Here’s to the Women Who Impacted Members of the GW Community

Throughout Women’s History Month, GW Today will highlight strong women through first-person testimonials. 

Silhouettes of women


March marks Women’s History Month, and GW Today asked members of the George Washington University community to share a story of a woman who has shaped or influenced their lives. Here is a collection of what some had to say about mothers, co-workers, friends, sisters-in-law and others with more testimonials coming throughout Women’s History Month.


Sarah Freeman (Student, Columbian College of Arts and Sciences and Graduate School of Political Management)

My mom is both my role model and my biggest supporter. From a young age,she raised me to be a strong, independent woman who led by example. I could not be more proud of the person Laura is; her compassion, intelligence and humor bring so much to this world. I'm grateful to have had someone like her, even when it feels like no progress is being made. She is an amazing person who continues to brighten everyone's day. Whether Laura is working on a political campaign or chatting with friends over lunch, she is a valued member of the community. I love you, mamma!

Sarah Freeman and her mother



Molly Mcginnis

Molly McGinnis (Staff, GW Speech and Hearing Center)

Two weeks ago, I ran into Victoria Smith, a GW medical student, at a Starbucks on campus. Even now, I’m surprised and delighted when I see her in person–the first two years of our friendship were spent online.

I first met Victoria in 2020, during the early days of COVID-19. At the time, she was applying to medical school, and I was staffing a medical ethics committee. We had both signed up to volunteer with a group (now the nonprofit Med Supply Drive) that was delivering masks to frontline workers in D.C. The group assigned us to serve as D.C.’s two regional co-coordinators, so we did. Every night, for nearly four months straight, Victoria would call
me, and we would discuss the latest transmission stats and supply requests. Working with Victoria taught me to move quickly, take risks and ditch the idea of perfection. When I first considered applying to the job I now have at GW, it was Victoria I turned to for advice.

While I look forward to sunnier days than the era that brought us together, I am so grateful for my friend and colleague Victoria Smith. I can’t wait to see what she does next!



Sumanth Nallamotu (Graduate Student, Columbian College of Arts and Sciences)

My mother works at GW, and she’s the one who introduced me to this university. She immigrated here without much support, and in light of all the hardships she faced, she has still been able to provide a comfortable and fulfilling life for me and my sister. She’s shown me what it’s like to persevere even when things aren’t going your way and fight for what you believe in. I wouldn’t be half the person I am today if I didn’t have the opportunity to learn from her.

Sumanth Nallamotu



Jayden stokes and her family

Jayden Stokes (Student, Columbian College of Arts and Sciences)

I want to highlight my mother, Karen Stokes. She started her own business when I was just a baby called Jayden Collections Boutique. She has now grown it into a corporation with over 21,000 followers on Instagram and a vast reach nationwide with her products. As a female entrepreneur, she inspires me every day to take risks for the things I am passionate about. She always told me growing up, “If you love what you do, you will never work a day in your life."



Vani Valluru (Staff, Division of IT/Admin Apps)

I would like to thank my mom, who has shaped my life for me to be what I am today and where I am today. The values she has taught me, the example she has been all my life, I can say I am a better person only because of her. She is a very loving person, not only to her own but anyone who needs care and affection, rich or poor, familiar or stranger, she has showered her unconditional love on them. This winter, I have been to India and witnessed how her love has spread, as I was greeted by locals who took time to tell me how much they appreciate my mom's generosity and told me how lucky I am to be her daughter. This makes me even more emotional as I write this today.

Vani Valluru and her family



Sabra Mustafic

Sarah Wagner (Professor of Anthropology, Columbian College of Arts and Sciences)

In the Bosnian language the word for fate is sudbina. I believe that sudbina brought me to Sabra and her to me. Sabra Mustafić was my surrogate mother, grandmother and dearest of friends. She died in September 2021, after 92 years of a life full of warmth, laughter and more than her fair share of hardship. Widowed in her early 30s, she raised three daughters on her own to be strong, independent women. She survived the July 1995 Srebrenica genocide. She and her eldest daughter Minka returned to their pre-war home in 2000, to reclaim and rebuild it—an act of extraordinary courage and defiance at the time. I met Sabra in 2003, when I arrived in Srebrenica for my doctoral fieldwork. She welcomed me into her home and her family. I can still smell the dževa full of coffee in the summer kitchen, her bread in the oven. I can still hear her laugh. She had the best laugh. I can still see her straightening her headscarf, tucking the ends behind her ears. Sabra was a remarkable human being, and my life was so enriched by her generous spirit. Majko, nedostaješ mi svaki dan.



Karen Boulos (Student, Milken Institute School of Public Health)

When I think of an inspirational woman, I think of my sister-in-law Elana Boulos. She is creative, innovative, thought-provoking, courageous and kind. A modern-day renaissance woman who continues to find ways to evolve her career. She became a real estate agent last year and has found her passion for helping new homeowners find their sanctuary. She recently sold her first house for over $1 million and continues to climb the ladder of success. She also finds her balance of career and mental health by taking time for daily affirmations. I admire her for her dedication to her career, family and herself. She inspires me to continuously seek adventure in life.

Patti Plaza (Staff, Milken Institute School of Public Health)

In my first higher ed-related job in 1993, I was the administrative assistant to Dr. Joan Claffey, director of the Association Liaison Office for University Cooperation in Development. We were the inaugural team of this program. Part of HR orientation was taking a Myers-Briggs test. Through this exercise we learned each other's work styles, which just happened to be completely opposite. I was as strong an extrovert as she was an introvert. Nevertheless, her heart and mind were deeply service-minded, and she went out of her comfort zone to accommodate my work style. This inspired me to do the same with her. She was humble yet effectively authoritative. She was also transparent, direct and compassionately honest. Dr. Claffey was a role model for me, a young woman entering the work force. For the 20-plus years I've been with GW, I've been fortunate to have women leaders who embody this same leadership style.