Alexis McGill Johnson, Co-Founder and Co-Director (currently on leave)
Alexis McGill Johnson is Co-Founder and Co-Director of Perception Institute – a national consortium of researchers, advocates, and cultural strategists that turns cutting-edge mind science research on identity difference into solutions that can be applied to everyday individual interactions and institutional practices. Alexis collaborates with social scientists on empirical research to identify the efficacy of interventions that reduce discrimination and create opportunity. She leads workshops and lectures for a wide range of public institutions and private corporations, seeking to address the role of implicit bias, identity anxiety, and stereotype threat in their work. Alexis was a partner in co-creating the Starbucks racial bias curriculum, which launched as a nationwide training initiative on May 29, 2018. She brings lessons learned and decades of experience to help individuals and institutions build new muscles to navigate identity difference. She is an author of The Good Hair Study and contributor to Perception’s report series entitled The Science of Equality, as well as several additional reports.
Alexis earned her undergraduate degree from Princeton University and holds graduate degrees from Yale University in political science. She taught in the Department of Political Science and African American studies at both Yale and Wesleyan Universities. Motivated by connecting research to practice, Alexis left academia during the 2004 election cycle to serve as Political Director to hip hop mogul Russell Simmons and subsequently became Executive Director of Citizen Change, a leading nonprofit founded by Sean “Diddy” Combs aimed at educating young diverse voters through grassroots and tailored social media efforts. During her tenure at Citizen Change, Alexis launched the “Vote or Die!” campaign, building a new model for non-traditional voter engagement and mobilization, and later her own firm to provide political research and strategy.
Alexis’s philanthropic and service work mirrors her professional passions. She is a former Chair of the Board of Planned Parenthood Federation of America; current board member of Planned Parenthood Action Fund; and Chair of the Planned Parenthood Political Action Committee. She also serves on the board of Revolutions Per Minute, a nonprofit agency that supports artists with strategy and support for their activism and philanthropy. Previously, she has served on the boards of New York Civil Liberties Union, Center for Social Inclusion, and Citizen Engagement Lab. She is a founder of the Culture Group, as well as a frequent commentator on FOX News, CNN, MSNBC, and in the press.
Rachel D. Godsil, Co-Founder and Co-Director
Rachel Godsil is Co-Founder and Co-Director of Perception Institute. She collaborates with social scientists on empirical research to identify the efficacy of interventions to address implicit bias, racial anxiety, and stereotype threat. She regularly leads workshops and presentations addressing the role of bias and anxiety associated with race, ethnicity, religion, and gender, focusing on education, criminal justice, health care, and the workplace. Rachel was a partner in co-creating the Starbucks racial bias curriculum, which launched as a nationwide training initiative on May 29, 2018.
Godsil is a lead author of the Perception Institute reports including PopJustice Volume 3: Pop Culture, Perceptions, and Social Change (2016): The Science of Equality Volume 1: Addressing Implicit Bias, Racial Anxiety, and Stereotype Threat in Education and Healthcare (Perception Institute, 2014) as well as articles and book chapters such as: The Moral Ecology of Policing: A Mind Science Approach to Race and Policing in the United States in The Routledge Handbook of Criminal Justice Ethics (2016) (co-authored with Phillip Atiba Goff); Why Race Matters in Physics Class, 64 U.C.L.A. L. Rev. Disc. 40 (2016); Race, Ethnicity, and Place Identity: Implicit Bias and Competing Belief Systems, 37 Hawaii L. Rev. 313 (2015); Implicit Bias in the Courtroom, 59 U.C.L.A. L. Rev. 1184 (2012) (co-authored with Jerry Kang et al); A Tale of Two Neighborhoods: Implicit Bias in Environmental Decision-Making, in Implicit Racial Bias in the Law (Cambridge University Press, 2011). She also co-authored amicus briefs on behalf of empirical social psychologists in both iterations of Fisher v. Texasand the National Parent Teacher Association in the Parents Involved in Community Schools v. Seattle School District litigation at the Supreme Court.
Rachel is on the advisory boards for Research, Integration, Strategies, and Evaluation (RISE) for Boys and Men of Color at the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for the Study of Race and Equity in Education, The Systemic Justice Project at Harvard Law School, and the Poverty and Race Research Action Council.
In addition to her role with the Perception Institute, Rachel is a Professor of Law and Chancellor’s Scholar at Rutgers Law School. As her research focuses on applying insights from the mind sciences to race, law, and public policy. She is the author of numerous articles and book chapters on implicit bias and race, and was co-editor for Awakening From the Dream: Civil Rights Under Siege and the New Struggle for Equal Justice (Carolina Academic Press, 2005). Her teaching and research interests include civil rights, constitutional law, property, land use, environmental justice, and education.
Her recent property work focuses on gentrification, the mortgage crisis and eminent domain, as well as the intersection of race, poverty, and land use decisions. Rachel served as Chair of the New York City Rent Guidelines Board in 2014 and 2015. After serving as the convener for the Obama campaign’s Urban and Metropolitan Policy Committee and an advisor to the Department of Housing and Urban Development transition team, Professor Godsil co-directed a report to HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan entitled “Retooling HUD for a Catalytic Federal Government.”
