Race + Equity + Wellbeing Series

A catalyst for equitable change so all people can thrive.


Jump to a section:
About the Series
Spring Connections Discussion Sessions
Meet the Series Moderator
Meet Our Facilitators
Previous Sessions


We leverage the collective knowledge of faculty, staff, and students to advance our community’s understanding of, and ability to speak with each other about race, equity, and well-being.


We use our collective power and positionality to ensure that lived experiences at the intersection of race, equity, and wellbeing are central to any conversation about culture at USC.


We commit to leveraging our power and positionality to call for and engage in processes of assessment and change of policy and culture to advance equity and wellbeing.

About the Series

More than two thousand USC staff and faculty participated in the summer and fall series that provided space to learn, connect, heal, and take action to support themselves and others. The Spring 2021 series includes community members working together to create a more inclusive and equitable USC.

Every other Tuesday from 12:00-12:50pm, expert panelists will gather to engage in discourse regarding topics of Race, Equity, and Wellbeing. Recordings of each webinar will be available in the days following each session.

The Tuesday following each webinar, the conversation will continue with Discussion Groups, also from 12:00-12:50pm. Led by trained facilitators, these important dialogues allow participants to engage with other staff and faculty. Reactions, stories, plans for action, and honest reflection are encouraged. Webinar attendance is NOT required for the discussion groups.

This series is a collaboration between the USC office of Campus Wellbeing and Education, and USC HR, Equity, and Compliance. If you have any questions, please contact tlntdev@usc.edu.

Spring Connections Discussion Sessions

Alternating Tuesdays from 12:00-12:50pm

Led by skilled facilitators, the Connections Discussion Sessions allow participants to engage in a safe, confidential space with other staff and faculty to:

  • Come together in solidarity around participants’ lived experiences at the intersections of race, equity, and wellbeing
  • Actively connect the content of the panel discussions with their own experiences and sense of culture at USC
  • Work together to turn ideas into action in their departments and communities
  • Explore available resources at USC to support an anti-racist community

Importantly, the discussion groups are not:

  • Recorded in any way
  • A place where BIPOC and other marginalized folks are expected to relive trauma for the educational benefit of others
  • A substitute for therapy or counseling
  • A formal investigatory body

Webinar attendance is NOT required for the discussion groups.

March 9, March 23, April 6, April 20, May 4, May 18


Meet the Series Moderator

Quade French, Ph.D.
USC Campus Wellbeing and Education
Dr. Quade French is a licensed clinical psychologist in the USC Provost’s Office of Campus Wellbeing and Education. His work and research focus on intersections between culture and individual wellbeing, as well as on interpersonal relationships in diverse groups and large systems.

He currently serves as a consultant to staff, faculty, students, and administrators, working collaboratively to identify and address systemic, and interpersonal dynamics that impact individual and group wellbeing, and affect experiences of inclusion and belonging at USC. Dr. French is also an Adjunct Assistant Professor in the Rossier School of Education where he teaches on topics of counseling theory, practice, and ethics.

Meet the Spring 2021 Discussion Group Facilitators

Shanéa Thomas, Ed.D, LICSW
Senior Lecturer for USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work, Virtual Academic Center
Dr. Shanéa Thomas, LICSW, LCSW-C (he/she/Dr.) is a bold lecturer and seasoned scholar-practitioner with more than 15 years of professional social work experience in the Washington D.C. metro area. For the past ten years, Dr. Thomas has dedicated her time as a Senior Lecturer for the University of Southern California’s School of Social Work’s Virtual Academic Center. In the past, Dr. Thomas has also committed time as a Youth Psychotherapist supporting local LGBTQIA+ youth and those affected by HIV/AIDS through various organizations. Whether through trainings, workshops, or supervision, Dr. Thomas is humbled to be using her gifts to serve the community.

LaVonna Lewis, Ph.D., MPH
Teaching Professor of Public Policy and the Associate Dean of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at the USC Sol Price School of Public Policy
Dr. LaVonna Lewis is a Teaching Professor and Associate Dean of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at the USC Sol Price School of Public Policy. Dr. Lewis’ areas of research consistently focus on cultural competency and the health status and health care needs of underrepresented groups. She is currently involved in addressing racial disparities cardiovascular disease and diabetes through the Community Health Councils, Inc., African American Building a Legacy of Health Project.

