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Inclusive Conversations

inclUsive conversations is a series of exchanges and dialogue among members of the UMMC community on stimulating topics in pursuit of sharing and understanding experiences, emotions, and different perspectives. This forum is held monthly and sponsored by the Office of Diversity and Inclusion. Contact Shirley Pandolfi if you would like to receive email notifications or get additional information about these and other events sponsored by the Office of Diversity and Inclusion.

The views expressed in guest presentations made during inclUsive conversations, the Distinguished Lecture Series, and other ODI events are those of the speaker and not, necessarily, of the University of Mississippi Medical Center. Presentations at ODI events do not constitute an endorsement of the speaker's views, products or services. 

Click the links below to learn more about the Inclusive Conversations series.

Portrait of Dr. Charles Ross

Dr. Charles K. Ross

Professor of History and African American Studies
The University of Mississippi

12-1 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2024
Virtual Session

Join the session here.

Password: UMMC

"State of the Game: The Struggle to Integrate the NFL On and Off the Field"

Dr. Ross is a native of Columbus, Ohio. He earned a Master of Arts degree in Black studies, a Master of Arts Degree in history, and a PhD in history from Ohio State University. Dr. Ross is the author of Mavericks, Money, and Men: The AFL, Black Players, and the Evolution of Modern Football and Outside the Lines: African Americans and the Integration of the National Football League. In this book, Dr. Ross traces how football laid a foundation for social change long before the judicial system formally recognized the inequalities of racial separation. He has appeared on ESPN’s "Outside the Lines" and on ESPN Radio, and given several interviews for local television and print media.    

Portrait of Rev. Jill Barnes Buckley

Rev. Jill Barnes Buckley
Executive Director
Stewpot Community Services

12-1 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 14, 2023
Virtual Session

View the recording of the virtual presentation.

"Homelessness in Mississippi"

The Rev. Jill Barnes Buckley has been the Executive Director at Stewpot since 2017. She has her Master of Divinity, with a concentration in Urban Ministry, from Boston University School of Theology. Before joining Stewpot, she served as the Associate Pastor for Community Ministry at Northminster Baptist Church.

Hand print outline with inset of flags from various Hispanic and Latino countries.

Panel Discussion

12-1 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 26, 2023
Virtual Session

View the recording of the virtual presentation.

"The Hispanic Culture"

Panelists from the Hispanic community will share thoughts about the influence of culture in healthcare and how institutions can be more inclusive in accepting cultural differences.


Ja'Quila Newsome
Director of Suicide Prevention
Mississippi Department of Mental Health

12-1 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 13, 2023
Virtual Session

View the recording of the virtual presentation.

"Suicide Prevention"

Ja’Quila Newsome is the current Director of Suicide Prevention for the Mississippi Department of Mental Health. She has earned a Bachelor of Social Work degree and a Master of Science degree in Rehabilitation Counseling from Jackson State University. She has over 17 years of counseling experience working with a variety of populations including older adults, adults, and children. She has worked in various settings including outpatient and inpatient programs. Before Starting with the Mississippi Department of Mental Health, she provided mental health therapy to youth in an intensive in-home program. She started her career as a mental health case manager and advanced in her career to become a mental health therapist. She is a certified Mental Health First Aid Instructor for adults and a certified Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training Instructor.

Portrait of Polly Tribble

Polly Tribble
Executive Director
Disability Rights Mississippi (DRMS)

12-1 p.m. Tuesday, Mar. 21, 2023
Virtual Session

View the recording of the virtual presentation.

"Moving Forward Together"

Polly Tribble is the Executive Director of Disability Rights Mississippi (DRMS). DRMS is a private, non-profit legal advocacy organization. Polly earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Clinical Psychology from Mississippi State University. Previously she was an Associate Psychologist at Mississippi State Hospital at Whitfield. Polly works hard to advance the rights of people with disabilities with a special passion for people living with mental health issues. Polly lives with her husband and son in Starkville, MS.

Portrait of Dr. Leigh Soares

Dr. Leigh Soares
Assistant Professor
Mississippi State University

12-1 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 14, 2023
Virtual Session

"Saint Olivia and the Wizard of Tuskegee: Black Women and the Founding of HBCUs"

Dr. Leigh Soares is an Assistant Professor of History at Mississippi State University, where she is also a faculty affiliate with the African American Studies Program. She enjoys researching and teaching about Black history, the U.S. South, and Civil War and Reconstruction.


Ray Coleman
Director of Communications 
Mississippi Veterans Affairs

12-1 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2022
Virtual Session


"Serving Our Heroes" - An Overview of Mississippi Veterans Affairs

Ray Coleman serves as the Director of Communications for Mississippi Veterans Affairs. Joining the team in June 2020, Coleman oversees all media relations, external public information and social media, and serves as the chief spokesperson of the Agency.

