Heather Brown as new executive director for Women + Girl’s Research Alliance – With an impressive background both in academia and with hands-on experience, Brown plans to make many improvements within the organization

Heather Brown – Harvard graduate, women’s advocate and daughter of a struggling single mother came into her role as the executive director for the Women + Girl’s Research Alliance (W+GRA) this Monday. W+GRA is a university community partnership organization aimed at “improving the lives of women through research, education and civic engagement,” as listed on the organization’s webpage.

Having been raised by a single mother, Brown shared that this is where her interest for women’s studies was first sparked. “My mom was a single mom and she struggled her entire life. I watched how hard she worked and how little she got paid for the type of hard physical work that she did,” said Brown.

As the first member of her family to attend college, Brown’s interest in the field developed even more through academia. Brown noted that when she enrolled in college and took her first women’s studies class, she knew then that this was what she wanted to do with her life.

“I’ve had these personal experiences that sort of moved me to do some academic study of women’s issues. As soon as I took my first course, I went, ‘Oh, that’s what I want to do!’,” said Brown.

Not only does Brown have exemplary academic credentials which qualify her to take on her new role, but she has vast experience in the field of women’s research, advocacy and support. After attending Harvard University and earning a Masters in Theological Studies, focused on women’s issues and religion, Brown went on to earn her Doctorate of Education in adult and higher education with a graduate certificate in women’s studies  from Northern Illinois University. In addition, Brown noted that she has been doing research and advocacy in the field for 20+ years.

One of W+GRA’s main goals is to become a recognized research alliance in Charlotte Mecklenburg County. The organization isn’t seeking a fancy placard or an elegant new title, but rather wanting the community to recognize them as a leading research partner.

“We want to be the source. We want to be the reliable place to go for good information so that people can make good, research-driven choices,” said Brown.

Brown believes that her unique skill set, derived from her blended background is what will help W+GRA achieve their goal of recognition. After working the first part of her career with non-profit organizations, serving issues of women in the educational field and economic self-sufficiency, she spent the latter part of her career focused on research development and grant seeking.

“Sometimes those [career paths] might seem a little divergent to say the least. So, a position like this seemed to be a really good fit where I could bring all of those skill sets together,” said Brown.

One specific way in which Brown plans on achieving this goal is by expanding the W+GRA’s research portfolio to include some additional areas on inquiry. To do this, she plans on reaching out to different groups and faculty members on campus and bringing them in to possibly do research on the alternative aspects of women’s studies.

“As we solidify that foundation here on campus, I’ll need to develop some sort of strategic operation action plan for going out into the community. Luckily, with the advisory board there is a tremendous number of women who have incredible connections which will help enhance and expand what’s already been done,” said Brown.

Forming these collaborative partnerships is just a single element in the one to three year “action plan” that Brown will be constructing over her first few weeks on the job.

“This is the type of work that if you don’t enjoy it, you probably shouldn’t do it because it can be challenging and it can be frustrating and, you know, you want to make a difference and you can’t always do that. But you’ve got to do the best you can,” said Brown.

To find out more about the Women + Girl’s Research Alliance, visit: http://womengirlsalliance.uncc.edu/.

Read more here: http://nineronline.com/2014/09/heather-brown-as-new-executive-director-for-women-girls-research-alliance/
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