We envision a world where our differences inspire curiosity, collaboration, and innovation.


The Borough of Queens is often cited as the most diverse community in the United States, and Queens College CUNY reflects that diversity. Students trace their roots to 170 countries, and speak 110 different languages. Thirty five percent of students are the first in their families to go to college. Increasingly, there is no clear majority population on campus, and students are starting to identify themselves as multicultural, instead of as one specific demographic (Office of Institutional Research.)

While these demographics may seem unusual and unique now, they will not be for long. We are living in a country that has been moving towards increased multiculturalism. According to current demographic trends, by the year 2040 there will be no racial majority in the United States of America (Diversity Explosion p. 4.) In other words, sometime after 2040, the entire nation will most likely look something like Queens College.

If the entire nation might look like Queens College by the year 2040, then the college has a special mandate to serve as a “pilot for what is possible;” a model for what the country might look like if we learned to harness the power of our diversity for innovation and social change, rather than shying away from it and becoming polarized and disenfranchised. CERRU exists in order to work in partnership with the college to fulfill that mandate.

We envision a world where our differences inspire curiosity, collaboration, and innovation.


Who We Are

CERRU is a diversity education center that provides nonviolent communication tools to bridge social differences and create a more equitable society.

How We Do It

We use dialogue and undoing bias techniques to bring people together to discuss their views and listen to one another. Dialogue is a conversation in which people who have various and often conflicting beliefs, values, and perspectives listen mindfully to each other and ask questions to elicit more information rather than focus on making their point. They experience how to include differences, negotiate their social identities, find common ground, move forward with their own personal growth, and work with others to effect positive social change.

What We Do

CERRU works with students, faculty, and staff to create a safe, vibrant, and inclusive space for communication. We offer fellowships, dialogues, and trainings at Queens College. These activities prepare participants to become leaders equipped to navigate an increasingly multicultural society. We also host events exploring multiple perspectives on controversial issues, providing context, and opportunity for dialogue.

We host events open to the public, community trainings, workshops, and work with community members and organizations to develop programs that suit the population’s needs.

Why We Do It

We believe that cultivating the ability to listen in order to understand, even when we do not necessarily agree, can transform divisive debate into an opportunity for creativity and innovation. We also believe that in order to mindfully work with others, we must be aware of our own biases so we may work towards eliminating them.

Strategic Plan

CERRU is looking forward to expanding its reach in order to train more individuals. We are working to expand the fellowship program at Queens College, as well as to create fellowship programs on a variety of different college campuses, throughout CUNY and beyond. We are starting to work with other campus populations as well, and we aspire to act as a resource for entire campus communities in order to promote systemic change.

We envision a world where our differences inspire curiosity, collaboration, and innovation.


Aliyah Baksh

Graphic Designer and Intern

Aliyah Baksh is a junior at Queens College and is in the process of completing a dual major. She is studying Psychology and Early Childhood and Elementary Education. She is currently working as an intern at the Center for Ethnic, Racial, and Religious Understanding (CERRU) at Queens College. She loves working in that space because she is learning critical skills as well as developing her professional and personal self.

Aliyah is passionate about becoming an elementary school teacher and brightening the lives of her students. She volunteers at her local mosque as a teacher of Arabic and Islamic Studies to a group of wonderful kids. She also helps by event coordinating and co-facilitating the annual summer camp and other programs.

Aliyah is in the process of writing her very first children’s book with the help of one of the most inspiring people in her life, her father.

Aysa Gray

Fellowship Director

I am Aysa Gray, the Fellowship Director for Center for Ethnic, Racial and Religious Understanding (CERRU) and co-facilitator of Dialogue Fellowship at Kupferburg CERRU Fellowship. I’m a learner, avid reader and world builder. I’m curious about how we can create spaces, mediums and relationships that center the values of consent, understanding, compassion, kindness, restoration, joy, reciprocity and accountability. It’s my belief that if we find ways to infuse these values more in our interpersonal relationships than there is hope for doing so on a mass level. Light work of course! I’m always interested in discussing how others are finding ways to live out these values in their life and world, my door is always open for those wanting to discuss. In my spare time, I attempt to create utopic fiction, explore economic justice in real time, and enjoy the music of Cardi B and Frank Ocean and the 70s Soul Era.

