUW Chico (CA) Branch
Nominated by Carol Holzgrafe, former AAUW Chico (CA) Branch president, and Toni Reid, AAUW Chico (CA) Branch president
After Cindy Wolff, pictured right, observed and then researched inequalities in two Chico unified school district high school girls’ sports programs, she filed a formal complaint with the Office of Civil Rights (OCR). Following a lengthy investigation by OCR, the school district corrected many of the Title IX issues Cindy had identified. The district’s actions had a ripple effect: Neighboring communities followed its example by changing their practices for high school sports.
Elizabeth Kristen, AAUW member
Nominated by Elisabeth Bathgate, Hayward/Castro Valley (CA) Branch
Elizabeth Kristen does almost everything she can to fight for Title IX. In fact, fighting for Title IX is part of her job. She is both the director of the gender equity and LGBT rights program and senior staff attorney at Legal Aid Society Employment Law Center in San Francisco. Elizabeth has taken on Title IX cases, including a recent one against a San Diego-area school district. Elizabeth has been a huge part of the Title IX fight in the AAUW community. She is a co-creator of the Title IX Program in a Box, Know the Score, has presented on the issue to 25 AAUW branches in California, and has received a grant from AAUW to speak at the AAUW Arlington (VA) Branch. Elizabeth also monitors Title IX compliance in California through her work with the Fair Play for Girls in Sports project.
Helena Whyte, AAUW of New Mexico co-president
Nominated by Judyth Prono, AAUW Los Alamos (NM) branch facilitator, and Nina Thayer, AAUW Los Alamos (NM) branch program chair
Helena Whyte isn’t just a Title IX champion; she’s also a Title IX leader. As an advocate for equal funding and opportunity for women’s sports, Helena made support for girls’ athletics a priority for her AAUW branch. She formed an AAUW interest group called Title IX: Supporting Girls’ Sports to promote attendance at local Los Alamos girls’ athletic events. “[Helena] has done more than anyone else we are aware of in AAUW of New Mexico to focus attention on Title IX progress and issues,” said her nominators Judith Prono and Nina Thayer, both of the AAUW Los Alamos (NM) branch.
Laura Manthey, AAUW San Jose (CA) Branch
Nominated by Louise Persson, AAUW San Jose (CA) Branch and Legal Advocacy Fund Committee
After using AAUW’s Know the Score Program in a Box to investigate Title IX compliance in local schools, Laura Manthey and the AAUW San Jose (CA) Branch realized that many school districts were failing to identify a Title IX coordinator. In fact, some were not even aware that they were required to have one. Laura spearheaded the creation of a Title IX directory, collecting the names and contact information of the Title IX coordinators in the area to promote awareness of Title IX’s requirements among district administrators and to develop a great resource for those interested in Title IX. “Laura deserves every congratulations for her pioneering work,” says AAUW San Jose (CA) Branch and Legal Advocacy Fund Committee member Louise Persson.
Maria C. Santana, AAUW Orlando/Winter Park (FL) Branch
Nominated by Florence Bacas, AAUW Orlando/Winter Park (FL) Branch
Maria Santana is an educational equity leader inside and outside of AAUW. In addition to her work as the director of the women’s studies program at the University of Central Florida, she helped bring AAUW and Running Start’s Elect Her–Campus Women Win program to the campus. To ensure that the promise of Title IX reached community colleges, she also served as the AAUW liaison for a Community Action Project that provided resources for parenting students at Seminole State College. Nominator Florence Bacas describes Santana as an active and “exuberant worker on behalf of women’s rights.”
Mitzi Witchger, AAUW of Indiana
Nominated by Sharon Langlotz, AAUW of Indiana president
As a gender equity consultant, Mitzi Witchger advocates for equitable sports opportunities for girls as well as boys. Soon after Title IX became law, she joined the Women’s Sports Foundation Advisory Board and the Women’s Athletics Task Force and eventually created her own consulting company, GREAT (Girls Really Expect a Team). Mitzi was a pioneer in implementing a girls’ ice hockey program at Minnesota high schools; today, there are girls’ teams at more than 140 Minnesota high schools. “Mitzi Witchger has worked tirelessly to help [Title IX] become a reality,” says Langlotz, “Thanks to Mitzi, more and more girls are learning [that] sports are about so much more than the score!”
Nominated by Janani Janakiraman, AAUW Austin (TX) Branch
Although Priya Ramamoorthy and Kavya Ramamoorthy are future AAUW members, we celebrate their Title IX championship and the contributions of the AAUW Austin (TX) Branch. “After doing a research project on Title IX, where they received a lot of help from AAUW, my daughters Priya and Kavya Ramamoorthy (age 16) found that kids their age are not aware of Title IX or the challenges that women face in higher education. They recently set up a booth at the GenAustin We Are Girls conference to educate kids about Title IX. The purpose of their presentation was to motivate girls to appreciate and make use of the opportunities they have, to fight for inequalities when they encounter discrimination, and to show them that a federal law is on their side,” says AAUW Austin (TX) Branch member Janani Janakiraman.
Michelle Scatton-Tessier, AAUW Wilmington (NC) Branch
Nominated by the AAUW Wilmington (NC) Branch
“Michelle Scatton-Tessier, member of the AAUW Wilmington (NC) Branch, is the director of the Women’s Studies and Resource Center at the University of North Carolina, Wilmington. She works tirelessly to ensure that women receive the same opportunities as their male classmates, and she also actively advocates for the education of members of the university and surrounding community regarding women’s rights and access to equal opportunities. Michelle Scatton-Tessier is our Title IX Champion!” says AAUW Wilmington (NC) Branch President Phyllis Leimer.
Nominated by Maxine Lampe, AAUW of Iowa president
Since they were elected to Congress in 1974, two years after Title IX became law, Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Rep. George Miller (D-CA), pictured left, have been at the forefront of ensuring that Title IX remains strong, while also working to advance enforcement, awareness, and application of the law. Often working together, they have vastly improved gender equity in education across the nation. “Your commitment to women and girls has resulted in a stronger education system — one where all children are valued,” Maxine Lampe wrote in a letter to Harkin.
AAUW Action Fund Capitol Hill Lobby Corps
In recognition of more than 40 years of advocating for educational and economic equity for women and girls, AAUW Action Fund Capitol Hill Lobby Corps was named a 2015 Title IX Champion. Making more than 1,200 visits to U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives congressional offices each session, Lobby Corps volunteers contributed to the success of important legislative achievements including funding for enforcement of Title IX; inclusion of gender equity provisions in the Higher Education Act and Elementary and Secondary Education Act; passage of the Family and Medical Leave Act, the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, and the Violence Against Women Act; and much more. Congratulations, Lobby Corps!