2017 Diversity and Inclusion Fellows Bios

Jennifer Beveridge

Jennifer Beveridge is a Ph.D. candidate in the School of Chemistry and Biochemistry at Georgia Tech. A native of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, she completed a B.S. in chemistry at Indiana University. While at Georgia Tech, Beveridge’s activities have included serving as the seminar chair for the Graduate Student Forum, judging science fairs at Carver High School and Sutton Middle School, rowing, and participating in intramural soccer and bowling. Her achievements include being part of the winning team at the Merck Innovation Cup in Darmstadt, Germany and being named a Possible Woman Foundation Scholar. Beveridge is presently a National Nuclear Security Administration Graduate Fellow, working in Washington D.C. for a year.


Brienné Coates

Brienné Coates is a young professional, engineer, and global citizen with a passion for STEM and international education, given her background in mathematics at Spelman College and industrial engineering at Georgia Tech as well as her experience studying abroad as the 2015 Gilman Alumni Ambassador. Always brainstorming creative and innovative ways to help others, Coates continues to pursue service opportunities and explore other cultures, including as the volunteer editor of 2017 Reach the World. An entrepreneur in spirit, she sets a precedence of bridging the gap between people and possibilities through diversity and inclusion.   

Santanu S. Dey

Santanu S. Dey is an associate professor in the H. Milton Stewart School of Industrial and Systems Engineering at Georgia Tech. He grew up in India, where he earned his Bachelor in Mechanical Engineering from Mumbai University. Dey obtained his Ph.D. from Purdue University, and he held a post-doctoral fellowship at the Center for Operations Research and Econometrics in Belgium before joining Georgia Tech.



Lara Ferreira

Lara Ferreira is a second-year MBA student at the Ernest Scheller Jr. College of Business at Georgia Tech. After earning a bachelor’s degree in theater from UCLA, she worked in professional theater and fundraising, then helped grow a two-person architectural design consultancy into a multinational firm with offices in Atlanta, Los Angeles, Dubai, and Beijing. As a Diversity and Inclusion Fellow and the co-president of Scheller's Net Impact Club, Ferreira passionately believes that enterprises thrive by incorporating diverse perspectives and a commitment to long-term vision. She is using her MBA as an opportunity to pivot into a new career in corporate strategy and communications.

Michelle Gaines

Michelle Gaines is an assistant professor in the Department of Chemistry at Spelman College. She joined the Diversity and Inclusion Fellows Program as a postdoc at Georgia Tech, then transitioned to Spelman in fall 2017. Gaines believes that diversity and inclusion programs will help her students as underrepresented minorities and all other students achieve more success, as they matriculate through their careers. She is co-organizing in the Cultural Xchange program to help members of the university community bridge the gaps between acknowledging diversity, feelings of inclusion, and building confidence in individuals for their future success.

Stephanie Gillespie

Stephanie Gillespie graduated from Georgia Tech in May 2017 with her Ph.D. from the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering. She is now a lecturer at the Arizona State University teaching first-year engineering and managing the Engineering Projects in Community Service program. Gillespie is passionate about encouraging diversity in STEM fields and is actively involved in the Society of Women Engineers and engineering education research for diversity initiatives. 

Tia Jackson-Truitt

Tia Jackson-Truitt has been in higher education since 2010. Before that, she spent a decade working in mental health and social work settings. In her current role as the assistant director of the Center for Engineering Education and Diversity, Jackson-Truitt manages the Georgia Tech chapter of the Peach State Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation and Summer Undergraduate Research Experience, a support program for graduate students, and she is the co-advisor of the Black Graduate Students Association. Jackson-Truitt loves working with students who keep her updated on the latest music, fashion, and cultural trends. In her spare time, she enjoys traveling, singing karaoke, and taking long naps on the beach.

Ronald Johnson

Retired Major General Ronald L. Johnson is a professor of the practice in the H. Milton Stewart School of Industrial and Systems Engineering at Georgia Tech. Prior to his appointments at Tech, he was the first senior vice president, referee operations at the National Basketball Association (NBA) where he was responsible for all aspects of the NBA’s officiating program. General Johnson is a West Point graduate and has multiple post-graduate degrees from Georgia Tech and the School of Advanced Military Studies and executive program certificates. He is passionate about developing young underserved minorities and is the catalyst behind the Atlanta Public Schools being a participant in the annual West Point Leadership and Ethics in STEM program. A dedicated alumnus, General Johnson has three endowed scholarships from Georgia Tech and one at West Point.

Timothy Lieuwen

Tim Lieuwen is a professor and Davis S. Lewis Jr. Chair in the Daniel Guggenheim School of Aerospace Engineering and the executive director of the Strategic Energy Institute at Georgia Tech. He is an international authority on clean energy with particular expertise in power generation. Lieuwen is author of four books and more than 300 publications. Selected board positions include appointment by U.S. DOE Secretary to the National Petroleum Council, board of governors of the Oak Ridge National Lab, and board member of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) International Gas Turbine Institute. Lieuwen is a fellow of the ASME and American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics and recipient of ASME’s George Westinghouse Silver Medal. 

Susannah McFaul

Susannah McFaul is an international special programs advisor in the Office of International Education at Georgia Tech. In her current role, she develops and expands intercultural initiatives and programs at the Institute. Additionally, McFaul leads short-term programs for undergraduate students from abroad, supporting the students' academic, social, and cultural adjustment. She received her M.A. in multicultural communication from DePaul University. McFaul's research interest includes intercultural friendship formations and international student adjustment on U.S. college campuses.

