Maintaining Wellness for Black Faculty & Professionals in Predominantly White Environments 

Please join us for a symposium honoring the work of the Anti-Blackness and Wellness Research Project funded by WWU (2021-22). These findings have been shared with WWU via the Research Report, at national conferences, and refereed article submissions. Currently, a book publication is in progress that further explores wellbeing challenges and solutions from the perspective of professional Black women at PWIs. Day One will feature the project’s research team and their individual forthcoming book chapters/interests of study pertaining to professional Black female wellness strategies. Day Two is an extension of the previous day, however from the perspectives of professional Black males, and the BIPOC LGBTQ+ community.

Dates and Times:

  • 6/3/2022: 10:00 am – 5:00 pm PST
  • 6/4/2022: 10:00 am – 1:00 pm PST

Contact Information:


Red Square, 2019 info fair

Friday, June 3rd

10:00 - 10:25 Welcome Introduction and Overview Presentation

Featuring Dr. Karen Dade and Dr. Ledbetter

10:25 - 10:45 Umoja (Unity) | Dr. Sislena Ledbetter

Well-being is an Academic Principle. Healing The Soul’s of our Institutions by incorporating Person, Place, and Planet Using a Systems-level Framework  

10:45 - 11:05 Kujichagulia (Self-determination) | Dr. Tara Perry

Out of the Ashes: A Sistah’s Journey to Black Racial Healing 

11:20 - 11:40 Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility) | Devyn Nixon (PhD Candidate)

Embodying Wellness: Health Immemorial 

11:40 - 12:00 Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics) | Dr. Xyanthe Neider

Re/membering Myself: Knowing Who I Am and Who I Came From  

12:05 - 12:25 Nia (Purpose) | Dr. Dona Gudger

The Unspoken Journey of Life Cycles: Professional Black/BIPOC Women in the Menopausal Evolution 

12:25 - 12:45 Kuumba (Creativity) | Dr. Karen B. McLean Dade

Alafia (well-being) and The Wisdom of Our Ancestors 

12:45 - 1:05 Imani (Faith) | Dr. Shari Robinson

Being Beautifully Rooted is a journey toward establishing Emotionally Healthy Spirituality  

2:10 - 2:15 Welcome Back and Q&A

With Dr. Karen Dade

3:00 - 4:00 Panel Discussion

More information coming soon!

Saturday, June 4

10:00 - 10:15 Welcome and Introduction

Featuring Karen Dade and Sislena Ledbetter

10:15 - 11:10 Understanding US Systems of Oppression and Why They Exist

Featuring Keynote Speaker Dr. Edwin Nichols.

To be followed by a 15-minute Q&A

11:15-1:00 Navigating Systemic Oppression, White Supremacy Ideology, and Institutional Racism in Education and the Workplace: Panel Discussion

Featuring Dr. Benson Cooke, Dr. Niyana Rasayon, Mr. Terrance Morris, Mr. David Johns.

Followed by closing remarks from Dr. Karen Dade

About the Presenters

wwu miller hall
Karen Dade

Karen B. McLean Dade, Ed.D.

Symposium Co-Director

Dr. Dade received her Doctorate in Education from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst in 1994 with a specialization in Cultural Diversity and Curriculum Reform. She is currently a professor in the Secondary Education Department at Woodring College of Education, Western Washington University. She is also the CEO and founder of the Multicultural International Development Company, LLC., a cross-cultural education network and consulting agency. Her current research, as principal investigator, is focused on anti-blackness and well-being in predominantly white spaces. This work continues to produce publications and scholarly presentations. Dr. Dade is also an internationally recognized scholar that has traveled to approximately 40 countries as a research scholar-in-residence and/or presenter in areas of social justice and anti-discrimination education reform. Some of her noted international work includes comparative antiracist education studies and the development of study abroad programs in South Africa, non-discriminatory education transformation in India, and cultural sustainability in the Cabo Verde Islands. Over the years, Dr. Dade has authored numerous publications in the areas of antiracist/multicultural education.

Sislena Grocer Ledbetter, Ph.D.

Sislena Grocer Ledbetter, Ph.D.

Symposium Co-Director

Sislena Grocer Ledbetter, Ph.D., is a social psychologist, researcher, lecturer, author, and life-coach. She received a Bachelor's degree in psychology from North Carolina Central University,- Magna Cum Laude. She earned with honors her Master's and Doctoral degrees in psychology from Howard University. Her post-graduate studies include educational leadership training at Georgetown University Graduate School of Professional Studies and Harvard University Graduate School of Education. She has received several fellowships and internships, including Intern during the Clinton administration.

