Janice Underwood, PhD
Dr. Janice Underwood is Virginia’s first-ever Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. Governor Northam announced the creation of this senior-level position in May of 2019.
As the Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in the Commonwealth of Virginia, Dr. Underwood is working to develop a sustainable framework to promote inclusive practices across Virginia state government; implement a measurable, strategic plan to address systemic inequities in state government practices; and facilitate ways to turn feedback from state employees, external stakeholders, and community leaders into concrete equity policy.
Dr. Janice Underwood earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Hampton University in 1998 (B.A. Psychology) and 2002 (M.A. Learning and Behavior Disorders), respectively. In 2015, she earned her Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction from Old Dominion University (ODU), where her research focused on culturally relevant pedagogy.
Prior to her appointment, Dr. Underwood served as Old Dominion University’s Director of Diversity Initiatives and as the chair of the President’s Task Force on Inclusive Excellence. Dr. Underwood previously served as the Executive Director and Co-Principal Investigator for the ODU Teacher in Residence master’s program, a collaborative partnership between ODU, Norfolk Public Schools and Newport News Public schools. Dr. Underwood also served for a number of years as a national board-certified teacher for students with exceptionalities and has extensive expertise in the cultural contexts of our public education system.
In these roles, Dr. Underwood has worked to create inclusive work and learning environments, and has collaborated with outside groups—such as the Virginia Community College System, the Chesapeake Public Library, and more—on professional development related to racial and cultural diversity.
Terra Vance is a speaker, author, activist, and industrial and organizational (IO) psychology consultant specializing in diversity, multiculturalism, inclusion, and poverty dynamics. Feeling discouraged with the social injustices and endemic biases that impeded progress for her students, Terra left her tenure in education as a 13-year public school English teacher and obtained a Master of Science in IO psychology in order to study and learn how to address those barriers at the systemic level. Now, she works as a consultant advising clients in the business, education, government, and non-profit sectors.
As an autistic person married to an autistic husband and parenting an autistic daughter, Terra uses her clinical knowledge, her experience working with neurodivergent individuals, her passion for social justice, and her lived experience to raise awareness, facilitate acceptance, and encourage equity for autistics and other marginalized populations. She founded TheAspergian.com, the world’s largest own-voice neurodiversity news source, and is in the process of establishing NeuroInclusive, a non-profit consulting agency to support industries and organizations to empower the full diversity of their workforce, clients, consumers, and communities.
James “Trae” Watkins, a Lynchburg, Virginia native, serves as Assistant Dean of Students and Coordinator of Equity and Inclusion at Virginia Episcopal School. In addition, he teaches psychology and serves as an assistant football coach. Trae graduated in 2012 with a B.A. in Psychology from Virginia Military Institute, where he also played football. After college, Trae worked as a Qualified Mental Health Professional in Richmond, assisting at-risk youth in achieving a healthy home and community environment through reducing adverse behaviors and strengthening child, parent and teacher relations. He actively worked with VES in 2018-19, speaking about diversity issues and working with minority students to provide support, empowerment, and awareness on a variety of topics involving race.
Rev. Daniel Harrison
Dan Harrison is the pastor of a contemplative community, the Church of the Covenant in Lynchburg, VA. He is a proud member of the Choctaw Nation. He holds an ABD in Applied Linguistics from the University of Nevada. He has held faculty positions at the University of Nevada and the University of Kuwait. In his spare time, he loves reading, writing, learning, and teaching. Also, singing and writing songs on his guitar. Most importantly, he absolutely cherishes every moment I have with my precious family.
Quan McLaurin has lived in Lynchburg, VA, since 2012. Since locating to Central VA, he has become involved in various community groups, including Many Voices – One Community, the Lynchburg Diversity Center, and founding support groups for local LGBTQ+ youth. He currently works in diversity, equity, and inclusion in higher education with a focus on student affairs.
