Eastern Michigan University President James Smith announces inaugural members of President's Commission on Diversity and Inclusion

President James Smith
President James Smith


Ypsilanti -  Eastern Michigan University President James Smith today announced the inaugural members of the new President’s Commission on Diversity and Inclusion. The formation of the Commission was initially announced at the University’s Board of Regents meeting on November 1.

In announcing the inaugural members of the new 14-member Commission, President Smith said, “College campuses across the country are grappling with unique challenges in an increasingly diverse but divided society, and these challenges are not unique to Eastern Michigan University. Looking back, diversity and inclusion is part of Eastern's heritage. Looking forward, these values are at the core of our mission, vision, values, and strategic plan.”

President Smith added, “Recent acts of hateful vandalism on our campus strengthen our resolve to ensure that Eastern is a welcoming and inclusive campus for all people regardless of race, ethnic or national origin, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability.”

The new Commission's charge is to, among other priorities, provide recommendations to undertake systematic campus climate studies, including a study on the campus racial climate, and provide input and make specific recommendations to the President and campus community about the campus climate and how to provide a more inclusive culture. 

President Smith added that he was grateful to the many qualified individuals who applied or nominated someone to the Commission, and that the response was overwhelming. He said in selecting the inaugural members of the Commission, he sought to include a broad cross-section of the campus community. 

The chair and vice chair are as follows:

Professor Ronald Woods
Professor Ron Woods


Ronald Woods, Professor of Africology and African American Studies, will chair the Commission. Professor Woods' distinguished career at Eastern spans decades. He served as first Head of the African American Studies Department at Eastern, is a consultant to the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History in Detroit, and received the University's Martin Luther King, Jr., Humanitarian Award. Professor Woods earned his bachelor's degree from Wittenberg University, and master's and law degrees from the University of Michigan.

Devika Dibya ChoudhuriAssociate Professor of Leadership and Counseling, will serve as vice chair. Dr. Choudhuri is a licensed professional counselor and frequent presenter on cultural competence, diversity, and ethics issues. She earned her bachelor's degree from Smith College, master's degree from the University of Vermont, and Ph.D. and Certificate of Advanced Studies in Women's Studies from Syracuse University.

Additional inaugural members of the Commission include:

Sharon Abraham has served as Eastern's Director of Diversity and Affirmative Action since 2006. She has a long record of expertise in developing and managing diversity and cultural bias awareness programs. Ms. Abraham earned a bachelor's degree and M.B.A. from the University of Michigan.

Jessica "Decky" Alexander is Director of Engage @ EMU, Director of EMU Academic-Service Learning, Professor of Applied Drama, and a faculty associate in Jewish Studies. She is deeply engaged in the community and received the University's Martin Luther King, Jr. Humanitarian Award and the ACLU Washtenaw County Civil Liberties Champion Award. She earned a bachelor's degree from Lawrence University and master of fine arts degree from Eastern.

Adam Baraka is a junior undergraduate Honors College student studying biochemistry. He is President of the International Student Association, a member of the Student Leader Group, and is a Friday prayer coordinator for Muslim students on campus.

Candace Dorsey is the Crime Prevention Officer for the EMU Police Department where she works directly with students and employees. Officer Dorsey began her law enforcement career thirty years ago with the Detroit Police Department and joined the EMU Police Department 23 years ago. She is currently the adviser to the You Beautiful Black Woman student organization. Officer Dorsey earned bachelor's and master's degrees from Eastern. She also serves as a part-time lecturer at Eastern. 

Melissa "Skeeter" Gentile is the head coach of the EMU softball team. Prior to joining Eastern, she held coaching positions at Jacksonville State University and Central Michigan University, and owned her own business. Ms. Gentile earned a bachelor's degree from the University of Michigan and master's degree from Central Michigan University.

LaMarcus Howard is the Associate Director of the Disability Resource Center, and previously served as Coordinator of Academic Success and Support Services at the Holman Success Center and as an Academic Adviser in the Parker Advising Center. Mr. Howard earned bachelor's and master's degrees from Central Michigan University, where he served as a graduate assistant in Multicultural Academic Student Services, and is pursuing a Ph.D. in educational leadership from Eastern. 

Christine "Kate" Mehuron is Associate Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, Professor of Philosophy, and incoming Chair of the President's Women's Commission. She has a distinguished career at Eastern that includes serving as Director of the Women's and Gender Studies Program and Head of the History and Philosophy Department. She earned a bachelor's degree from Santa Fe University of Art & Design, master's degrees from the University of Denver and University of Memphis, and a Ph.D. from Vanderbilt University.

Amber Morseau earned a bachelor’s degree from Eastern in April. While an undergraduate student, she served four years as president of the Native American Student Organization, and she continues to work closely with tribal government leaders. Ms. Morseau is pursuing a master’s degree in higher education at Eastern, and is a Graduate Assistant in the Diversity and Community Involvement Office.

Greg Peoples, the community representative, completed a long and distinguished career at Eastern before retiring in 2013. He served most recently as University Ombudsman, and previously served as Dean of Students. Mr. Peoples is a member of the Washtenaw Intermediate School District Board of Trustees and the Ypsilanti Area Community Foundation Board of Directors. He earned a bachelor's degree from Allegheny College and master's degree from Kent State University.

Eric Reed is the EMU Opportunity program coordinator and president of the EMU Black Faculty and Staff Association. He earned bachelor's and master's degrees from Central Michigan University, and is pursuing a Ph.D. in educational leadership at Eastern.

Desmine Robinson is an undergraduate student pursuing a degree in psychology. He has served as a New Student Orientation Assistant and Peer Educator at Eastern, and organized a recent unity rally on campus.

Michael Tew is a Professor of Communication and Interim Director of Undergraduate Studies. His teaching and research interests include Queer Studies and LGBT equality issues, and he previously served as the inaugural Director of EMU's Equality Research Center. Dr. Tew earned a bachelor's degree from Central Michigan University, master's degree from Eastern, and Ph.D. from Wayne State University.

"I would like to thank all of the inaugural members of the Commission for agreeing to bring their expertise to this most important effort," said Smith. "I particularly want to acknowledge Professor Woods and Associate Professor Choudhuri for leading the Commission. Their credentials and commitment to Eastern Michigan University and to the issues we seek to address are exceptional."

President Smith indicated that the Commission is not a short-term project, “Ensuring an inclusive community that regularly welcomes and values individuals of all backgrounds is an ongoing goal that will always deserve attention.”

About Eastern Michigan University

Founded in 1849, Eastern is the second oldest university in Michigan. It currently serves 22,000 students pursuing undergraduate, graduate, specialist, doctoral and certificate degrees in the arts, sciences and professions. In all, more than 300 majors, minors and concentrations are delivered through the University's Colleges of Arts and Sciences; Business; Education; Health and Human Services; Technology, and its graduate school. EMU is regularly recognized by national publications for its excellence, diversity, and commitment to applied education. For more information about Eastern Michigan University, visit the University's website.

December 14, 2016

Written by:
Geoff Larcom

Media Contact:
Geoff Larcom