Our Team | The AIR Equity Initiative

Image of Karen FrancisKaren Francis
Interim Director, AIR Equity Initiative

Karen Francis is a vice president, the Chief Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Officer at AIR, and interim director of AIR's Equity Initiative. Dr. Francis leads AIR’s Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI), providing organizational guidance and management for activities focused on implementation of AIR’s diversity and inclusion strategic plan. She leads efforts for DEI communications, internal and external engagement, and the integration of DEI and culturally competent standards, principles, and practices throughout AIR’s organizational infrastructure and operations intended to support overall organizational focus, growth, and outcomes. Dr. Francis is also chair of AIR’s Diversity and Inclusion Council and leads AIR‘s Cultural and Linguistic Competence Workgroup.

Dr. Francis is a medical sociologist by training and has grounded her work in the principles of cultural competence and a commitment to address disparities across social, health, juvenile justice and educational service systems. Learn more about Dr. Francis.
 

photo of Tracy GrayTracy Gray
Managing Director, AIR Equity Initiative

Tracy Gray is a managing director and a nationally recognized expert in the implementation of innovative educational and assistive technology programs that enhance teaching and learning. Dr. Gray leads the Pipeline Partnership Program which engages with graduate-level students and faculty at Georgia State University in Atlanta; Howard University in Washington, D.C.; and The University of Texas at San Antonio. This effort seeks to diversify and strengthen the cultural competence of the behavioral and social science research fields to address inequities more effectively. She has led five national centers focused on the development of online tools, curricular materials, and resources to support K-12 students and teachers.

Dr. Gray has also led the development of the 2017 National Educational Technology Plan, a blueprint to strengthen digital learning in schools throughout the U.S. She has served as the principal investigator for two U.S. Department of Education projects related to STEM education, with a focus on increasing the engagement of at-risk students. In addition, Dr. Gray led the AIR Fund, an AIR Board of Directors’ initiative that supported innovative research on issues related to the reduction of inequality for children and families. Learn more about Dr. Gray.
 

Image of Terris Ross

Terris Ross
Managing Director, AIR Equity Initiative

Terris Ross is managing director of the AIR Equity Initiative. In this role, Dr. Ross works to refine the long-term, substantive agenda of the Equity Initiative with a focus on the intersections of education, work, justice, and health. She provides intellectual and technical leadership to improve educational and economic opportunity, with deep appreciation for the challenges faced by communities segregated by race or place. This includes providing oversight of the Educational Equity through Policy Implementation grant competition and building partnerships to connect AIR’s work with policy, practice, and other researchers and funders.

Dr. Ross has more than 15 years of experience leveraging research, evidence, and data for school improvement and policy reform. Prior to joining AIR, she was the vice president of policy and advocacy at Leadership for Educational Equity (LEE), a national nonprofit dedicated to developing equity-minded civic leaders in policy, advocacy, elected, and community organizing roles. Learn more about Dr. Ross.
 

Image of Dr. Shakira MundenShakira Munden
Senior Program Officer, AIR Equity Initiative

Shakira Munden is a senior program officer with the AIR Equity Initiative. In this role, Dr. Munden leads the Justice in Public Safety and Policing, Workforce Development, and co-leads the Scholars and Leaders Awards grant program. The Justice in Public Safety and Policing grant focuses on generating evidence in collaboration with stakeholders to reduce harmful policing and build alternative public safety systems. The Workforce Development funding is committed to uncovering the most effective strategies and partnerships to build an equitable 21st century workforce development ecosystem, particularly for those that have been most isolated from opportunity. The Scholars and Leaders grant aims to expand the diversity of project leads informing research, technical assistance, and systems change at AIR. Dr. Munden engages with stakeholders and research and technical assistance practitioners to cultivate data-informed narratives and partnerships in support of AIR’s mission.

Prior to joining AIR, Dr. Munden worked for WETA/PBS NewsHour, one of the leading nonprofit public media organizations in the nation, as their first Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. Learn more about Dr. Munden.
 

