About the Institute for Women
The Institute for Women, Wellness & Work is committed to empowering women to excel and drive positive change, both in their own lives and the lives of others.
URSULINE COLLEGE & THE INSTITUTE
For 150 years, Ursuline College has been committed to creating lifelong learning spaces where women can advance their careers, discover their passions, and find new ways to live their values.
The Institute is an extension of the legacy and mission of Ursuline College and offers valuable programming that responds to current needs and creates transformational experiences.
Through community engagement, support, and a variety of educational resources, women find opportunities to flourish in all areas of our lives. This initiative is for everywoman and strives to create diverse connections and highlight the importance of diversity, equity, and inclusion.
MEET OUR TEAM
Gina Messina, Ph.D.
Executive Director of UCAP
Author and Associate Professor; Ursuline College
Ms. Murphy Brown is the Director and Associate Professor of Legal Studies at Ursuline College. She is fascinated by the legal, social and ethical issues around working motherhood and family caregiving. Author of Legally Mom: Real Women’s Stories Balancing Motherhood and Law Practice, she teaches in the Legal Studies, Business Management, and MBA programs, focusing on business law and ethics. She has developed courses in Negotiation and Conflict Resolution, Employment Law, Public Interest Law and Law on Film, and serves on the American Bar Association Standing Committee on Paralegals.
Ms. Murphy Brown has a B.A. in English and History from John Carroll University and a law degree from the University of Illinois. Before entering academia full-time in 2005, she practiced litigation, business, and corporate law.
Dr. Messina is the Executive Director of the Institute for Women, Wellness & Work and Associate Professor for the Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies at Ursuline College. She is an educator, author and social entrepreneur who has presented at universities, organizations, conferences, and on MSNBC, PBS, NPR and the TEDx stage, as well as at the Commission on the Status of Women at the United Nations. Dr. Messina has been featured in The Washington Post, The Associated Press and the Boston Globe – and journalist Maria Shriver has called her “an architect of change.”
She describes herself as an enthusiastic educator who is inclusive, validating, compassionate, and collaborative.
Ms. Fitzgerald is the Director of Campus Ministry at Ursuline College. She has been engaged in ministry, retreat leadership, and spiritual direction for more than 20 years. She has accompanied individuals and small groups in discovering and deepening prayer practices, especially in the context of silent retreats. Ms. Fitzgerald has a passion for fostering opportunities for persons to become more reflective and more loving.
She describes herself as contemplative in action and committed to working for racial justice and ministry with people of varying spiritualities or faith traditions.
Linda Bluso’s career experience and transitions bring a unique skill set to enterprises seeking transformative change. She is a leader well-recognized as being innovative and strategic. With vision, creativity, and problem-solving skills, Ms. Bluso has led change in law firms and in higher education. She integrates her expertise to support client transformational change initiatives, leadership transition planning and implementation for family businesses, leadership development, strategic management and collaborations, and corporate governance matters.
Ms. Bluso founded Adaptive Knowledge Institute (AKI) to assist family businesses with leadership transition planning and leadership development. AKI’s mission is to be a catalyst providing individuals and companies relevant knowledge to achieve personal, professional, and business success. Her legal and mediation skills and experience provide a practical approach to problem-solving for businesses.
From 2011-2014 she served as the Chair (Dean) of Baldwin Wallace University’s School of Business in Berea, Ohio where she set the vision and oversaw the undergraduate, graduate and Professional Development programs, all administrative aspects of the School, and taught leadership courses.
For over twenty years, Ms. Bluso had a successful legal career as a business and real estate transactional lawyer representing private and public companies, and entrepreneurs. Shortly after beginning her legal career at a large Cleveland law firm, she co-founded a law firm which grew to become one of the largest law firms in Ohio. Noted to be the first woman attorney in Ohio to be a named and founding partner of a large law firm in Ohio, she served in various leadership roles including serving as an Executive Committee member and as the firm’s Administrative Partner.
