WomenNC’s calendar year begins in July of each year. Our Board members typically serve for two year terms, although some remain for an additional year. WomenNC strives to have a diverse Board that includes multiple generations, men and women, many cultural and ethnic backgrounds, and a variety of career experiences.
Dr. Maria Murray Riemann — Executive Director
Dr. Maria Murray Riemann is a seasoned nonprofit executive, having been Executive Director of CONCERT, Inc., a community-based non-profit serving East Raleigh youth and families with after school and summer academically oriented programs. She also has served as Communications Director at Methodist Home for Children working with families to foster, adopt, and find placement for children She has also worked in state government, serving as Deputy Director of the North Carolina Council for Women and Youth Involvement, the state agency tasked with advising the governor, legislature, and state agencies on issue that impact women. As a scholar, Dr. Riemann’s work has focused on the importance of families, particularly the role of women and mothers, in creating the conditions for a robust political democracy. As an advocate she is a former Board member of the N.C Chapter of UN Women, connecting local women and their concerns to the international women’s movements.
2020-21 WomenNC Board Members
Wendee Wechsberg, PhD – President
Wendee M. Wechsberg, PhD, is the Director of the Substance Use, Gender and Applied Research Program and Founding Director of the RTI Global Gender Center at RTI International. She is also Adjunct Professor in Health Policy and Management at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Gillings School of Global Public Health and Adjunct Professor of Psychology at North Carolina State University, and Adjunct Professor in Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Duke University School of Medicine. Dr. Wechsberg started her career in 1977 as an addiction clinician and later as a treatment director, but since 1994, she has devoted her career fulltime to applied research using both mixed methods to develop and test the efficacy of HIV prevention interventions among diverse populations of substance abusers. Dr. Wechsberg is the developer of the woman-focused HIV prevention program, the Women’s (WC). The WC is one of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s best-evidence HIV behavioral prevention interventions. It has been adapted specifically for underserved and vulnerable adult and adolescent women in the United States and in multiple regions in South Africa, Tanzania, the Republic of Georgia, and Russia. One South African adaptation (the Women’s Health CoOp [WHC]) is listed in the U.S. Agency for International Development Promising Practices Project’s Compendium of Programs in Africa and has been packaged for implementation into usual care settings in South Africa. The theoretical framework of the women’s intervention is based on empowerment theory, which helps women to take charge of their lives by reducing substance use and gender-based violence; learning sexual negotiation and communication skills; and, more recently, learning the importance of PrEP and antiretroviral adherence.
Currently, her research is funded by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, the Eunice Kennedy Shriver Institute of Child Health and Human Development, and NIDA. Dr. Wechsberg has published extensively on gender and ethnicity, outreach, substance abuse treatment, HIV risk, cultural adaptations, and intervention outcomes, including 145 peer-reviewed publications and 15 books and chapters. She was awarded NIDA’s International Award for Excellence in Mentoring in 2013, NIDA’s Pioneer Award in 2015, and RTI’s Margaret Knox Award in 2018.
Melissa Peters – Vice President and Fundraising Committee Chair
Melissa Peters is a business professional specializing in new business development, account management, and strategic processes. She has been actively involved in feminist efforts for over a decade, working with and volunteering for a variety of nonprofit organizations that aim to improve the lives of women and promote gender equality, including her long tenure in many roles at WomenNC. Combined with her feminist passion and educational background is in psychology and women and gender studies, Melissa uses her operational-oriented thinking to provide guidance to and support for organizations of many shapes and sizes.
Kate Plourde – Secretary and Program Committee Chair
Kate is a Technical Advisor within the Research Utilization unit at FHI 360. Her areas of expertise include gender equality and gender analysis, improving the health and well-being of adolescent girls and young women (AGYW), youth sexual and reproductive health, digital health, and program adaptation and scale-up. Plourde has published papers on the impact of protective assets on the reproductive health of adolescent girls and young women, the scale-up of normative change interventions for adolescent and youth reproductive health, how to better serve adolescent key populations, and digital health programs, among other topics. She earned an MPH in international health from Boston University and is a DrPH candidate at the University of Illinois at Chicago.
