International Women’s Leadership Circle Bridges Academic and Community Knowledge in San Diego’s Underserved Populations

The International Women's Leadership Circle (IWLC), a new group formed after more than a year of community outreach, will aim to provide a supportive environment for women’s leadership development. Additionally, the IWLC is in the process of designing and implementing a new educational program at the University of San Diego (USD) to meet identified needs and help build paths to self-reliance for low-income, underserved populations in San Diego County.

Over the past year, Rubina Bhatti, doctoral student , and Chery Getz, Ph.D., associate professor in the Department of Leadership Studies of the School of Leadership and Education Sciences (SOLES) at USD, have led conversations with Via International and representatives from other nonprofit organizations throughout San Diego to assess the interest and need for access to higher education among women in low-income communities of San Diego. Participating organizations include the Foundation for Women, Voices of Women, the United Women of East Africa, and the Center for Global Health.

At each conversation, women pointed out the need to bridge academic and community knowledge. The participants expressed a strong desire to receive leadership education and eventually return to school, as well as to share their own leadership knowledge with academia.

In response to the needs expressed by the communities, the IWLC was formed to undertake several initiatives proposed by participants through these conversations, including a new certificate program at USD based on the successful Community Leadership Certificate program created by Via International more than 15 years ago through the Universidad Ibero-Americano in Mexico City, Mexico. Today, the two-year certificate program has graduated more than 275 women, many of whom have gone on to start small businesses through micro-enterprise. The existing educational collaboration, and the plans to replicate it in San Diego, was recently awarded the 2013 U.S.-Mexico Innovation and Cooperation Award, which recognizes projects that have positively impacted the lives of its project participants in new and innovative ways.


Beth Garofalo
(619) 260-7790