Women of Color Collaborative (WOCC)

Shai James Boyd and Stephanie Lee


Shai James Boyd, Ed.D               Stephanie Lee, Ed.D
Henry Ford College                        Oakland University

WOCC History

Far too many women of color in higher education face negative experiences, such as isolation, marginalization, bullying, disrespect, belittlement, and feeling undervalued. This is especially true in predominantly white colleges and universities, in contrast to white women making great strides in reaching the top ranks in higher education leadership across the country. Unfortunately, the outcome is still bleak for women of color.

To address these long-standing issues, Dr. Lynette Findley organized a meeting of like-minded women on the campus of Eastern Michigan University (EMU) in 2011 to begin breaking down barriers for women of color and helping them advance professionally. This group of trailblazers included Gloria Thomas from the University of Michigan, Betty Dennis from Western Michigan University, and Sandra Gonzalez from Eastern Michigan University.

Together, they identified collective needs, established goals, and created programs to address the unique challenges women of color face. After much dialogue and foundational planning, the Women of Color Collaborative (WOCC) was formed and successfully approved for operation under the MI-ACE Women’s Network.

On November 11, 2011 (11-11-11), the first WOCC Luncheon was held at Eagle Crest Conference Center at EMU, with 65 women in attendance. The group established the following mission for WOCC: "WOCC will provide a forum and means of support for women of color employed in faculty, staff, administrative, and leadership roles at Michigan's colleges and universities." The goal of WOCC is to promote career advancement, enhance success for women of color in higher education across the state, and strengthen the overall MI-ACE Women’s Network.

Today, WOCC is a nationally recognized program. Over the years, WOCC has evolved and expanded its reach within the Network and plays a significant role during the MI-ACE Annual Conference. The first day of the conference is focused on professional development and career sessions related to issues faced by women of color.

Twelve years later, the WOCC Luncheon continues to bring together women of color across Michigan to network, share experiences, and celebrate professional accomplishments. Each November, a different MI-ACE member institution hosts the Luncheon at their institution or location of their choice. The list below highlights past dates and host locations since the luncheon’s inception in 2011:

Past Luncheon Dates and Locations



Keynote or Panelists


Saginaw Valley State University

Keynote: Shaquila Myers, who serves as chief of staff to Speaker Jote Joe, the first African American speaker of the Michigan House.


Michigan State University



University of Michigan

held virtually



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 March 4, 2024