MnEEP Race Equity Policy and Advocacy Fellowship Program

Program Description

Minnesota Education Equity Partnership (formerly MMEP) has a long history of providing a network and community of educators, policymakers, and leaders with strong advocacy and conference or training experiences that explore critical education equity issues.  Statewide conferences have brought stakeholders in education to explore research and analysis on the achievement levels of students of color and Native American students in Minnesota. Educators and others leave with a deeper understanding of the issues facing our education system in “closing achievement gaps” and case studies and research-based solutions to closing those gaps.

In 2011-2012, through the organization’s effort to help build race equity collaborations in greater Minnesota, it also instituted a “MnEEP Race Equity Policy and Advocacy Fellowship Program”. This is a more deliberate effort to use the organization’s knowledge and train an emerging leader in race equity research/analysis and advocacy.

Specifically, an emerging researcher/analyst/organizer is given a stipend to assist with a research and/or advocacy project with the organization and its members for a 9-12 month period.

An MnEEP Race Equity Fellow Gains:

  1. Training on collecting data and presenting data around racial disparities for education stakeholders committed to making systemic change.
  2. Frameworks and best practices around race equity and education excellence in K-12 systems in the U.S.
  3. Interactions with a community of race equity practitioners, researchers, and advocates
  4. Stipend and resources for time and supplies needed for a race equity research or advocacy project.


Policy Fellow, Duluth: “MMEP assisted me in all possible ways. I attended a conference on race equity, my supervisor, Jennifer provided me guidance and structure about the whole project.”- Nandini Bhowmick, Policy Fellow, Duluth 2012.

From partner organization, United Way of Duluth: “Our policy fellow, Nandini  gathered data which provided a clearer picture of the Duluth education system for students age birth to 18. In most cases, this is the first time this data was shared with the “community”. Not only did the data help paint a picture, but it also served as a tool for building trust with the school district because the “issues” were now out there. This data will also provide us with a point of measurement and help determine whether specific strategies that will be implemented are effective.”

Policy Fellow, Central MN:  The MMEP staff provided resources that I had not before been exposed to (STRIVE, Collaborative Toolkit) and supported the research throughout the grant period through meetings, conferences, mentoring, and whatever I needed. It was a great professional experience to hear Dr. Ron Ferguson speak about Conceiving a 21st Century Social Movement for Excellence with Equity. – Tammy Quist Central MN Fellow 2012.

Central Lakes Partner: “Our Policy Fellow’s work was outstanding! She managed to gather high quality Profiles, even when data was coming in last minute, or when she had to go out and search for it on her own.” – Central MN Partner

Overall, the Policy Fellow’s data analysis and research on closing gaps assistance was rated as providing “Strong Impact” on the equity and excellence collaborative Phase 1 planning process of central Minnesota. (CL partner survey)

Advocacy Fellow, AAMEA: “MMEP staff were vital to my work as a Fellow. They supported my individual growth and leadership by having confidence in my vision, supplementing my skills with additional resources, connecting me with individuals doing good work around Black males in education on both local and national scales, and much more. AAMEA is woven into the fabric of MMEP’s work. Therefore, anytime I needed assistance in outreach, communications, or planning, MMEP staff was always there to assist and often guide me through the processes.”- Brandon Royce-Diop,  Advocacy Fellow, 2012.

Minnesota Education Equity Partnership (formerly MMEP) Race Equity Fellows

2015 Fellows

Ethnic Studies Brief Team

2015 Awale OsmanAwale Osman

Awale began at North Hennepin Community College as a PSEO student during his senior year in high school. Awale graduated this past spring from Augsburg College with a B.A. in Communication Studies and a minor in Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies. He will be starting graduate school at MSU-Mankato this coming fall. At North Hennepin, Awale was recruited to help lead the Black Male Leadership Movement, an initiative developed in response to poor retention and persistence rates among Black male students. Most recently, he was the community outreach intern for the Minnesota Urban Debate League where he has developed Somali Debates for young people in the Cedar Riverside neighborhood—the first of its kind in the country. Awale is clear about his career goals. He aspires to teach and conduct research, work with nonprofits and government agencies on issues concerning college degree attainment and closing the achievement gap.

“I am excited about the opportunity to help make the case for the inclusion of Ethnic Studies within the K-12 and higher education community because I want to help underserved students know that they have a voice, and I want to show them how to find it. I also have to ensure I develop my voice as well, so I can advocate for the students I serve. All of my work is designed to serve the multiple communities I hold membership through my diverse identities.”

