Meet the Team

The Georgetown University Gender+ Justice Initiative is led by two faculty co-directors, a program director, a steering committee, and supported by student fellows.  The G+JI leadership comes from the three Georgetown campuses: Main, Medical Center, and Law Center. 


Denise Brennan, Ph.D – (she/her)

Professor of Anthropology, Georgetown University

Faculty Co-Director, 2022-2023

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Melyssa Haffaf, Ph.D – (she/they)

Georgetown University G+JI

Executive Director

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Deborah Epstein, J.D (she/her)

Professor of Law and Co-Director of the Domestic Violence Clinic, Georgetown University Law Center

Faculty Co-Director, Spring 2023

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Naomi Mezey, J.D – (she/her)

Professor of Law, Georgetown University Law Center

Faculty Co-Director, Fall 2022

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Steering Committee:

Nadia Brown, Ph.D – (she/her)

Professor of Government, chair of the Women’s and Gender Studies Program, Georgetown University

G+JI Steering Committee: Served 2022 – present

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Dionne S. Coker-Appiah, Ph.D – (she/her)

Associate Professor of Psychiatry, Georgetown University School of Medicine

G+JI Faculty Co-Director 2019-2021, G+JI Steering Committee: Served 2018 – present

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Kristi Graves, Ph.D – (she/her)

Associate Professor of Oncology, Associate Dean for Faculty Development

Georgetown University School of Medicine

G+JI Steering Committee: Served 2017 – present

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Sara Omar, Ph.D – (she/her)

Assistant Professor of Arabic & Islamic Studies

Georgetown University

G+JI Steering Committee: Served 2022 – present

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G+JI Program and Research Assistants

Soraya Bata, (she/her), Program Assistant

Soraya Bata speaking with microphone in hand

Soraya Bata (she/her) is a junior in the Walsh School of Foreign Service, and she is from St. Augustine, Florida. She is studying Culture and Politics with a concentration in gender, human rights, and religion, with a Spanish minor. Soraya is passionate about the rights and empowerment of women and girls both domestically and abroad, and through her studies and work, she hopes to learn how religion interacts with gender and social justice movements, especially in the political sphere. In her free time, Soraya finds joy in hiking and running, and loves to read.

Zahra Wakilzada, (she/her), Communications Assistant

headshot Zahra Wakilzada

Zahra Wakilzada (she/her) is a poet, activist, and public speaker. She was born and raised in Afghanistan and took refuge in the United States at 15. She is currently in her fourth year at Georgetown University, studying International Politics and Women’s and Gender Studies. As an Afghan, Zahra is passionate about women’s rights. Her experiences of living in different countries around the world has led her to advocate for women’s rights. She has written and published dozens of poetry pieces and has spoken in universities, schools, protests, and conferences on gender justice and immigration issues. Her poetry has been performed at the United Nations. Her life experience, love of writing, and passion for shaping a better world for women have inspired her to study politics and use her writing as a tool of activism. She hopes to change the world for the better through activism, writing, and policymaking.