PSD Roundtable Talks


As our nation contends with questions around the significance and impact of inclusion, justice, equity, and safety of BIPOC (Black, indigenous, and people of color), higher educational institutions have been called on to examine what many see as the pervasiveness of racism, with the goal of enacting change within their walls.

As part of the PSD's ongoing efforts to engage in this work, we will host a series of roundtable talks—small-group discussions—which will explore EDI topics ranging from race and privilege to anti-racism. Through honest conversations aimed at building awareness, we can reflect on our understanding of EDI and identify how, as individuals and collectively, we can address the existence and extent of institutional racism and its impacts.


PSD's Roundtable Talks will include a maximum of ten participants and two facilitators, so that each individual can start to engage in the topic. Because of the size limit and the necessity of examining power dynamics inherent in higher education, we will begin by offering a recurring series of sessions to PSD faculty members and other academic appointees. We intend to extend the opportunity to other roles within the PSD in the future.

Three topics for Roundtable Talks will be offered in Fall 2020. It is recommended they be taken in succession as a cluster (within a short time frame). Register now.

Autumn Quarter Session Descriptions

I. Beyond cosmetic inclusion

When students, faculty / academics, and staff bring their authentic selves to work, engagement and inclusion thrive. Authenticity and belonging include feeling safe when speaking up about work and life experiences that one has had related to one's identities. 

In this session we will explore the concept of "inclusion" and  “inclusive conversations."  We will begin to look at the need for engaging in talks that do not center solely around STEM research, and examine the impact of not doing so.  Register now.

II. Engaging in inclusive conversations - suggested tools

Honing the skills to conduct meaningful conversations on potentially polarizing topics such as race, belief systems, and gender is critical for anyone viewed as an authority figure. In this session we will introduce some suggested ways to engage in difficult conversations and provide insight on how specific language and approaches can connect or alienate marginalized communities. Register now.

III. So exactly what is Anti-Racism? 

Our society has spent centuries engaging in (and often avoiding) difficult conversations about raceIgnited by the social unrest following the deaths of George Floyd and others before him, communities everywhere have joined in the discussion about race. 

Drawing from Robin DiAngelo’s book White Fragility, in this session we will introduce vocabulary, context, and better practices to help with confronting racism at the individual level and beyond. We will look at systemic racism and inequality from the point of view of marginalized groups and touch on the role white privilege plays in creating a sense of immunity for white people (individuals of European origin), a sharp contrast to the challenges people of color routinely face. Register now.

Note: Ahead of participating in this session, we recommend that you read “The Invisible Knapsack” by Peggy McIntosh. 

Autumn Quarter Schedule (August 2020 to December 2020)  

Sessions are from noon to 1:00 PM CST; What is Anti-Racism? will be from noon to 1:30 PM CST

  • Tuesday, September 15:  Beyond cosmetic inclusion
  • Wednesday, September 16: Engaging in inclusive conversations - suggested tools
  • Friday, September 18: So exactly what is Anti-Racism?

  • Tuesday, October 20:  Beyond cosmetic inclusion
  • Wednesday, October 21:  Engaging in inclusive conversations - suggested tools
  • Thursday, October 22: So exactly what is Anti-Racism?

  • Tuesday, November 17:  Beyond cosmetic inclusion
  • Wednesday, November 18:  Engaging in inclusive conversations - suggested tools
  • Thursday, November 19: So exactly what is Anti-Racism?

  • Tuesday, December 14: Beyond cosmetic inclusion
  • Wednesday, December 16: Engaging in inclusive conversations - suggested tools
  • Thursday, December 17: So exactly what is Anti-Racism?

Facilitator Bios

Cosmos Boekell

Cosmos Boekell

Cosmos Boekell is the Director of Computer Science Instructional Laboratory (CSIL). He has been in this position for one year and is also an alumnus of The College, A.B. in Anthropology ‘97.  

Cosmos was recently nominated for the Physical Sciences Division’s (PSD) Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) “Out of the Box (Rising Star) Award.” He is also a deputy chair for the PSD’s EDI staff committee.  

Since the COVID-19 pandemic began impacting the United States, Cosmos has devoted much of his energy to the Chicago Mutual Aid network, specifically organizing for the Bronzeville/Kenwood Mutual Aid hub. This grassroots work includes addressing community members’ basic and critical needs and working on initiatives of food justice and resilience, houselessness, financial hardship, social justice, and education through the lens of mutual aid. 

Regina Dixon-Reeves

Regina Dixon-Reeves

Regina Dixon-Reeves is the Assistant Provost at the University of Chicago. In this role, she provides leadership for diversity and inclusion programs, faculty development initiatives, and strategic planning across the University. Previously, she served as the Executive Director of Diversity & Inclusion at the University of Chicago Medicine and Biological Sciences. Regina has a doctorate in Sociology with a concentration in higher education from the University of Chicago. 

Her areas of expertise include mentoring of early career faculty and graduate students, strategies that increase academic productivity, and student support programs that increase college retention of first-generation students. Her research focuses on mentoring in academic medicine; mentoring of graduate students and early career academics; mentoring and support programs for first generation scholars of color in higher education institutions; effective programs that increase freshman retention; effective STEM pipeline programs; and qualitative descriptions of the academic experiences of females, ethnic minorities, and early career academics. 

