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Women’s Leadership Summit

Grounding Our Roots

Registration is FREE and open to all currently enrolled CSUSM community members with a special focus on students. Only students can receive our swag items being that our funding is supported by student fees. 

The Women’s Leadership Summit is a forum for participants within the California State University San Marcos community to connect, explore and engage in topics on women’s leadership and empowerment. This year's theme is focused on "Grounding Our Roots." Networking activities will allow students to build a positive and supportive network of diverse women who vary across professional disciplines and life experiences.

We will seek to provide participants the opportunity to learn more about their individual identities and the unique influences they have on their leadership styles. With these new experiences and community, student participants will know to challenge the limitations placed on women and will have the confidence and strength to empower others.

  • WHEN: Friday, March 1st at 10:00 AM - 2:30 PM
  • WHERE: USU Ballroom
  • RSVP: Register by Wednesday, February 28th! 

Rooted in the philosophies of intersectional feminism, we recognize that while all women experience oppression, we also all experience oppression in varying forms based on race, age, class, gender, sexuality, dis/ability, etc. With that in mind, we want everyone at the Women's Leadership Summit to feel supported, included and represented. We are intentionally inclusive of transgender, nonbinary, intersex, gender non-conforming, and male-identified individuals.

All registered CSUSM students are encouraged to participate. CSUSM does not consider sex, gender, or any other protected status as part of the registration process. Providing one's pronouns is OPTIONAL and is not required or considered part of the registration process for one's attendance at the symposium. 



Reasonable accomodations

Individuals with disabilities, who would like to attend this event, please contact regarding any special accommodation needs. It is requested that individuals requiring auxiliary aids such as sign language interpreters and alternative format materials notify the event sponsor at least seven working days in advance. Every reasonable effort will be made to provide reasonable accommodations in an effective and timely manner.

2024 Schedule Overview:



10:00 AM - 10:30 AM

Networking Brunch

10:30 AM - 11:30 AM

Opening Keynote with Melissa Muganzo

11:30 AM - 12:15 PM

Breakout Workshop Sessions: 

  1. The Power of Choice
  2. Care Economy and Gender Inequality: Lessons for Compassionate Leadership
  3. Leading with Authenticity 

12:30 PM - 1:15 PM

Women's Leadership Panel 

1:30 PM - 2:15 PM

Breakout Workshop Sessions

  1. Your Financial Journey: Your Financial Future Starting Today
  2. Stress Less, Believe More! Strategies to Lessen Anxiety and Inspire Confidence 
  3. Intersectional Leadership: Exploring the Experiences of Black Women at HSI

2024 Speakers & Topics 

  • Keynote Speaker: Melissa Muganzo
    Melissa Muganzo

    Melissa Muganzo (she/they/sis) is the Founder of Muganzo Entertainment and Mindy's Kitchen of California. She is an entertainer, philanthropist, and cultural curator who believes in the influence that Black art and ingenuity has on global culture and racial justice. Melissa Muganzo served as 1 of 5 Sacramento Grand Marshal's and has been featured in Outward Magazine, the Sacramento Observer,, and Davis Film Festival for her work, while serving as a guest lecturer and keynote speaker at hundreds of colleges and universities.

    She is a graduate of UC Davis ('11), Sacramento State ('13), and Sacramento's Entrepreneurship Academy ('18) and is currently enrolled in the California State Legislature's Certification program, AKIP. (Alchemist Kitchen Incubator Program). Muganzo continually seeks to empower and inspire Black women alike to find confidence with who they see in the mirror and celebrate the bodies that carry them as the world's greatest influence.

    To stay in the know regarding all things Melissa Muganzo, you can follow her on Instagram, Linkedin, and Threads @muganzoentertainment and/or @mindyskitchen_ca.


