CERRU is a diversity education center that provides nonviolent communication tools to bridge social differences and create a more equitable society.
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.
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.
We believe that cultivating the ability to listen to understand, even when we do not necessarily agree, can transform divisive debate into an opportunity for creativity and innovation. We also believe that to mindfully work with others, we must be aware of our own biases so we may work towards eliminating them.
Curriculum Strategist, Facilitator, and Coach
Curriculum Strategist and Facilitator
CUNY DEI Incubator Program Manager
Aysa Gray (MA) is a visionary organizer, antiracist and DEI specialist, fluent speaker of AAVE and Interim Director of CERRU and the CUNY Incubator. They have been doing intersectional antiracist work for a decade. They also hold many other titles such as a member of the Black Latinx Faculty and Staff Group and a founding member of the Qc Mutual Aid Group. Her work centers co-creating actionable ways to disrupt systemic racism, antiblackness and intersecting oppressions in service to a liberated future. In their spare time, Aysa is two time winner in a protracted battle with her insomnia.
Yael supports Incubator sites with developing their campus-specific projects and in cross-campus collaboration as well as offers internal support in program development and strategic planning. Yael has been with CERRU since November 2013 in various capacities. She is now pursuing a PhD in Health Behavior, conducting research studies that center identity & sex, consulting, and growing her two businesses, Kaleidoscope Vibrations, LLC and Sex Positive You. Yael loves salsa dancing and facilitating spaces where people feel validated, understood, and like they belong.
Brianna Harlan is a multiform artist and organizer. She has been published in several forms as a voice in cultural activism nationally and internationally, including in ArtNews for her equity in art report and in Art in America. She completed her MFA in Art and Social Action at Queens College and was named a Young Distinguished Alumni by her alma mater, Hanover College. Brianna also works as a creative, community organizer and strategist for several community initiatives around the country including City University of New York’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Incubator and the Studio Museum in Harlem and Museum of Modern Art’s public programs fellowship.
Valerie is the CERRU program coordinator. She centers wellness and joy as resistance into the programs that she creates. Being of service to those in need is her focus in this work.
Before working at CERRU, Valerie was a paralegal with the Legal Aid Society at the Rose M. Singer Center on Rikers Island. Her major in college was African and African American Studies and she is a registered yoga practitioner. Valerie means valiant and strong. She is a child and warrior of the African diaspora.
My name is Denise Pagano, a staff member, and full-timer since 1993 at Queens College.
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, including overseeing set-ups of room, lighting, technical details, dealing with staff and faculty, and having a good rapport with everyone. When it comes to accounting, I see to it that everything goes smoothly. I oversee the payment of stipends, keep track of a personal account with Chartwells for all food orders, and make sure everything is correct in delivery and billing. Another task given is being in charge of hiring a photographer & DJ for the events and follow-up. These and more, I continue to do to maintain a good relationship with my peers.
CERRU team is a group effort, a family; we all know what we have to do and do it well!
Anna Parsons is the Program Manager for the CUNY DEI Incubator, managing program operations and logistics. Anna has been dedicated to supporting equity initiatives since their time as an undergraduate at the University of New Hampshire, where they obtained their B.A. in Sociology. As a student, Anna was active in multiple organizations including the Office of Multicultural Student Affairs, the Diversity Support Coalition, and Delta Xi Phi Multicultural Sorority Inc.
In their spare time, you'll find Anna attached to a new book, participating in trivia tournaments, or outside enjoying the sunshine!
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!
Leisa is a lifelong community servant with a background in youth development and education, and has held leadership positions in afterschool programs, alternative high schools and vocational programs across New York City and New Jersey.
Saturdays will find her coaching her step team or traveling to games and competitions with the youth basketball, cheerleading and majorette squads that she manages part-time. A Looney Toons and Muppets enthusiast, she achieved the name “Mz. Doc” from her affinity for Bugs Bunny and from the doctorate degree she holds in Educational Leadership.