What honoring women’s achievements throughout history means to us.
As we celebrate Women’s History Month, it’s worth noting that the majority of the top leadership roles at FRCC are currently held by women. The president’s Cabinet—convened by FRCC President Colleen Simpson, EdD—is a team of highly accomplished educators who help guide the college and ensure we’re fulfilling our mission of enriching lives through learning.
Cabinet members do this in many ways—including their contributions to collegewide strategic planning and decision making. Today, six of FRCC’s nine Cabinet members identify as women.
Their own achievements aside, their reasons for honoring the accomplishments of women throughout history are varied. Each of these successful executives has her own individual connection to this month’s celebration. Here are some thoughts from FRCC’s women leaders on why Women’s History Month matters to each of them personally.
Important Family Lessons—President Colleen Simpson
“This month is important to me because it’s an opportunity to acknowledge the women who’ve been vital in shaping my past, as well as my current and future story,” says FRCC President Colleen Simpson, EdD. “It allows me to reflect on the contributions my mother, grandmother, and aunts made in shaping who I am as a woman—and as a person.”
“My mother migrated to US from the Caribbean, and when she moved here, she faced some significant barriers. She had limited work experiences and immediately had to get a full-time job to help support the family. My mother instilled in me the work ethic that I have today. She also showed me that women can work while successfully raising a family.”
“My mother stayed true to her values, which was a great example for me and my generation,” Colleen adds. “This month gives me a little space to reflect on my upbringing and having these important role models in my life.”
Colleen joined FRCC as president in August 2022, bringing with her decades of higher education experience—including work in enrollment management, student affairs, academic affairs, teaching and leadership.
Most recently, she served as the vice president of student services and regional learning centers at Northeast Wisconsin Technical College. In that role, she oversaw multiple campuses and five regional learning centers—with a focus on:
- leading academic innovation
- designing “student-ready” experiences
- addressing the educational, economic and workforce development needs of the region
Prior to that role, Colleen worked at Bronx Community College—part of the City University of New York (CUNY)—as the administrator overseeing retention and student success. There she led and managed a comprehensive program of services that:
- promoted access to education
- kept students engaged and in college
- helped students complete their degree or credential
Colleen earned her doctoral degree (EdD) in educational leadership, administration and policy from Fordham University. She earned both her master’s degree (MSEd) in higher education administration and her bachelor’s degree (BBA) in international marketing from Baruch College (also part of the CUNY system).
Empowering and Collaborative Leadership—Executive Director JoAnne Wilkinson
“For me personally, I view the significance of women’s history month within the context of gender stereotypes in the workplace,” says JoAnne Wilkinson, MSOL, SHRM-SCP, who serves as FRCC’s executive director of human resources.
“Historically, leadership theories were created with a focus on ‘masculine’ traits—with a belief that those who do not possess those traits or characteristics would not be considered successful in leadership roles. But women have shown that different leadership styles can be just as effective, if not more so, and they contribute to empowering and transformational leadership.”
A Different Style of Leadership
JoAnne is currently responsible for leading the institution’s human resources function and will soon have a new focus on organizational development. She serves not only as the senior human resources officer for FRCC, but is also a trusted advisor, strategic business partner and advocate for all employees.
“Personally, I have a more collaborative and less assertive style, and I know that others have questioned both my credibility and ability to influence because my attributes are not the same as the males who have historically been in positions like my own,” JoAnne recalls. “For me, Women’s History Month is less about a gender identity, and more about those that have not fit into the historical framework of what constitutes a strong leader.”
“It is a time for me to reflect on historical successes, contributions and my own ability to influence environments where all gender identifies are valued, empowered and recognized for their unique talents,” she says. “It is also a time to show gratitude to the strong women who have created opportunities for me and to be intentional in creating those opportunities for others.”
JoAnne has more than 23 years of HR experience in both public and private sectors, including the not-for-profit realm. Her passion lies in building new structures that support employees and an inclusive environment—while also advising colleagues on current and forward-thinking human resources strategies, challenges and opportunities.
Those Who Paved the Way—Vice President Aparna D-N Palmer
“As women today, we stand on the shoulders of the women who have inspired us,” says Boulder County Campus Vice President Aparna Dileep-Nageswaran Palmer, PhD.
“For me, Women’s History Month is a chance to celebrate our grandmothers, mothers, sisters, aunts and everyone who has come before us and paved the way for us to grow and change the world.”
In addition to serving as the chief executive for FRCC’s campus in Longmont, Aparna is also currently the interim VP for the Larimer Campus in Fort Collins. In these positions, she is responsible for overseeing key areas such as academic affairs, student affairs, accreditation, hiring/evaluation, capital construction, and facilities maintenance on both campuses.
Leadership Experience and Academic Background
In her work at FRCC, Aparna works to develop and expand partnerships with community organizations, educational institutions, businesses, industries and donors, both regionally and nationally.
Before joining FRCC, she was the assistant vice president for academic affairs at Colorado Mesa University/Western Colorado Community College (CMU/WCCC) and was a professor of biology at CMU. During her 22 years there, she served as the director of the academic honors program, president of the faculty senate and as faculty trustee on the CMU/WCCC board of directors.
Aparna holds a PhD in zoology from Washington State University, as well as a Bachelor of Science degree in biological sciences and a Bachelor of Arts degree in English—both from Colorado State University. As a scientist, she studies the natural histories and molecular genetics of tardigrades (water bears) and polychaetes (seaworms).
Gratitude—Vice President Tricia Johnson
“Women’s History Month is of significant importance to me,” says Westminster Campus Vice President Tricia Johnson, EdD, “because I recognize that the opportunities I have been provided in my life are thanks to the pioneering women who have come before me.”
