Women Who Lead
#WomenWhoLead is a regular feature that highlights faculty, staff, students and alumni across all three of Texas Woman’s University's campuses who show leadership skills in their daily lives and are making an impact on our institution, communities and society. Follow TWU on social media to read about new leaders every week:
If you would like to recommend a faculty, staff, current student or alumni to be featured, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Now in pursuit of a master’s degree in political science, Dawna-Diamond Tyson holds, arguably, TWU’s highest student role: Student Regent. She is the first graduate student in TWU history to hold that post. While not a voting member, she acts as a voice for students on the Denton, Dallas and Houston campuses to TWU’s Board of Regents and represents TWU at the highest levels within Texas higher education.
A Navy veteran is using her military experience to advocate for veterans, women and minorities
Enlisting in the military was an easy choice for Chanel VanHook ― sort of.
Texas Woman’s MBA student Iswariya Baskar is helping the next generation of women enter the tech world.
Doctoral student Esther Ajayi-Lowo is giving a voice to the diverse perspectives of marginalized women through teaching, research and advocacy. Her dissertation, “Decolonizing Childbirth: Women, Traditional Birth Attendants and Reproductive Justice in Nigeria,” explores the significance of indigenous birthing knowledge and women’s socio-cultural and spiritual birthing standpoints for reproductive justice in her home country of Nigeria.
As a child growing up in Greenville, Texas, Texas Woman’s occupational therapy alumna Christina Hill (MOT ’14) combatted issues of alcoholism, drug addiction and poverty within her family and herself. But with the help of her faith, the discipline of martial arts, and most importantly, the support of her son and husband, she has dedicated her life to helping others persevere through their own struggles.
The three letters “DNP” changed the trajectory of a friendship. Now, they’re helping the next generation of black women to lead in their own fields.
Despite the loss of a daughter, her father and her grandfather, TWU student finds a new chapter and an inspiration for writing in her three little girls.
After graduation, TWU social work senior Marissa Valtierra has a job lined up as a CPS investigator. But first, she has another important job to finish.
Though she doesn’t consider herself a seamstress, Occupational Therapy Associate Professor Tina Fletcher, EdD, is sewing colorful masks in hopes of offering comfort and cheer to elderly neighbors who are anxious over the coronavirus.
Sometimes, heroes really do wear masks.
That might be the best way to characterize Dr. Fuqin Liu during this coronavirus pandemic. Liu, an associate professor in TWU’s College of Nursing in Denton, assembled a large cadre of North Texans to collect badly needed personal protective equipment for health care professionals who are responding to the crisis.
It was a mere week before Operation Frequent Wind, the final evacuation from Saigon, South Vietnam, in 1975. Someone looked at her and said, “We are evacuating. Would you like to go?”
The American Library Association recently named Texas Woman’s alumna Tracie Walker-Reed (BS ’90, MLS ’07) as one of only 10 librarians nationwide to receive its annual I Love My Librarian! Award. The award recognizes lasting contributions of dynamic librarians working in public, school, college, community college and university libraries.
TWU’s Stachia McGee chosen for selective Congressional Black Caucus Foundation internship
Stachia McGee is now one of only 15 students selected through a highly competitive application process for a prestigious Congressional Black Caucus Foundation Emerging Leaders internship this spring in Washington, D.C. She is the first TWU student to earn a place in the program, which aims to address the underrepresentation of African Americans among professional staffers on Capitol Hill.
TWU biology graduate student Daisy Cantu is pioneering pain research for women
As a young girl growing up in Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, Daisy Cantu was fascinated by the natural world and dreamed of becoming a doctor. She hoped to find a role model in the medical field who could provide some guidance, but as a child, she was struggling just to find a long-term living situation and a permanent family.
Mending seams and broken dreams through education, community service
For Texas Woman’s alumna Carla Robertson (BS ‘85), fashion has always been a do-it-yourself endeavor. At the age of six, Robertson learned how to sew from her mother. By the time she was 12, she was making all of her own clothes, and at 16, she began sewing custom creations for private clients.
TWU student brings plant-based eating to local food desert
Sociology doctoral student Vanessa Ellison is keen on greens. Through a recently awarded Pioneer Center for Student Excellence experiential learning grant, she will launch her passion project, “Power of Your Plate: A Juneteenth Summit.”
