Women of Color Collaborative (WOCC)

While white women are making great strides in reaching the top ranks in higher education leadership across the country, the picture is still quite bleak for women of color. Far too many women of color in higher education describe experiences of isolation, marginalization, bullying, disrespect, belittlement, and feeling undervalued.

In response to these persistent issues for women of color, in 2011, Lynette Findley called together a meeting at Eastern Michigan University. The goal was to convene women of color from the MI-ACE Network to explore ideas of how we can better support one another by using the structure and sponsorship of the Network to make real change. Several months later, under the leadership of co-chairs Lynette Findley and Gloria Thomas, the MI-ACE Women’s Network launched its new Women of Color Collaborative (WOCC) in 2011 at its annual conference.

At the group’s first meeting, it was established that the mission of the WOCC would be to provide a forum and means of support for women of color employed in faculty, administrative staff and leadership roles at Michigan’s colleges and universities. Further, the goal is to enhance career advancement and success for women of color in higher education across the state, thereby strengthening the overall MI-ACE Women’s Network.

WOCC now hosts the first full day of the MI-ACE Annual Conference, with the day focusing on specific career issues and challenges that women of color encounter.

In addition to the first day at the Annual Conference, WOCC hosts an annual Networking Luncheon in early November. Each year a different MI ACE member institution hosts the Networking Luncheon at a location of their choosing. The list below outlines past dates and locations since the luncheon’s inception in 2011:



Keynote or Panelists


Eastern Michigan University

Keynotes:  Dr. Celeste Hawkins, Associate Professor, Social Work Department, Eastern Michigan University; Ben-Oni Morgan, Conflict Coach and Case Manager, Office of the Ombuds & Brehm Fellow, College of Special Education & Graduate Student, Advanced Certificate in Helping Interventions in Multicultural Society


Henry Ford College

Keynote:  U.S. Rep. Brenda Lawrence, who represents Michigan’s 14th District


Ferris State University

Keynote:  Ana L. Ramirez-Saenz, founder and CEO of La Fuente Consulting


Western Michigan University

Keynote: Judi Brown Clarke, diversity director for the National Science Foundation’s Bio-Computational Evolution in Action Consortium (BEACON) Center at Michigan State University.


Mott Community College

Panelists:  Mawine G. Diggs, eastern campus president/CAO for Wayne County Community College District; Marcy Garcia, vice chair for the Genesee County Hispanic Collaborative; Rushika Patel, director of the Women’s Educational Center at the University of Michigan-Flint; Lisa Webb Sharpe, senior vice president for Lansing Community College; and Robin Smith, a board of trustee member for Lansing Community College.


Grand Valley State University

Panelists:  Shannon Cohen, Founder and Principal, Community Ventures; Beverly Grant, LMSW, Interim Assistant Vice President for Inclusion and Equity, GVSU; Shannon Wilson, Executive Director, at the Grand Rapids African American Health Institute; and Milinda C. Ysasi, SPHR, Executive Director, The SOURCE


Washtenaw Community College

Panelists: Jocelyn Allen, Jan Barker, Carol Burrell-Jackson, Jacqueline El-Sayed, and Tiffany Ford


Oakland University

Speaker: Monica Emerson, OU Board of Trustees member


University of Michigan



Eastern Michigan University


WOCC plans to offer this type of programming as well as mentoring, ongoing communication, and in-time support for women of color in higher education across the state. Ultimately, the plan is to have WOCC serving the needs of women of color students as well. The MI-ACE Women’s Network Board fully supports this initiative and will continue to do so until more of its women of color consistently achieve high-ranking leadership positions and thrive in these roles while in them.

Page last modified May 22, 2023