Caitlyn Grimes – PR and Marketing Committee Chair
Caitlyn Grimes graduated from Meredith College in May of 2018 with a Bachelors of Arts in Political Science and Communication. Currently, Caitlyn is the Press Assistant for the Governor’s Office where she specializes in public relations, mass communication, public policy, and community engagement. Caitlyn was a Women NC Scholar from 2017-2018, where she researched communication and campaign strategies to advance the status of rural women in North Carolina. In addition, Caitlyn has served as a Finance Fellow for a gubernatorial campaign, Legislative Intern for a U.S. House Representative, Legal Intern in Canberra, Australia, and a Press Office Intern for North Carolina’s Governor.
Stephanie Trunzo – Strategic Planning Chair
A self-described “tech geek,” Stephanie Trunzo, is Group Vice President of Transformations and Offerings at Oracle where she brings together technology and the human experts for clients to take legacy architectures into the future with cloud and autonomous enterprise strategies. She has 20 years’ experience, from executive roles at IBM and Oracle, to leading her start-up through a public company acquisition. She holds over 20 patents and is an active advisor to start-ups and several nonprofits as well as a seasoned speaker, business writer and teacher.
Joy Cook, entrepreneur and founder and President of Joy Cook Public Relations Group, is a communications and digital engagement consultant specializing in public relations, publicity, and the art of strategic communication. She has been a lead strategist and manager of key public relations campaigns including the White House acclaimed, Healthcare Faith Community Summit
Aa a 2019-20 WomenNC scholar, Sara Darwish presented research on menstrual equity at the 63rd United Nations Commission on the Status of Women. She currently is a Master of Public Policy candidate at Duke University’s Sanford School of Public Policy having graduated from North Carolina State University in 2020 with degrees in political science and Arabic. Sara has a range of experiences outside of the academy: She has been the Youth Coordinator at the NC Department of Administration and has held a variety of internship positions that include tenure at the North Carolina General Assembly, the NC Department of Administration, and Lillian’s List.
Lauren Frey (she/hers) is a graduate of the 2016-17 WomenNC scholars’ program where she studied youth dating and sexual violence prevention education in Durham, North Carolina. After completing the program, she joined WomenNC on staff as a field organizer and worked on advocacy efforts for Cities for CEDAW, fundraising, and strategic planning. She then launched her public health career as a field assignee for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at the Mississippi State Department of Health conducting both program evaluations and program planning. She recently completed a graduate degree in public health at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She is the evaluation associate for Prevent Child Abuse North Carolina and lives in Raleigh.
As a 2019-20 WomenNC scholar, Bridget Pittman-Blackwell researched the psychological impact of school dress codes on African American girls in Durham NC. Bridget is a May 2020 graduate of North Carolina Central University where she currently continues her studies in a graduate masters-level psychology program. Her research background is in the areas of body esteem/image and psychological impacts associated with sickle cell disease. Additionally, Bridget is a graduate assistant at NCCU’s Office of Spiritual Development & Dialogue working on administration, programming and ministry to students. She has also served as a counselor and mentor to young girls at her local community center.
Tamara Terry is a Research Survey Scientist and University Collaborations Relationship Manager at RTI International, with over 15 years of experience in survey research, project management, leadership development, and training design/implementation. Her wide range of experience includes managing and providing senior level support on numerous large-scale education, health, and social science research projects, in addition to the development support of research proposals and study design. Tamara serves on RTI’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Council, the Executive Council for the American Association for Public Opinion Research, and the Board of Visitors for the School of Business at North Carolina Central University.
