Spring 2023 Unity in Diversity Speaker Bios

Meet some of the speakers from our Spring 2023 two-day Unity in Diversity event.

Paula Carozzo is an inclusive activist, disabled content creator, model and speaker, Paula Carozzo has cultivated and created a space to redefine disability. At the age of five, Paula was diagnosed with cerebral palsy after an anoxic episode from a surgery. On her journey with a cane, Paula shares her story on what it’s like to live with a disability by amplifying the voices of her community to share their laughs, struggles and adventures from living with a disability. After her impact on her current platforms. Paula has decided to extend her mission onto Web3 by creating Inclusive Collective – an identities and disabilities project with a goal to represent all identities and abilities in Web3.

Cynthia Dewi Oka is originally from Bali, Indonesia. An alumnus of the Warren Wilson MFA Program for Writers, she has taught creative writing at Bryn Mawr College, New Mexico State University, Blue Stoop, and Voices of Our Nations (VONA). For fifteen years, Cynthia worked as an organizer, trainer, and fundraiser in social movements for gender, racial, economic, and migrant justice. Her fourth poetry collection, A Tinderbox in Three Acts, is a Blessing the Boats Selection chosen by Aracelis Girmay and forthcoming in fall 2022 from BOA Editions.

Cynthia Dewi Oka is the author of Fire Is Not a Country (2021) and Salvage (2017) from Northwestern University Press, and Nomad of Salt and Hard Water (2016) from Thread Makes Blanket Press. A recipient of the Amy Clampitt Residency, Tupelo Quarterly Poetry Prize, and the Leeway Transformation Award, her poetry has appeared in The Atlantic, POETRY, Academy of American Poets, Poetry Society of America, Hyperallergic, Guernica, The Rumpus, PANK, and elsewhere. Her experimental poem, Future Revisions, was exhibited at the Rail Park billboard in Philadelphia in summer 2021.

Joseph Krupczynski is a designer, public artist and educator. Professor Krupczynski is the director of the office of Civic Engagement and Service Learning (CESL) at UMass Amherst and the principal of “studio projects”, an interdisciplinary design studio which links design, culture and art through public and private design commissions, installations, activism and research. He received his M.S. Design from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, a B.F.A. in Environmental Design from Parsons School of Design, and studied at the Cooper Union School of Architecture.

His recent creative work and scholarship promotes imaginative community partnerships, and crafts participatory art/design platforms to engage a variety of issues within the built environment—especially in collaboration with underrepresented communities. Professor Krupczynski is also a founding director of The Center for Design Engagement (C*DE), a 501(c)(3) design resource center. The C*DE is dedicated to bringing progressive architectural design, public art and civic engagement strategies to local communities and community-based organizations—and advocates for innovative and sustainable solutions to contemporary art/design problems in Massachusetts cities and towns.

Raina J. Leon is an Afro-Latina writer and professor of English Education at Saint Mary’s College of California. She is founding editor of The Acentos Review, an online journal of Latinx arts and author of Areyto to Atabey: Essays on the Mother(ing) Self (Alley Cat Books, 2019) as well as four other poetry books. Her fourth book of poetry, black god mother this body, is forthcoming from Black Freighter Press in 2022. She is currently working on a hybrid manuscript that explores black feminism, mothering, and resistance in and to the academy. Dr. Leon received her BA in Journalism from Pennsylvania State University (2003), MA in Teaching of English from Teachers College Columbia University (2004), MA in Educational Leadership from Framingham State University (2014) and PhD in Education under the Culture, Curriculum and Change strand at the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill (2010). She recently completed her MFA in Poetry at Saint Mary’s College of California (2016). 

She has received fellowships and residencies with the Obsidian Foundation, Community of Writers, Montana Artists Refuge, Macdowell, Kimmel Harding Nelson Center for the Arts, Vermont Studio Center, the Tyrone Guthrie Center in Ireland, among others. She seeks out communities of care and craft and is a member of the Carolina African American Writers Collective, Cave Canem, CantoMundo, and Macondo.

Julian Randall is a Living Queer Black poet from Chicago. He has received fellowships from Cave Canem, CantoMundo, Callaloo, BOAAT and the Watering Hole. Julian is the recipient of a Pushcart Prize and the winner of the 2019 Betty Berzon Emerging Writer Award from the Publishing Triangle. His writing has been published in New York Times Magazine, Ploughshares, and POETRY and anthologized in Black Boy Joy (which debuted at #1 on the NYT Best Seller list), Wild Tongues Can’t Be Tamed and Furious Flower. He has essays in The Atlantic, Vibe Magazine, Los Angeles Review of Books and other venues. He holds an MFA in Poetry from University of Mississippi. He is the author of Refuse (Pitt, 2018), winner of the 2017 Cave Canem Poetry Prize and a finalist for a 2019 NAACP Image Award. He is the author of the middle grade Pilar Ramirez novel duology, and The Dead Don’t Need Reminding: Essays (Bold Type Books, Spring 2024). He can be found at @JulianThePoet and on his website JulianDavidRandall.com.

