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University of Phoenix staff complete SHE Leads!™ program with Arizona Foundation for Women

By Sharla Hooper

Leadership program graduates Jelisa Dallas, Deborah Hoskins and Christina Totah helped drive community impact raising $72,000 for Arizona nonprofits focused on helping women

University of Phoenix is proud to announce that staff members Jelisa Dallas, program manager, Educational Equity, Deborah Hoskins, finance advisor, and Christina Totah, operations project manager, are graduates of the SHE Leads!™ program of the Arizona Foundation for Women (AFW), a not-for-profit agency that advocates for women’s causes in Arizona. SHE Leads!™ graduated 29 women from AFW’s local second annual women’s-centric leadership program. Throughout the past six months, SHE Leads!™ participants raised over $72,000 for non-profits focused on helping Arizona women.

“The 2022 SHE Leads™ class exceeded our expectations! We are so proud of the work they did, and the level of growth they demonstrated,” said Tracy DeSoto, director of Financial Services at University of Phoenix and SHE Leads!™ program co-chair. We couldn’t be prouder of this cohort as they gained confidence and leadership skills while raising a significant amount of money that will help support the underserved women in Arizona.”

DeSoto and Barbara Schifano, senior director of Learning Development, co-chair SHE Leads!TM and serve on the Board of Directors of AFW. University of Phoenix is a proud sponsor of SHE Leads!TM and supports the voluntary engagement of staff with the program and AFW.

“University of Phoenix has been a major supporter and partner since the first SHE Leads!™ class launched under Arizona Foundation for Women in 2021,” said Mesha Davis, AFW CEO. “Having key university leaders commit their invaluable time to developing the curriculum and building the program series speaks volumes to the University of Phoenix’s commitment to the women in our state. SHE Leads!™ is possible because of their support.”

The SHE Leads!TM program is a six-month leadership program designed to help participants build the skills necessary for their roles or advancing their career, including having a mentor and completing a fundraising component. The program included a curriculum with topics covering growth mindset, diversity & inclusion, building strategic partnerships and more.

“I’ve gained such confidence in my ability to ask for help, both in fundraising and in my professional journey,” states Dallas. “I valued the practicality of the program – we had opportunities to apply tactics and strategies of what we were learning, such as executive presence, salary negotiations, and developing a growth and leadership mindset in day-to-day interactions. The assessments helped me gain increased self-awareness of my strengths while also identifying where I can lean on others for support.”

Graduates worked one-on-one with Champions, or personal mentors, completed personal strength assessments, built strong relationships through after-hours networking and workshop sessions, and developed a toolkit to advance themselves personally and professionally.

The cohort funded the following organizations as grantees: Alice’s Place, Check for a Lump, Defenders of Children, Televerde Foundation, Time Out, Inc. and Women’s Health Coalition of Arizona. Additionally, a portion of the funds raised will support the SHE Leads!™ program moving forward.

Totah, who raised over $4,000, was formally recognized by the program as a top fundraiser. “I’ve been trying to tell myself to move forward with and challenge myself, which is what inspired me to join the program,” she states. “I also wanted to elevate myself and I felt like I had more to learn. I had support from family and my mentor that helped spark some outside of the box ideas and gained confidence throughout the program.”

AFW is a supporting organization of Arizona Community Foundation focused on creating a better life for Arizona’s women and children. Their programs include the SHE Counts!® mission to identify unmet needs and develop the initiatives and methods to address them, and the women-focused leadership development program, SHE Leads!™

Learn more here about AFW.

About University of Phoenix

University of Phoenix is continually innovating to help working adults enhance their careers in a rapidly changing world. Flexible schedules, relevant courses, interactive learning, and Career Services for Life® help students more effectively pursue career and personal aspirations while balancing their busy lives. For more information, visit