FaLon Thomas is the founder and CEO of Onyx Ocean Technologies Inc., a software, mobile app and website development company. A graduate of North Carolina A&T University, she has is a software engineer with over 9 years of experience in client technical support, web applications design, and data collection and analysis. FaLon works with clients in the technology industry on business branding, digital marketing, and UI/UX. In addition to her professional experience, FaLon has a deep interest in preparing the next generation of women leaders. As a volunteer she has taught middle and high school students how to code and has also mentored students with the North Carolina Community Development Initiative for the past five years. She is also a sought-after speaker that discusses entrepreneurship and technology to a wide range of audiences.
Beth Briggs is a former Executive Director of Dress for Success and NC Council for Women. She previously served as President of Creative Philanthropy, a consulting firm she founded in 1995 to provide planning and grant-making services to individuals, corporations, and foundations. She has been actively involved with the nonprofit sector for over 25 years, having served as President of the NC Public Television Foundation; President and Senior Counsel at Capital Consortium; and Director of Development for the 1987 U.S. Olympic Festival. Beth is a native of Charlotte and a graduate of UNC-Chapel Hill.
Lindy M. Brown, Former Wake County Commissioner is a long time resident of Raleigh. She graduated from Enloe High School, North Carolina Central University and received her Master Degree in Clinical Social Work at University of NC Chapel Hill. After 29 years of Clinical Social Work with State of North Carolina and Wake County, Mrs. Brown retired in 2013. She continues to support nonprofit organizations such as WomenNC.org (NC Committee for CEDAW/CSW).
Juanita M. Bryant served as GFWC International President from 1982 to 1984. Her volunteer service, however, goes above and beyond those two years. For 65 years, Juanita has been a leader in GFWC and her community. She is a mentor to so many clubwomen, and her incredible leadership has inspired numerous women to become leaders themselves. In addition to leading GFWC as International President, Juanita’s accomplishments are impressive and range from serving as executive director of the North Carolina Council for Women, being the first woman in North Carolina appointed by a Governor to chair a state board, and serving as development director of the YWCA of Wake County.
Dan W. Figgins, Ph.D., retired from the U.S. State Department as a Foreign Service Office with the rank of Councelor of Embassy. He came to North Carolina on assignment as Diplomat in Residence to six HBCU (Historically Black Colleges and Universities). He was professor and international affairs specialist for five years at Bennett College for Women (an HBCU) in Greensboro. He has taught in the Poltiical Science Department of NCSU since 1998. His Ph.D. specialties are International Law, Constitutional Law, Political Theory, and Public Administration.
Ambassador Jeanette W. Hyde served as the US Ambassador to Barbados, Dominica, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and to Grenada, St. Kitts and Nevis and Antigua and Barbuda from 1994-1997. She served on the Boards of Directors of the following organizations: North Carolina Board of Transportation; the North Carolina Global Transpark; the North Carolina International Trade Commission; Outward Bound of North Carolina; and the North Carolina Child Advocacy Institute. Currently, she serves on the Board of Trustees of Wake Forest University; Western Carolina University; and, American Diplomacy Journal, Inc. She previously served on the Board of The International Cabinet at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington; Triangle World Affairs Council; North Carolina Community Foundation; and The Eisenhower Exchange Fellowship Board.
Dana Jennings received a B.A. in Political Science and English with a Minor in Spanish from the University of Georgia. Most recently, she completed a Masters of Liberal Studies at Duke University. Over the past five years, Dana has worked with a close colleague, Naomi Lambert, to create a grassroots activist group of women in Wake County. They partner within NC to increase voter engagement and turnout. By accessing excellent training and quality resources, our activists impact their communities to improve political discourse and ensure the accountability of our elected representatives. From 2008 – 2012, Dana Jennings served as the CEO of the North Carolina Center for Women in Public Service. Ms. Jennings has provided direction as an officer or director to a number of corporate, professional, and nonprofit organizations including:the Women’s Forum of NC, the Lucy Daniels Center for Early Childhood, Chix in Business, the Triangle Chapter of the National Association of Corporate Directors, Raleigh Professional Women’s Forum, and the NC Governor’s Conference for Women. She currently serves on the board of Lillian’s List of NC.
