Our Partnership Council is made up of members from the community who advise the Women's
and Gender Studies program on community issues and opportunities related to the well-being of women and other
underrepresented groups. The Council also works to strengthen the Women’s and Gender
Studies Endowment and to raise money to support projects directed toward improving
the well-being of women and other under-represented groups throughout South Carolina.
2019-2020 Council Members
Madison Baker is a senior studying Women’s and Gender Studies and Political Science
at the University of South Carolina-Honors College and has a Certificate in Labor
Studies from the City University of New York. They coordinate the Last Lecture Series
for Scholars United and are very active in social justice, leftist organizing, and
political campaigning at the university and in the greater Columbia community. Their
research interests include critical theory, affect theory, postcolonialism, labor
studies, and queer studies.
Claudia Smith Brinson worked as a journalist for more than 30 years for newspapers
in Florida, Greece, and South Carolina. She was a national columnist and writing coach
for Knight Ridder, winning more than three dozen state, regional, and national awards,
including being named a Pulitzer finalist as a member of the team covering Hurricane
Hugo. She also covered South Carolina as a free-lance writer for The New York Times,
The Washington Post, and Newsweek. And Brinson is a short story writer who has won
an O. Henry. After teaching a course a year in the Honors College and English department
of the University of South Carolina for twenty years, she served as a senior lecturer
and program coordinator for the Writing for Digital Media major at Columbia College
for ten years. She is currently writing about the missing voices of S.C. black activists
during the civil rights movement.
Valerie Ekue, Chair
Dr. Valerie Ekue serves as the Chair of the WGST Partnership Council and as Director
of Membership Support and Community Justice for the South Carolina Coalition Against
Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault. She provides expert training and technical assistance
for 23 member organizations, statewide community partners and allies. Dr. Ekue is
a member of the Richland County Fatality Review Team, Trauma Development Team and
the Workforce Training Collaborative. Dr. Ekue is also responsible for increasing
the capacity for member organizations to provide effective advocacy and outreach to
marginalized and unserved communities throughout South Carolina.
Kathleen Hays is a member of the Caddo Nation of Oklahoma. From 2017-2019, she volunteered
with the SC Indian Affairs Commission as the Chairwoman for the Indigenous Women's
Alliance. In that amount of time, she has spoken at rallies, participated on panels,
and attended meetings with elected officials, all advocating for issues specific to
Native American women and children. She is also a member of the SC Human Trafficking
Sarah Ingraham serves as the Volunteer Services Coordinator at Sexual Trauma Services
of the Midlands. She recruits, supervises, and manages volunteers for the advocate
program, which provides hospital accompaniment for survivors of sexual assault across
Richland, Lexington, Newberry, Sumter, and Clarendon counties. She previously worked
as an organizer for Planned Parenthood South Atlantic. Sarah received her BA in Women’s
and Gender Studies from the University of South Carolina in 2017.
Meeghan Kane teaches history at Benedict College, a historically black college in
Columbia. She edits Unsweetened Magazine, an online publication devoted to feminist
voices in the South, and she serves as President of Deckle Edge Literary Festival,
a festival devoted to southern storytellers who challenge the status quo. She is currently
secretary of the Women and Gender Studies Partnership Council.
Kayla Mallett is Coordinator for the South Carolina Citizen Review Panel, a federally
mandated organization tasked with oversight of the Department of Social Service's
child protection services policies. Kayla's career includes political organizing for
electoral and issue-based campaigns in SC and GA as well as program management for
Girl Scouts of South Carolina - Mountains to Midlands. She is a graduate of Leadership
Columbia, an honorary member of Columbia College's Phi Alpha Honor Society chapter,
and member of the 2018 class of the SC Black Page's "Top 20 Under 40." Kayla received
a BA from Columbia College in 2008 and an MA in Organizational Change and Leadership
in 2012. She is a member of The Language Buzz's Community Advisory Board, and a volunteer
for EveryBlackGirl, Inc and The Hive Community Circle. Her project, Black Women 2020,
centers the voice of Black women, exploring what they need to feel safe, seen, and
supported. Kayla co-chairs the City of Columbia Complete Count Committee, a multi-disciplinary
group charged with creating awareness and generating participation in the 2020 Census.
Carla A. Pfeffer
Dr. Carla A. Pfeffer is Associate Professor of Sociology and Women's & Gender Studies
and Director of the Women's and Gender Studies Program at the University of South
Carolina. She is the author of the award-winning Queering Families: The Postmodern
Partnerships of Cisgender Women and Transgender Men, as well as dozens of journal
articles, book chapters, and encyclopedia entries focusing on gender, sexuality, and
A passionate educator and servant at heart, Ashley Thomas is committed to providing
aid to underserved children, youth and families. She earned a Bachelor of Arts in
psychology from Columbia College and a Master’s of Social Work from the University
of Washington. Ashley founded The Hive Community Circle in 2015 with the purpose of
meeting a critical need for historically underserved women and girls who have experienced
sexual assault and intimate partner violence. The Hive works to ensure women and girls
are heard, supported and empowered to move beyond their pain while discovering hope.
