Board of Advisors

The Women's and Gender Studies Program Board of Advisors is a select group of friends who support the Women's and Gender Studies Program and its mission. The purpose of the Board of Advisors is to support to the program and to facilitate a connection between the program and the Oklahoma community.

Members of the Board of Advisors:


Fred Alavi was born in Iran in 1949. He completed a Bachelor of Arts in Business and Accounting in Tehran, Iran in 1970. In the same year he married. In 1988 he migrated to the United States where his three children attended OSU and the University of Oklahoma. Mr. Alavi is currently self employed.


Rilla Askew is the author of four novels and a book of stories. Her first novel, The Mercy Seat was nominated for the PEN/Faulkner Award, the Dublin IMPAC Prize, and received the Oklahoma Book Award and the Western Heritage Award in 1998. Askew’s acclaimed novel about the Tulsa Race Riot, Fire in Beulah, received the American Book Award and the Myers Book Award from the Gustavus Myers Center for the Study of Bigotry and Human Rights in 2002, and was selected for Oklahoma’s One Book One State program in 2007. Her novel Harpsong received seven literary awards including the Oklahoma Book Award, the WILLA Award from Women Writing the West, the Violet Crown Award from the Writers League of Texas, and the Western Heritage Award from the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum. Her most recent novel, Kind of Kin, centers on Oklahoma’s anti-illegal immigration law and is published by Ecco Press. Askew received a 2009 Arts and Letters Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, is a former Fellow at Civitella Ranieri Foundation in Umbertide, Italy, and was a featured reader at the 2008 International Chinese and World Literature Conference in Beijing. She teaches creative writing at the University of Oklahoma.


Dr. Jamie Belknap earned her Doctor of Dental Surgery degree from the University of Oklahoma and graduated with honors in 1987. She is a member of the American Dental Association and the Oklahoma Dental Association. Jamie received the “Thomas Jefferson Citizen Award” from the Oklahoma Dental Association in 2004, and was awarded “Best Dentist” by Norman’s Readers Choice in 2014. She is grateful to be part of Norman Smile Center's dedicated team of professionals and truly loves her work. She was raised in Norman, has two sons and enjoys working out and gardening.



Sharon Bishop-Baldwin is a Tulsa native now living in Broken Arrow with her wife, Mary Bishop-Baldwin, and their five cats. The couple were the lead plaintiffs in the Oklahoma marriage-equality lawsuit, a 10-year court battle that was appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court and resulted in marriage equality in Oklahoma beginning on Oct. 6, 2014, which was also their wedding day. They have lived together since November 1996, however. Sharon is a graduate of the University of Oklahoma, receiving a bachelor’s degree in journalism (news-editorial) in 1992. She was employed at the Tulsa World for nearly 21 years before she quit in May 2014 to write a book about the fight for marriage equality in Oklahoma. Sharon is the secretary of the board of directors of Oklahomans for Equality, based in Tulsa, and is a state-licensed wildlife rehabilitator, raising injured and orphaned raccoons for release back to the wild.

Gene Callaway has an undergraduate degree in Education and a JD from the OU Law School. Her beginning years of teaching were during the turbulent first years of bussing. She has practiced law in OKC for more than 30 years. As a lawyer she became the second female partner in a large OKC firm, was in-house counsel for a national insurance company, and spent the last 14 years of her career with the General Counsel’s office of the Department of Human Services focusing on legal issues related to neglected and abused children. Although recently retired, she currently serves on the Board for Shiloh Camp, a Christian day camp for at risk, inner-city children, teaches a class for new child welfare workers on effective witnessing, is the philanthropy advisor for an on campus sorority, serves as a trustee for her church and has been a member of its mission team for over 10 years. Although, attending law school, she maintained her interest in and appreciation for education, writing one of her first law school term papers on the rights of public school teachers to openly support gay rights. She also served several years on the board for the Edmond Public School Foundation. Gene always says she is genetically pre-disposed to be an advocate for human rights as her mother received her MSW from OU and devoted her life to helping the marginalized and in 2009 Gene’s daughter received her BSW from OU.

