Brenda L. Walker, Ph.D., J.D.

PI, Associate Dean and Professor

Saundra Johnson Austin, Ed.D.

Co-PI and Project Coordinator

Dana N. Thompson Dorsey, J.D., Ph.D.

Co-PI and Associate Professor

LaSonya L. Moore, Ed.D.

Assistant Professor

Samuel L. Wright, Sr. Ed.D.

Community Consultant

Marquis B. Holley

Doctoral Candidate

Gwendolyn C. Webb, Ed.D.

Co-PI and Associate Professor

Dr. Brenda L. Walker

Dr. Brenda L. Walker is the Interim Associate Dean of the College of Education and Professor at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg. She earned her bachelor’s and Master’s degrees at Central Michigan University and a Doctorate in Behavior Disorders and Learning Disabilities from the University of Kansas. She also earned her Juris Doctor from Stetson University College of Law and is a lawyer interested in civil rights, education, and poverty laws.  Dr. Walker is a product of urban schools in Saginaw, Michigan. She committed her career to improving outcomes for children and families in urban and high poverty communities. 

While at the University of South Florida, she secured over $9 million in federal funding to recruit and retain students of color to be effective teachers in urban schools. She developed the first successful initiative to recruit and prepare African American men to teach children with behavior disorders. She also provided research assistantships, tuition, and books to over 40 students enrolled in Ph.D. programs. Dr. Walker enhanced the research capacity of HBCUs, Hispanic-Serving and Native American serving institutions. She founded a USF Center for Action Research On Urban Schools and Effective Leadership (Carousel Center). Having served as the President of USF’s Black Faculty and Staff Association and co-chaired the Committee On Black Affairs, she has mentored numerous junior faculty at USF and around the country to facilitate their successful tenure and promotion in higher education. 

Dr. Walker’s research and scholarship focus primarily on African American learners and ways that schools and juvenile justice systems can be more culturally responsive. She has published a number of journal articles, book chapters, a textbook, and a children’s book, “One Love.” Her publications focus specifically on school suspensions, special education overrepresentation, and the school to prison pipeline. Dr. Walker provides service to K-12 schools by delivering motivational and educational speeches and workshops to students, teachers, and principals.

Dr. Saundra Johnson Austin

Dr. Saundra Johnson Austin is the co-principal investigator and project coordinator for USF RISES and lead project coordinator for the FL-AGEP. She also teaches math to 7th grade girls and boys at Academy Prep Center of Tampa. In 2007 she founded Charis Consulting Group, LLC as the President and CEO. Formerly, she was the executive director of Curated PathwaysTM to Innovation, senior vice president for operations at the National Action Council for Minorities in Engineering, Inc., president and CEO of St. Michael’s High School, executive vice president of the Community Partnership for Lifelong Learning, executive director of the National Consortium for Graduate Degrees for Minorities in Engineering and Science (GEM), and Minority Engineering Program director at The Pennsylvania State University. She began her career at Bechtel Power Corporation as a cost engineer.

In 1998, she was recognized with the National Society of Black Engineers’ Inaugural Golden Torch Award for Minority Engineering Program Director of the Year and Outstanding Contribution by a Minority Engineering Program Administrator Award by the National Association of Multicultural Engineering Program Advocates. She was awarded the 2004-2005 Selected Professions Fellowship by the American Association of University Women. In April 2015, she was recognized by The Pennsylvania State University as Outstanding Engineering Alumnus for Civil and Environmental Engineering and she currently serves on the College of Engineering’s Industrial and Professional Advisory Council. Dr. Johnson Austin is a member of the U.S. White House endorsed initiative Algebra by 7th Grade, which was established under the Obama administration.

She earned a Doctor of Education from the University of Southern California in Organizational Change and Leadership, an MBA from the University of Notre Dame, and a Bachelor of Science degree in Civil Engineering from The Pennsylvania State University.

Dr. Johnson Austin enjoys mentoring girls, college students, and early professionals on the opportunities in STEM education and careers. She welcomes speaking engagements on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics education.

Dr. Dana N. Thompson Dorsey

Dr. Dana N. Thompson Dorsey is an Associate Professor, and the Associate Director of Research and Development for the Center for Urban Education at the University of Pittsburgh. Dr. Thompson Dorsey’s research and teaching focuses on critically examining education laws, policies and practices, and how they impact equity, access and opportunities for minoritized and historically underserved students in various educational contexts. Her research primarily focuses on issues related to school segregation, race-based admissions in higher education, school choice policies, as well as implicit bias and culturally responsive school policies and practices. Dr. Thompson Dorsey is published in leading education journals, such as Teachers College Record, Educational Administration Quarterly, and Educational Policy, and she has received grant funding from the Spencer and Gates Foundations. Dr. Thompson Dorsey’s research has been cited in the New York Times, and she has been featured on several NPR radio shows discussing school segregation, educational access, and the U.S. Supreme Court’s opinions on race-based admissions policies.

Dr. Thompson Dorsey earned a Ph.D. in Education from the Administrative and Policy Studies program in the University of Pittsburgh School of Education, a J.D. from the University of Pittsburgh School of Law, and a B.S. in Accounting from Lincoln University of Pennsylvania. Prior to her faculty appointment in the University of Pittsburgh’s School of Education, Dr. Thompson Dorsey was an Assistant Professor of Educational Leadership and Policy at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, a post-doctoral research fellow with the National Center for Women and Information Technology (NCWIT) Extension Services at the University of Virginia, and a civil defense litigator in Pittsburgh, PA.