Coleman has served six years in state government, including roles as the Director of Communications at the Mississippi Attorney General’s Office and Director of External Affairs at the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency. Before his career in state government, Coleman spent ten years at 16 WAPT Television as the Sports Director/Reporter of the ABC affiliate.

Coleman is a native of Port Gibson, MS and is a 2006 graduate of the University of Southern Mississippi, where he earned his bachelor’s degree in Mass Communications. He is a member of the Public Relations Association of Mississippi, Jackson State University – School of Journalism and Media Studies Advisory Board. He is certified by the Federal Emergency Management Agency as an Advanced Public Information Officer, which allows him to train first responders around the state on how to deal with the media.

illustration of a silouette of a crown.

Panel Discussion

12-1 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 13, 2022
Virtual Session


"The C.R.O.W.N. Act: Ending Hair Discrimination"
Create a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair

Panelists from the higher education community will share thoughts about hair discrimination and how institutions can be more inclusive and accepting of cultural differences.

Illustration of Islam symbol crescent and star, with the city of Mecca nestled in the crescent.

Mary Thurlkill, PhD
Professor of Religion, Department of Philosophy and Religion
University of Mississippi

12-1 p.m. Thursday, April 14, 2022
Virtual Session

"Who Gets to Define Islam?"

Mary Thurlkill is Professor of Religion. Dr. Thurlkill received her PhD from Indiana University in 2001. She joined  the Department of Philosophy and Religion at Ole Miss in 2003. She specializes in comparative Christianity and Islam, focusing on the classical and medieval periods. Dr. Thurlkill has two books: Chosen Among Women: Mary and Fatima in Medieval Christianity and Shi`ite Islam (University of Notre Dame Press, 2007) and Sacred Scents in Early Christianity and Islam (Lexington Press, 2016). She’s working on a new research project examining religious pilgrimage and recently completed fieldwork in Israel/Palestine, Egypt, and Spain. She teaches numerous undergraduate classes including Abrahamic Traditions, Saints and Sexuality, Islam, Christianity and Bible/Qur’an. 

Stuart Rockoff

Stuart Rockoff, PhD
Executive Director
Mississippi Humanities Council

12-1 p.m. Thursday, March 24, 2022
Virtual Session

View the recording of the virtual presentation.

"Shalom Y'all: The History of Jews in Mississippi"

Stuart Rockoff was born in Ft. Worth and raised in Houston, Texas and graduated from Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut with a BA in history. He received his Ph.D. in US history from the University of Texas at Austin with a special emphasis on immigration and American Jewish history. He has taught several history courses in American and ethnic history at such schools as the University of Texas and Millsaps College and has published numerous articles and essays on southern Jewish history. In November, 2013, he became the executive director of the Mississippi Humanities Council, where he works to develop and support public programs that explore our state’s unique history and culture. He was a member of the scholarly review board for both the Museum of Mississippi History and the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum. He also serves on the board of the Mississippi Book Festival and the Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area. He lives in Jackson with his wife Susan and their two daughters.

Portrait of Jennifer Baughn

Jennifer V. O. Baughn
Chief Architectural Historian
Mississippi Department of Archives and History

12-1 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 17, 2022
Virtual Session

View the recording of the virtual presentation.


"Separate But Equal? African American Schools in Mississippi"

Jennifer is a native of Milton, Florida but has lived in Jackson for 25 years. She attended Northland Baptist Bible College and later received her master’s degree in history from Florida State University. As an architectural historian with the Mississippi Department of Archives and History, Jennifer has surveyed over 800 historic Mississippi schools, conducted building-by-building damage assessments in fourteen historic districts on the Coast after Hurricane Katrina, and more recently has documented scores of antebellum outbuildings in and around Natchez. In addition to publishing several scholarly articles about school architecture and segregation, she also authored the National Historic Landmark nomination for the Medgar and Myrlie Evers House in Jackson. Her book, with co-author Michael Fazio, Buildings of Mississippi, was published in 2021. As Chief Architectural Historian, she oversees the National Register of Historic Places and the Survey and Inventory programs and serves on the Review Committee for the Mississippi Landmark program.

Portrait of Jodi Skipper

Jodi Skipper, PhD
Associate Professor of Anthropology and Southern Studies
University of Mississippi

12-1 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 10, 2021
Virtual Session

View the recording of the virtual presentation.