As a survivor herself, Ashley recognizes and values the power and strength embodied
by all survivors and understands survivors must be at the forefront of this work to
enact effective change.
Kathia Valverde is originally from Costa Rica and has lived in the United States for
over 26 years. She has a bachelor’s degree in Accounting and Business Administration,
a diploma in English as a Second Language; and two Associate Degrees in Early Childhood
and Liberal Arts. She has served as an interpreter and translator for South Carolina
Department of Social Services, family court, several attorneys and other medical entities
in the state. She's the former Program Coordinator for the HABLA Project at the University
of South Carolina that served the Latinx community of the State with Interpretation
and Translations through the Department of Social Services. Kathia is the State Reproductive
Health Program Coordinator at PASOs for the Latinx community, which is part of a State-wide
Initiative that wants to ensure that every woman or man regardless of his or her ability
to pay can receive contraceptives if they want them. She is passionate about solidarity,
advocacy and activism for issues affecting minorities, immigrants, diversity, women
rights, LGBTQ+ community. Kathia loves to travel de world, spend time with her family,
she is an active yogi, a lover of animals, nature and her garden.
Travis is a graduate student in Women's and Gender Studies as well as a PhD student
in The School Library and Information Sciences at USC. Travis earned their BA in History
from Augusta State University. Their primary research interests include critical information
studies, queer archives and social advocacy in librarianship. Their publications and
presentations include topics on rural community archives, describing gender in archival
moving images, and the role of service learning in teaching students about activist
oriented community archiving. Travis is also the co-creator of the Queer Cola Oral
History and Digital Archives Project.
Robin Waites is the Executive Director for Historic Columbia and has served in that
capacity since 2004. A life-long resident of Columbia, Robin is well equipped to
work with the various constituents and issues that are key factors in the preservation
of historic assets and education on local history in South Carolina’s capital city.
A product of Columbia’s Richland School District One, Robin attended Middlebury College
in Middlebury, Vermont where she received a bachelor of arts with a double major in
Art History and Russian. She received a Master of Arts in Art History from the University
of SC in 1996 and subsequently began work at the South Carolina State Museum. She
served in a variety of capacities including the chief curator of art, which was her
position when she left the State Museum to work with Historic Columbia. As Executive
Director for Historic Columbia, Robin has overseen the transformation of the historic
buildings and grounds; established an expansive community engagement program in Columbia
and Richland County; and spearheaded a number of major historic preservation efforts
including the Palmetto Compress Warehouse and the 1600 block of Main Street. Robin
is active in the community, serving on the board of the Delta House, Inc., the SC
Humanities Advisory Council, and the South Carolina Dharma Group.
Barbara Wofford-Kanwat earned her bachelor’s degree in women’s studies from the University
of South Carolina. She also earned her juris doctor and international masters of
business administration from the University of South Carolina. After graduation,
she worked as a staff attorney for the South Carolina Court of Appeals. In 2012,
she was appointed a Richland County magistrate. In her spare time, she enjoys spending
time with her family, practicing yoga, reading, and traveling.
Laura R. Woliver (Ph.D., University of Wisconsin –Madison, 1986) is Distinguished
Professor Emerita in Political Science and Women’s and Gender Studies. She taught
at USC for 32 years. She became a joint appointment in Women’s and Gender Studies
in 2001. She served both Political Science and Women’s and Gender Studies in faculty,
College, University and professional association committees, and as a mentor to many
students and colleagues. She continues her work on intersectional social justice through
her writings and activism. Professor Woliver specializes in American politics. Her
interests include gender and politics, social justice, social movements and activism.
Her current emphasis is on fair districting in American elections, voter protection,
and making democracy work for all people. She does this in her writings and her work
in the League of Women Voters of the Columbia Area.
Kayle Wright is the Operations Manager for the Women’s Rights and Empowerment Network
(WREN), a non-profit organization committed to advancing the health, economic well-being
and rights of South Carolina’s women, girls, and families. Kayle previously worked
in higher education, supporting academic program management and development at the
University of South Carolina. Kayle is a native South Carolinian and earned a Bachelor
of Arts degree in English from the University of South Carolina.
Mike moved to South Carolina in 2011 after being accepted by University of South Carolina’s
anthropology graduate program and received a Master's degree in 2013 for the research
he conducted in Guatemala with Q'eqchi' Maya communities whom which he has spent nearly
a year with over the course of the last 6 years. While pursuing his doctorate degree
in Cultural Anthropology, Mike was an adjunct professor at University of South Carolina
teaching course titles such as “Understanding Other Cultures” which suited his transition
into the leadership role he occupies within PASOs. At PASOs, Mike is the Director
of Capacity Building where he provides technical service and support for partners
and local/statewide organizations to increase their capacity to better address the
needs and strengths of the Latino populations in SC.