  • The Power of Choice with Kelley Grimes & Brittany Dela-Cruz
    Kelley & Brittany
    Power of Choice: Explore the concept of choice as the root of empowerment and how reclaiming our power of choice supports us in creating the life that we want. Leap to Confidence instructors Kelley and Brittany will provide an interactive workshop offering exercises to ground your roots in your own power and practice tools to begin taking your next empowered steps.
    Kelley Grimes (she/her) M.S.W. is the Director of Community Engagement, Instructor and Leadership Coach for Leap to Success. She received her Masters degree in Social Work from the University of Denver in 1995 and has worked as a counselor in the domestic violence, substance abuse, and mental health fields, as well as with families impacted by chronic health challenges. She serves as the chair of the North County Domestic Violence Coalition and the Alliance For Regional Solutions Case Manager Network. Kelley is also a counselor, speaker, internationally bestselling author and founder of Cultivating Peace and Joy. She is passionate about empowering overwhelmed and exhausted women to live with more peace, joy and meaning through the practice of self-nurturing. Kelley believes in the power of women speaking their truth and sharing their stories of transformation and healing. Her inspiring stories can be found in Cultivating Joy, Opening to Gratitude and Grace, Shine! and Life Reimagined. Her book The Art of Self-Nurturing: A Field Guide to Living With More Peace, Joy and Meaning was released in September 2020.
    Brittany Dela-Cruz (she/her) first came to Leap to Success from a place of courage and hope after leaving an abusive relationship. While she sought refuge at Becky’s House, an emergency shelter for women, she was invited to attend the powerful six-week Leap to Confidence® program. She graduated from Leap to Confidence® in 2019 and Transformation Leadership in 2022, and was invited to become a graduate instructor in 2023. Brittany holds a B.S. in Kinesiology Pre-Physical Therapy from SDSU and certification as a personal trainer from the National Academy of Sports Medicine. Her work as both a personal trainer and an instructor give Brittany a strong sense of purpose, promoting movement and growth to women who share similar stories. She is now happily married with two beautiful children. She feels grateful every day to share a life with someone who affirms her. Brittany speaks to others on the positive impact of Leap to Success programs, hoping she can help other women speak their truth from a place of courage and self-confidence.
  • Care Economy and Gender Inequality: Lessons for Compassionate Leadership with Dr. Basu
    Dr. Ranjeeta Basu
    Care Economy and Gender Inequality: Lessons for Compassionate Leadership: In this workshop participants will learn about the looming crisis in the care economy and its relationship to gender inequalities. They will experience mindfulness practices designed to build capacity for compassionate leadership. They will share their own lived experiences with the care economy and work together to envision actions that can address the crisis in the care economy and advance gender justice.
    Dr. Ranjeeta Basu (she/her) is a Professor of Economics and Director of the Center for Contemplative Practices at CSUSM. Dr. Basu completed her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Economics at the University of Bombay. After completing her Ph.D. in Economics from University of California, Riverside, she joined the Economics department at CSUSM in 1994. Over the last 29 years, she has done research and taught courses in many different areas of Economics including International Economics, Gender and Development, Economics of Wellbeing and Econometrics. She has also held several administrative positions at CSUSM including department chair, Associate Dean, interim Dean, interim Provost and interim Chief Diversity Officer. She is a trained mindfulness teacher and practitioner and facilitates faculty learning communities, workshops and trainings for the CSUSM campus community and beyond. She has published articles and presented her work at conferences both nationally and internationally. Her recent book titled A Compassionate Approach to Gender and Develpoment focuses on the care economy and its relationship to global gender inequalities.
  • Leading with Authenticity with Layla-Marie Davila & Jenny Ramos
    Jenny & Layla-Marie
    Leading with Authenticity: In this workshop, we will be diving into conversations about self-awareness, transparency, and balanced thinking to explore strategies of supporting an environment that promotes authenticity. Join us for an interactive roundtable discussion around understanding the importance of being one's authentic self and how this impacts woman in personal and professional spaces!
    Please refer to Layla-Marie and Jenny's bios under the committee member section. 
  • Your Financial Journey: Your Financial Future Starting Today with Betty Lou Santiago

    Betty Lou Santiago


    Your Financial Journey: Your Financial Future Starting Today: Her workshop will go over one's values and how they translate into our financial habits, learn about smart goals to reach financial goals, and learn about starting and managing credit. Participants will understand how your values show up in your finances, have a plan for your financial goals, and understand how credit works.

    Betty Lou Santiago (she/her) was born and raised in North County San Diego. She has been in the banking industry for 15 years, she started as a teller and moved her way up to management and now works as a community manager for Chase Bank. As a community manager, she partners with organizations in North County to provide financial education on important topics such as savings, credit, and home buying. She also likes to volunteer with San Diego organizations such as Junior Achievement and San Diego Financial Literacy Center that bring financial education to school classrooms. In her free time, she likes to go hiking, journal, and spend time with her family and Bunny.