"Behind the Big House: Reconciling Slavery and Race in Mississippi"

Jodi Skipper is an Associate Professor of Anthropology and Southern Studies at the University of Mississippi. Her research seeks to understand how historic preservation projects might play a role in imagining more sustainable and healthy futures for U.S. southern communities. During her time at the University of Mississippi, she has worked with Behind the Big House, a slave dwelling interpretation program in Mississippi, which expanded to the state of Arkansas. For this work, Skipper has received a 2020 Mississippi Institutions for Higher Learning Excellence in Diversity and Inclusion Award and a University of Mississippi Diversity Innovator Award. She co-edited (with Michele Coffey) the book Navigating Souths: Transdisciplinary Explorations of a US Region (2017) and just completed an autoethnography, Behind the Big House: Reconciling Slavery, Race, and Heritage in the U.S. South, to be published in the University of Iowa Press’s Humanities and Public Life book series.  

Portrait of Cassandra Welchin

Cassandra Welchin
Co-convener and State Lead
Mississippi Black Women's Roundtable

12-1 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 14, 2021
Virtual Session

View the recording of the virtual presentation.

"Experiences and Solutions for Economic and Social Justice for Black Women in Mississippi"

Prior to joining MS BWR, Welchin co-founded and launched an ambitious and progressive MS Women’s Economic Security Initiative (MWESI), founded as a project of MS Low-Income Child Care Initiative. MWESI is rooted at the intersections of race, gender and poverty. It prioritizes women’s rights, equity, economic security; created an intentional and explicit racial and gender framework; and engage women, particularly low-income women of color, with deep connections to grassroots organizing to create a leadership infrastructure setting
the stage for long-term movement-building.

Under her leadership, she’s expanded the statewide network of women through local town halls and major summits, where women crafted MWESI policy agenda focusing on expanding child care subsidies, affordable and comprehensive health care, jobs that pay living wages, paid family leave, and protection from domestic violence. In addition, during the 2017-18 legislative session, she was successful in building a bi-partisan coalition on equal pay with the intended purpose to close the gender pay gap in MS. Her work has led to legislative & policy wins in child care, juvenile justice reform, health care for women and the most vulnerable and domestic violence in addition to preventing harmful legislation & policies in child care, education, women’s healthcare and safety net programs from going into effect. Welchin is an advocate, organizer and agent of change whose work spans over fifteen years reforming public policy.

Portrait of Dr. Charles Weeks

Charles Weeks, PhD
Former History Instructor
St. Andrew's Episcopal School

12-1 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 16, 2021
Virtual Session

View the recording of the virtual presentation.

"How Spanish is Mississippi? Mississippi and the Spanish Borderland"

A teacher, Charles Weeks hold degrees from Dartmouth College, the University of Michigan, and Indiana University. He is the author of two books: The Juarez Myth in Mexico (University of Alabama Press, 1987) and Paths to a Middle Ground: The Diplomacy of Natchez, Boukfouca, Nogales, and San Fernando de las Barrancas, 1791-1795 (University of Alabama Press, 2005). He is co-author with Christian Pinnen of a third: Colonial Mississippi, A Borrowed Land (University Press of Mississippi for the Mississippi Historical Society and the Mississippi Department of Archives and History, 2021). He helped develop and teach a curriculum of humane letters or humanities in St. Andrew's Episcopal School in Jackson/Ridgeland Mississippi.  

Portrait of Shalotta Sharp

Shalotta Sharp
Special Projects Coordinator
Mississippi Coalition Against Sexual Assault (MSCASA)

12-1 p.m. Thursday, April 8, 2021
Virtual Session

View the recording of the virtual presentation.

"The Essential Advocate"

Shalotta Sharp is a registered nurse and has worked as an Emergency Department Nurse for 17 years. She has worked as a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SNE) for 12 years and is nationally certified in adult, adolescent and pediatric patients. She was the first SANE-P in Mississippi. She established a Pediatric Forensic Exam Clinic in Meridian, MS. She has taught the SANE Course for nurses across the US through Marshall University, West Virginia University, the Office for Victims of Crime, the Department of Justice, and Indian Health Services. Mrs. Sharp is currently a member of the International Association of Forensic Nurses (IAFN) Government Affairs Committee.

Portrait of Mei-Chi C. Piletz

Mei-Chi C. Piletz
Executive Director
Mississippi College’s Global Education Program

12-1 p.m. Thursday, March 11, 2021 
Virtual session 

View the recording of the virtual presentation.

"Best Practices when Working with International Students"

Ms. Mei-Chi Chen Piletz currently serves as the Executive Director of the Office of Global Education at Mississippi College. She leads an international student population of 125 students from 40 countries. Ms. Piletz brings over 20 years of experience to her leadership in higher education.

