Diversity Equity and Inclusion (DE&I)
The DEI Consulting Group was formed to address disparities that exist in many organizations. In today’s climate, there is a need for advanced knowledge of the principles of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). Our DEI experts are top-notch in the field of DEI, bringing together scientific research, academic scholarship, cutting-edge data, and paradigms, as well as the wisdom of lived experience. All our consultants represent historically marginalized groups; therefore, we approach the work from a very personal and intimate perspective. Our team has a collective mission to grow diverse organizations anchored on equity and inclusion who will boldly move beyond initiatives to full integration into the DNA of the organization’s culture.
Our team has developed and executed comprehensive analyses of more than 30 national and international organizations including professional associations, educational institutions, corporations, and nonprofits, among others. The DEI team is proposing a unique blend of qualitative and quantitative research, training, and reporting for a full assessment of DEI. This involves completing a racial justice (diversity) audit, identifying strengths and weaknesses, creating a common language for organizational culture, and providing recommendations for embedding racial equity into sustainable practice and policy.
Meet Our DE&I Team
Maysa Akbar, PhD, ABPP
Dr. Maysa Akbar is a groundbreaking psychologist, best-selling author, and healer. Dr. Akbar is a thought leader and expert…
Dr. Maysa Akbar is a groundbreaking psychologist, best-selling author, and healer. Dr. Akbar is a thought leader and expert in racial trauma, allyship, diversity, equity, and inclusion. She is an engaging and dynamic speaker who is sought by corporations, philanthropies, nonprofit organizations, urban school districts, and social service agencies in their efforts to promote antiracism and advance racial equity. She brings insight, courage, and passion to her conversations with communities of color and white communities alike.
In her first book, Urban Trauma, A Legacy of Racism, Dr. Akbar introduces the Urban Trauma™ framework, unpacking how people of color live in a state of crisis due to oppressive societal systems, resulting in feelings of anger, rage, and hopelessness. In her second book, Beyond Ally: The Pursuit of Racial Justice, with wisdom and compassion, Dr. Akbar advances her racial justice work through the creation of the Ally Identity Model, which details the stages of allyship in dismantling systemic oppression.
Dr. Akbar is a board-certified clinical psychologist and is an Assistant Clinical Professor at Yale University, School of Medicine. She is the founder of Integrated Wellness Group, psychotherapy practice specializing in treating race-based trauma since 2008. Dr. Akbar represents the American Psychological Association at the United Nations where she informs psychology practice within the international community. Dr. Akbar lives in New Haven with her husband and two children. In her spare time, she engages in meditation and yoga practices focused on healing and liberation from race-based trauma.
Michell Tollinchi, PhD (she, her, hers)
With over 20 years experience in strategic inclusive excellence in education, Dr. Tollinchi is an independent consultant in the field…
Prior to joining the Student Leadership Network, she served as the Assistant Vice President for Student Transitions at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI). Dr. Tollinchi collaborated with community partners to ensure high quality programs and services that contributed to the successful transition of students from pre-college through graduation. At RPI, she had direct oversight over the Office of the Registrar, Office of Career and Professional Development, International Student Services, Multicultural Programs, and The Arch (Experiential Learning) Program. Before heading to Troy, NY, Dr. Tollinchi spent 10 years at Barnard College where she served as the Associate Dean for Academic Enrichment and Community Initiatives at Barnard College, Columbia University, where she was primarily responsible for the oversight of access and opportunity programs for a diverse student population. Additionally, she worked in collaboration with various departments and units, Barnard faculty and the local Harlem Community to continue to provide opportunities that will enrich and complement the lives of all students with a particular emphasis on underrepresented minorities and first generation students. Prior to Barnard, she served as the Director of the Gateway Academy at the City College of New York, where she led advising initiatives and programs for students who had not declared a major. Before City College, Dr. Tollinchi spent 6 years at Fordham University where she led the Collegiate Science and Technology Entry Program (STEP/CSTEP), a state initiative designed to increase the diverse student pipeline to careers in STEM. During her time there, she assisted in the creation of the first CSTEP Summer Program for incoming freshmen interested in STEM and the health professions.