Dr. LaSonya L. Moore

LaSonysa L. Moore, Ed.D, is a passionate and persistent social justice and equity change agent. She is driven by what she has coined as “teacher persistence.” Her research examines equity and social justice in educational institutions serving urban students. More specifically, she focuses on the qualities, dispositional attributes and supports that enable urban teachers to remain in high-poverty, low-performing schools (“teacher persistence”) which is affected by individual dispositions, leadership, school districts and policy.

Moore is a co-founder of the National Urban Special Education Leadership Network (NUSELNET), a national network of progressive educational leaders in the field of Special Education and Leadership. She is dedicated to improving the educational outcomes of all individuals, especially individuals with exceptionalities, while improving opportunities for those who teach, lead and work side-by-side with students daily. Moore’s recent publications have focused on rural and urban educator persistence and dispositions, developing a well-contended urban teacher/leader pipeline and culturally relevant classrooms. She also has a State Principalship certification.

Moore teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in education. She provides service to K-12 schools by delivering speeches and workshops to students, teachers, assistant principals, principals and district leaders. Moore has received numerous awards and fellowships, including the 2017 Florida Administrator of the Year, the 2018 College of Education Faculty Member of Service Award and the 2019-2020 McKnight Junior Faculty Development Fellowship by the Florida Education Foundation in partnership with the University of South Florida.

Mr. Marquis B. Holley

Marquis B. Holley is a Doctoral Candidate in the Educational Innovation and Program Development area in the College of Education at The University of South Florida. His dissertation-in-practice focuses on the barriers to the full implementation of policies designed to advance Black and Brown faculty and staff professionals in Higher Education. His research interests include Arts Based Research, Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome, and Equity/Diversity-based initiatives in society.

Dr. Samuel L. Wright, Sr.

Dr. Samuel Lamar Wright, Sr., the only son born to the late Samuel Louis and Rovina Deal Wright of Boynton Beach, was educated in Palm Beach County public schools. He earned degrees from the University of Florida and the University of South Florida.

Dr. Wright has had the pleasure of working in government and the State University System. While in Palm Beach County, he worked for the Board of County Commissioners in the Community Action Agency, and in Tampa he worked 27.5 years for the University of South Florida (USF). He became known for his unparalleled ability to recruit students of color to the University of South Florida as its Director of Multicultural Admissions. Upon completing his doctorate in 1999, he served as the Associate Dean of Student and Parent Relations, Director of Multicultural Affairs and Student Ombudsman, respectively. Part-time, he taught as an adjunct professor in the Department of Africana Studies.

In February 2013, he retired after 35 years in the Florida Retirement System and was highlighted in the Congressional Record by Congresswoman Kathy Castor for his contributions both to USF and the Tampa Bay community. He is an iconic figure in the Tampa community because of his enduring commitment to students. The legacy he leaves at USF will be cherished for many years. He is credited with changing the dynamics of the campus for non-majority students in a most positive way and because of that the Black Alumni Society gives awards in his name each year.

Since his retirement, Dr. Wright has become an entrepreneur and established the Dr. Samuel L. Wright Consulting, LLC. Most of his work has been with Hillsborough Community College, where he serves as the Project Consultant for the Dr. Martin Luther King Day of Service and CDC of Tampa, Inc.

At an early age, Dr. Wright accepted his calling as a freedom fighter. He fought for progress in his schools and continued the quest for justice at UF. In 1980, he was the first black to be elected to Boynton Beach City Council. After relocating to Tampa, he saw a cultural void and founded the Tampa Bay Black Heritage Festival in 1999. He has held leadership positions in organizations such as the NAACP, Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc., Hillsborough County Government, and Tampa Bay Convention and Visitors Association. Currently, he serves as a board member for several local organizations in the Bay Area, including the Community Action Board and the Dr. MLK Parade Foundation, Inc. At the state level, he is a member of the African American History Task Force and a gubernatorial appointee to the Board of Directors of the Florida Fund for Minority Teachers. Dr. Wright is an honorary member of Florida Blue Key and is listed in many editions of Who’s Who in Black America.

Dr. Wright is a phenomenal speaker and a baritone vocalist. He has received numerous awards for his service to people from all walks of life. He is the father of two adult children: Samuel Lamar, Jr. and Samaria Elizabeth.

Dr. Gwendolyn C. Webb

Dr. Gwendolyn Webb received her doctorate in Special Education from Illinois State University in 1994. She is an Associate Professor in the Departments of Educational Administration and Human Resource Development and Teaching, Learning, and Culture at Texas A&M University. Dr. Webb teaches graduate courses in culturally responsive leadership, urban school administration, instructional leadership development, and home, school and community partnerships. Her undergraduate teaching experience is in the area of multicultural education.

Dr. Webb’s research is focused on (a) culturally responsive leadership, pedagogy, and teacher development, (b) the disproportionate representation of African American learners in Special Education, (c) culturally responsive family and community engagement, and (d) the exploration of academic achievement and sociopolitical contexts impacting African American girls. She has written numerous peer-reviewed journal articles, book chapters and has keynoted at several national and state professional conferences. She is currently the chair of 14 doctoral committees, while serving on 46 doctoral committees. Eight doctoral students, with her serving as chair, have graduated in the last two years. She has received teaching awards from Texas A&M University and The University of Texas.