Subsequently she joined the Brouse, McDowell, Co., law firm and became the firm’s first woman to be named Partner-In-Charge of its Cleveland, Ohio office.
In addition to serving AKI clients, Ms. Bluso serves as an independent director for private companies.
Active in the broader community, she is a past chair and board member of In Counsel With Women, an organization of Northeast Ohio executive women who have achieved success at the highest levels in their respective industries. Ms. Bluso has served in many board and community leadership roles in the Greater Cleveland civic and philanthropic communities. She has received many awards and recognition for her contributions to the community.
Ms. Bluso received her J.D. from Cleveland Marshall College of Law and her B.A. in Psychology, magna cum laude, from Cleveland State University.
Deputy Director of Goalkeepers; The Gates Foundation
Blessing Omakwu is a Nigerian-American women’s equality evangelist, lawyer, strategist and writer. Her career has been dedicated to the public sector, and she has worked and consulted for various government agencies and international organizations including the Gates Foundation, ONE Campaign, the United Nations and the Nigerian Federal House of Representatives. She is also the founder of The She Tank: a think-tank supporting the realization of equality for women of African descent. In 2017, Blessing was recognized as one of the top 50 emerging global policy leaders by the British Council. In 2019, she served as the Co-Curator of Melinda Gate’s session on Gender Bias at Goalkeepers New York City. Raised by faith leaders, her parents’ sermons and spirituality exposed her to the art of non-fiction storytelling at a young age. Blessing’s personal essays explore the intersection of womanhood, religion and (pop) culture. She ran the On Being A Woman blog between 2015-2020.
Regional Director of Specialty Institutions; Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections
Ronette “Roni” Burkes-Trowsdell previously served as warden at the Ohio Reformatory for Women in Marysville, Ohio, and was recently promoted to Regional Director of Specialty Institutions. Throughout Roni’s 18-year tenure with the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction, it has been apparent her inner drive is fueled by her passion for people. Roni has chosen to lead and support diverse projects that aim to increase access to the arts for those who are justice-involved around the state. By offering these opportunities for creative expression, ORW is actively working to encourage community engagement between people inside and outside prison.
Roni’s involvement with the Harmony Project in Columbus and her dedication for the past 28 years to the service work of her sorority, Alpha Kappa Alpha, also exemplifies her drive to save lives. She currently serves as president-elect for the Ohio Wardens and Superintendents Association, vice president for the Ohio Chapter of the National Association of Blacks in Criminal Justice, and as an advisory board member for Franklin University’s Center for Public Safety and Cybersecurity Education and Tiffin University’s Alumni Board.
Chief Communications Officer; City of Columbus Park and Recreations
Sophia Fifner is an advocate for women and girls. For over 15 years, she has served as a bold change agent for sexual assault and civic engagement issues. To fulfill this mission, Sophia serves on the Survivor Advisory Council of the Ohio Alliance to End Sexual Violence, the Board of Directors of the Women’s Fund of Central Ohio, is an alumna of the Jo Ann Davidson Leadership Institute, and a graduate of the John Glenn College of Public Affairs’ NEW Leadership program.
When she is not volunteering with a local organization, she works for NiSource, one of the largest natural gas utility companies in the United States. As the director of communications and the executive director of the NiSource Foundations, she works to advance the company’s communication and philanthropic needs.
Sophia has nearly fifteen of experience as a public affairs professional. Her most noteworthy experiences include working as a Senate staffer on Capitol Hill and as a political fundraiser for a Fortune 100 company.
Sophia holds a B.A. in Communication and a M.S. in Marketing and Communications. She and her husband reside in northwest Columbus with their daughters Caroline and Hannah Grace and their standard poodle George Washington.
