Brenda Bethman, Ph.D., Primary Investigator and Co-Project Director
Brenda has been at the UMKC Women’s Center since January 2007. She also holds appointments as Acting Director of the Women’s & Gender Studies Program, and as Affiliated Faculty in German in the Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures. Before coming to UMKC, she was founding Program Coordinator of the Women’s Center and then Director of the Women’s & Gender Equity Resource Center at Texas A&M University. She is a past chair of the National Women’s Studies Association (NWSA) Women’s Centers Committee, as well as past Secretary for NWSA. Brenda was a member of the committee that revised the CAS Standards for Women Student Programs and Services. Recently, she was appointed to the MLA's Committee on Academic Freedom and Professional Rights and Responsibilities.
Brenda is a co-founder and co-editor of Student Affairs Women Talk Tech, a group blog that serves as a forum for women in student affairs with an interest in technology. She has presented and published on social media, assessment, women’s leadership, women’s literature, Elfriede Jelinek, Marlene Streeruwitz, Ingeborg Bachmann, and feminism in a variety of venues. She holds a B.A. in German Literature from Dickinson College, an M.A. in German Literature from Temple University, and a Ph.D. in Modern German Studies and a Graduate Certificate in Advanced Feminist Studies from UMass Amherst. Her book, “Obscene Fantasies”: Generic Perversions in Elfriede Jelinek, examines Elfriede Jelinek’s investigation of Austria’s and Western Europe’s “obscene fantasies” through her “perversion” of generic forms in three of her best-known texts, women as lovers, The Piano Teacher, and Lust and was published by Peter Lang in 2011.
Arzie Umali, Co-Project Director
Arzie joined the UMKC Women’s Center in August 2009. Prior to joining the Women’s Center staff, Arzie worked as the Student Services Coordinator for the UMKC Office of Multicultural Student Affairs and Program Coordinator for the UMKC African American History & Culture House. With several years in higher education, Arzie has extensive experience in program development for multicultural student populations and in the recruitment and retention of underrepresented and first-generation college students. An advocate for women’s issues and social justice, Arzie served on the Chancellor’s Advisory Board to the Women’s Center for two years and has been an active volunteer for the local affiliate of the American Civil Liberties Union for more than a decade. In 2007, the ACLU of Kansas & Western Missouri awarded Arzie with the Volunteer of the Year Award. Arzie holds a B.F.A. in Painting from the University of Kansas and an M.P.A. in Organizational Behavior from the UMKC Bloch School of Management. She is an active member of the Kansas City arts community exhibiting her artwork, judging various art scholarship competitions, and contributing to panel discussions regarding women in the arts. Arzie is also the proud mother of two children, Max and Mimi.
Michelle Kroner, Victim Services Adjudication Advisor
Michelle assumed the duties of Victim Services Adjudication Advisor in April 2008. Before coming to UMKC, Michelle worked as Victim's Rights Advocate for the Lincoln County Prosecuting Attorney's Office in Missouri. She was also a board member for the Lincoln County Family Violence Council, as well as the Chairperson for the local Sexual Assault Response Team. She has devoted her entire professional career to empowering the lives of women and is very excited to be working at the Women's Center.
Kelly Rifenbark, Violence Prevention Coordinator
Kelly became the Violence Prevention Coordinator in July 2012. Prior to joining the Women’s Center staff, she interned as a counselor at SAFEHOME, a domestic violence shelter in Johnson County, KS and worked in orientation at a school in Virginia. This role combines two of her passions, working with college students and advocating for healthy, positive interpersonal relationships. She holds a B.S.W. from the University of Kansas, a M.A. in College Student Personnel from Bowling Green State University, and a M.S.W. from UMKC. Kelly looks forward to working with members of the UMKC and Kansas City communities to prevent interpersonal violence and sexual assault.
Violence Response Team
Armelle Djoukoue, Violence Prevention & Response Student Assistant
Armelle Stephanie Djoukoue joined the Women’s Center staff in January 2012. She is a pre-med student majoring in psychology and minoring in Spanish. She will graduate in the fall of 2012 and afterwards, she is planning to pursue a master’s degree in substance abuse counseling or addiction studies. She enjoys Christian’s retreats, having fun with friends and family, and experiencing new cultures. She’s really excited about working at the Women’s center because she believes raising awareness on women’s issues is very important and she’s looking forward to increasing her own knowledge of these issues.