UM Names New Cohort for Women’s Leadership Initiative

June 11, 2019

UM's 2019 Women's Leadership Initiative cohort MISSOULA – The University of Montana announces 12 women representing UM and the Missoula Federal Credit Union as the 2019 class of the Women’s Leadership Initiative.

A cohort-based program that focuses on the importance of women in leadership, the WLI program uses a collaborative approach, network building and professional training to build a culture of support for women’s leadership training.

The initiative is supported by Missoula Federal Credit Union and private donors, modelling a public-private partnership that will benefit both the University and the wider Missoula community.

Initially launched in 2015, UM President Seth Bodnar restored WLI earlier this year as an integral program under UM’s S.E.A. Change initiative, an emphatic effort to power a societal sea change that promotes the safety, empowerment and acceleration of all women.  S.E.A. Change seeks to identify and remove barriers to gender equity  ̶  emphasizing the ongoing nature of this work as the centennial of the ratification of the 19th Amendment approaches in 2020.  

“Advancing the equality for all is central to our focus and mission at UM,” Bodnar said. “We are inspired by the candidates for this year’s cohort of our Women’s Leadership Initiative, and we look forward to the positive community outcomes and benefits generated when investments are made in women’s leadership and advancement.”

The WIL 2019 cohort members are:

  • Alison Pepper, associate professor in the Department of Applied Arts and Sciences, UM Missoula College.
  • Amy Fowler Kinch, director, UM Faculty Development Office.
  • Erika Sylvester, financial service representative supervisor, Missoula Federal Credit Union.
  • Jasmine Zink Laine, policy and culture manager, UM Office of the Executive Vice President and Provost.
  • Jeanne Loftus, director, UM Franke Global Leadership Initiative.
  • Jennifer Bell, assistant professor, UM School of Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation Science.
  • Ke Wu, associate professor, UM Department of Mathematical Sciences.
  • Melissa Neidigh, associate director of operations, UM Housing
  • Rachel Maki, community engagement coordinator, Missoula Federal Credit Union.
  • Rachel Severson, assistant professor, UM Department of Psychology.
  • Sara Rinfret, associate professor and chair, UM Department of Public Administration and Policy.
  • Twila Old Coyote, director, UM TRiO Upward Bound.

UM Maureen and Mike Mansfield Center hosts the WLI program, and it will be coordinated by Dr. Nicky Phear. Deena Mansour, the center’s executive director, was the founding director of WLI and will remain as a lead adviser. Additional program support will be provided by Dr. Christine Fiore as a faculty adviser and Claudine Cellier and Kelly Webster as strategic advisers.


Contact: Nicky Phear, UM Women’s Leadership Initiative coordinator, 406-243-6932,