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Presidential Task Force on Racial Justice

Task Force Updates

Eighth Full Membership Meeting Summary — Jan. 29, 2021
The Special Presidential Task Force on Racial Justice (RJTF) held its eighth meeting on Friday, Jan. 29, 2021. Co-chairs Mary Grant, Davede Alexander and Carolyn Petrosino welcomed members of the Task Force back for the Spring 2021 semester and thanked them for their work and commitment.

RJTF Co-Chairs Update to BSU Board of Trustees — Dec. 9, 2020
RJTF Co-Chairs Trustee Davede Alexander and Senior Administrative Fellow for Civics and Social Justice Dr. Mary Grant gave an update on the progress of the RJTF to the Bridgewater State University Board of Trustees at its December 2020 meeting.

Seventh Full Membership Meeting Summary — Dec. 4, 2020
The seventh meeting of the full membership of the Special Presidential Task Force on Racial Justice (RJTF) was held on Friday, Dec. 4 from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. via online meeting.

Sixth Full Membership Meeting Summary — Nov. 20, 2020
The sixth meeting of the Special Presidential Task Force on Racial Justice (RJTF) held on Friday, Nov. 20. featured progress updates from all six Subcommittees and two presentations.

All task force updates »

Member Biographies

Davede Alexander

Davede Alexander

Founder & CEO of Innovo, BSU Board of Trustees 
Co-Chair

Mr. Davede Alexander has served on the Bridgewater State University Board of Trustees since 2014. Representing the university’s highest governing body, Mr. Alexander has the full support of Chairperson Eugene Durgin and his fellow trustees. In many ways, we regard Davede as the conscience of our Board by consistently and passionately holding BSU accountable to its highest standards and values. He is the founder and principal of Innovo Strategic Solutions, LLC, was awarded the distinguished Black Engineer of the Year Award for Diversity Leadership in Government and served as a Naval Officer during Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom. When I asked him to serve, he replied, “I have been waiting my entire life to do this kind of profoundly important and transformative work.”

Mary K. Grant

Dr. Mary K. Grant 

Senior Administrative Fellow for Civics and Social Justice 
Co-Chair

Dr. Mary Grant joined BSU in January of this year as Senior Administrative Fellow for Civics and Social Justice, moved “by the opportunity to continue to work on issues of equity, social justice and civic engagement.” She leads the Martin Richard Institute for Social Justice, which will provide staffing and overall support to the Task Force and will lead the university in planning and implementing racial justice activities and initiatives tied to the 2020-2021 academic year. Dr. Grant previously served as President and CEO of The Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the U.S. Senate, positioning the Institute as a hub for civic engagement, participatory democracy and invigorating civil discourse. She served as the seventh chancellor at UNC, Asheville, after having served for 12 years as president of Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts (MCLA). She was the Chief Academic Officer and Deputy CEO of UMassOnline and a Senior Fellow at the John W. McCormack Institute of Public Affairs at UMass Boston, where she led the institute’s master’s program in public affairs and served as director of the Center for Social Policy. Grant serves on the board of Campus Compact, the Norman Rockwell Museum, and is a member of the Civics Collaboratory. She earned her PhD at the Heller School for Social Welfare Policy at Brandeis University, Master’s Degree in Public Affairs from UMass Boston, a bachelor’s degree from MCLA/North Adams State and holds an honorary doctorate from Williams College.
 

Carolyn Petrosino

Dr. Carolyn Petrosino 

Professor Emerita of Criminal Justice
Co-Chair

Dr. Carolyn Petrosino is professor emerita of Criminal Justice and was the Founding Chair of our Department of Criminal Justice at BSU. Prior to beginning her teaching career, she held various positions in the corrections system of the State of New Jersey. Her publications include journal articles and book chapters on such topics as racial justice, hate crimes, juvenile delinquency, sexual offenders, emotional literacy in corrections, and parole decision-making. She is the coauthor of American Corrections in Brief for Cengage and is the author of Understanding Hate Crimes. Acts, Motives, Offenders, Victims, and Justice, for Routledge. She most recently edited a title for Oxford University Press, Islamophobia and Acts of Violence: The Targeting and Victimization of American Muslims. She continues to teach a class at BSU on hate crimes, focusing on the nature of these crimes, the social harms they cause, and the origins and resilience of hate ideology. Her research work on hate crimes is ongoing. In addition, she worked in BSU’s Mandela Institute, teaching in the area of the Administration of Justice and the politics of race. She served on the Massachusetts Juvenile Justice Advisory Council and has participated in a Congressional briefing on the state of hate crime research and public policy in the United States. Dr. Petrosino said she is “honored by the opportunity to participate in the tough work of truly listening, holding a mirror up to ourselves, learning, and taking action to address the needs of communities of color.”