Dr. Ledbetter has held higher education leadership roles, including Assistant Professor of Psychology, Director of Counseling and Student Development and Associate Vice President of Student Development, where she wrote and attracted more than 5 million dollars in grant funds for behavioral health within four years. She is currently Executive Director of Counseling, Health and Wellness at Western Washington University.

Benson George Cooke, Ph.D

Benson George Cooke, Ph.D

Benson George Cooke, Ph.D. is a Professor of Counseling and Psychology at the University of the District of Columbia (UDC), in Washington, DC. He is an author and speaker who has addressed diverse audiences at national and international conferences, symposiums, workshops, professional institutes, and local and national radio cable networks and television programs. He is an author of numerous journal articles, magazine articles, and book chapters, including five textbooks.

He is the recipient of the 2022 UDC Dr. Marjorie Holloman Parker Distinguished Educator’s Award and the 2020 UDC awardee for Faculty Excellence in Teaching presented by the UDC President’s Executive Cabinet. Dr. Cooke is an ABPsi Distinguished Psychologist, acknowledged for career contributions to the discipline and the literature and practice of psychology that has supported culturally salient mental health treatment for the African American community.

Dr. Cooke completed his B.A. degree in Psychology at Morehouse College, his M.S. degree in Clinical Psychology, and his Ed.D. degree in Counseling Psychology and Mental Health Administration from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

Dona Gudger, Ph.D.

Dona Gudger, Ed.D

Dona Gudger, Ed.D. received her Doctoral degree in counseling psychology at Argosy University in 2018. She is currently an adjunct instructor at the University of the People in the areas of child development and adolescent development. Dr. Gudger also serves UoPeople by researching curriculum and assessment for student and program outcomes. She received her certification in cross-cultural studies/multicultural education from Alliant University and is the mental health and wellness coach at Multicultural International Development Company (MIDC). Her extracurricular activities include working with young people in her nation to help maintain mental wellness through coaching and retreats.

David Johns, MA

David Johns, MA

David Johns, MA, is the executive director of the National Black Justice Coalition (NBJC), a civil rights organization dedicated to the empowerment of Black LGBTQ+/SGL people, including people living with HIV/AIDS. Johns was appointed the first executive director of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans by President Barack Obama and served from 2013-2017. Johns was a senior education policy advisor to the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions under the leadership of U.S. Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA). Johns was a Congressional Black Caucus Foundation Fellow in the office of Congressman Charles Rangel (D-NY). David is currently pursuing his Ph.D. in sociology and education policy at Columbia University. Johns obtained a master’s degree in sociology and education policy at Teachers College, Columbia University, graduating summa cum laude. Johns was named to the Out100 list in 2021, the Root100 in both 2013 and 2014, Ebony’s Power 100 in 2015, and received an early career award from Columbia University, Teachers College in 2016.

Terrance Morris

Terrance Morris

Terrance Morris has spent his entire career serving the community. Terrance’s leadership started by serving as a Youth Community Facilitator with the Rainbow Push Coalition under the leadership of Rev. Jesse Jackson, Sr. During his university years Terrance worked with Equality Nation and Great Circle where he worked with LGBTQA homeless youth in the DC metro area. He would travel the US facilitating/consulting conversations about equity, diversity, inclusion. In 2012 Terrance settled down in St. Louis, MO, where he worked with at-risk homeless youth and he provided practical support and guidance to his clients, assisting them with benefits and healthcare and creating support plans. After the death of Michael Brown Terrance and his partner decided to move to Bellingham. He works as an Associate Director Adolescent Services with Northwest Youth Services and is the founder of Bellingham Unity Committee. You can see his work in action with the 5,000+ attending Solidarity Rally, Ascendants of the Movement Black History, Bellingham Juneteenth and the Unity Ball.

Xyanthe Neider, Ph.D.

Xyanthe Neider, Ph.D.

Xyanthe Neider, Ph.D. from Washington State University in Higher Education Administration and Cultural Studies and Social Thought in Education. She explores antiracism and abolition as they relate to curriculum, pedagogy, classroom assessment, and classroom and community contexts. Dr. Neider has been a college professor for 21 years, teaching thousands of k-12 teachers, principals, superintendents, higher education professionals, and other students across a range of disciplines from prevention science and nursing to sport management and crops and soils science. She directed university writing assessment at Washington State University for 5 years and is now at Whatcom Community College as the director for teaching and learning. Xyanthe has won several awards; the most notable are the Washington State University Woman of Distinction Student Award and the American Educational Research Association – Critical Issues in Curriculum and Cultural Studies Graduate Student Paper Award.

