Dr. Phyllis West
West is the Director of the Social Justice Initiative at GSU. She is a social work educator with expertise in community public health, international service learning, criminal justice, and organizational wellness. West brings 32 years of advocacy, training, case management, community organizing, and a commitment to communities who have limited access to legal and social services. West has spent the past 14 years training the next generation of social workers and global citizens.
Advisory Council Members
Emmanuel Lopez is a first-generation professional who is currently the Assistant Director of Transfer Admissions at Governors State University. He also serves as the Vice-Chair for the Hispanic Alliance for Career Enhancement (HACE) Chicago Auxiliary Board.
Ann is responsible for developing and putting into effect the policies that enable the direction and oversight of Level One Clinical Affiliation Agreements for practicum and internship experiences for the Colleges of Health and Human Services and the College of Education.
Equal access to economic, educational, and employment opportunities is emphasized as a guiding principle in practicums and internships. Ann pays homage to CHHS/COE fieldwork coordinators/directors that champion DEI, and the support we get from agencies that partner with GSU for student placement. GSU spotlights underrepresented and previously unseen populations as a representation of DEI - when we fall short, we will strive to improve.
Dr. Muhammad, the Coordinator of the Governors State University BA and MA in English programs, was the 15th President of the GSU Faculty Senate. She received her B.A. in English Education (minor in history), M.A. in English, and Ph.D. in English from Michigan State University. Dr. Muhammad teaches graduate and undergraduate courses in English Education; American, African American, Black, Native American, Women, World, and Young Adult Literatures; African American Language; Black Studies; First-Year Writing Studies (first-year composition); Literary Criticism; Studies in Race, Class, and Gender.
Dr. Muhammad co-edited the State University of New York Press (SUNY) series: Urban Voices, Urban Visions. Books in the series include Lives in the Balance: Youth, Poverty, and Education in Watts, by Ann C. Diver-Stammns; Educating Black Males: Critical Lessons in Schooling, Community and Power by Ronnie Hopkins; Teachers' Reading / Teachers' Lives by Mary Kay Rummel and Elizabeth P. Quintero (Dr. Muhammad also wrote the “Foreword” for Teachers’ Reading / Teachers’ Lives).
Along with Dr. Arentha F. Ball (Education professor—at Stanford University), Dr. Muhammad wrote “Language Diversity in Teacher Education and in the Classroom.” The chapter may be found in Language Diversity in the Classroom: From Intention to Practice. (G. Smitherman, V. Villanueva, editors).
She has presented papers and workshops at several national and international conferences, including the American Educational Research Association, the National Council of Teachers of English, the Conference on College Composition and Communication, The Third World Conference, and the Biennial Conferences of the Toni Morrison Society, Charleston, South Carolina, and Paris, France.
Dr. Muhammad has served as a poetry judge for the Illinois Emerging Writers Competition (2006-Present) sponsored by the Illinois Center for the Book. the Secretary of State, Hon. Jessie White, and the Illinois State Library. Dr. Muhammad served on the editorial board of the journal Language Arts (The Ohio State University). She hosted and wrote the study guide for a television course, Read and Rap: Literature for Young Adult Readers. The course featured interviews with authors Judy Blume, Lois Lowry, and Walter Dean Myers.
Dr. Muhammad has served as host, moderator, and/or panel discussant for several important GSU events, including Flow, The Color Purple, Braid Tales, Red Tails, Nikki Giovanni at GSU, and Dar He: The Story of Emmett Till.
During Black History Month for the past 27 years, she has hosted the National African American Read-In at Governors State University. Prof. Muhammad is the recipient of three “Faculty Excellence” awards, and two “Student Appreciation” awards, Black Women Rock Scholar Award, the Black Women Rock Coretta Scott King award from GSU, and the “Unsung Hero” award from the Jihad Bashir Support Scholarship Foundation, Chicago, Illinois.
Larry A. McClellan
After graduate work at the University of Chicago, in 1970 Larry helped create Governors State University south of Chicago and served with the University for 30 years. He is Emeritus Professor of Sociology and Community Studies. In the mid-70s, he was mayor of University Park (then Park Forest South). He spent four years as a senior consultant with the Northeastern Illinois Planning Commission, and throughout his career, served as pastor with diverse congregations.
