14 June 2024 • Alums Whitley '11 Honored with PLEN's Marianne Alexander Alumnae Leadership Award By Paige Cooke

Entrepreneur Jalisa Whitley ’11 recognized for leading women.

The Public Leadership Education Network (PLEN) presented Jalisa Whitley ’11 with the 2024 Marianne Alexander Alumnae Leadership Award on May 16 in recognition of outstanding leadership in her profession and excellence as a role model to other women. Whitley is founder of Unbound Impact Consulting and BOOKED Trips.

In her work with Unbound Impact, Whitley collaborates with nonprofits, philanthropic entities and socially-responsible corporations to create spaces, processes and programs that advance racial equity and propel transformative change. She has worked with many organizations such as the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Kaiser Family Foundation, Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation, the National Collaborative for Health Equity, CareFirst Blue Cross Blue Shield, Public Allies and the United Way of the National Capital Area.  

Additionally as founder of BOOKED Trips, a book-inspired travel company, Whitley curates small group, immersive journeys that transport travelers from the pages of their favorite novels to the real-world locations where they unfold. Whitley earned her bachelor’s degree in public policy and sociology from HWS and went on to earn her master’s in public policy with a focus in nonprofit management and leadership from the University of Maryland, College Park.

Since she was a student at HWS, Whitley has been a member of PLEN and currently serves as a seminar host and speaker as well as a mentor to other PLEN participants.

“Receiving this honor was really meaningful to me. The deeper I get into my career, the more I become convinced that anything done successfully, sustainably is not done alone. We all need community. Whether it's a community of support, encouragement and introduction, or get a leg up. None of us are self-made,” says Whitley. “Thankfully, PLEN has been a part of my community of support, particularly in the early years of my career here in Washington, D.C.”

Growing up in Geneva, N.Y., Whitley says she did not have exposure to women who looked like her working in nonprofits, government or other social change sectors. Connecting with PLEN exposed her to so many new career pathways and a wide range of ways to be impactful in our world.

“PLEN is important because it provides an on-ramp to potential careers in policy to young women who may not traditionally be in these rooms,” says Whitley. “I appreciate that PLEN continues to provide a myriad of opportunities for me to be a resource to other young women and show them the many ways that you can be a changemaker and how that can shift and expand over time.”

HWS is a member of PLEN, a national organization whose mission is to empower, educate and engage women and marginalized gender groups in public policy to promote diverse, inclusive leadership in policy making.