Current Speaker Announcements

NCCWSL 2024 Conference Speakers

Shelia Higgs Burkhalter

Shelia Higgs Burkhalter, Vice President for Student Affairs at Winthrop University, is a celebrated higher education leader and best-selling author. With over 28 years in the field, she has contributed significantly to empowering female leaders through her work, including her acclaimed chapter “First, Only, Different” in “Brave Women at Work.” As a certified Executive & Leadership Transitions Coach and the 2023 NASPA Pillar of the Profession, Shelia mentors aspiring leaders, shaping the future of student affairs with her extensive experience and dynamic leadership programs.

Opening and Closing Speaker

Amanda McPherson - Life Coach and Speaker

Amanda McPherson, a recovering risk-avoidant Scaredy Cat turned award-winning life coach, speaker, and published writer, inspires with her journey from self-doubt to confidence. Having battled her own insecurities, Amanda empathizes with the struggles young women face, advocating introspection and personal growth as pathways to unlocking true potential and living authentically.

Kareene Moore - Principal Leadership Consultant

Motivated immigrant woman with an engineering degree and an MBA, I’ve navigated a 30-year software career at Microsoft, Teradata, and Optum. Despite being one of three women in a 1200-person engineering team, I rose above Senior Director, igniting my passion for women’s leadership in STEM. Pursuing a PhD in global leadership and change, I’ve identified 950+ resources outlining women’s workplace challenges. Now, I’m dedicated to empowering the next generation of women in STEM, leveraging my experience and research to ensure their success.

Yoo-Jin Kang - Executive Coach, Antiracism Consultant, & Healing Justice Practitioner

Yoo-Jin Kang, a first-gen Korean American from Seattle and DC, is an executive coach and healing justice practitioner. With over 10 years of experience blending antiracist equity principles, public health, and trauma-informed care, she designs programs and facilitates change. Pursuing a Masters of Public Health at UC Berkeley, she focuses on women of color’s health outcomes in the workplace. A trained yoga instructor and Reiki Energy healer, she enjoys outdoor activities, reading, and caring for her cat, Matcha.

Catherine Okafor - Assistant Director, Career Development & Employer Relations

Catherine Okafor, Assistant Director of Career Development at UNC Chapel Hill’s Kenan-Flagler Business School, offers career coaching to undergraduates and manages employer relationships across industries. With over 10 years in higher education, her focus includes college access, leadership development, and diversity, equity, and inclusion. She holds a Master’s in Education from Penn State and a Bachelor’s in Mass Communications from Barton College.

Stacy Miller - Founder/CEO

Stacy Miller, a Certified Financial Planner™ professional, is a sought-after speaker and writer featured in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, and CNBC. Specializing in empowering successful professional women, she helps them achieve financial security while making a positive impact on their community. Stacy is a member of NAPFA and FPA, holding an MBA in Finance from Auburn University and a Bachelor’s in Sociology from Boston University.

Beth Throne - Senior Associate Dean of Student Affairs and Adjunct Professor

Beth is a strategic educator known for innovative leadership in education, law, and talent development. As Senior Associate Dean of Student Affairs at Franklin & Marshall College, she oversees initiatives fostering student success and post-graduate outcomes. Beth teaches courses on life design and human resources management, leading seminars on leadership and career preparation. Prior to academia, she practiced law and worked in talent development at Randstad North America.

Samantha Zellner - Engineer

Sammy Zellner, a Process Engineer at Texas Instruments (TI), holds both a BS and MS in Materials Science. Passionate about job search, personal development, and workplace inclusion, Sammy is recognized as a new hire/intern training champion and advocate for women in engineering at her factory. She implemented a 90-day onboarding plan, reducing new hire ramp-up time from 6 to 3 months, improving retention rates, and easing workload stress. Sammy’s commitment to personal growth and inclusivity has earned her a place as the youngest female engineer on TI’s prestigious tech ladder and a mentor to her peers.

Olga Liapis-Muzzy - Owner + Operator

Olga Liapis-Muzzy is an expert in trauma-informed conflict resolution, facilitation, coaching, and restorative justice. With over 13 years in non-profit adult education, Olga is passionate about social and personal transformation, believing in a more compassionate world. Trained by leading institutes like the Center for Nonviolent Communication and the Gottman Institute, Olga holds a Bachelor’s from Indiana University. Based in Washington, DC, Olga enjoys dancing, yoga, and forest adventures with their wife, Nathalie.

Mish Lenhart - Director of Student Engagement

Mish, Director of Student Engagement at Ithaca College, leads student organizations, community service, and leadership programs. She emphasizes practical application in comprehensive leadership education, coordinating initiatives like the IC Women Leaders Series and BOLD Women’s Leadership Network. Mish also teaches Creative Leadership at Stevenson University, bringing experience from colleges across Maryland, California, and New York.

