Dean Bakopoulos is a ten year veteran of the Faculty at the Program, In addition to his writing and academic career, he was founding Director of the Wisconsin Book Festival, the Executive Director of the Wisconsin Humanities Council and currently directs Writers @Grinnell, all of which positions involve fund raising. He has had success in cultivating large donors in his past positions, and more recently, to build and support the programs at Iowa State and presently at Grinnell in which he teaches. He has, as well, a long record of service both institutional and public–from Chair of Wisconsin’s Cultural Coalition to member of the Board of the Chamber of Commerce in Mineral Point, WI.

Dean has always been active in support of FOW and its events and is already full of ideas for telling the Program’s story, as he put it, as “something that exists nowhere else in the world.”


Sharon Gelman  In tandem with Sonya Larson, Sharon spearheaded the drive to create and establish initial funding for the EBV scholarship. Sheserved as the Executive Director of the non-profit Artists for a New South Africa, whose mission is to promote social change in the U.S. and South Africa.   In this capacity she was responsible for program development and management, policy analysis, as well as fundraising and fiscal management. The efforts of the non-profit, including raising and granting $9 million to African NGO’s, have been extremely successful.   (1995- 2015).  She also served as Director of the Human Right Programs for the Hollywood Policy Center, an organization which seeks to involve the creative community in meaningful advocacy for social change. Sharon worked in program development, special event production, and coalition building. She was involved in significantly increasing the participation of people of color, the LGTB community, and young people. (1991-1995)  As Project Creator and Manager of Gelman Consulting, she developed and managed special projects for non-profit, political, educational and media clients, including The Association of Newspaper Publishers of America and Oxfam America. (1985-1991)

Sharon received her MFA in Fiction in 2016 and is a deeply committed member of our community who is passionate about the MFA Program and its mission.  She lives in Rockville, MD.


Larissa Vidal  joined Merrill Lynch in 1993.  She served on The Phil Scott Group, Merrill’s nationwide top-ranked brokerage team, which was named to Barron’s “Top 100 Advisors” list for twelve years.  In 2014, Larissa founded Insight Financial Planning, LLC, an independent fee-only service, because she wanted a more flexible schedule to spend time with her son. Larissa speaks publically at professional organizations on personal finance, hosts workshops (How I learned to Relax and Love Finance, Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Money (But Were Afraid to Ask) among other topics). She leads an on-going support group for women in the process of divorce and separation, is a lead sponsor for the Seattle Women’s Business Exchange, and served from 2008-2014 as Assistant Editor at Narrative Magazine.  Larissa graduated Stanford in 1992, is a Certified Financial Planner (2002 – present), and received her MFA in Fiction in 2007. She was one of the first alums to sign up when we first (about 5 years ago) circulated Volunteer forms. She is excited and honored at being asked to serve with Friends of Writers. In her email responding to us, she writes: “Studying at Warren Wilson changed my life and exposed me to writing styles and writer styles I had never imagined. The diversity of background and expression deepened my own work as well as the way I read. To help other writers … would give me a means to make the world richer.”

Larissa lives in Seattle, WA, with her son Leo, and plays the cello.

FOW also thanks our outgoing Directors for their exemplary service.  Much appreciation to Catherine Brown, Janet Crossen, Maudelle Driskell and Rolf Yngve for your hard work and dedication to the cause.

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