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Toward Racial Equity at Penn State: Social Difference, Social Equity and Social Change

What will be the new normal? A conversation with Penn State students, faculty and staff of color

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We welcome James Howsare & Rachel Mackrell as the ASL interpreters.



James Franklin, a 25-year football coaching veteran, was appointed Penn State’s 16th head football coach on January 11, 2014 and enters his 10th season as a collegiate head football coach. Franklin’s career head coaching record is 80-38 and he is one of only four current FBS coaches to lead his team to a bowl game in each of his first nine seasons as a head coach. Franklin attributes his success on the field to the strength of his teams’ dedication to four core values: positive attitude, great work ethic, compete in everything you do and must be willing to sacrifice.

Under Franklin’s direction, Penn State has finished in the top 12 in the final College Football Playoff rankings four consecutive seasons, earned berths in three New Year’s Six bowl games, with two wins, and won the 2016 Big Ten Championship. Franklin has guided the Nittany Lions to an 86 percent graduation success rate, a perfect single-year 1,000 APR for the 2018-19 school year and record-breaking performances in the classroom.

Jennifer Hamer has a Ph.D. in Sociology from the University of Texas-Austin with an accomplished career as an administrator and faculty member. Her academic scholarship and teaching focus on working class and African American families, equity, qualitative methodologies, and higher education. She has served as editor for three journals, Race and Society; Black Women, Gender, and Families; and Women, Gender, and Families of Color, the latter two of which she founded.

She has comprehensive administrative experience in program and curricular creation and assessment; faculty, staff, and student resource development; strategic planning, policy creation and implementation; and mentoring faculty. She served as a department head and associate dean at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and the University of Kansas, and a vice provost at the University of Kansas and specializes in access, equity, and inclusion for students, faculty, and staff.

She is currently a full professor in African American Studies, Senior Faculty Mentor in Educational Equity, Penn State, and the Director of the newly launch Mid-career Faculty Advancement Program.

Carmen Hernandez is a senior at Penn State University, Berks campus. She is a major in Communication Arts and Sciences with a minor in Spanish.

Carmen is a member of the Aspire Program and is also a former member of the Chi Alpha Epsilon Honor Society and Sigma Delta Pi Honor Society, Carmen is from Reading, PA and plans to continue her professional career in Human Resources following graduation.

Nyla Holland is a 4th year student at Penn State University Park. She is majoring in Political Science and African American Studies. She is also a first-year graduate student in Penn State’s School of Public Policy.

Nyla is the President of the Penn State Black Caucus, the Public Relations Director of the MLK Commemoration Student Committee, and co-chair of the Student Code of Conduct Task Force. She also works as an environmental justice intern at the Sustainability Institute. Nyla is from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and plans to work on creating and evaluating public policies in local government.

Carlos Norman Jr. is a senior at Penn State University Park. He is majoring in Industrial Engineering.

Carlos is a member of BLUEprint and a Program Assistant for the First Year in Science and Engineering Special-Living-Option at Penn State. He is also a member of the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers and the National Society for Black Engineers. Carlos is from Aliquippa, PA and plans to work for Goldman Sachs as an Operations Analyst following graduation.

Tracy Peterson is a citizen of the Diné (Navajo) Nation, of the Zuni Clan of the Edgewater People Clan, born for the Bitter Water People Clan. His paternal grandfather’s clan is the Towering House People, and his maternal grandfather’s clan is the Big Water People.

Dividing his undergraduate education between the University of Iowa and the University of New Mexico, Tracy graduated with both his bachelor and masters’ degrees from the University of Iowa.

Tracy serves as the director of student transitions and pre-college programs, center for engineering outreach and inclusion, in the college of engineering at Penn State. He is responsible for coordinating the leadership initiatives, academic support, and transition programs for change of campus students across the commonwealth, veterans, and other adult learners entering the college of engineering. He is also responsible for the youth program policies for the college, collaboration with campus partners for engineering pre-college programs, and the development and operation of academic and co-curricular programs geared towards pre-college students that will enhance college readiness, foster inclusion, and increase the success of underrepresented students in STEM.

José Soto is an Associate Professor in the Clinical Psychology Program at Pennsylvania State. He has been a fierce advocate for diversity, social justice and inclusion through his teaching, service, and research, all of which focus on developing and advancing knowledge that is informed by diversity.

His research, in particular, examines the intersections of culture, health, and emotion, with an emphasis on the study of ethnic minority culture and those experiences associated with ethnic minority status (e.g., discrimination, oppression). He is the 2012 recipient of the Charles and Shirley Thomas Award from division 45 for his “contributions to the education and training of students of color as well as his professional presence within ethnic minority communities” and is the recipient of Penn State’s 2014 James Robinson Equal Opportunity Award for commitment and leadership around issues of diversity.

Dr. Alina Wong serves as the Assistant Vice Provost for Educational Equity at Penn State. In this role, Wong oversees the Educational Equity Scholars Programs, Report Bias, and serves as liaison to Penn State’s Commonwealth Campuses and the Office of University Development. Additionally, Wong serves on several institutional committees, including the Administrative Council on University Funded Scholarships and the Martin Luther King, Jr. Commemoration Planning Committee.

Wong provides leadership for scholarships administered through the Office of Educational Equity, academic support programs, training curricula, bias response, and fundraising and development activities. To address student and University needs related to equity and inclusion, Wong collaborates with colleagues across Penn State, supporting student recruitment, orientation, retention, and graduate study preparation, as well as academic, personal, and leadership development.

Brandon is M&A Director at Round Hill Capital, where he leads inorganic growth strategies for the firm and manages corporate-level debt and equity financings. Mr. Short also manages Round Hill Capital’s relationships with its Middle East capital partners. Brandon has over 11 years of experience in real estate investment banking and investment management. Before joining Round Hill, Brandon was a member of the Cerberus European real estate investment team. Before joining Cerberus, he worked at Goldman Sachs as a real estate investment banker based both in New York and Dubai. Mr. Short currently serves as a member of the Board of Trustees for the Pennsylvania State University – where Brandon serves as a member of the University Finance Committee, Audit & Risk Committee, and is Chairman of Penn State’s Taskforce on Racism.

Before his career in finance, Mr. Short had a 7-year career in the National Football League as an American football player: 2 years with the Carolina Panthers and 5 years with the New York Giants, from 2000 to 2007.

Brandon holds a Bachelor’s of Science in Marketing from Pennsylvania State University and received an MBA from Columbia Business School.

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