DR. ASHLEY L. WHITE
Dr. Ashley L. White is a trainer with the Racial Equity Institute. In addition to her work with REI, Dr. White has worked with Dr. Rosemarie Allen on various projects related to race and equity in the early childhood setting and has also facilitated professional development with Dr. Rosemarie Allen for early childhood educators. Additionally, she has conducted professional development around the country related to issues of race, disability, and equity for educators across the P-20 spectrum and developed her own professional learning series focused on culturally responsive practices in classrooms, schools, and districts. Furthermore, White’s acuity when discussing issues of equity in education are informed by her fifteen plus years as a P-12 educator as well as her personal experiences with inequities as a student. White’s approach to these pressing topics is also informed by the research she conducts in her role as an assistant professor at the University of Wisconsin Madison. White has used her personal and professional experiences to develop a distinctive approach for discussing the difficult but necessary subject matter that is essential for both maximizing the capacity of teachers and for ensuring equitable learning experiences for students. In her approach, Dr. White also embeds essential tools for how educational stakeholders such as parents and educators can influence policy and practice mandates through advocacy efforts.
DR. DOROTHY SHAPLAND
Dr. Dorothy Shapland is an Associate Professor of Education in the department of Special Education, Early Childhood, and Culturally & Linguistically Diverse Education at Metropolitan State University of Denver. Her coursework focuses on Culturally Responsive, Trauma Informed, and Intentional teaching practices in Early STEM, Assessment, Creativity, Culturally & Linguistically Diverse Education, and Educational Leadership. Her research and publications center on Teaching strategies for Social Emotional Competency, Trauma & Resiliency, and Anti-Racism & Anti-Bias teaching in the Early Years. Dr. Shapland has over thirty years of Pk-12 teaching experience and fifteen of those years in teacher leadership, professional development, and coaching. In addition to the Education world, Dorothy has worked for the past twenty years providing support for organizational growth using an Appreciative Inquiry approach. This work with Non-profit organizations and government agencies in developing missions, visions, core values and action plans for equity led her to co-found The Village Consulting Group which focuses on developing authentic equity in organizations through accessing community needs and interests for growth. A founding leader in the Denver Chapter of the National Black Child Development Institute, and founding member of the Inclusion, Equity and Social Justice Council of the Division for Early Childhood of the National Council for Exceptional Children, Dorothy brings her passion for educational equity to everything she is a part of. She currently stands as co-chair of the School of Education’s Diversifying the Teacher Workforce committee, and faculty advisor for the Diverse Scholars Program where she works to reduce barriers within systems for BIPOC and LGBTQAI+ teachers to enter and remain in the education profession. She is an active member of various non-profit educational boards, and serves on state advisory boards and committees to bring a perspective and voice to equity issues throughout Colorado.
DR. ELMER HARRIS
Dr. Elmer Harris is an Assistant Professor of Early Childhood Education at Metropolitan State University of Denver. Prior to becoming a full-time university instructor, he served in several public-school positions; to include early intervention paraeducator, special education, general education, and district behavior interventionist. He earned his doctorate and master’s degrees from the University of Colorado, with focuses on Educational Equity and Special Education. His teaching philosophy as a public-school educator and university instructor is based on building and maintaining a sense of community within learning environments and using those relationships as a foundation for experiences that are individualized, relevant, and highly engaging. Dr. Harris has research interests in the areas of diverse teacher recruitment/retention and school-family partnerships. He’s a 22-year veteran of U.S. Air Force and was one of six educators throughout the nation selected to serve as U.S. Department of Education Teaching Ambassador Fellows during the 2017-2018 school year. He has served on the Associate Board of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Denver and was an inaugural participant in their Mentor 2.0 Program in 2015, which matched every incoming freshman from local high schools with community members for personal, academic and vocational support throughout their high school career.
From being a tv news anchor and reporter, radio reporter on News radio 850 KOA, a women’s health podcast host, to a radio talk show host, as well as a columnist and now to being a Director of Public Affairs with the Mayor’s office, Gloria Neal’s versatility keeps her very busy all across the country.
