Women of Color


Women of Color Empowerment Group:

Surviving and Thriving in the Ivory

Feion Villodas, Ph.D., MPH; Nola Butler-Byrd, Ph.D.; Arianne Miller, Ph.D.; marcela polanco PhD


Women of Color (WOC) represent brilliance, care, vitality, love and strength to the SDSU community and beyond.  We frequently extend ourselves beyond what should be humanly possible to serve our students, families, and communities. We do all of this while trying to achieve the dream of tenure and promotion, similar to our colleagues.

We are tasked with providing support to students at increased capacity. We keep our doors open and return late-night phone calls to our students because we will make sure they succeed by any means necessary. Our multilayered invisible work allows our students to conquer, overcome, and defeat the ubiquitous cultural barriers on their academic journey to graduation. We keep the candle burning at both ends because the struggle is oh so familiar. 

We pour so much into everyone around us until there is nothing left.  We think about throwing in the towel, but the superwoman complex kicks in again and again. We tell ourselves that we must stay vigilant and remain strong—loyal to our students, family, and friends.

This labor of love also leaves us bruised, torn, worn out with invisible scars and much-needed healing.   So what is the cost?  WOC who are overwhelmed, burned out, exhausted, and yes, anxious, depressed or traumatized. 

We are extending a warm embrace, and offer for you to rest, be fed, and get replenished. While some of us have searched for this type of healing, it is difficult to find given the lack of culturally competent health professionals in San Diego.

Since 2021, we have been offering Women of Color Empowerment Groups led by WOC mental health professionals. The groups address the multiple oppressions we face and intersecting identities we inhabit, our role in dismantling power and privilege at SDSU, and how to thrive in our careers by strategically addressing work/life balance.


Upcoming Events

We invite you to join us (virtually) this spring for 8 weeks of healing, revitalization and empowerment. Spring 2023 will be our 5th semester offering the Women Faculty of Color Empowerment Groups! We have had the pleasure of helping to foster connection, community and healing with the many women faculty who participated so far and look forward to fostering more! 


About the Groups
Women of Color (WOC) are always under pressure to perform, mentor, support and contend with race and gender related stressors in academia. Having a community of women of color as well as learning or reaffirming healthy ways to respond to our continuing experiences of isolation, undue pressure, stress and racial battle fatigue can make all the difference. The groups center the voices of women faculty of color so that we can foster empowering alliances among each other to navigate the patriarchal ivory system, no longer at our expense. We believe that having a supportive space to openly discuss the struggles we face with other women who understand and share a similar journey is essential.

The purpose of these groups is to empower, foster connection, share information, and most of all, prioritize our health as women of color. Led by Women Faculty of Color who are mental health professionals, the groups provide time and space to address critical issues affecting our lives and well-being at SDSU and beyond, as well as our role in dismantling power and privilege that continues to reinforce barriers to our success. Most importantly we will focus on how to survive and thrive personally and professionally.

Group Structure
Each week we address a new topic and offer time and space to connect and discuss the issues you identify. In addition, for 6 of the sessions we invite women faculty of color speakers to give presentations on topics relevant to your wellness and success. As a group member, you will have the opportunity to connect with other WFOC and learn practical tips on successfully navigating academia while promoting mental, spiritual and physical wellbeing.

Topics will include:

  • Women Faculty of Color Community Building and Support 
  • Getting real about our mental health as Women of Color
  • Identifying our Racial Trauma, Racial Battle Fatigue and Intersecting oppressions     
  • Taking care of us: Cultivating and maintaining well-being
  • Decolonial Healing Possibilities in Westernized academia
  • Navigating the Ivory part 1: Unspoken rules of academia
  • Navigating the Ivory part 2: Learning from Lived Experiences
  • Envisioning and Planning for Empowerment

Past Webinar Recording: CSU Surviving and Thriving in the Ivory Tower featuring Dr.Lande Ajose 


For millennia, the Kumeyaay people have been a part of this land. This land has nourished, healed, protected and embraced them for many generations in a relationship of balance and harmony. As members of the San Diego State community we acknowledge this legacy. We promote this balance and harmony. We find inspiration from this land; the land of the Kumeyaay. -Michael Connolly Miskwish -Kumeyaay 

