Our Team

Photo of Gretchen Lopez, in dark blazer with name tag and handwritten "Gretchen L."Gretchen Lopez (gelopez@syr.edu) is Director of the Intergroup Dialogue Program, Associate Professor of 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 and 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 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 or they/them/theirs

Diane Swords (drswords@syr.edu)  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 how intergroup dialogue attends to differences in power; and in how dialogue supports coalition building in student activism. As an instructor in 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, Women’s Dialogue on Race and Gender, and Dialogue on Socioeconomic Inequality and Education across twelve years. She also developed a new course, Dialogue in Action: Faith, Conflict and Community. Diane participates in dialogue and anti-oppression efforts outside the university including workplace anti-oppression workshops and in-service training for public school teachers. She chairs the Nuclear Free World Committee of Syracuse Peace Council. Pronouns: she/her/hers

Easton Davis (edavis13@syr.edu) is a doctoral student in the Cultural Foundations of Education program at Syracuse University and is pursuing a certificate of advanced study (CAS) in Women’s and Gender Studies. Easton joined the team in 2019 as the Graduate Assistant for the Intergroup Dialogue (IGD) program and co-facilitates the IGD course on Race and Ethnicity. In his past roles, he worked as a College Success Coordinator at Summer Search – a national youth development and college success organization in New York City and as an Academic Advisor at Reynolds Community College in Richmond, VA. In both complementary roles, he learned how vital developing students’ voices were in achieving success and the role of cultural capital in resistance to deficit-based theories, particularly for students of color. Easton also has co-facilitated Conversations About Race and Ethnicity (CARE), a Division of Student Affairs, Office of Multicultural Affairs co-curricular initiative, and the Transformative Dialogue for student leaders in the college of law. He has served as a Teaching Assistant for the Selective Studies in Education program and instructor for the Summer Start program through University College at Syracuse University. Easton’s most recent project, Homebase BIPOC Dialogues, a five-week co-curricular dialogue series sponsored by the IGD program at SU, invited undergraduate students to explore elements of creative and cultural resistance rooted in love through poetry and dialogue. By centering Black bodies and (re)defining well-being, Easton’s dissertation topic seeks to understand creative and cultural resistance in education that creates more opportunities for educators and students to unlearn racism and situate the body as a site of reclamation. Easton holds a master’s degree in Cultural Foundations of Education from Syracuse University and a bachelor’s degree in Sociology with a minor in Black studies from Randolph-Macon College. Pronouns: he/him/his.

Photo of Jersey Cosantino, smiling, wearing eyeglasses with lake in the backgroundJersey Cosantino (they/them), a former K-12 educator, is a doctoral student in Cultural Foundations of Education at Syracuse University, completing certificates of advanced study in women’s and gender studies and disability studies. Jersey’s scholarship resides at the intersections of Mad studies and trans studies and, utilizing disability and transformative justice frameworks, their research centers the experiences and subjectivities of Mad, neurodivergent, trans, non-binary, and gender non-conforming individuals. Through oral history and autoethnography, Jersey seeks to construct Mad trans archives that create pathways and portals to Mad trans futures, imaginaries, and elsewheres. Using Mad trans methodologies that challenge sanism, ableism, and transmisia, Jersey’s research confronts medical model discourses and the pathologizing gaze of the psychiatric industrial complex. Jersey identifies as Mad, neurodivergent, queer, trans, and non-binary and is white with class, education, and citizenship privilege. They are a co-facilitator for SU’s Intergroup Dialogue Program’s course Dialogue on Race and Ethnicity and a co-editor of the International Mad Studies Journal. Jersey holds a master’s degree in high school English education (‘14) and a graduate certificate in mindfulness studies (‘19) from Lesley University, and a bachelor’s degree in English and studio art from Wellesley College (‘09). Additionally, for the past four years, Jersey has engaged in peer support work via an abolitionist framework as a volunteer call operator with the Trans Lifeline. You can access Jersey’s most recent publications by following them on Google Scholar here. Email: jcosanti@syr.edu

Photo of Ionah SculltyIonah M. Elaine Scully is a Cree-Métis and Irish (Michel First Nation) and a doctoral candidate in Cultural Foundations of Education at Syracuse University focusing on Two Spirit storytelling and of land relationality to offer insights into decolonizing education. Additionally Scully’s work employs Indigenous land pedagogy and relationship-building, particularly focusing on Two Spirit perspectives, in intragroup dialogue with other people of color. A graduate of Sarah Lawrence College with a B.A. in Labor History and Creative Writing, Ionah has been a dancer, dance teacher, writer, avid mountain hiker, and life-long community activist and organizer around a variety of worker, racial, and gender justice issues. In particular, Scully is active in Michel First Nation supporting education and nation rebuilding efforts. Community-based education drives Scully’s scholarship and, among numerous awards, they recently received a grant to launch N8v Trails and Tales, a virtual and community-based outdoor recreation and land-based education  program. Scully has taught the American School, guest lectured in Women and Gender Studies courses, and holds Certificates of Advanced Study from the Maxwell School in Conflict Resolution as well as Women’s and Gender Studies.

