Speaker Biographies

Melinda Gonzalez, M.A.
PhD Student in Anthropology, Louisiana State University
Panel Organizer & Moderator
Biography: Melinda Gonzalez is a PhD student in Anthropology at Louisiana State University. She is a research assistant working on questions of uncertainty and environmental change through a Board of Regents Grant held by Dr. Micha Rahder in Belize, Mexico, and Guatemala.  Melinda’s dissertation research focuses on the role of music, poetry, and verbal art in community organizing across the Puerto Rican Diaspora. She has worked as an adjunct faculty of Sociology at Union County College (New Jersey) a high school College Study Skills instructor, and has taught at various elementary school levels. She holds a Master’s degree from Rutgers University, The State University of New Jersey in Anthropology and obtained her Bachelor’s degree from Barnard College, where she was a Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellow.  Melinda is the mother of a 5 year old aspiring ballerina.


Indu Viswanathan, M.A.
Ed.D. Student, Teachers College of Columbia University
Presentation Title: “Transformative Anti-Racist Practices: Addressing Institutionalized Racism and Paradoxes in the Academy & “Safe/Brave” Spaces”
Biography: Indu is an educator, parent, and musician from New York. With a BA from Cornell University in Economics, she spent three years as the research assistant for the Chief U.S. Economist at Citigroup. Indu then received an MA in Elementary Education from Teachers College, Columbia University. She has sixteen years of global experience in curriculum design, teaching, and teacher education. Indu has served as an elementary school teacher in American public schools and at Ecole Francaise Internationale de Bombay, as a teacher educator with Indian educational NGOs Akanksha and Teacher for India, and as a curriculum designer with Nouvelle Vie Haiti. She also served as Research and Impact Director for YES! for Schools, a schools-based nonprofit committed to delivering breathing and meditation modalities to schools across the country. She designed and implemented evaluation metrics and systems that reflect a responsive whole child, whole school philosophy. She is currently a Practice Associate at the National School Climate Center and an Instructor in the Preservice Elementary Inclusive Education Program in the Department of Curriculum & Teaching at Teachers College. She is a doctoral student in the same department, with a focus on second generation immigrant student teachers. Indu is a champion of positioning restorative and transformative practices, like radical love, as the wellspring of lifelong teacher activism, social justice, and school life. She is inspired by the prospect of a revitalized teaching profession.


Dr. Pamela E. Harris, PhD
Assistant Professor  of Mathematics and Statistics, Williams College
Presentation Title:  Helping Dreamers succeed in higher education
Biography: Dr. Pamela E. Harris is a Mexican-American Assistant Professor in the department of Mathematics and Statistics at Williams College. She received her B.S. from Marquette University, and M.S. and Ph.D. in mathematics from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Her research interests are in algebra and combinatorics, particularly as these subjects relate to the representation theory of Lie algebras. Her recent research on vector partition functions and projects in graph theory has been supported through awards from the National Science Foundation and the Center for Undergraduate Research in Mathematics. Harris co-organizes research symposia and professional development sessions for the national conference of the Society for the Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science, was a Mathematical Association of America’s Project NExT (New Experiences in Teaching) Fellow from 2012-2013, and is an editor of the e-Mentoring Network blog of the American Mathematical Society. In 2016, she co-founded www.Lathisms.org an online platform that features prominently the extent of the research and mentoring contributions of Latin@s and Hispanics in the Mathematical Sciences. She is also the lead editor for the Special Issue on Motherhood and Mathematics of the Journal of Humanistic Mathematics.


Katrina Phillips, PhD
Assistant Professor of Native American History, Macalester College
Presentation Title: Conversations about Race and Privilege and Well-Meaning Allies
Biography:  I’m an enrolled member of the Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Chippewa. I earned my Ph.D. in 2015 from the University of Minnesota, and I’m an Assistant Professor at Macalester College. I’m a historian, and I teach classes on numerous components of American Indian history and the history of the American West. My husband, Jake, and I have two boys – Leo, who’s four, and Max, who was born exactly two months before I started on the tenure track (and just turned one). I’m what I like to call “ethnically ambiguous,” which has led to a vast array of confusing and entertaining and borderline offensive conversations in my 32 years.



Iris Jheni Kaifa, M.A.
Adjunct Faculty of Business, County College of Morris and Graduate Student in Computer Engineering
Presentation Title: Making Room for Excellence and Encouraging Overachievement for the Differently Abled in Academia
Biography: Iris Kaifa is an adjunct faculty of Business at The County College of Morris. She has her Master’s degree in Business from St. Elizabeth’s College and studied sociology during her undergraduate education. Iris is currently in school pursuing a Master’s degree in Computer Engineering hoping to add to the less than 3% of women of color in the field. Through her work in Computer Engineering, she hopes to address the lack of apps that are created directly for the needs of differently-abled children, with emphasis on accessibility for the blind.  She is the mother of an awesome 4 year old daughter, who is blind, and excelling in her current mainstream educational setting. Iris wishes to continue advocating for the inclusion of differently-abled children and against the educational one-size-fits-all approach.





Tatiana M.F. Cruz, PhD 
Assistant Professor of American History,  Lesley University
Presentation Title: Mothering While Brown in Academia: Overcoming Challenges & Raising “Woke” Children
Biography: Tatiana Cruz is an Assistant Professor of American History at Lesley University and holds a History and Public Policy Fellowship at the Harvard Kennedy School’s Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation. She holds a Ph.D. in History from the University of Michigan. She is a historian of race and gender in modern U.S. culture with an emphasis on African American and Latinx history and social movements. Her research centers on black-brown racial formation, community development, and mobilizations for racial justice in Boston in the 1960s and 1970s. She lives with her partner and their three children (ages 1, 5, and 9) in Cambridge, MA.



Dr. Brigitte Fielder, PhD
Assistant Professor of Comparative Literature, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Presentation Title: Antiracist White Colleagueship
Biography: Brigitte Fielder is Assistant Professor of Comparative Literature at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Her research is in nineteenth-century U.S. literature, with concentrations in critical race studies, women’s, gender, and sexuality studies, and African American literature. She teaches courses in which intersectional discussions of race are at center. Fielder’s research on American literature and the study of race has appeared in or is forthcoming from journals including American Quarterly, C19: The Journal of Nineteenth-Century Americanists, Early American Studies, Studies in American Fiction, Theatre Annual, and Tulsa Studies in Women’s Literature, and in various edited collections. Fielder has organized and presented on a number of roundtable discussions on promoting antiracist practices of pedagogy, scholarship, and colleagueship, at conferences of the Modern Language Association, the Society of Early Americanists and the Society for the History of the Early American Republic, and has been invited to give talks, run faculty workshops, and consult on issues including antiracist pedagogical and curricular strategies. Fielder has served on the executive committee of the Society of Nineteenth-Century Americanists and the program committee of the Society of Early Americanists, lending both scholarly expertise and interests in race and racism in academe to these organizations. In 2017-18, Fielder will hold a Nellie Y. McKay Fellowship from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.