Dr. Jakari Griffith

Associate Professor, Management
Vice Chair, Faculty

Dr. Griffith is associate professor of management concentrating on issues of organizational behavior, positive psychology and leadership, and recipient of a 2019 Award for Academic Excellence. Dr. Griffith received his Ph.D. in organizational behavior from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. His research is focused on assisting ex-offenders find suitable employment once they are released from prison. The route from prison to work is little understood, and Dr. Griffith is intent on removing the stigma attached to former inmates when they enter the job market and educating employers and incentivizing them to hire individuals after they are released. The son of a former New York City police officer, Dr. Griffith’s own brother was the victim of deadly gun violence. “I honor my brother not only by grieving, but also by my actions,” he has said. He expressed that he is “excited to be joining this Task Force, which represents the very best of our BSU values in that we come together in times of crisis and change to support and challenge one another to be the very best versions of ourselves.”

 

Samantha Joseph

Vice Chair, Alumni

Samantha Joseph, ’04, president-elect of the BSU Afro-American Alumni Association is joining the Task Force as a vice chair. Samantha is a first-generation Haitian-Honduran American who earned her B.S. in Psychology from Bridgewater State University and her Master of Social Work from Boston University. She currently serves as the Intensive Care Coordinator at Y.O.U. Inc., a leading child welfare, behavioral health, and education agency dedicated to helping children and families flourish and reach their full potential. As an undergraduate, Samantha was a leader and member of the Haitian Cultural Club and Sister Scholars and was mentored and supported by many Afro-American alumni. She is paying it forward by living the mission of the Afro-American Alumni Association: to reflect, connect, and make a difference in the lives of today’s diverse student and alumni population.

 

Sydné Marrow

Director, Center for Multicultural Affairs 
Vice Chair, Staff

As director of the Center for Multicultural Affairs in the Division of Student Success and Diversity, Sydné is fervently engaged in identifying and implementing strategies to close achievement and opportunity gaps for all students, and especially those from marginalized backgrounds. She advises the Cape Verdean Student Association, Sister Scholars, and many committees related to social justice and retention efforts. Sydné is a graduate of Boston College and received her Master’s Degree in Educational Leadership at BSU. She is a member of the Brockton Chapter of the NAACP, volunteers with the ACT-SO program in memory of her late husband who was a champion of Brockton youth and educational programs, and serves on the Board of Trustees for Girls, Inc. of Taunton, Massachusetts. "I am encouraged by the spirit of this new Special Presidential Taskforce on Racial Justice during this time of unrest,” she said. “Striving for equity and fighting for social justice is our responsibility if we truly believe that the promise of a better tomorrow is in the positive development of today's youth."

 

Anna Rice

Vice Chair, Students 

Anna (she/her) is entering her senior year (Class of 2021) and second term as president of the Student Government Association. A first-generation student from Medway, majoring in political science and minoring in economics, Anna is a sister of Gamma Phi Beta Sorority and currently is the senior administrative intern for Congressman Joe Kennedy III’s Senate Campaign in the MA-04/Metrowest District. After graduating from BSU, Anna hopes to earn her master's degree in political science and eventually work in a congressional office, focusing on issues of housing inequality, racial injustice and women's rights. She says, “The fight against racial injustice is important because no person should be judged, harmed, or put at a disadvantage due to their race (or any other aspects of their identity). This work is important because after years of education telling us that no one should be discriminated against based on race, BIPOC are still being discriminated against, harmed, and killed. Folks often believe that racism is over because we are “doing better” as a society, but that is not the case, and we need to continue fighting against racial injustice, because every person deserves to comfortably live their life.