Regina is a trained Entering Mentoring facilitator through the Center for the Improvement of Mentored Experiences in Research (CIMER) at UW-Madison. She is also a trained facilitator through the NIH-funded National Research Mentoring Network – CIC Academic Network (NRMN-CAN). (PI, Nancy Schwartz, PhD, University of Chicago) 

Neli Fanning

Neli Fanning is the first Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Director in the Physical Sciences Division. Since joining the PSD in 2019, she has worked with PSD constituents and stakeholders to establish and build upon an infrastructure for EDI for the Division. She works and collaborates with several PSD units on building capacity and strategy for EDI work. Neli has led and facilitated talks for various small and large audiences across different industries on topics of EDI and Anti-Racism. Neli holds a B.S. degree from the University of Miami and a Master's degree from Northwestern University.

Joel Jackson

Joel Jackson

Joel D. Jackson serves as a subject matter expert and facilitator for several programs at The Village through the Chicago Center for HIV Elimination (CCHE). Through Truth, Racial Healing and Transformation (TRHT) of Greater Chicago, Joel serves as a Racial Healing Practitioner. In this role, Joel co-facilitates Racial Healing Circles across Chicagoland, helping to provide space for healing, connection and to reaffirm the humanity in all of us. He is also the University of Chicago—Medicine (UCM) Assistant Director of Inclusion and Training for the Diversity, Inclusion and Equity Department of the Urban Health Initiative. He coordinates the hospital’s cultural competence training strategy and is the lead facilitator of the UChicago Medicine 18-Hour Cultural Competence Course. Joel is also helping to coordinate the hospital’s Resilience Based Care training strategy which will include a focus on compassion fatigue resilience and a focus on trauma informed care. He is also the 2020 Staff Diversity Leadership Award recipient for the University of Chicago. 

Joel received his Bachelor of Arts in 2000 as the first male to major in Women’s Studies at Washington University in St. Louis. He also has nearly 20 years of experience working in social justice, facilitating anti-oppression training and serving in the field of HIV prevention. Prior to moving to Chicago 6 years ago, he lived in St. Louis, MO and worked for 2 years at the Barnes-Jewish Hospital, Center for Diversity & Cultural Competence. He also formerly worked at Project ARK (AIDS, Resources & Knowledge) for 10 years, an affiliate of the Washington University in St. Louis School of Medicine. 

Joel really enjoys the work that he does with Racial Healing Circles, the University of Chicago Medicine and the Chicago Center for HIV Elimination. He views himself as another care partner helping to enhance quality health care and contributing to a legacy of positive growth, inclusion and health equity for the greater Chicago community. 

Candice Norcott

Candice Norcott, Ph.D., is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist. Dr. Norcott completed her graduate education at the University of Connecticut and her pre and postdoctoral training at Yale University. Early in her career, Dr. Norcott developed and implemented mental health programming for the girls temporarily residing at the Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center. Dr. Norcott then worked in a Family Medicine residency program as the Director of Behavioral Health. During her time with the Cook County-Loyola-Provident Family Medicine Residency program she won Teaching Faculty of the Year. 

Dr. Norcott currently holds the position of Assistant Professor at the University of Chicago’s School of Medicine. Dr. Norcott works in the Section for Family Planning and Contraceptive Research in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology where she provides gender-responsive and trauma-informed behavioral health consultation and interventions to women and adolescent girls. She specializes in the treatment of trauma, mood disorders, and relational issues. Dr. Norcott also participates in medical education within the Departments of Obstetrics and Gynecology, and Psychiatry and Behavioral Neuroscience, working with resident physicians, fellows, and psychology interns. In 2020, Dr. Norcott was awarded the Michael Reese Lectureship Award. 

Finally, Dr. Norcott provides expert commentary on issues related to race, gender, and trauma. She was featured on the Lifetime original docuseries “Surviving R. Kelly, Parts I & II” and is a recurring guest on Red Table Talk, a Facebook Live Series. 

Tiana  Pyer-Pereira

Tiana  Pyer-Pereira is the Associate Director for Advancement and Diversity at the University of Chicago, where she is responsible for developing programs related to the Diversity and Inclusion Initiative and the Faculty Professional Development Program. She is trained in  social  justice  education and  socia l science research methods. Previously,  Tiana  worked as a research manager at UChicago’s Survey Lab. 

Vickie R. Sides

Vickie R. Sides is the Director for Education and Outreach in the Equal Opportunity Programs Office at the University of Chicago. 

Vickie has twenty-plus years of experience leading efforts to address power-based harm and inequity. She uses education to advance an understanding of the connections between inequality and violence as a central tenet of her work. 

Vickie has served in several key roles at UChicago including as Director of Resources for Sexual Violence Prevention (RSVP) and most recently as Associate Director of Prevention Initiatives and Programming in the Office for Sexual Misconduct, Prevention and Support and Assistant Dean of Students. 

Additionally, Vickie is a key member of the Student Emergency Response Systems team, serving as a long-time Sexual Assault Dean on Call and Bias Education and Support Team member. 

Vickie holds a master’s degree in Education and Human Development from DePaul University. 

She lives in the Chicagoland area with her partner of 22 years.