Penny Lauricella is President and CEO of Appellation Consulting, a North Carolina based consulting firm that specializes in helping mission driven organizations and leaders clarify their primary purpose, align efforts and resources with desired impact. With over 20 years of experience in nonprofit leadership and philanthropy, Penny also served 8.5 years as Executive Director of Pretty In Pink Foundation, a breast cancer nonprofit that provides financial assistance to uninsured and underinsured patients for treatment in North Carolina. With a passion for community engagement, Ms. Lauricella serves on the boards of various nonprofit organizations, is a passionate speaker, popular facilitator and trainer. Penny received her bachelor’s degree from North Carolina State University and a master’s degree in Healthcare Administration from The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Dr. Saba Mokry graduated in 1986 from NC State with a Bachelor of Science in Zoology. In 1991 she graduated from UNC Chapel Hill with a Doctorate in Dental Surgery and was in private practice until 2011. She currently serves as an Adjunct Assitant Professor in the Department of Operative Dentistry for UNC Chapel Hill and the Randolph County Health Department and has done so since 2011. Dr. Mokry believes that giving back to the community is her moral obligation and gives meaning to her life. In November 2005 and 2006 she went to Belize for a dental mission trip, and has volunteered at Wake Smiles since 2003. In 2010 she started a dental mobile clinic in Hyde County, collaborating with the NC Baptist Men. She has also volunteered with Mission of Mercy Clinic, Raleigh Rescue Mission, and numerous other open door clinics and dental buses.
Lois Nixon retired from career as Environmental Educator (Wake County Director, Keep America Beautiful, 21 years), substitute teacher, and social worker and has been a board member & active volunteer in environmental & education-focused organizations (i.e., student literacy tutor, classroom & PTA, regional Appearance Commissions, Woman’s Clubs of Raleigh & Cary, Wake County Commission for Women, Environmental Educators of N.C.) for the past several years. She has a BS in Human Ecology from Kansas State University and has traveled the U.S. & the world during husband’s 25 year Army career. Raised on a sheep and wheat farm in Kansas, she has lived in Cary, NC since 1980 with her husband; two married sons & four young grandchildren who all live close by.
Sue Ellen Rosen has her B.S. in international business and is the current marketing manager for International Marine Electronics Firm. She previously served as WNC Communications Chair.
Carrie Huitt Reuben, Social Entrepreneur and Angel Investor. Bachelor of Science in Botany, Colorado State University; Master of Business Administration, Kenan-Flagler Business School, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Janet Weber graduated from Duke’s Pratt School of Engineering and managed technology projects throughout her career in the defense, power and financial sectors. After 37 years engineering solutions, Janet retired in 2018. As a life member of AAUW and advocate for WomenNC, United Way agencies, and Women’s Leadership Council, her passions continue to be focused on her community, education, pay equity, and animal rescue.
Anna Elena Worley, District Court Judge, Wake Forest University B.A. 1993 and J.D. 1996.
Beth Dehghan — Past WNC President & Founder
Beth Dehghan is the fearless leader of WomenNC, an organization she founded in 2012 to raise a generation that honors women’s rights as human rights and advocate for the gender equality agenda in North Carolina. She founded NC Coalition for CEDAW (Contention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women) She has attended the annual United Nationals Commission the Status of Women (CSW) every year since 1997. Since 1995, she has been a member of the International NGO Committee for the U.N. CSW. Also a public speaker, community volunteer, event organizer, and board member of several philanthropic organizations (UNA-Wake Chapter, Wake County Commission for Women, InterAct, Stop Child Abuse in NC, Woman’s Club of Raleigh and Cary, and UN Women NC Chapter). Beth has a B.S. in Agronomy from LSU, and was enrolled in Duke’s Continuing Education Non-Profit Management program. Beth is an entrepreneur and family business manager along with her husband, with whom she lives in Cary. They have two daughters who work in Houston and Washington D.C.