Our Team

Gretchen LopezGretchen 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


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

Lamees GalalLamees Galal is a doctoral student in the Cultural Foundations of Education department in the School of Education at Syracuse University. She is currently the graduate assistant (GA) for the Intergroup Dialogue Program and has co-facilitated for Race and Ethnicity sections of IGD academic courses. Lamees formerly served as the Assistant Director of Collegiate Science and Technology Entry Program (CSTEP) and Coordinator for Multicultural Programming and Awareness at SUNY Upstate Medical University, which included co-facilitating a dialogic program called (Un)Safe Spaces: Dialogues on Community, Culture and Healthcare as well as overseeing the program Mentors in Healthcare (MiH) which provides students from traditionally underrepresented backgrounds the opportunity to meet and network with senior students, faculty, and professionals with similar backgrounds. Lamees holds a master’s degree in Higher Education Administration from Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana and a bachelor’s degree in Finance from St. John’s University in Jamaica, New York. Some of her research interests include the application of social justice pedagogy, experiences of women of color in higher education, and the representation of Muslim women in American pop culture. Pronouns: she/her/hers

Diane Swords

Diane R. Swords 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 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. Pronouns: she/her/hers

Dellareese JacksonDellareese Jackson 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. Pronouns: she/her/hers

Lynn DewLynn 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. Pronouns: she/her/her

Steven Contreras is originally from the Bronx, NY. He graduated from Fordham University in 2011 while majoring in Sociology. He then moved to Syracuse, to work at Syracuse University while he earned his Master’s degree in Cultural Foundations of Education. Steven currently works at SUNY Upstate where he serves as the Director of Student Retention. His primary focus is working with students of color, rural students and low-income students. His interest for working with students started in undergrad when he was a student leader and Resident Advisor (RA) on campus. As a First-Generation college student himself trying to figure out college, Steven developed a passion for helping students navigate higher education. Steven finds dialogue a powerful tool and has participated and facilitated several dialogues including: Conversations About Race and Ethnicity (CARE) at Syracuse University, Men Against Social Stigma (MASS) at Buffalo State College, and Unsafe Spaces at SUNY Upstate. He currently co-facilitates Dialogue on Race and Ethnicity at Syracuse University. Pronouns: he/his/him

Danielle Y. Guerrier is in her second-year of graduate study in the Cultural Foundations of Education (CFE) Master’s Program in the Syracuse University School of Education, and is a Bill and Melinda Gates Millennium Scholar. In addition to co-facilitating Dialogue on Race and Ethnicity, Danielle has earlier teaching experience in CFE/Education. Currently, she is an academic consultant for the Office of Multicultural Affair’s (OMA) WellsLink Leadership Program; this builds on her earlier work with and mentoring students of color. She received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Sociology from Cornell University, where she also minored in Inequality Studies. As an undergraduate student, Danielle served as a teaching assistant for the Cornell Prison Education Program, volunteered at a local elementary school, and gained training through the Empathy, Assistance, and Referral Services (E.A.R.S.) Program. Her research interests focus on issues related to education, race, inequality, and mass incarceration. Pronouns: she/her/hers

Sara Potocsny joined the Intergroup Dialogue Program team in 2018 and co-facilitates the Dialogue on Socioeconomic Inequality and Education and Dialogue on Race and Ethnicity (SOC 230, WGS 230, CFE 200). She has a BFA in Viola Performance and is working on her MFA in Creative Writing-Poetry, both from Syracuse University. In 2013, while taking an Intergroup Dialogue on Race and Gender (SOC 230, WGS 230, CFE 200) as an undergraduate student, she developed a deep unbending passion for social justice work. Her experiences in IGD provided her with a new scope on life that she has considered of paramount importance today, still. Sara is working on blending her creative passions with her social justice ones – mainly through art, music, and poetry. Pronouns: she/her/hers

D. RomoD. 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 has worked 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; and Lit Arts is an after-school program bridging art-based social justice education and intergroup dialogue to promote youth activism and civic engagement. Pronouns: they/them/theirs

Martin Alberto GonzalezMartín 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) and a Ford Foundation Predoctoral Fellow. 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 has co-facilitated the Lit Arts after school program. Pronouns: he/him/his

Jermaine SotoJermaine 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. Pronouns: he/him/his

Crista GrayCrista 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. Pronouns: she/her/hers//ze/hir/hirs

Mariel Manzanarez is a junior at the College of Arts and Sciences, majoring in Women and Gender Studies with interests in Political Science. Prior to coming to SU she earned her Associates Degree at Bard High School Early College in New York City. At Syracuse University, she is involved in organizations such as Lambda Theta Alpha Latin Sorority, Inc., as well as Xicanxs Empowering Xicanxs (XEX). Mariel currently works at Planned Parenthood as a Raiz Organizer focusing on helping Syracuse members in a couple of ways such as voting registration, legislation, and programming. 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. Pronouns: she/her/hers


Program Affiliates

El-Java Abdul-QadirEl-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. In addition to facilitating the Socioeconomic Inequality and Education dialogue course, he has facilitated co-curricular dialogues on race and academic courses on interfaith dialogue and spirituality. 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.” Pronouns: he/him/his

photo of khristian kemp-delisser

khristian kemp-delisser is the Director of the LGBT Resource Center at Syracuse University. A lifelong social justice educator, they have worked in Residence Life, LGBT Student Services, and Multicultural Affairs at various public and private universities, including the University of Illinois, Urbana Champaign, University of Vermont, and Colgate University. They have researched and presented widely at regional and national conferences on the experiences, needs, and cultural practices of LGBTQ+ students and staff of color in higher education. Inside the classroom, they have designed and taught courses on creative writing, gender and sexuality, student development theory, and intergroup dialogue. They have previously served on non-profit boards and consulted with high schools, businesses, and educational organizations that serve LGBTQ+ youth and adults, including Central New York Alliance of LGBTQ Offices and Resources, Outright VT and Pride Center of VT. They hold a Bachelor’s in English and Newspaper Journalism from Syracuse University and a Master’s in Student Higher Education & Affairs Administration and an Ed.D in Educational Policy & Leadership, both from the University of Vermont. Pronouns: they/them/theirs

Photo of Mara Sapon-ShevinMara Sapon-Shevin, Professor of Inclusive Education, is a specialist in diversity and social justice issues, including full inclusion, anti-racism teaching, bullying and harassment, cooperative learning, and using the arts to teach against oppression. She has written more than 200 books, chapters, and articles and presented keynotes and workshops internationally in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Spain, Malta, Chile, Netherlands, Sweden, Finland, and England. She coordinates a project called Creating Safe and Peaceful Schools and completed (with teachers) a project called Peaceful at the Core which uses children’s literature to end bullying and promote positive interpersonal behavior and becoming upstanders. Recent books include: Because We Can Change the World: A Practical Guide to Creating Cooperative, Inclusive Classroom Communities; Educational Courage: Resisting the Ambush of Public Education; and Condition Critical: Key Principles for Equitable and Inclusive Education. Pronouns: she/her/hers

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, Mary Cannito-Coville, Chase Catalano, Tiffany Curtis, Sigrid Davison, Janet Dodd, James Duah-Agyeman, Abby Fite, Rebecca Johnson, Tiffany Gray, Jared Halter, LB Hannahs, Judy Hamilton, Hiba Haroon, Tauri Howard, Adrea Jaehnig, Jennifer Koslovsky, Meredith Madden, Aneisha McDole, Wendy Nastasi, 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.