American Writer, Activist, and Co-Publisher of Guernica Magazine
Lisa Factora-Borchers is a Filipinx American writer, activist, and co-publisher of Guernica Magazine. Lisa is the editor of Dear Sister: Letters from Survivors of Sexual Violence (AK Press, 2014), and her work is forthcoming or can be found in Bomb, The Millions, Adroit Journal, The National Catholic Reporter, The Independent (UK), Refinery 29, In The Fray, TruthOut, The Feminist Wire, The International Examiner, Mutha, and Ano Ba magazines. She has contributed to anthologies Burn It Down (Seal Press, 2019), Feminisms in Motion: Voices for Justice, Liberation, and Transformation (AK Press, 2018), Revolutionary Mothering: Love on the Frontlines (PM Press, 2016), Verses Typhoon Yolanda: A Storm of Filipino Poets (Pawa Press, 2014).
Lisa has worked in several publishing and editorial capacities. She is a senior features editor at The Rumpus and a contributing editor at Catapult magazine. Previously, she has served as the editorial director for Bitch Media, and also as a nonfiction editor with make/shift magazine and Literary Mama. Lisa is the book editor for the Amazon best-selling book Care Work: Dreaming Disability Justice by Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha (Arsenal Press, 2018) and editor of the column “The Pleasure Dome” by adrienne maree brown which later became the New York Times best-selling book Pleasure Activism (AK Press, 2019). She is a 2012 memoir fellow for Voices of Our Nation Arts Foundation (VONA), and was awarded a 2018 Fall residency at the Sundress Academy of the Arts.
Lisa was recognized by Zora’s House, an entrepreneurial think tank and haven for women of color, and a political thought leader for OPAWL (Ohio Progressive Asian Women’s Leadership). She cofounded and co-facilitates a healing justice group Feminist Grounding where AAPI women and nonbinary folx reflect upon the intersecting points of identity, trauma, and liberation. Lisa is also a leadership officer in the inaugural Ohio chapter of FAHNS (Filipino American History National Society). Lisa is also the founder of The End Writers Collective, a decolonizing-in-practice community space for BIPOC writers finishing their literary manuscripts.as one of the five revolutionary Asian American activists who is leading the fight for reproductive freedom. She is a board member for
Lisa received a BA in English from Xavier University; a joint masters degree in Counseling Psychology and Pastoral Ministry from Boston College; and an MFA in Literary Nonfiction Creative Writing from Columbia University. She leads workshops, retreats, and forums centralizing race, feminism, political consciousness, spirituality, transformative listening, and sustainable, everyday activism.
She is currently working on her next book, a savaged and brown memoir about race, faith, politics, and diasporic feminism in middle America.
Founder; Equius Group
Clients describe Equius Group Founder Erica Merritt as a skilled coach, gifted facilitator and leadership and organizational development expert. A Gestalt-trained coach, Erica has extensive experience leading, designing and teaching organizational development, leadership program design and diversity management in environments ranging from community rooms to classrooms to board rooms.
Erica’s clients include many of Northeast Ohio’s largest and most respected corporations, agencies and institutions. As a trusted consultant and coach, she builds capacity in leaders to grow personally, develop professionally, transform organizations and engage communities.
By skillfully creating space to explore challenging and new dialogue, Erica allows for heightened self-awareness and experimentation with new behaviors that lead to powerful breakthroughs. Erica is a valued partner in her client’s growth and success who is equipped with an inclusion mindset and powerful set of expertise.
Erica holds a Bachelor of the Arts Degree in Public Relations from Ursuline College and a Master of the Arts Degree in Psychology with a certification in Diversity Management (NTL) from Cleveland State University. She also holds coaching certifications from the Gestalt Institute of Cleveland and the Center for Credentialing Education. Erica is a graduate of the Cleveland Bridge Builders class of 2008 and was inducted into Kaleidoscope Magazine’s 40/40 Club in 2014. She has been featured in The Plain Dealer’s “At Work” section and Ursuline College’s Alumnae Magazine.