Sophia McGee

Director

Sophia McGee is the Director of the Center for Ethnic, Racial and Religious Understanding at Queens College (CERRU.) She is also an adjunct lecturer in the history department. Sophia McGee holds an MFA in International Affairs from the Graduate Program in International Affairs at the New School University. Her concentration was Conflict and Security, and her regional area of specialization was the Middle East, with a focus on the Israeli/Palestinian Conflict. Ms. McGee has lectured and presented both on current affairs involving Israel, the United States, and the Palestinian Territories, as well as the use of innovative pedagogy and trainings to foster inclusivity on campus. Most recently, she appeared at the CUNY TEDx conference, where her lecture was entitled “Learning to Take the Leap of Faith.”

Denise Pagano

Events Coordinator

Denise Pagano staff member since 1990 and full-time 1993.

I have worked with the Michael Harrington Center which merged with CERRU in 2012 then separately 2017. Michael Harrington Center as well as CERRU have been my own joint ventures.

CERRU has many tasks to perform which can be looked upon as wonderful achievements. I have been assigned to reserve rooms on campus for every event for CERRU, which includes overseeing set-ups of room, lighting, technical, dealing with staff and faculty and having a good rapport with everyone. Also setting up a personal account with Chartwell’s for all food orders and making sure delivery everything is correct and billing is also correct. Doing the invoices for Chartwell orders received, including stipends for fellowship, and honoriums. Problems that may occur, to oversee that all goes smoothly with accounting issues. Another task given is being in charge of hiring a photographer & DJ for the events and follow-up. There are several more tasks that I continue to do to maintain a good relation with my fellow peers.

I feel I am part of a team effort with CERRU, we all know what we have to do and do it well.

Monica Roman

Communications Coordinator

Monica Roman is the Communications Coordinator at the Center for Ethnic, Racial, and Religious Understanding. Her nonprofit career spans operations, development, and communications and prior to her time at CERRU, she has worked at the Center for Global Enterprise, Generation Citizen, and the New York City Urban Debate League. She is currently pursuing an M.B.A. with a focus on sustainable business at the Zicklin School of Business at Baruch College.

Monica is a graduate of the Macaulay Honors College at Queens College, holding a B.A. in Political Science and English. During her time at QC, she was actively engaged with CERRU, completing both fellowships and an internship with the organization. As a Social Change Fellow, she focused on elevating women’s issues at the college and coordinated a year’s worth of campus gender-related programming.

Born and raised on Long Island, Monica is a self-proclaimed beach bum and breaks out into hives if she is not near a large body of water for an extended period of time. Her hobbies include running out of pages in her passport, drinking obscene amounts of coffee, and having her heart broken by New York sports teams. Go Knicks!

We envision a world where our differences inspire curiosity, collaboration, and innovation.


Dr. Limarys Caraballo

Dr. Limarys Caraballo is an Associate Professor of English Secondary Education at Queens College-CUNY and consortium faculty in the Urban Education doctoral program at the CUNY Graduate Center. As Senior Research Fellow of the Institute for Urban and Minority Education at Teachers College, Columbia University, she co-directs Cyphers for Justice, an intergenerational program that supports art, research, and activism with youth and preservice educators. She has been a Cultivating New Voices among Researchers of Color Research Fellow of the National Council of Teachers of English (2010-12) and was recently presented with the Queens College Presidential Award for Excellence in Teaching.

Limarys’ research interests include students’ multiple identities and literacies, academic achievement, youth participatory action research, and preparing teachers to teach English in diverse sociocultural contexts. As a former English teacher, administrator, and consultant in public and private secondary schools, she is especially interested in culturally sustaining and socially-just literacy curricula and pedagogies. Her research focuses on reframing deficit conceptions of lower-income students of color and advancing the theory and development of curricula, pedagogies in K-12 and teacher education that support the multiple identities and literacies of minoritized students.

Rochelle (“Ricci”) Cummings

Rochelle (“Ricci”) Cummings is the mother of three adult children and the grandmother of four amazing grandchildren. She lives in Hamden, CT with her husband, Glen. Ms. Cummings earned her BA in psychology and MSW in clinical social work from the University of Michigan, and is a graduate of The Yale Law School. Immediately preceding her recent retirement from the practice of law, she directed a team of attorneys who handled national and international litigation for a financial services company. Ms. Cummings is president of the board of the Mid-Fairfield Child Guidance Center, vice president of the board of Clifford Beers Clinic, and serves on the boards of other not-for-profits. She sits on the Zoning Board of Appeals and was elected to the Democratic Town Committee. She is an enthusiastic participant in the Technology and Ethics Working Research Group, which is a project of the Interdisciplinary Center for Bioethics at Yale, and an avid but novice birder.