  • Intersectional Leadership: Exploring the Experiences of Black Women Undergraduate Student Leaders at HSI with Shanelle Watkins



    Intersectional Leadership: Exploring the Experiences of Black Women Undergraduate Student Leaders at Hispanic Serving Institutions: Beneath ivory towers, Black women stand as leaders among their peers. Yet, the very structures that hold their leadership positions were not crafted with
    them in mind. While academic achievements of Black women have surpassed their male counterparts, in the realm of student life and leadership, there are limited programs tailored to their unique needs. To cultivate flourishing leaders of tomorrow, it is imperative to reconstruct existing structures, taking into account the nuanced experiences of Black women students. By doing so, institutions can empower these leaders without forcing them to conform to the status quo or endure the perils of the Outsider Within status. This insight can enlighten educational administrators from PK-12 and beyond, paving the way for a brighter future for Black women leader.
    Please refer to Shanelle's bio under the committee section.
  • Stress Less, Believe More! Strategies to Lessen Anxiety and Inspire Confidence with Donna Davis

    Donna Davis


    Stress Less, Believe More! Strategies to Lessen Anxiety and Inspire Confidence: Worry, guilt, and shame are often central in women’s minds each day.  Let’s learn ways to view the world differently, let go of emotions weighing us down, and find strength in one another.  We will incorporate laughter, stories, and music as we realize practical ideas to empower ourselves to live life more enjoyably.

    Donna Davis (she/her): is honored to lead the Cougar Care Network team at CSUSM that helps students achieve personal and academic success.  She is a licensed mental health counselor for over 20 years, with a specialty of building confidence and managing transitions such as grief/job loss/divorce or break-ups.  She hails from Massachusetts and has worked in higher education for over 35 years, including at University of Connecticut, Boston University, Salem State University, and North Shore Community College. A first-generation college student, she graduated from Boston College (attended primarily because it looked like Hogwarts!) and completed her master’s in counseling at Salem State.  Her internship at Hospice taught her to appreciate the little things in life.  Her approach often incorporates humor (and chocolate), essential to helping us feel better.  Donna has been married for 35 years and has a 22-year-old son who lives in Los Angeles.  She enjoys travelling, movies, and cooking, and is thrilled to gear women to think outside of society’s box, suggesting ideas to worry less and have more fun.

2024 Women's Leadership Panelists 

  • Allura Murray-Cruz
    Allura Murray-Cruz

    Allura Murray-Cruz (she/her) is of Chamorro and Okinawan descent and a North County native. As a first-generation college student, she attended MiraCosta Community College where she sought out the Mana Program dedicated to Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander students. After going through the program as a student, she was able to find employment with them at MiraCosta all the while pursuing her degree in Business Administration from Point Loma Nazarene University. In August 2023, she started her journey at CSUSM as the new Asian, Pacific Islander, Desi American (APIDA) Student Success Coordinator. This position has allowed her to continue the work of uplifting and empowering her APIDA community to pursue higher education and take ownership of this space.

  • Ilianna Gabriella Ramirez
    Ilianna Rameriz

    Ilianna Gabriella Ramirez (she/her) is a recent alumn of Cal State San Marcos, San Diego county native, and current professional staff in the Student Affairs division at CSUSM. She is a proud Mexicana, Chamorrita, and Diné woman. Her undergraduate journey was spread across six years at three different institutions: University of Hawai′i at Mānoa, Grossmont College, and Cal State San Marcos. These unique experiences led to her passion for creating space & a sense of belonging for historically marginalized groups. Through her work within student affairs, she hopes to inspire students and empower them to utilize their voices as the exit college and take on the professional world.

  • Jade Smith
    Jade Smith

    Jade Smith serves as an Associate Attorney for the law firm of McDougal, Boehmer, Foley, Lyon, Mitchell & Erickson. Before becoming a lawyer, Ms. Smith worked in the professional sports industry. She worked both internationally and domestically for leagues, teams, agencies, and nonprofit national governing bodies. She also has worked in Education (including several school districts), and the economic development of emerging markets and developing countries, including Côte d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast), India, and Barbados.

    Ms. Smith earned her Juris Doctorate from the U.C. Berkeley School of Law. During law school, she was Editor-in-Chief of the Berkeley Journal of Entertainment and Sports Law, competed on the Alternative Dispute Resolution/Negotiations Team, and served as a Counselor in the Green-Collar Communities Clinic and the Worker’s Rights Clinic. Ms. Smith also earned her Master of Business Administration (MBA) from San Diego State, and her Bachelors from UCLA.

    In addition to representing a variety of different types of legal entities, Ms. Smith is very passionate about serving her community and helping people in need. She has served on the Economic Development Board for the City of El Cerrito, and she has helped advocate for the rights of foster care children and survivors of domestic violence. Currently, she serves on the Board of Advisors for Mind Treasures, a nonprofit focused on teaching financial literacy worldwide, and the Board of Directors for Classics 4 Kids, a nonprofit focused on inspiring children through music. Additionally, Ms. Smith spends time mentoring youth and working to ensure they have greater access to higher education.

  • Rosa Barr-WIlliams
    Rosa Barr-Williams

    Rosa Barr-Williams is a seasoned professional with a comprehensive background in higher education, she is a proud part of the HBCU family at Virginia State University where she majored in Health and Physical Education K-12 1994-1998. Currently serving as the Recruitment and Outreach Officer and Coordinator of Strategic Partnerships at California State University San Marcos, Rosa brings over 15 years of valuable experience in various facets of higher education.

