CERRU works with students, faculty, and staff to create a safe, vibrant, just, and equitable space for education and beyond. We offer training and events to actively reduce interpersonal and systemic oppression and exploitation in real time, all of which are open to the public and combine the expertise of scholars, organizers and organizations to suit the needs of the population.
Education: Train and support the community in Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion education to better advocate and organize in against violence beyond tokenization.
Solidarity and Community: Build an intersectional supportive network of co-collaborators to amplify and address the needs of the most impacted.
Praxis (Walk the Walk): Engage in regular self reflective and narrative based power analysis to ensure our values and actions are always in alignment with intersectional pro-human principles beyond performative and well-intentioned actions.
Inclusion (Freedom to be yourself): To be emergent, creative, and ensuring stakeholders can show up in their most authentic and values aligned self, including the practice of restorative rest.
Queering (Simultaneity): The ability to stand in these values as we confront and work within the realities of the position we and the world are faced with. To move beyond binary ways of moving and thinking.
Liberated Gatekeeping: To assist our wider community in understand relationships and personal position to systems of power(including and beyond implicit and explicit bias) in order to support those who are most impacted and being presently and historically pushed to the margins of higher education.
Interim Director/CoFounder CUNY DEI Incubator
Curriculum Strategist, Facilitator, and Coach
Curriculum Strategist and Facilitator
CUNY DEI Incubator Program Manager
Mutual Aid Coordinator
Aysa Gray (Pronouns: Aysa) is an impassioned Director with over a decade of experience in gender/sexuality, ability and racial equity and project management/incubation work. Aysa's expertise has been recognized through publications in prestigious journals like the Stanford Innovation Journal (2019) and Harvard RAPP Diversity Journal (2020). Committed to creating a more inclusive world, Aysa wholeheartedly draws from critical race pedagogy, queer pedagogy, crip pedagogy, and feminist pedagogy to inform their curricular design practices and management practices.
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!
Prior to joining CERRU, Jana has organized & coordinated for nonprofits including San Diego Pride, as well as for Puget Sound Educational Service District as part of their ‘Student Support Services’ team. During this time, she is proud to have collaborated on programs that specialized in suicide prevention, gender-based violence, ELL family support, juvenile justice, culturally-competent youth education, equitable healthcare resources and drug prevention/intervention – always leading with an intersectional antiracist approach. Community collaboration, mutual aid and equity-building have always been her greatest inspirations and she believes they are some of the most important tools to ending the oppression of all marginalized and underserved people & communities.
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.