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Global Center for Women & Justice 10th Anniversary | Diamonds Are Forever

diamond10 Years In History

The Global Center for Women & Justice at Vanguard University is a faith-based organization that exists to advance the global status of women through research, education, advocacy, collaboration, and hope.

The Global Center for Women & Justice promotes gender reconciliation and the inherent dignity of all persons.

Vanguard University was on the leading edge of the social justice wave when it launched a Women’s Studies Minor in 2003. Advancing women in this manner was not only an uncommon undertaking by a Christian University, but also an academic approach to the measure of true religion offered in James 1:27:

“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”

The Global Center for Women and Justice’s ten year history demonstrates its commitment to Study the Issues, Be a Voice, Make a Difference. We believe it is the responsibility of a Christian Higher Education institution to provide a strong foundation for students who are compelled to respond to the plight of women and children caught in modern day slavery, the violence of war, the politics of gender-based violence, and to stand up for the least of these. Our 10th Anniversary Co-Chair Darrellyn Melilli declared this undertaking by Vanguard University ten years ago “intelligent and courageous.”

10 Years of Leadership

  • Sheri Benvenuti and Elizabeth Leonard


    Sheri Benvenuti, PhD &
    Elizabeth Leonard, PhD

  • Sheri Benvenuti


    Sheri Benvenuti, PhD

  • Carol Taylor


    Carol Taylor, PhD

  • Sandra Morgan


    Sandra Morgan, PhD Candidate

diamond Yearly Highlights


Born from the Vanguard Women’s Caucus—a foundational group of students, faculty and staff interested in further supporting the work of women on campus—Vanguard University began the first interdisciplinary Women’s Studies program at an Assemblies of God University in September 2003.

The Center also hosted its first 2-day conference on Family Violence and the Church featuring Dr. Elizabeth Leonard and Reverend Al Miles.


During the first academic year, a Strategic Planning committee convened to establish the mission, vision, goals, and objectives for the Center for Women’s Studies. The committee instituted guidelines for fundraising, research projects, staffing, conferences and seminars, fiscal responsibility and a library collection.

The Center also established a physical space on the Vanguard Campus for the library and research center.


In 2005, created by Mary (Lehman) Ginty and Tonia Collinske, Safe Place offered an informal, non-therapeutic small group setting for students, staff, and faculty to meet to discuss abuse, rape, assault, and other issues of violence.

Helen LaKelly Hunt presented a lecture at Vanguard based on her book titled Faith and Feminism: A Holy Alliance.


In 2006, The Center held The Gathering Conference for Women in Ministry. The conference focused on women leaders in ministry and featured Dr. April Westbrook, Dr. Sheri Benvenuti and Sandra Morgan.

The Center also launched the Women in Leadership series with a lecture from Betsy Tarbell.

Additionally, the Center deepened engagement on Human Trafficking in Southern California through the student research of Alexis Miller and Caryn Bell Gerstenberger with oversight from Sandra Morgan.


Vanguard Alumni and Adjunct Professor Olivia Klaus created and directed Sin by Silence, a documentary based on Dr. Elizabeth Leonard’s book Convicted Survivors, research and personal stories of women incarcerated in California Institution for Women for murdering their abusive partners.

The Center’s annual conference focused on Strategies Against Sex Trafficking, including a special keynote address from Dr. Laura Lederer, the former Senior Advisor on Human Trafficking for the US State Department.

The Center celebrated receiving a $20,000 grant from the US Department of Health and Human Services as a part of a local partnership to combat human trafficking.


National anti-sexism activist Jackson Katz served as the keynote speaker at the annual conference focused on Gender & Justice, and student research Anna Cruz presented her research on Human Trafficking victims in Greece.

Live2Free, Vanguard’s student group focused on modern-day slavery, presented to hundreds Orange County high school students and shared the message that Just Choices Change Lives. The Center and Live2Free also helped to produce The Cost of Demand, a video highlighting human trafficking and its impact through our daily choices.

In partnership with OC Human Trafficking Taskforce, the Center was awarded a $30,000 grant to continue fighting human trafficking in Orange County.


In partnership with the Orange County Human Trafficking Task Force, the Center provided trainings on human trafficking to a variety of community members through OC Outreach Week, OC Victim’s Rights March, and Human Trafficking Forum with Ambassador Luis CdeBaca (State Department Office to Monitor and Combat Human Trafficking).

The Gender and Justice conference featured Dr. Melissa Farley and a focus on the commercial sexual exploitation of children. The Center also partnered to produce VietAct Human Trafficking video in Vietnamese.

Live2Free student club hosted the White Ribbon Against Pornography week, sharing with the Vanguard community the effects pornography has on individuals and our larger society.


In 2010, the Center for Women’s Studies changed its name to Global Center for Women and Justice, updating the strategic plan and direction and offering an opportunity to broaden work globally.

The Center’s events in 2010 impacted students and community members through the annual conference with Dr. Sharon Cooper continuing to deeply examine the commercial sexual exploitation of children.

Domestic Violence Awareness month on the Vanguard Campus included workshops about child abuse, pornography, and an opportunity for students to share their own stories.

VU student Ashley Sanderson conducted a three month study on fair trade products sold at local businesses, and through consumer demand, increased the number of fair trade products in the stores.

GCWJ was awarded a Delphe Iraq British Council grant (2010-2012) to fund partnership with the University of Duhok in northern Iraq to build capacity for women’s studies and advance the status of women.


Live2Free President and Vanguard student Tiffany Wong received a Congressional Recognition Award for her leadership of the student club.

The annual conference focused on the theme Ensure Justice Defend Children with a local, national, and global focus featuring Dr. Laura Lederer as a keynote speaker.

The Center hosted a Human Trafficking Summit in October where local Orange County Juvenile Justice and law enforcement officials gathered to address commercial sexual exploitation of children and domestic minors in sex trafficking. During the Summit, five student researchers collected data, analyzed and wrote papers about different aspects of child exploitation.

Sandra Morgan presented at an academic conference in St. Petersburg, Russia on human trafficking.


The Center hosted a special Freedom Day celebration featuring Harmony Dust and her organization Treasures.

In addition to the growing annual Ensure Justice conference which featured Juvenile Justice leaders including Judge Douglas Hatchimonji, Juvenile Prosecutor Tamara Ross, and CSEC Survivor Carissa Phelps, the Center hosted student-focused events including a lecture from Dr. Sami Hussein from the Iraqi Directorate of Violence Against Women, and a CA Proposition 35 debate.


In 2013, the Center hosted two international groups including a team of 10 professors and law enforcement officials from the Kurdistan Region of Iraq for training with local OC law enforcement and justice officials, as well as co-hosting the Nigerian Women Against Violence Conference with 40 men and women from Nigeria and Kenya attending an interactive conference at Vanguard.

The annual Ensure Justice conference focused on Cyber Exploitation and featured International Centre for Missing and Exploited Children President Ernie Allen. Student researchers focused on topics such as needs of women veterans, fatherless families, and therapeutic effects for suicidal patients.

GCWJ also broadened its local reach with a new project focused on women veterans in Orange County funded by the Employees Fund of Boeing California.

diamond10th Anniversary Events