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The Importance of the Fellows Program - An Interview with Kathy Checchi and Terza Lima-Neves

IWF has officially opened its application for the 2021-2022 Fellows Program; submissions are due June 1.

Each year, IWF invests in making women stronger, smarter and more influential through its Fellows Program, a year-long, intensive leadership development experience. Since the program was established in 1994, IWF annually convenes approximately 35 Fellows from around the world for a total of 20 days. Featuring academic partnerships with Harvard Business School and INSEAD, the program offers world-class leadership training and mentoring for high-achieving women leaders on their path to the C-suite.

Funding for the Fellows Program is provided by the nominating organization or IWF Forum (or a combination thereof) and self-pay; the Foundation also provides partial/full scholarship funding, if available.

Below is an interview featuring former Board Director, Kathy Checchi, about the importance of the Fellows Program and her endowed scholarship fund. The Fellow that Kathy is supporting this year, Terza Lima-Neves, Professor of Political Science at Johnson C. Smith University, joins us as well.

If you believe we should target an organization in your community, or you know a woman leader that should be a Fellow, please contact Jessa Cooke at [email protected] She can also answer questions on how your Forum might engage in this opportunity or how you can endow a Fellows Program scholarship.

Kathy Checchi

Former Board Director and Fellows Program Mentor


Terza Lima-Neves

Professor of Political Science at Johnson C. Smith University

Kathy: Your family endowed a Fellows Program scholarship fund in your name. What inspired them to do this?

I have been an active IWF member since 1989. The work that spoke to my heart was the Fellows Program. I served on IWF's Leadership Foundation Board for 20 years because I know the impact the Fellows Program makes on women leaders and their ability to rise to the top of their organizations. I always talked with my family about my passion for this program, so on a milestone birthday they surprised me with a scholarship in my name. It was such a meaningful gift because this showed that they knew what I would really love – to be able to help women who lacked the financial means or support of a large organization to become a Fellow.

Kathy: This year, a Fellows Program scholarship in your name was awarded to Terza Lima-Neves, Professor of Political Science at Johnson C Smith University. What does that mean to you?

Terza is such an incredible trailblazer as a scholar, feminist and activist. When I read about her achievements and more importantly, her vision of the world, I knew she would contribute to the Fellows Program and gain a community of global women who could share her passion and her work. I am honored to support her with my Scholarship and look forward to being in contact with her after her fellowship with IWF.

Terza: Why did you apply for the Fellows Program? Why did you feel like it was the right time professionally?

I have been looking to expand on my leadership skills, specifically directed on women’s issues at a global level. Additionally, I was ready to take action on the next step in my professional life but wasn’t sure on how to do that. The Fellows Program description was the perfect nudge I needed to take action.

Terza: You are four months into your fellowship. Has anything surprised you about your experience so far?

I am happily surprised on how quickly we have become close and supportive as a cohort. The women are so kind, supportive and there for each other. We check in on each other and are happy to share both personal and professional wins and advice. This is absolutely needed, especially during this difficult global pandemic we are facing.

Terza: Each Fellow is required to complete a Legacy Project as part of the fellowship. Can you share background on yours and the impact you are aiming to achieve?

My Legacy Project is a direct reflection of my experiences during my earlier years as a young African immigrant girl from the Republic of Cabo Verde in the U.S. I want to make sure other Black immigrant girls feel supported and inspired to follow their dreams and passion. My legacy project is an annual brunch workshop for high school age girls to explore what they want to do after high school. The brunch features women guest speakers/facilitators who are college students, professionals, community leaders, activists, artists, etc. that are committed to working with and inspiring young girls to think about the diverse paths they can follow. The young girls will also be paired up with mentors who will support them in their journey. I had a very supportive mentoring experience and it made all the difference in my life.

Like Kathy, I want to do what I can to pay it forward and ensure other young immigrant girls with a background similar to mine have the same, if not better, access to be all that they aspire to be. Thank you, Kathy, for your spirit of generosity and for opening doors for the women behind you. I am proud to be the recipient of your scholarship.

Kathy: What is your hope for the next generation of women leaders?

My first hope is that all the work done by my generation has opened doors for the next. I was in a very small minority and the first woman at Georgetown University Law School to have a baby while in Law School and now women constitute 50% of law school classes. I’m also an entrepreneur and began a business at 58. There were few women entrepreneurs and now that has changed dramatically also. I was able to raise three children and now play an active role in the lives of my eight grandchildren.

My second hope is that young women will learn to be true to who they are and not listen to what society tells them to be. I think the media and society still want to make women fit into a rigid mold, and I hope that young women will have the courage to break free.

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The Importance of the Fellows Program - An Interview with former Board Director, Kathy Checchi
The Importance of the Fellows Program - An Interview with Kathy Checchi and Terza Lima-Neves
International Women's Forum