2015 DeSean SmedleyDeSean Smedley

DeSean  is an activist-organizer out of the Bay Area, CA. He transferred from MCTC (Minneapolis Technical Community College) to the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities in 2012. He received his B.A. in African American and African Studies in Spring of 2015. He currently works for the African American and African Studies department at the U of M and the MPS (Minneapolis Public School) district. As a researcher and co-instructor for the African American History pilot course at South High School and Harrison Education Center, he leads critical and engaging discussions while digging deep into the history of African people in the U.S. and abroad. His commitment for the advancement and institutionalization of Ethnic Studies in public schools within the Twin Cities is intentional and continuous.

“I am honored and enthusiastic about working for MnEEP this summer because I feel this work is necessary for the advancement of race equity in public schools. The opportunity for students of color to have the option to take an Ethnic Studies course should always be available. The history, culture, and heritage represented would be transformative for them. This policy brief will help make that a reality.”

REEEN fellow (Twin Cities, Research)

2015 Marin PhelpsMarin Phelps

Marin graduated from Augustana college in Sioux Falls, SD where she majored in government/international affairs and studied how policy affects race and national discourses on race in Latin America and the Caribbean. After graduating, she moved to Austin, TX for two years and unsuccessfully tried to make her way in the world. She moved to Minnesota in December and worked for the Revisor of Statutes Office for the 2015 legislative session. Marin is starting her Masters in Public Policy at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs in the fall and will continue to study race equity and considering law school to specialize in civil rights law.

“I’m excited to be joining the MNEEP for the summer so I can get some practical experience that will actually create some lasting good in the world. Also, I’m ready to witness the realities of policy and theory beyond the insulation of books, the classroom, and politics”

REEEN fellow (Nobles County)

2015 Kelsey ZubkeKelsey Zubke

Kelsey graduated from Yale University with a B.A. in Economics and International Studies. During her time there, she studied Arabic as a Boren Fellow through the US State Department. After graduation, she joined Peace Corps and worked as an Agriculture and Small Business volunteer in the West African country of Burkina Faso. She was responsible for community outreach programs in the fields of gender equity, health, and agriculture. She returned to the US in 2013 and was hired by Girl Scouts to work as a Community Partnership Specialist. She is currently working with middle and high school girls in an outreach program called ConnectZ, which focuses on future planning and decision making. She is currently applying to graduate programs across the country, hoping to gain acceptance into an MPA or PhD program focused on community development or public policy in education.

“This fellowship at MnEEP is an opportunity for me to continue my life of service and to give back to Nobles County, which has quickly become my new home. I am excited to be able to affect institutional change in the lives of students, many of whom I already know and care deeply about. My goal is to ensure that every student feels valued and capable of success.”

2014 Fellows

EdwiinGonzalezborderEdwin Gonzalez

Edwin is a born and raised Angelino from South Central Los Angeles. He is strongly influenced and driven by his Latin@ identity and lover of his Salvadorian food and culture. He is a practitioner of Circle, a sacred way of authentic listening and healing, and is passionate about Youth and Urban Farming. He graduated from Bethel University in 2013 with a Bachelor’s degree in Communication Studies with an emphasis in Media Production. Edwin worked at Bethel University’s Intercultural Student Programs & Services Department as the Director of the Latin@ student group through United Cultures of Bethel, organizing events around topics within the Latin@ community and Latin@ identity. He served as the student leader for the Presidents Interfaith and Community Service Campus Challenge, facilitating conversations between college students of different faiths and engaging in community service events.

jeronmarianibwJeron Mariani

Jeron is entering his second year at Northeastern University in pursuit of a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science with minors in Business and Sociology. Jeron graduated from Saint Paul Academy and Summit School as a Varsity Basketball captain, an accomplished Public Forum debater (2nd place in state), and President of the school wide Student Activities Committee. Through the Minneapolis based non-profit youthrive, Jeron has emceed 5 regional conferences, delivered one key note speech at the National Service Leaning Conference 2012, and developed a deep connection to community impact work. His passions include peace-building, community organizing, and basketball.

The work of our ELL summer fellows can be found here.

2013 Fellows

timothy warrenTimothy Warren was a Race Equity Fellow at Minnesota Education Equity Partnership (formerly MMEP), during the summer of 2013. His project focused on the research and analysis of solutions to suspension rate/discipline codes in public school systems. Timothy Roderick Warren is an artist, educator and an advocate for social justice. Timothy has worked in k-12 education since 1992. He is also a 2006 graduate of the twin cities LISC Career ship apprentice program. His area of work was community development in visual arts for youth. Timothy has served in AmeriCorps and is also an Upward bound Alumni and instructor. Currently Timothy is a graduate student at the University of Minnesota. His Master’s thesis explores self-efficacy of African American males. His research focuses on reducing the achievement gap for African American adolescent’s males, by promoting critical thinking and examining the constructs of privilege and oppression.

