About

About The Sunflower Initiative

Women's colleges build strong, confident, independent leaders of tomorrow.

We support their mission and the next generation of young women.

We are the nation’s only independent organization fully dedicated to providing scholarships to students who choose to attend a women’s college. The Sunflower Initiative is uniquely positioned to provide the additional financial support and encouragement young women need to succeed at the college of their choice. Our scholars join an alumnae network of accomplished women and a lifelong connection to our community.

As we enter our second decade, The Sunflower Initiative continues to promote the value of women’s colleges through our members and scholars. We will support women who seek that unique environment where they can find their voices, speak their minds and tell the world. And we'll explore new ways to inspire the next generation of women leaders as they seek their places in the world and prepare to live more abundant lives.

Meet Our Board of Directors

With the exception of one part-time staff member and select specialized resources, The Sunflower Initiative is an all-volunteer organization that ensures careful financial stewardship, maintains low overhead costs and maximizes each financial contribution to directly support our scholarship recipients. Our directors are supported by committees that focus on Finance, Communications, Scholarship, and Development.

Ellen James Ramsburgh

Education

AB, Randolph-Macon Woman’s College

Career

Homemaker and Community Volunteer

Volunteer

Ann Arbor Historical Commission (past Chair), Ann Arbor Historical Foundation (past President), Cobblestone Farm Museum, Anns’ Arbor Questers

 “As a women’s college alumna, I have experienced the lifelong benefits of that unique educational environment. The Sunflower initiative allows me the opportunity to support women of this generation who also seek an environment where they are at the center; where they will be nurtured, encouraged, and challenged.   

Ruth Barnes Kinsolving

Education

AB, Randolph-Macon Woman’s College; JD, University of Florida College of Law

Career

More than 45 years as a commercial real estate lawyer (now retired); Member and former Chair, The Florida Bar Real Property and Trust Law Section; Fellow and former governor of the American College of Real Estate Lawyers; former member Florida Supreme Court Commission on Professionalism.

Volunteer

Former member and president of the Athena Society of Tampa Bay; past chair, Tampa Bay Business Committee for the Arts; former member of advisory board for the University of South Florida Contemporary Art Museum; past chair, Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce Cultural Affairs Committee; member, Tampa Bay Committee on Foreign Relations; co-chair, North Florida Society of St. Andrew (gleaning for food banks); Florida Master Gardener.

“Attending a liberal arts women’s college shaped my core beliefs and confidence to pursue careers that encourage women to reach their full personal potential and to treasure the qualities inherent in the female character. Women’s colleges nurture a culture that combines independence and ambition with compassion, courage with patience, confidence with humility, and a passion to help other women recognize and develop their full lives as gifted, grateful and caring members of their communities and societies.”

Nahid Hamzei

Education

AB, Randolph-Macon Woman’s College; CPA

Career

Director of Asset Management; Westmont Hospitality Group. Over 30 years of experience in real estate asset management.

Volunteer

Ronald McDonald House; Habitat for Humanity

“I am privileged to continue serving as the Treasurer of The Sunflower Initiative. I have had the pleasure of witnessing our scholars’ achievements during the past decade. And we shall continue to provide the life-changing experience of a women’s college to our future scholars.”

Elizabeth-Latta Brother  

Education

AB, Randolph-Macon Woman’s College; MA and PhD in English, Indiana University

Career

While I have not (yet) fulfilled my original career plan of becoming an English professor like my R-MWC mentor, Carolyn Wilkerson Bell, I have spent most of my career teaching adults, first as a technical trainer and now as a learning and development coordinator for local government employees.

Volunteer

Westminster Presbyterian Church, Girl Scouts

“Randolph-Macon Woman’s College changed my life trajectory by empowering me with the knowledge that I can and should make a difference in the wider world around me; I’m so grateful to be engaged in this work and helping other women find themselves and their voices at a women’s college.”

Gretchen E. Butler 

Education

AB, Randolph-Macon Woman’s College; MFA, Wayne State University 

Career

Managing Director of Theatrical Outfit, Atlanta’s second-oldest professional theatre company.  Over 20 years of experience in arts administration.

Volunteer

Atlanta Woman’s Club (Treasurer and Chair, COVID Relief Fund), Kingswood United Methodist Church (Chair, Staff Parish Relations Committee)

“Attending a woman’s college prepared me for success in more ways than I ever imagined possible.  I’m honored to serve on the board of the Sunflower Initiative and to help create opportunities for the next generation of women to grow and flourish through a women’s college education."

Cheryl Lee Hoffman Marks

Education

AB (Chemistry), Randolph-Macon Woman’s College; MS (Analytical Chemistry), Southern Connecticut State University; PhD (Biochemical Genetics), George Washington University 

Career

Chemist with 21 years of laboratory research in the private sector and the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Scientist administrator with 30 years’ experience managing Federal research grant, cooperative agreement, and contract programs for the National Cancer Institute (NCI) of the NIH. Retired in 2018.  

Volunteer

Leadership of the not-for-profit Washington, DC section of the American Chemical Society; chairman of the Women in Cancer Research Council of the American Association for Cancer Research; member of the scholarship committee of The Sunflower Initiative.  

“Through service on the scholarship committee of The Sunflower Initiative, I am continually reminded of the value of my Randolph-Macon Woman’s College education in the 1960’s as the steppingstone to a career in science.  I am gratified that many Sunflower applicants strongly aspire to a STEM career at a time when women continue to be under-represented in these fields a half-century after I started my life-science career.  The Sunflower Initiative provides an essential opportunity for today’s young women to experience a unique and important alternative living and learning environment that differs from a coeducational college.”

Margaret McKean

Education

BA, University of California at Berkeley; MA, Harvard University; PhD, University of California at Berkeley

Career

Professor Emerita of Political Science and Research Professor of Environmental Policy in the Nicholas School of the Environment, Duke University. Japan specialist. An original member of the National Academy of Sciences Panel on Common property, and in 1989, co-founder with others, including Elinor Ostrom — first woman to win the Nobel Prize in Economics (2009) — the International Association for the Study of the Commons.

Volunteer

Carolina Ballet, Boundary End Archaeology Research Center, Maya Field Workshops, SCOT [Scottish Cultural Organization of the Triangle]

“My two daughters chose to attend Randolph-Macon Woman’s College and Smith College, and through their experience I was continually struck by how strong and capable the students at the women’s colleges were, and what a vibrant intellectual atmosphere they provided. I am delighted to support The Sunflower Initiative, to enable more women to benefit from attending a women’s college where they can challenge themselves to the fullest and discover all of their talents and abilities.”

Aastha Sharma 

Education

BA, Wesleyan College; PhD candidate University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign  

Career

PhD Candidate in Materials Chemistry, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) specializing in renewable energy research. Interested in pursuing career in clean technology to mitigate the effects of climate change. 

Volunteer

Women Chemists Committee, UIUC 

“I am privileged to be the newest board member of The Sunflower Initiative. It has always been an honor to be the first Harriet Fitzgerald Scholar, and words are not enough to thank you for your support throughout these years. My women’s college experience was life-changing and I am passionate about supporting The Sunflower Initiative’s mission in any way I can!”

News + Announcements

Ready to experience what a women’s college has to offer?

You’ll find…

  • an academic community dedicated to building your self-confidence and leadership skills.
  • a place where your opinions are valued and you are encouraged to express them.
  • a supportive environment to prepare you for a more abundant life.

The Sunflower Initiative may help give you the resources to get there.