Steve Davis is a native of Norman and is Vice President at Teleflora, a flowers-by-wire company, and works in its Oklahoma City office in Membership, Directory and Co-Op advertising production. He is an advocate for Human Rights with an emphasis on GLBTQ issues. Mr. Davis recently completed his second term as president of PFLAG-Norman (Parents, Family and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) and also served four terms as a board member for the OKC AIDS Walk. He has co-chaired the Reconciling Ministries committee of St. Stephen’s United Methodist Church in Norman (a group working for full inclusion of all people in the life and ministries of the United Methodist Church).


Freda Deskin is an award-winning educator with 46 years of experience as an educator. She taught at the pre-collegiate, at the collegiate level at OU, and served as the dean of STEM Education at OCU before founding and becoming the superintendent of ASTEC Charter School, an inner-city public school in Oklahoma City with a highly diverse student population and a 94% poverty rate. Freda earned a B.S. in elementary education from the UCO where she was a distinguished scholar, a Masters in Secondary Education and a Ph.D. in Instructional Leadership and Academic Curriculum from OU, where she was Scholastic All-American Scholar and where she was given the Career Achievement Award in 2010.  She also holds a certificate in Strategic School Management from Harvard University, did her post-graduate work in Finance at OCU and has more than 2500 clock hours training in the aerospace sciences. Freda was selected as a finalist in NASA's "Teacher-in-Space" project. Her contributions to Aerospace Education earned her a place in National Women in Aerospace Hall of Fame. She is well known as an innovator and as a champion of children.
 Jackie Farley is a native Oklahoman with a bachelor and master's degree from OU. She is the Founder and C.E.O. of Wise Women Concierge in Norman, is a certified Motivational Speaker with the National Speakers Association, and an instructor for the OU WGS Progam. Jackie worked in the Recreational Services Department at OU for over 27 years and taught as an adjunct in Health and Exercise Sciences and University College. She retired as the Director of Recreational Services in 2005 after directing the renovation and expansion of the Huston Huffman Center.

Melvin C. Hall was born and raised in Tulsa, Oklahoma. He attended Langston University, where he received his B.A. in Education in 1978. Melvin has focused his practice on the civil litigation of employment law and civil rights cases. Melvin has tried cases before administrative tribunals, in state district courts and in each of the three U.S. District Courts of Oklahoma. He has also argued several cases before the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver, Colorado.In addition to his law practice, Melvin is a nationally sought after speaker and lecturer on employment law and civil rights issues. He is currently an adjunct professor at the University of Oklahoma teaching classes regarding employment law and the civil rights movement. Melvin has served on numerous boards and commissions such as a seven year term as a regent on the University of Oklahoma Board of Regents from April 22, 1992 through March 31, 1999. During Melvin's tenure as a University of Oklahoma Regent, he was elected Chairman of the University of Oklahoma Board of Regents in March 1998, becoming the Board's first African-American chairman. Currently, Melvin serves on the Arvest Bank Board of Directors, the Executive Committee of the Southwest Center for Human Relations Studies and the Board of Visitors of the University of Oklahoma College of Law.

Gary Heerwald of Oklahoma City was born and reared in Clinton Oklahoma. He received his B.A. in Psychology and B.A. in Journalism (Public Relations) from OU in 1973, with elective interests in history and art. He has 30 years of information/marketing and administrative experience with theState of Oklahoma. He currently volunteers as a docent at the Devon Energy Center. He has yet to write or paint anything that would make him famous or rich.

Connie Irby was appointed as Oklahoma Tax Commissioner in 2003. Prior to this appointment, Ms. Irby served as Staff Director of the Oklahoma State Senate. She came to the Senate from the Oklahoma Department of Commerce where she had been serving as the Assistant Secretary of Commerce and Assistant Director and Director of the Department of Commerce. Ms. Irby worked at the Department of Commerce from 1986 to 1997. During this time, she served with 5 Secretaries of Commerce and 5 Governors. She has been involved with many professional and civic organizations including Leadership Oklahoma City, Planned Parenthood of Central Oklahoma, Arts Council, League of Women Voters, Infant Crisis Center, PEO and others. Ms. Irby currently serves on the Board of the First National Bank of Hooker.