Dr. Tollinchi is a product of the Puerto Rican community and the Bronx, New York; she is the only member of her family to attend and graduate from a four-year college. She received a BA in Psychology and Spanish from the State University of New York at Albany, a Master’s of Social Work from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and she attended Fordham University where she obtained her PhD in Social Services. Her research there was focused on college persistence among Latina undergraduate students. As a diversity, equity and inclusion practitioner, Dr. Tollinchi has dedicated her career and life to supporting minority and women students who strive to achieve their full potential, no matter what their backgrounds.
Natalie S. Plummer, Esq
Natalie S. Plummer, Esq is an attorney based out of Pennsylvania. Natalie is an expert litigator, and does extensive Diversity Work…
Natalie S. Plummer, Esq is an attorney based out of Pennsylvania. Natalie is an expert litigator, and does extensive Diversity Work within her workplace, and community. As the Vice Chair of the Diversity and Inclusion committee she works within her field, and in the community at large to improve inclusion, cultural competence and diversity. In addition to her law degree she is a Cornell University certified diversity leader. However, most importantly Natalie S. Plummer is a first generation lawyer from a hardworking and proud Caribbean family. Ms. Plummer understands what it means to be the first, and only in a room. She understands the critical need for diversity, and is proud to do the work to demonstrate that Diversity, Inclusion and Equity are not only necessary, it is good for business.
Dr. Jessica Smedley
Dr. Jessica M. Smedley is a Clinical Psychologist practicing in the Washington DC metro area. She is also an adjunct faculty member at…
Dr. Jessica M. Smedley is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist practicing in the Washington DC metro area. She is also an adjunct faculty member at The George Washington University in the counseling department and holds governance leadership roles in the
American Psychological Association. In the past year, she co-led a COVID-19 task force for the DC Psychological Association aimed at offering pro-bono virtual services to
communities that are less likely to have access to care. She has also been seen on NBC4 Washington offering insights about mental health care for adults and children during the pandemic. She specifically approaches her clinical, leadership, and consultation work through a
lens of cultural humility. Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion are each deeply embedded personal values that she knows are essential to progress and change in the communities that she serves. Dr. Smedley has served as a practitioner for over 15 years in urban, community mental health settings prior to private practice. She has had significant experiences in predominantly Black and Hispanic neighborhoods in community centers and school settings to include offering assessments and making
recommendations for Individual Education Plans (IEPs). Dr. Smedley also has a research background in trauma and spirituality specifically within communities of color. She has also engaged in research and trainings that make clear the connection between racial trauma and relationships, specifically in the Black community. When not in clinical practice, Dr. Smedley led national and state-level committees for psychologists in the areas of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. She has also facilitated process groups, workshops, and trainings for students, professionals, and community members specifically about racial/generational trauma, health disparities, and consequences of ignoring race in educational/ professional environments. As a former Division-1 athlete, she also takes seriously the importance of health and wellness which informs healthy coping and healing from racial and generational trauma.
Dr. Talee Vang
Personable, authentic, and engaging, Dr. Talee Vang is a licensed psychologist with expertise in diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I), as well as health equity. Her educational background…
Personable, authentic, and engaging, Dr. Talee Vang is a licensed psychologist with expertise in diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I), as well as health equity. Her educational background as a social scientist and reputation as an effective educator brings a unique advantage in strategizing systemic changes within institutions. Dr. Vang has developed and conducted trainings on implicit bias aimed at decreasing health disparities, disarming microaggressions, and navigating intersections of identities through critical epistemology. Skilled at conceptualizing complexity, tailoring strategies and trainings to the unique need of any organization, Dr. Vang has a collaborative style that works well with matrixed organizations and staff at all levels including executive leadership. Evidence based theories, as well as strategies, and interventions rooted in human and organizational psychology inform the content and work Dr. Vang brings. Furthermore, Dr. Vang is a regular guest expert on public media including radio and television networks speaking to the psychological concepts behind many psychosocial stressors.
Dr. Carol Birks
Dr. Carol D. Birks is a catalytic and transformational thought leader with extensive experience in organizational leadership, diversity…
Dr. Carol D. Birks is a catalytic and transformational thought leader with extensive experience in organizational leadership, diversity, equity and inclusion, executive coaching, and community engagement and empowerment. The leadership practices she implements are designed to enhance and accelerate systems and structures within organizations, dismantling racial practices to develop the gifts of every child. Birks has had experience at all levels of education, including as an administrator at the school and district levels and in higher education.
