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Two selected to participate in Women’s Leadership in Action Program

Charmion Rush

Two Western Carolina University women ― Donna Gallo, public communications specialist in marketing, and Charmion Rush, assistant professor in the School of Teaching and Learning ― have been selected to participate in WCU’s Women’s Leadership in Action Program.

The program is an intensive, yearlong experience in which participants develop and implement a personal leadership plan, work with a mentor to refine leadership skills and attend an immersive professional development conference.

Gallo earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Appalachian State University in Boone. She joined the university’s marketing staff in February 2015 as the social media and digital content manager and was a member of the team that produced the national award-winning “Diversity Dialogues: Conversations in Color,” a video, web and social media series that enabled African-American students to openly discuss what it’s like to be an African-American student at a predominantly white institution.

Donna Gallo

“I feel honored to be selected,” said Gallo. “After being nominated by my supervisor, who told me the program would be an ideal challenge for me, I looked further into it and readily accepted. I have a deep love for Western Carolina University and want to continue here and believe the best way to serve the university is progressing toward a leadership position.”

Rush earned two bachelor’s degrees from Winston-Salem State University, a master’s degree from Appalachian State University and a doctoral degree from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. In 2015, she accepted the position of assistant professor of inclusive and special education in the College of Education and Allied Professions. She is a member of WCU’s Faculty Affairs Council and Faculty Senate. Rush’s teaching, research and service focuses on preparing future educators to teach diverse populations, with an emphasis on the ethnic and minority students enrolled in special education. Her areas of research include culture responsive pedagogy, disproportionate representation, implicit bias, inclusion and literacy practices.

“I want to exceed the required expectations of my current position and contribute to the organizational change that I see on the horizon at Western Carolina University,” Rush said. “As a change agent, I would like to explore the opportunity for mid- and upper-level management.

“As a participant of Women’s Leadership in Action Program, I know that I would receive the guidance, research and resources that are needed to effectively lead beside my male counterparts. As a graduate of the program, I would like to continue making contributions by serving as mentor and organizer,” she said. “As a woman of color, it would be especially important to me if I could recruit and support other women of color who are underrepresented in leadership positions. If chosen, I would like to serve on the program committee to ensure the continued implementation and success. I truly believe that this program is timely and needed for the promotion of all women leaders.”

The Women’s Leadership in Action Program is a joint effort between the university’s chief of staff, Melissa Wargo, and Interim Chancellor Alison Morrison-Shetlar to encourage and prepare women faculty and staff to step into leadership roles. One faculty member and one staff member are chosen annually to participate in the program.

Gallo and Rush were chosen from a highly competitive pool of well-qualified applicants, Wargo said. Their activities during the coming year also will include developing a strong professional network through relationship building, making a presentation to campus on an aspect of women in leadership, and serving as program alumna in helping develop future programming or activities.

To qualify, women must have been employed at WCU in a full-time faculty or staff position for at least three years at the time of application, desire an intensive professional development opportunity and either be newly installed in a leadership role or anticipate or desire becoming a leader. Previous participants include Amanda Murchie and Patricia Bricker in 2017-18; Melisa McNeil and Jenny Stewart in 2016-17; and Kristin Calvert and Andrea Moshier in 2015-16.

For more information on the application process, contact Jessica Woods, executive assistant to the chief of staff, at

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