With over 30 years of combined experience working with city government,
nonprofits and private sector organizations, Gloria brings her passion and problem-solving skills to everything she touches. And it is that drive which enables her to be successful in traditional and non-traditional environments.
Gloria is a strong believer in community involvement and in serving the community. She has been heavily involved in mentoring, philanthropic and community driven causes not only in Denver, but also in other cities across the country.
Currently, Gloria Neal is the Director of Public Affairs for Denver Mayor Michael Hancock.
Jada is a trainer and coach with the Racial Equity Institute. She holds an MFA, MBA, M.A.Ed with an emphasis on adult learners, and is a certified executive coach. Jada carries 15+ years in curriculum development and experiential learning sessions that optimize learner engagement and 5+ years as an executive coach, supporting leaders in their professional development journey. She has designed and implemented dozens of dynamic training programs utilizing theatre-based practices and principles, with a foundation in adult learning strategies. She has worked in the healthcare industry in a variety of roles including Patient Experience Manager, Diversity Teaching Associate, and Senior Talent Development Consultant. Additionally, Jada is an award-winning actress, director, playwright, and teaching artist. She leverages her skills and expertise to work at the intersection of art and social justice to cultivate spaces that are grounded in trust. Her inquiry-based approach leverages creativity and storytelling to explore, address, and transform complex dynamics. Her coaching and consulting style is an inquiry-based approach that seeks to uncover and unpack core issues and challenges that may be getting in the way of cultural responsiveness, growth, and action.
Jasmine Crane, MS, MA, NCC, LPC is a Licensed professional counselor in the state of Colorado, where she has worked as a teacher at nearly every level of education. She has worked as a lead teacher and two-year-old classroom management trainer, she was a middle school and high school reading and writing and language arts teacher and currently holds a substitute teaching license in the state of Colorado. Jasmine works as an adjunct faculty member for the University of Colorado Denver, in their Masters-level counseling department. Jasmine currently works as the Director of Health and Wellness for the Institute for Racial Equity and Excellence (IREE) and is the owner and primary therapist of Transcendent Counseling LLC, where she provides counseling to families of school-aged children, couples, individuals and adolescents. She is also a contracted trainer with the Pyramid Model Consortium, where she provides training on equity and culturally responsive practices, especially as it relates to implementing the Pyramid Model. She has served on the board of the Denver County Cultural Commission, where she helped allocate SCFD funds to tier 3 arts and science organizations serving the Denver Metro Area. Jasmine has also served on the board of their Inclusivity Committee, a committee dedicated to ensuring that SCFD funds are reserved for organizations serving lower-income, diverse and otherwise marginalized populations in the Denver Metro Area. She has also served as a member of the 2019-2020 Denver Public School Bond and Mill board. Jasmine was recognized by the Denver Business Journal as one of Denver’s top 40 under 40 in 2017 and continues to promote her passion for social justice in early education, as well as the social and emotional development of children in various capacities.
Kamau Allen is a Howard University graduate and the Director of Equity and Social Justice for the Institute of Racial Equity and Excellence. Through his passion for racial justice and criminal justice transformation, he has worked to help communities achieve police accountability and criminal justice reform. In 2018, his involvement with Together Colorado allowed him to help manage the steering committee for the grassroots campaign that abolished slavery from Colorado’s constitution. Kamau is currently the Lead Organizer of the Abolish Slavery National Network, a national organization dedicated to abolishing slavery and involuntary servitude from state constitutions and the constitution of the United States.
DR. LISA ROY
Director of Program Development
Lisa Roy joined the Buffett Institute in 2019. She comes to the Institute from Denver Public Schools, where she served as executive director of the Early Childhood Department, managing a $57 million budget that supported more than 5,000 3- and 4-year-olds within the District, and 2,500 half-day slots with community providers. Dr. Roy was responsible for managing more than 40 staff members in support of licensing, coaching, and operations. One of her roles was to partner with the City of Denver (Children’s Affairs, Human Services, Denver Public Library), Mile High United Way, and the Children’s Museum to increase language and literacy skills for children from birth to Grade 3.