In her free time, Liza aims to bring social justice to the forefront of every conversation and decision-making process. Food access, race relations, voter rights restoration, and LGBT rights are her main topics of activism. Liza’s career focuses on the food aspect of her activism. Her pre-graduate and master’s research centered around food security and the role that home-gardening and farming play in community-based food production. Liza also plays a vital role in Lynchburg’s Poverty to Progress initiative as the leader of the Food Disparity Committee, whose goal is to increase access to healthy and local food for low-income families.
When my child with a disability started public school, things did not go well. When I tried to find help, there was no one in the Lynchburg area to help me. Luckily, I found an amazing advocate in Roanoke. This advocate helped me help my child (he’s doing AMAZING now), and she is now my close friend and mentor.
After seeing the need for advocacy in Central Virginia, I started attending as many special education advocacy training as I could. I have participated in numerous classes, workshops, and symposiums provided by the VDOE, Parent Educational Advocacy Training Center (PEATC), Disability Law Center of Virginia, and Wrightslaw. I am a member of the Council of Parents, Attorneys and Advocates and sit on the Social Racial Equity Justice Committee. I am also a member of the newly-formed National Allies for Parents in Special Education. This organization’s mission is to ensure that underserved communities have access to quality access and improved student outcomes.
Locally, she is the owner of Minerva Special Education Consulting. Minerva provides parent training, direct advocacy support, and dispute resolution services to the Lynchburg area. I am also a member of the Lynchburg Chapter of Virginia Organizing and am very proud of the work we do in the community to promote equity in Lynchburg City Schools.
Tyler Milton is a white, cisgender, gay man based out of Lynchburg, Virginia. He is a member of the LGBTQ+ Allies Sunday School Class, and a founding member of the Refuge event. The refuge is a monthly, queer-led event that provides the local queer community an opportunity to seek God regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. Through his coming out journey, Tyler has gained a greater awareness of his own privilege and now seeks to leverage this privilege to elevate the voices of marginalized individuals. Tyler has a passion to see continual social and racial justice, especially for the queer youth of Lynchburg City.
Laura Henry-Stone, PhD
As a professor of environmental studies, Dr. Henry-Stone teaches about environmental sustainability and climate resilience. Dr. Henry-Stone is based in the Department of Environmental Sciences, Studies, and Sustainability at the University of Lynchburg and also serves as the University’s Director of Sustainability. In this capacity, she has been working with the City of Lynchburg over the last year on making plans for the removal of College Lake dam.
Vicente Gonzalez is a local organizer that focuses on issues of immigration, education, racial justice, and Queer rights. Born in Chile, he was brought to Lynchburg as a baby and grew up Undocumented until he was a sophomore at EC Glass High school. Vicente went to VCU, where he is heavily influenced by organizing around student issues, ethnic studies, queer liberation, reproductive justice, and immigration.
Ryan A. Bell
Ryan A. Bell, a native of California with deep roots in the Roanoke Valley. True to those Roanoke roots he is a graduate of William Ruffner Middle School and William Fleming High School.
Upon graduating high school Ryan attended Virginia Union University in Richmond, VA earning a bachelors in business, continuing his desire for learning he attended Virginia State University where he completed the necessary requirements to earn a master’s in education.
An educator by trade and community builder by passion. Ryan is a former public school teacher and currently works with Roanoke City Public Schools as the Coordinator of Family and Community Engagement.
True to his passion for people he’s also the CEO/President of, The Bell Effect, an independent consulting firm whose mission is to support individuals, communities, and organizations in their efforts to mobilize communities for meaningful impact, engage Black men and fathers in social change and empower Black fathers to parent in purpose.
In his spare time Ryan serves as the Founder/Chief Dad Officer of The Black Father Family, an organization designed to allow the broader public to experience, encourage and empower Black fatherhood.
Ryan is the a member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc., the father of two amazing children and the son of the most supportive parents in the world.
