Sara Phalen began her involvement with Women on the Border in 2005 when she, as a law school student, traveled with WOB founder Elvia Arriola to the U.S.-Mexico border as part of an educational delegation linked to a graduate course on “Women, Law and the Global Economy.” As a student at Northern Illinois University Sara also pursued a Masters Degree in Applied Anthropology and received a certificate in Museum Studies. In 2017 she earned her Master’s Degree in Nonprofit Management from North Park University. 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 Mexican United States border. In 2009 she cofounded People Made Visible, Inc., 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.


At the Board meeting to vote on Sara’s application for the position of Executive Director Women on the Border also approved an expanded mission statement focused on increasing awareness over increasing threats in the U.S. to the loss of universal human rights for women, gender minorities, people of color, workers, indigenous peoples, immigrants and youth. 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. 




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 as well an Assistant Attorney General working on civil rights issues for the New York State Department of Law.

Arriola began her law teaching career in 1991 at UT Austin, teaching civil rights litigation, employment and family law and a scholarship course on gender, 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 as seen at the U.S.-Mexico Border 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, gender and the law, civil rights litigation and a scholarship 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.   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, Spg 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.” Also by Elvia R. Arriola —  Essay: “Moving Forward with PTSD” (following the NIU campus shootings of February 2008)  and Blogs: Poems and Reflections

Contact Director Elvia R. Arriola at

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.
At the present time I work as Program Coordinator of the American Friends Service Committee-Austin office, as Board member of Women on the Border and of Inmigrantes Latinos en Acción, and as facilitator for Colectivo Flatlander, mainly on issues dealing with economic justice, migration and peace building, using a popular education model.

Read more…

Contact Josefina Castillo at

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

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, GP of Houston, Texas providing general toxic torts legal services nationwide.  Blevins is also current (2018) President of the Texas chapter of the National Women’s Political Caucus.

Contact Director Blevins at

Sara Phalen, J.D., M.A., Board Member, Public Education Editor, Executive Director effective September 1, 2018.

Sara Phalen is an attorney who graduated from Northern Illinois University’s College of Law with a joint degree in Law (2006) and Anthropology (2010). She is an Illinois licensed attorney and co-founder of People Made Visible, a nonprofit based in the city of West Chicago seeking to facilitate community through dynamic art and social endeavors. 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.

Contact Sara Phalen

Donna Hoffman serves as a Board Member and web content editor for Women on the Border.   She is an environmental communications and education professional and Interim Director for Blackshear Bridge a community-based nonprofit organization.

Hoffman received a Bachelor of Science in Communications from the University of Texas at Austin in 1984. She worked at the Austin PBS affiliate KLRU and then produced radio programs in Syracuse, New York, Dublin Ireland and Austin Texas. She participated in three global conferences of AMARC, the World Association of Community Oriented Radio in Dublin, Ireland, Oaxtepec, Mexico and Dakar Senegal, presenting at the latter and at a conference on Women in Media at Sunderland University, England. Since 1987, Hoffman has worked for various nonprofit organizations in movements for social justice for tenants, women, organized labor, and people of color. She taught English at Del Valle and LBJ High Schools and served from 2004-2011 as Communications Coordinator for the Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club amplifying stories in print, radio, tv, and social media to protect clean air and health, to conserve water and wildlands, and to reduce impacts of climate change. Donna has been gardening organically since 1986.  She has served as School Garden Mentor at Blackshear Elementary School since 2011 and founded Blackshear Bridge in 2014.  View Donna Hoffman’s work here.

Contact Donna Hoffman at

In Memorium.  Dr. Judith (Hoodeet) Rosenberg, former Coordinator, Austin Tan Cerca de la Frontera (ATCF) and Board Member of Women on the Border died this year on 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 English by the University of Texas at Austin in 2006. Her dissertation examines the rhetoric of globalization with the central question being, “can the maquiladora worker speak?” Her intimate work with workers in the maquiladoras as an ally and researcher/writer were invaluable to the cause of education on the impact of globalization on workers’ lives.