Keith Abaka

Student Representative

Keith Abaka (he/him) is a rising sophomore management major with a human resources concentration from Worcester, Massachusetts. He is a part of BSU's OTEAM who also loves musical theater, playing video games, and spending time on Tiktok (it's fun!). This cause is important to him because as a Black person, he's seen the many forms of racism that can occur in a place that values voices of white people over people of color, especially Native people and Black people and hopes to bring change that becomes the new norm. As Keith writes, “First and foremost, Black Lives Matter. No more missing/murdered indigenous women. Injustice cannot stand.”

 

TJ Hairston

Student Representative

TJ is entering his last semester of senior year (Class of 2020). He is a student athlete and currently plays for the Bridgewater State football team and is an all-conference player. A 12-year native of Watertown, MA double majoring in both General Management and Marketing, TJ is the Social Director for the National Fraternity Kappa Delta Phi. He works part time while in school and trains for football. He also lives off campus. After graduating from BSU, TJ hopes to earn his Finance Certificate at BSU as a grad student and work for a professional sports team doing marketing. On the issue of racial justice, TJ has stated, “everyone should be treated equally no matter the skin color and police brutality needs to come to end and be handled much better. No one should be innocently killed for being unarmed and we must take the proper steps in finding justice for those who have been innocently killed because of the color of their skin. We must take into consideration the steps to prevent racism from happening but most importantly to protect those who have been treated differently because of their race. “

 

Tiffany Harriott

Student Representative

Tiffany Harriott (she, her, hers), Class of 2021, is a sociology major with a concentration in education. From the Dorchester area in Boston, Tiffany is President of the Hip Hop Club and a volunteer for the Center for Multicultural Affairs. She says, “the racial justice task force is very important especially with the height of racial tension in the country. I find it is our duty to create a hate-free world and to create safe spaces for our upcoming youth. As a sociology major, I have learned the patterns overtime that affect people because of discrimination. I hope to take what I've learned and help advance BSU as an outstanding university.”

 

Emily Portela

Graduate Student Representative

Emily Houston Portela (she/her) is from Attleboro, Massachusetts. Emily previously attended Saint Joseph's University in Philadelphia where she earned a masters in Experimental Psychology. After a two-year hiatus working in the field she returned to school and is currently working towards her second masters in the Mental Health Counseling Dual License Program. Her anticipated graduation date is December 2021. During her time at BSU she has worked as a Graduate Assistant in the Graduate Student Services Office. In addition to her traditional GA duties, she is the lead organizer for the Graduate Professional Student Association. Outside of the BSU community, Emily works as a behavior management therapist at a community service agency providing in home therapy to low-income households for families with a wide variety of social-emotional needs. Emily is a strong advocate for social justice and believes true change occurs when one works both with and for others. As a white middle class woman, she recognizes the depth and breadth of privilege she has experienced where others have not been as fortunate. The institutional and systemic racism she has observed affecting both her clients and loved ones fuels her to make her voice heard as a force for change. Through a lens of cultural competence and humility, Emily hopes to use her privilege to learn more about the racial and ethnic disparities in the community and work with others to forge a path of equity and justice for all students.

 

Gabriella Rivera

Student Representative

Gabriella (she/her) is entering her junior year (Class of 2022) as a Commonwealth Honors student, majoring in Elementary Education and Spanish with a concentration in Special Education. From Hanover, Gabriella’s commitment to diversity, social justice, and inclusion began at a young age when she performed in inclusive arts productions throughout the state and volunteered as an aquatics coach for the Special Olympics. Her decision to dedicate her life to serving young people marginalized by society because of their ethnicity, socio-economic status, or disabilities brought her to BSU where she has been an Honors Fellow in Diversity and Social Justice and a varsity athlete on the Swim & Dive Team. Gabriella has received scholarships and awards both years at BSU in recognition of her academic achievements and leadership, including the Michelle Calverley Leadership Award from Swim & Dive Coach Michael Caruso, the Dr. Glenn W. Cook Memorial Scholarship, and the Patricia Quinn Bartlett ’67 Scholarship. After graduation, Gabriella intends to pursue a post graduate degree in education and dedicate her life in the classroom to empowering those in society who feel powerless.

