Biographies

System Executive Director for Diversity Initiatives


Dr. W. G. Robinson-McNeeseDr. W. G. Robinson-McNeese

W.G. Robinson-McNeese, M.D. is a retired emergency physician who trained at the SIU School of Medicine (SOM), graduating in 1986.

A native of East St. Louis, IL, McNeese is certified through Healthcare Executive Diversity and Inclusion training by the Association of American Medical Colleges and Georgetown University, Washington, D.C.  He retired in 2017 as Associate Dean for Diversity and Inclusion at the SOM.

A member of Alpha Omega Alpha Honorary Medical Society, McNeese’s undergraduate education was at Anderson University, IN, Illinois State University-Normal and Southern Illinois University, Carbondale. Following graduation from medical school he did residency training at McGaw Medical Center, Northwestern Medical School, Chicago, IL (’90).​


Diversity Advisory Council Members

Bardhan Dr. Nilanjana R. Bardhan

Dr. Nilanjana R. Bardhan is a professor and director of graduate studies in the Department of Communication Studies at Southern Illinois University Carbondale (SIUC). Her teaching interests include public relations and intercultural/international communication.

Bardhan has been recognized and awarded the Outstanding Faculty Teaching Award in the Communication Studies Department at SIUC three times. In 2019, she received the Women of Distinction Award from SIUC. This award recognizes employees for their sustained commitment to women and/or issues of diversity through demonstrated leadership, vision and action. At SIUC, she has been on the advisory board of the Global Media Research Center and serves on the Diversity Curriculum Committee/Diversity Council. She is currently a member of the National Communication Association (NCA) and the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA). She also serves on the board of the Plank Center for Leadership in Public Relations and co-chairs its Diversity and Inclusion Committee.

Bardhan is the co-editor of Public Relations in Global Cultural Contexts (Routledge) and Identity Research and Communication (Lexington Press), and the co-author of Cultivating Cosmopolitanism for Intercultural Communication (Routledge). She has published over 30 book chapters, and articles in leading peer reviewed journals. She received her B.A from Delhi University, and her M.S.J. and Ph.D. from the Scripps School of Journalism at Ohio University.

Joseph Brown


Joseph A. Brown, SJ; Ph. D.


Brown, SJ; Ph. D., a native of East  St. Louis, is a Professor in the Department of Africana Studies at Southern Illinois University Carbondale, where he has taught since 1997.  An ordained Roman Catholic priest, he has degrees from St. Louis University (BA); Johns Hopkins University (MA); and Yale University (MA, PhD). His teaching career includes time at Creighton University, the University of Virginia and Xavier University of New Orleans.

His research interests are in literature, religion, aesthetics and cultural history. Some of his writings include, A Retreat with Thea Bowman and Bede Abram: Leaning on the Lord; To Stand on the Rock: Meditations on Black Catholic Identity; Sweet, Sweet Spirit: Prayer Services in the Black Catholic Tradition (with the assistance of Bishop Fernand J. Cheri, III, OFM/2006); and The Sun Whispers, Wait: New and Collected Poems (2009).  Since 2014, he has served as the Chair of the East St. Louis 1917 Centennial Commission & Cultural Initiative.  He also publishes the blog, “The Sankofa Muse.” http://sankofamuse.blogspot.com/

Vanessa Brown

Venessa Brown


Dr. Brown is the Associate Chancellor for the Office of Institutional Diversity and Inclusion at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville (SIUE) and Chief Diversity Officer with a tenured faculty appointment as professor in the department of social work. She also served as Associate Provost in Academic Affairs and Executive Director of the SIUE East Saint Louis Center (ESLC).

Dr. Brown began her academic career in 1993 as an assistant professor of sociology and social work in the Department of Social Sciences at Greenville College (GC). Following in her commitment to accredited social work programs, Dr. Brown accepted a position at SIUE in 1995 as an assistant professor to start the Masters in Social Work (MSW) program. She was tenured and promoted in 2001, full professor in 2006 and department chair from 2006 – 2007. In this role, she contributed to the overall success of the BSW/MSW program being fully accredited.

Todd BysonTodd Bryson


Todd Bryson received his Master’s degree in Recreation Management in 2008, and began his SIU professional career at the Student Recreation Center as the Assistant Director for Operations and Facilities.  In 2013, Todd became the Assistant Director in Housing. In 2016, Mr. Bryson became the Director of the Student Multicultural Resource Center and is currently serving in this role. In January of 2018, Todd was named the Interim Chancellor for Diversity SIUC.


