Founders Page

our story:

The Black Women’s Empowerment Initiative took on many forms before coming to fruition in Fall 2019. The Women’s Empowerment Initiative (WE-I) was initially an initiative under the Office of Multicultural Affairs (OMA) and was proposed by former LSU higher education graduate student Fallan Frank as a series of programs and workshops to address the needs of all women of color on campus. However, the initiative stalled after the departure of Frank and former OMA Director, Andrea Grant. In January 2019, Ann-Marie Herod requested a meeting with staff and student leaders affiliated with the Clarence L. Barney Jr. African American Cultural Center (AACC) to re-open discussion on the formation of WE-I after being inspired from a conversation during the Multicultural Student Leadership Conference held at LSU in Fall 2018 with AACC director Evante Topp and Graduate Assistant Franklin Soares and other presentations during the conference.On January 25, 2019, the following people met to discuss bringing the WE-I to fruition:


  • Ann-Marie Herod (Graduate Assistant, Campus Life & AACC Intern)
  • Michelle Carter (Director, Office of Multicultural Affairs)
  • Summer Steib (Director, Women’s Center)
  • Jamie N Marshall (LSU Undergraduate)
  • Taylor Sigur (LSU Undergraduate)
  • Evante Topp (Assistant Director for African American Student Affairs)
  • Franklin A Soares (Graduate Assistant, AACC)
  • Taylor E Scott (LSU Undergraduate)

In Spring 2019, while still working with Campus Life, Ann-Marie Herod interned with the Clarence L. Barney Jr. African American Cultural Center and took up the mantle by researching programs at peer institutions, piloting BWEI’s signature event (Heart to Art) with the help of students Taylor Sigur, Jada Moore, and JahNay Singleton, and conducting surveys. With the data clearly indicating the greatest interest and need from Black women, Herod stepped up to serve as the founding advisor and the Black Women’s Empowerment Initiative officially became a signature program under the auspices of the AACC. Herod developed the initiative into a cohort model so the initiative could be sustainable as well as focus on small group of students who could be mobilized to go into their communities and organizations and be better leaders. While Herod’s research determined that Black women had relatively high retention rates, issues with mental health, imposter syndrome, confidence gap, and post-secondary access to the workforce persisted. Oftentimes Black women are pouring into others but seldom experience reciprocity.In Fall 2019, Herod was appointed as the AACC’s Graduate Assistant for African American Student Affairs. This transition empowered her to put theories into practice by developing learning outcomes and building the foundation for the inaugural cohort of the Black Women's Empowerment Initiative to address the needs of an underserved student population at Louisiana State University. Michelle Carter, the Director of the Office of Multicultural Affairs, initially served as the staff advisor until the program completely transitioned to staff oversight from the AACC. Carter and Herod reviewed over 200 applications and conducted interviews to select the inaugural cohort, which featured 33 freshmen, sophomores, and juniors. To ensure growth throughout the program, Herod developed an online system to track the utilization of campus resources, participation in departmental and student sponsored programming, and academic progression. Each student had individualized professional and personal success plans developed to help them thrive. The official empowerment circles for the cohort students were done in a collaboration with students from LSU Counselor Education Program. Empowerment circles were facilitated by master’s candidates Julissa Robinson and Tori Press. As LSU transitioned to virtual learning, Herod created virtual empowerment circles for our scholars to engage in led by them. BWEI has thrived since its launch from partnering with local community organizations and businesses such as the Power Pump Girls Inc., Power Coalition for Equity & Justice, and Dudley DeBosier Injury Lawyers. In 2020 BWEI was named new student organization of the year for LSU.

Founding E-Board

Chair: Alaysia Johnson (C/O '21) - Maryland

Alaysia Johnson

“I joined BWEI because I wanted to cultivate a space for Black women on campus. I was longing for a network of like-minded women on campus who would genuinely support, uplift, and push me to be the best woman I could be for myself and others. I also joined BWEI because I wanted to make a difference in the lives of Black women, while also having something that poured back into me as a woman, and a leader on campus. BWEI has always met me where I am, while pushing me and LSU to be the best we can be.”

