Loyola University Maryland

Center for Innovation in Urban Education (CIUE)

Speaker Biographies


Gloria Ladson-Billings, Ph.D.

Gloria Ladson-Billings

Gloria Ladson-Billings, Ph.D., is the Kellner Family Distinguished Chair of Urban Education in the department of curriculum and instruction at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she teaches in the departments of educational policy studies, educational leadership and policy analysis, and Afro-American studies.

A well-known author and editor, Ladson-Billings has won numerous scholarly awards and honorary degrees, including the Hilldale Award at the University of Wisconsin, Wisconsin’s Martin Luther King, Jr., Heritage Award, and Columbia University’s 2008 Distinguished Service Medal. She served as the president of the American Educational Research Association from 2005-06 and was elected to Kappa Delta Pi International Education Honor Society’s Laureate Chapter in 2009.

Lunchtime Plenary Speaker:

Edward Fergus, Ph.D. 

Edward Fergus is Assistant Professor of Educational Leadership and Policy at Steinhardt School of Culture, Education and Human Development at New York University. Dr. Fergus' current work is on the intersection of educational policy and outcomes with a specific focus on Black and Latino boys' academic and social engEdward Fergusagement outcomes, disproportionality in special education and suspensions, and school climate conditions. In addition to numerous publications as Deputy Director of Pedro Noguera’s Metropolitan Center for Urban Education, he has published numerous articles and is the author of Skin Color and Identity Formation: Perceptions of Opportunity and Academic Orientation among Mexican and Puerto Rican Youth (Routledge Press, 2004), co-editor of Invisible No More: Disenfranchisement of Latino Men and Boys (Routledge Press, 2011), co-author of Schooling For Resilience: Improving Trajectory of Black and Latino boys (Harvard Education Press, 2014) and author of Solving Disproportionality and Achieving Equity (Corwin Press, In Press). 






Session Leaders:

Dawn Bennett is the Co-Founder of the Multicultural Education Rights Alliance (McERA). As a basketball player and coach, gang prevention specialist and caseworker for the City of Seattle and the Liaison for African American families for Seattle Public Schools, Dawn has worked to support those who might otherwise fall through the education gaps. She also currently serves on several boards including Washington’s Paramount Duty, the UW School of Social Work Communities in Action Initiative, the Multi-Tiered Systems of Support Advisory Group, and is the Board Chair of the African American Leadership Forum.

Lisa Bleich is the Executive Director of the Alliance for Community Teachers and Schools (ACTS). She has spent 20 years as a consultant, whose work primarily focuses on community engagement, conflict resolution and partnership development. She has spent 20 years as a consultant, whose work primarily focuses on community engagement, conflict resolution and partnership development. She is a former Senior Facilitator and Lead Trainer at Baltimore Community School Connections and is currently President of the Board of Creative City Public Charter School. Lisa is known for her skillful facilitation of community planning and problem-solving sessions, drawing on a background in mediation. Lisa specializes in getting practical outcomes from a well-coordinated and highly collaborative approach. She leads ACTS’ community school work with the Family League of Baltimore, developing training pathways for Coordinators and school leaders, and provides facilitation wherever large groups of diverse stakeholders need to come together to build trust and get something done. As the Executive Director, Lisa recruits and coordinates the best and brightest staff and manages organizational advancement and partnership development.

Paula Byrd, M.A., is the Program Director for the Alliance for Community Teachers and Schools. Her areas of expertise include program management, school administration, case management, facilitation, and youth and family counseling. She oversees program design and implementation for all ACTS initiatives. She has a Bachelor of Arts degree from Bucknell University in Sociology and Spanish and a Master of Science degree from Johns Hopkins University in Clinical and Community Counseling.  Prior to working for ACTS, she was Director of Community Services for the Social Work Community Outreach Service (SWCOS) at the University of Maryland School of Social Work, where she managed four Community School Coordinators, two Family Stability Program Managers and one Resident Manager and developed community-based partnerships. She has experience as an after school program coordinator, a private school and university administrator, along with counseling and social work experience. Her areas of expertise include program management, school administration, case management and youth and family counseling.