 

Dr. Jabbar Al-Obaidi

Academic Director of Global Programs
Faculty Representative

Dr. Jabbar Al-Obaidi is a professor of media studies and communication technologies. Currently, Professor Al-Obaidi serves as the Academic Director of Global Programs at BSU. Previously, he served as the director of the Center for Middle East Studies and the chairperson of Communication Studies. In addition to his extensive teaching and administrative experiences in the US, he taught in Iraq, Jordan, Yemen, United Arab Emirates and China. Dr. Al-Obaidi’s academic and professional contributions include scholarly research in the area of media and intercultural communication, teaching undergraduate and graduate courses, producing documentary films, and he hosts a weekly cable television program ‘InFocus’ since 1999. Dr. Al-Obaidi promotes intercultural communication as a way to build bridges among various cultures and to sustain efforts to achieve and sustain social justice and human dignity.

 

Dr. Joyce Rain Anderson

Professor of Rhetoric and Composition—English Department College of Humanities and Social Sciences; Coordinator of Native American and Indigenous Studies
Faculty Representative

“As a Native American woman, I carry many core beliefs into all I do: balance, respect, relationality, reciprocity, the interconnectedness of all things, commitment to community, equity, inclusion, diversity, social justice, a sense of place, and responsibility to the next generations.” Returning to higher education after a 19-year hiatus, Joyce Rain’s academic career took her from Massasoit Community College to a Chancellor’s Scholarship at UMass Boston for her BA and MA and then to the University of New Hampshire for her Ph.D. She is starting her thirteenth year at Bridgewater where she teaches first-year writing, Writing and Writing Studies courses, and Indigenous Studies. She is the mother of two and grandmother of four. Guided by Indigenous principles of relationality, respect, responsibility, and reciprocity, her focus is on decolonial pedagogies and embedding Indigenous ways of knowing into interdisciplinary frameworks. She serves on the board for the Brockton Neighborhood Health Center, the Education subcommittee for Plymouth 400, works with Indigenous intellectuals and scholars to bring curricula change in teaching about Native peoples, and is one of the organizers of the Indigenous History Conference to be held at BSU in 2020. As an artisan, she is intrigued by the multiple forms that art and making can take. In addition to poetry, drawing and painting, and her camera goes everywhere. Some of this making includes beadwork, wampum, finger weaving, wood carving, sewing, and design—using a variety of materials and techniques. Developing relationships with raw materials and creating something helps to ground her. 

 

Dr. Diana Fox

Professor, Chair Anthropology Department
Faculty Representative

Dr. Diana J. Fox, (she/hers) is a cultural and applied anthropologist, scholar-activist, and documentary film producer. Her work in Jamaica and Trinidad & Tobago focuses on issues of gender and sexual diversity, transnational feminisms, and women’s social movement activism for ecological sustainability and the human rights of girls and women. Over the last five years she has extended her research on gender and climate justice to Sri Lanka, Nepal and Japan where she forges collaborative partnerships to achieve liberatory community goals. Because she is especially interested in forging collaborations with the communities she studies, her educational and activist films and other projects serve community goals, while building awareness among the wider public. She serves on a number of boards and committees including the Sexualities Working Group of the Caribbean Studies Association (CSA); the international advisory board of the Fondes Amandes Community Reforestation Project (FACRP) in Trinidad and Tobago; the board of Friends of ADWAN (Association of Dalit Women’s Advancement Nepal); and is the founder and editor of the open access, online Journal of International Women’s Studies. She is the recipient of four Fulbright scholarships as well as other grants and awards, has published a number of books and articles, and is a frequent speaker at conferences and other public venues. 

 

Dr. Michael King

Assistant Professor of Criminal Justice
Faculty Representative

Mike King is an Assistant Professor in the Criminal Justice department, primarily teaching about race, class, and policing. At BSU, Dr. King has helped to organize two major campus-wide events on Race and Criminal Justice (Politics of Crime conference in 2018, and Race and Policing Conference in 2017), and has been a participant in the African American Studies minor since its inception. His research includes a book on protest policing, When Riot Cops are Not Enough (2017, Rutgers) and several articles which have been featured in Race & Class, Abolition, and Critical Criminology. In his application to be a faculty representative to the task force, Dr. King wrote “This moment is both a challenge and an opportunity in higher education, obviously situated within other crises. While movements are demanding substantial change, seeking more than symbolic gestures or open-ended conversations, there is a real base of support for that change – from big cities to mostly white suburban towns like Foxboro and Franklin. Understanding that, regardless of the political climate, institutional change is never easy, the current calls for change carry with them a broadly felt moral imperative that makes racial progress harder to resist and easier to help create. There is much that we can do on issues of curriculum, pedagogy, and training; faculty and staff hiring; student recruitment and retention; public educational events at Bridgewater; educational forums for discussion; learning and growth; and support for and collaboration with students, student groups and local communities. It would be an honor to be a part of this task force and a challenge I would be eager to engage.” 

