Ask the Experts: Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Champaign-Urbana

Our faculty and community experts recently discussed improving racial equity, solving issues of racial injustice, keeping our community safe for all, and navigating difficult conversations about race.

Below is a video recording of our conversation. To access the video recording, please click on the video image below. You can also find a list of the question we covered in the conversation along with the corresponding point of discussion. Additionally, our experts referenced valuable community resources to follow if you wish to learn more about building a more diverse and equitable community. These resources are linked below the video recording.

Recommended diversity, equity, and inclusion resources

Ask the Experts: Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion is part of our larger effort to amplify the many diverse and empowering voices of our academic and local community in order to better understand racial injustice.

Continuing this conversation is critically important. We’ve gathered a collection of resources  offering diversity initiatives and training, experts and activists to follow, organizations to donate to, and many more ways to work in solidarity towards racial justice and support the Black Lives Matter movement in our larger community.

Additional resources mentioned by the experts

The Champaign County Mental Health Board (CCMHB) is responsible for planning, coordinating, evaluating, and allocating funds for the comprehensive local system of mental health, developmental disabilities, and substance abuse services for Champaign County.

The Champaign County Developmental Disabilities Board (CCMHB) is responsible for planning, coordinating, evaluating, and allocating funds for developmental disabilities.

The Housing Authority of Champaign County (HACC) provides housing assistance to Champaign County residence by utilizing traditional public housing and Section 8 housing assistance funded by the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). HACC is recognized for its “Moving to Work” initiative, which designs and implements innovative strategies that provide low-income families with affordable housing and guidance towards economic independence.

The Housing Authority of Champaign County Enrichment Foundation provides scholarships and enrichment opportunities to clients of HACC. Opportunity to donate to the Enrichment Foundation can be easily accessed here, and donations go towards funding scholarships, sponsoring summer camps and community youth events, supporting the HACC Small Business Opportunity Program, and much more.

The I-STEM Education Initiative fosters STEM citizenship through public engagement and advocates for undergraduate and graduate STEM education reform encouraging diversity and accessible STEM teaching at all educational levels.

The Citizen Police Academy is a class held over a ten-week period at the Police Training Institute (1004 S. Fourth St, Champaign) that gives Champaign residents a better understanding of the structure and operations of local law enforcement agencies. Residents work closely with police officers to provide input, assistance, and support around community concerns. The Champaign County Citizen Police Academy is offered in cooperation by the Champaign County Sheriff’s Office, University of Illinois Police Department, Urbana Police Department, Rantoul Police Department, Mahomet Police Department, Parkland Public Safety, District 10 of the Illinois State Police, Police Training Institute, and Champaign Police Department.

The Health Maker Lab at Illinois empowers students and citizen scientists alike to collaborate, ideate and create unique solutions to global health challenges by prototyping anything at any scale—from molecules to cells to tissues to systems.

The Violence Interrupters Initiative focuses on interrupting violence in select cities throughout the United States by establishing short- and long-term goals that will reduce the number of violent crimes. The Violence Interrupters Initiative mobilizes CeaseFire, an award-winning public health model that has been scientifically proven to reduce shooting and killings. Click here to get involved with Violence Interrupters and donate to the movement.

Activist Kimberly Jones distinguishes the commonalities and differences between protesters, rioters, and looters, and explains the reasoning behind protests, riots, and looting in terms of a Monopoly game.

The Champaign County Community Coalition (CCCC) is a system of care network that includes local government; law enforcement; juvenile justice; behavioral health; education; child welfare; and community-based service providers. This network is designed to identify critical community issues that impact the lives of youth and their families. The CCCC promotes effective law enforcement and positive police-community relations, and support for greater knowledge/use of the resources available.

Meet the experts

Ruby Mendenhall, Assistant Dean and Associate Professor, University of Illinois

Ruby Mendenhall is the assistant dean for diversity and democratization of health innovation at the Carle Illinois College of Medicine and an associate professor of sociology, African American studies, urban and regional planning, and social work at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Mendenhall research focuses on issues of social inequality over the life course and the role of public policy and individuals’ agency in facilitating social and economic mobility.

Evelyn Reynolds, Associate Professor, Parkland College

Evelyn Reynolds is an associate professor of sociology at Parkland College in Champaign. She is a community activist, formerly a lead organizer with the Black Lives Matter global network, and currently working with anti-incarceration campaigns. Reynolds is a writer who has had articles featured in publications such as The Huff Post and Next Avenue and she is editor of A Sociology Reader: Foundational Concepts for the Introductory Student. 

Shandra Summerville, Cultural and Linguistic Competence Specialist

Shandra Summerville is a cultural and linguistic competence specialist residing in Champaign-Urbana. She facilitates workshops on diversity and inclusion within organizations. In addition, she provides support and technical assistance for organizations that are looking to implement the value of cultural competence at all levels within an organization. Summerville has worked with organizations to implement the Enhanced National CLAS (Culturally and Linguistic Appropriate Services) Standards into their policy and procedures to reduce mental health and racial disparities.

David A. Northern, Sr., Executive Director/CEO, Housing Authority of Champaign County

Over the span of 24 years, David A. Northern, Sr. has established a distinguished career in federal housing assistance programs including urban planning and policy development. As the executive director/CEO of Housing Authority of Champaign County (HACC), Northern is responsible for administrative and professional oversight in planning, directing, and coordinating varied and complex housing and community development programs while ensuring compliance with Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) regulations.