Randolph BurnsideRandolph Burnside


Randolph Burnside is an Associate Professor in the MPA Program at Southern Illinois University Carbondale. His research interests include race, ethnicity and diversity, human resources management, behavioral aspects of disasters and organizational leadership. His most recent work has been published in the Canadian Journal of Administrative Sciences, the Journal of Applied Social Science, and the Ralph Bunche Journal of Public Affairs.




Lakesha ButlerLakesha Butler


Dr. Lakesha Butler is a Clinical Associate Professor of Pharmacy Practice at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville and a Board Certified Pharmacotherapy Specialist. She earned a Doctor of Pharmacy degree from Mercer University College of Pharmacy in Atlanta, GA and completed a pharmacy practice residency at the University of Illinois-Chicago. Dr. Butler is a strong advocate for increasing cultural competency among healthcare professionals, improving diversity and inclusion in and outside the classroom and developing leaders. She serves as the inaugural coordinator of Diversity and Inclusion at the SIUE School of Pharmacy and coordinator of the SIUE Healthcare Diversity Summer Camp which exposes minority high school students to college life and careers in pharmacy, nursing and dental medicine. Dr. Butler is the national President-elect of the National Pharmaceutical Association, and has received numerous awards for her national and local service leadership in pharmacy.

Wendi Wills El-AminWendi Wills El-Amin


Wendi Wills El-Amin, M.D. is the Associate Dean for Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion at Southern Illinois University School of Medicine.  She is also a faculty member at the school as an associate professor of family medicine where she provides care at the Center for Family Medicine in Springfield. Dr. El-Amin is dually appointed to the SIU’s Department of Medical Education and is an Academic Strategist.

She completed her residency in family practice and community medicine as chief resident at the University of Texas-Houston (2001). She earned her medical degree at Georgetown Medical School (1998) and a bachelor’s degree in biology at Hampton University in Virginia (1993).

El-Amin is board certified in family medicine and is a member of the National Medical Association, where she chairs the Women’s Health Section (2008 – present).

Quentin GuilloryQuentin Guillory

Quentin Guillory is a third-year medical student at Southern Illinois University School of Medicine. He is also a member of the Student National Medical Association and serves as the organization’s medical student representative on the Student Progress Committee of the SIU School of Medicine.

Quentin received a Bachelor of Science in Biology from Xavier University of Louisiana in 2015. Before matriculating into medical school, he completed MEDPREP, a rigorous two-year post-baccalaureate program at SIU Carbondale.

He is also a proud member of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc. and is dedicated to its cardinal principles of manhood, scholarship, perseverance, and uplift.

Vivian HardisonVivian Hardison


Vivian Hardison completed a Master of Science in Rehabilitation Counseling, as well as a Master of Science in Rehabilitation Administration at SIU Carbondale in 2016.

Vivian is also a Certified Rehabilitation Counselor (CRC). Vivian began her professional career as Testing Coordinator at Disability Support Services (DSS) in 2013. In 2018, Vivian became the Assistant Director of DSS.

Jessica Harris
Jessia Harris

Dr. Jessica C. Harris is Interim Assistant Provost for Inclusive Academic Excellence and an Associate Professor in the Department of Historical Studies at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville. In her role as Interim Assistant Provost, she supports the advancement of inclusive excellence across all units of Academic Affairs and is primarily responsible for the implementation, oversight and management of the University’s initiatives for improving deeply engaged student learning, student retention, student success, and faculty development, with an emphasis on both professional and cultural education.

Harris holds a B.A. degree in History from Dillard University in New Orleans, Louisiana (2002) and a M.A. (2006) and a Ph.D. (2011) in History, both from Cornell University in Ithaca, New York.

Brione Lockett

Brione Lockett

Brione Lockett was elected in March 2018 by the students of SIU  Carbondale to serve on the SIU Board of Trustees. His term ends June 30, 2020.

The Arlington Heights native completed his bachelor’s degree in history and Africana Studies at SIUC in 2015 and is currently in the third year of a joint concurrent program to earn his Master of Public Health in community health education and doctorate in education with concentration in health education. He’s a 2010 graduate of Rolling Meadows High School in Rolling Meadows.

Lockett serves as a teaching assistant in Africana Studies and is a summer tutor for Saluki Athletics. He is president of the Black Graduate Student Association, treasurer of Graduate Assistants United and president of Eta Sigma Gamma, the national healthcare honorary.