Ms. Piletz received her bachelor's degree in German at Fu-Jen Catholic University in Taiwan, where she was born and raised. She received a master's in Germanic languages and literature from the University of Cincinnati and later received her graduate certification in Translation and Interpretation in Chinese/English from the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, California.

Ms. Piletz was hired in 1995 by Jackson State University to teach German and in the year of 2000, ESL (English as a Second Language). In 2005, she started the Mandarin Chinese curriculum at Jackson State and expanded it to multiple levels. By 2006, she was appointed by Jackson State president to launch the Office of China Initiatives to build partnerships with universities in China. From 2006 to 2012, Ms. Piletz sent out more than 100 Jackson State students to study in China and Taiwan. 

In 2010 Mississippi Institute of Higher Learning (IHL) honored Ms. Piletz during the Black History Month for "Serving as a Role Model and Promoting Diversity at Jackson State and throughout Mississippi."

In October 2012, Ms. Piletz was invited to join Mississippi College (MC) as the Executive Director of the Office of Global Education, where she doubled the international student population's size in two years. Ms. Piletz's passion for international education is evident through the Office of Global Education's rich and nurturing programs to MC international students. 

She is proud to be addressed as the "mom" to all her international students.

Portrait of Cindy Dittus

Cindy Dittus
Associate Director
The Arc of Mississippi

12-1 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 11, 2021 
Virtual session

View the recording of the virtual presentation.

"How Do You See Disability?"

Ms. Dittus is the Associate Director of The Arc of Mississippi where she has worked since 2000 and is part of numerous boards, advisory boards and committees. She has been involved with The Arc movement since 1985 while searching for options for her first child Tory who was born with Down syndrome. In her present position, she provides trainings on various topics, works with local chapters and helps ensure quality services for people with cognitive and developmental disabilities. Ms. Dittus received training in Stop the Violence, Break the Silence from SafePlace, Austin TX, Professional Training Conference on Abuse and Disabilities from The Arc, Riverside, CA, and Personal Outcome Measures from the Council on Quality and Leadership. Ms. Dittus continues to work on behalf of people with disabilities.

Portrait of Dr. Carolyn Adams-Price

Dr. Carolyn Adams-Price
Associate Professor of Psychology, Chair of the University’s Gerontology Program
Mississippi State University

12-1 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 15, 2020
Virtual session

View the recording of the virtual presentation.

"Older Rural African Americans in Mississippi: Home and Community as a Cultural Haven"

Dr. Adams-Price will share her research regarding the well-being of older rural African-Americans with particular emphasis on these individuals’ attachment to place and linkages to perceptions of health providers.

Portrait of Casey Loper

Casey Loper, LMSW
Program Manager, Mississippi Nurse Voluntary Program
Mississippi Board of Nursing

12-1 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 15, 2020
Virtual Session

"Don't Let the Past Steal Your Present - Transitioning Into Recovery"

Casey Loper received her Bachelor's of Social Work degree from the University of Southern Mississippi in 2008. She enrolled in the Advanced Standing Program through the University of Southern Mississippi and received her Masters of Social Work in 2009. Ms. Loper pursued the social work profession with intentions of working with individuals with disabilities. During an internship, however, she developed a passion for working with individuals experiencing substance abuse and/or mental health issues. Her professional career began in community mental health where she worked in many capacities, including assessments, recovery support, anger management, adolescent education, drug courts, municipal/justice courts, male residential and eventually becoming the coordinator of a female residential treatment center. Ms. Loper also has experience in federal grants management and victim advocacy. During those experiences, her passion remained with substance abuse/mental health recovery which led her to her current position at the Mississippi Board of Nursing as the Program Manager for the Mississippi Nurse Alternative Program which is an alternative to discipline program for nurses with substance abuse or mental health issues. 

Portrait of Dr. John J. GreenDr. John J. Green
Center for Population Studies and State Data Center of Mississippi
University of Mississippi

12-1 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2020
Student Union (Ballrooms C & D)
Lunch served on a first-come, first-served basis

"Population Trends, the 2020 Census, and Implications for Health and Development in Mississippi"

John J. Green is Professor of Sociology and Director of the Center for Population Studies at the University of Mississippi, where he also leads the Society and Health Program and is Affiliated Faculty with the School of Law. John earned a BA in Political Science and MS in Sociology at Mississippi State University before completing his PhD in Rural Sociology at the University of Missouri-Columbia. Before joining the faculty at the University of Mississippi in 2011, he served at Delta State University for nine years.

Carlton TurnerCarlton Turner
Mississippi Center for Cultural Production (Sipp Culture)

12-1 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2019
Student Union (Ballrooms C & D)
Lunch served on a first-come, first-served basis

"Using Food and Story to Reclaim Rural Health Equity"

Carlton Turner works across the country as a performing artist, arts advocate, policy shaper, lecturer, consultant, and facilitator. Carlton is the founder of the Mississippi Center for Cultural Production (Sipp Culture). Sipp Culture uses arts and agriculture to support rural community, cultural, and economic development in his hometown of Utica, Mississippi where he lives with his wife Brandi and three children. Carlton Turner is also co-founder and co-artistic director, along with his brother Maurice Turner, of the group M.U.G.A.B.E.E. (Men Under Guidance Acting Before Early Extinction). M.U.G.A.B.E.E. is a Mississippi-based performing arts group that blends of jazz, hip-hop, spoken word poetry and soul music together with non-traditional storytelling. His current work is River Sols, a new play being developed in collaboration with Pangea World Theater that explores race, identity, class, faith, and difference across African American and South Asian communities through embodiment of a river.

Carlton is on the board of First People’s Fund, Imagining America, the Center for Media Justice, and Project South for the Elimination of Poverty and Genocide. He is a member of the We Shall Overcome Fund Advisory Committee at the Highlander Center for Research and Education, a steering committee member of the Arts x Culture x Social Justice Network, a former Network of Ensemble Theaters steering committee member, and the former Executive Director of Alternate ROOTS.

Carlton is a 2017-18 Ford Foundation Art of Change Fellow and a Cultural Policy Fellow at the Creative Placemaking Institute at Arizona State University’s Herberger Institute for Design in the Arts. He is also a member of the Rural Wealth Lab at RUPRI (Rural Policy Research Institute) and an advisor to the Kresge Foundation’s FreshLo Initiative. In 2018, Carlton was awarded the Sidney Yates Award for Advocacy in the Performing Arts by the Association of Performing Arts Professionals. He has also received the M. Edgar Rosenblum award for outstanding contribution to Ensemble Theater (2011) and the Otto René Castillo Awards for Political Theatre (2015). In 2013, Carlton was named to the Kennedy Center honors Artist Advisory Board.

Portrait of Nakeitra Burse

Nakeitra Burse, DrPH, MS, CHES
Six Dimensions, LLC

12-1 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 12, 2019
Student Union (Ballrooms C & D)
Lunch served on first-come, first-served basis

View the recording of the virtual presentation.

"Black Maternal Health"

Dr. Nakeitra L. Burse is the owner/CEO of Six Dimensions, LLC, a certified woman-owned, minority-owned public health consulting company dedicated to creating healthier communities through innovative, strategic, sustainable and culturally appropriate public health solutions. She also serves as the grant writer for Jackson State University’s School of Public Health. Dr. Burse has been a servant in the field of public health for more than 10 years. She has worked across various sectors such as nonprofit, government agencies, and academic institutions. She is an experienced facilitator and has conducted capacity building trainings including program sustainability, grant writing, and program development and evaluation. Dr. Burse has extensive experience working with minority communities to address health disparities using an ecological approach.

Examples of Dr. Burse’s recent work include, but are not limited to: helping organizations become breastfeeding friendly; developing a documentary on maternal mortality among African-American women; evaluating a teen health program; working with Federally Qualified Healthcare Centers (FQHCS) in the Mississippi Delta to decrease teen pregnancy through capacity building; increasing access to teen friendly health centers; introducing additional contraceptive methods to communities; and determining approaches to scalability of public health programs.

Dr. Burse holds a BS in biological sciences and a MA in health education/health promotion from Mississippi State University and a doctorate in public health from Jackson State University. Dr. Burse is also a Certified Health Education Specialist (CHES). She has a passion for creating systems-level changes in organizations and agencies to ensure that populations that have been historically underserved, overlooked, and discriminated against receive equitable treatment in health and healthcare settings. She is currently focusing on work that aims to improve health outcomes for African-American mothers and their babies.

Tracy DeVries

Tracy DeVries
Executive Director
Women’s Foundation of Mississippi

12-1 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2019
Student Union (Ballrooms C & D)
Lunch served on first-come, first-served basis
Co-sponsored by the Group on Women in Medicine and Science (GWIMS)

"Investing in Women's Health"

Tracy DeVries is the executive director of the Women’s Foundation of Mississippi (WFM), the only grant maker in the state focused entirely on women and girls. The Women’s Foundation of Mississippi’s mission is economic security for women, aggregating resources to provide funding to organizations throughout Mississippi focused on access to education and skills certification, two-generation approaches, and our Healthy Women initiatives. The WFM also conducts research, provides leadership training, and offers community engagement and education sessions because women’s voices are needed at every table. She has worked in the nonprofit sector since 1999, working previously as a fundraiser at Special Olympics International and leading the corporate and foundation channels at the national headquarters of the American Red Cross. In addition to her role in developing mutually beneficial corporate alliances during her time at Special Olympics, she also oversaw a federal grant to promote social inclusion in schools across the United States, worked on providing health programs to individuals with intellectual disabilities throughout North America, created a family support network, and focused on organizational development through leadership and board training, and the creation of fundraising plans.

