Focus Forward Fellowship

Overview2018 FellowsMentorsTestimonialsSupportersLearn More

Program overview Focus Forward Fellowship logo

Focus Forward Fellowship is designed to help women student veterans build skills, leadership and a sense of community with their peers.

Through the program, Fellows will:

  • build a community of support;
  • access corporate mentors to develop new career skills;
  • understand individual strengths and how to maximize those strengths;
  • identify strategies and resources to increase connections and success on campus;
  • gain confidence in problem solving; and
  • develop skills to help foster academic and career goals.


Invitations to apply to attend the Fellowship, which begins with a four-day residency program at Purdue University, are issued to eligible women student veterans. The residency program begins July 25 and ends at 10 p.m. on July 28th. Fellows will travel home on July 29th.

Fellows are competitively selected from a national group of applicants who:

  • hold an honorable discharge from the U.S. military;
  • are sophomores, juniors, seniors, or pursing a master’s degree; and
  • maintain a 2.75 GPA or better.

The Fellowship covers the cost of travel, food, lodging, activities and materials.

After completing the residency, Fellows will engage with their cohort in an online learning community during the 2018–2019 academic year.

Supporting the Fellowship

MFRI is grateful for the support of past sponsors. If you are interested in supporting the Fellowship, please contact Lauren Runco, MFRI director of education and employment, at (765) 496-6045 or

Announcing our 2018 Focus Forward Fellowship Cohort

Gabrielle Bernard
Columbia University
Computer science

Jennifer Brett
University of Texas-San Antonio
Multidisciplinary studies

Chelsea Clarkson
Washington State University
Industrial and organizational psychology

Katharine Cobean
Adler University
Air Force

Chesney Fix
University of Wisconsin-Parkside
Applied health science

Megan Gordon
Arizona State University

Myra Hallman
Humboldt State University
Business marketing
Air Force

Anjuli Holmes
University of Wisconsin-Parkside
Goast Guard

Sharice Lewis
Arizona State University
Engineering management
Air Force

Sandra Manning
Regent University
Leadership studies

Christina Ramirez
University of Arizona
Public health

Tracy Ruegsegger
Ferris State University
Allied health and dental hygiene

Marie Russell
Colorado State University

Frances Salazar
Anne Arundel Community College
International affairs

Elizabeth Sampson
Clemson University
Air Force

Janiah Sandles
Eastfield Community College

Keishla Santiago Ortiz
Florida International University
Psychology and women and gender studies
Marine Corps

Jordan Smith
University of Washington
Social work
Marine Corps

Juana Thomas
El Paso Community College

Skylar Winter
Purdue University
Mass Communication
Marine Corps


Kimberly D. Bloodgood

U.S. Air Force veteran Kimberly D. Bloodgood, M.Ed., is the director of IUPUI’s Office of Veteran and Military Personnel. This centralized office provides comprehensive resources to veterans and Veterans Affairs benefit recipients to aid in their success as a student. She is currently serving as the secretary/treasurer of IUPUI’s Faculty and Staff Veteran Council. Bloodgood was the former program director with the Indiana State Approving Agency. There she approved programs for the GI Bill. Bloodgood is dedicated to assisting veterans as they transition from military to college life and beyond.

Carolyn Brown

Carolyn Brown is a graduate of Purdue University, former teacher and consultant. She has been in nonprofit management for 20 years and has served on a number of nonprofit boards of directors. Brown currently is director of Eastern Seals Crossroads Veteran Services, an organization dedicated to changing the way the world defines disability. Brown has helped convene community leaders around best practices in connecting veterans and their families to resources in their communities, such as employment and housing.

Patrice M. Buzzanell

Patrice M. Buzzanell, former Purdue University Distinguished Professor of Communication and Engineering Education and current University of South Florida’s Department of Communication Chair, has focused her career on gender, design and resilience. She is the editor of four books, and authored over 200 journal articles, chapters and encyclopedia entries. Most recently she was recognized as a National Communication Association Distinguished Scholar.

Genevieve Chase

U.S. Army Reserve veteran Genevieve Chase founded American Women Veterans and began the 21st century women veterans’ movement. Since returning from active duty service, Chase has worked tirelessly to bring to light the issues faced by today’s veterans. While advocating on their behalf, she discovered a need for a focus on women veterans and their families from all eras and branches of service.

Lanän Clark

U.S. Navy Reserve veteran, Lanän Clark, has spent the majority of her career in financial services. After earning her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in business administration, she became a financial advisor and opened a successful practice. She has built a successful career with Bank of America and is currently a practice management consultant in the Southwest Division.