Isela HeadshotIsela Xitlali Gómez was a Race Equity Fellow at Minnesota Education Equity Partnership (formerly MMEP), during the summer of 2013. Her project focused on documenting the development of the Minnesota Dream Act/Prosperity Act in the 2013 Legislative session – with a summary of social and economic impacts for the state, policymakers, educators, and the community as a whole. During her undergraduate career at Macalester College, Isela chaired the Dare to DREAM Committee that continues to work to push Macalester College to admit, enroll, and support undocumented students. She received her B.A. in American Studies and Latin American Studies from Macalester College where she was the recipient of the Latina Award for Excellence and the Presidential Leadership Award. Isela worked at Macalester College’s Department of Multicultural Life as a Programming Assistant, organizing events on the arts and social justice and managing a speaker series at the college. She has worked as a teaching assistant for Chican@ Literature and Transnational American Studies courses. Her research has focused on music and theater as empowerment and the politics of the arts for Latin@ communities in the US and Latin America. She presented her paper “LATIN Music: An Examination of an Essentialist Super-Genre and the Agency of its Musicians” at the National Association of Chicana Chicano Studies conference in Chicago. She completed an undergraduate honors thesis entitled “Staging the Barrio: Theatrical Interrogations of Urban Chicana/o Archetypes,” that she initiated during her fellowship at the Moore Undergraduate Research Apprentice Program at University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill in 2012. The outcome of her work can be found here.

cassieCassie Bordelon was a Race Equity Fellow at Minnesota Education Equity Partnership (formerly MMEP), during the summer of 2013 working to reshape the research arm of the website in an effort to increase it’s capacity for public use and effectiveness. Originally from Hamilton, New York, she received her Undergraduate degree in Political Science from the State University of New York College of Cortland (SUNY Cortland) in the winter of 2008. After graduation she spent a year working at home before applying to an AmeriCorps State and National program in Washington State. After being accepted to the program in 2010, she packed up her car and drove west for 5 days and 3,000 miles until she reached Randle, WA. Cassie spent two years as an AmeriCorps volunteer in the Cowlitz River Valley of southwestern Washington as a tutor, a mentor, and a community organizer within an underperforming and at- risk Junior/ Senior High School. It was during these two years that she recognized the importance of the public education system and witnessed first- hand the dire conditions that public education is in. She decided to further explore the policy behind our education system which led her to the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs and the Twin Cities. Cassie will be starting her second, and final, year at the Humphrey School this fall working towards her Masters of Public Policy. She came to MnEEP last summer after spending the previous legislative session as an intern alongside Representative Mariani and the Minnesota House of Representatives Education Policy Committee.

Race Equity Fellows 2011-2012:

With two communities in greater Minnesota, MMEP sponsored Race Equity in Education Policy Fellows who would collect data around local racial disparities in education and explore research-based solutions and convening models for school-community partnerships to close achievement gaps. The deliverables for these fellows were “Race Equity Research Reports” and interactions with local school leaders, community members, and other education stakeholders. From their research and convening tactics, the Fellows provided the support for the start of 3 new race equity collaboratives in rural Minnesota dedicated to closing achievement gaps in their communities.

Likewise, a Race Equity in Education Advocacy Fellow was assigned to the MMEP initiative, “African American Males in Education Advisory Council”. This Fellow brought together African American leaders from K-12 system, community-based organizations, and higher education to explore solutions to the widening disparities between African American males in education and their peers. He was instrumental in advising new initiatives in the state around African American young men mentorship in the K-12 system, greater attention to the retention of young men of color in higher education, and the initial exploration of the disparities in discipline gaps for African American young men in K-12.

2012 Fellows:


Cymone Fuller, Program Associate and Race Equity Fellow 2012

Cymone Fuller, joined MMEP in 2012 as a Race Equity Fellow and quickly became a staff member, leading the MMEP Solutions Not Suspensions Initiative.

Cymone is a graduate from the University of Minnesota, with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Sociology and Social Justice. During her undergraduate career, Cymone developed a strong commitment to social justice as she interned and volunteered with several juvenile and criminal justice focused organizations, including Hennepin County Juvenile Probation and the Council on Crime and Justice, as well as the advocacy and grassroots focused initiatives of Communities United Against Police Brutality and the Whose University Campaign, launched right on the University of Minnesota campus. Although she has plenty of experience locally, her social justice experience stretches beyond U.S. borders. She spent 3 life changing weeks in South Africa completing a seminar exploring the history of Apartheid and participating in a service learning project in the Delft Township of Cape Town, SA. Additionally, Cymone is both a Ronald E. McNair Scholar and Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP) Scholar, and has presented her research at the University of Minnesota Research Symposium, as well as the National McNair Research Conference.

