Dr. Assata Zerai confirmed as plenary speaker at Denver conference

Dr. Assata Zerai serves as the Vice President for Equity and Inclusion (VPEI) and Professor of Sociology at the University of New Mexico (UNM). At the helm of the Division for Equity and Inclusion, Zerai’s dynamic experiences and strong record of leading, planning for, resourcing, and documenting the impact of diversity, equity and inclusion efforts, have expanded UNM’s diversity programming and strategy. As Principal Investigator (PI) on the Racial and Intersection Microaggressions (RIMA) Survey, Zerai posted over a dozen reports, and is leading workshops to guide UNM and partners in the practice of interrupting RIMAs.

A decolonial feminist scholar, Zerai is co-PI on a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, “Neoliberalism, Gender and Curriculum Transformation in Higher Education” in which she is collaborating with colleagues at the University of Illinois, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban Institute of Technology, and Stellenbosch University. And she is working with faculty at University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa to propose a survey to focus on RIMAs related to gender. Zerai’s research deploys decolonial and Black feminist research methodologies to analyze achieving inclusion in complex organizations, just access to information and communications technologies, novel contributions of BIPOC women’s scholarship globally, and structural impediments to maternal and child health. She has published five books and numerous articles spanning these topics. Her latest book is African Women, ICT and Neoliberal Politics: The Challenge of Gendered Digital Divides to People-Centered Governance (Routledge 2019).

Previously, Dr. Zerai served as full professor of sociology, in addition to many administrative roles at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (2002-2019); and is currently Professor Emerita. Zerai’s work as Associate Chancellor,  Associate Provost, and Associate Dean included multiple initiatives to diversify and enhance inclusivity of faculty, students, and staff from underrepresented groups there. For example, Zerai was co-PI on a $1M award from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation to increase proportions of and support to graduate students of color underrepresented in STEM. Zerai received the Zenobia Lawrence Hikes Women of Color in the Academy, National Award for Outstanding Administrative/Professional Faculty (March 2018).

Dr. Zerai will speak at the opening plenary in Denver, on July 20th. Her talk will focus on recognizing and resisting micro-aggressions. Conference registration will be available in early April.

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