Dr. Robert BlaineChief Administrative Officer of City of Jackson

Dr. Robert Blaine serves as the Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) for the City of Jackson, MS.  In his role as CAO, Blaine manages an organization of over 2,200 employees and a budget in excess of 350 million dollars. He arrived at this position through a background in academic administration. Prior to his appointment with the City of Jackson, Dr. Blaine served as Associate Provost at Tougaloo College, Dean of Undergraduate Studies and CyberLearning, Director of the Quality Enhancement Plan, Director of Orchestral Studies, and Professor of Music at Jackson State University. Dr. Blaine leverages his experience as a transformative academic leader as he assists Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba in the transformation of the City of Jackson into the 21st Century, intelligent city.

Dr. Blaine has long been interested in the intersection between leadership, art, teaching, and technology.  His role as conductor of Tougaloo College’s ConneXions and Jackson State University’s CyberLearning initiatives provided direction for the development of 21st-century learning environments for students and faculty.

Dr. Blaine’s prior leadership initiatives have resulted in the development of INNOVATE, a center for the development and dissemination of digital content; CREATE, a center for project-based learning; the Digital Core, an interdisciplinary general education core delivered as multi-touch digital textbooks; and the recent designation as an Apple Distinguished School and Institutional Partner of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Dr. Robert Blaine is an Apple Distinguished Educator, TEDx presenter and an endorsing artist of the C. G. Conn Company. Musically, Dr. Blaine performs on Conn instruments exclusively.

Willie Pearson, Ph.D.Professor at Georgia Tech Ivan Allen College of Liberal Arts' School of History and Sociology

Dr. Willie Pearson, Jr. is a professor of sociology in the School of History and Sociology. He specializes in the sociology of science and technology and sociology of the family. Prior to joining the faculty at Georgia Tech as Chair in 2001, he held a distinguished appointment as Wake Forest Professor of Sociology at Wake Forest University and adjunct in Medical Education at Wake Forest University School of Medicine. He has held postdoctoral fellowships at the Educational Testing Service (ETS) and the Office of Technology Assessment (OTA), Congress of the United States. In 1993, he received Southern Illinois University’s College of Liberal Arts’ Alumni Achievement Award. In 2001, he was elected a National Associate (lifetime appointment) of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences. In 2005, he was elected as an American Association for the Advancement of Sciences (AAAS) Fellow.

He is the author or co-editor of ten books and monographs and numerous articles and chapters. He has held research grants from the National Science Foundation, National Endowment for the Humanities, Sloan Foundation, and U. S. Department of Justice. He has served as a lecturer in Sigma Xi’s Distinguished Lectureship Program; Chair; the Congressionally established Committee on Equal Opportunities in Science and Engineering (CEOSE), and Chair, Committee for Science, Engineering and Public Policy, AAAS. He has served on advisory committees and panels at the National Science Foundation, Burroughs Wellcome Fund, Sloan Foundation, National Institutes of Health and the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine. He has held editorial board appointments with Contemporary Sociology (American Sociological Association), Sociological Spectrum, Science, Technology, and Human Values, Science and Engineering Ethics and Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis. His most recent work on the international science and mathematics achievement gap has been supported by a grant from the National Science Foundation.

Debra Joy Perez, Ph.D.Senior Vice President of Organizational Culture, Inclusion & Equity at Simmons University

Debra Joy Pérez, Ph.D. is SVP of Organizational Culture, Inclusion and Equity at Simmons University. Prior to joining Simmons, she was Chief Measurement, Evaluation and Learning Officer at the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation (GBMF). As Chief, she works closely with the grantmaking teams to advance the organization’s work in science, environmental conservation, patient care, and in the Bay Area. Debra has extensive experience in leading research, evaluation and monitoring practices in philanthropy. She has been a leader in advancing evidence-based practices in evaluation and building new fields of research. Debra has been involved in recruiting and developing evaluation teams across multiple program areas in three major foundations over the last twenty years. At GBMF, Dr. Pérez develops and operationalizes a strengthened approach to measurement, evaluation and learning for the foundation, and designs the structures and processes to support this work throughout the organization, including the integration of measurement and evaluation processes with program design, adaptive management and continuous learning.

Prior to joining Moore, Dr. Pérez was Vice President of Research, Evaluation and Learning at the Annie E. Casey Foundation (AECF). At AECF, Dr. Pérez was a member of the senior leadership team where she implemented new approaches for program performance measurement and management that align with program strategy and funding priorities. Prior to joining AECF, Dr. Perez was the Assistant Vice President for Research and Evaluation at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, where she focused on improving the quality of healthcare, reducing disparities and building the field of Public Health Services and Systems Research.

Debra earned a bachelor’s in communication from Douglass College; a master’s in social science and women’s studies from the University of Kent in Canterbury, England; a master of public administration from Baruch College, City University of New York; and a Ph.D. in health policy from Harvard University. Dr. Pérez is a mentor of emerging and mid-career professionals interested in becoming public leaders. Debra serves as an advisory committee member for the National Science Foundation, Directorate for Education and Human Resources. She has received multiple awards including the 2010 Latino Trendsetter Award, the 2011 YWCA Women of Industry Award and the 2015 Hispanics Inspiring Student Achievement (HISPA) Leadership in Mentoring Award. In 2015, she has also received an Honorary Doctorate from Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia, PA. She is a 2016 Hispanics in Philanthropy HIPGiver and was featured in Latina Style Magazine as one of the Latina leaders in philanthropy.

