Dr. Christopher Lester is a motivational speaker, presenter, mediation conflict resolution specialist, and consultant on human development, multicultural organizational development, cross cultural competencies, oppression theory, diversity transformation and youth empowerment issues.
Dr. Lester’s lectures and workshops address important social issues related to race, gender, ability, class and religion. His research interests include looking at issues of equity in education, the roles of diversity and oppression in organizations and school settings, and the impact of race on educational outcomes.
Dr. Lester has traveled extensively throughout the United States and works with a variety of organizations and educational institutions on issues of personal and diversity transformation, cross cultural competencies, youth leadership and empowerment, multicultural organizational development and human development. Dr. Lester is the Director of the Office of Multi-ethnic Student Education, at the University of Maryland and President, CEO and founder of the National Educational Empowerment Summit, Inc. He has committed his life to helping others realize their fullest potential and recognize the ability to create empowering environments for all individuals.
Mr. Tunji Sawyer, MBA, is an award-winning critically-conscious educator and leader who is passionate educational equity, student success, and the advancement of anti-racism practices. As an Assistant Director in the Office of Multi-ethnic Student Education, Mr. Sawyer oversees OMSE’s outreach and communications programs, advising strategies, and community building/strategic partnerships in support of the office’s mission of recruitment, retention, and graduation for more than 13,000 underrepresented students. Mr. Sawyer also coordinates the OMSE Check-Up – a student executive coaching program intended to build capacity for identity development, cultural competence, and academic excellence.
Mr. Sawyer serves as the lead point person to provide strategic direction, planning, counsel and outreach for OMSE’s fundraising and development activities in support of diversity programs and services.
Mr. Sawyer brings more than 20 years of experience in diversity & inclusion, education, and communications experience to OMSE. An expert in intercultural communications, Mr. Sawyer’s research interests and teaching experience are focused on the role communication plays in building an inclusive culture in educational and community settings with a focus on the impact of language, narratives, and counter-narratives.
Mr. Sawyer has facilitated university-wide diversity workshops for students, staff and faculty addressing topics such as intersectionality, racial microaggressions and implicit bias, and delivered addresses and lectures on a wide range of subject matter including but not limited to student success and goal formation. Mr. Sawyer has served on numerous university committees including Latino Heritage Month, Asian American/Pacific Islander Heritage Month, CommUMDiversity Expo, Rise Above-isms Week.
For over a decade, he has served as the chairperson for the university’s largest diversity welcome event, the Unity Welcome as well as chairperson for the Academic Excellence Awards which recognizes over 4000 underrepresented students with a cumulative GPA of 3.5 or higher as well as members of the university community who have helped to advance inclusive excellence.
An exemplary role model and advocate for equality and social justice, Mr. Sawyer has advised and advocated for thousands of students with intersecting identities of race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender, religion, age, socioeconomic status and ability during the course of his career. He has acquired a number of community service awards and accolades for his work as a diversity practitioner. Among the most notable is the Office of Multicultural and Community Advocacy MVP Award for his outstanding personal and professional contributions to diversity and inclusion at the University of Maryland.
Mr. Sawyer has been a featured panelist for organizations such as the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) and the National Black Public Relations Society (NBPRS).
An IDI Qualified Administrator (QA), Mr. Sawyer holds a Masters of Business Administration (MBA) degree, is certified in Mental Health FirstAid and has received Rainbow Terrapin training at the University of Maryland. Additionally, Mr. Sawyer is pursuing a doctoral degree in Educational Leadership.
Miriam V. Osborne Elliott, Ph.D. has dedicated her professional life to the arena of higher education, student development, and community involvement. For more than 20 years Mrs. Osborne Elliott has been instrumental in conceptualizing and implementing programs and policies which have ultimately contributed to capacity building and systematization of operations. She holds two degrees from Howard University, a B.A. from the College of Arts and Science and an M.Ed from the Graduate School of Education. In 2004, she received her certificate in Management Development Program from Harvard University’s HIHE program. She completed her Ph.D. in Organization Leadership at Eastern University.
Ms. Osborne Elliott joined the University of Maryland College Park in October 2013. Prior to joining UMD, Ms. Osborne-Elliott worked at the University of the Virgin Islands and served as the Dean of Students, Project Director for the College Access Challenge Grant Program, Assistant Director for the Virgin Islands University Center for Excellence on Developmental Disabilities, and Counseling and Placement Center’s Supervisor in St. Croix, USVI. Her proven commitment to students and meticulous work ethic afforded her the opportunity to also serve the University as Acting Associate Chancellor during a period of institutional transition.
