As College Forward continues our work towards a more just and humane world, we recognize that path cannot be walked alone. One of the largest challenges of engaging in equity work is filling the need for a unique set of expertise, voices and perspectives—not only from those participating in the work, but also from those leading it. The truth is, those organizations whose equity work relies on a single human to provide full-scale education, oversight, evaluation, and strategy may have taken a good first step. However, greater progress toward org-wide equity efforts must explore meaningful partnerships to create a more holistic approach to the work.
At College Forward, we embrace the opportunity for meaningful collaborative work. We understand that the answer to social justice issues lies not within one of us, but in our collective and long-term impact.
College Forward’s approach to building consultancy partnerships with experts in the equity & justice sector is rooted in a commitment to intentional, thoughtful and sustainable collaboration. Organizations must stop viewing consultants as fixers to the problems and see them as co-conspirators in our social change ecosystems—engaging them as strategic thought partners in this work, with a shared and active investment in collective outcomes and goals.
We analyze data gathered through a multifaceted approach—involving feedback from students, team members and our community—to influence strategy pathways on which topics and thematic elements we can explore most closely in our equity journey.
We specifically chose to partner with multiple consultants in an effort to get expertise in multiple focus areas, fostering a more holistic approach in our equity journey. Thoughtful engagement focuses on partnering with consultants who are experts in their respective fields, allowing our community a space to hear multiple expert perspectives.
We partner with consultants for a minimum of one year. This year-long commitment gives us the ability to build accountability, trust, and deeper understanding of our organization into our consultancy partnerships. Ultimately, this kind of sustainable collaboration encourages partnerships rooted in shared outcomes and goals.
Our deliberate decision to create consultancy partnerships in this way is a direct response to consultants’ deep concerns regarding one-off training and no built-in accountability. We recognize and understand that we have to do more. College Forward has committed to year-long contracts with 8 equity and justice consultants. These consultants will work alongside College Forward throughout our collective pursuit of a more just and humane world.
Meet Our Consultants:
Scout is an intuitive healer, generational doula and somatic guide in Austin, TX. She guides doulas, healers and lovers toward radical self-acceptance, trust and love throughout transitions in their lives. Scout is passionate about alchemizing life experiences, emotions and innate intuitive wisdom into empowerment and a deep sense of self trust—because she truly believes in rebirthing, reparenting and reclaiming wellness as a birthright. Scout’s resourced connection ushers various soul types through discomfort and creates a space for them to arrive at authenticity in their bodies to live WILD + AWAKE. Working with marginalized communities to ensure their birthright of awareness and wellness is truly ancestral work and acts as the cornerstone of Scout’s community engagement.
College Forward will be partnering with Scout to provide a BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) Healing Circles for our team members, focused on healing racial trauma.
JPB Gerald is an adult educator and a doctoral student at CUNY – Hunter College whose research and scholarship focuses on the intersection between language education, race, and whiteness. His writing has been published in academic journals and in mainstream national publications such as Language Magazine and the Washington Post. He lives in New York City with his wife, Alissa, his dog, Neptune, and his young son, Ezel, whom his work in decentering whiteness in organizations and industries is designed to protect.
JPB will be providing a series of the Ezel Project to 6 White College Forward team members.
Sonya’s expertise is supporting organizations taking a strategic approach in cultivating equitable environments, leading transformational change, and developing inclusive leaders. Her leadership roles have spanned 30 years in the areas of organizational learning and change, leadership development, and social justice movements. She has supported organizations around the globe in capacity-building, working effectively across diverse styles and cultivating inclusive and equitable environments. She holds a Master of Science in Learning and Organizational Change from Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois where she was recognized for her thesis research on the topic of race in the workplace. Her findings illuminate the subtler practices that obstruct workplace diversity efforts and provide guidance to advance equity and inclusion in organizations. She has lived in five countries on four continents, traveled to over 30 countries and resides in Austin, Texas. She aspires for a world of inclusion, participation and belonging and is committed to cultivating sustainable communities in Austin and beyond.