Throughout her career, Birks has implemented several middle and high school improvement efforts that address the disparities in education and promote cultural responsiveness and urban school reform. Birks has held positions in school and district central offices including recently leading as superintendent for New Haven Public Schools and Chester Upland School District and as an assistant superintendent and chief of staff for Hartford Public Schools. She previously led as a program manager for the CT Department of Higher Education, vice president of operations for an educational management organization, and as an executive leadership coach.
Birks is the Chief Executive Officer and Founder of Erudite Educational Consulting, LLC. She has expertise in facilitating professional learning, designing leadership programs, and coaching public and private sector leaders in executive coaching, equity-focused strategic planning, leadership development, talent management and development, and community engagement and empowerment. Her approach to leadership, and those of her expert advisors, reflect an array of innovative models and innovations.
Birks has received formal executive coaching training from Columbia University’s Teacher College. This incorporates strengths-based, adult development and cognitive coaching approaches, including coaching leaders to examine the world views and narratives of their teams, to build their capacities to design equity-centric organizations. Birks takes her clients through a series of modalities focused on systemic thinking, situational leadership, talent management and development, organizational development, diversity, equity and inclusion. She has been recognized both locally and nationally for exemplary administrative leadership. Birks has been an advocate for equity and access and created conditions that provide high-quality schooling experiences for all public school students.
Birks obtained a Bachelor of Arts from Hampton University, Master of Science degrees from the University of Bridgeport and Columbia University Teachers College. She attained a Superintendent’s Certification from the University of Connecticut’s NEAG School of Education and a Doctoral degree from Columbia University Teachers College.
Dr. Carol D. Birks has a strong commitment and dedication to civic engagement. She currently serves on the Fairfield Region Board of Directors for St. Vincent’s Hospital and the Greater Fairfield County Foundation. She is also part of international organizations that are committed to sisterhood, scholarship, friendship, and service.
Associate DEI Consultants
Chaka N. Felder-McEntire, Ed.D.
Dr. Chaka Felder-McEntire is a motivational speaker, professional development consultant and a 20-year education administrator….
Brooke Paradise, Ed.D.
Dr. Brooke Paradise has a doctorate in Educational Leadership from the University of New England ….
Dr. Brooke Paradise has a doctorate in Educational Leadership from the Univeristy of New England. The focus of their career to date has been in driving transformative, robust education and community inclusivity. Over the course of 10 plus years, they have offered key contributions to the field of student affairs through departmental leadership, curriculum planning and development, assessment, programming, training, and professional staff development. Specifically, they have worked to offer leadership and oversight in developing institutional and community programs that promote a culture of diversity, inclusion, and belonging. Creating a supportive campus climate for underrepresented students and a more inclusive student experience is what drives a sustainably affirming campus. As a leader, Dr. Paradise takes full responsibility for shaping, advocating, and advancing diversity and inclusion initiatives with an emphasis on learning and engagement, health and wellness, and an overall sense of belonging. They seek to elevate the voices of folks historically excluded, to educate and empower a community of advocates that encompasses diversity in race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, disability status, socioeconomic status, nationality, and cultural practices. Diversity. Inclusion. They are more than just words for Dr. Paradise. They are the hard-and-fast principles guiding for how they educate and support teams, cultivate leaders, and create community.
Dr. Paradise is a seasoned leader with knowledge and ability in both community-building endeavors within Higher Education as well as work rooted in Justice, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. But most importantly, they have grown through individual experiences, navigating the world as a queer, gender-nonconforming individual. Dr. Paradise strives to engage in authentic learning where folks can explore identity through respect and where a culture of curiosity is cultivated.
Sudeshna Majumdar-Fragomeni is a relationship management leader with a robust background…
Sudeshna Majumdar-Fragomeni is a relationship management leader with a robust background in talent acquisition strategy, human resources, relationship management, business development, business transformation, and higher education.
With other 14 years of experience in career development, STEM initiatives, talent development and DEI at start ups and midsized high growth organizations; she prides herself on empowering people and companies to tell their unique story while fixing bottlenecks to ensure high growth organizations build strategically.
In her corporate roles within startup/midsized companies in technology and consulting, Sudeshna has intentionally built a resume that can lean into the strength of people, businesses, and systems to empower expansion and innovation.