Tracy’s volunteer activities include fostering rescue dogs, teaching English as a Second Language, and coaching soccer. She serves on the Board of Directors for the Mississippi Low-Income Child-Care Initiative and the Animal Rescue Fund of Mississippi. She’s previously been certified as a trainer for BoardSource. Tracy is originally from northern Virginia, a graduate of Michigan State University, and lived in Washington, DC, for most of her professional life. She moved to Jackson in the fall of 2016 where she lives with her husband, Tony, and their four rescue dogs.

Patrick Alexander

Patrick Elliot Alexander, PhD
Associate Professor, English and African American Studies
University of Mississippi

12-1 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 4, 2019
Student Union (Ballrooms C & D)
Lunch served on first-come, first-served basis

"Toward a Radical Togetherness: African American Literature, Abolition Pedagogy, and the Prison-to-College Pipeline Program"

Dr. Patrick Elliot Alexander is associate professor of English and African-American studies at the University of Mississippi and co-founder of the Prison-to-College Pipeline Program. He holds a PhD in English from Duke University. A specialist in African-American literature, 19th-century American literature, and critical prison studies, Dr. Alexander published his first book, From Slave Ship to Supermax: Mass Incarceration, Prisoner Abuse, and the New Neo-Slave Novel, with Temple University Press (2018). His articles on teaching African American literature in prison are published in the Journal of African American History, South: A Scholarly Journal, and Reflections: A Journal of Writing, Service-Learning, and Community Literacy. He has also published several reviews, which appear in American Literature and Obsidian.

Before joining the faculty at the University of Mississippi, Dr. Alexander co-founded and directed Stepping Stones, an award-winning academic enrichment program for imprisoned students based in North Carolina. As a faculty member at Ole Miss, he co-founded the Prison-to-College Pipeline Program (PTCPP) with Otis W. Pickett, assistant professor of history at Mississippi College. The PTCPP is a university-community engagement initiative that promotes higher education in prison in response to the ongoing need for increased access to educational opportunities in Mississippi. The PTCPP, winner of the 2018 Humanities Educator Award from the Mississippi Humanities Council, offers on-site, humanities-based, for-credit college courses for imprisoned men at Parchman/Mississippi State Penitentiary and for imprisoned women at Central Mississippi Correctional Facility.

Walter G. Henry

Walter G. Henry
Special Agent
Federal Bureau of Investigations

12-1 p.m. Wednesday, April 17, 2019
Classroom Wing

"Human Trafficking andMedical Needs of Victims"

Special Agent Walter G. Henry has served in the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) since 1991 in a variety of positions including as a supervisor, recruiter, new agent assessor, crisis negotiator, bank robbery coordinator, certified FBI instructor, SWAT team member, and surveillance operation group team leader. Currently, Special Agent Henry primarily handles Civil Rights (CR) matters in the northern district of Mississippi. The CR matters handled by Special Agent Henry include Color of Law, Hate Crimes, and Human Trafficking. In this capacity Special Agent Henry is required to investigate the aforementioned matters as well as provide training to law enforcement agencies and community groups/advocacy groups. Special Agent Henry works closely with local district attorneys’ offices and federal prosecutors in the Northern District of Mississippi, as well as with the United States Department of Justice – Civil Rights, in Washington, DC

Special Agent Henry received his undergraduate degree in Criminal Justice and a Master’s degree in Urban Studies from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. He has served in the FBI’s Jackson Division Oxford Resident Agency since 2008.

Christy Ainsworth

Christy Ainsworth, LCSW
Child Advocacy Studies (CAST) Coordinator
Children's Advocacy Centers of Mississippi

12-1 p.m. Wednesday, March 6, 2019
Classroom Wing

"Creating a Trauma-Informed Workforce"

Christy Ainsworth provides training and technical assistance to the colleges, universities and community colleges in the state implementing CAST. Mrs. Ainsworth, a Hattiesburg native, earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in social work from the University of Southern Mississippi.

Mrs. Ainsworth has over 15 years of social work experience. She has done extensive work with victims of crime. She has a proven track record in management, clinical intervention, project development, and public speaking. Mrs. Ainsworth is motivated creatively, with the ability to communicate effectively, provide meaningful continuing education learning opportunities and consistently surpass project goals. She has also managed state and federal grants totaling more than 40 million dollars.