Lynda Davis

Veteran Lynda Davis serves as the executive vice president at the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, where she is the executive director of the Military and Veteran Caregiver Network. Davis is nationally recognized for her leadership in the development and implementation of significant and sustainable programs that successfully support the full spectrum of quality of life services for military personnel, veterans, their families, caregivers and survivors.

Kiersten Downs

U.S. Air Force and New York Air National Guard veteran, Kiersten Downs, is a doctoral candidate in the University of South Florida’s Department of Applied Anthropology. Her dissertation research is a mixed methods study on women veterans and their transitional experiences from military service. Down’s past work experience includes four years as a congressional staffer, and more than five years of experience working in project management, data collection and research analysis on military veteran centered projects. Currently she serves as a national board member for Student Veterans of America.

Priscilla “Pris” Gerde

Priscilla “Pris” Gerde serves as advisor-in-residence in the Krannert Professional Development Center, which is housed in Purdue University’s Krannert School of Management. She is an experienced manager and advisor who spent nearly 38 years in the pharmaceutical industry at Eli Lilly and Company prior to her July 2011 retirement. She is passionate about volunteer engagement and is actively involved in the community, serving on several nonprofit boards of directors.

Linda Hughes-Kirchubel

Linda Hughes-Kirchubel is the director of external relations at the Military Family Research Institute at Purdue University. She spent 17 years as an award-winning journalist in California and Indiana, and is co-editor of MFRI’s forthcoming book, “A Battle Plan for Military and Veteran Families During War.” Hughes-Kirchubel is currently pursuing her doctorate at Purdue’s Brian Lamb School of Communication. Her research focuses on marginalization, identity and resilience in the digital domain.

Abby Kinch

U.S. Air Force veteran, Abby Kinch, is currently a doctoral student in public administration and policy, conducting research in veteran policies and the intelligence community. Kinch is active in local and state politics and has assisted Student Veterans of America and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs on policy issues at the national level.

Therese Lask

Therese Lask is a training and organizational development specialist at Colorado State University (CSU). In her current role, she works as a consultant on projects like the development and facilitation of the Supervisor Development Program; planning and facilitating departmental strategic planning; and creating and facilitating professional development classes for all CSU employees. Lask has published numerous articles, workbooks and a book, “Your Life as a River,” on the topic of strengths development.

Sharlee Lyons

Sharlee Lyons works in the Purdue Krannert School of Management and focuses on students and staff personal and professional leadership development. A student success professional and teacher at heart, she served as a corporate trainer at Brightpoint, Inc. and was the training manager at Purdue Federal Credit Union. She later founded The People Business, Inc., her own training and consulting firm. Her mission in life is to be an encouragement to others and help them realize their strengths and potential.

Shelley M. MacDermid Wadsworth

Shelley M. MacDermid WadsworthShelley M. MacDermid Wadsworth, Ph.D., M.B.A., is a professor in Purdue University’s Department of Human Development and Family Studies, where she also directs the Military Family Research Institute and the Center for Families. Her research focuses on relationships between job conditions and family life, with special focus on military families and organizational policies, programs and practices.

BriGette McCoy

BriGette McCoyFourth generation veteran, BriGette McCoy, is the chief executive officer and founder of Women Veteran Social Justice Network (WVSJN). This program connects and empowers women veterans using telehealth concepts, new media and emerging technology. WVSJN leverages leadership development, peer-support networking, multi-platform information gathering and collaborative advocacy to raise awareness and provide resources unique to women and veterans.

Betty Moseley Brown

U.S. Marine Corps veteran Betty Moseley Brown has dedicated her professional career to military organizations. She worked at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego before joining the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) in San Diego and later to Washington, D.C. There she became associate director at the VA’s Center for Women Veterans. Moseley Brown was installed as the 19th president of the Women Marines Association in 2012 and in 2016 was awarded the Dickey Chapelle Award, which honored Dickey Chapelle, an American foreign correspondent who was killed while covering Marines in combat during the Vietnam War.

Heather Nicholson

Heather NicholsonU.S. Army veteran Heather Nicholson served in the Military Police Corps for 21 years. Nicholson currently works at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs as an assistant director for the Office of Veteran and Military Student Affairs and school certifying official.

Susan Pawlak

Susan Pawlak has over 30 years of manufacturing and leadership experience, with careers at Anheuser-Busch, General Electric and a division of Chrysler Corporation. She spent several years in post-secondary education, primarily in clean energy technology and career development, where she assisted graduating veterans in preparing for, and finding jobs. Pawlak is currently the safety, environmental and training manager for Noosa Yoghurt in Bellvue, Colorado.

Patricia C. Pope

Patricia C. Pope is CEO and founder of Pope & Associates and a recognized pioneer in the diversity and inclusion industry. For almost four decades she has consulted with hundreds of Fortune 500 companies across a wide range of industries, as well as government, academic and nonprofit organizations.

Lauren Runco

Lauren RuncoLauren Runco is director of education and employment at the Military Family Research Institute at Purdue University. She has experience as a military family member and firsthand knowledge about the challenges that service members face as they enter higher education and workplaces. Runco’s work at MFRI strengthens relationships with allies and advocates, helps increase resources for student service members, veterans and their families and helps influence higher education institutions to use proven models of success to better serve this population.

Karla Schwartz

Karla SchwartzU.S. Navy veteran Karla Schwartz graduated from Colorado State University and accepted a position with SALUTE Veterans National Honor Society as a national administrator servicing more than 12,000 members.

Wilma Stephens

Wilma StephensWilma Stephens brings more than 20 years of corporate, small business and entrepreneurial experience to the table. She is an experienced speaker, facilitator and performance coach, working with all types of organizations and people. Along side her business coaching practice, Wilma Stephens Coaching, she is the lead facilitator at Extended DISC North America.

Lauren Sullivan

Lauren SullivanLauren Sullivan’s father, grandfathers and spouse are all service members. She started working in higher education at an Army Education Center and quickly realized her passion to help service members and veterans earn their degrees, while supporting the transition from military to civilian world. She currently manages the Veteran and Military Student Services at the Metropolitan State University of Denver.

Maggie Walsh

Maggie WalshMaggie Walsh is from a military family and is a Gold Star mother. Her passion for working with student veterans stems from her personal experiences and desire to assist in the transition from military to civilian life. She currently is the assistant chief of staff to the president and director of veteran initiatives at Colorado State University.

Elizabeth Watkins

Elizabeth WatkinsU.S. Navy veteran Elizabeth Watkins was a 2016 Focus Forward Fellow. She is currently pursuing a bachelor’s of science in veterinary technology at Purdue University and plans to work in the research field.

Nakia White

U.S. Army veteran Nakia White has built a career with the federal government. After years of successful growth, she decided to further her education.

What Fellows are saying

Tabitha Eaton, Boise State University

“I am a junior working on my bachelor’s degree in social work. I served in the United States Air Force before I was medically retired in February 2014. The motivation for me to apply for the Focus Forward Fellowship was due to an encouraging email from my assigned vocational rehabilitation counselor who oversees my education plan.”

Tamara Jones, Georgia State University

“I always dreamed of being a grassroots advocate of the unique plight of female veterans. When this opportunity was presented, I felt like it was fate. Who better to progress women veterans than fellow women veterans?”

Rebekah Lloyd, Regent University

“I was interested to see how this program was going to address our unique needs. One of the most important takeaways that I had with the residential program was the one-on-one mentoring that took place; whether this happened with a woman who was there to teach a class, lead a discussion or even with another Fellow.”

Previous Fellowship Cohorts

Current Focus Forward Fellowship Supporters

MFRI is grateful for the individuals and organizations who support Focus Forward Fellowship and are committed to women student veterans.

Contact Lauren Runco, director of education and employment, to find out how you can support the Fellowship.

Purdue University partners, including faculty, staff and administration:

External corporations, organizations, agencies and nonprofits:

    • American Women Veterans
    • CNO Services, LLC
    • Colorado State University
    • Cummins
    • Department of Veterans Affairs – Center for Women Veterans
    • Easter Seals Crossroads
    • Eli Lilly and Company
    • Extended DISC
  • FedEx
  • Got Your 6
  • Indianapolis Indians
  • IUPUI’s Office for Veteran and Military Personnel
  • NASPA Veterans Knowledge Community
  • National Association of Veteran Program Administrations (NAVPA)
  • National Military Family Association
  • Pat Tillman Foundation
  • Phillips 66
  • Pope & Associates
  • Sandler Training
  • Student Veterans of America
  • Team Red, White, and Blue
  • Tragedy Assistance Programs for Survivors (Military and Veteran Caregiver Network)

MFRI Twitter #FWDFellows

Learn More

If you are interested in sharing information about Focus Forward Fellowship with women student veterans on your campus or would like to receive an email notification when 2019 eligibility forms open, please fill out the fields below.