Latisha WalkerDirector Grant Programming at the Women's Foundation of Mississippi

As Director of Grants Programs, Latisha works on grantmaking, advocacy, and engagement activities of the Women’s Foundation of Mississippi. A native of Tulsa, Oklahoma, Latisha earned her BA and MA in Political Science with an emphasis in public policy and public administration from Oklahoma State University. There, Latisha worked as a Political Science instructor and received numerous awards, including the Thurgood Marshall Scholarship for outstanding graduate students. Latisha then served as Regional Program Officer for the Children’s Defense Fund’s Southern Regional Office where she worked on advocacy initiatives that addressed the needs of children and families living in poverty.

Throughout her career, Latisha has worked on the receiving side of grantmaking and she is excited to now develop and implement grants for those in need. She believes to thrive is to have access to resources and opportunities that allow families to flourish.

Latisha is married to Dr. Tony Latiker and they are the proud parents of one son, Qadre; as well as aunt and uncle to numerous nieces and nephews. Latisha is active in her church and serves as a Sunday school teacher. She enjoys reading and watching football.

Ron WalkerExecutive Director of the Coalition of Schools Educating Boys of Color

Ron Walker has over 45 years of experience serving as a teacher, principal, staff developer, and consultant in various educational communities. Currently, Ron serves as the Executive Director and is a founding member of the Coalition of Schools Educating Boys of Color. The mission of COSEBOC, founded in 2007, is to connect, inspire, support and strengthen school leaders dedicated to the social, emotional and academic development of boys and young men of color. Under his leadership, COSEBOC is impacting over 600 schools across the nation with a combined student population of over 300,000. COSEBOC has been recognized for its work on changing the negative narrative often perpetuated by the media and others to a positive counter-narrative that lifts up the gifts, talents, and promise possessed by boys and young men of color.

COSEBOC is recognized as a critical organization in the efforts to eliminate the academic achievement gap. In this regard, recognition has come from many organizations such, the Council of Great City Schools, Education Trust, Cities United, The Center for Law and Social Policy, The Panasonic Foundation, The Kirwin Institute, Harvard University, and the American Public Health Association just to name a few. COSEBOC has been awarded major national grants by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and the Open Society Foundation.

Ron has also grown the visibility of COSEBOC and has made many presentations on the national and state level. He has presented to the U.S. Department of Education, College Board, California Association of African American Administrators and Superintendents, The American Public Health Association, The Council of Urban Boards of Education as well being interviewed by Soledad O’Brien on the topic of Educating Black Males.

He was also invited to attend President Obama’s My Brother’s Keeper Forum held at the White House. Ron has been recognized for his service in education by the Boston Public Schools, Boston College School of Education, Temple University -School of Education, The Omega Psi Phi Fraternity Inc. and many community groups. He was nominated for Ebony’s Magazine Manifest Award for individuals making substantial contributions in the field of education. Ron has authored two publications on leadership and is featured in numerous educational articles. He remains steadfastly committed to high-quality education for children and particularly boys and young men of color and other underserved populations.

Ron attributes any success that he has gained to his unrelenting belief in God, the lessons taught by his parents Solomon and Delores Walker and the faith that his wife Toni, children and grandchildren place in him.

Dr. Michael D. WoodardPresident of Woodard & Associates, Inc.

Dr. Michael D. Woodard guides government agencies, Fortune 100 corporations and foundations in achieving strategic objectives. Dr. Woodard is a nationally recognized expert for EEO compliance, program evaluation, training, prevention of sexual harassment, and executive coaching.

For 17 years, Dr. Woodard held teaching and research appointments at the University of Maryland-College Park; University of Missouri-Columbia; and UCLA. He has published many articles and presented many papers at professional conferences on workforce diversity and labor force topics. Dr. Woodard maintains an active research agenda on the economic aspects of diversity.

Dr. Woodard is a practitioner as well as a scholar. Throughout his career, Dr. Woodard has sought to advance theory and developed new methods to integrate employees from diverse backgrounds into productive working teams. Some of Dr. Woodard’s clients include the National Science Foundation, EPA, Hughes Corporation, Avaya, Inc., Monsanto, The Ford Foundation, W.K. Kellogg Foundation, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, U.S. Geological Survey, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Dr. Woodard is a member of the American Society for Training and Development, the American Sociological Association, the Association of Black Sociologists, and Toastmasters International. Dr. Woodard has fulfilled consecutive Mayoral appointments as Commissioner, the District of Columbia Commission on Human Rights.

Angela ZusmanFounder and Executive Director of Story for All

Angela is a lifelong believer in the power of voice. After graduating college she spent ten years working her way around the world, living in over 50 countries on 6 continents and interviewing people from all walks of life. This experience showed her that perceived gulfs of age, culture and race can be transcended through the power of story, inspiring her career as an author, public speaker and oral historian.  Angela is the author of Story Bridges: A Guide to Conducting Intergenerational Oral History Projects, and editor of multiple oral history compilations, most recently the award-winning Griots Of Oakland book and exhibit. In 2011, Angela founded Story For All to bring the humanizing, healing power of story into schools and communities.