She has broad knowledge in the areas of trauma work with women, substance abuse, domestic violence, sexual assault, volunteer management, and disability related issues. Mrs. Ainsworth is certified in Lethality Assessment and Batterer’s Intervention. She served on the Mississippi Board of Examiners for Social Workers and Marriage and Family Therapists for four years. She also has served on the Advisory Board for the Center for Violence Prevention in Pearl, MS. Mrs. Ainsworth also has presented at numerous conferences and workshops including the International Time Banking Conference in 2007 and National Association of Social Workers in 2014, 2015, and 2016, as well as numerous others.

Paula Granger

Paula Bingham Granger
Training and Technical Assistance Coordinator
Mississippi Coalition Against Domestic Violence

12-1 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2019
Classroom Wing

"Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Interpersonal Violence"

Paula Bingham Granger is the training and technical assistance coordinator for the Mississippi Coalition Against Domestic Violence. In this position, she is afforded the opportunity be a part of one of the most important causes in our state, country and the world - helping to raise awareness about interpersonal violence. She does this by offering support to Mississippi’s certified domestic violence shelters, coordinating statewide training on various aspects of domestic violence (including developing presentations), representing the coalition at awareness events, speaking to teens and adults, offering tools to form healthy relationships and to identify signs of unhealthy ones. Ms. Granger serves as senior advisor to the Coalition’s Teen Advisory Council. She is the mother of three adult children - Reuben, Rachel and Ryan - and a graduate of Jackson State University with a degree in communications.

Portrait of Dr. Rashanda Booker

Rashanda Booker, PhD
Director of Institutional Equity & Partnerships
UMMC Office of Diversity and Inclusion

12-1 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2019
Classroom Wing

View the recording of the virtual presentation.

"No Longer 'Waiting to Exhale': Overcoming Impostor Syndrome and Battle Fatigue"

In April 2018, Dr. Rashanda Booker was appointed in the new role of director of institutional equity and partnerships. In her role, Booker’s responsibilities include collaborating with institutional leaders by playing a lead role in carrying out the institution’s commitment to diversity and inclusion, promoting equitable policies and practices, and establishing strong partnerships with public and private higher education institutions, especially HBCUs and other minority-serving institutions. Her extensive experience as a higher education practitioner, and an individual with deep understanding of the importance of diversity and equity will help advance the institution’s mission by utilizing her creativity, attention to detail, relationship building, and proven track record as an effective leader.

Prior to joining UMMC, Dr. Booker was the assistant dean of the college, Williams College, the No. 1  liberal arts college in the nation. During her time in the dean’s office, Dr. Booker became well known for her advocacy and diverse programmatic efforts across campus. In response to critical incidents (sexual assault, harassment, bias), she worked in collaboration with Campus Safety, the Davis (Diversity) Center, Office of Student Life, and with the Director of Sexual Assault and Prevention to support all parties associated with cases to identify appropriate outcomes.

The 2017 NASPA Women in Student Affairs – Phenomenal Woman received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Southeastern Louisiana University, and her doctorate in Educational Leadership, Research, and Counseling from Louisiana State University.

Portrait of Monica Daniels

Monica Daniels, MS
Executive Director
Special Olympics Mississippi

12-1 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2018
Classroom Wing

"The Revolution is Inclusion"

Monica Daniels is a native Mississippian with 25 years’ experience working in the non-profit sector. She received her BA in Psychology from Delta State University and her MS in Behavior Analysis and Therapy from Southern Illinois University. She began her post graduate work in pediatric neuro-rehab until learning that her (then) 18-month old daughter was profoundly deaf. It was then that Monica began to work for non-profits; starting with Magnolia Speech School where her daughter was enrolled as a student. After 11 years at Magnolia Speech School, Monica went to work for United Way of the Capital Area as the Vice President of Resource Development, while there she initiated the organization’s first young professionals board and implemented Imagination Library in the tri-county area. Upon leaving United Way, Monica served as the Director of Annual Giving for Millsaps College.

In December of 2016 she was offered the position of Executive Director for Special Olympics Mississippi. In this role she serves over 5,000 athletes with intellectual disabilities who participate in sports training and competition. As a movement, Special Olympics is one of the largest health care advocates for individuals with intellectual disabilities. She is humbled and honored to serve all of the athletes and their families of Special Olympics.

Portrait of Dr. Robert E. Luckett Jr.

Robert E. Luckett Jr., PhD
Associate Professor of History,
Director of the Margaret Walker Center for the Study of the African-American Experience
Jackson State University

12-1 p.m. Monday, Sept. 10, 2018
Classroom Wing

View the recording of the virtual presentation.