Sudeshna is a human resources Leader with strategic HR and talent management expertise. Outstanding people and communication skills with proven ability to inspire and motivate employees to optimum performance. Dedicated professional with sound judgment, leadership qualities, strong problem-solving strengths and solid commitment to excellence in developing mutually beneficial collaborative partnerships. Demonstrated ability to manage multiple demands and tasks with attention to detail and priorities.
Areas of Expertise:
- HR Strategy
- Leadership/Executive Training
- Talent Acquisition and Employee Retention
- Relationship Management
- Workforce Transformation
- Organizational Effectiveness
- Performance Management Leadership Skills
- Coaching & Development
- Change Management
Additionally, Sudeshna has also built large scale workshops/events, and training for students, professionals, and community members specifically around DEI topics, talent acquisition initiatives, and high impact business growth and strategy in educational/professional environments.
We believe that cultural transformation is possible. Our team focuses its consulting work on an effective set of core values:
Before focusing on analytics, it’s essential to come up with a definition of diversity. Particularly, since studies have shown that the inclusion of a diversified workforce (race, ethnicity, gender, ability, sexual orientation, religion, and age) can drive productivity and workplace satisfaction.
Choosing the right area of culture development is essential for building a successful DEI culture. Whether you begin by assessing employee perception, climate, talent acquisition, career advancement, retention, satisfaction, well-being, or pay equity, we will help create a plan that fits your needs based on where you fall on the DEI spectrum.
We fundamentally believe in the power of shared ideas and experiences with our partners to help them navigate complex challenges associated with the integration of DEI work. As experts, we offer a breadth of information, a depth of knowledge, and a way of processing that encourages and inspires divergent thinking and action. We are committed to our partners who are curious, asking questions, and/or seeking clarity. Our team strives to create a space where we offer support and safety, ask powerful questions, promote accountability, and show up with patience as we embark on a transformative journey. As good thought partners, we act as a catalyst for clarity, confidence, and change.
Our Consulting Verticals
Diversity & Inclusion Audits
Through a series of prescribed audit activities (discovery calls, focus groups, policy, procedures reviews, etc.), we gain a better understanding and insight into the organization’s legacy practices. These activities will help us develop a robust equity road map inclusive of data review, current challenges and opportunities, recommendations for capacity building, and strategy planning.
Equity Capacity Building
Our team works closely with organizational leadership, board members, employees, and stakeholders among other constituents to build knowledge, implement the equity road map, and create a sustainable equity plan. In addition, we acknowledge and incorporate the existing organization culture uniquely and any work that may be currently underway to promote efficiency in service delivery. Capacity building and thought partnership involve various training opportunities, small-group and one-on-one coaching, and leadership development.
All our consulting is tailored to the individual needs of each client. Our sustainability plan provides expert recommendations for culturally relevant policies and procedures, a review of inclusive language in communication practices across the organization, human resource systems related to supervision and bias reporting, recruitment and retention of diverse staff, inclusive representation of staff in leadership, workplace transparency, the creation of advisory groups when appropriate, and overall cultural transformation.
Racial Trauma – Urban Trauma® Framework
The three key components that contribute to the development of Urban Trauma®: historical, biological, and environmental. By engaging with these components, we work closely with organizations to better understand the impact racism has on BIPOC individuals – not just in instances of explicit racism but also in the everyday encounters with unconscious and implicit biases. Our focus on racial trauma allows for BIPOC staff to have an open and safe space where they can process their trauma resulting from incidents of unwarranted acts of racism.
We use the Allyship Identity Model to identify and work with non-BIPOC individuals that are committed to inclusion. Our approach is to create authentic conversations around White allyship and antiracism approaches. We courageously embrace dialogue on race, race relations, and intersectionality. Our team of DEI experts create brave spaces to enable dynamic and collaborative work teams. The courageous dialogues lend an invitation to all racial identities to come together with the intention of working collectively toward undoing racial divides.
Our social justice specialty area focuses on the psychological underpinnings that cause racially motivated toxic stress in work settings. We anchor our work in identifying the multiple iterations of oppressive and discriminatory practices supported by structural and systemic racism. Through consulting with our team, Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) working community are able to better understand their racial trauma and move toward a growth mindset. In addition, those that are prepared to engage in anti-racism work will have an opportunity to learn concrete tools that will support growth and development in the allyship process: