Our Team


photo (7)Gretchen Lopez 
is Director of the Intergroup Dialogue Program, a tenured faculty member in Cultural Foundations of Education and associated faculty in Women’s and Gender Studies. Professor Lopez applies a multidisciplinary, multi-method approach to studying inequality and the impact of social justice education; her main research focuses on race and critical pedagogy in higher education. She has extended this work to engage high school students and consider the significance of university-community partnership. She co-edited a special-themed issue of Equity & Excellence in Education (2012, February) on ”Intergroup Dialogue: Engaging Difference, Social Identities, and Social Justice,” subsequently published as a book by Routledge (2015). She led the university’s participation in the Multi-University Intergroup Dialogue Research Project, a nine-institution study of the educational benefits of intergroup dialogue for undergraduate students. As part of this project, she initiated the development of an interdisciplinary intergroup dialogue program funded through the Chancellor’s Initiative Fund in collaboration with Academic Affairs and Student Affairs. Professor Lopez received her Ph.D. (Social Psychology) from the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor (B.A., Psychology, Cornell University), and her work has been recognized through an Excellence in Graduate Education Faculty Recognition Award (Syracuse University), the Racial Justice Award from Interfaith Work’s Community Wide Dialogue to End Racism, and the Syracuse NAACP Youth Council Image Award for Education. (Pronouns: she/her/hers) – gelopez@syr.edu

Robin Higgins is program coordinator for the Intergroup Dialogue Program. Previously she worked as assistant director at Imagining America (IA), administrative assistant in Sociology Department, and office coordinator in Cultural Foundations of Education at Syracuse University. She received her Master of Science in Higher Education from Syracuse University and Bachelors of Professional Studies Degree in Organizational Leadership from University College, Syracuse University. Robin worked with the IA research team on the study, Publicly Engaged Scholars: Career Aspirations and Decisions of Scholars and Artists in the Cultural Disciplines. Through this study, they illuminated the aspirations and decisions of participants in IA’s PAGE (Publicly Active Graduate Education) program and publicly engaged scholars and professionals in the cultural disciplines as it relates to career pathways and career success. In her role as IGD coordinator, Robin is active across campus including as a fullCIRCLE mentor of undergraduate students and SU Wellness Champion; the University Wellness initiative supports the health and wellness of faculty and staff through providing resources to make healthy choices and by fostering a culture of wellness. A committed education advocate, Robin served earlier on the Board of Education in the North Syracuse School District, on the North Syracuse District Policy Committee, and the Central New York School Board Association. Her research interests include the transition from high school to college, student’s well-being, and student retention. (Pronouns: she/her/hers) – rjhiggin@syr.edu

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Tauri Howard (she/her/hers) is a master’s student in Media and Education at Syracuse University. She received her bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Syracuse University as well, with a minor in African American Studies. As the current graduate research assistant for the Intergroup Dialogue Program, her work revolves around finding effective methods of incorporating art and creative expression into social justice education. Her role at Intergroup Dialogue includes curriculum development for the high school initiative, Cultural Voices. She has also designed and conducted workshops for the after school program taking place at the Sidney Johnson Vocational Center. Using the skills gained through her media studies she aims to build a platform that educates, provides access to resources, and deconstructs the intersectional social issues that surround women. Ultimately her overarching career goal is to create a non-profit organization that combines media, creative express and policy to educate youth in underserved communities about social and structural inequality. – tjhoward@syr.edu

Diane Swords website

Diane R. Swords (she/her/hers) has a Ph.D. in Social Science from Syracuse University’s Maxwell School, with a certificate in University Teaching and Certificates of Advanced Studies in Women’s and Gender Studies and in Conflict Resolution. Her research interrogates race, class, and gender in social movement strategy and democratic leadership. Her latest writing examines research and practice in how intergroup dialogue attends to differences in power. As an instructor in Intergroup Dialogue, Sociology, Women’s and Gender Studies, and Cultural Foundations of Education, she has co-facilitated Intergroup Dialogue on Race and Ethnicity, Intergroup Dialogue on Gender, and the Women’s Dialogue on Race and Gender for twelve years. She helped to develop and pilot a new course, Dialogue in Action: Faith, Conflict and Community, and is currently co-facilitating Dialogue on Socioeconomic Inequality and Education. Diane also participates in dialogue and anti-oppression efforts outside the university, including workplace anti-oppression workshops and an in-service training for public school teachers. She is chair of the Nuclear Free World Committee of Syracuse Peace Council. – drswords@syr.edu

Mary Cannito-Coville earned her Ph.D. in Cultural Foundations of Education at Syracuse University where she concentrated in Sociology of Education. She holds a M.A. in Spanish Language, Literature and Culture, and a C.A.S. (Certificate of Advanced Study) in Latin American Studies from Syracuse University. Dr. Cannito-Coville’s research and teaching interests lie in the intersection of the criminal justice and educational systems with a particular focus on race and gender in urban education, specifically as it relates to the collateral consequences of mass incarceration, youth involvement in gangs, and policing in urban settings. Her most recent research project is a 4-year urban ethnography which examines the effects of anti-gang policing in the lives of targeted youth with participant observations and interviews with gang members, police officers, and political stakeholders. Dr. Cannito-Coville is currently working on a book manuscript based on this research and is writing articles which connects this research to previous research conducted in Medillín, Columbia under a U.S. Department of State Fulbright Grant. Dr. Cannito-Coville teaches courses on social justice issues and Intergroup Dialogue at Syracuse University, works for the Trauma Response Team in the city of Syracuse, and works as a professional Spanish language interpreter. – mcannito@syr.edu

El-Java Abdul-Qadir is Director of the South Side Innovation Center (SSIC), an award-winning business incubator in Syracuse and project of the Whitman School of Management at Syracuse University. He is adjunct Professor of Practice in Entrepreneurship & Emerging Enterprises where he teaches Introduction to Entrepreneurship, and Minorities & Women in Business. He presents on entrepreneurship and small business ownership as key to economic development for local groups, drawing from experience with challenges and opportunities related to self-employment in marginalized populations including communities of color, women, individuals with disabilities, veterans, survivors of domestic violence, immigrants and refugees. He has co-published articles about inclusive entrepreneurship consulting, storytelling in entrepreneurial education, and new venture financing, and received the Minority Small Business Champion of the Year Award (2012) from U.S. Small Business Administration for impact of his SSIC work. He is actively committed to intergroup dialogue on SU campus, in Syracuse community, and beyond. He has facilitated co-curricular dialogues on race and academic courses on interfaith dialogue and spirituality. He currently facilitates the Socioeconomic Inequality and Education dialogue course. El-Java also owns and operates Excel Martial Arts Training Center, LLC, a martial arts and fitness center in Syracuse, and EXCEL Consulting, where he has worked in a leadership/facilitator capacity with student groups, community organizations, and corporations in an effort to bring polarized groups to “common ground.” El-Java was born and raised in the Bronx, NY and currently lives with his wife and two children in the City of Syracuse. His multi-cultural family represents different races, languages, and faith traditions. – eawilliam@syr.edu

Dellareese JacksonDellareese Jackson (she/her/hers) is a full time doctoral student in Cultural Foundations of Education in the School of Education at Syracuse University (SU). She also serves as an instructor in the Intergroup Dialogue Program on the SU campus and as the Graduate Assistant for the Democratizing Knowledge Project, a Chancellor Cantor initiative to assist in creating inclusive knowledges. In her time at SU, she also co-facilitates Conversations About Race and Ethnicity (CARE), a Division of Student Affairs, Office of Multicultural Affairs co-curricular initiative. In her undergraduate studies in sociology at the University of Illinois, she developed a passion for social justice education, including an attentiveness to social and structural inequality. She was a peer facilitator in the Program on Intergroup Relations (PIR) at the University of Illinois including for courses on issues concerning discrimination based on class, gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, and disability. Her major academic interests stem from this time as a PIR co-facilitator. While working on her Masters at Florida International University, she conducted a final capstone project on the social justice climate of college campuses, what impacts the climate, and how to measure it. She is now working to further pedagogy that addresses the need for inclusive education classrooms and practices and her research focus is on Social Justice Education courses in higher education and their impact on civic responsibility. She completed a Certificate of Advanced Study (C.A.S.) in Women and Gender Studies at SU. Being the second of six children, in her free time, she enjoys traveling and spending time with family and friends. – dtjack03@syr.edu

Romo2016D. Romo is a first-generation Xicanx doctoral student in Cultural Foundations of Education (CFE) at Syracuse University and is a Publicly Active Graduate Education (PAGE) Co-Director at Imagining America. As an undergraduate at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) they worked on publicly engaged scholarship initiatives in their neighborhood through the Pico Neighborhood Association (PNA) and Pico Youth and Family Center (PYFC) to address issues of access to affordable housing and overdevelopment, unequal educational resources, and culturally relevant/sustaining pedagogies that recognize the experience, knowledge, and values of young people of color. It was within academic and community spaces that their interest in social justice education and activist-scholar identity emerged and they have continued to do this work in Syracuse, NY. While working on their M.S., Romo worked at SU’s Intergroup Dialogue Program (IGD) as Graduate Research Assistant and co-facilitator for the Dialogue on Socioeconomic Inequality & Education and Women’s Dialogue on Race and Gender. As a doctoral student, Romo continues to work with the high school/university partnership as a co-facilitator at a local alternative high school in the Syracuse City School District (Cultural Voices, Lit Arts). Cultural Voices is an English course that provides youth a space to analyze their individual experience as related to structural systems of power and privilege. Through the support of the IGD program director, Dr. Gretchen Lopez, local high school teacher and SU alumni Jennifer Benedetto, and high school students, Romo co-developed an afterschool program Lit Arts, bridging art-based social justice education and intergroup dialogue to promote youth activism and civic engagement. – diromo@syr.edu

Lynn Dew is a PhD student in Higher Education at Syracuse University and has co-facilitated for the Race and Ethnicity section of Intergroup Dialogue as well as for the Conversations about Race and Ethnicity (CARE) co-curricular program on campus. She served as the graduate assistant in the Higher Education Department for three years and has been involved in the POSSE program as mentor to SU students from Miami. Her previous work experience was in athletics at the university. Lynn’s areas of academic interest are exploring how traditional student development theories can better reflect the lived experience of a diverse set of students, particularly the interaction of psycho-social and cognitive development of student activists in social justice issues. She has a master’s degree in Cultural Foundations of Education. – lkdew@syr.edu

Martín Alberto Gonzalez is a Xhicano originally from Oxnard, CA. He completed his undergraduate studies at California State University, Northridge, where he majored in sociology and minored in psychology. As an undergraduate, Martín conducted research revolving around school climate in respects to Latinx high school students. He also completed a senior project in which he used autoethnography to illustrate the various ways he enacted community cultural wealth as a McNair scholar while navigating through graduate school applications. Currently, he is a PhD student in the Cultural Foundations of Education department at Syracuse University (SU). He is the youngest of seven, yet the only one in his family to go to a four-year university. Because he personally observed his older siblings’ (and his community’s) talents and interests be repressed via their schooling, he became interested in educational issues related to Latinx students. He is currently working on a research project that aims to better understand the experiences of Latinx undergraduate students who are involved in ethnic-based organizations at a predominantly white campus. In regards to Intergroup Dialogue at SU, he co-facilitates the Lit Arts after school program. – magonz01@syr.edu

A. Wendy Nastasi is a Ph.D. candidate in Cultural Foundations of Education at Syracuse University. Wendy was awarded an Outstanding Teaching Assistant Award in 2014 and she completed a Certificate of Advanced Studies in Women and Gender Studies. She has also received a Certificate in University Teaching upon completing the Future Professoriate Program from the Graduate School at Syracuse University. As a philosopher of education and a dialogue practitioner, Wendy’s research interests include developing social justice curriculum and pedagogy centered on race and ethnicity that facilitate young people’s (high school and college) active engagement with multiple communities to construct meaning and to create understanding towards knowledge justice. Wendy extends her commitment to making knowledge with and for diverse communities in her work with Imagining America’s CNY PAGE program; Wendy was CNY Regional Page Director from 2010-2012. In addition to co-facilitating Intergroup Dialogue on Race and Ethnicity at Syracuse University, Wendy co-facilitated a course-based and after-school dialogue centered on race and ethnicity with Jenniffer Benedetto at Nottingham High School in the Syracuse City School District. Wendy’s recent presentations and publications can be found on our research page and include “Researching to Transgress: The Epistemic Virtue of Research With” in Philosophy of Education Yearbook (2012). – awnastas@syr.edu