Megan Harth - Alumni

Megan Harth, recent Psychology graduate from West Chester University, co-founded the West Chester University Period Project, advocating for free menstrual products on campus. As Vice President of Operations for the Panhellenic Executive Council, she managed finances for ten sororities. Megan also served as new member educator for Phi Sigma Sigma. In her free time, she enjoys crocheting, pottery, and reading. Residing in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, Megan plans to take a gap year before pursuing law school to become a civil rights lawyer.

Grace Virtue - Principal

Grace Virtue, an interdisciplinary scholar and public affairs practitioner from Silver Spring, Maryland, holds a doctorate in media studies from Howard University, among other degrees. A Marcus Garvey Centenary Scholar and former fellow of the Inter-American Press Association, she runs her own consulting businesses and is set to publish “Old House and Red Neckties: A Memoir of Race, Resilience, and Selfhood.”

Cari Simon - Attorney

Cari Simon, a top Title IX Attorney, represents survivors of sexual assault, stalking, dating violence, and harassment nationwide. A Harvard Law School graduate, she has shaped Title IX definitions and litigated against universities. Simon advises legislative efforts, serves on the Sexual Misconduct Advisory Committee, and trains organizations on victims’ rights. Her work has gained recognition in major media outlets like The New York Times and NPR.

Nicola Brogan - Project Manager

Nicola Brogan, MSc, RN, is a passionate advocate and researcher in women’s reproductive health. With a Bachelor’s in Health Sciences and a Master’s in Interdisciplinary Health Sciences from the University of Ottawa, she focuses on contraception access. Nicola also holds a Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing from the University of Rochester. For five years, she has managed projects for the American Society for Emergency Contraception. When not working on ASEC projects, she can be found in the local children’s hospital emergency room.

Amanda Thomas-Paul - CEO and Mental Health & Race/Gender Equity Consultant

Amanda Thomas-Paul, LCSW, is a dedicated advocate for human rights and social justice. As a consultant and coach, she empowers leaders to enhance their cultural competency and inclusive leadership skills. Amanda also works as a psychotherapist, supporting college students in mental health and personal development.

Kevin Frick - Professor

Kevin Frick, PhD, is a seasoned health economist at Johns Hopkins University since 1996. Rising from assistant to full professor, they served as faculty senate president before becoming Vice Dean for Education at Carey Business School. Committed to mentoring women and promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion, Kevin empowers individuals to pursue success authentically. Their recent work includes advocating for diverse groups in classrooms and beyond, embodying a mission to amplify others’ voices and pursuits.

Ivana Robinson - Founder, Life & Leadership Coach

Ivana Robinson, a certified Life & Leadership Coach, empowers women to defy expectations and prioritize their desires without guilt. Through her email list and social media, she inspires thousands weekly to embrace bravery and confidence from within. Ivana’s rebellious journey reminds audiences that courage is inherent, while her self-care favorites include saying no and indulging in afternoon naps or Beyoncé concerts.

Judy A. Carbone - ERA Task Force Chair

Judy Carbone, 2019 Maryland Woman of Distinction, is a dedicated leader in Garrett County. As President of the local AAUW branch, she revitalized membership and championed the organization’s mission. Judy retired as volunteer coordinator for HART for Animals, managing hundreds of volunteers. Formerly at Garrett College, she mentored students and served on the Garrett County Commission for Women. Judy’s lifelong commitment to empowering students and fostering leadership makes her a true community advocate.

Lauren Taylor - Founder-Director

Lauren R. Taylor is a leading figure in gender-based violence prevention. Since 1978, she has empowered survivors and trained over 40,000 individuals through Defend Yourself. Co-founder of Safe Bars, her work extends nationwide. Lauren’s book “Get Empowered” and writings on violence prevention have gained widespread recognition. A sought-after speaker, she has presented at major conferences including the National Sexual Assault Conference.

India Prather - CEO | Founder

India Prather, Esq. is a licensed attorney in Florida and North Carolina. A Wake Forest University graduate, she earned over $240K in scholarships and taught bilingual Math with Teach for America before pursuing law. Graduating cum laude from the University of Miami School of Law in 2018, she initially worked at an Am Law 100 firm. Amidst Covid-19, India founded The Art of Scholarships (TAS), drawing on her own scholarship success. While practicing law, she mentors students and serves as a motivational speaker. Her students have collectively won over $4 million in scholarships.