“Ms. MOE”, as she I affectionately referred to, is one of the founding chapter advisors for the St. Croix Chapter for the Golden Key International Honour Society. She has also served on several university committees and task forces. Some of these included the Self Study Committee for Student Services for Accreditation, the Early Admission Committee and Personnel Review Committee, chair of the University’s Scholarship Committee, chair of the Who’s Who Among Students in American Colleges and Universities and as Co-Chair for the Student Services Subcommittee for Student Retention Task Force. She was elected as the administrative staff representative to the Staff Council and the served as the staff representative to the 2008 Presidential search committee. She also started the first Peer Counselors Training Program on St. Croix and developed the framework for the first Learning Assistant Program on the St. Croix Campus. She has also served her community as a board member and member of several organizations such as the League of Women Voters.
Prior to her recruitment to UVI, she was employed at Howard University where she had the distinct pleasure of working her way up through the ranks in the Division of Student Affairs from Resident Assistant, to hold the position of Residence Director. During her graduate years she expanded her work experiences at George Washington University’s Multicultural Student Service Center.
Miriam Elliott has been married to her thoughtful and caring husband, Lefty O. Elliott for 17 years. Together they have one gorgeous and precocious daughter, Eladia Marie Elliott. One of her favorite mottos in life is “If to thine own self thou art true, then to another thou canst never be false.” She also loves to sing, read and laugh out loud.
Dustin Chin is the Business Services Specialist at OMSE. He has a Bachelor of Science in Finance from the University of Maryland. During his undergraduate studies, he combined his interests in economic development and sustainability in business as a Smith Research Fellow. He has professional experience working in investment management responsible for portfolio analysis, accounting and trading systems, and environmental, social and governance research. He is pursuing a Master of Professional Studies in Clinical Psychological Science at the University of Maryland. In his free time you can find him playing sports, volunteering with high school students, and gathering outdoor enthusiasts for backpacking trips.
Rachel Downs is the Administrative Assistant to the Director for the Office of Multi-Ethnic Student Education (OMSE).
Ms. Downs has over 17 years of experience in IT Security at the Department of the Interior (DOI) where she worked with the Chief Information Officer to meet requirements of the Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA). Prior to working at the Interior, Ms. Downs worked on the Privacy and Security Program for the Health Resources and Services Agency at the Department of Health & Human Services.
Rachel is a first-generation, US born Afro-Latina with roots in Central America. Beyond her federal career, she is an experienced event planner with a passion for creating memorable occasions. During her down time, she focuses on personal growth and her love for music, travel, and cooking.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org or 301-405-5615
Harita Patel is serving as coordinator for the Office for Multi-ethnic Student Education (OMSE). She is currently leading the OMSE team to complete their End-of-Year assessment project, and lending support to senior staff in program development. Harita has over 8 years of experience in student development, teaching, and academia at the post-secondary level. She has worked in a variety of positions in higher education including with undergraduate advising, instruction, and administration. She is passionate about supporting underserved populations and facilitating dialogue between students and administration to foster diverse and inclusive educational environments for today’s students.
She has completed two graduate degrees in Political Science from the University of Cincinnati and the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and is currently ABD. Her graduate research is on critical approaches to international development and research methodologies, emphasizing interdisciplinarity. She has prior publications on the subjects of identity-based conflict resolution and theories of democratization. When she is not working at OMSE, Harita is an artist that specializes in large-scale watercolor paintings which focus on themes in nature and the reconceptualizing the meaning of ‘failure.’ She has traveled extensively throughout the world and loves spending time in nature.
Contact: email@example.com or 301-405-5358
Vivian Zohery is a graduate assistant for Sister to Sister, and a doctoral student in Science Education, in the Department of Teaching, Learning, Policy, and Leadership. A triple-terp, she obtained her Masters in the same field (2020), and studied Neurobiology and Astronomy as an undergraduate (2017). She is a STEM advocate, finding her passion in recruiting and retaining women in STEM fields and scholarship. In her spare time, she volunteers at the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum in their Astronomy Education program, where she gets to share her love of telescopes at the Phoebe Waterman Haas Public Observatory. Her research interests include studying the neurocognitive & affective factors enabling scientific thinking and reasoning in students, astronomy & biology science education research, and factors influencing Muslim women involvements in STEM fields.
Nichelle Rahming-Williams is a graduate assistant for Sister to Sister. She is currently a graduate student, pursuing a dual master’s degree in Architecture and Community Planning. As an alumnus of the school, she obtained her Bachelors of Science in Architecture in 2018.