Previously, Roy has done consultant work for Grantmakers for Education as the organization's equity impact group lead and served as the executive director of the Timothy and Bernadette Marquez Foundation, focusing on improving educational opportunities and increasing access and options in health care and human services for underserved or under-represented populations. Roy worked in Washington, D.C., for the Center for the Study of Social Policy as a senior associate, supporting the Child Healthy and Prepared to Succeed in School agenda for the Annie E. Casey Foundation. She also served as a grant officer for the Piton Foundation and Daniels Fund, as a Head Start administrator for the City and County of Denver, and as a director of early childhood programs for the Clayton Foundation and Catholic Charities.
She holds a doctorate in executive leadership for educational equity from the University of Colorado at Denver and a master’s degree in counseling psychology and counselor education, also from the University of Colorado at Denver, and a bachelor’s degree in psychology and speech community from the Metropolitan State College of Denver (now Metropolitan State University of Denver).
“My scholarly and professional work has been focused on philanthropic, family, and community partnerships in closing the achievement gap,” Roy said. “This position at the Buffett Institute presents a wonderful opportunity for me to continue this important work.”
LISA MARIE STRAIGHT
Lisa Marie Straight has a master’s degree in Community Counseling and Psychology as well as two degrees in Early Childhood Education and Child Development. Lisa spent 27 years working as a public servant, supporting and uplifting Colorado communities. Lisa worked for the City and County of Denver for 13 years, directing and managing community-based programs that provided resources, services and education with a health equity lens, in the areas of behavioral health, HIV, food systems, childcare licensing, and residential health. Lisa also worked for Colorado Community Colleges for 16 years as an Early Childhood Educator.
As a single, minority mother - providing for her son, of course, was always her most significant goal. But now that he's about to launch, she was given the rare opportunity to take another look at how she wanted to make a living and live a more fulfilled life. During the COVID lockdowns, Lisa donated to a local maternity women's shelter in need of practically everything: clothing, leadership, education, job skills, and more. As she worked with this foundation and the women, she decided that she wanted to open her own business. A business that would elevate her autonomy and creativity, and a business that could serve as a vessel for her to give back to the community. This past spring Lisa made a true leap of faith and retired from her government job to open her own women’s boutique. The boutique will help to build financial freedom and future success, but she has a higher mission to support, educate and mentor minority women and single moms. Her boutique offers equal employment opportunities, on the job training and interview preparation, clothing donations, and fundraising events.
Lisa Marie lives in Wheat Ridge, Colorado with her 17 year old son, Ty, who is a senior in high school and aspiring to be in the world of car racing. Lisa Marie also has two gorgeous golden retrievers, Maui and Kona.
Niki Adams is the Executive Director of the Institute For Racial Equity and Excellence Community Based Licensing Team. She is also a Trainer at the Institute. Niki is deeply passionate about our nation’s youngest citizens. She is also dedicated to ensuring the best outcomes for direct caregivers, children, and their families. Early childhood education has allowed Niki to realize her passion, be innovative, and utilize her leadership skills to enhance the lives of young children and those who care for them. She has witnessed a transformation in the field of early care and learning in her role as advocate, director, teacher of young children, college instructor, Quality Rating Specialist, child care licensing specialist and supervisor, and in her current role. Niki actively partners with child care providers and the community to ensure that all children are thriving academically, socially, physically, and mentally. In her role as part-time instructor at Metropolitan State University of Denver, she enjoys connecting with students, joining them in their educational aspirations, and adapting course content to their needs. Niki’s goal is to meet programs’ highest needs and to mentor them in providing best practices for children. Niki is a Buell Early Childhood Leadership Alum. This program provided invaluable experiences that enhanced her ability to deeply engage and collaborate with community leaders to specifically prepare Niki for transformational leadership in early childhood. Niki takes great pride in her community involvement activities and has served as a board member of Restoration Christian Academy, as well as serving as a leader in Restoration Christian Fellowship Children’s Ministry. She has served on many early childhood task forces, presented at statewide conferences, and served as the keynote speaker at the Colorado Association for the Education of Young Children early childhood conference, the Alpha Kappa Alpha Senior Girls Scholarship Program, and the Northeast Family Child Care Association Conference. Niki completed her undergraduate degree at The University of New Mexico in Communication and Journalism and Spanish. Later she completed her Masters degree, in the Early Childhood Education Master’s program at the University of Colorado Denver.