Martha Ogilvie
Martha Ogilvie is the Assistant Vice President for Research at the OU Health Sciences Center. Before assuming that position, she served as the administrative director of the Harold Hamm Diabetes Center and director of the OUHSC Intellectual Property Management Office. Prior to that, Martha spent many years in Washington, D.C. working in finance and biotechnology. She particularly enjoyed her time as part of the Celera Corporation, the company that pioneered human genome mapping.  Martha is glad to be back in Oklahoma, where she graduated from Norman High School. She earned her bachelor of arts in political science from Grinnell College in Iowa, and her doctorate and master of science in biochemistry and molecular biology from the OU Health Sciences Center. She brings a passion for equality and human rights back to her home state of Oklahoma.
Paula Roberts lives in Norman, Oklahoma with her husband. She earned a B.S. and M.S. in Education from OU. Paula taught at Norman High School from 1980-1989 before moving to become the first, and only, election official in the state of Oklahoma to be designated as a Certified Election Administrator, which she earned from Auburn University. She used that certification during her years of service as, among other roles, the Executive Secretary from 1989-2011 and Regional Coordinator 1994-1998. She retired after 22 years of service from the Cleveland County Election Board. Paula currently serves on the boards for Full Circle Adult Day Center, Norman Regional Hospital, and the Nicole Jarvis, M.D. Parkinson's Research Foundation. She also serves as a shopper for the Cleveland County Christmas Store and the Community Outreach Committee for First Christian Church.

Linda Scoggins graduated for the OU College of Law in 1981 and has been in the private practice of law in Oklahoma City since that time. Her practice is focused primarily in the areas of health law and business litigation. Linda had returned to law school nine (9) years after receiving a B.A. in Economics from OU. Between undergraduate and law school, she worked as a marketing research analyst for two Oklahoma City newspapers while having two sons and taking a few courses in OU’s MBA program. Throughout her career, Linda has been active in community, philanthropic, and school activities in Oklahoma City and Norman. She has served on the Boards of Variety Health Clinics, Variety Health Foundation, and Planned Parenthood of Central Oklahoma. Her volunteer work for Planned Parenthood has spanned 30 years, including 18 years on the Board and 4 years as Board President.

Carolyn Taylor is a professor of political science at Rogers State University. She received her bachelors and masters degrees from the University of Oklahoma and her doctorate from Oklahoma State University. Her areas of academic specialty include American federal, state and local government. She served in the Oklahoma House of Representatives from 1984-1992. She was the managing editor of Voices from the Heartland, University of Oklahoma Press, 2007, which was a finalist for the Oklahoma Book Award in 2009 and named one of “15 Essential Oklahoma Reads” by This Land Press in 2013. She was co-editor of The Truth of Buffy: Essays on Fiction Illuminating Reality, McFarland Press, 2008 and contributor to Fantasy Media in the Classroom, McFarland Press, 2012 and Children’s and Young Adult Books in the College Classroom: Essays on Instructional Methods, McFarland Press, 2015. She has been involved with numerous professional and civic organizations. She received the 2013 Faculty Recognition Award for Excellence in Teaching and is currently working on a book on Oklahoma State and Local Government. Taylor also was named the 2015 “Professor of the Year” by the Oklahoma Political Science Association. She is married to Stratton Taylor and they divide their time between Claremore, Oklahoma and Vancouver, British Columbia. They have two children, Carson and Abbey.

Teresa Turner
Brenda Wheelock
Brenda Wheelock of Norman serves as the director of communications and development for the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence, a statewide nonprofit founded by David Boren to recognize and encourage academic excellence in public schools. A 1988 University of Oklahoma journalism graduate, Brenda served more than 10 years on the news and publications staff of OU Public Affairs and was editor of OU’s alumni and staff publications. She has also been a reporter for United Press International and the Daily Oklahoman. Brenda is an active volunteer leader for the Cleveland County CROP Walk to Stop Hunger and Girl Scouts of Western Oklahoma. A former board member and mentor for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Norman, she has received the Norman United Way Volunteer of the Year Award for Service to Youth and Education. Brenda and her husband David are the proud parents of two daughters, Robyn a senior at Trinity University in San Antonio, and Amanda, a freshman at Mills College in Oakland, Calif.