Vice Chair: Kiemi Brown-Rivers (C/O '22) - Queens, NY

Kiemi BrownRivers

“I joined BWEI because I wanted to be a part of an environment that was geared towards, helping, empowering, and promoting black women in multiple facets of our lives. BWEI was everything I wanted from my LSU experience and has molded my time at LSU for the better. I wanted to be a part of crafting a lasting legacy at LSU that would provide a space to black women to flourish and grow together.”

Secretary: Kennedy Simon (C/O '22) - Beaumont, TX

Kennedy Simon

“I joined BWEI because I wanted to be a part of an organization that is strong and uplifts others. BWEI has helped me develop my leadership skills and succeed overall on campus. I would not have been able to do this if it was not for the encouragement and support that I received from the woman in BWEI. I am truly thankful for this organization and I'm excited to see what we will do next!”

Treasurer: Deventria Curtis (C/O '22) - Baton Rouge, LA

Deventria Curtis

 “I joined BWEI because I wanted to make a connection with other black women on campus whose goal was to make LSU better for future black women.”

Events Chair: Maya Stevenson (C/O '22) - Baton Rouge, LA

Maya Stevenson

“I joined BWEI because I was looking for a community of Black women on campus, and I couldn't be more proud of my decision.”

Callia CoxCommunity Service Chair: Callia Cox (C/O '21) - Charleston, NC

 “Throughout my time at LSU, I have made it a goal to be active in the LSU and Baton Rouge community. On campus as the Community Outreach Chair of the Black Women's Empowerment Initiative I have created multiple partnerships with nonprofits like the Powerpump Girls Inc., Urgent Care Eleven, a New Orleans health clinic, and connected multiple LSU Black alumni and their businesses to the university.”

Lola APR Chair (2019-2020): Ololade Adeola (C/O '22) - Baton Rouge, LA

“When I first transferred to LSU, I was so alone and afraid I couldn’t make it. I am a black woman in chemical engineering where most of my professors do not look like me or have similar experiences as me. Being a double minority in my major hasn’t been easy. I joined BWEI because having a support system of powerful black women is extremely important to me. I have ladies I can relate to, let my hair down with. I don’t have to code-switch or put on a mask, I can be around women that love me for me, empathize with my experience, support my dreams and ambitions, and always encourage me. I would not be the person I am today or offered career opportunities without God and the support of BWEI.”

Sasha BournePR Co-Chair (2020-2021): Sasha Bourne (C/O '23) - New Orleans, LA

“I joined BWEI because I wanted to be surrounded by powerful women that inspire change on campus, and so I could learn to do the same. I wanted to be empowered by a sisterhood, so that I can then be able to uplift other Black women around me.”

Tyler HuntPR Co-Chair (2020-2021): Tyler Hunt (C/O '23) - Baton Rouge, LA

“I wanted to be a part of a group of pioneering, trailblazing, highly accomplished Black women who were going to be assertive and active on LSU’s campus. To make the experience and struggles of Black women in particular, known to students, staff, and administration, but more importantly, make these issues known so that they could be addressed, and altered for the better. We as Black women at LSU, or at PWIs in general, I believe have a responsibility to make our campus(es) better and more inclusive for the Black women that come after us. To pave the way as many Black women did for us, so that we could even have the opportunity to attend a university like LSU and demand what we deserve: support, recognition, respect, and equality.”

Founding Scholars

Aasiyah Fisher ('23)
Alexis Mason ('20)
Brelin Mckneely ('21)
Brianna Rogers ('22)
Codee Jones ('22)
Dajae Simeon ('21)
Fredlicia Phillips ('23)
Hunter Roach ('23)
Iyana Charles ('23)
JaBree Harris ('21)
Jasmine Turner ('23)
Jonae Cox ('21)
Justiss Burns ('23)
Kayla Benton ('22)
Lauren Smith ('23)
Lauryn White ('23)
Mackenzie Jones ('22)
Maia Williams ('22)
Nylah Lowe ('22)
Orielle Edwards ('21)
Rekea' Williams ('23)
Tai Lambert ('21)
Tia Peck ('22)
Trinity Manning ('23)