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Who We Are

Steering Committee

Ann Chester, Assistant Vice President for Education Partnerships, Health Sciences
Lisa DeFrank-Cole, Director and Associate Professor, Leadership Studies, Eberly College of Arts & Sciences
Hawley Montgomery-Downs, Associate Professor of Psychology, Eberly College of Arts and Sciences
Jennifer Knight, Associate Program Director General Surgery Residency Program; Associate Professor, School of Medicine
Melissa Latimer, Director, WVU ADVANCE Center; Professor of Sociology and Adjunct Professor of Women’s and Gender Studies, Eberly College of Arts & Sciences
Jena Martin, Professor, College of Law 
Presha Neidermeyer, WVU ADVANCE Fellow; Professor of Accounting, College of Business and Economics
Jennifer Orlikoff, President, Potomac State College
Melanie Page, Associate Vice President for Creative and Scholarly Activity, Professor of Psychology, WVU Research Office
Christina Wilson, Clinical Associate Professor, Behavioral Medicine & Psychiatry, School of Medicine

Our History

In December 2011, a group of women convened in the Dean’s conference room in the Reed School of Journalism. It was an exciting time as the Provost was interested in building a program for female leaders at WVU and this was the first meeting of the group.   

Dean Maryanne Reed, who had successfully completed her five-year review, had just finished a women’s forum at Harvard as a professional development opportunity. Having had such a positive experience, Dean Reed asked then-Provost Michele Wheatly to create a program where WVU women could learn more about leadership skills. In the spring 2012 semester, 29 mostly senior-level women participated in a leadership development program in which each woman was part of a small group, or pod. Each group met once a month with the guidance of two coaches from Boston, who facilitated the meetings via video conference. They shared chocolate, as well as the book How Remarkable Women Lead, by Cranston and Lewis. Shortly after this meeting, a new initiative was born at WVU: the “Developing Women Leaders” program.    

After a wildly successful semester, these women had been trained as coaches and committed to expanding the program to others on campus. Of the initial 29 women who were first coached, 22 became coaches themselves and thus propagated the program. The name was changed to the “Women’s Leadership Initiative” to better describe the program. 

The second phase of the program began in January 2013, and the pod-structure was mimicked. Forty-three women completed the program in May 2013. During the years 2014–2015, four more cohorts completed the program, which culminated in additional outside training for WLI members who had participated in internal coaching in the spring of 2015. 

A third phase of training began in 2016–2017, while we initiated the development of an internal curriculum for the WLI targeted for use in the spring of 2018. During this time, the group continued to serve over 150 active members through an on campus communication training workshop facilitated by Associate Dean Tracy Morris, ADVANCE facilitation training provided by members of the ADVANCE team, and notable breakfast meetings including discussions led by Associate Vice President for Research and Scholarly Activities Dean Melanie Page and Associate Dean for Innovation and Global Development Jena Martin, Director Lisa DeFrank-Cole, and President E. Gordon Gee. We continue to offer external development for our faculty, including a training session led by Jill Geisler, author of Work Happy: What Great Bosses Know and Dr. Jan Greenwood of Greenwood/Asher & Associates.