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Women’s History Month – Women in Leadership Dinner

This past Thursday, D&I held our first Women’s History Month Dinner. This year’s theme? Women in Leadership.

For this Women’s History Month Dinner, we honored Dr. Rani Parker (Founder of Business Community Synergies), Ms. Maxine Griffin Somerville (Executive Director, Administration & Human Resources of the United Nations Foundation and Better World Fund), and Ms. Shyrea Thompson Robinson (Executive Director, Capital City AHEC, Inc.).

Our panelists told us about their background and current roles, and also provided guidance on how to build meaningful professional relationships, the experience of being women of color in the workforce, and how to capitalize on both academic and professional skills.

You can check out the great time everyone had below:




A special thank you to our panelists, who provided such thoughtful and meaningful answers to everyone’s questions. Their bios are also located below.

A. Rani Parker – Founder, Business Community Synergies

Dr. Rani Parker is a leading authority on corporate-community engagement and known internationally for her work in community-based gender and social analysis. She has worked for two decades on corporate-community relationships between the public sector, private business, and civil society.

Dr. Parker’s research spans grassroots work in India, economic development programs in West Africa, gender analysis in the Middle East, and participatory evaluation and partnership building across many regions of the world. She has shown that direct relationships between international businesses and local communities mitigate risk and enhance local community development.

As Director of Woman/Child Impact Programs and Chief Advisor at Save the Children US, she created and led multi-national teams of award-winning development practitioners in capacity building and social and gender analysis in health, education and economic opportunity programs. Her work on gender analysis, Another Point of View, has been translated into five languages and is widely used for community-based gender analysis in developing countries. Her assessment of the prospects for collaboration between multinational businesses and NGOs is published in Globalization and NGOs: Transforming Business, Government, and Society.

Dr. Parker has worked and consulted in the public, corporate and non-profit sectors with organizations such as Care, Business for Social Responsibility, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, UNICEF and the UNDP.

Dr. Parker immigrated as a teenager to the United States from India. She received a Ph.D. in public administration, with a specialization in corporate community investment from the George Washington University School of Business and Public Management and a Master’s degree from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy of Tufts University in International Economic Relations. She earned her Bachelor’s degree in economics from Drew University.

Maxine Griffin Somerville – Executive Director, Administration & Human Resources of the United Nations Foundation and Better World Fund

Maxine Griffin Somerville serves as Executive Director, Administration & Human Resources of the United Nations Foundation and Better World Fund. In her role, she manages the daily operations of the organization and oversees the human resources function.

Before joining the UN Foundation in 2003, Ms. Somerville was the senior director of administration and human resources for the Center for Policy Alternatives (CPA). Before her work at the CPA, she served as director of administration and human resources for the National Office of the League of Women Voters and administrative associate/budget administrator for the Brookings Institution’s Center for Public Policy Education, both located in Washington, D.C.

Ms. Somerville served on the board of directors for the Old Dominion University Alumni Association (ODUAA) from 2003-2010. She previously held the office of president for the Black Alumni Council, a chapter of ODUAA, from 2005-2009. Ms. Somerville is a certified Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR), having earned that designation in 2008. She is a member of the Society for Human Resource Management and Human Resources Association of the National Capital Area where she was formerly held the position of the Volunteers chairperson. She is a member of the National Association of African Americans in Human Resources, Charles County (MD) Commission for Women, National Association of Professional Women and current President of the Maurice J. McDonough (MD) High School PTSO. Her many volunteer activities have included Cub Scouts, coaching for basketball and cheerleading, and Big Brother/Big Sister.
Ms. Somerville holds a bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Old Dominion University in Norfolk, VA, and a master’s degree in Public Administration from The George Washington University, in Washington, D.C.

Shyrea Thompson Robinson – Executive Director, Capital City AHEC, Inc.

Shyrea Thompson Robinson brings over fifteen years of education advocacy and outreach experience, on both Capitol Hill and in a variety of frontline roles serving both public and private universities in Massachusetts, New York and the Washington, D.C. Metropolitan Area to the Capital City Area Health Education Center, Inc. (CC AHEC).

Joining CC AHEC in 2009 as Program Director her unique perspective and insight into public-private partnership development has expanded the AHEC Center office services throughout the District. In May 2011, Ms. Robinson transitioned to Interim Executive Director at CC AHEC and continues her work in underserved communities in our nation’s capital. In March 2012, she was named Executive Director.

Prior to CC AHEC, Ms. Robinson was honored to not only work on Capitol Hill with Congressman Martin Meehan, but also as Assistant Admissions Director at the University of Massachusetts Lowell expanding services for underrepresented communities. In New York, at Schulte, Roth & Zabel, LLP she served a host of clients, here Ms. Robinson assisted a team of legal advocates to execute and reconcile the vision of Boards of Trustees, Presidents, teachers, parents and students to create world class learning institutions. While in New York she also served as a New York Civil Rights Coalition Volunteer Teacher in Brooklyn.

Ms. Robinson earned her B.A. in Criminal Justice from The George Washington University (GW) in 2004, and returned to GW for her graduate studies in Nonprofit Management in 2009. During her undergraduate studies at GW, she was a dedicated student leader, a member of Alpha Phi Sigma, The National Criminal Justice Honor Society and volunteer who received various awards, including a citation from the Mayor for her commitment to aiding communities in the District.

Ms. Robinson has a passion for cultivating impactful campus-community partnerships and currently serves as an education policy advisor to various charter school, nonprofit and government relation groups. She also serves as a GW Interdisciplinary Student Community-Oriented Prevention Enhancement Service (ISCOPES) co-faculty advisor for the Academies at Anacostia High School allied health training program and a Community Advisory Board Member to GW’s School of Medicine and the Eastern High School’s Health and Medical Science Academy.


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