Rabbi Heidi Hoover

Rabbi Heidi Hoover began her work with B'ShERT's predecessor congregation TBE as Rabbinic Intern in 2006, initiating programs such as Shalom Shabbat (our Friday morning Shabbat observance for young children and parents/caregivers), Saturday morning adult Torah study, Interfaith Adult Workshops, and more. She served as Acting Rabbi during the final year of her academic studies, and after receiving smicha in May of 2011, she began her full-time service as rabbi of our temple in July of that year.

Rabbi Hoover has been profiled in the New York Times, Jewish Woman Magazine, and other print and online publications. She frequently speaks on the topics of Jewish identity, interfaith issues and the relationship of the Jewish people to modern Germany. Her essay on ethnic diversity in today's Jewish community appears in “Studies in Judaism and Pluralism,” published in December 2016 to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the Academy for Jewish Religion. Her writing has also been published in the Huffington Post, My Jewish Learning, and the Washington Post.

She is a proud alumna of The Academy for Jewish Religion and Gratz College; she received smicha and her Master's degree in Jewish Studies in May of 2011. She holds a BA from Carnegie Mellon in Pittsburgh, PA.

For the 2010/2011 academic year, Rabbi Hoover was a Rabbis Without Borders student fellow at CLAL, the Jewish center for learning and leadership. In 2013-2015, she was part of the first participant group of RWB's two-year Clergy Leadership Incubator Program for early-career congregational rabbis. She also has taught and led programs for Hadassah of Park Slope, the Institute for Living Judaism in Brooklyn, the Interfaith Center of New York, and Kutz Camp. Rabbi Hoover is active in the Interfaith Coalition of Brooklyn.

Rabbi Hoover lives in Kensington with her husband Michael Rose and their daughters Hannalina & Shoshana Hoover.

Rabbi Bob Kaplan

Rabbi Bob Kaplan is currently the founding Director of The Center for Community Leadership, (formally known as CAUSE – NY) a division of the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York (JCRC). He also co-directs the New York – Jerusalem Experts Exchange, a joint project of the JCRC and the Jerusalem Intercultural Center that exchanges best practices in building diverse societies. Mr. Kaplan is involved in a variety of issues including conflict resolution, coalition building, interracial/faith relationships, combating hate crimes, and community building. Rabbi Kaplan acts as an organizational consultant to many diverse community-based organizations — Jewish and non-Jewish on the issue of intergroup/faith relations and capacity building.

He served for five years as the Associate Executive Director of Hillel of New York. He has served on the Board of Habitat for Humanity- NY, Health Plus and the Lutheran Family Health Care Centers. He currently serves on the Boards of the NYU-Lutheran Medical Center, Mayor DeBlasio’s Clergy Advisory Committee, the Mercy College Advisory Board as well as the Advisory Board of the Center of Ethnic and Community Media at the City University of New York.

Mr. Kaplan is called upon by the non-profit and government sectors and as an expert and consultant in the arena of diversity, community building, leadership development, coalitions, and intergroup relations. In February 2009, Bob Kaplan, along with Mohammed Razvi, trained Jewish and Arab leaders in the skills of coalition building and coexistence work, in mixed cities in Israel on the behalf of the U.S. State Department. He also served as a consultant for the United Kingdom Foreign Office working with groups in London and Bristol on Muslim /Jewish Relations. He was also part of a team of community and policing experts that traveled to Belfast, Northern Ireland to train and teach local community leaders and police officials as part of a U.S. State Department sponsored program.

He serves as a mentor and fieldwork supervisor for Master of Social Work graduate students in the field of community organizing. He likewise serves as a Clergy Liaison to the Chief of Community Affairs of the New York Police Department (NYPD). He has been trained by the Community Mediation Services, Inc. in mediation and conflict resolution. As a member of the clergy, Bob Kaplan was a grief counselor for the American Red Cross assigned to working with relief workers at the respite center located at Ground Zero. He is a member of the Micah Roundtable on Social Justice.

Rabbi Kaplan serves as a member of the NYC Department of Education’s Diversity Council. He presented to President Clinton’s White House Conference on Race and was a member of the Plenary Committee for the United Nations Conference, Habitat II. Rabbi Kaplan was a member of the Design Team and faculty member of the Institute for Public Health and Faith Collaborations, collaboration between the Rollins School of Health at Emory University and the Center for Disease Control (CDC) in Atlanta, Georgia. He served as the coalition consultant to the Black/Jewish Congressional Coalition in Washington DC.