Jermaine websiteJermaine Soto is a Ph.D. candidate in the School of Education’s Cultural Foundations of Education department. Jermaine is interested in Latino racial/ethnic identity formation, urban Latino communities and their relationships with public schools and educational systems, as well as the role of the facilitator of color in Intergroup Dialogue spaces. As part of Syracuse University’s Intergroup Dialogue program, Jermaine has served as a Research Assistant focused on high school and community initiatives as well as an instructor for the IGD section on race and ethnicity. Jermaine is passionate about educating students on the impact of race and ethnicity in schools and communities as well as working with students of color to help them navigate institutions of higher education. He is active presenting on the theory and practice of Intergroup Dialogue both nationally and regionally, and regularly offers workshops for co-curricular and community groups. – jsoto01@syr.edu

Crista C. Gray is a Ph.D. candidate in Cultural Foundations of Education at Syracuse University (SU). She completed her undergraduate degree in sociology and psychology at SU and her MA in Community/Clinical Psychology from Mansfield University. Crista has worked with five TRIO programs at four universities since 2001; similar to the majority of students she serves, she is a first-generation college student and from a working class background. During her graduate enrollment at SU, she completed her Certificate of Advanced Studies in Women and Gender Studies and has completed all requirements through the Future Professoriate Program to be awarded a Certificate in University Teaching. Crista’s research interests include: learning and student outcomes from intergroup dialogue; the relationship of identities to power, privilege, and liberation; the role of praxis in the classroom and in systemic action; and the relationships between intrapersonal thriving and academic success. She served as the graduate assistant for SU’s Intergroup Dialogue Program from 2009-2012 and co-facilitated IGD on Gender and IGD on Gender and Sexuality. Crista has presented in Oneonta, NY (2010) and Nairobi, Kenya (2011) on the personal and interpersonal growth from intergroup dialogue enrollment as expressed by students of color in their IGD final papers. She is completing her dissertation, “After the class: Intergroup dialogue student experiences” which qualitatively explores ways that students engage in intrapersonal, interpersonal, and systemic action a semester or more after their completion of dialogue course. – ccgray@syr.edu

Mariel Manzanarez (she/her/hers) is a sophomore at the College of Arts and Sciences, majoring in Women and Gender Studies and Communication Sciences and Disorders. Prior to coming to SU she earned her Associates Degree at Bard High School Early College in New York City. Ever since high school Mariel Manzanarez has made an effort to be involved in community service by participating in reading programs in NYC elementary schools. At Syracuse University, she is involved with Project G.R.I.N.D, a mentoring program for middle school students. She is a currently an undergraduate assistant working with the Intergroup Dialogue Program (IGD) and her interests include related research and social media towards education for social justice. – mmanzana@syr.edu

Earlier co-facilitators and research collaborators have continued their work on intergroup dialogue through other positions on our campus, on other college and university campuses, or in community/work settings including: George Athanas, Jacob Bartholomew, Afua Boahene, Courtney Brewster, Andra Brown, Chase Catalano, Tiffany Curtis, Sigrid Davison, Janet Dodd, James Duah-Agyeman, Abby Fite, Rebecca Johnson, Lamees Galal, Tiffany Gray, Jared Halter, LB Hannahs, Judy Hamilton, Hiba Haroon, Adrea Jaehnig, Jennifer Koslovsky, Meredith Madden, Aneisha McDole, Sacchi Patel, Lisa Pye, Roslyn Rasberry, Kyrani Renau, Michael Riley, Tremayne Robertson, Carolyn Salter, Blair Smith, Tiffany Steinwert, Amit Taneja, Angel Villasenor, Kim Williams Brown, Thomas Wolfe