Anita Dashiell-Sparks
Associate Dean of Equity, Diversity & Inclusion, Co-Head of Undergraduate Acting, and Associate Professor of Theatre Practice in Acting
Anita Dashiell-Sparks is the Associate Dean of Equity, Diversity & Inclusion and Associate Professor of Theatre Practice in Acting. She has directed numerous productions at USC, as well as directed Letters from Zora at the Tony Award-winning Crossroads Theatre and two critically acclaimed engagements at the Pasadena Playhouse, among others. Dashiell-Sparks serves as the artistic director of EDI at the Stella Adler Center of the Arts; and, at USC, is the founder and director of Building Bridges: Communication, Expression, Empowerment Theatre Arts Program, which teaches self-presentation and self-expression to at-risk youth.

Darlene Robles, Ph.D.
Professor of Clinical Education, USC Rossier School of Education
Dr. Darline Robles, the former superintendent of Los Angeles County Office of Education, is a Professor of Clinical Education here at the USC Rossier School of Education. In addition to guiding the School Leadership Academy, Dr. Robles teaches in the school’s doctoral program. In her role as Faculty Director, Dr. Robles leads the program development effort in conjunction with faculty, external organizations and experts. She is also an expert in the areas of urban education, program development and school leadership.

Jonathan Wang, Ed.D.
Center Director for USC Asian Pacific American Student Services (APASS)
Dr. Jonathan Wang serves as the Center Director for USC Asian Pacific American Student Services (APASS). In 2012, Jonathan joined the USC Division of Student Affairs as the Assistant Director for APASS and since 2016 serves as the Center Director. Jonathan has served in leadership positions within USC, NASPA, conducted various research projects, published articles focused on marginalized student populations and international higher education, and has continued to present at both regional and national conferences. Jonathan now teaches for Rossier’s M.Ed. PASA program.

Janice Littlejohn
Associate Director, Los Angeles Institute for the Humanities
Janice Rhoshalle Littlejohn is a career journalist whose work focuses on women’s issues, race, culture, and media. She has been a columnist for the Associated Press, and currently contributes to Ms. Magazine and Shondaland Digital Media among other media outlets. She is co-author of Swirling: How to Date, Mate, and Relate Mixing Race, Culture, and Creed (Atria | Simon & Schuster). She is currently writing three books, including an interracial, cross-cultural romance novel based on characters from her screenplay, Those People: A Love Story. She is on the board of APLA Health and spearheads the organization’s ROAR Womyn’s Wellness initiative. She received her master’s degree from USC where she now serves as Associate Director for the Los Angeles Institute for the Humanities.

Melissa Durham, Pharm.D., MACM, AP
Associate Professor of Clinical Pharmacy and the Assistant Dean of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) at the USC School of Pharmacy
Melissa J. Durham is an Associate Professor of Clinical Pharmacy and the Assistant Dean of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) at the University of Southern California (USC) School of Pharmacy. Dr. Durham has taught topics related to DEI such as cultural competence/humility and health equity/justice for the School of Pharmacy since 2012. She oversees and facilitates all Wellness and DEI initiatives within the school of pharmacy as well as in partnership with other health professions and external partners.

Renee Almassizadeh, MA
Administrator for USC’s Department of Middle East Studies and Parliamentarian of USC Staff Assembly
Renee Almassizadeh is passionate about culture transformation, change management, and DE&I. She is the administrator for the University of Southern California’s Department of Middle East Studies. There Renee manages curriculum and faculty affairs, provides student academic and professional mentoring, markets the academic programs, and oversees departmental alumni outreach. In addition to her departmental responsibilities, Renee serves as the Parliamentarian of USC Staff Assembly, is a member of the Working Group on University Culture, and is a USC Culture Facilitator.

Marissa Alnas
Learning and Organizational Development Specialist with Auxiliary Services Human Resources
Marissa Alnas has worked in Learning & Organizational Development for nearly 8 years, creating innovative learning content and safe spaces for people to learn and embrace growth. As a multiracial woman raised by a single mother, who was also a first generation college student, Marissa has seen how imperative prioritizing DEI is for our communities. DEI discrepancies in the world of STEM further fueled her interest in this field as she entered the workforce. Her dream is to use science and art to create accessible learning environments for people of all backgrounds, and to hold the door open for generations to come.

JaBari Brown
Senior Associate Director of Advisement and Civic Engagement
As the Senior Associate Director of Advisement and Civic Engagement, JaBari Brown and his team are responsible for the academic success of 1,900 undergraduate students. He is committed to serving the greater USC community which has led him to serve on the executive board of the USC Staff Assembly, as staff manager to student clubs including the Annenberg Black Student Association, the Special Olympics Club at USC, and the Trojan Transfer Organization. In 2018, JaBari was tapped to serve as the inaugural chair of the Annenberg Staff Council and as a culture facilitator for the USC Culture Journey.

REW Project Team

The REW Project is led by USC University HR Talent and Organization Development and Campus Wellbeing.