As an engaged community member, Erica serves on the Institute for Creative Leadership’s Advisory Board, Ursuline College’s Graduate and Professional Program Advisory Council, and is an active member of the Junior League of Cleveland.
Engineering Manager; Swagelok
Allyson Jimenez, Manufacturing Engineer and Manager at Swagelok, is an experienced leader in the Energy industry with experience in early technology development, quality, advance manufacturing, business operations and customer applications. She is an expert in inspiring employees and colleagues to deliver for the business, through technical excellence and deliverable-focused execution. Allyson is passionate about leading and mentoring people, supporting them in career growth exploration, while maximizing their strengths and challenging them to develop new ones.
Talent Acquisitions Manager; Akron Children’s Hospital
Patrice Russell, MBA has a distinguished career in leadership and is committed to supporting and mentoring women in their journey to make positive change. Patrice serves as the Talent Acquisitions Manager at Akron Children’s Hospital.
Senior Vice President of Marketing and Brand Partnerships; Patti LaBelle’s GPE Records
Marilyn Batchelor, an entertainment and media industry veteran, is Senior Vice President of Marketing and Brand Partnerships for Patti LaBelle’s GPE Records and is a voting member of the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences – AKA The Grammys. Her brilliance and expertise are behind the marketing plans responsible for the successful launch of the artistry by Gladys Knight, Patti LaBelle, Mary J. Blige, Sherly Crow, and Gwen Stefani just to name a few. Marilyn’s creativity, leadership, and commitment to relationship building resulted in establishing partnerships between the music industry and the sports industry as you know it today. She’s brokered marketing partnerships with BMW, Coca-Cola, Ford, Nike, McDonalds, and the list goes on. It was also Marilyn’s tenacity for building relationships that resulted in the multi-billion dollar venture Beats by Dre.
In addition to all of this, Marilyn is an ordained Methodist pastor and lives a life of service as chaplain at St. John’s Medical Center, mentor to LA’s inner city youth, and serves on the Board of GoHaiti!, a non-profit orphanage she visits every Christmas.
Executive Director; The Cleveland Urban Film Foundation
Donna Dabbs is the Executive Director of the Cleveland Urban Film Foundation and Vice President of the Society of Urban Professionals (SOUP).
Holistic Life & Wellness Coach
Beth Korinek, RN is a Holistic Life and Wellness Coach with more than two decades of service in nursing at the Cleveland Clinic. Well recognized as a leader, mentor, and relationship builder, Beth is and Ursuline alum living out her alma mater’s mission through her commitment to helping others. She offers guidance on how to move past frustrations, find healing and alignment with the deepest self, and achieve goals in all areas of mind, body and soul.
Partner; Thompson Hine
Heidi is a partner in the firm’s Environmental and Product Liability practice groups. She focuses her practice on environmental, health and safety counseling in business, regulatory and legislative matters, environmental and toxic tort litigation, environmental enforcement actions, site remediation, product stewardship and compliance with environmental regulations. Heidi’s primary focus is partnering with clients to provide business solutions for every environmental issue. Heidi manages many of her client relationships utilizing value based pricing, alternative staffing and legal project management to maximize efficiency and predictability.
Heidi is top ranked in Chambers and Partners (Band 1), and according to the directory, “Heidi Friedman is a heavyweight of the state Bar, where she is admired for her valuable regulatory expertise. She sports an impressive track record for her superb handling of issues including remediation and enforcement actions relating to Superfund sites and other sensitive locations.”
Administrative Director; DigitalC
Chief Marketing Officer; FinTech
Results driven fintech marketing executive with deep experience in ecommerce, global payments, banking, lending and SaaS platforms. Proven success enabling early stage, emerging and established companies to build brand, grow revenue and deliver long term value in competitive, high growth, multi cultural environments. Specialize in creating global B2B and B2C marketing strategies that are multi channel, integrated and data driven.