Zena Kaufman

Zena Kaufman is currently the President of ZGK Quality Consulting which provides quality & compliance consulting to pharmaceutical and medical device firms worldwide. This is an outgrowth of her career in Quality at major pharmaceutical firms such as Pfizer, Abbott, Searle, and Hospira where she was a Corporate Officer and Senior Vice President of Global Quality.

Zena is a recognized thought leader in Global Pharmaceutical Quality Systems having had the honor to participate as part of the Expert Working Group on International Conference on Harmonization Quality Guideline, ICH Q10, Pharmaceutical Quality Systems, representing PhRMA. She was also chair of the Technical Leadership Committee at PhRMA, and served on the Board of the Parenteral Drug Association.

Zena has always been active in her respective synagogues, serving on the Board of Directors for Oak Park Temple and then North Shore Congregation Israel. At her current temple, she has started a Lilith Salon for women to discuss relevant issues. As part of the Sisterhood of Salaam/Shalom, she has participated in the Building Bridges missions to Azerbaijan and the US Civil Rights mission.

Zena received a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Biology from Queens College in Queens NY, and a Master’s of Science Degree in Marine Environmental Sciences from the State University of New York at Stony Brook. She lives in Manhattan NY with her husband and can be often seen running the loop at Central Park.

Lara Porter

Lara Porter is an Associate at Morgan Stanley in the Institutional Equities Division. She focuses on quantitative hedge fund coverage for US equities within algorithmic trading. At Morgan Stanley, she serves on the Morgan Stanley Equities Philanthropy Committee to coordinate fundraising and volunteer opportunities with local non-profit organizations. Prior to working at Morgan Stanley, Lara was part of the graduate training program at UBS for two years in the equities division and was a member of the community service committee for the equities division.

Lara is focused on financial institutions and economic empowerment. She has served on the Microfinance Council of Accion Serving the East Coast since August 2016. At Accion, she has helped coordinate fundraising events as well as worked with Accion clients on preparing their loan applications and business plans.

Lara graduated magna cum laude in 2015 from the Macaulay Honors College at CUNY Hunter with a BA and an MA in Economics and a minor in Mathematics. She wrote her MA thesis on the relationship between commodity prices and the incidence of civil war in developing countries. During her undergraduate career, Lara studied abroad at CERGE-IE in Prague where she focused on the transitional economics. Her interest in international economics systems led to an internship in Economic Sanctions at the US Department of State in 2013, where she was selected as an International Affairs Fellow by the Council of American Ambassadors.

Lara was a CERRU Fellow when she was studying at Queens College, and she is currently the liaison to CERRU’s Advisory Board from CERRU’s Young Professionals Board.

Heather Raffo

Heather Raffo is a playwright and performer whose most recent play, “Noura” just finished a highly successful run at Playwrights Horizons in Manhattan. The show has earned a Helen Hayes award nomination. She is also the solo performer and writer of the Off Broadway hit, 9 Parts of Desire which details the lives of nine Iraqi women. For her creation and performance of 9 Parts and its national and international tour, Heather garnered many awards including a Lucille Lortel Award, and the prestigious Susan Smith Blackburn and Marian Seldes- Garson Kanin playwriting awards, as well as Helen Hayes, Outer Critics Circle and Drama League nominations, for outstanding performance. Heather first performed 9 Parts of Desire in August 2003 at the Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh.

9 Parts of Desire has been performed all over the U.S. and was one of the top five produced plays of the 2007-2008 American theater season. It has had international productions/translations in Brazil, Greece, Sweden, Turkey, Malta, France, Iraq, Egypt, Israel, Scotland, England and Canada. Publications are by Northwestern University Press and Dramatists Play Service as well as a number of anthologies.

Heather developed a libretto for an opera commissioned by the Annenberg Foundation and City Opera Vancouver. The opera details the life of a US Marine who served in Fallujah in 2004 and relates the haunting experiences of identity and belonging for both veterans and their families as well as Iraqis.

Heather’s recent acting credits include: Noura, The feature film Vino Veritas, dir. Sarah Knight; Food and Fadwa, (world premiere New York Theater Workshop); In Darfur (world premiere The Public Theater, Delacourt); Palace of the End (Drama League Nomination -Epic Theater Center); Seven (Skirball Center, London’s House of Lords, Aspen Ideas Festival); The French Lieutenant’s Woman (world premiere Fulton Opera House); Over The River and Through the Woods (John Houseman); Off Broadway/National Tour of Macbeth (Lady Macbeth), The Merry Wives of Windsor (Mistress Page) and The Rivals all with The Acting Company. Regionally with the Old Globe Theater: Romeo and Juliet (dir. Daniel Sullivan); Othello (dir. Jack O’Brien); As You Like It (dir. Stephen Wadsworth); Macbeth (dir. Nicky Martin).

