Women of Color Leadership Project

Women of Color Leadership Project (WoCLP)

The NWSA Women of Color Caucus (WoCC), Program Administration and Development Committee (PAD), and the Women’s Centers Committee (WCC) jointly sponsor the Women of Color Leadership Project (WoCLP) in conjunction with the PAD and WCC Pre-Conferences. The WoCLP is an annual (one day) pre-conference initiative designed to increase the number of women of color students, staff, and faculty members within the field of women’s studies and women’s centers and, consequently, to have an impact on the levels of participation and power by women of color in the field of women’s studies and women’s centers, in NWSA, and in PAD and WCC.

Women of color in women’s studies, ethnic studies, or related fields may apply if they aspire to leadership within women’s studies or NWSA. Applicants may include advanced graduate students, faculty, and current program administrators who wish to be more involved in program or Association leadership.

Participants of the 2023 cohort of the Women of Color Leadership Project

Participants of the 2023 cohort of the Women of Color Leadership Project (Baltimore, MD USA); Photographed by Enrique Muchacho

Program Benefits

  • Valuable networking and professional development opportunities at the pre-conference, the NWSA general conference, and via the Women of Color Caucus.
  • One-year complimentary individual membership and general conference registration during the first year of participation.
  • Complimentary PAD or WCC pre-conference registration the following year. (To participate in the second year, participants email the registration form after registration opens for the year. Individual membership is not included in the second year).
  • Opportunities to meet and interact with other women of color who possess a similar interest in program or center administration, as well as women of color who already have administrative experience.
  • The support, companionship, and advocacy of the Women of Color Caucus.
  • An opportunity to shape the future of the NWSA and women’s studies as a field by participating and exchanging ideas.
  • Serving as a conduit for other women of color to become more involved in women’s studies.

If a person is accepted into a WoCLP Cohort and is unable attend, they will not be able to defer, but can apply the following year.

Applications for the 2024 WoCLP Cycle closes on May 15th

Submit your 2024 Application!


The WoCLP Advisory Board 

History and Context | Proposal created in November 2016

In 2001, the Women of Color Leadership Project (WoCLP) was founded as a mentoring and support system to train and prepare women of color for leadership roles within the National Women’s Studies Association (NWSA). Since Layli Maparayan, the first WoCLP co-chair, began the program, the WoCLP has trained approximately 580 women of color and non-binary people of color from across the United States of America, Canada, Asia, and Europe - growing from training one cohort of twenty participants per year to two cohorts of 20 per year. Former participants have gone on to serve in different leadership roles throughout NWSA, including president, vice president, and as the co-chairs of a variety of caucuses and interest groups, including the Women of Color and Lesbian Caucuses.

Since its inception, the WoCLP co-chairs and participants have depended upon the support of a network of former WoCLP co-chairs and participants. The grassroots network typically assists with selecting and training WoCLP co-chairs; reading applications and selecting cohort participants; assisting co-chairs with their leadership in curriculumdevelopment and selecting readings and resources; and, providing hands-on support on the day of the Project. In addition, former WoCLP co-chairs have stepped in last minute to facilitate the program in the case of emergencies and other contingencies.

In forming an Advisory Board, the pilot council worked to make explicit what has formerly existed as an informal network, and what constitutes the way the labor of the WoCLP is accomplished each year. As members who are currently serving in these grassroots organizing roles, we view this Advisory Board to essential to the ongoing success and continuity of the WoCLP. Because the Project was birthed out of the activism of the members of the Women of Color Caucus, we feel a special obligation to ensure that the vision, support, and mentoring for the program continue to originate from women of color in the association—and specifically the WoCC. This is also the way we intend to be accountable to the original vision of the Project, which was to provide women of color with the necessary tools to participate at all levels of leadership in NWSA.