Khala Smith - Founder of Align Mama LLC and Stay and Seek LLC

Khala Smith, a Maryland native, is an IO Psychologist and Business Professional with a Master’s in Industrial Organizational Psychology. With over 8 years of experience, Khala excels in executive leadership and strategic organizational development, aiming to revolutionize workplaces with innovative solutions and policy reforms.

Trishia Domingo - Release Manager at Accenture Federal Services

Trishia Domingo is a Release Manager at Accenture Federal Services, skilled in information technology and healthcare industries. With a Bachelor’s in Information Systems, she’s known for her proficiency in JIRA, Confluence, and the Microsoft Suite, as well as her leadership and social media expertise.

NCCWSL 2024 Women of Distinction Awardees

Brittany Packnett Cunningham

Brittany Packnett Cunningham is a leading voice in the intersection of culture and justice, recognized for her impactful work by President Barack Obama. Serving as Vice President of Social Impact at BET, a Political Analyst for NBC News and MSNBC, and hosting the podcast UNDISTRACTED, Brittany is dedicated to advancing social change and empowerment. Rooted in her activism during the Ferguson Uprising, she co-hosted the acclaimed podcast Pod Save The People and founded Love & Power Works, a social impact firm. Brittany’s influence extends globally, with her TED Talk reaching millions and her advocacy earning accolades such as being named one of TIME Magazine’s 12 New Faces of Black Leadership. Committed to the principles of love and justice, Brittany continues to inspire through her activism and leadership. You can follow her across social media @MsPackyetti on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook & Tik Tok.

Gitanjali Rao

Gitanjali Rao, at just 18 years old, is an inventor, scientist, author, and advocate for STEM education worldwide. Her work includes inventing an innovative lead contamination detection tool, earning her recognition as America’s Top Young Scientist and a recipient of an EPA Presidential award. She has also developed “Epione,” a device for early diagnosis of prescription opioid addiction, and “Kindly,” an anti-cyberbullying service using AI and Natural Language processing. Gitanjali has been honored as Forbes’ “30 Under 30 in Science” in 2019 and TIME’s “Top Young Innovator” and “TIME Kid of the Year.” Her book, “Young Innovator’s Guide to STEM,” available in six languages, guides students and educators through a self-developed innovation process. Appointed as a UNICEF Youth Advocate in 2021, Gitanjali is committed to using science to tackle social issues and has been recognized with the Muhammed Ali Humanitarian and Martin Luther King Beloved Community award for her service to refugee camp students. Currently a freshman at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Gitanjali continues to inspire and empower future generations in the fields of science and technology.

Tressie McMillan Cottom

Dr. Tressie McMillan Cottom is a professor in the School of Information and Library Science and Principal Investigator in the Center for Information, Technology, and Public Life at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, NY Times opinion columnist, and 2020 MacArthur Fellow. Recent accolades include being named the 2023 winner of the Joseph B. and Toby Gittler Prize by Brandeis University for her “critical perspective and analysis to some of the greatest social challenges we face today.” McMillan Cottom’s most recent book, THICK: And Other Essays (The New Press 2019), won the Brooklyn Public Library’s 2019 Literary Prize and was shortlisted for the National Book Award in nonfiction. For more information visit or on Twitter @tressiemcphd.

AAUW Maryland Woman of Distinction: Dian Belanger

Dian Olson Belanger, an independent historian and author, is renowned for her expertise in the intersection of science, history, and wildlife management. Her notable works include “Deep Freeze: The United States, the International Geophysical Year, and the Origins of Antarctica’s Age of Science,” and “Managing American Wildlife,” which earned The Wildlife Society’s national book award. Beyond her scholarly pursuits, she has been instrumental in advancing women’s education and leadership through her extensive involvement with the American Association of University Women (AAUW). With over 50 years of dedicated service, she has held national leadership positions, participated in lobbying efforts, and contributed significantly to archiving the organization’s rich history. As an honorary life member, Dian remains actively engaged as Co-President of the Kensington-Rockville Branch, embodying her commitment to education, historical preservation, and gender equality.

Irma Becerra, Ph.D.

Dr. Irma Becerra took office as the seventh President of Marymount University on July 1, 2018. In her five-plus years as President, she has launched the University’s new Strategic Plan, earned national recognition in the U.S. News & World Report’s Best Colleges Rankings as well as America’s Top Colleges by Forbes, added market-driven academic programs, overseen the transition to a new academic structure, acquired a luxury apartment building that is now a mixed-use property that combines student housing with an extended stay hotel, improved the University’s IT infrastructure, navigated the school community through the COVID-19 pandemic and led efforts at the state and federal levels to advocate for legislative solutions to the DACA program that will protect Dreamer students.