D. Romo (diromo@syr.edu) is a first-generation Xicanx doctoral candidate 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

Photograph of Bushra NaqiBushra Naqi (bunaqi@syr.edu) is the Undergraduate Assistant for the Intergroup Dialogue Program. Bushra is currently a sophomore majoring in Public Relations and minoring in Social Justice. Originally from Harlem, New York, Bushra is a brown, trans, non-binary, queer, disabled student organizer that is passionate about social change, direct action and community organizing. Their introduction to Intergroup Dialogue was when they took the course last semester (Fall 2020) and since then, they have explored many applications of dialogue and have felt inspired by the impact of them. Bushra is also a Reservation & Building Assistant for the Student Centers and Programming Services. They are active on campus including as Social Media Manager for the Pakistani Student Association; Co-Social Media Coordinator for Renegade Magazine; Peer Mentor at fullCIRCLE; and member of Verbal Blend. Bushra hopes to one day live in an anti-racist, anti-imperialist, anti-capitalist, anti-heteronormative and anti-homophobic world and will contribute as much as they can to foresee that vision. Pronouns: they/them/theirs.

Faculty Affiliates

Courtney Mauldin
is Assistant Professor of Educational Leadership in the Teaching & Leadership Department in the Syracuse University School of Education. Her scholarly research focuses on amplifying the voices and leadership practices of youth of color with particular attention to how youth perspectives are central to reimagining and transforming K-12 leadership and schools. In her most recent project, Dr. Mauldin uses a critical arts-based approach with elementary-aged youth to co-construct educator resources, influence school policy change, and integrate youth voice into the school setting in meaningful and innovative ways. Dr. Mauldin facilitates the Central New York Educators of Color Dialogue and runs the teen book club, The Breedlove Readers which she co-founded in Syracuse in Spring 2020. Prior to joining Syracuse University, Dr. Mauldin completed her doctoral degree at Michigan State University in Educational Leadership with a specialization in Urban Education.

Suzette Meléndez is Associate Dean for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, and Teaching Professor, at the Syracuse University College of Law. Professor Meléndez’s scholarly and teaching interests are in the area of family law, domestic violence and the delivery of legal services to women and children. She has directed the Children’s Rights and Family Law Clinic and teaches Family Law. In addition to litigation experience, Professor Meléndez has engaged in policy work on issues affecting litigants and practitioners including state and county domestic violence working groups, local and state bar associations, and judicial committees. She continues to work extensively on issues pursuing access to justice and the equitable treatment of all within the legal system as well as in our academic environments. Together with Intergroup Dialogue Program collaborators, Professor Meléndez developed and currently facilitates the Transformative Dialogue for Law Student Leaders. Professor Meléndez joined the College of Law in 2002; she earned a juris doctor from the University of Connecticut School of Law and a bachelor’s degree from the State University of New York at Binghamton.

Graduate Student Affiliates

Photo of Steven Contreras
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 where 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 has co-facilitated Dialogue on Race and Ethnicity at Syracuse University. Pronouns: he/his/him

Photo of Dellareese Jackson
Dellareese Jackson is currently studying as a doctoral student in the Cultural Foundations of Education Program in the School of Education at Syracuse University (SU), and serves as the Coordinator for the Democratizing Knowledge Project. Outside of SU she is the Director of Diversity and Inclusion for Vanguard University. Dellareese has served as an instructor, trainer and consultant of Intergroup Dialogue and uses a multimethod approach in studying the impact of facilitator labor on learning. She received her Masters in Higher Education Administration and completed a Certificate of Advanced Study (C.A.S.) in Women and Gender Studies at SU. She has worked for over a decade in Student Affairs in various capacities focusing on retention and  She has worked in Residence Life as well as Academic Support Services, specifically on BIPOC student retention initiatives. Her current research looks to further pedagogy that addresses the need for inclusive democratic education classrooms and practices. Her research focus is on Social Justice Education courses in higher education, their impact on civic responsibility, and how the instruction of those courses impacts the learning that happens in the space. Pronouns: she/her/hers

Photo of Jermaine SotoJermaine Soto is a past facilitator for the IGD program as well as current doctoral candidate in Cultural Foundations of Education. Jermaine infuses intergroup dialogue practices and theories into his professional work including: the development of various college-level courses he has taught at universities in New York and Tennessee; the development and facilitation of professional development curriculum for non-profit organizations centered on engaging Latinx communities and education; and the development and facilitation of equity, diversity and inclusion curriculum for Vanderbilt University staff. Jermaine currently serves as the Director of Faculty Development within the Office of Faculty Affairs at Vanderbilt University. He leads various efforts including identifying and providing the resources to support faculty in their career pathways, initiatives on inclusive faculty searches, facilitating sessions on bias for senior academic leadership searches, and sitting on committees, working and advisory groups that impact policies and practices at the university level. He also serves as a facilitator for Vanderbilt Visions, a semester long program for first-year students, and a summer mentor for the Vanderbilt Programs for Talented Youth Mentor Immersion. IGD continues to serve as a motivation and necessary component in all of Jermaine’s efforts.


Earlier co-facilitators, research collaborators, and program staff 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, Lynn Dew, Janet Dodd, James Duah-Agyeman, Abby Fite, Lamees Galal, Martín Alberto Gonzalez, Cris Gray, Tiffany Gray, Danielle Guerrier, Jared Halter, LB Hannahs, Judy Hamilton, Hiba Haroon, Robin Higgins, Tauri Howard, Adrea Jaehnig, Rebecca Johnson, Jennifer Koslovsky, Bina Lee, Meredith Madden, Mariel Manzanarez, Aneisha McDole, Wendy Nastasi, Sacchi Patel, Sara Potocsny, Lisa Pye, Roslyn Rasberry, Kyrani Renau, Michael Riley, Tremayne Robertson, Carolyn Salter, Blair Smith, Jermaine Soto, Tiffany Steinwert, Amit Taneja, Angel Villasenor, Kim Williams Brown, Thomas Wolfe.