Board of Directors


EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR SARA PHALEN  is based in West Chicago, Illinois. She first connected to Women on the Border in 2005 as a law student delegate to the U.S.-Mexico border for a course on women and globalization taught by Director Elvia Arriola.  Her graduate and post grad studies include work on a master’s in  Applied Anthropology, a certificate in Museum Studies, and a master’s degree in Nonprofit Management. Sara has provided a Midwest America presence from Chicagoland since she joined the Board of Directors in 2010. 

Since 2006, Sara has been an organizer and nonprofit administrator working with community groups and cultural institutions to study, educate and raise awareness around issues of social justice in areas with large immigrant populations. Her work has focused on communities in the western suburbs of Chicago, with links to the United States-Mexico border. In 2009 she cofounded People Made Visible, an arts and culture nonprofit that utilizes the arts as a catalyst for social change. In 2016 she was selected by Shaw Media for a Best Under 40 Award. In association with People Made Visible and the Museum for the City of West Chicago Sara developed an exhibit funded by the History Channel on the history of Mexican labor migration in agriculture and railroad construction in Illinois leading to the creation of a lasting Mexican-American community in West Chicago.

The year WOB approved Sara’s installation as Executive Director the board also approved an expanded mission statement. Sara Phalen’s demonstrated commitment to community organizing, and her passion for using history, cultural studies and public education to enhance social justice promise visionary changes in leadership for Women on the Border. 

Contact Executive Director Sara Phalen: Send Mail


Elvia R. Arriola is a Latina, feminist critical legal theorist. Her J.D. is from the University of California at Berkeley (Boalt Hall) and she has an M.A. in American History from New York University. She is a former ACLU Karpatkin Fellow (1983-84) as well an Assistant Attorney General in the Civil Rights Bureau of the New York State Department of Law (1986-1990).

Arriola began her law professor career in 1991 at the University of Texas at Austin She taught  civil rights litigation, employment and family law and supervised scholarship writings on gender and legal history, sexuality and the law.  She is proud of a teaching project she conducted with her students in 1997-1998 as a response to the controversies surrounding the use of affirmative action in law school admissions. The Austin Schools Project responded to Hopwood v. Texas (5th Cir, 1996.) by demonstrating credible evidence in a series of research papers written by law students and edited by then assistant professor Arriola, which demonstrated that a systematic and unequal distribution of educational resources in the State of Texas plays a distinct role in later poor performance on standardized tests like the SAT or LSAT.

Arriola’s interest on the subject of working women in the global economy under NAFTA grew out of her involvement in the Latina/Latino Critical Legal Theory conferences (LatCrit).

Arriola is now Professor Emerita of Law from Northern Illinois University (NIU), DeKalb, Illinois. At NIU she taught constitutional law, family law, gender,  sexuality and the law, civil rights litigation and a research seminar that grew out of her work with women on the Mexican border — Women, Law and the Global Economy.

Arriola is currently (2018) regularly involved in volunteer legal work through RAICES at the Karnes Family Immigration Detention center and Justice for Our NeighborsAustin    Click here to view list of Scholarly Publications by Elvia R. Arriola, including Amor y Esperanza: A Latina Lesbian Becomes a Law Professor (Journal of Legal Education, 2017)

In 2017 Arriola authoried with Texas immigration and civil rights lawyer Virginia Raymond a critique of the inhumane consequences of the government turning over detention of migrants to for-profit prison companies.  See “Migrants Resist Systemic Discrimination and Dehumanization in For-Profit Detention Center.”

Contact Director Elvia Arriola: SendMail

Dr. Josefina Castillo       As a sociologist and as a woman, I’ve always been concerned with issues that address social and gender equality. Also my faith has always influenced my personal stance and beliefs in non-violent conflict transformation. These factors have shaped the work that I’ve carried out throughout twenty years, in academic and non-academic spaces mainly around educational issues. I believe it is through critical thinking that people can best learn how to perceive oppressive conditions that call for social justice actions in order to improve their lives. It is through education that people are able to increase awareness of the world around us, and transform our personal lives and those of our community. I refer particularly to specific oppressions that as women we endure not only as life givers, but also as reproducers of culture.