 

Dr. Jibril Solomon

Assistant Professor, School of Social Work
Faculty Representative

Dr. Solomon’s commitment to racial and social justice is part of his life journey and as an academic and scholarship research interest. As a black man adopted by a white and Jewish family, he has been confronted with and immersed in racial and social justice healing most of his life. As an educator, he values empowering students, specially students of color, and working with any of his faculty, librarian and staff colleagues grappling with racial justice dilemmas. As a black American, he takes inspiration from the racial philosophy of Desmond Tutu expressed in his book: The Book of Forgiving. Dr. Solomon’s scholarship work includes a current research project on the use of social justice in social work education and professional practice. He believes in the power of our best human spirit and our genuine commitment to racial and social justice as the instruments to bring about the real teaching, learning and growth changes we need in our BSU community.

 

Diane Bell

Director, Internship Program
Staff Representative

Since 2013, Diane Bell has served as director of the Internship Program Office in the Division of Outreach and Engagement. Previously, she served as director of the Community Service Center from 2004-2012. As the first in her family to attend college, Diane is a proud graduate of two historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), with a BA from Spelman College and an MBA in Marketing from Clark Atlanta University. She also holds an MS in Sport Administration from Canisius College. Diane has held careers in the automotive industry, state government, professional sports and higher education. For 25 years, Diane has been an active member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated, the first sorority founded in 1908 by African American college educated women. Her local chapter serves the City of Brockton and other communities on the South Shore, Cape and Islands and focuses on education, health, economic development, global poverty, the arts, voter registration and human rights. Diane was instrumental in establishing an undergraduate chapter of the sorority at BSU in December 2018 and the Upsilon Iota chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha became the first black Greek letter organization at BSU and in the Massachusetts State University system. 

The Chicago native considers the work of BSU's Racial Justice Task Force critical toward eliminating the injustices expressed by many members of the BSU community. "Having worked in the public and private sectors, I realize that issues of race and discrimination are pervasive. I consider myself a survivor of such injustices. As a first gen, woman of color who grew up in a low-income family, I totally understand how these markers can be used to discriminate against and reduce opportunities for people." 

 

Glenn Gonsalves

Associate Director of Athletics and Recreation for Operations 
Staff Representative

Glenn, ’91, has been at Bridgewater State University since 2002 and is the Associate Director of Athletics and Recreation for Operations. He is serving on the Task Force because “it is important as a person of color to make sure the voices of student-athletes of color are heard and also share my experiences and insight with those who don't have to deal with social injustice."

 

Domingas “Mingy” Penha

Maintainer
Staff Representative
 
Mingy started at BSU in September of 1991 as Maintainer 1, became a Maintainer 2 a few years later, and was promoted to a Maintainer 3 as a supervisor about 3 years ago. Mingy says “Working at BSU for almost 30 years as a minority of a different culture and a woman, I feel it is important that people be treated equally. I strongly believe positive attitudes and behaviors can lead to a more inclusive environment. I believe a diverse and inclusive workplace benefits everyone. And lastly, I believe in treating everyone with respect.”

 

David Tillinghast, Esq.

Executive Director of Public Safety and Chief of Police
Staff Representative

David H. Tillinghast, Esq., rose through the ranks of the Bridgewater State University Police Department and in 1995 became the youngest police chief in the Massachusetts state university system, at age 29. In mid-career he decided to attend law school, where he received multiple awards for excellence in legal writing. A Rhode Islander at heart, David earned distinction as the first Eagle Scout, Order of the Arrow, in the town of North Smithfield, RI. Chief Tillinghast says, “I want to serve on the Special Presidential Task Force on Racial Justice because I agree with Chattanooga, Tenn., Police Chief David Roddy, who – in response to the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis PD officers – recently said: “There is a need to DO something. If you wear a badge and you don’t have an issue with this… turn it in.” I recognize the need to do more to ensure racial justice. I want to DO something. 