Image of Arayle FreelsArayle Freels
Program Manager, AIR Equity Initiative

Arayle Freels is a program manager with the AIR Equity Initiative. She leads the Equity Initiative’s engagement and communications efforts to extend the reach of its programs and encourage dialogue, mutual learning, and action across stakeholder groups. Additionally, she co-leads the Equity in Education Policy Implementation grant program, which supports efforts to enhance educational experiences for all students. In her roles, Freels helps to implement and define the Equity Initiative’s programmatic agenda for the educational equity grant program and strategic communications plan.

Freels contributed to the development of the 2017 National Education Technology Plan, and has worked on several research and technical assistance projects focused on adult education, workforce development, educational technology, teacher professional development, and STEM education. She is a licensed social worker in the state of Maryland, where she provides therapeutic services to families, children, and adolescents. Learn more about Freels.
 

Image of Jillian ReynoldsJillian Reynolds
Program Officer, AIR Equity Initiative

Jillian Reynolds is a program officer with the AIR Equity Initiative. In this role, she helps define the Equity Initiative’s programmatic goals for the Pipeline Partnership Program and AIR Scholars and Leaders Awards grant program. Reynolds leads the U.S. Pipeline Partnership Program, which seeks to diversify and strengthen the cultural competence of the behavioral and social science research fields by expanding access to opportunities for graduate students from diverse backgrounds. Additionally, she co-leads the Scholars and Leaders Awards grant program, by managing the implementation of the award competition and offering support and oversight to grantees.

Reynolds has served on several U.S. Department of Education–funded centers, where she has developed content and delivered technical assistance to school, district, and state leaders on issues related to the integration and implementation of educational and assistive technology and supporting students with disabilities. Learn more about Reynolds.
 

Image of Jaspal Bhatia Jaspal Bhatia
Program Officer, AIR Equity Initiative

Jaspal Bhatia serves as a program officer for AIR’s Equity Initiative. In this capacity, he helps define the Equity Initiative’s programmatic goals for the Justice in Public Safety and Policing program, build critical partnerships, and manage three working groups striving to promote equity and reduce harm in policing. Longer term, work funded under this programmatic area will generate and use research to advance equity in the U.S. criminal-legal system, particularly for equity-seeking communities.

Prior to joining AIR, Bhatia served as the senior manager for justice reform at The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and The Leadership Conference Education Fund, where he executed the team’s programmatic and policy agenda on behalf of a broad coalition of civil and human rights organizations. Learn more about Bhatia.
 

Image of Kellē JonesKellē Jones
Grants Administrator, AIR Equity Initiative

Kellē Jones joins AIR as the grants administrator of the AIR Equity Initiative. In this role, she is responsible for designing and implementing a grantmaking infrastructure to support the Equity Initiative. Jones incorporates best practices from the field and identifies new system efficiencies for the Equity Initiative’s staff and grantees. In addition, she provides direct grants management support in all areas. 

Prior to joining AIR, Jones worked at the nonprofit, Atlanta Children’s Foundation, where she was responsible for developing and managing grant proposals to tackle youth homelessness through an economic development lens. She was responsible for helping secure over $2 million in revenue by writing 20 grant proposals and reports, annually.

During her undergraduate career, Jones participated in successful community organizing, advocacy and research efforts in Savannah, GA. She also served as the president of the sociology club, where she fundraised and organized on behalf of homelessness, mass incarceration, and job and housing discrimination in her community. Jones holds a B.S. from Savannah State University in behavior analysis with a minor in political science.
 

Image of Sahrah MarcellinSahrah Marcellin
Project Associate

Sahrah Marcellin serves as a project associate on the Equity Initiative. In this role, Marcellin provides implementation and technical support for Equity Initiative program areas. She manages the U.S. Pipeline Partnership Program communication and engagement activities and supports the Equity Initiative’s internal and external engagement and communications efforts.

Prior to joining AIR, Marcellin worked in several communication positions and specializes in working with nonprofit and association clients. In her previous roles, she worked with clients to improve their communication strategies to enhance their efficiency in reaching their target audiences. Her focuses include creating accessible communication resources for underserved communities and working with underserved populations to tell their stories. Marcellin is currently a dual Master of Public Policy and Social Work student at the University of Maryland. She received a dual bachelor’s degree in communications media and human services from Fitchburg State University.

Contact
Image of Karen Francis
VP, Chief DEI Officer, and Interim AIR Equity Initiative Director