TWU student leads cause for change in Zambia
TWU PhD student Muchinka Peele (special education) is on a mission to help the people of Zambia. Traditionally in her home country, those with disabilities have been shamed and hidden. Education and advocacy are slowly changing these views, and Peele is leading the cause.
A Texas Woman’s degree is helping one student fulfill a culinary passion nearly 30 years in the making.
In 2009, Merrilee Kick was a high school teacher enrolled in TWU’s Executive MBA program wanting to make more money to support her family. Things were tough, and she needed a great business plan both for her capstone project and her future. What she got was the inspiration and drive that would completely change her life.
A professional ballet dancer whose international career was cut short due to a series of injuries is pursuing a degree at Texas Woman’s University to help others avoid the same fate.
Creating original gourmet cuisine from scratch in 40 minutes would be stressful for most people, but imagine doing it for an audience of 3 million people. That was the life of TWU alumna Michelle Tribble as a contestant on the Season 17 All-Stars edition of Hell’s Kitchen.
TWU alumna Roxanne Vogel has taken mountain climbing to new heights.
An experienced mountaineer who’s climbed the tallest mountains on nearly all the continents, Vogel set a unique goal for herself to become the first person to scale Mt. Everest – going up from sea level, to the top of the world and back down – in a record-making two weeks. By comparison, the average climber takes two months to climb the world’s tallest peak.
Associate professor and director of TWU’s counseling psychology master's program, Claudia Porras Pyland, Ph.D., knew from an early age that she wanted to become a psychologist.
TWU alumna Amber Fletcher has had quite a journey from carnival kid to successful entrepreneur. As the head of marketing for her family’s business, the multi-million-dollar Texas staple Fletcher’s Original State Fair Corny Dogs, she is making waves and forging new paths as a third-generation business owner.
Recent graduate Morgan Villavaso chose to attend TWU because she was inspired by its purpose and mission, which is “rooted in the truth that educating women empowers the world.” She chose to study sociology because of its humanitarian focus. “Sociology taught me to move through the world with a conscientious and critical lens,” said Villavaso.
A college professor could write a lengthy dissertation on the importance of sharpening Spanish and English skills in schoolchildren, but Jessica Hoyos can sum up her position in short order: “I want young people to think of Spanish as a strength, not a weakness.”
So it shouldn’t surprise anyone that Hoyos, a Texas Woman’s University senior interdisciplinary studies major with a concentration in bilingual education, is passionate about becoming a teacher.
College of Business professor Pushkala Raman, PhD, began using experiential learning projects long before it became part of Texas Woman’s University’s focus. In fact, Raman had not even heard the term “experiential learning” when she began looking for real-world experiences for her students.
Eight years ago, TWU Occupational Therapy professor Tina Fletcher, EdD, MFA, OTR, collaborated with the Dallas Museum of Art to host sensory friendly events to build autism awareness and bring OT training and teaching opportunities to her students. The events have now expanded across Dallas and influenced museum planners and therapists across the globe.
While exploring our favorite college town of Denton, Texas, you are guaranteed to come across a lot of beautiful art. One of the artists responsible for beautifying Denton landscapes and the websites of local businesses is Katie Mont, Texas Woman’s graphic design alumna, artist and entrepreneur.
Haley Taylor Schlitz graduated high school at the age of 13. She was accepted into 17 universities but had trouble finding exactly what she was looking for in a school ... until she toured TWU. Now, at 16 years old, Taylor Schlitz is graduating with an undergraduate degree in interdisciplinary studies before law school.
Asiyah Martin always loved the art of storytelling, first through dance and later through video production. From creating her own videos to directing larger local projects, Martin is carving a path into the film industry.
Texas Woman’s alumna Luci Romberg has come a long way since her time as a two-sport student athlete at TWU. Today, she’s a professional stuntwoman in some of the world’s biggest blockbusters and part owner of a freerunning business.
Laryn Kropik discovered her creative side while struggling with depression and fell in love with art. This led her to pursue a degree in psychology, pre-occupational therapy, with hopes to heal future patients physically and mentally through occupational therapy and art.