Raffo served as 2010-2011 Artist in Residence at Vassar College, sponsored by the Mellon Foundation. She enjoys an ongoing residency in the Department of Performing Arts at Georgetown University. She has taught and performed at dozens of universities and arts centers both in the United States and internationally engaging students about the politics and arts of Iraq and about her own experience as an Iraqi-American playwright and actress.

Dr. Warren Spielberg, PhD

Dr. Warren Spielberg PhD is a psychologist, psychoanalyst, Fulbright Scholar and an Associate Teaching Professor at the New School for Public Engagement. He is co-author of “The Psychology of Black Boys and Adolescents – Two Volumes,” Praeger 2015. He is an acknowledged authority on the problems of boys and men and is a member of the American Psychological (APA) Task Force on treatment guidelines for boys and men. He is also the recipient of a Practitioner of the Year Citation from the APA for his work with the FDNY post 9/11. He maintains a practice in Brooklyn Heights, where he works with families, children, and adults. Dr. Spielberg consults on issues relating to boys and men worldwide to such organizations as UNICEF, FDNY and the NYC Mayor’s Young Men’s Initiative. Dr Spielberg is also visiting professor at the Child Institute of Al Quds University on the West Bank. For many years he served as a Consultant to the Peace Now/ Palestinian Authority Dialogue Project for young Adults.

We envision a world where our differences inspire curiosity, collaboration, and innovation.


Batya Septimus

Batya first joined CERRU as a QC student and Dialogue Facilitator from 2010 - 2012. After graduating, she joined the staff as a Campus Outreach Coordinator, then Fellowship Coordinator and finally the Program Director for the Dialogue and Social Change Fellowships.

After departing from CERRU, Batya spent time working with asylum seekers and refugees in Greece, where she helped found the No Border School. She also created a website with audio-visual profiles of refugees asylum seekers: https://refugeesite.com/

Batya now works with the Healthy Brain Network research study at the Child Mind Institute, a nonprofit organization focused on children’s mental health. She manages the operational infrastructure of a study that is creating an openly shared database of brain scans, biological samples, and mental health data from 10,000 children in NYC. The goal of the project is to accelerate the pace of discovery around children’s mental health and to identify biological markers of mental health and learning disorders.

Carlsky Belizaire

Carlsky Belizaire is a masters candidate at Georgetown University’s Master of Science in Foreign Service program. As a 2016 Rangel fellow, Carlsky will be joining the U.S. Department of State after graduation.

At Georgetown, Carlsky serves as Vice President of Hoya Circles, the university’s first multicultural graduate student organization.

Carlsky proudly participated in CERRU from 2013-2015. As a Facilitator, and later as a Dialogue Fellow, he helped facilitate conversations on complex topics such as faith & doubt, race relations in the United States, and the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Christine Ramkarran

Christine is a graduating senior for the Queens College class of 2018. She is a Jeannette K. Watson Fellow, a three year program that provides funded summer internships and unprecedented opportunities to promising undergraduate students from 12 New York City partner colleges. Through the Watson Foundation, Christine has worked at Point-of-View-Documentary Films, a critically acclaimed documentary series, as well Girl Up, a United Nations Foundation Campaign whose aim is to encourage girls to become transformative figures within their communities. Additionally, Christine will be traveling to Copenhagen, Denmark this upcoming summer in order to work with Freemuse, an independent international organization advocating for and defending freedom of artistic expression. She is currently working at the Belladonna* Literary Press in Brooklyn, NY, and is conducting a social organizing project through the CERRU Fellowships program. For her project, Christine and her group mates are exploring the ways in which womxn experience and heal from various forms of trauma. Topics of exploration for the project include sexual assault and creative expression.

Francis Madi

Francis Madi is an artist, cultural and community organizer, and a DACA recipient and migrant from Venezuela. These experiences in the worlds of migration, art, politics and community organizing have shaped her experience and her cultural work. She is currently the Manager of Advocacy at the New York Immigration Coalition, leading the efforts on the state level to help pass a clean Dream Act in Congress. Her previous professional experiences include organizing Arab and Latino youth at the Arab American Association of NY and Long Island immigrant workers at La Fuente.

