Dr. Colette Pierce Burnette Dr. Colette Pierce Burnette, a native of Cleveland, Ohio, joined Huston-Tillotson University as President and Chief Executive Officer July 1, 2015. Dr. Pierce Burnette has served as interim President at Pierce College in Puyallup, Washington; the Vice President for Administration and Chief Financial Officer at Central State University in Wilberforce, Ohio; Vice President for Information Technology and Services and Chief Information Officer at Central State University; Dean of Information Technology at Pierce College; and Manager of Consulting and Project Management Services at the Washington State Department of Transportation in Olympia, Washington. Dr. Pierce Burnette received a Bachelor of Science in Engineering from The Ohio State University and a Master of Science in Administration from Georgia College. Dr. Pierce Burnette is a graduate of the Harvard Graduate School of Education’s Management Development Program and has earned the Ed.D. In Higher Education Administration from the University of Pennsylvania.
A strong proponent of civic and community engagement, Dr. Pierce Burnette hosted the “No Risk, No Reward: Taking The Risk To Do What You Want With Your Career” panel discussion during the 2015 Texas Conference for Women. Locally, Dr. Pierce Burnette serves on the boards of the Austin Area Research Organization (AARO) and as a member of the steering committee for My Brother’s Keeper. Nationally, Dr. Pierce Burnette serves on the Minority Engineering Advisory board for The Ohio State University’s College of Engineering, is a member of the National Society of Black Engineers, Valley Arts United, the National Council of Negro Women, Puyallup Area Aging in Place Coalition, Texnikoi, the Black Data Processing Association, and Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., to name only a few.
Dr. Pierce Burnette has served on numerous boards and committees including the Xenia Area Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors, Wright Patterson Air Force Base 2020 Taskforce Committee, National Association for Schools of Music Accreditation Committee, African American Male Leadership Institute Steering Committee, and Central State University’s Campus Climate Committee. Her many honors include the Ohio State University Outstanding Engineering Alumnus Award, United States Army Distinguished Civilian Volunteer Service Medal Award, Thurgood Marshall Foundation Chief Information Officer of the Year Award, Dayton Business Journal Chief Fiscal Officer of the Year Award, and the National Diversity Council Glass Ceiling Award. Recently, Dr. Pierce Burnette received the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., Beta Psi Omega Chapter, Education Community Service Award.
Abbas Bandali Abbas was born in Tanzania, East Africa and migrated to London, England in 1988 at age 15.He completed his Masters Degree in Software Engineering from Imperial College, University of London. In 1996 Abbas migrated to the US and moved to Austin in 1999.
Having spent 20+ years in the Software field, he is currently a Technical Lead with HomeAway, now an Expedia subsidiary. As an aspiring entrepreneur, Abbas also owns 3 carwashes and 2 storage facilities, in and around Austin. He also holds 2 voluntary positions with local non-profits:
- Education Chair and Sunday school principal at his local mosque, IABA
- Treasurer for an Islamic publishing entity, ITI
He also leads congregation prayers and speaks on Islamic and other religious topics during local outreach and inter-faith activities. Abbas lives in Austin with his wife Sabiha, and their 20 year marriage has blessed them with 3 kids: 17, 15 and 7 years old.
Janet Ruhe-Schoen Janet Ruhe-Schoen, author and artist, was born in 1950 in Allentown, Pennsylvania. She traveled widely and lived in New Mexico, Peru and Chile, then settled in the Hudson River Valley, New York. She has published four books of biography, most recently Champions of Oneness: Louis Gregory and His Shining Circle.
Louis Gregory was one of South Carolina’s most distinguished sons, an African American lawyer who heroically and sacrifically dedicated his life to racial amity and integration in the U.S., especially in the Deep South, during the first half of the 20th Century, traveling tirelessly on a slim shoestring. In an America frequently bloodied by and ablaze with race warfare, he talked the talk and walked the walk of amity between people of color and whites, at the grassroots level with community activism and at the national level as an elected Baha’i administrator. He wrote, “Racial amity is a bounty (that releases both oppressor and oppressed) from a psychosis that generally goes with a denial of rights which sould be the common heritage of the free…” How did he maintain his equilibrium and vision through myriad trials?
The deepest answer, of course, was within him. In Champions of Oneness: Louis Gregory and His Shining Circle, Janet Ruhe-Schoen answers the question as far as possible while telling his triumphant story and the stories of his co-workers as they challenged American apartheid both within and without the Baha’i community. Ruhe-Schoen first learned of Louis Gregory when she became a Baha’i at the age of 18, and was inspired to start researching and writing his life years later because of her concern over the stubborn prejudices causing ongoing tragedy the U.S. and all over the world.
Ruhe-Schoen worked as a journalist in Chile and the U.S. She’s published poetry, fiction, essays and some artwork in various small magazines. Currently she’s making collages and writing fiction. She maintains an internet presence athttp://www.facebook.com/JanetRuheSchoen.author.artist.
Dr. James Kraft James Kraft is Associate Professor of Philosophy and Religion at Huston-Tillotson University. Dr. Kraft teaches classes in philosophy and in religion. Some of those classes include epistemology, the philosophy of religion, logic, comparative religion, introduction to philosophy, science and religion, among others. His current research revolves around religious diversity and religious disagreement. He authored the book, The Epistemology of Religious Disagreement, in 2012.
Dr. Kraft comes originally from Spokane Washington where he did his undergraduate studies at Gonzaga University. He went to California for his PhD at Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley. He has had over ten great years at HT.
