Meet our Board and Staff

WomenNC's board, staff, and interns are devoted gender equity advocates who are dedicated to improving the lives of women and girls in North Carolina.
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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.

Ava Smith

Head of Growth and Development

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.

Wendee Wechsberg

President of Board of Directors

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.

Tamara Terry

Vice President of Board of Directors

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.

Isa van der Drift

Programming Chair

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.

Crishon DJ Johnson

Fundraising Chair

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.

Bridget Pittman-Blackwell


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.

Sree Anand Ratnasinghe


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. She thrives at the intersection of customers, cloud architecture, and organizational leadership, with her unique brand of empathy.
This year Sree embarked on a new role at Amazon Web Services as Director of Cloud Solution Architecture for the Southeast region. Previously Sree was an IBM Executive Director across Solution Architecture, Professional Services, and Customer Success. With a belief in the force multiplier effect, Sree thrives enjoys a mentorship role collaborating with colleagues on their career and personal advancement. She’s passionate about organizational culture and skills growth plus obsessed with growing and coaching the next generation of leaders.
A fierce community advocate, she’s a Board Member of WomenNC empowering gender equality and women leaders.  She also leads the local Business Alliance community network at Green Level high school. A graduate of Carnegie Mellon University with a Master’s in Information Networking, Sree is based in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina.

Ashley Marshall


Dr. Ashley Marshall currently serves as the Deputy Director for Forward Justice, a social justice, law, policy, and strategy center focused on serving the US South. In her role, she provides strategic leadership to the organization, co-manages fundraising efforts, and manages program development in the fields of criminal justice, democracy, and economic justice advocacy. She is also a mixed-methods researcher where her primary research interests are Black women’s leadership, political and community engagement, and social movements.

Before co-founding Forward Justice, she was an organizer for the NC State Conference of the NAACP under the leadership of Rev. Dr. William Barber, II. For two years, she aided and supported the NC NAACP and the Forward Together Moral Movement organizing efforts. She was also the 2014 Shannon St. John Fellow at the Triangle Community Foundation in Durham, North Carolina, where she served as a member of the Community Engagement’s grants review and evaluation team and aided in the launching of new Regional Cultural Arts grant programs.  Dr. Marshall’s earlier community experience entails violence prevention work with a domestic violence agency, youth outreach and development, and serving as a community organizer with economic justice organizations Women in Transition and Ky Jobs with Justice.

She received her doctorate in Leadership Studies from the North Carolina Agricultural & Technical State University, with a focus area of transformative civic and community engagement.  She also graduated cum laude from North Carolina Central University with a Master of Public Administration. She received her bachelor’s degree from Western Kentucky University and a graduate certificate in nonprofit management from Northern Kentucky University. She is a published researcher and a fierce advocate for inclusive transformative social change.

Sarah Chick


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.

Cassandra Rycek


Cassandra is the Coordinator of Development Operations at the Durham Technical Community College Foundation. In her role, she focuses on annual giving, donor cultivation, and best fundraising practices to support the College and the Foundation. In her previous roles, she oversaw the development operations at a private, middle school for low-income minority men and facilitated the opening of a private high school exclusively serving under-represented populations across the Triangle. Cassandra is a fundraising professional who has spent her career working as an advocate for education and nonprofit development work. She is actively pursuing a Master in Public Health, from the Gillings School of Public Health at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She intends to utilize her degree to address societal injustices locally and nationally, through a public health lens. Her passion for advocacy of human rights,  education, and experience as a fundraiser continues to support WomenNC’s mission of gender equity in North Carolina.

Katie Crenshaw

Social Media and Outreach Intern

Katie is a Political Science Major with a Nonprofit Minor at North Carolina State University. She is passionate about uplifting and empowering women.

Samha Siddiqui

Newsletter Intern

Samha Siddiqui is a N.C. Board Certified Paralegal working at an Immigration Law firm. She graduated from Lipscomb University with a double major in Philosophy and Political Science. She has prior experience working in civil rights and dependency law. In her free time, Samha volunteers with the NC Guardian ad Litem program and at WomenNC, because she wants to support and empower women and children in North Carolina.

WomenNC is made possible by contributions from the public.

Our work begins with understanding gender disparities, then formulating solutions to overcome them, and finally, advocating for change.  WomenNC scholars call out inequality and injustice wherever they see it. Help us create enduring equality for women and girls in North Carolina... and across the globe by donating now!
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