While she was a student at Queens College, she facilitated difficult conversations at the Center for Ethnic, Racial and Religious Understanding 2010-2011, and co-founded the Queens College Dream Team, a space for undocumented students on campus to come together and empower themselves. She is currently focusing on uplifting the voices of Undocumented and Intersectional individuals like her through different mediums. She is the cohost of the podcast La Arepa y El Taco, bringing politics and pop culture to one place and her story and personal writings have been featured in the New York Times, Medium.com, The New Republic, Vanidades Venezuela, Long Island Wins, Noticia Long Island, and many others. She resides in Hempstead, NY.

Greg Finch

Greg Finch is an Investigator at the Civilian Complaint Review Board, investigating police misconduct for the City of New York.

Greg was a co-founder of RockawayHelp, a disaster relief and recovery organization in South Queens after Hurricane Sandy.

During his time at Queens College, Greg was a dialogue facilitator in the inaugural year of the Center for Ethnic, Racial and Religious Understanding.

Hannah Weinerman, LMSW

Hannah Weinerman is a Program Director at the Center for Community Leadership at the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York. Hannah runs the We Are All New York Fellowship, a professional development and networking program for non-profit professionals, community and faith leaders from across New York City. Hannah holds a Master of Social Work degree from the Silberman School of Social Work at Hunter College with concentrations in Community Organizing, Planning & Development and Policy and holds a Bachelor of Science in Industrial and Labor Relations with a minor in International Studies from Cornell University. She currently participates in the National Council for Jewish Women’s NY Section Advocacy Leadership Committee and the Experiment in Dialogue Dinner series. She is also looking to get more involved in progressive political groups and activities throughout the city. Although new to the CERRU community, Hannah is looking forward to learning about the organization’s great work and its alumni as well as how she can contribute best to the Young Professionals Board. Hannah currently resides on the Upper West Side of Manhattan.

Lara Porter

Lara Porter is an Associate at Morgan Stanley in the Institutional Equities Division. She focuses on quantitative hedge fund coverage for US equities within algorithmic trading. At Morgan Stanley, she serves on the Morgan Stanley Equities Philanthropy Committee to coordinate fundraising and volunteer opportunities with local non-profit organizations. Prior to working at Morgan Stanley, Lara was part of the graduate training program at UBS for two years in the equities division.

Lara is focused on financial institutions and economic empowerment. She has served on the Microfinance Council of Accion Serving the East Coast since August 2016. At Accion, she has helped coordinate fundraising events as well as worked with Accion clients on preparing their loan applications and business plans.

Lara graduated magna cum laude in 2015 from the Macaulay Honors College at CUNY Hunter with a BA and an MA in Economics and a minor in Mathematics. She wrote her MA thesis on the relationship between commodity prices and the incidence of civil war in developing countries. During her undergraduate career, Lara studied abroad at CERGE-IE in Prague where she focused on the transitional economics. Her interest in international economics systems led to an internship in Economic Sanctions at the US Department of State in 2013, where she was selected as an International Affairs Fellow by the Council of American Ambassadors.

Meher Mohsin

Meher Mohsin, (Queens College, 2012) graduated with a degree in Political Science but a heart for the non-profit world. She moved from civil rights to education and now calls Teach For America - New Jersey home. Working as their Director of Corporate and Foundation Relations, Meher is committed to the movement for educational equity but as a 9/11 generation Muslim New Yorker, there’s a lot more that’s shaped this journey.

At Queens College, Meher served as the Editor-in-Chief of The Knight News and was a recipient of the Linkakis Leadership Award as well as the CERRU Uncommon Courage Award. Meher joined forces with friends Lara Porter and Dasi Fruchter to launch CERRU’s Volunteer Corps which connected students interested in giving back to communities outside of their own to opportunities near the QC campus. Through them, Meher went on to intern with the Council on American Islamic Relations and Women for Afghan Women, and engaged in various interfaith tours, and dialogues.

She was a facilitator with CERRU from 2010-2012 and also helped organize events, interactive art projects, and was actively engaged with LunchTime 2.0. Meher has always attributed her strength, openessness and pride in her identity as a Muslim-American-Immigrant-Woman to CERRU and the relationships she was able to cultivate through their programming and the guidance of the organizations’ leadership.

