2018 WLC Header


Every year, the steering committee invites dynamic, accomplished women to be speakers, breakout session presenters, and panelists at the Women's Leadership Conference. These women have broken barriers and made great strides in the world of women's leadership, and are able to impart some of the wisdom they have gained during their careers.

Luncheon Speaker

Nina Mikhalevsky, Ph.D.Nina Mikhalevsky, Ph.D.

Nina Mikhalevsky, PhD is currently Provost and Professor of Philosophy at the University of Mary Washington. Prior to coming to UMW, she served as Assistant Dean for Academic Programs and Planning in the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences at the George Washington University, and prior to that, she served as the Director of the Elizabeth Somers Center and Women’s Leadership Program at GW. Dr. Mikhalevsky’s areas of research include aesthetics, ethics, and political theory, as well as critical theory pedagogy and the history of women’s education. She holds a PhD in Philosophy from Georgetown University.

Keynote Speaker

TBAPamela Aall

Pamela Aall is senior advisor for conflict prevention and management at the U.S. Institute of Peace (USIP), a senior fellow at the Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI) and an adjunct professor at American University. She serves on the board of Women in International Security and on the advisory council for the European Institute of Peace. She is also a member of the World Refugee Council. Her research interests include conflict management, mediation and negotiation, non-governmental organizations, and the role of education in exacerbating conflict or promoting reconciliation. She has co-authored and co-edited a number of articles and books in the field of conflict management.

Panel Moderator
Cynthia Steele VanceCynthia Steele Vance, MVC '79

Cynthia Steele Vance is a sought-after and widely experienced moderator, on-air host, and former news journalist. After she founded CSV Productions, Inc. in 2012, she teamed with TTR Sotheby’s International Realty to create an innovative new way to showcase luxury property using the power of video. Together they launched the Washington Luxury Channel, a web-based program that open doors to some of Sotheby’s International Realty’s most luxurious offerings around the metro DC beltway. In just twelve months, the WLC attracted over 250,000 viewers.

As a skilled moderator, Cynthia has hosted numerous events keeping thousands of guests entertained, and for charity events – the donations rolling in. In early 2016, Cynthia used her journalist background to appear in two episodes in a minor role in season four of the political drama, House of Cards.

Cynthia is a former co-host of the Emmy award winning television show “My Generation”, a lifestyle TV show that aired on 120 PBS stations nationwide. Her work on the show earned her the highly acclaimed DC Peer Award, recognizing Cynthia’s “outstanding work in media production”. In addition, the show was awarded a Communicator Award of Excellence and a Telly Award. Earlier in Cynthia’s career, she was a daytime news anchor for Fox News for both the morning and noon news. During her tenure on the “Fox 5 Morning Show”, it became the number one morning newscast in Washington, DC where she was nominated for an Emmy Award as Best Local Newscaster. Cynthia also worked for Fox News as a news reporter covering Capitol Hill, and the issues affecting the metropolitan area. Cynthia began her television news career at CNN’s Washington, DC bureau, coordinating daily news coverage of Capitol Hill, the White House, and breaking news. She then hit the road as a television news reporter covering local and national news in three major markets across the country. She was nominated for two Emmy’s for spot news coverage and won the Pennsylvania Associated Press Broadcast Award. Cynthia was also the host of BusinessNow, which was distributed by ABC NewsOne.

Cynthia holds a Bachelor or Arts in Communications from Mt. Vernon College for Women, which in 1999, merged with The George Washington University, where she now serves as a Trustee.

Caroline Laguerre-Brown, J.D.

Caroline Laguerre-Brown, J.D.

Caroline Laguerre-Brown serves as GW’s Vice Provost for Diversity, Equity, and Community Engagement. Prior to joining the George Washington University, Caroline served as the Vice Provost and Chief Diversity Officer at Johns Hopkins University where she developed their first university-wide sexual harassment prevention training initiative, spearheaded unconscious bias training for faculty search committees, launched a Race in America speaker series and co-developed a comprehensive faculty diversity initiative. Caroline is a graduate of the State University of New York at Binghamton and the University of Virginia Law School.


Elizabeth Chacko, Ph.D.

Elizabeth Chacko, Ph.D.

Elizabeth Chacko is Professor of Geography at GW and Associate Dean for Undergraduate Studies in the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences. Dr. Chacko earned her Ph.D. in geography from UCLA. In 2006, the Carnegie Foundation named her U.S. Professor of the Year from the District of Columbia for the Advancement of Teaching and Council for the Advancement and Support of Education.  She spent six months in Singapore as a Fulbright scholar in 2013. Dr. Chacko is a scholar of migration and has conducted fieldwork for her research in the United States, India, Ethiopia, Singapore and Malaysia.

Mary Ellsberg, Ph.D.

Mary Ellsberg, Ph.D.

Dr. Mary Ellsberg is the Executive Director and Founding Director of the Global Women’s Institute at the George Washington University. Dr. Ellsberg has more than 30 years of experience in international research and programs on gender and development. Before joining the university in August 2012, Dr. Ellsberg served as Vice President for Research and Programs at the International Center for Research on Women. She was also a member of the core research team of the World Health Organization’s Multi-Country Study on Domestic Violence and Women’s Health, and she has authored more than 40 books and articles on violence against women and girls. Dr. Ellsberg earned a doctorate in epidemiology and public health from Umea University in Sweden and bachelor’s degree in Latin American studies from Yale University.

Wendy Helgemo

Wendy Helgemo, J.D.

Wendy Helgemo is GW’s Founding Director of the AT&T Center for Indigenous Politics and Policy. Wendy has dedicated her career to serving American Indians, Alaska Natives, and Native Hawaiians in the public, nonprofit and tribal sectors and protecting tribal sovereignty. She has more than 20 years of experience in federal Indian law and policy and working with tribal governments. Wendy earned her B.A. in English from St. Olaf College and her Juris Doctor from the University of Colorado Law School.

Samah Mcgona Sisay

Samah Mcgona Sisay (WLP, GW '15)

Samah Mcgona Sisay, GW Elliott School graduate and former member of the Women’s Leadership program, expects to receive her Juris Doctor degree (J.D.) from New York University School of Law in May 2018. Samah has been a student advocate in the Immigrants Rights Clinic at New York University School of Law for the past two years. As a member of the clinic, she provides direct legal representation to immigrants in deportation proceedings.