Diane Yaris
Senior Organizational Development Partner, HR Talent and Organizational Development

Keven Brahim Kaddi
Senior Learning and Development Partner, HR Talent and Organizational Development

Nicole Saulnier
Organizational Development Partner, HR Talent and Organizational Development

Quade French
Senior Wellness Project Manager, Campus Wellbeing

Ilene Rosenstein
Associate Vice Provost, Campus Wellbeing

Previous Sessions

March 2, 12:00pm         Making Sense of the Chaos of 2020 and Envisioning the Road Ahead

While we may all want to leave the pain of 2020 behind us, we must recognize that the work in the fight for racial equity is not over. Instead, with our expert panelists, explore ways to make sense of 2020, gain insight into your self, your values, and your strength, and use your experiences of 2020 to inspire your growth in 2021.


Dr. Brandi Jones
Vice Dean for Diversity and Strategic Initiatives at the USC Viterbi School of Engineering

Kambiz “Kamy” Akhavan
Executive Director of the USC Dornsife Center for the Political Future

Michael Murphy
Co-Director of the USC Dornsife Center for the Political Future

March 16, 12:00pm       The Importance of Cultivating Self-Awareness

To be successful as an ally or advocate, we must first be aware of our own motivations, biases, and beliefs that shape how we show up for others. We must be attuned to our own emotions in order to be present in support of others. With our panelists, explore the barriers to self-awareness and learn how to overcome them in order to support your own wellbeing and continue the fight for equity. 


Laura Mosqueda, M.D., FAAFP, AGSF
Former Dean of the USC Keck School of Medicine

Atia Sattar, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Teaching in the Writing Program and the Department of Gender and Sexuality Studies

Winston Crisp, J.D.
Vice President for Student Affairs

March 30, 12:00pm       Was I Just Racist?

There isn’t a single person who has not made a racial misstep, or committed a microaggression, or thought a biased thought: this is true because we are all humans and all socialized in a culture of race. What matters is that we 1) are aware when it happens, 2) we take ownership, 3) we apologize, 4) we seek to grown and change. Learn from our expert panelists about how to confront the discomfort we all feel in these situations, and how to create cultures that support growth through accountability. 


John Pascarella, Ph.D.
Professor of Clinical Education at USC Rossier School of Education and Chief Academic Officer at USC Race and Equity Center

Michèle G. Turner, MBA, Ed.D.
Associate Vice President, Business Diversity & Economic Opportunity

Naddia Palacios, Ed.D.
Senior Director of Student Equity and Inclusion Programs

April 13, 12:00pm          Recognizing and Responding to Racism

When we witness racism, it activates a flood of thoughts and feelings within. We may question whether it is our place to say something, we may try to rationalize the situation and then find ourselves aware of our own complicity. How we stand against racism matters, and how we do it matters. Learn from our expert panel on how to use and move through the discomfort of stepping up, and how to support others. 


Yajaira Curiel, Ph.D.
Assistant Teaching Professor of Education in the Marriage and Family Therapy Program

Darline Robles, Ph.D.
Professor of Clinical Education, USC Rossier School of Education

Wilmon A. Christian III, Ed.D.
Director of PRISM and Co-Director of Workforce Equity Initiatives at the USC Race and Equity Center

April 27, 12:00pm          Language Matters

Language and words are how we co-create culture and reinforce norms. The narratives of “normal” can keep us from taking action even though we may believe change is necessary and good. Hear from our expert panelists how language divides and oppresses, but just as powerfully, can break down barriers, amplify, and include. Explore what happens when we challenge our own narratives and question the language we use.


Patrick Cates
Chief of Staff at USC Marshall School of Business

Renee Almassizadeh, MA
Administrator for the USC’s Department of Middle East Studies

Lisa Pecot-Hébert, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Professional Practice of Journalism at USC Annenberg

May 11, 12:00pm           How to Create Environments Where All Employees can be Their Full, Authentic Selves

The constructed world around us includes not only physical buildings and landscaping, but norms, culture, rules, and expectations. How do we interrogate our internal structures in an authentic way to uncover where bias and racism exists? Hear how our expert panelists actively seek to root out racist and biased institutional policy and challenge norms that unknowingly yet inherently inhibit peoples’ ability to thrive. 


Erika Chesley
Senior Associate Director of Auxiliary Services Initiatives and HR Events and President of USC Staff Assembly

Shafiqua Ahmadi, J.D.
Associate Professor of Clinical Education at the Rossier School of Education and the Co-Director for the Center for Education, Identity, and Social Justice

Stacy Roberts Giwa, J.D.
Vice President of Ethics and Compliance, Chief Compliance Officer

Please see also: https://diversity.usc.edu/events/