Collaboration & Service

Refugee and Immigrant Women for Change (Advisor)

The mission of Refugee and Immigrant Women for Change is to build the capacity and leadership of the RIWC organizations to plan, design, and implement programs to achieve gender equality for refugee and immigrant women. RIWC is a coalition of seven organizations that came together across multiple ethnic identities to leverage their strengths and build a movement for social change that addresses systemic issues facing all refugee and immigrant women and girls: Women’s Initiative for Self-Empowerment (WISE), CAPI, African Health Action Corps, SEWA AIFW, Centro, Lao Assistance Center of Minnesota, and Liberian Women’s Initiative.

“The success of our event Equality for Minnesota’s Immigrant and Refugee Women was mostly because of the support we got from Debra. The immigrant community complains often on how distant is the UofM towards them. Debra represented very well the CWPP and the University and has demonstrated the kind of collaboration the community should have with the university.” —Beaudelaine Pierre, former RIWC coordinator

Community Partner Convenings (Planning Team)

International Women’s Day 2018 event planning team with Isuroon

In her role as a Center Director, Debra regularly partners with community groups on events and other convenings designed to build relationships, awareness and action on disparities and solutions.  Recent events included an International Women’s Day celebration focused on women of African descent in collaboration with Isuroon.


Minnesota Women in Construction Trades Policy Group (Coordinator)

Minnesota Tradeswomen gather at the Minnesota Women’s March

A Minnesota Women in Construction Trades Policy Group was formed in fall 2016.  In 2017, Debra and members of the group participated in a Commissioner of Human Rights Task Force process that led to a significant increase in the hiring goals for women on state-funded construction projects. Based on best practices advanced through a variety of sources, the Minnesota group is working toward a comprehensive supply/demand approach that builds relationships, trust and shared problem solving over the long term.  These efforts are described in an Emmy award-winning TPT special Our Rights: Raising the Stakes.  


The Gender Policy Report (Managing editor)

The Gender Policy Report works across varied media platforms, including blog posts, videos, and podcasts, to produce and disseminate gender-focused analyses of emerging US federal policy proposals. Intersectional in its approach, the mission of the GPR is to harness increased interest among academic researchers to impact policy and build their capacity to bring the best insights from scholarship and research to policy makers, journalists, and civil society in a way that is timely for addressing serious policy challenges.  As Managing Editor, Debra collaborates with over 30 academic curators and many more researcher contributors from academia and nonprofits.

Melanie Peterson-Hickey, Debra, Lee Roper-Batker, Jennifer Godinez and Duchess Harris

Status of Women & Girls in Minnesota research working group

Status of Women and Girls in Minnesota working groups (Facilitator)

Over 100 nonprofit, community, and government leaders and policymakers at all levels of government have served on Status of Women & Girls in Minnesota working groups in the areas of economics, health and reproductive justice, safety and leadership.  More information on the Status of Women & Girls in Minnesota collaborative research project.

Minnesota Coalition for Women’s Economic Security (Founder and Executive Committee member)

Minnesota Coalition for Women’s Economic Security group

Minnesota Coalition for Women’s Economic Security group

The Minnesota Coalition for Women for Women’s Economic Security was formed in 2014 to pass the Women’s Economic Security Act and included over 50 organizations and individuals representing women, children, low income communities, communities of color, seniors, LGBT communities, labor unions and faith. Since then, the Coalition has been hosting annual summits and working to pass additional policies that advance economic security for women and their families. More information on the Minnesota Coalition for Women’s Economic Security.

Other collaborations:

Minnesota Coalition for Paid Family Leave (Researcher, Advisor) #MN4PFL

Kids Can’t Wait Coalition (Founder, Active Member 2014-2017)

Gender Justice
(Founding Board Member, Chair 2017-19)

(Advisor & Evaluator)

Minnesota Women’s Consortium Policy Committee (Member 2013-2015)

womenwinning State PAC Screening Committee (Member, 2011-2017)

Mindful Engagement Group (Member)

Humphrey School Diversity Committee (Co-chair, 2013-14)

University of Minnesota Women’s Leadership Institute (Graduate Member)

Girl Scout Troop 924 (Troop Leader, 2005-2011)