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Her Garden: Women of Color Mentoring Initiative

Her Garden is a new mentoring program for women of color that starts recruitment in Spring 2024! Informed by feminist, womanist, and social justice principles and theory, the Women's Center is seeking to create a space for Women of Color to grow into their authentic selves through connection with others, to learn to exercise agency and creativity in their daily lives, and to feel supported and empowered in all that they do. Through this program, students will be able to:

  1. Investigate aspects of their identities to assess their personal beliefs and place in society. 
  2. Actively participate in programs and events that will promote identity development, leadership skills, relationship building, and encourage conversation where gender, race, ethnicity, and cultural background intersect. 
  3. Identify campus and community resources for managing stress anxiety, and other mental health concerns.

Interested in being part of the program? Sign up for a focus group session to share your thoughts on what this program should look like at Or join our mentoring network to stay up to date on program and event information by signing up at  

Students laughing and eating during a game of UNO.
a group of women/femme-identified folks of medium to dark skin tones sit in a circle on a light wooden floor playing a card game while laughing and smiling jovially

For more information, email with the subject “Her Garden.”  

When the Women’s Center staff sat down to determine a name for the women of color mentoring program, Director Krystal George knew that she wanted the name to be unique. This proved to be rather difficult. After days of brainstorming, the team eventually decided to call on historical figures in womanist theology for inspiration. They found that Alice Walker, in her infinite wisdom, gifted them with more than enough material to work with in her womanist prose collection, In Search of Our Mother’s Gardens. Thirty-six pieces of Walker’s work were included in the anthology. detailing the lived experiences of women of color from Walker’s past and present that were used to inform her identity as a womanist.

In the book, Walker sheds light onto the plight of black mothers and grandmothers, whom she also refers to as ‘hidden artists.’ In the beginning of the book, Walker wonders how women like her mother can create while simultaneously being oppressed. As she looks to the work of artists like Zora Neale Hurston and Jean Toomer, she realizes that a black woman’s ability to cultivate beauty, art, and legacy in spite of constant injustice was born out of necessity. The ‘garden’ is a metaphor for a space of peace and refuge. It is a place that we all search for; however, depending on the body that one is born in, the search for it can be difficult. As women of color, we are engaged in a constant search for a ‘garden’ in a world that continues to devalue us. However, just as Alice Walker was able to find her own garden by looking to the legacy created by the women who came before her, we can do the same. Our hope is that this mentorship program brings your search for safety, tranquility, and refuge to an end. We will help you to cultivate a garden of your own, by connecting you with the artists, or women of color who came before you.

Mission Statement 

At Duke University, Her Garden: WOC Mentoring Initiative fosters the development of an inclusive sisterhood for women and femme identifying students belonging to underrepresented racial and ethnic groups. It serves to amplify voices belonging to women of color through connection, community, and collaboration.   


Her Garden: WOC Mentoring Initiative envisions a Duke community where women of color and femme identifying students feel valued to flourish and confidently influence their fellow sisters and the greater campus.  


All are welcome to apply; however, we strongly encourage women or femme identifying  graduate/professional and undergraduates whose identity has racial, ethnic, or cultural diversity that is considered marginalized in the U.S. context to apply.

The following are required for mentees:

  • Attend orientation and submit mentorship agreement to program supervisor (Tayla Suitte, MPH)
  • Attend day of service coordinated by WC staff
  • Attend all dinner speaker series events which will be held on Thursdays 6pm - 7:30pm
  • Meet with mentors at least once per month for 1 hour and submit monthly survey
  • Attend End of Year Celebration in April 2025


All are welcome to apply; however, we strongly encourage women or femme identifying faculty, staff, or alumni whose identity has racial, ethnic, or cultural diversity that is considered marginalized in the U.S. context to apply.

The following are required for mentors:

  • Meet, in person, for at least 1 hour each month with mentees
  • Attend 1 orientation in September 2024
  • Use small stipend to pay for coffee/snacks during meetings with mentees
  • Complete a monthly survey detailing status of mentorship relationship
  • Attend 1 End of Year Celebration in April 2025


Orientation will welcome mentors and mentees, introduce them to the program, and get participants acquainted with their mentorship pair. 

Mentor/Mentee Meetings

Meetings between mentors and mentees will occur monthly and in person. Topic discussions are up to the discretion of the mentorship pair and needs of the mentee. After meetings, mentors and mentees will complete a survey to assess the mentor/mentee relationship.

Monthly Programs

Every other month, mentees will be required to attend a speaker series (Dinner will be provided). Speakers will engage students in a variety of topics affecting women of color from navigating predominantly white spaces to the superwoman complex. Mentees will also have the opportunity to attend community building events. This includes a vision board party, a picnic at Duke Gardens, and more!

Service Project

Mentees will complete a service project related to reproductive justice and gender equity in partnership with local nonprofits. This will be a day of service where participants will be fully immersed in the community.

End of Year Celebration

The end of year celebration will be held during the spring semester. It will offer mentors and mentees time breathe and celebrate their accomplishments. 

A mentorship archetype refers to the style guidance that a mentor will offer to mentees. 

The Sage

The Sage is someone who bears wisdom and uses it to advise a mentee. They offer knowledge or inspiration to guide a mentee as they advance to the next step in their journey, whether it be academic, personal, or professional.

The Auntie

The Auntie connects with the mentee in a way that is almost familial. They uplift, challenge, and also protect. They provide a safe space for the mentee to share, but will not tell the mentee only what they want to hear.

The Affirmer

The Affirmer will validate the lived experiences of mentees and offer words of encouragement. They act as a sounding board, but also as someone who speaks life into mentees. They empower, confirm, and celebrate the mentee.

The Nurturer

The nurturer naturally offers their mentees comfort and empathy. They also offer support to encourage the growth and development of the mentee. They provide the necessary “nourishment” for a mentee to blossom.

2024-2025 Mentors