With two and a half wonderful years of skill development and policy, research and community organizing experience with MMEP, Cymone is leaving us to go  New York University in the Fall of 2014 to pursue an MPA in Public and Nonprofit Management and Policy from the Wagner School of Public Service. Her goals include pursuing a career in policy development and systems change efforts to identify and eliminate barriers that impede the prosperity of communities of color.

tammyTammy Quist – Race Equity Research Fellow 2012

Tammy Quist has over 25 years of experience in business, education and professional development related fields. She has been a teacher, principal, keynote speaker, workshop facilitator, school improvement coordinator, coach for individuals and teams, and served as a consultant through restructuring and reform efforts for every grade level K-16. She obtained her B.A. in Secondary Education, Political Science and Social Science at the University of MN-Morris, and her M.S. in School Administration from Northern State University in Aberdeen, SD.

She describes herself as a “thought leader and agent of change” – always looking at ways of improving her own performance as well as facilitating the growth of others. Her professional mission is to make a positive difference in the lives of others by collaborating, increasing knowledge and skills, and inspiring learners to grow and develop into their best selves. This includes working with teachers, administrators, schools, districts and the business and larger community to create equity and close the achievement gaps that exist between various student groups who are often under-served: students of color, students in poverty, and exceptional learners.

Tammy’s ultimate goal is to assist educators in providing a world class education for ALL students, one in which each student is an engaged participant who recognizes his/her responsibility and contribution to society as a whole. This means rigorous, relevant instruction and a service-oriented global perspective which enables our next generation to solve the myriad of problems that exist in our world today.

Tammy is an active member of several advisory councils and state level boards, including Learning Forward Minnesota Board of Directors and Transition and Post-secondary Programs for Students with Intellectual Disabilities State Advisory Board (TPSID). Tammy was honored to be selected Teacher of the Year as well as nominated for Colorado Principal of the Year. She says, however, “My biggest professional distinctions happen when the students I ultimately serve grow, excel and are recognized for their outstanding efforts and performance. To build that capacity and help others succeed is the highest honor one could hope for.”

brandonBrandon Royce-Diop, AAMEA Fellow 2011-12

Brandon Royce-Diop earned his undergraduate degree in Psychology, with a minor in Communications, in 2007 from St. John’s University. He works as a College Preparation Coach for Admission possible, serving as a mentor, counselor, and teacher for 40 students at John A. Johnson high school. In this work he teaches ACT content and test taking strategy courses, and guides high school juniors through college preparation. He collaborates with teachers and guidance counselors to strategize efforts to apply and expand academic and counseling services while providing students and families with community and educational resources to improve their quality of life and educational development.

Royce-Diop has worked with Progressive Technology Project, a community organization in Minneapolis, to develop models of strategic communication and outreach for grassroots community organizations, including the growth and sustenance of an emerging Community of Practice.

As the 2011 MMEP Advocacy Fellow 2011, Royce-Diop brings critical support to MMEP’s African American Males in Education Advisory. With his leadership, AAMEA designing and organizing a strategic network of diverse stakeholders that can drive policy and practice toward increasing academic outcomes for African American male students in Minnesota. He develops opportunities for public discussions around literature, briefs, and collective action with collaborative partners. His work involves collecting and disseminating evidence-based research related to African American male student achievement, and helps craft the communications strategy to address key issues for this audience.

Brandon also works as a Student Services Specialist for Minnesota Virtual High School (MVHS) and is currently enrolled in the Masters of Education and Teaching Licensure Program at the University of St. Thomas.

Nandini Bhowmick, Duluth Project 2011-2012

As a race fellow in the Duluth area, Nandini was tasked with the Development of a race equity and excellence in education leadership group in Duluth by: Providing leadership in designing and organizing a strategic network of diverse stakeholders, organizing collaborative partners to strategically address educational issues facing students of color in Duluth through a mobilization planning process and  communicating to inform and maintain the stakeholders and partners. Coordination of the race equity in education leadership group to hold a summit focused on presenting a mobilization plan

Nandini studed at University of Minnesota-Duluth in   Education Management Her Master’s Thesis focused on International Trade evaluating and assessing the issue of antidumping investigations and their effects on trade in agricultural products.