LauraGómez-Horton Laura Gómez-Horton is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and Board-Approved Supervisor through the Texas State Board of Social Work Examiners. She received a Bachelor and Master of Social Work from the University of Texas at Austin in 1996 and 1997, respectively. She is currently the clinical director at the YWCA Greater Austin whose adopted mission is “eliminating racism, empowering women, and promoting peace, justice, freedom and dignity for all.” Since joining the YWCA in October 2013, Laura and the staff have committed to growing the family services, coordinated the development of a group for incarcerated moms focused on attachment, and established monthly Racism and Discrimination dialogues.
Laura has extensive experience providing bilingual services and working with individuals, children, families, and groups in the areas of domestic violence, sexual assault, depression, anxiety, PTSD, immigration, parenting, social and familial development, cultural identity, prenatal/postnatal mental health, grief and loss, social justice and self-advocacy. Previously, as the Social Services Coordinator at the Texas Civil Rights Project, Laura established the social services program for their statewide offices and developed the Austin Promotora program, a grassroots self-advocacy group comprised of women who had qualified to adjust their legal status in the U.S. as authorized by the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). She also worked at the School of Social Work at the University of Texas at Austin as part of the clinical faculty and provided counseling services through SafePlace, a local non-profit addressing issues of domestic violence and sexual assault in Austin. In addition, she provided therapeutic bilingual services through independent practice and co-founded Within Your Reach/ A Su Alcance, a program providing bilingual personal-development workshops.
Her experiences in the Austin area culminated in developing a focus on providing counseling services and advocating for clients who are Spanish-speaking and immigrant, as well as a passion for social justice. Laura has participated in training videos, and various Spanish-language radio and television news interviews discussing the impact of domestic violence and sexual assault on the Latino and the immigrant community. She has provided extensive presentations/workshops and has developed, coordinated and facilitated various therapeutic and support groups.
Laura grew up in the border town of Laredo, TX and has lived in the Austin area since 1991. She currently sits on the board of the Wells Branch Elementary PTA, and is a Member of National Association for Social Workers (NASW).
Panel Facilitator Khotan Shahbazi-Harmon Director of Communications & Community Accountability, E3 Alliance Khotan Shahbazi-Harmon - an award-winning journalist, community development specialist, and entrepreneurship accelerator.
Khotan served as an external evaluator for the Texas Education Agency evaluating special programs on science and math, and language and arts in Texas. Khotan created a community MBA program in East Austin that helped very low-income clients gain self-sufficiency through entrepreneurship, and has served as a convener and facilitator of community conversations around complex and challenging issues on race, education, and citizenship. Khotan earned a B.S. in International Studies from American University in Washington, D.C. with a focus on economic development.
Master of Ceremonies Dr. Michael Hirsch Mike Hirsch is a Professor of Sociology and Director of the Adult Degree Program at Huston-Tillotson University. He is active on many community boards in Austin. Prior to arriving at Huston-Tillotson he served as Mayor of Fayette, Missouri from 1998 to 2003. He is married to Carol Moczygemba and is step-father to Stephanie Kruhl.
Symposium Intern Kiera Saivonne Williams Kiera Saivonne Williams is currently a graduating senior at Huston-Tillotson University in Austin Texas, where she stands as a W.E.B Dubois scholar and Golden Key International Society member majoring in communications with a cognate in sociology. Throughout her undergraduate career she has managed to attain a 4.0 GPA, dean’s list, honor roll, and the pageant title of Miss Gold. She has recently acquired the position of CEO and presiding president of the Black Economic Development Crisis Center here in Austin, as well as coined her own nonprofit, DeepTonik Community Hub. After college she plans on going to law school. Ms. Williams is a master of many trades: poetry, photography, public speaking, music and the performing arts. She has a passion for philosophy and social theory, youth leadership, and community development. Ms. Williams is also a member of the Austin Baha’i community.
The Bahá’í Faith The Bahá’í Faith is the youngest of the world’s independent religions. Its founder, Bahá’u’lláh (1817-1892), is regarded by Bahá’ís as the most recent in the line of Messengers of God that stretches back beyond recorded time and includes Abraham, Moses, Buddha, Zoroaster, Christ and Muhammad.
The central theme of Bahá’u’lláh’s message is that humanity is one single race and that the day has come for its unification in one global society. God, Bahá’u’lláh said, has set in motion historical forces that are breaking down traditional barriers of race, class, creed, and nation and that will, in time, give birth to a universal civilization. The principal challenge facing the peoples of the earth is to accept the fact of their oneness and to assist the processes of unification.
One of the purposes of the Bahá’í Faith is to help make this possible. A worldwide community of some five million Bahá’ís, representative of most of the nations, races and cultures on earth, is working to give Bahá’u’lláh’s teachings practical effect. Their experience will be a source of encouragement to all who share their vision of humanity as one global family and the earth as one homeland. The Bahá’ís participate extensively in activities aimed at the eradication of racism and racial discrimination. To learn more about activities by the Bahá’í Faith in Austin call (512) 926-8880 or visit http://www.austinbahai.org/
Huston-Tillotson University Huston-Tillotson University, located at 900 Chicon Street in Austin, is a coeducational college of liberal arts and sciences, operating jointly under the auspices of the American Missionary Association of the United Church of Christ, and the Board of Education of The United Methodist Church. Huston-Tillotson College officially changed its name to Huston-Tillotson University on February 28, 2005.
Formed by the merger of Samuel Huston College and Tillotson College on October 24, 1952, Huston-Tillotson College remained primarily a black college after the merger, although there were no restrictions as to race. Huston-Tillotson University awards undergraduates, four-year degrees in business, education, the humanities, natural sciences, social sciences, science, and technology. A multi-cultural, multi-ethnic, and multi-faith institution, the University welcomes students of all ages, races, and religions.