He was selected as the 2015 Alexander Lane Intern and served on the House Democratic Issues/Communication staff for the Illinois House of Representatives that year. He also earned the Vince Demuzio Internship in 2014 during which he handled projects to address the needs of constituents for government agency assistance through the Marion office of state Rep. John Bradley, D-Marion.

During his time in Carbondale, he’s had the opportunity to speak regarding student issues in a variety of venues, including addressing members of the Illinois legislature during the state’s two-year budget impasse about student debt and student welfare. He has also served with campaigns established to improve interactions between police and people with mental health needs.

Lockett enjoys reading, traveling and giving back to the community. His goal is to work for an organization such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to implement programs to improve the quality of life for all individuals.

Mackenzie RogersMackenzie Rogers

Mackenzie Rogers was elected by the students of SIU Edwardsville to serve on the SIU Board of Trustees. Her term begins July 1, 2019.

A 2016 graduate from Marshall High School, Rogers is completing her senior year at SIUE with a major in Psychology and minors in Pre-Law, Biology and Chemistry.

Rogers served as the Student Body President for the 2018-19 year, after working with the Student Government the past three years. She is also involved in the Alpha Phi sorority and Order of Omega Greek Honor Society. A member of the Dance Marathon Team, she is devoted to raising funds and awareness for local children’s hospitals.

With the goal of attending law school in the future, Rogers recently interned at the Domestic Violence Accountability Court where she attended trials and assisted victims. A strong proponent for mental health, she also founded the “I Have a Reason Mental Health Event” on the SIUE campus.

Over the summer, Rogers works full-time as a Spring Board Leader. The mandatory registration and orientation program helps freshmen jump into their university experience, with Rogers and her fellow leaders offering support and guidance.

Rogers enjoys running and reading, along with babysitting and waitressing. Her goal is to collaborate with her campus community to give back to the SIU system she loves.


Michael RuizMichael Ruiz


Michael Ruiz is responsible for career services and counseling for the School of Law, diversity and inclusion initiatives, the pro bono requirement, school-wide surveys, and other special projects.

Michael received a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science with honors from Southern Illinois University Carbondale in 1990, and a Juris Doctor from University of Chicago School of Law in 1993.

He has been recognized by the state and national bar, having received the Young Lawyer of the Year Award (2000) from the Illinois State Bar Association, and the Louis M. Brown Award for Legal Access (2000) from the American Bar Association.

Before his current position, he worked in the field of communications for SIUC serving as both the Director of the Communications department and Director of Communications for the Office of the President.

Cornell Thomas

Cornell C. Thomas, DDS

Thomas, currently serves as the Assistant Dean for Admissions and Student Services at SIU School of Dental Medicine. He is a tenured, Associate Professor at the Dental School. He was born and raised in St. Louis, MO, graduating from Ritenour Senior High. He received his BA in biology from Millikin University, Decatur IL., and his DDS degree from UMKC School of Dentistry, Kansas City, MO.

Dr. Thomas has served as a staff dentist at St. Louis Comprehensive Neighborhood Health Center, becoming the Dental Director, but also maintaining a private practice for 42 years as President of Thomas Dental Office, P.C., St. Louis. He has served on a number of boards and associations addressing Oral Health Care Disparities and Access to Care.

Dr. Thomas has been involved in dental education since graduating from UMKC in 1978.  He is a student advocate, and has provided workshops nationally on recruitment, retention, and academic support pertaining to student success in the academic and professional environment.  He serves as a member of the Diversity and Inclusion Committee at SIUE and his passion is lowering barriers, not standards, for all to achieve.

Prince WellsPrince Wells


Prince Wells joined the SIUE faculty in 1989, was appointed Assistant Professor in 1996, and tenured and promoted to Associate Professor in 2002. Mr. Wells has served as Director of the Music Business Program, he also teaches freshman Music Theory and Introduction to Music History and Literature.

Wells received his baccalaureate degree in Music Education from SIUE and completed his master’s degree in Afro-American Music and Trumpet at the New England Conservatory of Music. He also studied trumpet with noted instructor Carmine Caruso, as well as Gary Smith of the St. Louis Symphony.

Under the tutelage of the internationally known composer and theorist George Russell, Wells earned certification in the Lydian Chromatic Concept of Tonal Organization, and currently holds the distinction of being one of only three persons in the United States with that certification.