DR. RIKESHA L. FRY BROWN
Dr. Rikesha L. Fry Brown is a psychologist, educator, administrator, speaker, facilitator, trainer, and author. An educator at heart, Dr. Fry Brown has served as a special education teacher for grades Pre-K, 2, 4, and 6-8 in Florida, Georgia, and the District of Columbia, ensuring educational equity for all children. She has been a Special Education Coordinator for a District of Columbia Charter School, serving as a Special Education Parent Liaison. She completed both her Pre-doctoral Internship and Post-Doctoral Fellowship with the Georgia Network for Educational and Therapeutic Support. She provided individual and group therapy, conducted psychoeducational evaluations, provided parent advocacy training, and led teacher training on working with students diagnosed with emotional and behavioral disorders, dismantling the school to prison pipeline, one child, one family, one school at a time.
A rising star in higher education, Dr. Rikesha currently serves as the director of the Freddye T. Davy Honors College at Hampton University. Prior to returning to Hampton, Dr. Fry Brown was an adjunct professor in the psychology departments of Clark Atlanta University and Spelman College. She is co-owner of the African American Honors Collective. She consults with businesses on engaging Scholars of Color, particularly from Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), as a means to racial equity in the workplace. As a practitioner, Dr. Rikesha is the co-founder and clinician of the Kindred Family Wellness Group, a counseling, consulting, and coaching practice in the Atlanta area, specializing in work with children, youth, young adults, and women to include experience working with families, couples, and parents.
A dynamic speaker, presenter, and trainer, Dr. Fry Brown has presented for groups, organizations, and religious institutions across the country, in South Africa and England. Dr. Rikesha Fry Brown’s primary research focuses on the psychological and social implications of mediated images for African American women. She has also written and presented the historical impact of racism on the perception of HBCU education, the path of Honors Education for scholars of color, and the importance and impact of self-care.
Dr. Fry Brown graduated cum laude from Hampton University, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology with an emphasis in Education. She earned a Master of Counselor Education degree with concentrations in both school guidance and mental health counseling from Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University. Dr. Fry Brown earned a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Counseling Psychology from Howard University.
Shantá Johnson’s passion for justice and people is the driving point of whatever venture she involves herself in. Holding a Master of Arts in Educational Administrative Leadership and Policy Studies and obtained her BA in psychology with a double minor in the Spanish language and Leadership Development at the University of Denver. She is passionate about equitable community development and policy change, while helping individuals use their voice, giftings and talents to overcome and affect change in systemic barriers. Shant’a currently serves as the Director of Family and Community Vitality for Maiker Housing Partners, the Housing Authority for Adams County where she directs community organizing of residents of affordable housing communities and works to create strong community partnerships to offer various services to community members. Prior to her current role, Shant’a served in the education sector from Early childhood to K-12 district support for close to 20 years. Her last position in education was as a regional district McKinney Vento liaison supporting students and their families who were experiencing homelessness. Shant’a is also a proud co-founder of The Village Consulting Group which seeks to support the community through authentic equity development within organizations. Shant’a also sits as Board President of Project I See You, an international women’s organization that started in La Victoria, Dominican Republic and now has expanded to projects in the US that support women in business and home ownership. Shant’a has focused much of her work with the Spanish-speaking population, prior to her current board seat, she served as Executive team member for the Denver Chapter of the Black Child Development Institute, which seeks to enhance the lives of Black families of young black children.