    Within the realm of Student Affairs at CSUSM, Rosa plays a pivotal role in recruiting a diverse student population. She meticulously verifies hundreds of student applications annually, contributing to the university's commitment to fostering an inclusive and vibrant community. Additionally, Rosa actively collaborates with numerous partnerships at CSUSM, further enhancing the institution's strategic connections. Originally from Upstate New York, Rosa currently resides in San Diego alongside her retired Military Veteran wife, Sharyn Williams. Together, they share the joys of parenthood with a beautiful 21-year-old daughter, a handsome 17-year-old son, and a cherished 15-year-old fur baby named Nina Simone.

    In her leisure time, Rosa finds fulfillment in engaging with her passions. She is an avid runner, participating in the Black Girls Run San Diego running group. Additionally, she embraces the joy of Double Dutch through her involvement in the 40+ Double Dutch San Diego Sub-Club. Through her multifaceted experiences and dedication to education, Rosa Barr-Williams continues to make meaningful contributions to the academic community at CSUSM. Rosa’s quote, "Any time you walk into a room, walk in with confidence and know that you Belong"

2024 Planning Committee Members

  • Chair: Alycia McGeever
    Alycia McGeever

    Chair: Alycia McGeever (she/her) is the Assistant Director of the Women and Gender Equity Center (WGEC). She is a UC Irvine alum with a BA in Sociology and Education Sciences. She started her Student Affairs career at CSUSM as a Graduate Assistant in 2019. She received her Master's in Postsecondary Educational Leadership from SDSU in 2021. Working at the WGEC is a dream come true as it combines her love of intersectional feminism and student advocacy! Before working at CSUSM, she worked for Girl Scouts and Girls Incorporated empowering young women to believe in themselves. She enjoys traveling, exploring new food spots, and baking! 

  • Staff Representative: Makayla Hall
    Makayla Hall

    Makayla Hall (she/her) is the Coordinator of Leadership Programs for the Student Leadership and Involvement Center. She is a Chapman University alum with a BA in Integrated Educational Studies and Psychology. With a love for leadership, she continued her educational journey at Chapman and received her Master’s in Leadership Development in 2022. She is passionate about leadership, cultivating a sense of belonging, and fostering a care-centered environment. She enjoys all things outdoors and loves to spend time traveling with friends and family! 

  • Staff Representative: Shanelle Watkins
    Shanelle Watkins

    Shanelle Watkins (she/her) serves as the Assistant Director of the Black Student Center. As a first-generation student, Shanelle is very passionate about ensuring that underrepresented students are given access to the resources needed to successfully matriculate through college while maintaining a healthy student life cycle throughout their college career. She earned her bachelor’s degree in Sociology from CSUSM and her master’s degree in Higher Education Leadership from the USD. Currently, Shanelle is a doctoral candidate in the Educational Leadership program at the UC San Diego, where she is a Chrispeels fellow. With over 13 years of experience in the educational field, Shanelle has played an instrumental role in creating and executing a wide range of programs to enhance the confidence and leadership skills of Black students at the high school, community college, and four-year university levels.

  • Staff Representative: Nancy Santiago
    Nancy Santiago

    Nancy Santiago (she/her/ella) is a CSUSM Alumni! She currently serves as the Budget & Operations Specialist for the Dean of Students. She completed her undergrad in Business Administration with a minor in Spanish in 2014. She has worked in the education industry for over seven years and started her career here at CSUSM three years ago! She is passionate about education, empowering others through education, and encouraging everyone to grow beyond all limitations. She loves all things fitness and loves to learn new things! Her favorite things to do are weight training, yoga, running, and hiking. 

  • Student Representative: Jenny Ramos
    Jenny Ramos

    Jenny Ramos (she/her) is a first generation Latina college student and a third year at CSUSM, majoring in Psychological Sciences. She currently works at the Women and Gender Equity Center and with special need kids and adults. She is passionate about leadership, empowering others, mental health, and intersectional feminism. During her free time she loves spending time with family and friends, trying new foods, and spending time outdoors.

  • Student Representative: Layla-Marie Davila
    Layla-Marie Davila

    Layla-Marie Davila (she/her) is a third year CSUSM student! She is majoring in Economics and minoring in Spanish. She currently works as a student assistant for the Student Leadership & Involvement Center, serves as Vice President of Economics Club, and is an Orientation Team Returner Lead for the Dean of Students! She is passionate about leadership, campus involvement and education. In her free time, Layla-Marie enjoys working out, spending time with friends and family, and reading!