Texas Woman’s physical therapy professor and alumna Rupal M. Patel, PT, PhD, attributes her servant’s heart with growing up in India and the values she inherited from her parents when immigrating to the United States. These values now drive Patel to give back to the physical therapy profession and her doctor of physical therapy (DPT) students on TWU’s Houston campus.
Texas Woman’s University professors Kathleen Davis, Ph.D. (nutrition and food sciences) and Marilyn Massey-Stokes, Ed.D. (health promotion and kinesiology) recognized a need for new approaches to combat childhood obesity. A current research project may give them the answers – and it may be as simple as picking up a cellphone.
As an undergraduate nursing student Shannon Duncan’s passion for the healthcare field was clear. However, she knew if she wanted to help more people and further her career, she needed to become involved in research on campus.
Duncan is now the first undergraduate student to walk into TWU Dallas’ Center for Research Design and Analysis (CRDA) on her own in pursuit of opportunities. This first step led Duncan on a journey that would end with her work published in the Journal of Forensic Nursing.
She graduated first in her class at Lake Worth High School and had a penchant for math, so it seemed like a good bet that Adriana Blanco would earn a degree in that discipline at Texas Woman’s University and then teach.
While most students are on vacation or enjoying a relaxing break from school, Shiley Ferguson donates her time to others through Alternative Spring Break (ASB) volunteer programs. Ferguson has already participated in two ASB trips and will embark on her third and final trip this year before graduating with a nursing degree in May.
Texas Woman’s alum and current Gymnastics Head Coach Lisa Bowerman never expected to spend more than a decade with the Pioneer Gymnastics Team, but that mindset changed rather quickly after she joined the team in 2005.
Anngienetta Johnson’s love for math started with a simple grade school feeling of being good at it. While studying mathematics at Texas Woman’s, Johnson suddenly found herself nominated by the head of the department for a co-op program with NASA. Little did she know this opportunity would lead to a lifelong career with NASA.
Dewaynna Horn, PhD, originally planned to pursue a career in chemical engineering, not business. Then, life happened. Horn dropped out of school twice before committing to college full time at age 21. That’s when business found her. Horn is now an associate professor in management on Texas Woman’s Houston campus and the College of Business’s associate dean for accreditation.
From an early age, Texas Woman’s University graduate student Adrian Lee knew she wanted a future in healthcare. After her father became ill when she was in the eighth grade, Lee remembers being confused by and unclear on what exactly was happening.
Sometimes, inspiration comes from places we least expect it.
For Sabrenda Littles -- a member of TWU’s Houston nursing faculty, a business owner and a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army Reserves – inspiration came during numerous hospital waiting room visits as a child.
From volunteering at the Texas Fashion Collection, designing and modeling in many TWU fashion shows, participating in the Alpha Alpha Chapter of the Phi Upsilon Omicron Honor Society and practicing Irish Step Dancing, Sager had a busy schedule. Then she designed Texas Woman’s official tartan.
Passion and focus helped Schyler Jones lead the TWU gymnastics team to back-to-back national championships in 2017 and 2018. Chances are pretty good those two personality traits will play a major role as she pursues a longtime dream of becoming a teacher.
She wasn’t even old enough to vote in 2017, but when TWU psychology major Sandra Moreno was in high school, she mobilized a force strong enough to impact a school board election.
Kinesiology senior Audra Romans made the most of her Texas Woman’s undergraduate experience as an Honors Scholar, Pioneer Ambassador, Kinesiology Club member and student employee in several departments on campus. Then, during her final semester, Romans and five other kinesiology students competed and won first place as TWU’s inaugural team in the Texas Space Grant Consortium (TSGC) Design Challenge, sponsored by NASA.
Just before she transferred to Texas Woman’s University, Kyra Solis’ career plan seemed set: First, a nursing school education and then a steady position with a hospital or doctor’s group. But a dose of reality hit her shortly after her transfer, when she learned that getting into nursing school wasn’t as easy as she thought. Her grades were good enough, but the competition was fierce.
A frank discussion with an academic adviser got her thinking about another academic opportunity, and in a similar direction: Health Studies.