 

Sabrina Victor

Recruitment Assistant
Staff Representative

Sabrina Victor works as the Recruitment Assistant for Human Resources and Talent Management at Bridgewater State University. She also currently reigns as Miss Massachusetts USA 2020. As a performance activist and philanthropist, she is passionate about creating and sharing diverse stories through all art forms. A 23-year-old hailing from Brockton, Massachusetts, Sabrina graduated with Honors from the University of Massachusetts Amherst receiving two undergraduate degrees in Theater and Journalism, and a Multicultural Theater Certificate. As a performer in the Boston area with local and regional theaters, her credited work includes performing with award-winning American Repertory Theatre, SpeakEasy Stage, and Company One, all companies dedicated to new and diverse works. #SpeakYourTruth, is the social tag Sabrina uses to share her passion and platform. She is an advocate for experience, exposure and platforms for young people and artists to share their untold stories through the performing arts. This manifests through bringing the arts to marginalized communities that lack access, and encouraging engagement in inspirational avenues like theater, music and crafts. Through the arts we can redefine our narratives and speak our truths (sabrinakvictor.com). 

She says, “I believe the work being done at BSU with this new Presidential Task Force is highly important, because it is imperative that we have discourse and uncomfortable conversations. Racism continues to pervade our society, and it is up to us to work as a collective to drive out hate and educate others on the damaging effects of systemic and systematic racism. I have experienced firsthand the harmful effects of racism while being a black woman on a college campus. And it is up to us as educators, staff members, faculty, and a community, to ensure that everyone feels welcome at BSU. I look forward to being a part of this movement.”

 

Dr. Sabrina Gentlewarrior

Vice President, Division of Student Success and Diversity

Sabrina Gentlewarrior serves BSU as the Vice President of Student Success and Diversity. In this role, Sabrina has the opportunity to collaborate with colleagues campus wide as we work together to identify educational equity gaps and create strategies to eliminate them. As the coordinator for the Leading for Change Higher Education Diversity Consortium, Sabrina learns from and works with the 23 member campuses as they advance educational equity across the Commonwealth. The Leading for Change campus teams are beginning their third year of focused work implementing a wide array of data-informed efforts to close and eliminate racial educational equity gaps on their campuses. Prior to entering administration, Dr. Gentlewarrior’s teaching in the School of Social Work, as well as her university service and scholarship, emphasized issues of diversity, inclusion, social justice and clinical practice. Dr. Gentlewarrior has also served as Primary Investigator on grants focused on the closing of educational equity gaps, particularly those experienced by low income and/or students of color.

As Dr. Gentlewarrior recalls, “I remember hearing a racist sermon one Sunday at church when I was 4 or 5 years old. As a white person growing up in a racist family, I had no strategies for confronting this except to cry and tell anyone who would listen that it was wrong. That became a defining moment for me. It was not until years later during my undergraduate education as a social work student I began to develop an understanding of and strategies for addressing individual and systemic racism. I have had the privilege of serving at a range of justice-oriented institutions during my professional life; BSU is among the most committed, and I believe capable, of doing the hard work needed for racial justice. I look forward to the reflection, action, and transformation that I and we will commit to in the months ahead.”

 

Dr. Brenda Molife

Vice President, Division of Outreach and Engagement 

Dr. Brenda Molife has been a member of the Bridgewater State University community since 2001. During this time, she has served as a faculty member, Chairperson, Executive Assistant to the President, Acting Dean for the School of Business, Acting Dean for the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, Chief of Staff to the President, Vice President for University Advancement and Executive Director for the Bridgewater State University Foundation. She is currently the Vice President for Outreach and Engagement. In her many roles, she has always focused on providing students with the best educational opportunities possible. Her responsibilities have included: teaching; advising; handling grievances; chairing search committees; strategic planning; working with the Board of Trustees, the Foundation Board, and the Alumni Association; fundraising; and supervising the Office of Institutional Diversity, the Institute for Social Justice and the Community Service Office. She holds a BA in the History of Art and Architecture from the University of Illinois – Chicago, an MA in Art History, an MA in Library Science and a Ph.D. in Art History from The University of Iowa. Dr. Molife says, “I am on the Racial Justice Task Force for both professional and personal reasons. Professionally, I want to be able to help create an environment where everyone feels safe and welcomed, and where we, as a community, are able to listen and learn from each other and we celebrate, not just tolerate, our differences. Personally, I have two sons and a husband; three black men who mean everything to me. As a family, we have always tried to look at the world to find the humor, the joy, the positive, which is not to say that we are oblivious to the centuries of crimes against members of our race, but rather that we have tried to guard against harboring the anger and bitterness that these crimes can instill. Mercifully, we have personally only had to deal with what one social critic referred to as “scattered inconveniences”—those random racial slights that, should one choose, can be summarily dismissed. And yet, because one glance at recent headlines will show that there is much that cannot, and should not, be dismissed, I am especially encouraged to see that the nation as a whole seems poised to take a great step forward on the path to social justice. I see BSU as a place that can play a tremendously important role in these positive developments. I want, I need, to do my part.”

 

Dr. Joe Oravecz

Vice President, Division of Student Affairs and Enrollment Management

A first-generation college student, Dr. Joe Oravecz (he, his, him) has spent his career working at colleges and universities. At BSU, he is blessed to have the opportunity to interact with and advocate for the exceptional student body - our BSU Bears! He has the utmost pleasure working directly with departments within the Division, which is comprised of undergraduate admissions, transfer student center, financial aid, dean of student’s office, residence life and housing, student union, center for student engagement (student involvement, orientation, parent/family programs), student conduct/community standards, wellness center (student health services, counseling services, wellness outreach), and athletics & recreation (NCAA Division III - 22 varsity sports). Prior to BSU, he has served in chief student affairs and and chief enrollment management officer roles at public and private institutions in Connecticut, Ohio, Nebraska, and Montana. Dr. Oravecz says, “We learn through what we experience. In this time of hyper-polarization and racial strife in our country, it is incumbent for us as a University – a community of learners – to actively, intensely, intentionally engage in an extended examination of the systemic use of power and privilege to oppress and disadvantage people in this country based on a racial hierarchy. Through the task force, I hope our work and action will display for our prospective and returning students of color – as well as employees – our commitment to being an anti-racist and multicultural organization, and our collective and individual understanding of the importance and expectations we have of each other as members of the BSU community.”

 

Dr. Pam Russell

Associate Provost for Academic and Faculty Affairs

Dr. Pam Russell served as a faculty member in BSU’s Movement Arts, Health Promotion, and Leisure Studies Department at BSU for 19 years, with 35 total years in varied higher education classroom settings and diverse teaching environments including community colleges, small private institutions, medium-sized public universities and very large research universities. She has been employed as a part-time faculty member, at three institutions at once, and as a full-time tenured professor. As the 2010 recipient of the BSU Presidential Award for Distinguished Teaching, students summarized her approach as “working tirelessly to improve the lives of those around her.” In her fifth year as Associate Provost, Pam strives to positively influence the educational environment for students through her work with faculty development initiatives, such as those offered by the Office of Teaching and Learning. Most recently, she has collaborated to improve the transparency of the alternative professional responsibility process for faculty and facilitated conversations around the creation of an Ombuds Office for BSU. She is honored to contribute to this much needed and necessary work of institutional self-examination and reflection. “With deep listening to others’ stories,” Dr. Russell believes, “we improve our understanding of what others need from us and then we can undertake the necessary actions that provide equity for communities of color.”

 

Dr. Jenny Olin Shanahan

Assistant Provost for High-Impact Practices

Jenny Olin Shanahan, Ph.D. (she/her), Assistant Provost for High-Impact Practices at BSU, provides leadership for Undergraduate Research, the Honors Program, National Fellowships, and a Research Internship program for students from underserved groups. In her 10 years at BSU, Dr. Shanahan has taken to heart the institution’s commitment to social justice and worked to create equitable access to high-impact and inclusive educational opportunities for all students. She has led a five-fold increase in participation in undergraduate research that reflects the diversity of the university and a two-fold increase in the Honors Program that includes 45% more students of color. During her time at BSU, Dr. Shanahan has given over 20 keynote addresses across the U.S. and Canada, co-edited 6 books, and authored 14 scholarly articles. She speaks and writes about racial and social justice in higher education, inclusion and equity in high-impact student opportunities, excellence in mentoring students, and scaffolding research across curricula. Dr. Shanahan holds a Ph.D. in English: Multi-Ethnic Literatures of the United States from Marquette University. Before coming to BSU in 2010, she taught writing and literature courses at Ohlone Community College, Marquette University, and St. Mary’s University of Minnesota, where she earned tenure and promotion and directed the Honors Program. Dr. Shanahan believes that racial justice is foundational to any educational work. “Without just practices, structures, pedagogies, and relationships, nothing we do succeeds. I see racial and social justice as the most important priority not just of my career, but of my life.” 

 

Mary Ankomah

Alumni Representative

As a recent alumna of Bridgewater State University, Mary has served as the Vice President of the African American Association and the Event Coordinator of Free Form Fashion. During her time at Bridgewater State University, Mary served as a Fellow for the Diversity & Social Justice Fellowship that was launched in the Fall of 2019, focusing her efforts on diversity and inclusion in collaboration with the Center for Transformative Learning and the Honors Program. In addition, as a political science major, Mary focused her research on race related issues within higher education and has collaborated with the Honors Program to further enhance the pathway to Commonwealth and Departmental Honors for minority students who are not often presented with these opportunities. 

As a first-generation college student, Mary has dedicated her post-secondary journey to discovering channels for educational equality in predominantly white institutions such as Bridgewater State University and has presented her efforts at national conferences such as the National Collegiate Honors Council. On her appointment to the Racial Justice Task Force, Mary stated: “When you live in the skin that I’m in, matters like these become like oxygen: when you stop breathing you die the same way when you stop caring about systemic oppression, racism, discrimination, and other race related plagues that have affected our society; chances are your life will most likely be endangered, your education will be endangered, your ability to progress in life will be endangered. I’m not doing this for myself but for generations to come. This work goes beyond me, but I would rather be on the court battling injustices than sit on the bench and allow history to repeat itself. Bridgewater State University has come a long way from what I knew it four years ago. I am delighted & honored to be on the Task Force and look forward to actively participating in its journey as I believe this is just the beginning to a new era. This is for my culture, for my people.” A recent recipient of the “29 Who Shine” award, Mary graduated Cum Laude with Commonwealth Honors and she plans on furthering her education by pursuing a Master's in public policy or public administration as she believes knowledge is in fact power.

 

George Gurley

Community Representative

George is a 1975 graduate of Stonehill College, and received his Master of Education from Bridgewater State University in 1982 and a Masters of Arts in Criminal Justice from Anna Maria College in 1987. George is the retired Police Chief of the Town of Bridgewater and a builder/developer. He has served as a trustee for Bridgewater Savings Bank, and also served on their executive board and as chairman of Wealth and Trust Services. George is very active with many civic organizations, including the Bridgewater State University Foundation (Board Member); Mt. Prospect Cemetery (Trustee); Past President of Plymouth County Police Association; the Bridgewater Police Association; The Handi-Kids 110 Club; a life member of the Southeastern Massachusetts Police Chiefs Association; and the Bridgewater – Raynham Regional School Committee (past chairman and member).

 

Marquis Taylor

Chief Executive Officer, Coaching for Change
Community Representative

Marquis started C4C while in graduate school at the age of 27. He was an Echoing Green Fellow and a Pahara Institute NextGen Fellow. Marquis grew up in a low-income community in South Central Los Angeles, where he witnessed violence, experienced failure and overcame many challenges, all of which led him to dedicate himself to motivating others to do the same. After Marquis failed out of the Naval Academy Prep School in Newport, RI, he graduated from Stonehill College with a BS in Communication. He worked for four years in the world of real estate finance but, sensing a different calling, he returned to school to obtain a MA in Teaching from Smith College. Marquis says, “Racial Justice goes beyond just the color of our skin…it is unpacking how our social and political structures are helping or preventing people from succeeding. I have always been taught that when you are a person of color, you have to work twice as hard and be twice as smart to get access and opportunities. As a college student on a predominantly white college campus, I felt isolated in trying to navigate professors’ racial bias, college students’ racial slurs, and dealing with the microaggressions of college staff. Luckily, I was on a basketball scholarship which gave me a network of people who helped me navigate a complex college system that was not designed to support a low-income, black student who struggled with the cultural differences. I think it is imperative for schools to provide students of color with a social support structure that can help them navigate barriers, complete college, and transition to the workplace.”

Racial Justice Task Force

For more information or to contact the Racial Justice Task Force, please send an email to RJTF@bridgew.edu.

Martin Richard Institute for Social Justice

Bridgewater State University
Burrill Office Complex, Rm 101
95 Burrill Avenue
Bridgewater, MA 02325
United States