I worked as Adjunct Faculty of the Universidad Nacional Autonóma de México(UNAM) for 7 years, and later on, my enthusiasm for popular education was encouraged through the work with Mujeres para el Diálogo, a non-governmental organization based in Mexico City. This job offered an opportunity to learn how to design and implement workshops, seminars and similar events with various groups of women on projects such as literacy campaigns, health, popular education methodology and improvement of self-esteem. This experience was most rewarding since I worked for nine years with urban grassroots women in Mexico City and peasant women in Chiapas and Oaxaca, two of the poorest states of Mexico.
In 2019 I am retired as Program Coordinator of the American Friends Service Committee-Austin office, where I worked on expanding awareness about the harmful aspects of the globalizing economy; I remain actively involved in the community organization  Austin Tan Cerca de la Frontera. which produces solidarity delegations to the border and with Austin Sanctuary Network.

Read more…

Contact Director Josefina Castillo: Send Mail

Donna J. Blevins, J.D., M.P.A., Board Member and of Counsel to WOB

Donna Blevins is a long time resident of Austin and former lobbyist on issues of equity in public education in the State of Texas. She is a licensed attorney in Texas who earned her law degree from the University of Texas at Austin (1997). After working on disability rights law with Robert Provan and Associates, she joined the law firm of Baron and Budd where she gained her first experiences in the specialized field of asbestos litigation, representing individuals who were exposed to the deadly substance in their work sites in compensation claims against former corporate employers.  Donna is currently associated with AkinMears Law Firm, LLP of Houston, Texas providing general toxic torts legal services nationwide.  Blevins is also current (2018-2019) President of the Texas chapter of the National Women’s Political Caucus.

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Donna Hoffman is a communication and community organizing professional with other thirty years’ experience in the non-profit sector. As Communications Coordinator for the Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club, she produced over 30 press events, wrote or edited over 200 press releases, pitched stories published in local, state, national and international publications. She curated a photo exhibit from photographers across the State, presented at the Texas State Capitol during the 2011 Legislature. In 2013, Hoffman brought together the leadership of historic Blackshear Elementary School and Huston-Tillotson University to co-found the nonprofit group Blackshear Bridge. The organization has built community in central East Austin by providing weekly outdoors sustainability education, sustainable food access, and big fun, community garden workdays including the planting and maintenance of 23 trees, the building of two large rainscapes, and an overhaul of the Elementary School track. Hoffman serves as Sustainability Coordinator and Director of Blackshear Bridge. Blackshear Bridge is currently working on creative place keeping – commissioning a mural and organizing a reunion of former Blackshear Elementary School community members while reaching out with affordability resources to current vulnerable residents.  View Donna Hoffman’s work here.

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 Jess Chapin has a long history of academic research and activism around the struggles of women, immigrants and gender minorities on the U.S.-Mexico border and within in the U.S.  Her doctoral work for a PhD in cultural anthropology addressed issues of gender and border industrialization in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico. She taught as an adjunct professor for many years, at the University of Texas at Austin and elsewhere. Her courses focused on gender and sexuality, the family, and the cultures of the borderlands.  For the past several years she has worked with asylum-seekers detained at the Karnes County Residential Center in south Texas and, and at Posada Esperanza in Austin. She is very excited about linking her hands-on work with immigrants to the broader educational reach and community-building potential of Women on the Border. She hopes that by giving voice to the stories of people fleeing gang violence, sexual violence, and the violence of extreme poverty, and by providing the public with access to meaningful resources and information, WOB can counter the misinformation that feeds hatred and xenophobia.

Contact Director Jess Chapin:Send Mail

In Memorium.  Dr. Judith (Hoodeet) Rosenberg, former Coordinator, Austin Tan Cerca de la Frontera (ATCF) and founding Board Member of Women on the Border passed away March 8, 2015 – International Women’s Day.

Our friend so lovingly remembered, Judith Rosenberg, Ph.D. lived most of her life in New York City and upstate New York. Throughout the seventies she worked for the Olivetti corporation. a multinational corporation that was headquartered in Milan, Italy. In that work she learned how multinational corporations work the international angle to their profit. In that decade at Olivetti, the angle was manufacturing, and the targets of the exploitable labor were women. In the eighties, Judith also worked in an adult literacy program in Brooklyn with minority women in a program connected to welfare and welfare reform. Judith returned to school for her Master’s at SUNY-Albany and obtained her M.A. in English in 1997, focusing her work on 19th century U.S. women writers. Dr. Rosenberg was awarded a Ph.D. in Rhetoric by the University of Texas at Austin in 2006. Her dissertation, Can The Maquiladora Worker Speak?  examines the rhetoric of globalization with the central question being the voices of the working women whose lives are essential to global labor.  Her intimate work with workers in the maquiladoras as an ally and researcher/writer were invaluable to the cause of educating the public on the effects of globalization and its gendered economic consequences.

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