Patricia Clark, Ph.D., is professor and chair of the Department of Elementary Education at Ball State University. She, along with Dr. Eva Zygmunt, initiated the “Schools within the Context of Community” program at BSU in 2009. As department chair, she is working to ensure that we prepare elementary and early childhood “community teachers” for our nation’s children.

Amy Bloom Connolly, M.S., is Founder & Director of the Center for Mindful Awareness which teaches research-based mindfulness practices to individuals, parents, human service providers, educators, caregivers and communities. Since 2000, her signature SHINETM Program (Support Honor Inspire Nurture Evolve) has made transformational mindful awareness practices clear, relevant, and accessible to thousands of people using the innovative Keys to MindfulnessTM. Her work supports people to increase self-awareness, reduce stress, promote self-regulation, build resilience, and promote kindness and compassion.

Shanda Crowder, Ed.D., M.Ed., is the Director of the Positive Schools Center at the University of Maryland School of Social Work. Dr. Crowder has been a leader in this field, having worked from 2003 to 2007 overseeing special education services for the Baltimore Edison Project Schools; 2007 to 2012 at MSDE, where her roles included statewide coordinator for the implementation of Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) in the non-public special education programs, and staff leader for statewide school mental health projects; 2009 to 2012 overseeing collaborative efforts across all child serving agency’s for the Maryland Governor’s Office for Children; and most recently 2012-2014 serving as the chief of staff for Maryland’s Child and Adult Welfare Agency.  Dr. Crowder’s research interest’s centers around the impact of the social emotional functioning of students and school climate on school success.

Amy Edelstein, educator, author, and public speaker is a powerful communicator of ideas and beliefs that can help us transform ourselves and the culture we live in. Amy is founder of theInner Strength Foundation, which annually teaches 1200 high school students mindfulness and cultural development. More at www.amyedelstein.com & www.InnerStrengthFoundation.net.

Stephanie Flores-Koulish, Ph.D., is an Associate Professor at Loyola University MD in the Curriculum and Instruction program. Her primary area of expertise and research is Critical Media Literacy Education, an emerging education field in the US whereby students learn to become critical viewers, consumers and creators of media, from television to radio to the internet. She also has research interests in identity and adoption, education policy, creativity, spirituality, and critical multicultural education. Her research provides her with many opportunities to practice engaged scholarship in and around Baltimore City. Flores-Koulish is also an alumna of the Institute for Recruitment of Teachers (IRT).

Moira Fratantuono, MFA, is a Baltimore-based community artist with over nine years of experience in youth development. Her artistic passion lies in promoting intercultural communication, strengthening community relationships, and uplifting the voices of those who are marginalized. Her body of work includes facilitating over 14 murals in the US and abroad, co-creating an international collaborative blog that connects youth in Baltimore and India, and illustrating a bilingual children’s book. She has also been involved in projects overseas. spent five years working with BCCC’s Refugee Youth Project to support the social and emotional integration of refugees. In Fall 2013, she joined Wide Angle as the Youth Photography Traveling Exhibition Coordinator, and began teaching video in the Baltimore Speaks Out! Program a year later. In 2015, Moira took on the Program Manager role, where she will draw upon her experiences in the classroom to support Wide Angle’s mission to provide high-quality, meaningful media instruction to young people throughout Baltimore.

Everett Garnett, EdD, is Director of the Office of School Supports, Baltimore City Public Schools. He oversees four teams - Climate and Suspensions Services, Prevention/Intervention and Training, School Supports Liaisons, Strategic School Supports - of extraordinary professionals providing guidance and supports to schools creating environments that are safe, orderly and conducive for teaching and learning. He is in his 44th year of service in the Baltimore City Schools, including years as an effective and transformational principal.

Simone Gibson, PhD, is an Assistant Professor within the Department of Teacher Education & Professional Development at Morgan State University. Although she began her career as a middle school English teacher in Baltimore City Public Schools, her experience as an educator spans P-12 as well as higher education in both California and Maryland. Her current research involves two projects which: 1) explores the significance of sociopolitical consciousness with P-12 learners;  and 2) investigates ways of connecting the non-traditional literacy habits of historically marginalized P-12 learners to those traditional literacy practices promoted within schools. 