Feion Villodas

Feion Villodas, Ph.D., MPH (PI and Co-facilitator)

Feion Villodas, Ph.D, MPH is a faculty member in the Department of Psychology and the Director of Graduate Student Diversity at SDSU. She is a licensed clinical psychologist and serves as a clinical supervisor for the SDSU/UCSD Joint Doctoral Program in Clinical Psychology, one of the top Clinical Psychology programs nationally. As the Director of Graduate Student Diversity, she develops and facilitates training on diversity, equity, and inclusion for SDSU graduate students and faculty. She also supports faculty and staff engaged in hiring, diversity planning, and other diversity initiatives. Her research focuses on mental and behavioral health disparities among Black and Latinx populations. She is particularly interested in acculturation, cultural competence, community-based participatory research approaches, and the adaptation and implementation of effective treatments for culturally diverse populations. She has extensive training in multiple evidence-based treatment modalities.

Arianne E. Miller

Arianne E. Miller, Ph.D. (Co-facilitator)

Arianne E. Miller, PhD is an Assistant Professor and Licensed Clinical Psychologist at San Diego State University. She is core faculty in the Community-Based Block Program, a Multicultural Counseling and Social Justice Education Master’s Program in the Department of Counseling and School Psychology. Her research addresses ways to improve self-care among students, clinicians, patients and the general public as well as making visible the ways race, gender and sexual orientation are frequently conflated in research and everyday life. Miller’s current projects are focused on developing conceptual and culturally inclusive models of self-care, examining student and faculty perspectives on practicing self-care; and investigating transdisciplinary approaches to improving self-care among patients and the public. Miller also studies the ways gender, race and sexual orientation are often misunderstood and conflated with one another, such as in the phenomenon known as “gaydar.” Her clinical specialties include Multicultural and LGBTQ Psychology and Eating Disorders. Check out this NPR Podcast What does it take to really treat ourselves with care? where Arianne Miller was featured.

Nola M. Butler-Byrd

Nola M. Butler-Byrd, Ph.D. (Consultant)

Nola M. Butler-Byrd, Ph.D., LPCC is a multicultural counselor educator, social justice activist and psychotherapist. Affiliated with SDSU for over 20 years, sequentially as a graduate student, part-time lecturer, full-time visiting professor, and currently as a tenured faculty member and university senator, she has an intimate knowledge of SDSU and the CSU system as an institution and culture. She is currently an Associate professor and director of the Community-Based Block (CBB) Multicultural Counseling and Social Justice Education Program. The 47-year-old CBB Program has prepared over 1000 counselor/change agents who serve diverse, marginalized communities. Additionally, Dr. Butler Byrd has served for many years on the SDSU University Senate as a member and chair of the Diversity Equity and Inclusion Committee, and currently as Vice Chair of the SDSU Senate and a member-at-large on the Academic Senate of the California State University System. Dr. Butler-Byrd is immediate Past President of the California Association for Licensed Professional Clinical Counselors and a past-president of San Diego Chapter of the Association for Black Psychologists. Her teaching, research and service are in the areas of community-based multicultural counseling and social justice education, culturally responsive teaching and supervision, and deliberative democratic processes.

marcela polanco

marcela polanco (Co-facilitator)

marcela polanco has Muisca, African and Colombian South European ancestry. Como inmigrante en los United States (U.S.), she is a licensed family therapist en el Estado de California and a member of the family therapy master’s program team at SDSU, located in unceded Kumeyaay land. Su trabajo de supervisión, teaching, research, and therapy, in her immigrant English, are informed by the Australasian narrative therapy and U.S. Black feminism. En su Español Colombiano y Spanglish, she is particularly interested in Andean decoloniality, anti-racist decolonial feminismos, the coloniality of género, and Chicanx borderland activismo in response to Eurocentrism, capitalism, sexism and racim. She also seeks inspiration from the Kumeyaay and the land on practices of balance and harmony.

For questions, please email [email protected]

This project is funded by CSU Chancellor’s Office, Faculty Advancement, and Joanna Brooks’ Office.