While the Advisory Board is envisioned as a more formal and explicit entity, it is critical to recognize that this does not change the grassroots nature of the way past WoCLP co-chairs have sustained and nurtured the program over decades. The Advisory Board does not constitute a new way of doing things related to the project. Rather, it recognizes the invisible labor of women of color who sustain the Project through their personal and political commitments to mentoring and supporting women of color. The Advisory Board also ensures that decades down the road, there is a process and structure by which grassroots organizers can be empowered to carry the Project into the future with support from the Executive Director and National Office team. Most importantly, the Advisory Board ensures that the Project remains accountable to the vision of the members of the WoCC, which is the primary body of representation for women of color across the NWSA. Finally, we hope that the board will assist in ensuring the consistency and quality of the program over the years by providing the necessary support to existing co-chairs each year.


WoCLP Advisory Board members must be former WoCLP participants with at least three years of consecutive NWSA membership, in addition to their WoCLP participation. Board members will be appointed, except for the two rotating seats which will originate in the WoCC and the WoCLP.

We envision an Advisory Board of seven members. Five of the seven seats will be appointed based on interest in ongoing support of the WoCLP, and willingness to serve in these support roles in consultation with the WOCC (co)Chairs, the National Office, and if applicable the Association President. Two of the seats will be rotating seats held for 1) a current co-chair of the WoCLP and 2) a current co-chair of the WoCC. While these two positions will be held by a chair of record, like the Governing Council, all chairs of the Project and the Caucus will be included on phone calls and in meetings.

For the pilot phase of the Advisory Board, the following 5 former members agreed to serve in support of the project: Lydia Kelow-Bennett, Mel Michele Lewis, Yi-Chun Tricia Lin, Vivien Ng, and Stephanie Troutman. Karsonya Wise Whitehead served on the rotating seat for the Women of Color Caucus. Treva Lindsey and Cara Hagan served as the rotating seat for the WoCLP co-chair during the pilot structuring of the Board.

This initial Board was selected based on the individuals who were already serving in support roles at the WoCLP, most especially those members who consistently attend the conference early on Thursday in order to be on hand to provide mentoring and support. It was also selected based on a combination of senior scholar members and members who have held Executive Council positions, as well as recent graduates of the program.

Moving forward, members of the WoCLP and the WoCC will be informed of the Advisory Board, and of the process for putting their names forward to be considered. The intention of the Board is to continue to balance senior scholar wisdom with recent graduate vision.


While the role of the existing co-chairs is to plan and facilitate the WoCLP training during their appointed terms, they also perform considerable labor through the participant selection process, curriculum planning, materials, and scheduling. Co-chairing the WoCLP is a full-year commitment with a significant amount of time. The Advisory Board will therefore support this effort in the same ways that former members have always supported the Project: identify applicants for, and vet co-chair applications to ensure that leaders being trained on an ongoing basis; assist co-chairs with support and training to prepare them for the Project itself, including hands-on support—as requested by the chairs—the day of the Project; assist identifying past WoCLP participants to select applications, and when necessary, provide this support themselves; maintain and promote strong connections and accountability between the WoCLP and the Women of Color Caucus (WoCC); serve as support and mentors for the WoCLP co-chairs throughout their tenure; and, plan and organize the yearly WoCLP reception program content.

The Advisory Board will engage in quarterly calls with the current co-chairs to ensure consistent communication, and to be available for support. Advisory Board members who are able will also be on hand to support WoCLP on the Thursday of pre-conferences.


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Women's Centers Committee

Women's Centers are unarguably transformative sites of change for all members of a campus community. The first postsecondary women's center was founded in 1960 at the University of Minnesota and the legacy of addressing national issues of gender equity and support continues to expand. Our colleagues in campus-based women's centers work tirelessly to "deploy an intersectional lens in their work" and strive to address the historical (and in many ways ongoing) and institutional contexts that challenge the reach of Women's Centers. 

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Program Administration and Development Committee

The Program Administration and Development (PAD) Committee is one of two groups that focus on roles that are vital to the NWSA mission; it serves as a space for program chairs and directors to network, coalition build, and share resources aimed at sustaining the work of women's, gender, and sexuality studies academic departments/programs. 

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2024 Advisory Board Members

Lydia Kelow-Bennett
Sheri Lewis, 2024 WoCLP Chair
Shaeeda Mensah, Chair
Yi-Chun Tricia Lin
Valerie Taylor, Women of Color Caucus Co-Chair
Farha Ternikar