Edwin J. Nichols, Ph.D.

Edwin J. Nichols, Ph.D.

Edwin J. Nichols, Ph.D., is a Clinical/Industrial psychologist, Director, Nichols and Associates, an applied behavioral science firm. He is a founding member of The Association of Black Psychologists. He was the first Black center chief at the National Institute of Mental Health -- Chief, Child, and Family Mental Health. As a Visiting Professor at the University of Ibadan, Nigeria, he established the Child’s Clinic for Psychological Assessment and Evaluation. His national and international I/O work is guided by his hallmark paradigm: The Philosophical Aspects of Cultural Difference, first presented in 1976 at the World Psychiatric Conference, held at the University of Ibadan. He was educated at Assumption College, Canada; Tübingen Universität, Germany; and received his PhD in psychology and psychiatry, cum laude, Innsbruck Universität, Austria. Fellow, Austrian Ministry of Education; Visiting Scholar, Rockefeller Foundation, Bellagio. Distinguished Psychologist: Harvard, Toronto, and Piauí Brazil. University of the District of Columbia – Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa. US Army Sergeant during Korean War. He has two adult children and two grandchildren.

Devyn Nixon

Devyn Nixon

Devyn Nixon, Ph.D. (candidate) is a board-certified family and cardiovascular nurse practitioner who has worked in Snohomish, Island, Skagit and Whatcom counties for over 20 years.  She is the current Nursing Program Advisor at Western Washington University.  Devyn is the founder of Divinity Health and Wellness, PLLC whose mission is to close the racial health gap through health literacy, health promotion and representation in healthcare.  Devyn is passionate about health equity and enjoys spending time with her husband, kids and dogs as well as practicing yoga, biking, hiking, running and riding horses. 

Tara Perry, Ph.D.

Tara Perry, Ph.D.

Tara Perry, Ph.D. believes that culturally relevant and responsive teaching from a communication perspective prepares both teachers and students to question the structural inequalities, systemic racism, and injustices present in our society. She has taught in the Communication Studies for over 26 years in the areas of Organizational Communication and Development, Identity & Difference, Interpersonal Communication, Research Methods, Communication Conflict, and Cultural Studies. From research writing to case studies, community-based learning to social action projects, she ensures that her students, colleagues, and those around her have opportunities to explore ways of dismantling white supremacy at all levels. She created a social justice movement titled #endhomelessness and continues to share it. She is an active board member of The National Congress of Black Women Foundation in Vancouver, B.C. and the National Communication Association. Dr. Perry has been nominated several times as an outstanding professor through WWU’s Leadership program and Scholarship for Teaching and Learning. Her journey to anti-racism and racial healing continues.

Niyana J. B. Rasayon, Ph.D.

Niyana K. B. Rasayon, Ph.D.

Niyana K.B. Rasayon, Ph.D., received his Master’s at Fisk University & Meharry Medical College joint program in Clinical Psychology, and a Doctoral degree in Psychobiology-Neuropsychology at Howard University. Biomedical Research grants and a Danforth-Compton Scholarship funded his education. As an Adjunct Professor Rasayon maintained class rotations in psychology at the U.S. Pentagon and Henderson Hall – US Marine Corps support site in Virginia. He has authored two books that build on social neuroscience, “Reality Check: A Manual for the Hue-man Octahedron & The Mystery of Melanin, and The Awakening: OMG The President is Black”.  Relatedly, he is completing his 3rd book on ancient African views on death. Rasayon is on the Editorial Board of the Journal of Mental Health and Social Behaviour, and a *Board-Certified Fellow & Diplomate in African Centered-Black Psychology. Periodically he presents on Brain Health, Identity, and the “System of Racism and White Supremacy.” His work focuses on culturally informed models of clinical intervention and teaching.

Shari Robinson, Ph.D.

Shari Robinson, Ph.D.

Shari Robinson, Ph.D. is the Assistant Vice-Provost of Student Life at the University of New Hampshire. She received her doctorate degree in Counseling Psychology from West Virginia University. She is a licensed psychologist in New Hampshire. Her areas of professional interest include counseling issues related to equity, inclusion and diversity, working with students of color, first-generation college students, and mentoring people of color. Shari co-chairs the Commission of Community, Diversity and Equity and the President’s Advisory Council on Campus Climate, Campus Climate Study Workgroup, MLK Summit Planning committee, and Behavioral Intervention Team, to name a few. She is a member of the Society of Counseling Psychology (Division 17) of American Psychological Association, and represented APA on the Higher Education Mental Health Alliance (HEMHA) since 2014, and she is a current board member of the Advisory Council for New Hampshire Endowment for Health.