I am Aysa Gray, the new Fellowship Coordinator for Center for Ethnic, Racial and Religious Understanding (CERRU). I’m very excited to be working with the organization, fellows and the campus at large. I am responsible for running our two fellowship programs here at Queens College, as well as overseeing the CERRU fellowship on other campuses. I work closely with John Vogelsang, the Director of the Dialogue Program, in order to create and run workshops that are both centered in dialogue methods and are responsive to the needs of the student body.
Prior to my role at CERRU, I worked at Success Academy Charter Schools, where I made it a priority to promote cultural and human rights literacy through my curriculum. I received my masters in International Development, Education and Gender from University College, London. Also, I received a masters in Education from Touro College and a Bachelors in Cultural Anthropology from the University of Florida. Additionally, I volunteered with the United States Peace Cops in Zambia, Africa helping to prepare students to enter college and provide financial support for women’s groups. Working in Zambia was a transformative experience that helped me to foster a consciousness around the necessity for universal human rights. My Peace Corps experience is fundamental to me pursuing work that is rooted in advancing the human rights of all people. Aside from my academic pursuits, I enjoy cycling and listening to music and can be regularly found around campus exploring both loves. Additionally, I really enjoy speaking about cultural literacy, the african diaspora, intersectionality and Beyonce.
Feel free to stop by and discuss any and all of these things.
Sophia McGee, Director of CERRU
Sophia McGee holds a Master’s Degree in International Affairs from the Graduate Program in International Affairs at the New School University. Her concentration was Conflict and Security, and her regional area of specialization was the Middle East, with a focus on the Israeli/Palestinian Conflict. While at the New School, Sophia developed an interest in experiential pedagogy; particularly the development and use of classroom simulations. In her current position at Queens College, she has co- written four original simulations for students in the “America and the Middle East: Clash of Civilizations or Meeting of Minds” series of courses, which she originally co-taught with Professor Mark Rosenblum and currently teaches through the history department.
Ms. McGee has lectured and presented both on current affairs involving Israel, the United States, and the Palestinian Territories, as well as the use of innovative pedagogy to teach the Israeli/Palestinian Conflict. Most recently, she co-taught one of the “America and the Middle East” simulations at Hampshire College. She also served as a Simulation Coach/Consultant alongside experts Ahmad Khalidi and Yossi Alpher to students of the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva, Switzerland. Other lectures and presentation venues include the New School University, The Montreal Dialogue Group, Columbia University Teacher’s College, Queens College, the Suffolk YWHA, and The Central YWHA of Queens. Sophia is a member of the International Society for Political Psychology, as well as Queens College’s Experiential Education Working Group. She is also the Artistic Director of the Kupferberg Center for the Performing Arts’ “First Acts” Initiative.
Ms. McGee received her Undergraduate Degree from Carnegie Mellon University, where she studied at the College of Fine Arts. In her first career, Sophia was an actress, singer and dancer who appeared on and off Broadway, regionally and internationally, and in films and commercials.
Denise Pagano has been a staff member at Queens College since 1990, and became a full time employee in 1993. She worked with several different departments, and also in the Office of the Provost, until landing in her “niche” at the Michael Harrington Center in 1995. In 2013, she added to her MHC duties by joining the staff of CERRU as an administrative assistant. Denise is currently the Events Coordinator for CERRU and handles everything from bookings to catering to scheduling; she is the person who makes sure that everything runs smoothly at the CERRU offices.
Yael Rosenstock graduated summa cum laude from SUNY Geneseo in May 2012. Yael was a double major in Comparative Literature and Spanish with a minor in Women’s Studies and a member of Phi Beta Kappa. She began her career as a Teen Reproductive Rights Health Peer Counselor and as an assistant in the Queens Child Advocacy Center working with physically and sexually abused children.
Yael joined the CERRU team in November 2013 as the Program Coordinator and transitioned into the role of Director of Programming in January 2015 and Associate Director July 2017. She came up with systems that transformed the logistics of how CERRU does programming and made us more efficient, allowing for further and deeper reach on campus and in the community. Additionally, Yael took over the Lunchtime 2.0 program, oversees all of CERRU’s programming, is the staff advisor of the Queens College club grrrlz, and has recently begun facilitating a Youth Participatory Action Research (Y-PAR) group with local high school students on education justice and inequity.
Yael completed her MA at the CUNY Graduate Center in Psychology and Public Health. She hopes to later pursue a PhD or DrPH in Public Health. Her research interests include mental, reproductive, and sexual health with a specific focus on sex workers as well as victims of sexual exploitation.
John D. Vogelsang, PhD, has been working for over thirty-eight years in the areas of conflict transformation, board development, strategic planning, organizational transitions and restructuring, participatory evaluation, and small and large group dialogue and deliberation facilitation. He serves as a coach for executive directors, senior management teams, and boards, and he has facilitated numerous board and staff retreats and executive director peer learning groups. His clients have included foundations, human service agencies, mental health agencies, community health centers, universities, professional associations, religious judicatories, arts organizations, and advocacy organizations. He is the Director of the Michael Harrington Center for Democratic Values and Social Change and the coordinator of the facilitator training and dialogue processes for the Queens College/CUNY Center for Ethnic, Racial, and Religious Understanding. For two years, he was a visiting professor of nonprofit and NGO management and organizational conflict at the School for International Training Graduate Institute. For fourteen years he was the associate director of the Support Center for Nonprofit Management. He has published many articles on organization development, conflict transformation, and leadership issues. He is the co-editor of Handbook for Strategic HR: Best Practices in Organization Development from the OD Network. He is the Editor in Chief of the OD Practitioner, the quarterly journal of the Organization Development Network. He is also the recipient of the 2013 Larry Porter Award for his contributions to the field of Organization Development.
