‘The organization will thrive under her leadership’

Alice Paul Institute hires first chair of Indigenous descent.

Special to The Sun: Dr. June Sernak (pictured) was recently elected the nonprofits first chairperson of Indigenous descent.

In a historic move, the Alice Paul Institute (API) has named Dr. June Deponte Sernak its new chair of the nonprofit’s board of directors.

DePonte Sernak is the second woman of color and the first Indigenous person to serve as chair in API’s history. The term of her predecessor, Deirdre Webster Cobb, ended in June after Cobb’ nearly three years with the organization.  

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The institute honors the life and work of equal rights activist Alice Stokes Paul and is headquartered at Paulsdale, a national historic landmark and Paul’s birthplace.  The Mount Laurel-based organization offers leadership development workshops for teen girls as well as civic engagement programs for women and men of all ages that connect history to contemporary events and issues.

DePonte Sernak joined the API board in May 2020 and served as chair of the institute’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee and first vice chair of the board. She was unanimously elected by her peers and assumed her new role in late July.

In a release, DePonte Sernak cited women’s rights activists and expressed pride in her ancestry, while emphasizing that the goal of equality has yet to be reached.

“I stand on the shoulders of all the diverse women in history who have fought for equality,” she remarked. “I am honored to represent my multicultural Indigenous ancestors in leading one of the most powerful collective voices in our history for women’s rights.

“It is 2022 not 1920, and there is still much for us to do.”

DePonte Sernak brings business, educational and nonprofit experience to the institute.  Her previous work included serving as dean of Lifelong Learning and co-chair of the President’s Advisory Council on Diversity, Equity, and senior adjunct professor at Rowan College at Burlington County. She also served as executive director of the  American Red Cross and spent years in sales and marketing for the telecommunications industry. 

DePonte Sernak recently received her Doctor of Education in Organizational Leadership, Learning and Innovation Ed.D at Wilmington University, and holds an MBA  in management from Strayer University and a bachelor’s in marketing from Montclair State University. 

She has received the Arts and Business Council Philadelphia Business Volunteer of the Year Award, 40 Under 40 Minority Executive Award and SNJBP Magazine Women Executive of the Year. 

One of DePonte Sernak’s first tasks at API will be to guide the board in the creation of a 2023-2025 strategic plan. Rachael Glashan Rupisan, assistant executive director for the institute, commended DePonte Sernak’s teamwork and expressed her belief in the newly-appointed chair.

“Dr. June’s approach to strategy prioritizes collaboration,” Rupisan remarked. “Her ability to make everyone feel valued has been integral to defining the process so far. I know that the organization will thrive under her leadership (and) allow us to grow our reach within the community as we seek to impact more individuals throughout the region and beyond.” 

For more information on the Alice Paul Institute, visit its website at www.alicepaul.org.

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