His consulting, research and writing focus on historic highways, the Underground Railroad in Illinois, and on African American and regional history south of Chicago. Major publications include 25 articles in the Encyclopedia of Chicago ; The Pontiac Trail, Route 66 and the Early Chicago to St. Louis Roads ; The Underground Railroad South of Chicago , and co-author of To the River, The Remarkable Journey of Caroline Quarlls, a Freedom Seeker on the Underground Railroad . His latest book, Onward to Chicago: Freedom Seekers and the Underground Railroad in Northeastern Illinois, will be published by Southern Illinois University Press in 2023. In 2022 he received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Illinois State Historical Society for his contributions to history in Illinois.
Since 2006, Larry has presented research papers on the Underground Railroad at 3 annual meetings of the Illinois State Historical Society and at 3 national conferences of the National Park Service Network to Freedom program. He was the principal researcher for successful applications for listings on the NPS Network to Freedom national register of Underground Railroad sites in Crete, Lockport, and Chicago. Some of his work will be found at illinoisundergroundrailroad.info.
For ten years, he wrote a monthly regional history column for The Southtown/Star newspapers. Larry graduated from Occidental College in Los Angeles, with a year at the University of Ghana in West Africa, and additional studies in Great Britain and Jerusalem. He has served on the boards of the Illinois State Historical Society and the Will County Historical Society and has given lectures and programs across Illinois. Currently he is President of the South Suburban Genealogical and Historical Society.
Dr. Novia Pagone teaches Spanish Language and Literatures and Global Studies and serves as the Director of the Center for Community Media at Governors State University. She holds a PhD in Hispanic Studies from the University of Chicago with a focus on cultural studies, feminist media theories/practices, and democracy in the Spanish-speaking world. Prior to joining Governors State University, she served as an Associate Dean of Students, academic and career advisor, and worked in Illinois government and politics.
Latesha Newson is an alumnus of Governors State University where she received both her Bachelor of Psychology with a concentration in mental health and master’s in social work with a focus on children and families. Latesha serves as a university lecturer and BSW field program coordinator in the department of social work at Governors State University. She is a strong advocate for social justice and works to influence policies that create equitable and transformative change in our society. She has been an NASW-IL board member since 2019 and currently serves in the role as President-Elect and will officially transition to presidency on July 1st 2023, and NASW IL Delegate Assembly member. She served as chair of the NASW-IL Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion committee from 2021-2023. In 2020, she served as co-chair of the NASW-IL Task Force on Racial Justice where our chapter’s recommendations on police reform were reflected in the Criminal Justice Omnibus bill which was signed into law by Governor J. B. Pritzker on February 22, 2021.
Dr. Jelena Radovic-Fanta is a cultural anthropologist, educator, and ethnographic researcher. Jelena earned her PhD in Anthropology from the University of California, Riverside. She is currently Associate Professor of Anthropology and Sociology at Governors State University, and affiliate faculty in Global Studies and Gender & Sexuality Studies. Her areas of research are labor, gender, globalization, higher education, and Latin America. Her latest research projects examine college experiences of first-generation college students in the Chicago Southland and shifting racial politics in Chile. She has published in journals of anthropology, labor, higher education, and has been awarded grants such as AAUW Research Publication Grant and the Undergraduate International Studies and Foreign Language Grant (Department of Education). Dr. Radovic-Fanta is also a visiting professor in the Public Policy master's program at the University of Santiago de Chile.
Jerry Davis-EL Executive Director for GRO Community, and has been a champion for Social Justice for 13+ years. Jerry’s personal passion is to illuminate and incorporate a holistic approach to address the needs of historically marginalized populations indicative of the Chicagoland area.
Jerry holds a Master’s Degree in Social Work with a concentration on Families and Children, from Governor’s State University. In Addition, to being a Qualified Mental Health Professional, he is also a Certified Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse Counselor. He has also received multiple awards and recognition for his community work including The Illinois Lincoln Laureate Award for Civic Engagement and Excellence.
In conclusion, Jerry has presented across the nation on forums related to Social Justice, Mass Incarceration, Reentry, Restorative Justice and Trauma.
Dr. Robert Garcia
Dr. Robert Garcia is an Assistant Professor of Management Information Systems at Governors State University’s College of Business. He earned his Master of Science in Computer Science before earning his Ph.D. in Computer Science from DePaul University in 2021. Born and raised on Chicago’s Southeast side Dr. Garcia has spent years working with area non-profit organizations and activists around a variety of social justice issues including: violence prevention, anti-gentrification, community development, immigration and environmental justice. Dr. Garcia brings technical and data analytics expertise along with years of community organizing experience to assist in the social justice initiative at Governors State University.