Sheri is passionate about building a culture of success where the companies and people she works with thrive and prosper – financially, professionally and personally.
Innovation Marketing Manager; Swagelok
Author and Founder
Genevieve Piturro was a successful television marketing executive in New York City for twenty years when a little girl’s question changed the course of her life forever – and she jumped off the corporate ladder. She began delivering pajamas and books to children in shelters and in 2001 founded Pajama Program, a non-profit which has been recognized nationwide for both its success and Genevieve’s story.
A Yonkers, N.Y. native to immigrant parents, Genevieve received a Bachelor’s of Art Degree from Fordham University. Today she resides with her husband, Demo DiMartile in Irvington, NY.
Genevieve has been interviewed most recently on Hallmark’s Home & Family, on OPRAH, TODAY, GMA, The Early Show, CNN, Fox & Friends, O Magazine, Forbes, and The Wall Street Journal and she rang the Nasdaq Stock Market Opening Bell in 2016. She has been the recipient of many local and national awards.
An international speaker, personal strategic coach and author, Genevieve has made it her mission to inspire men and women across the globe to listen to their heart-voice connection in pursuing their passions to achieve success. Besides the amazing credentials and accolades, Genevieve remains a very remarkable and engaging speaker.
Author & Contributor
Saya Des Marais is a Masters-level social worker, mental health trainer, and content writer. As a mental health clinician and social worker, she’s worked with children, youth, and families in a number of settings including public schools, community clinics, and group homes. She’s a member of the Motivational Interviewing Network of Trainers (MINT) and has created and delivered dozens of trainings on how to use Motivational Interviewing to promote positive behavior change.
As a content writer, she specializes in making dense psychological research easily accessible to everyone, especially those who are experiencing mental illness. Saya is passionate about cultural humility, intersectionality, and racial and immigration trauma, and she has created curricula and content to address these issues.
You can learn more about Saya at www.mentalhealthcontentwriting.com.
Health & Wellness Expert
Mia Barnes is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Body+Mind Magazine, an online healthy living publication. She is a health and wellness expert with particular interest in topics related to women’s health, mental well-being, and nutrition. Mia is also When not writing, you can find Mia walking her dog, trying new recipes or practicing yoga!
Dr. Gillooly is an Adjunct Faculty member for the Theological and Pastoral Studies graduate program. Her teaching style is connected to her spirituality: her goal is to form circles of trust where everyone learns from one another and seeks to bring out the best in each other. She specializes in discernment and spirituality, relational and pastoral ministry, and missional theology.
She is the Director of Congregational Development for Heights Christian Church in Shaker Heights, where she strengthens internal programming and expands community engagement. She also directs the Deacon Formation program and the Lay Preaching College for the Episcopal Diocese of Ohio.
Dr. Gillooly earned her Doctor of Ministry in Congregational Development from Bexley Seabury seminary, her MA in Ministry from Ursuline College, and her BA in Religion from Case Western Reserve University. She is a member of the training network for Education for Ministry, a theological education program for laypersons, and is a Practitioner member of ACPE: The Standard for Spiritual Care and Education.
Dr. Headley is an Assistant Professor in the Counseling and Art Therapy Department and the Co-Director of the Women’s Center at Ursuline College. An experienced Professional Clinical Counselor, she specializes in women and gender issues, feminist theory and therapy, career development, gerontology, mentoring, and leadership development.
She is a strong voice in the fight for gender and racial equity. In 2019 she received the “Distinguished Young Woman Award” from the YWCA of Greater Cleveland for her commitment to eliminating racism and empowering women through her scholarship, teaching, and clinical practice.
Ms. Jones is an Adjunct Faculty member and Career Development Specialist at Ursuline College. A former Division 1 softball coach, she focuses on building smarter students, stronger athletes and better people. Ms. Jones has spent 25+ years developing student athletes both mentally and physically on the field, in the classroom, and in the community. As a Certified Mental Performance Coach, she leads mental performance, well-being, physical performance, and leadership programs for high school and college athletes, coaches and businesses.