Julio Rodriguez, PhD
Julio Rodriguez earned his PhD in American Studies at Bowling Green State University and is currently an Associate Professor of American Culture in the Sociology Department at Randolph College. He has written and lectured extensively on the intersections of race, masculinity, and media in boxing, baseball, and bull riding.
He is currently working on a book-length project to analyze the mediated representation of notable athletes of color in order to assess the role their racialized masculinities play in dominant constructions of hegemonic masculinity.
Sports have always been central to his work and leisure. They instruct and inform his personal and professional search for a comprehensive understanding of the male gender. He surfs poorly and infrequently, but loves “the stoke” nonetheless.
Michelline Hall is a photographer, artist, advocate, and entrepreneur raised in Lynchburg Va. She received her BFA from Virginia Intermont College in 2006. Since that time, Michelline has been an art educator specializing in elementary art and digital photography for all ages and started her own photography business.
Passionate about art accessibility, she has developed programs to bring art to and art education to underserved communities. She has worked with various non-profits and served on the boards of Jubilee Family Development Center and Vector Space. She is an active member of the Junior League of Lynchburg and currently serves on the African American Advisory Committee of Poplar Forest and the Outreach subcommittee at the Academy Center of the Arts. She is the co-owner and Director of Marketing and Photography at Blackwater Branding, an agency founded by her and her husband, Jawansa Hall.
Her fine art photography has been exhibited at The Art Depot, The Academy Center of the Arts, Riverviews Artspace, and the Legacy Museum. She is the proud mother of her beautiful and bright daughter Keziah.
John Abell, PhD
John Abell holds the Carl Stern Chair of Economics at Randolph College in Lynchburg, Virginia. He received his Ph.D. degree from the University of Kentucky (1985).
His formal training was in the area of monetary economics. Early research analyzed the employment impacts of monetary and fiscal policies as they were distributed along racial and gender lines. His teaching and research have evolved over the years in the direction of food, sustainability, and local economics, taking him from the Guatemala highlands to the streets of Lynchburg, where he is focused on the lingering impacts of real-estate redlining of the 1930s.
Nakesha Renee Moore
Employed by VA Cooperative Extension, Nakesha spends her days providing comprehensive nutrition education to low-income clients. As a former co-facilitator for “Poverty to Progress”, now called “Bridges to Progress “she planned and hosted “Poverty Speaks, Lynchburg Listens” a city supported event as well as Lynchburg’s first ever SNAP challenge. Her video, “My Story, My Struggle”, has gone beyond Facebook to be used as a tool for empathy for many community organizations. Also, as a published author and poet, Nakesha uses her voice to bring attention to inequalities present in varying faucets of society.
Derrick P. Alridge, PhD
Derrick P. Alridge is Director of the Teachers in the Movement Project and a professor in the Social Foundations of Education program at the University of Virginia. His primary areas of scholarship are African American educational and intellectual history and the civil rights movement. He is the author of The Educational Thought of W.E.B. Du Bois: An Intellectual History, co-editor of Message in the Music: Hip Hop, History, and Pedagogy (with James B. Stewart and V.P. Franklin), and co-editor of The Black Intellectual Tradition in the United States in the Twentieth Century (in progress with Cornelius Bynum). Alridge’s scholarship has appeared in the History of Education Quarterly, The Journal of African American History, The Journal of Negro Education, Teachers College Record, Educational Researcher, and numerous other scholarly journals and volumes. Alridge is a former fellow of the National Endowment for the Humanities and former postdoctoral fellow of the National Academy of Education/Spencer Foundation.
Karin Warren, PhD
Karin Warren is Professor and Herzog Family Chair of Environmental Studies & Science at Randolph College. Her areas of research include community resilience and climate change, urban water quality, and quantitative environmental methods. She has served on the Landscape Ordinance and the Stormwater Ordinance committees for the City of Lynchburg, the City of Lynchburg’s Natural Resources Advisory Committee, and presently serves as the coordinator of the Lynchburg Regional Community Resilience Coalition. She is a member of the Executive Board of the Association for Environmental Studies and Science, and Secretary of the Board of Directors for the 500-Year Forest Foundation. She is co-chair of Randolph College’s Sustainability Council, a faculty adviser for the student environmental club, and campus liaison for the President’s Climate Commitments and Bee Campus. She also coordinates the “Little Scientists” event at the Central Virginia Science Festival at Randolph College.
