RIT launches new diversity leadership program

W.O.C.H.A. is open to women students in their second through fifth years of study

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W.O.C.H.A is an initiative sponsored by RIT’s Office for Diversity & Inclusion. Rochester Institute of Technology values the dignity of all individuals and the perspectives they bring from personal histories, group identities and cultural experiences. The office incorporates the 2010-2015 Inclusive Excellence Framework, a model for inclusive excellence at RIT, which is supported through several pipeline services: the Office for Faculty Recruitment, the Multicultural Center for Academic Success, the McNair Scholars Program, the Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation, the Future Stewards Program, the Higher Education Opportunity Program, the I’m First Program, and the Office for Diversity and Inclusion. In 2014 and 2015, the office received the Higher Education of Excellence in Diversity (HEED) award from INSIGHT into Diversity magazine.

Rochester Institute of Technology has launched its newest diversity program - Women of Color, Honor, and Ambition, also known as W.O.C.H.A.

W.O.C.H.A., founded by nine women on staff at RIT – with support from RIT’s Office for Diversity & Inclusion, offers its participants a unique and worthwhile leadership experience. The program is open to all female students who are in their second- through fifth-years of study at the university, with an emphasis on woman of color. It is a one-year leadership initiative developed for historically underrepresented women in a predominately technical university to enhance leadership ability, build camaraderie, access mentorship and open networking opportunities. The first cohort of the program includes eight RIT students.

“W.O.C.H.A. aims to create an inspiring vision of the future by developing a quality education and lifelong learning where women will explore, develop and share their skills, experiences and resources,” said Sandra Whitmore, senior director of operations for RIT’s Office for Diversity & Inclusion, and one of the nine founding members of WOW (Women of W.O.C.H.A.) Council.

The W.O.C.H.A. program is modeled on RITs highly successful M.O.C.H.A. (Men of Color, Honor and Ambition) program, launched in 2013 to address retention and success rates for young men of color. W.O.C.H.A. will consist of a series of monthly workshops offered by faculty, staff and community professionals focusing on leadership development, healthy lifestyles, financial literacy, Self-E (self-esteem and empowerment), and community engagement.

Among the program highlights: The eight women will each receive a custom-tailored suit from world-renowned Adrian Jules Custom Clothiers, a gesture to instill even greater confidence and prepare them for career networking opportunities.

“Coming from a disadvantaged background, with many obstacles placed in my path, I have learned to persevere, grow, adapt and succeed,” said Ashley Desil, a second-year accounting student from Brooklyn, N.Y. “Understanding that the strong, independent and successful women of W.O.C.H.A all have different stories and experiences contributes to a community of learning, growing and development amongst the members. W.O.C.H.A. is the beginning to my successful future.”

Participants will also complete a community service project, selected by the group, and the program will conclude with an end of the year celebration, providing an opportunity for those who have supported their journey to come together and celebrate their achievements.

Life-changing work is happening across our campus through the W.O.C.H.A. program,” said Stephanie Paredes, WOW Council member. “This initiative will connect the students in meaningful ways with the Rochester community and some of the amazing community leaders and organizations that comprise it.”

To learn more or to support W.O.C.H.A., go to https://rit.useed.net/projects/263/home