Health Disparities Seminar Series: Community Partnerships to Reduce Health Disparities

Fall 2018 speakers

Seminar 1

Warren Lavey, JD, MS, taught courses in environmental policy, health, and sustainability as an adjunct professor in the Illinois Colleges of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Applied Health Sciences, Agriculture, and Law. His writings address teaching the health impacts of climate change in university programs, community health benefits from hospitals responding to climate change, climate justice, and designing solar energy programs. He participates in environmental, health, and sustainability initiatives through campus, local, national, and international organizations. Lavey retired after 23 years as a partner in the global law firm Skadden, Arps.  

Julie Pryde, MSW, MPH, is administrator for Champaign-Urbana Public Health District. Pryde is an accomplished grant writer, researcher, and speaker. She is published in Journal of Public Health Management and Practice, Journal of Infectious Disease, Proceedings of the International Meeting on Emerging Diseases and Surveillance 2011, and in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. She currently serves on the National Association of County and City Health Official’s Zika Advisory Council, Illinois Immunization Advisory Committee, and numerous committees and boards at the University of Illinois and with Champaign agencies.

Seminar 2

Ruby Mendenhall, PhD, is an associate professor at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. She holds joint faculty appointments in Sociology, African American Studies, Urban and Regional Planning, Social Work and Gender and Women’s Studies. She is currently a faculty member at the Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology and a faculty affiliate at the Institute for Computing in the Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences; Women and Gender in Global Perspective; and Gender and the Cline Center for Advance Social Research. She is an assistant dean for diversity and democratization of health innovation at the Carle Illinois College of Medicine. She is the recipient of the Richard and Margaret Romano Professorial Scholar for outstanding achievements in research and leadership on campus. Mendenhall’s research examines how living in racially segregated neighborhoods with high levels of violence affects black mothers’ mental and physical health using surveys, interviews, crime statistics, police records, data from 911 calls and genomic analysis. She uses mixed methods to examine how racial microaggressions affect students of color health and sense of belonging on predominantly white campuses. Mendenhall also uses mixed methods to understand how low- and moderate-income families use the Earned Income Tax Credit for social mobility and how financial stress negatively affects health outcomes.

Tracy Dace, MS, founded a community impact organization in 2015 called DREAAM House (Driven to Reach Excellence and Academic Achievement for Males), which creates and implements community-based programs for boys and young men at promise to overcome obstacles and succeed in school, at home, and in life. Prior to DREAAM House, Dace was an assistant professor of humanities at Parkland College and instructed courses in developmental reading and English. He is a social justice educator and builds bridges between communities, systems, and educational institutions to achieve a deeper impact and systemic change. In previous roles, Dace was the unit director of the Don Moyer Boys & Girls Club and a juvenile justice liaison for a local system of care. While working at the University of South Florida from 2002 to 2005, he co-created an urban education center and directed a team in managing a $4 million federal cooperative agreement to increase the research capacity of faculty at minority serving institutions. A native of Mississippi, Dace earned a bachelor’s degree in political science from Alcorn State University and a master’s degree in higher education–student personnel from the University of Mississippi. Additionally, Dace serves as chair for the advisory council of the Education Justice Project, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and is a member of the leadership council of the Champaign-Urbana Cradle to Career.

Seminar 3

Barbara Fiese, PhD, is a clinical and developmental psychologist whose research focuses on family factors that promote health and wellbeing in children. She holds the Pampered Chef, Ltd., Endowed Chair in Family Resiliency and is professor and director of the Family Resiliency Center (FRC) at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, with affiliated appointments in the departments of pediatrics and psychology. She is considered one of the national experts in the role that shared family mealtimes may play in promoting health.

Fiese is a principal investigator or co-investigator on multiple federally funded projects aimed at examining environmental and biological factors contributing to early nutritional health including the STRONG Kids 2 Project which takes a cell-to-community approach to dietary habits from birth and the I-TOPP program, an innovative transdisciplinary MPH/PhD training program in obesity prevention. She is also the PI on several projects aimed at increasing the efficiencies of summer and after school feeding programs for food insecure children and youth. Fiese is past-president of the society of Family Psychology, editor of the Journal of Family Psychology, and inaugural editor of Advances in Child and Family Policy and Practice.

Brenda Davis Koester, MS, is assistant director of the Family Resiliency Center (FRC). Her research and policy work centers around food insecurity; children’s feeding programs; effective community collaborations; and translating research into policy and practice and she serves as Co-PD and Co-I on several externally funded projects. She has experience supporting and coordinating transdisciplinary teams and co-instructs the HDFS 494 Undergraduate Transdisciplinary Research Course. As assistant director of the FRC she supervises staff and directs the professional development, communication, and policy work of the center. She also provides pre- and post- grant support for FRC projects and affiliates. She holds a BS in Communication and an MS in Labor and Employment Relations from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Sessy Nyman, MS, joined EverThrive Illinois in March 2017 as executive director with more than 25 years of experience in advocacy, legislative strategic development, and non-profit leadership. Sessy most recently served as vice president for policy and strategic partnerships at Illinois Action for Children (IAFC), where she managed strategic direction and fiscal growth for the department, and successfully expanded its staff size and annual operating budget through private foundation support. In addition to negotiating legislative outcomes and spearheading administrative advocacy to state agencies, she managed statewide campaigns for policy change and increases in fiscal expenditures; created partnerships with community organizations, parents, and faith-based initiatives to expand and deepen legislative strength of IAFC. Sessy served on multiple early childhood task forces and committees to influence the development and implementation of statewide policy and programs.

Prior to joining IAFC, Sessy worked as the director of the Violence Prevention Project for the Alliance for Logan Square Organizations, where she created community collaborations with local stakeholders to effectively implement violence prevention strategies. She served as a primary spokesperson to represent the project to Chicago’s greater not-for-profit community and other citywide institutions working on violence prevention issues. From 1990-1992 she was national coordinator for the Chicago-based Mozambique Support Network, a national network of state affiliate organizations advocating for change in Southern Africa.