Jerrold Mobley

Jerrold Mobley is a native Atlantan serving as an information associate with the Georgia Tech Library. He has worked continuously in special and academic libraries since 1996, while also remaining a constant figure on the city’s burgeoning arts scene as a professional photographer and digital artist. Profoundly inspired by Institute Diversity leaders Pearl Alexander and Cheryl Cofield during his involvement with their Transformative Narratives initiative, Mobley began seeking additional ways to contribute to the process. His Diversity and Inclusion Fellows Program project, Culture Xchange, represents that desire and is driven by his belief that every member of the Georgia Tech family should be afforded the positive, rewarding experience he has enjoyed.

Lauren Neefe

Lauren Neefe is a visiting lecturer in the School of Literature, Media, and Communication at Georgia Tech. She has a Ph.D. in English literature from Stony Brook University and an M.A. in poetry from the Writing Seminars at Johns Hopkins University. At Georgia Tech, Neefe teaches British and American Romanticism, poetry, and sound studies, including voice-user interaction. She is a DJ for WREK and produces a podcast called Flash Readings by the Brittain Fellows, featuring the current research of the faculty in the Writing and Communication Program. She is also a poet and likes to ride her bike around Atlanta.

Dionne Nickerson

Dionne Nickerson is a Ph.D. candidate in marketing in the Ernest Scheller Jr. College of Business at Georgia Tech. Born and raised on Chicago’s South Side, she received her B.A. in engineering from Brown University and MBA from Providence College. Nickerson’s research interests lie at the intersection of business and society, having previously conducted field research on the economic impact of mobile payment adoption on microentrepreneurs in Kenya and Tanzania. Her doctoral research focuses on the impact of sustainability on business outcomes. Nickerson is currently teaching the first-ever “Sustainable Marketing” course in the Ernest Scheller Jr. College of Business. Prior to attending Tech, she worked in consulting, focusing on early-stage clean energy technologies.

Irina Nikivincze 

Irina Nikivincze is a postdoctoral researcher at the AMAC's Center for Accessible Materials Innovations for the College of Design at Georgia Tech. In collaboration with her colleagues, she is conducting research in the area of diversity and disability in post-secondary education. Their research project explores the impact of computers and assistive technologies on academic achievement of students with disabilities. As part of the Diversity and Inclusion Fellows Program, Nikivincze is interested in strategic interventions that address diversity issues in higher education. 


Yelena M. Rivera-Vale

Born and raised in Puerto Rico, Yelena M. Rivera-Vale produced, directed, and wrote documentaries about the arts and culture of her motherland for the local PBS-affiliated station in Atlanta. Before moving to Atlanta, she expanded her content production to the Internet. In April 2014, Rivera Vale joined the 64,000 Boricuas who immigrated to the United States to start a job at Georgia Tech. She currently works at the Georgia Tech Cable Network as a TV operations and web coordinator. Rivera-Vale is a GT 1000-2000 instructor as well as being active in several social and environmental initiatives such as Tech’s Serve-Learn-Sustain and Habitat for Humanity.

Sebastian Ruf

Sebastian Ruf is a Ph.D. candidate in School of Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE). He received the M.S. degree and B.S. degree in mechanical engineering from the University of California, Berkeley. Ruf’s activities on campus include the Diversity and Inclusion Fellows Program, Lean In, and helping found the ECE Graduate Student Organization. He is a performer and instructor of improvisational theater. Ruf co-founded the Atlanta Improv Dojo, which focuses on incorporating mindfulness and aspects of Tai Chi into the teaching of improvisational theater in order to prepare improvisers to more readily reach a flow state.


Calvin Runnels

Calvin Runnels is a third-year undergraduate student studying biochemistry at Georgia Tech. He is involved in various diversity initiatives and groups on campus, including serving as co-chair of Student Government Association’s cultural and diversity affairs committee and co-chair of President Peterson’s LGBTQIA Action Team. Runnels also serves as an undergraduate teaching assistant in the School of Mathematics and conducts research in the lab of Loren Williams.


Hussein Sayani

Hussein Sayani is a postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Earth and Environment at Boston University. He joined the Diversity and Inclusion Fellows Program as a Ph.D. candidate at Georgia Tech’s School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, and transitioned to Boston University during fall 2017. As a Diversity and Inclusion Fellow, Sayani worked with the ADVANCE Program to co-organize Queering STEM, a series of panel discussions designed to provide professional development advice and peer networking for LGBTQIA graduate students and postdocs at Georgia Tech. He also worked on the Culture Xchange initiative with Diversity and Inclusion Fellows Jerrold Mobley and Michelle Gaines.

Jacquelyn Strickland

Jacquelyn Strickland began working at Georgia Tech in 2005, and she currently works with fellowships administration in the Office of Graduate Studies. Strickland is a liaison between students, enrollment services units, and academic departments, assisting with policies and procedures concerning fellowship awards and assistantships. She is a doctoral student in sociology and an avid sports fan.


William Todd

Bill Todd is a professor of the practice in the Ernest Scheller Jr. College of Business at Georgia Tech. His 40-year career has focused on health care and technology management. Todd was the founding president of the Georgia Research Alliance in 1990 and CEO of the Georgia Cancer Coalition. He also founded Encina Technology Ventures. Todd began his career at Emory University hospitals, clinics, and the medical school where he held a variety of administrative posts. A 1971 graduate of Georgia Tech's College of Management, he attended the Institute for Educational Management at Harvard University. In 2010, Georgia Tech awarded Todd the Ivan Allen Jr. Prize for Progress and Service.