Alexis Johnson, a doctoral student in Social Foundations of Education, is a native of South Carolina. She holds a BA in English from Francis Marion University and an MA in Pan-African Studies from the University of Louisville. Prior to arriving at UVA, she worked in higher education administration as a Writing Center Coordinator and an Advising Director. Her research interests are the historical experiences of African Americans in higher education, student activism, rural education, and the reciprocal relationship between social justice movements and education.
Joe Szakos was the founding executive director of Virginia Organizing from 1994-2017 and now serves as an Organizer. He was the founding coordinator of Kentuckians For The Commonwealth and has also done community organizing in Chicago and Hungary. Joe has a Masters degree from the University of Chicago School of Social Service Administration and is co-author, with his wife, Kristin Layng Szakos, of We Make Change: Community Organizers Talk About What They Do—and Why (Vanderbilt University Press, 2007). Joe and Kristin also edited Lessons From the Field: Organizing in Rural Communities (American Institute for Social Justice/Social Policy Magazine, 2008).
Danielle Wingfield-Smith, PhD
Danielle Wingfield-Smith is the Associate Director of the Teachers in the Movement Project. Additionally, she is a Postdoctoral Research Scholar in the Center for Race and Public Education in the South at the University of Virginia. She obtained her Ph.D. from the Curry School of Education, University of Virginia and her Juris Doctor from the University of Richmond School of Law in 2014. She graduated from the College of William & Mary with a B.A. in sociology and philosophy in 2011. Her primary areas of scholarship are legal history (education, civil rights, leadership, social movements) and education law and policy.
Bill Noel began working in media in the 1980s as an on-screen performer – a guitarist – performing for the camera, writing music for shows, and becoming increasingly interested in the inner workings of television.
This interest led to his becoming the first Master of Fine Arts graduate in Communications & Documentary Producing in the Meadows School of the Arts – Southern Methodist University, Dallas, Texas. His documentary “The American Acoustic Guitar” was awarded best documentary of 1994 by the National Alpha Epsilon Rho Electronic Media Honor Society.
Professor Noel has taught video production since 1991, guiding two institutions into the new era of digital media production. He has expertise in producing, filming, editing, animation, and multi-camera directing.
Kristan McCullum is a doctoral student in the Social Foundations of Education program at the University of Virginia under Dr. Derrick Alridge. Born and raised in Southeastern Kentucky, she earned her bachelor’s degree (2011) from the University of Kentucky and her master’s degree (2015) from Columbia University’s Teachers College. Prior to beginning her Ph.D., she spent five years working in education in the Mississippi Delta. Her research interests include Southern educational history and culture with a focus on the relationship between rural schools and their communities.
Rev. Paul Boothby
Rev. Paul Boothby is minister of First Unitarian Church of Lynchburg. He earned his Bachelor of Arts in Human Ecology from College of the Atlantic in 1988 and Master of Divinity from Starr King School for the Ministry in 1993.
He previously co-led a workshop with Latesha Thornhill at the 2017 RPSJ Conference on the history and dynamics of White Supremacy culture. He has led his own (mostly white) church through an ongoing discernment process to come to terms with how race has affected their lives and how “whiteness” has shaped their perceptions and behavior.
Hunter Holt is a doctoral student in Social Foundations of Education at the University of Virginia, working under Dr. Derrick Alridge. Hunter’s research interests include rural education in the South and connections between economic expansion, gentrification, and schooling. Before moving to Virginia, he worked as the Program Coordinator for the Mississippi Teacher Corps and taught high school science in West Point, Mississippi. He holds an MA in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Mississippi and a BA in English from the University of Alabama.