Tricia serves as the campus executive officer, overseeing campus operations and representing the campus throughout the north Denver metro area—including Adams, Broomfield, and northern Jefferson counties.
“When I think about my ability to serve in an executive leadership capacity, I know there is no way this could be happening for me without the efforts [of women who came before me],” she says. “Some of these women are famous, and others only recognized in local circles but who have made a lasting impact on me. Women’s History Month means gratitude to me.”
Prior to joining the college in early 2021, Tricia was the vice president for academic affairs at the Community College of Aurora. She had previously led programs at the Colorado Department of Education—and in postsecondary education and training institutions in both Colorado and Oklahoma—focusing on high quality teaching and learning and connection with workforce.
Over the last two decades, she has worked in education teaching, promoting, designing and administering programs in secondary, postsecondary and career/technical education. During her career, Tricia has served as a classroom teacher, community college department chair, research analyst and marketing manager. She is committed to issues of social justice and removing barriers for adult learners.
Educational Background and Community Leadership
Tricia earned a Doctor of Education degree in educational leadership and policy studies from the University of Denver, a Master of Education in secondary education and a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Central Oklahoma.
She has served as a board member for several non-profit organizations including the Juvenile Assessment Center, Leadership Aurora and the Oklahoma City Ad Club. Currently, Tricia is a Workforce Development Board Member with Adams County and a Community Leaders Council Member with the Rocky Mountain Partnership.
Women Who Came Before Me—Vice President Rebecca Woulfe
“Without hesitation I support the importance of Women’s History Month,” says Rebecca Woulfe, PhD, FRCC’s vice president of academic affairs and online learning. “So much of our documented history is written from the perspective of men and their role in in advancing civilization—it’s important to recognize that many great women have an equal or greater influence on our lives.”
In her role at FRCC, Rebecca supports the work of academic deans, chairs, faculty and instructors at all three campuses. She has oversight for college and programmatic accreditation, areas of state and federal compliance and program review—as well as leading the online learning team. She is also FRCC’s liaison to the Colorado Community College System (CCCS).
“I feel so fortunate to stand on the shoulders of women who came before me,” Rebecca adds. “Specifically, I appreciate the work of Maria Montessori, who sacrificed greatly to change our approach to educating children. I also appreciate many of the young women stepping into public service, prepared to make future change, including our own Colorado Congresswoman Yadira Caraveo.”
Prior to joining FRCC, Rebecca was vice president for instruction and provost for Arapahoe Community College. She has worked for community colleges for more than 20 years, serving as a faculty member, director of eLearning and as an academic dean.
In her role at FRCC, Rebecca leans on her experience from the classroom to support the success of faculty and students. In her previous role, she led the expansion of work-based learning through apprenticeships and internships and provided leadership in new program development to address industry needs.
She has also been instrumental in the implementation of our college’s guided pathways work. This initiative is a researched-based approach to education that integrates student success practices and equity work to ensure positive outcomes for students and to close opportunity gaps.
One important piece of creating guided pathways for students at FRCC has been building career and academic communities. These learning communities bring like-minded learners together to make connections with each other—and with faculty, staff and professionals in the community who have similar interests and expertise. This structure give students the additional guidance and support they need to stay on their path to completion.
Online Leadership and Educational Background
Prior to her work with community colleges, Rebecca led the implementation of technology integration for the University of Denver’s Daniel’s College of Business and University College. She provided consultative services to faculty and facilitated professional development sessions on a range of high-impact practices for using technology in the classroom and in online delivery of courses.
Rebecca has a PhD in higher education leadership from the University of Northern Colorado and a Master of Arts degree in education with an emphasis in instructional technology from the University of Colorado-Denver. She is committed to creating an inclusive environment for students and employees and recognizes the importance of honoring unique perspectives.
Incredible Strides—Executive Director Beryl Durazo
“When I think about the significance of what Women’s History Month means to me, I immediately think of the women whose shoulders I stand on and who enabled me to be in the position that I am in today,” says Beryl Durazo, CFRE, executive director of the FRCC Foundation. “I am fortunate not to remember a time when a woman couldn’t vote or pursue higher education.”
Beryl leads FRCC’s fundraising arm and has dedicated her career to helping those in need through strategic philanthropy, community partnerships, and a steadfast commitment to donor stewardship.
“This month is a reminder of the incredible strides we have made and the work that still needs to be done to ensure true equality,” she says. “It is an opportunity to honor the women who have come before us and to inspire future generations to overcome the adversity we still face.”
“As Maya Angelou once said, ‘Each time a woman stands up for herself, without knowing it possibly, without claiming it, she stands up for all women.’
During her 10+ years in the nonprofit sector, Beryl has been an avid member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals and has raised more than $7 million in grants, major gifts and event-based fundraising.
In 2019, her passion for serving at-risk youth led Beryl to join the Boys & Girls Clubs of Weld County as the organization’s vice president for advancement. In 2022, she won the Legacy Gifts Award at the Boys & Girls Clubs of America’s National Conference.
Before that, she served as executive director of the Firehouse Art Center (FAC). Beryl helped the organization to successfully acquire the hugely popular ArtWalk Longmont event. “By working closely with the ArtWalk board, the center took over management of the event,” she says. “This partnership enabled the two entities to share resources, creating long-term sustainability for both the event and our organization.”
Throughout her non-profit career, Beryl has demonstrated a strong commitment to education and ethical practices. In 2020, she earned her Certified Fund Raising Executive (CFRE) credential and is now an ambassador for CFRE International. She has a passion for helping fundraisers earn their credentials to improve donor stewardship, ethics and accountability across the nonprofit sector.
Beryl first began her non-profit career as an AmeriCorps VISTA member with the New York City Coalition Against Hunger, working with youth who experienced the highest food insecurity rate in the country.