Michele Jackson

Michele graduated magna cum laude from Queens College in 2016 with a double major in Political Science and Philosophy, and a minor in Business and Liberal Arts. As a member of CERRU, Michele modeled in CERRU’s Social Identity Fashion Show, and participated as both a Dialogue Fellow and a Social Change Fellow. Michele is currently a first-year student at Brooklyn Law School. She is a member of the Black Law Students Association, and is a mentor to an undergraduate student in its Pipeline to Diversity Mentorship Program. Throughout her time in law school and post-graduation, Michele hopes to work with non-profit organizations that focus on protecting the rights of tenants, immigrants, and/or workers in NYC.

Monica Roman

Monica is currently the New York City Operations Associate for Generation Citizen, a national Action Civics nonprofit. She is a graduate of the Macaulay Honors College at Queens College, holding a B.A. in Political Science and English. During her time at QC, Monica was actively engaged with CERRU, completing both fellowships and an internship with the organization. As a Social Change Fellow, she focused on elevating women’s issues coordinated a year’s worth of campus gender-related programming.

Born and raised on Long Island, Monica is a self-proclaimed beach bum and breaks out into hives if she is not near a large body of water for an extended period of time. Her hobbies include running out of pages in her passport, drinking obscene amounts of coffee, and having her heart broken by New York sports teams. Go Knicks!

We envision a world where our differences inspire curiosity, collaboration, and innovation.


Coming Soon.

We envision a world where our differences inspire curiosity, collaboration, and innovation.


Innovation Exchange

Each year, CERRU chooses a social justice challenge that warrants further community exploration and action. We engage experts in various fields with differing perspectives in order to help us delve into a rigorous conversation. It is always exciting to feel the energy of varying ideas and perspectives combining to create innovative pathways forwards.

Last semester we have focused on the #Metoo movement in a five part series which included several events such as "Teach-In: Experiencing Sexual Assault," the "Susheel Kirpalani Innovation Exchange," "Introduction to Gender Bias", a film screening on "Feminist on Cell Block Y," and "Transforming Queens College into a Sexual Violence Free Zone."

Lunchtime 2.0

Lunchtime 2.0 is an initiative aimed at redefining the way we think of college cafeterias. Campuses across the US are becoming more diverse; however, not enough is being done to provide a mechanism for diverse students to engage and listen to each other.

At various times during the semester, CERRU takes over a section of the cafeteria to pair up QC students and engage in discussion and understanding. Recent Lunchtime 2.0 has discussed Perfectionism and how it affects mental health.

Past Events


Recent Dialogues

Boundaries: Are They Necessary in Relationships?

Ever find yourself in a situation where you feel like you have to say yes to things you'd rather not for feat of being impolite?
Come and have a conversation about how to navigate this space with friends, lovers, and family.

The space will be accessible to assistive mobility devices and wheelchairs. We will have seating space integrated for wheelchairs and assistive mobility devices in the space.

Sexual Assault Conversation: Ask Your Questions

Are you looking for resources?
Do you want to discuss healthy relationships?
Are you trying to figure out how to implement change on these issues on campus?

Ima, a Community Educator with Sexual Assault and Violence Intervention Program (SAVI), lead us in an open format conversation around any topics concerning sexual assault, consent, healthy relationships, boundaries, and more!

Good Talk: Tools to Advance Nonviolent & Equitable Communication

Do you recall the first time someone communicated love and affirmation for you for being all of who you are? Do you recall the first time someone belittled you for your race, gender, sexuality, ethnicity, documentation status or religious background? Conversations can be sites of affirmation, connection, intimacy and can also be sites for violence, isolation and permanent harm.

In our current climate bias beliefs often lead to conversations devoid of respect causing hostility in within families, college campuses and wider society. In this workshop, participants will use this information to gain equitable communication skills on how to interrupt and mediate personal and communal conflict that relates to racism, xenophobia and religious discrimination.


Film Screenings

The Green Book Guide to Freedom

In the 1930s, a black postal carrier from Harlem named Victor Green published a book that was part travel guide and part survival guide. It was called The Negro Motorist Green Book, and it helped Black-Americans navigate safe passage across America well into the 1960s. Explore some of the segregated nation's safe havens and notorious "sundown towns" and witness stories of struggle and indignity as well as opportunity and triumph.

Feminist on Cell Block Y

This film showed us the steps being taken at a prison where men are working through their toxic masculinity to form new definitions to positively transform their own experiences.

Anita Hill Documentary

"Anita: Speaking Truth to Power" was timely with the current potential Kavanaugh confirmation. and spoke about what happened during the Clarence Thomas confirmations years ago!