Tawanna Kane is a certified yoga teacher and MBSR instructor, who seeks to help individuals and communities, identify and cultivate their internal support systems and resilience. With over 15 years of experience teaching mindfulness, MBSR and yoga, she has served as director of The Lineage Project, The Joy Wellness Center at Shepherd’s Clinic and supervised mindfulness-based clinical trials at Johns Hopkins Medical Institution. By placing attention on the heart, she hopes to give people tools to be more present in their lives and with each other.  Her work is synthesized in The Inner Resources Project, an emerging organization, which sets as its mission to help individuals and communities connect with their own humanity and to learn to be in relation to their community. 

Robert E. Lee serves as Illinois State University’s Executive Director of Statewide Urban Programs and Partnerships and is the Founding Director of its Chicago Teacher Education Pipeline. Over the past 13 years at Illinois State, Dr. Lee has focused the university's efforts on working toward developing culturally responsive and resilient teachers for urban schools by establishing strategic partnerships with community-based organizations, and situating pre-service clinical work in the communities where teachers are most needed. This collaborative model of urban teacher recruitment and preparation has raised teacher quality to improve school progress and student achievement; transformed public schools into community-driven learning centers; and retained community teachers who posses a contextualized knowledge of the local culture and community.

Julie Lin is a community artist and educator with experience working in nonprofit organizations around Baltimore, including Community Art Collaborative (an AmeriCorps program), the Baltimore Museum of Art’s Education and Art on Purpose. In 2009, she was awarded a prestigious Kresge Arts in Baltimore grant to continue a community art project impacting immigrants and refugees. As her neighborhood association’s president for three years, Julie brought resources that benefit residents and businesses. She is a founder of Creative City Public Charter Schools in Baltimore City. Julie has a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Maryland Institute College of Art.

Dr. Khaula Murtadha serves as Associate Vice Chancellor for Community Engagement at IUPUI. She  is also a faculty member of the Educational Leadership and Policy Studies program in the School of Education. Nationally she has served on the Executive Committee of the University Council of Education Administration; and is currently president of the statewide, Indiana Council of Continuing Education. Some of her awards include the Center for Leadership Development Madame C. J. Walker (Outstanding Woman of the Year) Award; the National Coalition of 100 Black Women, Indianapolis Chapter-2010 Breakthrough Woman award; and the Indianapolis chapter of the National Council of Negro Women Leadership in Education Award. Dr. Murtadha has most recently published in the Journal of Community Engagement and Higher Education.

Cheryl Moore-Thomas received her doctorate in Counselor Education from the University of Maryland, specializing in the racial identity development of adolescents. As a former teacher, school counselor, student services specialist, associate dean and current faculty member and scholar, Cheryl is committed to urban education.  She has published widely in the field and consults regularly with urban school districts on issues of racial identity, leadership, critical race theory, urban school counseling, and academic achievement of students of color.

Kate Napolitan is a Teaching Associate and Project Director at the University of Washington, Seattle. Her work focuses on building and sustaining equal-status and mutually beneficial relationships among families, communities, K-12 schools, and teacher education programs. She strives, with the support of many others, to prepare teacher candidates who are orientated towards students, and the families and communities of which they are a part.

Carlos Nelson has served as the CEO/Executive Director of the Greater Auburn-Gresham Development Corporation since January 2003, growing the organization from one staff to nearly thirty full-time and part-time associates; with over 100 volunteers helping the organization carry out its mission of fostering and promoting the revitalization of all or parts of the underserved communities on Chicago’s south side. Carlos holds BS in Mechanical Engineering and a MBA. Since leaving corporate America in 2003 to lead the organization. Carlos serves on several committees, advisory councils and boards including the Local School Council for Richard J. Oglesby Elementary School, Chicagoland Habitat for Humanity board, and several Mayor’s boards affecting the quality of life in Chicago.

R. Elizabeth Odle, is a former urban educator and administrator that did not accept poverty and other hardship conditions as reasons for students not to succeed.  Currently the Director of Mary Rigg Full Service Community School Project via the US-DOE to leverage a diverse array of programs, services and alliances with local businesses and community organizations to address the needs of both the students and their families living within the near Westside of Indianapolis, Indiana.

