Ava Smith started her work with WomenNC as a social media intern in August 2020 and has now transitioned into the staff role as Head of Growth and Development. In her role, Ava strives to connect WomenNC with other organizations and notable North Carolina women who promote women’s rights and empowerment. Ava monitors the news and reads scholarly articles for developments and current insights on gender issues at a local, national, and global scale. She creates and shares research-informed content on WomenNC’s social media platforms. In addition to serving as WomenNC’s social media manager, Ava participates in WomenNC’s community education “Lunch and Learn” events to help amplify women’s voices and experiences. Ava received her Bachelor’s degree from UNC-Chapel hill, double majoring in Women’s and Gender Studies, and Exercise and Sports Science, with a minor in Health and Society. She is now pursuing her Master’s Degree in Occupational Therapy at Lenoir-Rhyne University.
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.
Sarah Chick is the Manager of Strategic Engagement for the Research Triangle Park Foundation. Sarah has a dynamic background and prior to joining RTF had spent 10 years in the clinical world as a counseling professional in NY and NC prior to transitioning into the entrepreneurial tech realm in 2019. In her prior role, Sarah spent much time developing and nurturing partnerships and relationships with community stakeholders to best support local start-ups and scaling entrepreneurs’ efforts for connectivity, growth, and sustainability in the Triangle.
Sarah has a passion for community building & engagement, DEI, feminism, social justice, and using intentionality to connect and foster collaboration. She has a Master’s Degree in Science with a focus on justice system administration and mental health. In her undergraduate program, she focused her B.A. on psychology, sociology and law.
Crishon DJ Johnson is a litigation attorney with Brent Adams & Associates where she focuses on civil litigation matters. She has extensive experience in negotiations and enjoys finding creative ways to find client solutions. Crishon’s legal experience includes disability matters, injury claims, civil rights claims, contract disputes, and employment matters. Crishon attended the School of Law at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and obtained her Bachelor of Arts in English with a minor in the University Honors Program at the University of North Carolina in Charlotte, NC. She is licensed to practice law in North Carolina and is a member of NC Advocates for Justice, the NC Bar Association, and the Wake County Bar. In addition to joining the Board of WomenNC, she serves on the Board of Unity of Faith Family Worship Center.
Isa van der Drift, BA, is a Public Health Analyst with the RTI International Substance Use, Gender, and Applied Research Program. She supports HIV prevention research in the United States and South Africa, and also assists in coordinating the RTI Global Gender Center, a cross-institute center with over 400 affiliates who are passionate about addressing gender inequalities globally. She graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in May 2020, where she was a Morehead-Cain Scholar and a dual Peace, War, and Defense and Arabic double major. At UNC, she participated in the Juanita M. Bryant UN/CSW youth leadership training program, where she worked with WomenNC and RTI International to evaluate the status of reproductive healthcare access in Durham, NC.
Deidra has 24 years of experience in biopharma in sales, managed care, market access, patient access, operations, transformational change, health equity and has launched drugs and biologics across key disease states. She is currently the Associate Director of Reimbursement Marketing Operations at Apellis Pharmaceuticals, Inc. Prior to joining Apellis, she worked at Novartis, Genentech, Amgen, Parke-Davis, and Prudential Healthcare.She has a passion for helping others especially women and has mentored colleagues in her industry and served on Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion councils. Deidra also volunteers for the graduate chapter of her sorority, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. and serves on several boards including, Pearls in Partnership, Healthcare Businesswomen's Association, and WIL-LEN, Inc,Deidra studied Public Policy Analysis at UNC at Chapel Hill and earned her Bachelor of Arts in Political Studies from Meredith College. She currently, lives in Apex, NC with her husband Kevan and their doodles Maxwell and Romeo. She travels often with her husband to see her bonus children Samantha, Colin, Chase, Cameron, Carson, Cannon, and Mayson. Deidra looks forward to working with the WomenNC board "to continue to empower the next generation to advance gender equity in North Carolina".
Allyson Cobb is a Durham native who grew up in San Francisco, California. She is a proud daughter, sister, aunt, and friend who holds the values of justice, community, and family at the core of her being. Currently, she serves as the Director of Community Engagement at the United Way of the Greater Triangle. Leading with her core values, Allyson creatively cultivates strategic partnerships and initiatives that engage local nonprofits and corporations wanting to make a lasting impact in the Triangle community. From a young age, serving one's community is something that has always been her calling. Allyson is a Leadership Triangle Goodmon Fellow and was recently recognized by the Triangle Business Journals as a 2022 40 under 40 Leader to watch. She shared the following quote, to sum up, her belief in community and the work she does: "The greatness of a community is most accurately measured by the compassionate actions of its members." – Coretta Scott King
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 previous WNC Board President. 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 is the developer of the woman-focused HIV prevention program, the Women’s (WC). 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.
Robin Downs Colbert is Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) ofAddiction Professionals of North Carolina (APNC), a membership organizationthat drives high standards in professional development, innovative addiction programs, and advocates for better health policy. APNC advocates for policies to ensure equitable access to prevention, treatment, recovery, and harm-reduction services and promote a greater understanding of addiction issues. Prior to joining APNC, Robin served as Associate Director of the North Carolina Coalition Against Sexual Assault, where her duties included running programs to support incarcerated survivors. She is also the former Chair and Treasurer of the North Carolina Coalition Against Human Trafficking and is a consultant for the National Human Trafficking Training and Technical Assistance Center. In addition, Robin serves as the Victim Advocate North Carolina Judicial Branch appointee to the North Carolina Innocence Inquiry Commission, a state agency that investigates and evaluates post-conviction claims of factual innocence.