Social Identity Fashion Show

Who decides our identity?

As we go through life, we struggle to negotiate our connection to group identities and the need to express our own individual identities. Often, society assigns us inaccurate or uncomfortable social identities on the basis of our backgrounds, skin color, or religious beliefs. In the Social Identity Fashion Show, students walk down the runway in two outfits: the first represents the assumptions that society makes about them. The second represents the identities that are most powerful and important to them.


Launch Parties

Every fall semester, CERRU welcomes students back to the hustle and bustle of college by hosting a Launch Party dedicated to a specific theme. Clubs and student organizations also co-sponsor and attend the party. These parties help to bring together a variety of different people to celebrate the start of a school year.

Who Will Save Gotham City was CERRU's Fall 2018 Theme

"Come dressed as your favorite hero, whether it's Marvel, DC, Manga, Anime, or an important figure from real life."

At this Launch Party, we celebrated heroes of all shapes, colors, and genders whether they are fictional or everyday heroes.

We envision a world where our differences inspire curiosity, collaboration, and innovation.


CERRU is co-sponsoring several upcoming events on campus

EventPoet and Playwright Nathalie Handal in History 255Transgender Allyship as Spiritual PracticePedagogy and South Africa. Complicated Conversations"Shusenjo: The Main Battleground of the Comfort Women Issue"
WhenTuesday September 24, 2019Wednesday September 25, 2019Wednesday September 25, 2019Thursday September 26, 2019
WherePowdermaker Hall Room 157Queens College Student Union Room 403Kiely Hall 150Queens College Dining Hall Patio Room
Time4:15pm - 5:45pmFree Hour 12:15pm - 1:30pm12:20pm - 1:30pm12:45pm - 3:00pm

Click the Flyers to Learn More


Other Upcoming Events

Join Chrisopher Porter and Susheel Kirpalani for a conversation about "True Grit: How Passion and Perserverance Cultivate our Greatest Polential"

We envision a world where our differences inspire curiosity, collaboration, and innovation.


Undoing Bias Fellowships

“[F]acilitating dialogues makes you always...present, and listening - not just listening to hear, but listening to understand and respect, and create this environment of sharing different views of other people, and that helped me a lot.”
(Dialogue Fellow 2014-2015, Social Change Fellow 2015-2016)

CERRU runs two competitive student fellowships, which are the backbone of the organization. Through these two fellowships, we mentor and train a next generation of leaders who will be operating in an increasingly multicultural world.

Race and Class

Racism, xenophobia, nationalism, Islamophobia, Antisemitism are all sources of inequities that affect our ability to treat each other as human through undistorted eyes. Often when we think of race, we view Black people as the single object of racist harm. This fellowship will take a semester to explore the ways race and class impact people of all races, including Black, White and People of Color.

The fellowship provides fellows a foundation for the following:

• How systems of racial bias were created in the United States
• The values of racist ideology
• Ways in which we as individuals uphold racist ideology and bias
• Ways the systems of race and class bias impact us and our relationships to self and others

Gender

Sexism, misogyny, transphobia, homophobia are all sources of inequities and traumas that affect our ability to connect with each other and live an actualized life. Often when we think of sexism, we view women as the single object of sexist harm. This fellowship will take a semester to explore the ways in which gender and sexuality bias, impacts gender non-conforming people, women, and men.

The fellowship also provides fellows a foundation for the following:

•How systems of gender bias were created in the United States
•The values of sexist ideology
•Ways in which we as individuals uphold sexist ideology and bias
•Ways this system of gender bias impacts us and our relationships to self and others

"While I was on the Ibrahim trip [in Israel/Palestine]...we saw...some really heavy stuff...I could tell it was weighing on a lot of us, and that we should have some larger conversation...I was like, “Can I facilitate this dialogue?” So I ended up just doing that with the group...“What’s your most impactful moment of the past couple of days?” And then...as I...got to hear everyone, I recognized that there was a couple of trends going on, and so we were able to sort of unpack those as a group...there was some tension arising, but...I think it was very...useful."
(Facilitator 2013-14, Social Change Fellow 2014-15)

We envision a world where our differences inspire curiosity, collaboration, and innovation.


Center for Ethnic, Racial, and Religious Understanding
Delany Hall 215
65-30 Kissena Blvd
Flushing, NY 11367
Tel: 718-997-3070

We envision a world where our differences inspire curiosity, collaboration, and innovation.


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