Ms. Jones is a graduate of the NACWA/HERS Administrative and Leadership Institute and Leadership Akron, and has a BA from Baldwin-Wallace University and an MA in Communication Theory and Methodology from Cleveland State University. She has been inducted into the Baldwin-Wallace University Athletics Hall of Fame, the Summit County Softball Hall of Fame, and left Cleveland State as the “winningest” coach in their history.
Senior Director of Marketing; FinTech
Associate Professor; Ursuline College
Dr. Goodall-Martin is an Associate Professor and Director of the Master of Arts in Theological and Pastoral Studies Program at Ursuline College. She is also a certified Chemical Dependency Counseling Assistant. Dr. Goodall-Martin is passionate about preparing women and men for transformative lay leadership in the Church and in society – and about cultivating a healthy spirituality in people impacted by addiction. Her focus is in Lay Pastoral Ministry, Church History, American Religion and Culture, World Religions, and Women in Christianity. In her research, she looks at the connection between spirituality and addiction, and the role it can play in recovery.
Dr. Goodall-Martin has written, spoken, and taught on topics ranging from Christian fundamentalism and women in the Salvation Army to the power of forgiveness and reconciliation. She is a deeply committed educator who has received the Teaching Excellence Award. She earned her BA from Grove City College, her MDiv from Vanderbilt Divinity School, and her PhD and MPhil from Drew University.
Dr. O’Brien is an Assistant Professor of Social Work at Ursuline College. She is a licensed social worker with a passion for improving the lives of older adults. Her experience includes inpatient medical, psychiatric, and pediatric social work and long-term care. Before joining Ursuline College, Dr. O’Brien was the executive director of the Community Partnership on Aging. She is a board member for Senior Transportation Connection and the Center for Community Solutions’ Council on Older Persons.
Dr. O’Brien has a master’s degree in the Science of Social Administration from Case Western Reserve University.
Dr. Ulatowski is an Assistant Professor of Biology at Ursuline College who is focused on nutrition for disease prevention and reduction. As a post-doctoral fellow, she researched Vitamin E transport in the central nervous system, which is relevant to Alzheimer’s disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, and Down Syndrome. Her research also focuses on how specific proteins can impact lymphoma.
Dr. Ulatowski earned her BS in Molecular Biology/Biotechnology from Westminster College, and her MS in Nutrition and PhD in Molecular Nutrition from Case Western Reserve University. While at Case, she received an Academic Excellence Award for her dissertation topic, Regulation of Vitamin E and Tocopherol Transfer Protein. She has published over 20 peer-reviewed papers, participated in a nationwide USDA-funded grant (FRUVED) to assess dietary intake, physical activity, and stress management on 90 campuses. From 2015-2016, Dr. Ulatowski served as the American Society of Nutrition Science Policy Fellow.
Ms. Wallace is the Director of Student Activities at Ursuline College. For the past ten years, she’s provided students with leadership and engagement opportunities through the college and through her community connections. Ms. Wallace is proud to be a part of a culture focused on women in leadership and innovation. She enjoys fulfilling the Student Activities motto, “Get Involved! Have Fun! Leave Your Legacy! Let’s have fun together!”
Dr. Weaver has guided thousands of students in their journeys into understanding faith, spirituality, meaning, and hope. She has published five books and numerous articles, from Baby’s First Latin to Interior Design (a book of art and poetry) to theological investigations into death, suffering, marriage, and family. She believes teaching is about helping students grow, and her style as an instructor is focused on personal attention and creating tailored, rewarding learning experiences.
Dr. Weaver has a B.A.Cl. in Classical Languages and Philosophy from John Carroll University, an M.A. in Religion and Ethics from Pepperdine University, and a Ph.D. in Constructive Theology from Loyola University Chicago.