"Margaret Walker: This is My Century"

Robby Luckett received his BA in political science from Yale University and his PhD from the University of Georgia with a focus on modern civil rights movement history. A native Mississippian, he returned home, where he is a tenured Associate Professor of History and Director of the Margaret Walker Center for the Study of the African American Experience at Jackson State University. His book, Joe T. Patterson and the White South’s Dilemma: Evolving Resistance to Black Advancement, was published by the University Press of Mississippi (2015). Along with several publications and presentations at numerous academic conferences, he has appeared in documentaries, including the Independent Lens film Spies of Mississippi as well as An Ordinary Hero about the life of Joan Trumpauer Mulhollhand. He is an Advisory Board member for the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum, and he is on the Board of Directors of Common Cause Mississippi and the Association of African American Museums. In 2017, Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba appointed him to the Board of Trustees of Jackson Public Schools. He has three children.

Portrait of Michelle Johansen

Michelle Johansen
2018 IHL Diversity Educator of the Year
Quality Enhancement Plan Coordinator
Study Abroad Coordinator
History Instructor
Delta State University

12-1 p.m. Monday, May 7, 2018

"A World Class Experience: Improving Cultural Competency at Delta State"

Since 2014 Delta State University has fully committed to improving campus cultural competency through an intensive five-year plan for all constituencies. The plan’s goals are to assist students in discovering and learning about other cultures; understanding cultural biases and differences; improving intercultural communication skills; developing empathetic skills; and moving effectively within a globalized society. This talk will outline the implementation of DSU’s plan, the successes and lessons learned from across campus, and the next steps for greater engagement and sustainability.

Portrait of Dr. Byron D'Andra Orey

Byron D'Andra Orey, PhD
Professor of Political Science
Jackson State University

12-1 p.m. Monday, April 2, 2018

View the recording of the virtual presentation.

"Race-Based Trauma and the Fear of Driving while Black"

In recent years, there has been an increase in media coverage of African Americans being shot and killed by police officers. With the increased use of social media, individuals are indirectly exposed to these events even if they do not live in the areas where the shootings occur. By using galvanic skin response data and individual-level attitudinal data, funding from the National Science Foundation supported Dr. Orey’s research to examine whether viewing such imagery creates an arousal among African Americans based on what he labels as "Racially Traumatic Stressful Events."

Portrait of Dr. Stephanie Rolph

Stephanie Rolph, PhD
Shepherd Higher Education Consortium on Poverty
Associate Professor of History, Millsaps College

12-1 p.m. Monday, March 5, 2018
Classroom Wing

"Teaching Antipoverty Work: Undergraduate Experiences in the Classroom and the Field"

Stephanie Rolph is Academic Director for the Shepherd Higher Education Consortium on Poverty (SHECP), an inter-institutional nonprofit committed to preparing undergraduates for antipoverty work. With 26 member institutions, including Millsaps College, SHECP partners classroom instruction on the complexities of poverty with experiential learning opportunities in agencies across the nation where the daily work of alleviating the conditions of poverty is being done. In addition to her work with SHECP, Stephanie is associate professor in the History Department at Millsaps and serves as the director of Community Engaged Learning there.

Portrait of Dr. Mina Li

Mina Li, MD, PhD, MS, CSM
Institute for Disability Studies (UCEDD)
University of Southern Mississippi

12-1 p.m. Tuesday, May 16, 2017

"Disability Inclusion: Getting to Know & Interact with People with Disabilities"

Disability inclusion is defined as including people with disabilities in everyday activities and encouraging them to have roles similar to their peers who do not have a disability (CDC, 2017). To implement disability inclusion, it is important to understand the status of this population. This talk will address prevalence of people with disabilities and statistics about the population.

Illustration of silhouettes of the heads of prsying people. Religious symblos in the background.

Panel Discussion

12-1 p.m. Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Read a synopsis of the panel discussion.

"The Intersection of Religion, Faith and Professionalism in the Workplace"

Panelists from the UMMC community will share thoughts about expressions of faith in the workplace and what institutions can do better to make inclusive communities for those who have varying religious, ethical or moral beliefs.

Illustration of Dr. Brian Williams

Brian H. Williams, MD, FACS
Trauma Surgeon 
University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center
Dallas, TX

12-1 p.m. Tuesday, March 21, 2017

View the recording of the virtual presentation.

"Critical Mass: Examining Race, Violence, and Medicine in the 21st Century "
Dr. Williams was the lead surgeon on call with the trauma team called to care for 12 Dallas police officers and two civilians who were shot during what was to be a peaceful protest July 2016 in Dallas, TX. Dr. Williams will share how that experience has impacted his life both personally and professionally.