Roopika Risam is Associate Professor of Film and Media Studies and of Comparative Literature at Dartmouth College.  Formerly, she was Chair of Secondary and Higher Education and Associate Professor of Education and English at Salem State University. Her first monograph, New Digital Worlds: Postcolonial Digital Humanities in Theory, Praxis, and Pedagogy, was published by Northwestern University Press in 2018. She is the co-editor of Intersectionality in Digital Humanities (Arc Humanities/Amsterdam University Press, 2019) and South Asian Digital Humanities: Postcolonial Mediations Across Technology’s Cultural Canon (Routledge, 2020) and The Digital Black Atlantic in the Debates in the Digital Humanities series (University of Minnesota Press, 2021) Her current book project, “Insurgent Academics: A Radical Account of Public Humanities,” which traces a new history of public humanities through the emergence of ethnic studies, is under contract with Johns Hopkins University Press. Her scholarship has appeared in Digital Scholarship in the Humanities, Digital Humanities Quarterly, Debates in the Digital Humanities, First Monday, Popular Communications, College and Undergraduate Libraries, and Native American and Indigenous Studies, among other journals and volumes. Dr. Risam is also co-founder of the New England Equity and Engagement Consortium, a group of 2- and 4-year public and private higher education institutions and community organizations working together to advance anti-racist community-engaged teaching and research within New England. She also co-directs Reanimate, an intersectional feminist publishing collective that recovers archival writing by women in media industries, and co-hosts Rocking the Academy, a podcast featuring conversations with the very best truth tellers, who are formulating a new vision of higher education. Dr. Risam received the Massachusetts Library Association’s inaugural Civil Liberties Champion Award for her work promoting equity and justice in the digital cultural record.

Kijua Sanders-McMurtry serves as the Vice President for Equity and Inclusion and Interim Title IX Coordinator at Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, Massachusetts. She began her time at Mount Holyoke in August of 2018 and has been instrumental in the transformative change of the institution including stewarding their anti-racism action plan and establishing the College’s Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion which supports students, faculty, and staff at the institution. Prior to Mount Holyoke, she worked for twelve years in a variety of leadership roles at Agnes Scott College. In addition to diversity education, she has worked in the areas of financial aid, honors education, student development and leadership, and Title IX. She has taught graduate and undergraduate courses at Agnes Scott, Atlanta Technical College, Mount Holyoke, Georgia State University and the University of Georgia. She also worked as a Senior Research Associate at ORC Macro, International – a public health research firm.

Sanders-McMurtry holds a Ph.D. in Educational Policy Studies, a Graduate Certificate in Women’s Studies, as well as Master’s and Bachelor’s degrees in Sociology from Georgia State University. A high school dropout, she credits her non-traditional academic journey to her mentors at Pasadena City College, where she completed an associate’s degree in social sciences. Originally from Pasadena, California, Dr. Sanders-McMurtry was inspired to become a full-time diversity educator after the deaths of Sakia Gunn and Matthew Shepard. Both individuals were targeted and killed because of their gender and sexual identities. Since that time, she has become a nationally recognized advocate for diversity and inclusion and her research has been published in the Journal of Higher Education and she has presented nationally at a wide range of conferences and institutions.  

Jake Skeets (he/him) is Tsi’naajínii born for Tábąąhá; his maternal grandparents are the Táchii’nii and his paternal grandparents are the Tódík’ózhí. Skeets is from Vanderwagen, New Mexico. He is the author of Eyes Bottle Dark with a Mouthful of Flowers, winner of the National Poetry Series, American Book Award, and Kate Tufts Discovery Award. He holds an M.F.A. in poetry from the Institute of American Indian Arts. His honors include a 92Y Discovery Poetry Prize, Mellon Projecting All Voices Fellowship, and Whiting Award. Skeets is an Assistant Professor and teaches at Diné College in Tsaile, Arizona.

Melvin A. Whitehead is an assistant professor of Student Affairs Administration at Binghamton University. Dr. Whitehead earned a Ph.D. in Education with an emphasis in College Student Affairs Administration from the University of Georgia. He also holds an M.S. from the University of Michigan and a B.S. from Towson University. His research explores the legacies of racism on U.S. college campuses, with a focus on white college students’ dis/connections with whiteness and anti-blackness. Dr. Whitehead’s work draws upon critical theories and frameworks and centers ways of knowing within Black communities, trauma, healing, and the spirit to complicate the field’s understanding of whiteness and anti-blackness on U.S. college campuses. Dr. Whitehead has over a decade of experience doing equity and justice work on college campuses, which includes significant experience facilitating workshops and discussions on topics related to social identity and social justice and teaching courses on equity in U.S. education. He has also published research focused on the experiences of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community college students and Muslim college students in the U.S. South.

Shin Yu Pai is the author of several books of poetry, including Virga (Empty Bowl, 2021), ENSŌ (Entre Ríos, 2020), Aux Arcs (La Alameda, 2013), Adamantine (White Pine, 2010), Sightings: Selected Works (2000-2005) (1913 Press, 2007)), and Equivalence (La Alameda, 2003). She served as the fourth poet laureate of the City of Redmond, Washington, from 2015 to 2017. She is a three-time fellow of MacDowell and has completed residencies at The Ragdale Foundation, Taipei Artist Village, Soul Mountain, and the National Park Service. She is a 2022 Artist Trust Fellow and was shortlisted in 2014 for a Stranger Genius Award in Literature. Her poetry films have screened at the Zebra Poetry Film Festival in Berlin and Northwest Film Forum. Shin Yu is the creator and host of The Blue Suit, a podcast on Asian American stories for KUOW, Seattle’s NPR affiliate station. She received her MFA from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago and also studied at the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics at Naropa University.