REVEREND TAWANA DAVIS
Reverend Tawana Davis is the daughter of the late Edward Eugene Davis Jr. and the late Rose Lee Davis. Born and raised in Harlem, New York she was educated in the public school system, raised in the African Methodist Episcopal Church, and began her life of service in the beautiful shadows of her mom and dad.
After attending St. John’s University, Tawana completed her last year of studies at State University of New York Empire State with a Bachelor of Science in Human Resources Management. Reverend Davis earned a certificate in Project Management from New York University and Human Resources (PHR) from Cornell University. Later, she received a Master of Divinity at Turner Theological Seminary at the Interdenominational Theological Center in Atlanta, GA and is currently attending Antioch University Graduate School in Leadership & Change pursuing her PhD with an anticipated graduation date of November 2021.
Reverend Davis is a Womanist, thought provoker, preacher, community leader; domestic violence survivor and awareness advocate; currently surviving HER2+ metastatic breast cancer; and is a Co-Founder of Soul 2 Soul Sisters, a Black Woman led, faith-based racial justice non-profit organization that centers Black lives and experiences. Established in 2015 Soul 2 Soul is leading and facilitating anti-racism work across the country. Tawana is a contributor to the ground-breaking academic textbook “Race Work and Leadership: New Perspectives on the Black Experience.” Reverend Davis serves on several boards including Vice President of Soul 2 Soul Sisters and President of the Stomp Out Breast Cancer Foundation. She hosts a podcast called #tuesdayswithtawna on Fb Live, various Podcast platforms, and YouTube. Tawana is featured as the moderator and strategic planner for the award-winning Healing the Healers II 4-part series on Domestic Violence Awareness produced by Odyssey Impact and Transform Films. Reverend Davis was featured on the national Get Out the Vote with Nuns on the Bus and is currently featured in Sojourner Magazine’s February issue. Tawana was featured on Dr. Matthew Knowles Impact Podcast on April 5, 2021 to discuss the Future of the Black Church.
Tawana is a proud mother of two educators, a grandmother, and most of all a Justice activist for all!
Andrene M. Taylor, Ph.D.
Andrene M. Taylor, Ph.D. is a scholar, writer, educator, producer, and visual storyteller. She specializes in Black culture, narratology, visual storytelling, and media production. Dr. Taylor has an unwavering commitment to racial equity and justice. She has a profound understanding of the role media and education can play in disrupting global systemic racial inequities. Whether it is in the classroom on a production set, Dr. Taylor focuses on racial inclusivity and diversity.
In 2012, Dr. Taylor founded Zuri Productions, a visual storytelling agency that turns complex issues into compelling content that demands action for corporations, communities, and causes. Zuri Productions executed media projects such as Ashoka to PBS to local government agencies.
Dr. Taylor leads the Kipaji Lab (the Lab). Funded by Mastercard Innovation Grant, the Kipaji Lab is a creative transformational learning personal and professional development program for Black creatives. Focused on creativity and the business of creating, the Lab’s training methodology produces permanent shifts in the way creatives think, act, and create so that they reach heighten levels of performance and breakthroughs in their creativity and creative enterprises.
Dr. Taylor earned her doctorate from Howard University. Her scholarly work focuses on intimate relationships, contemporary Black women’s literature at the intersections of race, gender, sexuality, and identity. At American University, Dr. Taylor taught Intercultural Communications, The Criminal Legal System: The Roots of Mass Incarceration, and African Americans in the Diaspora and she developed the Complex Problems course, Meaningful Connections: An Exploration of Intimate Relationships. Combining her academic and professional interests, Dr. Taylor’s current scholarly research focuses on literary adaptations of African American literary texts for the big and small screens.
Dr. Taylor a devoted member of Soka-Gakki International- USA and practitioner of Nichiren Buddhism. She believes everyone has the potential to achieve absolute happiness. Dr. Taylor is an avid runner, swimmer, and traveler.