Aliya Baksh, Communications Intern
My name is Aliyah Baksh and I am a freshman at Queens College. I am currently working towards two majors: Elementary Education and Psychology. I am a student intern at the Center for Ethnic, Racial, and Religious Understanding. I am responsible for CERRU’s website and weekly emails. I also flier, and table occasionally. I love working with my wonderful supervisors and colleagues. CERRU has inspired me to step out of my comfort zone on more than one occasion and I am so grateful for that. Learning to work alongside a diverse and dynamic set of people has helped me become more confident in myself, my own differences and my own skills.
Carmine Couloute, Communications and Campus Outreach Coordinator
Carmine Couloute is a rising senior majoring in Political Science, Sociology and Economics with a minor in BALA. Carmine is currently the Campus Outreach Coordinator for The Center of Ethnic, Racial, and Religious Understanding, where she promotes CERRU events to different organizations on campus to help build rapport and collaboration between Clubs and CERRU. She has been working with CERRU since 2015. She has interned with state senator Leroy Comrie, and served as the campaign field organizer for Councilman I. Daneek Miller. In addition, she is the student manager of Queens College’s women’s basketball team, a Mellon Mays Fellow, the Vice President of SEEK Generation’18, a former CERRU Social Change fellow, serves on the committee of diversity at Queens College, and is currently the academic chair for student government.
Saichai Hu, Graphic Designer
My name is Saichai Hu. I am working as a graphic designer at The Center for Ethnic, Racial, and Religious Understanding at Queens College. I am currently a senior at Queens College, working toward a bachelor’s degree in Design. I enjoy expressing my creativity through Design. My dream is to be able to use my work to influence and lead people. As a part-time graphic designer, I work on flyer design, infographics design, and other print design, which helps me to develop as a more professional designer and also leads more people to attend CERRU’s events. Additionally, I jump out of my comfort zone and speak to students on campus to spread the words of upcoming events. I love my CERRU family. This is the place where my co-workers motivate me to become a better me.
Sharon Jackson, Researcher
Intuition, or some other force maybe, has been pointing me in a certain direction for a long time. Since I was 16, I felt strongly that the role in life I needed to play would be one in which I helped people see past their prejudices, to see the “other” as human. I was raised half in the world of Jewish Orthodoxy and half out, kept the religious traditions but still went to public school, and standing in both worlds led me to both value my Jewish identity and value the bonds I share with many of my friends who are Muslim – whom many would’ve labeled my “natural enemies.”
In chasing this dream of breaking down prejudices, I did my bachelor’s in political science, then my master’s in sociology, with a focus on qualitative data. When I graduated, CERRU snatched me up. Since then, I have used my love of qualitative data to interview several of our past fellows as part of an assessment of our program, and analyzed interview data as part of QC Sexploration’s assessment of what QC campus has or lacks in terms of sex and sexual health programming. I also keep track of our event attendees and put together CERRU’s newsletter.
I feel that CERRU’s purpose and my purpose in life line up perfectly, and I am humbled that my life path has led me to CERRU, that I can contribute to its mission in any way, big or small.
T’yana, Campus Outreach Intern
Peace and Love All,
My name is T’yana but, as a passionate poet I go by the name of Wisdom Speakz. I’m currently a junior majoring in English and next semester I will be applying for Secondary Education. Since I’ve transferred to Queens College, I have been blessed to perform at a couple of poetry events for Queen’s Poetic Alchemy Collective, the Comparative Literature Department and the Black Student Union! Through these experiences I came across one of CERRU’s events and I was so inspired! I had to find a way to be apart of such a diverse and necessary group of beings, who share a part of their world to help make a better version of the world in which we all reside! Through my words of wisdom, empathetic frequencies, and vision for change, I aspire to grow along with CERRU. With being a part of this beautiful team as a Campus Outreach Intern, I’m responsible for flyering, tabling, using our social media platforms to promote our miraculous events and programs, as well as connecting with clubs and different groups to develop opportunities and diverse opinions for collaboration! Hope to see you at one of our events!
Kris Casey is a writer and thinker living in Alexandria, VA. She holds a BA from the University of Louisville in International Relations and Cultures with a minor in History. In July she will graduate with her MFA in Creative Writing from the Solstice MFA Creative Writing Program of Pine Manor College. Kris is currently working on her debut novel in which her protagonist must reconcile her queer and southern identities. Kris writes because stories bring us closer to understanding ourselves and each other.
Marina Bardash Nebro
As a Queens College and CERRU alumna, it is important for me to maintain a relationship and connection to the community to which I belonged for over four years. I enjoy helping out in whatever way I can, whether it be brainstorming new ideas for programs, helping to write grants for funding, or updating and maintaining the website!