WREI UPDATE Issue 23
Did you know?
Ten women are campaigning for Senate seats. All but one are Democrats and five are incumbents.
Of the record 142
women running for House seats, 57 are incumbents, 20 are running in
districts with open seats, and 65 are running as challengers.
presents the 2004 American Woman Award to Ann Dibble Jordan
Ann Dibble Jordan is shown here receiving the American Woman Award from JoAnn Heffernan Heisen, vice chair of the WREI Board (left), and WREI president Susan Scanlan (right).
WREI’s 2005 Congressional Fellows on Women and Public Policy
In 2003, NITA ELLISON was appointed to a vacant seat on the City Council of Lexington, Kentucky. She is running for election to the seat this November and will join the Class of 2005 only if her well-financed opponent wins the race. Nita served in the Air Force for 20 years, holding a wide range of education, public relations, and command posts in the U.S. and in Germany. Married to a fellow officer when the Air Force adopted a new policy allowing married women with children to remain on active duty, Nita bore and raised their two children, Patrick (now 28) and Michelle (now 26) while in uniform. By the time she retired from the Air Force, Nita had earned two bachelor's degrees--from the University of Maryland in psychology and from St. Leo College in human resources--and two master's degrees--in education/history from Eastern Kentucky University and in international relations from Troy State University. Since retirement, she has earned post-graduate certificates from Ohio State and Troy State, taught college for five years at the University of Kentucky, worked in public schools for five years, written a children's book, and volunteered for many political campaigns, most recently in the special election of Rep. Ben Chandler to the U.S. Congress.
JAIME HAWK, a strong advocate for women's rights, serves as the Washington State Coordinator of Amnesty International's Violence Against Women Campaign and was the national Law Student Division liaison to the American Bar Association's Commission on Domestic Violence. At the Casa Myrna Vasquez Domestic Violence Center in Boston, she worked with victims on crisis intervention, support counseling, and safety planning. Jaime also served with the United Nations High Commissioner of Human Rights in Montenegro, where she researched sex trafficking and other human rights abuses. She has volunteered at a Missionaries of Charity orphanage in New Delhi; organized a Mission: Possible service trip to the Dominican Republic; and was part of a Witness for Peace political delegation to Cuba. A cum laude graduate of Gonzaga University in political science, this May Jaime earned a cum laude law degree in May from Gonzaga's School of Law, where she was a Thomas More Scholar and received both the Morey-Maurice Leadership and Service Award and the 2004 Public Service Award.
DEBBIE JESSUP, a nurse-midwife and mother of three teenagers, is in the dissertation stage of a doctorate in nursing and health policy at George Mason University. Since majoring in biology at Tulane University, she has earned three master's degrees--in nursing from Pace University, in nursing (midwifery) from Columbia University, and in health education from Teachers College. While pursuing these degrees over the past 30 years, Deb has worked as a childbirth educator, a labor and delivery nurse, and a certified nurse-midwife in hospital, home, and birth-center settings. In 1982, she established the first midwifery practice in Billings, Montana. After completing the 2000 Primary Care Policy Fellowship at the Department of Health and Human Services in Washington, Deb was instrumental in developing a Division of Women's Health Policy and Leadership at the American College of Nurse Midwives, and serves as its first and current chair. Deb is an active volunteer at schools, church, Fairfax County 4H and the Girl Scout Council of the Nation's Capital, and has done considerable time as a "soccer, cheerleading, volleyball, basketball, equestrian mom" for 16 year-old Kolleen, and 13 year-old twins, Katie and Kevin. She has been married for 17 years to a staunchly feminist OB/Gyn physician, Lee Raitz, who has been her constant cheerleader during her mid-life academic pursuit.
IRENE LIN received her master's in international affairs from the Institute of Policy Studies at Johns Hopkins University. Her BA is from Amherst College, where she majored in American Studies. A former intern at People Magazine and PBS, Irene spent a year living in Zimbabwe working as a journalist and later for an NGO that advocates for Africa in the World Trade Organization. Irene spent another year on the road in the U.S., driving 20,000 miles across the country for a nonprofit educational website called the Odyssey US Trek, that explores facets of American history often overlooked by traditional textbooks. Returning to her home state of California, Irene worked for the Bay Area Transportation and Land Use Coalition, researching how the lack of transit options affects the health care of poor and minority citizens, and for the Asian Immigrant Women Advocates, where she worked on a report documenting the ergonomic and health injuries suffered by Asian sweatshop workers. Since then, Irene has used her research and policy background for political purposes. She conducted opposition research for two (victorious) Southwestern gubernatorial candidates in 2002 and for Governor Howard Dean's presidential campaign in 2003.
KAREN PERSIS will graduate in December from the Levin College of Law at the University of Florida, where she has been named the National Association of Women Lawyers' Student of the Year. In addition to working in the Juvenile Division of the Alachua County State Attorney's Office, Karen served as president of Florida Blue Key, the oldest and most prestigious leadership honorary society in the state. In this capacity, she directed 120 volunteers and managed a $750,000 budget to organize "Gator Growl," the largest student-run pep rally in the nation, along with a Homecoming Banquet featuring Attorney General John Ashcroft as speaker. This meant hosting two comedians, a pop band, 40,000 cheering fans, the FBI, national media, countless protestors, and the nation's top lawyer all in one day. A cum laude graduate in journalism from the university, Karen served as women's affairs director of the student government and Panhellenic Council. In high school she was active in the Girl Scouts (ultimately becoming a troop leader), and also organized the first National Organization for Women high-school action team in Broward County.
RENEE NEELY, who has a master's degree in counseling psychology and a bachelor's degree in political science from Bowie State University, is working toward a doctorate in clinical psychology at Argosy University. Her doctoral research project focuses on the relationship between domestic violence and the increased risk of HIV among low-income African American women. Along with her graduate studies, Renee has had a full-time job supervising a welfare-to-work program, and has volunteered at the Children's National Medical Center. Renee has held an internship in child and adolescent psychology at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey as well as an externship in psychology at DeWitt Army Community Hospital at Ft. Belvoir, VA. Among her legal/legislative experiences: three years at the Office of Child Support Enforcement in Upper Marlboro, MD; a public interest policy graduate internship at the American Psychological Association; and a legislative internship with Senator Gloria Lawlah at the Maryland General Assembly.
BRENDA RITSON is completing her fourth year of medical school at Yale University, where she is specializing in medicine and women's health. After receiving her BS from Boston University cum laude in human physiology, Brenda worked as a research technician in the Pediatric Hematology department of the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. She then volunteered at the Women's Community Clinic in San Francisco for a year as a member of the Healthcorps division of AmeriCorps. While in medical school, Brenda has helped found a Women's Health Journal Club and organized a Hunger and Homelessness Auction that raised over $30,000 for homeless shelters and food kitchen in New Haven. Though once a stand-out player on a nationally ranked high school basketball team, Brenda now prefers snowboarding and distance running.
PATTY SKUSTER recently received both a law degree and a master's degree in public policy from the University of Michigan, where she received the Jane L. Mixer Award for Social Justice and was named the Women Lawyers Association Woman Law Student. Her undergraduate degree in English is from the State University of New York at Geneseo. After college, she managed an independent dance company in Nashua, NH, where she not only trained in ballet but also kept the books. Her next stop was as a Peace Corps volunteer in Namibia, Southern Africa. There, Patty taught in a rural village; learned to speak Oshiwambo; organized a regional workshop for 80 young Namibian women on HIV/AIDS prevention, sexual decision-making, and careers; and helped construct a community library out of discarded bottles. Her other international experiences include interning in Geneva at the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, study with the Naropa Institute in Kathmandu, Nepal, and researching the impact of the U.S. reproductive gag rule in Uganda, Ethiopia, and Kenya. Patty's work in East Africa was funded by the Center for Reproductive Rights, where she has worked as a legal/legislative intern.
News from and about Former Fellows
REENA SHAH (Class of 2004) received the first Benjamin Civiletti Fellowship at the University of Maryland-Baltimore Law School. Reena was joined on the podium by Sen. Paul Sarbanes, Maryland’s senior senator; Attorneys General Civiletti and Griffin Bell; and Robert J. Grey, president of the American Bar Association.
SHARI MILES (Class of 1989-90) celebrated her 40th with an August birthday party that gathered WREI alums and staff for a grand time. WREI’s former fellowship director and executive director, now the executive director of the Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues, Shari danced the night away at an art gallery in the historic Eastern Market on Capitol Hill. Joining her were Andrea Perr (Class of 1992-93 and a political activist in Northern Virginia‘s Democratic circles) and Alison Dineen, who preceded Shari as fellowship director. Alison is the proud mother of Jackson (7), and newly-appointed executive director of the historic Waters House in Germantown, MD.
Wedding bells will be ringing this New Year’s Eve for DIANE BEEDLE (Class of 2002) when she marries Adrian Atizado in her hometown of Hinsdale, IL. Following her fellowship with Congressman Bobby Scott (D-VA), Diane took a professional position on his staff, handling budget, housing and education issues. She has now moved over to the legislative staff of Rep. Jan Shakowsky of Illinois. Her future groom is assistant national legislative director at Disabled American Veterans in Washington.
2005 National Conference
More information—and registration after November 1—is available at www.womenwork.org. The conference fee is $365 for Women Work! members and $465 for non-members, as long as you register by February 18.