Lori Bunton is a retired pharmaceutical executive and longtime activist for women’s rights. She spent nearly 30 years working in established companies as large as Eli Lilly and in start-up biopharmaceutical organizations. Her career spanned sales, marketing and market research. Lori has served on the boards of Planned Parenthood in TN, as Secretary and VP Membership for the N.C. National Organization for Women, and as President of the North Carolina Alliance for Healthy Communities in Raleigh. She currently serves as Co-President for the ERA-NC Alliance, where she has been a Board member for four years, serving as Secretary and VP Membership for the Alliance. In addition, Lori is VP Programming for American Association of University Women-Orange Durham Chatham Counties (AAUW-ODC) and a board member with Pro-Choice NC. Lori has a B.S. in Business Administration from the University of Tennessee and has lived all over the U.S. and Europe and now resides in the Raleigh-Durham area.
Felicia A. Browne is a research public health analyst in RTI’s Substance Use, Gender and Applied Research Program. Trained as a social epidemiologist, Dr. Browne has more than a decade of experience working on HIV behavioral intervention studies for key populations at risk for HIV in the United States and South Africa. She is also an Adjunct Assistant Professor in Health Behavior at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC) Gillings School of Global Public Health. Dr. Browne currently serves as a Multiple Principal Investigator of a National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)-funded R01 study in health department clinics in North Carolina that is adapting and testing delivery methods of an HIV behavioral intervention for young African American women who use substances. Additionally, she serves as Principal Investigator of a UNC CFAR-funded implementation science project in collaboration with Mecklenburg County Public Health to reduce HIV disparities in the Carolinas.
Cynthia Ball is a native North Carolinian, born in Franklin County. She graduated with a BA in Psychology from UNC-Greensboro (Phi Beta Kappa and magna cum laude) and completed an MBA from Virginia Commonwealth University. She continued extensive graduate work at NC State University in Human Resource and Organizational Development. Cynthia has worked in marketing and in university advancement and currently is a practicing certified mediator. Having lived in Wake County since 1983, she currently resides in Raleigh with her husband Dr. David Aspnes, Distinguished University Professor of Physics at NC State University. They are proud of their three children and six grandchildren. They have rescued many cats and dogs over the years, and several still give them much joy. In her third term on the City of Raleigh Civil Service Commission, she has volunteered for several non-profits over the years. She is serving in her third term at the NC General Assembly as State Representative for District 49 in Wake County.
Beth Dehghan is thefearless leader of WomenNC, an organization she founded in 2012 to raise ageneration that honors women’s rights as human rights and advocate for thegender equality agenda in North Carolina. She founded NC Coalition for CEDAW(Contention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women) She hasattended the annual United Nationals Commission the Status of Women (CSW) everyyear since 1997. Since 1995, she has been a member of the International NGOCommittee for the U.N. CSW. Also a public speaker, community volunteer, eventorganizer, and board member of several philanthropic organizations (UNA-WakeChapter, 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. inAgronomy from LSU, and is currently enrolled in Duke’s Continuing EducationNon-Profit Management program. Beth is an entrepreneur and family businessmanager along with her husband, with whom she lives in Cary. They have two daughterswho work in Houston and Washington D.C.
She has long blazed a trail for women in both corporate and civic arenas across North Carolina. She is a senior corporate affairs and business executive who serves as an Executive Consultant with TVA. While she serves on multiple corporate boards, including Southwest Water Company and 8 Rivers Capital, she also lends her many talents to the nonprofit and academic sectors, with service on RTI International’s Board and as Chair of the Board of Trustees for NC A&T State University. She previously served 15 years on the Board of the N.C. Community College system and was its first woman and the first person of color to serve as its chair. Always an advocate for women, Hilda currently co-chairs Wake Invests in Women, a workforce development initiative aimed at closing gender wage and representation gaps in STEM occupations throughout the greater RTP area. Her commitment to girls’ education runs deep. She created the Hilda Pinnix-Ragland Girls Summer STEM Academy that operates in partnership with Wake County Schools, community centers and faith-based entities to provide underexposed rising 5th grade girls with unique opportunities to participate in a free week of summer academy learning.
Anne Hungate is an entrepreneur, technology executive, mother of two fierce young women, golf widow, and fitness enthusiast. As president of Daring Systems and Head of Strategic Delivery for VacoBuilt, Anne guides Information Technology clients through strategy and roadmap development. She coaches technology leaders on decision making, metrics, team optimization, and transparency. A champion for inclusion, Anne founded Launched2Lead, a platform and solution to help underrepresented populations transition from college to the workforce. The goal is to prevent further automation of bias and oppression by bringing diversity to the leadership table in technology fields – meeting emerging leaders at the most critical point of their careers, the beginning.
Sree is a customer-obsessed and results-driven cloud executive with two decades’ experience leading global technology organizations focused on enterprise adoption of emerging technology and cloud solution architectures. Sree works at Amazon Web Services as Director of Cloud Solution Architecture for the Southeast region.
As fierce community advocate, she also leads the local Business Alliance community network at Green Level high school.