Sonya administered the Intercultural Development Inventory to the Leadership Team at College Forward. The collective group results can be found here. Sonya is providing coaching to Sage throughout the year on developing organization-wide strategies and creating plans for the Leadership Team’s growth.
Amy is a leadership development coach, consultant in the nonprofit sector and adjunct faculty at Seattle University. Previously, Amy held leadership positions in both the nonprofit and for-profit sectors, primarily in finance and administration—including 7 years as the CFO at FareStart, a social enterprise nonprofit in Seattle, WA. She focuses on supporting leaders and nonprofits in building sustainable, healthy organizations that do great work and value the people who do it.
Amy is providing support to CoPilot, College Forward’s Social Enterprise, through training and coaching of our team members.
ChrisTiana Obey Sumner
ChrisTiana Obey Sumner (they/them) identifies as a Black/Indigenous, Queer, Non-Binary, and Multiply disabled person. They are the CEO of Epiphanies of Equity, LLC, a social equity consulting firm that particularly specializes in social change, intersectionality, antiracism and disability justice. For almost two decades, they’ve dedicated their life and career to amplifying the importance of social equity—particularly narrative identity development and its role in cultural humility and allyship, bringing awareness to the lived experience of racialized ableism and externalizing antiblackness, and dismantling the psychosocial paradigms that underlie social injustice and inaction.
ChrisTiana will be partnering with College Forward to begin and continue discussions on Disability Justice. ChrisTiana will provide multiple Lunch and Learn sessions for our entire team, along with providing specialized coaching to our DEI Committee on how we can think strategically about Disability Justice in policies/procedures.
Caress Scarborough & Nikolai Skruch
Caress Scarborough (she/they) has been coaching and consulting for 25 years. She is a principal coach and co-founder of Mindful Passions International. Caress advocates for the BIPOC, LGBTQ+, Polyamory, and Disabled communities in every aspect of their life and work.
Nikolai Skruch (he/him) is the Production Technologist for Mindful Passions International, LLC. According to Nik, “production technologist” is a fancy way of saying he runs tech for the webinars. In his free time, he likes to play video games and enjoy sushi.
Caress and Nikolai will provide ongoing training for our team regarding high-impact practices in facilitating and delivering trainings. Caress will also provide coaching to our AmeriCorps members focusing on a DEI lens in coaching practices.
Balaram has been practicing yoga since 2002, specializing in bhakti meditation. His interest in Vedic culture led him to India where he studied in Vrindavan and got his 200hr certification from Vinyasa Yoga School in Rishikesh. He loves using music sound vibration with mantra to explore Vinyasa, Hatha and Bhakti Yoga styles. Balaram’s purpose is to bring these ancient practices to everyone and apply them to their modern daily life. Balaram is also a public school teacher of 15 years, hosts an after-school yoga program for Black youth and People of Color called Overstand Meditation that focuses on inner connectivity to achieve academic success. He brings a mindful, energetic and practical approach to the restorative power of yoga.
Balaram will be providing a healing/wellness space for our students this year. He will focus on working with our students on healing racial trauma, self-care and wellness management during such unprecedented times as a student.
Davey Shlasko and Think Again Training
Davey is an educator, author and consultant whose passion is facilitating adult learning about, and in the context of, social justice movements. Davey’s favorite consulting projects live in the overlap between individual growth and organizational transformation. In addition to managing Think Again, Davey has authored several chapters in the Teaching for Diversity and Social Justice and Readings for Diversity and Social Justice series including curricula on classism, ableism, and cissexism (transgender oppression), and also teaches as a lecturer in Gender & Women’s Studies at University of Wisconsin – Madison and in Social Theory and Trans Studies at Smith College School for Social Work. Davey has an M.Ed. in Social Justice Education from UMass, Amherst, and has been writing and teaching about social justice issues since 2000. (Home base: Madison, WI during the school year; Northampton, MA during the summer)
Davey and his team will be providing training to our team on LGBTQIA+ issues and unconscious/implicit bias. They will also administer and run “practice sessions” with our team to ensure we know how to turn theory into action. Davey is also providing coaching services to our People and Operations team in relation to reviewing and updating our Policies & Procedures.