Ako Changa Onyango  is the executive director of Group Harvest LLC in Baltimore and founder of Our Boys Institute.  He is a national trainer and lecturer for urban youth and youth-engaged staff.

Rodney Parker has served as the director of ALANA (African, Latino, Asian, Native American) Services at Loyola University Maryland for more than a decade. He received a Master of Divinity and Master of Theology from Duke University and Master of Science in Pastoral Counseling from Loyola University Maryland.  His previous academic achievements in theology and pastoral formation combined with the Jesuit value cura personalis (care for the whole person) help to provide a comprehensive, mission-oriented response of care for students of color at Loyola. Currently, he is a doctoral candidate in the Counselor Education and Supervision program at Loyola University Maryland. His dissertation focuses on the role of spirituality in the relationship between race-related stress and subjective well-being for Black male undergraduate students at predominantly white colleges and universities.

Emily Pelino serves as the Executive Director of KIPP Indy Public Schools where she oversees all school leadership and academic programming, and plays a direct role in supervising the performance of students, staff, and faculty. Under her guidance and strategic vision, KIPP Indy Public Schools has more than doubled the number of children they serve in the Indianapolis community. Ms. Pelino plans to continue to grow KIPP Indy from its two current schools into a network of five schools, ultimately reaching over 2,000 students, grades K-12, in the Martindale Brightwood community. Ms. Pelino holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan as well as a Master of Social Work and a Master of Public Health from the University of North Carolina.

Wilisha Scaife earned her BS in Organizational Leadership from Anderson University and her MA in Executive Development for Public Service, with a special focus in Education and Family & Community Engagement from Ball State University. She is employed at Ball State in the Department of Elementary Education - as Director of Family Engagement for the MuncieP3 Academic Enrichment initiative, and as adjunct faculty, teaching courses in family and community engagement. Wilisha is a licensed minister of the Gospel of Christ in leadership at Union Missionary Baptist Church, where her husband Robert is the Pastor. She speaks at numerous educational and religious conferences, as well as professional forums nationwide. Her passion is to serve families; encouraging them to DREAM BIG through peer-mentoring that equips and empowers!

Faith Serf has been teaching in the Muncie Community School system for 23 years.  She also teaches in, and is the Curriculum Coordinator for, the MuncieP3 afterschool complementary academic enrichment program.  Faith is a passionate advocate for children and families, and is a model of best practice for Ball State pre-service teacher candidates, whom she mentors in their journey to become culturally responsive educators.

Vanessa Dodo Seriki, Ph.D.,is an Assistant Professor of Science & Urban Education and Co-Director of the Center for Innovation in Urban Education (CIUE) at Loyola University Maryland.  Her research interests include the application of Culturally Relevant Pedagogy and Cultural Modeling in science education; the intersectionality of race and gender in education as seen through the lens of Critical Race Theory and Black Feminist Thought; and the accessibility of STEM education in urban schools.

Jessica Strauss, MPhil, MSW, LGSW, a nationally recognized expert in community school partnerships, co-founded ACTS with Dr. Murrell in 2011. Jessica consulted for 16 years to governments, foundations, school districts, non-profit organizations, including: 5 years as co-director of Baltimore Community School Connections, designing and advising the Baltimore community schools initiative; 8 years as technical assistance consultant at the National Center for Community Schools (Children’s Aid Society); wrote proposal that won $1.4 million school-based health center grant for State of Maryland; 10 years R&D to Annie E. Casey Foundation. Prior to 1995, Jessica developed and managed The Family Place in East Baltimore, providing direct services and program management. She recently returned to direct service as a trauma therapist for children and families.

Eva Zygmunt is Professor of Elementary Education and director of the Schools Within the Context of Community community-engaged program of teacher preparation at Ball State University. Dr. Zygmunt is the co-author of the book Transforming Teacher Education for Social Justice (Zygmunt & Clark, 2015). She is also the current co-director of Ball State University’s Alliance for Community-Engaged Teacher Preparation, a network of teacher educators committed to the development of community-engaged, socially-just, and equity-focused future teachers.