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Meet the EmPOWER Center Team

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Rima Shah,
EmPOWER Center Director

Rima (she, her, hers), has worked for the last 19 years on sexual assault, dating/domestic violence, stalking, and sexual health in the U.S. and India, in both university and non-profit settings. She started at the Claremont Colleges as the inaugural director of the EmPOWER Center in late 2015. Prior to coming to The Claremont Colleges, Rima spent three years at DePaul University in Chicago where she served as their first full-time staff member addressing interpersonal violence. She served as a confidential survivor advocate as well as implemented year-round programming on violence prevention and survivor support. Prior to that, Rima worked as a capacity building consultant for Family Health International in New Delhi, as a research associate for the World Institute on Disability in Oakland, and as a program development consultant and national trainer at the Asian and Pacific Islander Wellness Center in San Francisco. She also develops sports-based empowerment programs for girls in Indian orphanages on a voluntary basis.

Rima holds a Masters in Public Health from the University of California, Berkeley and a Masters in Sociology from the Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. She speaks English, Hindi, and Gujarati. Rima is also the Assistant Coach of the Claremont Running Team, a track club for kids. 


Self-care: Biking, walking, reading, teaching Bollywood dance at the local elementary schools, and time with her ten year old son. 


To contact Rima, email her at or call her at (909) 607-2689

Cassidy Bensko,
EmPOWER Center Student Intern

Cassidy (she, her, hers), is a second-year student at Scripps College studying Politics and Media Studies. She began working in sexual violence prevention her freshman year of high school as a founding member of Wake Up Stand Up, a student-run organization dedicated to hosting an annual sexual harassment prevention seminar for young adults in the Santa Clarita Valley. She has worked closely with survivors throughout the years and strives to be an activist and advocate in everyday life. Prior to joining the EmPOWER Center staff, Cassidy created educational materials at the Holocaust Museum Los Angeles and assisted in running union campaigns at the Office of Professional Employees International Union - she also writes for The Student Life. She aspires to help create a compassionate and equitable environment at The Claremont Colleges.


Self-care: Visiting Mt. Baldy, journaling, taking evening walks, cooking, sitting in the grass, and watching her favorite YouTube channels. 

To contact Cassidy, email her at 

Olivia Carusi,
EmPOWER Center Student Intern

Olivia (she, her, hers), is a third-year student at Claremont McKenna College studying Government and International Relations. Her senior year of high school, she developed an interest in sexual assault prevention on college campuses. That year, Olivia organized events that educated her peers on the realities of sexual assault as a college student, and taught them useful skills like self defense and bystander intervention. Shortly following her arrival to college, Olivia joined CMC Advocates - a student run group promoting consent, healthy relationships, and survivor centered support at the Claremont Colleges.  She is passionate about the work she does as an advocate to better her college community and provide support for those in need, and feels the same with her position at the EmPOWER Center. In addition to working at the EmPOWER Center, Olivia serves as a campaign intern for CA Congressman Ro Khanna.


Self-care: cooking, walking/running, listening to podcasts (Armchair Expert is my favorite!), and spending time with friends. 

To contact Olivia, email her at

Natalie Akins,
EmPOWER Center Student Intern

Natalie (she, her, hers), is a first-year graduate student at Claremont Graduate University studying Public Health and Positive Health Psychology. In undergrad, she majored in Neuroscience at Scripps College where she was interested in mental-health and human/animal behavior. At Scripps she was an active member of Café con Leche (CCL) and a CLSA (Chicano Latino Student Affairs) Sponsor. She became interested in sexual violence prevention the summer of her junior year, after interning with the University of Michigan Special Victims Unit and Center of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Here she researched how culture impacts help-seeking behavior in survivors of interpersonal violence, particularly in Latinx communities. Her internship inspired her to continue working in advocacy and multiple final projects connecting mental-health interventions with interpersonal violence awareness and prevention. Natalie aspires to continue to explore the intersectionality of mental-health and sexual violence prevention to not only create a safe and equitable environment at The Claremont Colleges, but beyond.

Self-care: reading, listening to music, nature walks, cuddling her cat, trying new foods, watching her favorite streamers, and spending time with friends and family.

To contact Natalie, email her at 

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