As an undergraduate honors student and G-Force mentor, Jassmine Marquez guided others to pursue higher education. Now, as a Texas Woman’s graduate student, she is continuing to help other students as an internship ambassador and academic coach.
Whether it’s pursuits in business, technology, magazine publishing or philanthropy, Texas Woman’s University alumna Lumbie Mlambo’s approach reveals two things: relentless passion and a philosophy of “equanimity,” or balance and composure in the face of adversity.
Growing up in a South Texas farming community with nine brothers and sisters was a struggle for Sylvia Garcia’s family, and that taught her about hard work and perseverance.
Being active in student government while attending Texas Woman’s University ignited a passion in her for public service, and that taught her about leadership.
With a passion for saving the environment, Texas Woman’s graduate student Renee Phetsopha splits her time between registering students to vote and conducting lab research with adjunct faculty member Gustavo Salazar Garza, PhD.
It seems like Monica Mathis (DPT '20) is always moving. That’s not exactly unexpected for a physical therapy graduate student, but with Mathis, if you blink, she might already be on to her next commitment. In the five and a half years she’s been at TWU, Mathis hasn’t shown any signs of slowing down – from her first year as a shy, soft-spoken undergraduate kinesiology major to the outgoing, confident student in the physical therapy graduate program she is today.
As a lifelong lover of the outdoors, Kaitlyn Houser (B.S. '19) dreamed of encouraging others to get outside and experience nature. When Texas Woman’s University joined Outdoor Nation (ON), she found the perfect opportunity to inspire students to get active on campus. Today, as TWU’s ON Campus Ambassador, she is taking it one step further and inspiring others to witness nature off campus.
Although she has only just begun her second year in the Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) program at Texas Woman's University Institute of Health Sciences – Houston Center, Meagan Ortega has already made a lasting impact in both her professional and local communities.
Guadalupe Resendiz didn't waste a second of her senior year in the Texas Woman’s social work program. In between a packed class schedule, Resendiz also explored her passion for volunteer work. After discovering the International Studies Abroad (ISA) program, an education abroad affiliated partner with TWU, Resendiz found an opportunity to merge two of her passions - school and volunteer work through missions.
As a Texas Woman’s University transfer student in the 1990s, Angeles González spotted a magazine picture of several college women all wearing matching shirts with Greek letters on them – and the women all looked like her. The sorority was at a college in Pennsylvania, she remembered, and she reached out to the organization to see about establishing a new chapter at TWU.
As executive director of TWU’s Office of Diversity, Inclusion and Outreach (DIO), Becky Rodriguez draws on her experiences as a first-generation Latina student to serve as a mentor and create programs for TWU students just like her.
Her sisters drew her to Texas Woman’s University, a professor boosted her admission to law school, and a series of mentors helped her navigate a tight path to a federal bench. Now, U.S. District Judge Alia Moses is helping others find solid footing of their own.
Joan Denton (MS '18) knew she wanted to be a registered dietitian, but never felt at ease in a hospital. When she expressed her interests to one of her Texas Woman’s University nutrition professors, Denton discovered she could be categorized as a “culinary dietitian.” This set Denton on to create her own path in the field of nutrition.
For Hannah Werchan, art doesn’t imitate life. Life inspires art.
The senior art student at Texas Woman’s University has created an entire series of self-portrait oil paintings that can attest to that.
You might have trouble finding caterpillars, termites and fermented milk on store shelves in Texas, but, as a Texas Woman’s University global perspectives class learned in the Spring 2018 semester, these are staples in South Africa.
Through a unique partnership, Nutrition and Food Sciences assistant professor Monique LeMieux, PhD, took an introductory Food and Culture class to the next level by co-teaching with a professor from the University of Venda (UNIVEN) in South Africa.
Almost as far back as she can remember, Texas Woman’s University graduate student Deyaun Seale has longed for a career in the health care industry. Helping others is important to her, and that’s her passion.
When her mother was diagnosed with cancer three years ago, it hit Seale hard. That her mom is a cancer survivor and is herself pursing a degree in nursing is inspiring. That’s what motivates Seale.
Mary L.A. Stanton has had many titles in her life, including mother, wife, world traveler, investor and business owner. But one title she's especially proud of is Texas Woman's University alumna.
Page last updated 1:14 PM, November 12, 2020