Maoqing Wang is a first-year Ph.D. student in the International Education Policy program. She currently works as a Graduate Assistant for the Tutoring Program in the Office of Multi-Ethnic Student Education. She received her M.Ed. in International Education Policy and Management from Vanderbilt University and her B.A. in History Education from Capital Normal University in Beijing, China. Maoqing is graduate assistant for the Tutoring program.
Zam Mozumder is a Graduate Assistant for the OMSE Tutorial program pursuing an M.S. degree in Information Systems at UMD Smith School of Business. He was selected as a Plus 1 Smith Scholar, which allowed him to combine his Bachelor’s and Master’s degree. His future goal is to be a Project manager for a tech company and also work for non-profits to empower and educate students from underrepresented ethnic backgrounds.
Zam found the value of education from a very young age. Throughout the years, he has been putting a lot of effort into empowering high school students with resources and tutoring services. For this initiative, he founded UnitedTutoring, a non-profit tutoring center for low-income immigrant students in Brooklyn, New York. Zam’s goal is to help students reach their full potential, as well as to motivate students to pursue further education!
Prior to her MBA/MS dual degree, Urshilah Senthilnathan has been part of management consulting at Deloitte for 6 years enabling several global transformational engagements in the life sciences industry by leveraging cloud-based automation technology. She has demonstrated a history of quickly ascending steep learning curves to create high impact in challenging roles. She is skilled in facilitating cross-functional collaboration, problem-solving, and driving decision-making among leadership. She has strong critical analysis and communication skills which are bolstered by her MBA and Master’s degree focused on Business Analytics.
Tania Martinez-Equizabal is a graduate student at the University of Maryland pursuing a M.A in Speech-Language Pathology. She currently works as a Graduate Assistant for La Familia in the Office of Multi-Ethnic Student Education. Tania graduated from the University of Maryland in May 2021 with a B.A in Hearing and Speech Sciences. She has participated in La Familia since her freshman year, and served on the executive board as President.
Saul Flores is an incoming Biochemistry Ph.D student and has just graduated with a B.S. in Biochemistry and Biological Sciences (Neurophysiology) in the spring of 2022. Saul is excited to serve as a Graduate Assistant for La Familia after serving as a La Familia mentee, mentor, treasurer, and president.
Mia Lemus is a Graduate Assistant for Sister to Sister and a first year Master’s student in the Marriage & Family Therapy Program. She is a therapist-intern at the Center for Healthy Families. She also works as a Couples Expert Facilitator for the TOGETHER program. Mia graduated from Rhode Island College with a B.A. in Psychology and B.S. in Chemical Dependency Addiction Studies in 2021. She has facilitated social skills groups for adolescents with developmental needs at Bradley Hospital in Rhode Island. She looks forward to working with young adults and supporting them in achieving their goals. Mia enjoys reading, road trips and cooking Italian recipes.
Nhaya Vaidya is a Graduate Assistant for the OAES Honor Society and is pursing a M.A. in International Relations as part of the 4+1 program. She graduated from UMD with a B.A. in Government and Politics International Relations and a B.A. in Journalism with a minor in German Studies. She has participated in OAES since her Sophomore year and has served on the executive board as President and VP of Academic Affairs.
Jordan Purcell is a first year graduate student studying Marketing Analytics at the Robert H. Smith Business School. He received his undergraduate degree in Marketing from Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia, PA. Originally from New Jersey, he grew up in Carlisle, Pennsylvania where he graduated high school in 2016. Jordan is an extrovert, very inviting, and engaging. He loves talking to people and exchanging thoughts and ideas. He is an athlete, so outside of work you’ll probably catch him at the gym playing basketball, playing a club sport, or in the weight room. If you see Jordan in the office or walking around campus, be sure to say Hi!
Emmanuel Wanjala is a PhD student in the International Education Policy program at the University of Maryland, College Park. He holds an M.A. in Higher Education, Student Affairs and International Education Policy (HESI) from the University of Maryland College and a Bachelor of Arts in Education majoring in Linguistics and Literature with a minor in International Studies from the University of Nairobi. He is a former Fulbright Foreign Language Teaching Assistant (FLTA) at the University of Pittsburgh. His research interests include internationalization of higher education, youth empowerment, sustainability and international development.
Jovany Joya is a program coordinator for the College Success Scholars Program.
Maxwell Morris is a Graduate Assistant for the College Success Scholars program. He is a first year graduate student pursuing a Master's degree in Human-Computer Interaction in the iSchool. Prior to his graduate studies, he earned a Bachelor's degree in Information Science and a minor in Japanese. He also served as a Team Leader and Program Coordinator for the CSS program.
Maxwell loves computers and technology, and upon completion of his Master's program he aspires to pursue a career in UX/UI design.