During law school, Rachel served as the Executive Article Editor of the Michigan Law Review, was awarded the Henry M. Bates Memorial Award, and elected to the Order of the Coif. After graduation, she clerked for John M. Walker of the Second Circuit Court of Appeals. Professor Godsil was an Assistant United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York. She was an Associate Counsel at the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, focusing on environmental justice, as well as an associate with Berle, Kass & Case and Arnold & Porter in New York City.
Previously, Rachel was Eleanor Bontecou Professor of Law at Seton Hall University Law School. She joined the School of Law in 2000 and was recognized for her teaching by being nominated for Professor of the Year in 2011, 2002 and 2003. In 2003-2004, she was awarded the Researcher of the Year in Law by Seton Hall University. During fall of 2007, Professor Godsil was a Visiting Professor at the University of Pennsylvania Law School and she taught property at New York University Law School in spring 2009.
Jessica MacFarlane, Senior Research Director
Jessica MacFarlane is the Senior Research Director at Perception Institute. Jessica manages Perception’s original research studies and translates academic research into accessible reports and presentations. Jessica facilitates workshops on implicit bias, racial and gender anxiety, and stereotype threat across a variety of sectors, including education, criminal justice, healthcare, philanthropy, and media, with the aim of equipping individuals and institutions with the tools to override unconscious phenomena and promote equity.
Throughout her career, Jessica has focused on using research to drive equity. Her published research spans the fields of social psychology, behavioral HIV prevention, and harm reduction, in both domestic and international settings. With Perception, Jessica has co-authored reports, such as The ‘Good Hair’ Study: Explicit and Implicit Attitudes Toward Black Women’s Hair (Perception Institute, 2017), The Science of Equality, Volume 2: The Effects of Gender Roles, Implicit Bias, and Stereotype Threat on the Lives of Women and Girls (Perception Institute, 2016), and #PopJustice, Volume 3: Pop Culture, Perceptions, and Social Change (Liz Manne Strategy, 2016), and articles including “Creating Safety and Community: Preventing Implicit Bias and Racial Anxiety from Undermining Neighborhood Safety” (Poverty & Race Research Action Council, 2016) and “Our Brains & Difference: Implicit Bias, Racial Anxiety, and Stereotype Threat in Education” (CSEE Quarterly, 2016).
Jessica earned a Master of Public Health (MPH) from Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, where she concentrated in Social Determinants of Health. Her studies focused specifically on the role of anti-black bias in driving the life expectancy gap and other health disparities between black and white Americans. Jessica holds a BA in Psychology and Spanish from Duke University. She resides in Los Angeles, CA.
Aya Taveras, Associate Director for Programs
Aya Taveras is the Associate Director for Programs for the Perception Institute. Aya develops new program content to support learning and development across domains. She also leads mind science workshops on implicit bias, identity anxiety, and stereotype threat. She has worked in the public and private sectors, with domestic and international leadership, managers, and staff, facilitating ongoing institutional development as well as individual workshops. She also engages in individual coaching as part of post-workshop support.
Aya has also led Perception’s work in the media and culture context, developing original on-line content, assessing the efficacy of media campaigns through a mind-science lens, and providing content advice for innovative AI work in the field.
Early in her career, Aya taught 6-8th grade English Language Arts in Brooklyn and Washington Heights, before moving into strategic work in the education equity landscape. Prior to joining Perception, she worked in education advocacy, seeking to elevate the voices of teachers who identify as women of color, and supported program expansion at Girls Who Code.
A native New Yorker, Aya is driven to the mind sciences as a function of her own experiences as a student in New York City and at Middlebury College, where she was one of very few women of color. She is compelled and committed to using her expertise to ensure that organizations and institutions learn to grapple effectively with identity difference to ensure belonging for all.
Aya has a M.A.T. from the Relay Graduate School of Education, and B.A. in International Studies: Political Science and Latin American Studies from Middlebury College.
Dr. Sandra (Chap) Chapman, Facilitator Partner
Dr. Chap partners with school leaders – administrators, faculty, staff, parents, and students – to facilitate conversations that matter to community members as they work towards building and sustaining equitable environments. Her extensive training and research in anti-bias work and social justice curriculum positions her as a leader who engages the individual and the institution in productive conversations and meaningful change.
Dr. Chap serves as the Director of Equity and Community at the Little Red School House and Elisabeth Irwin High School (LREI) in NYC. She has taught for 27 years in Independent Schools. For 10 years Chap was Co-Chair of the New York State Association of Independent School’s Diversity Committee and has co-chaired the New York Metro chapter of the Gay, Lesbian, Straight, Education Network (GLSEN). Dr. Chap serves as an Advisor to Perception Institute and co-leads workshops on the science of racial identity racial identity development, racial microaggressions, implicit bias, racial anxiety, and stereotype threat. She is based in New York, NY.
Dushaw Hockett, Facilitator Partner
Dushaw Hockett is the founder and Executive Director of Safe Places for the Advancement of Community and Equity (SPACEs), a Washington, DC-based leadership development and technical assistance organization dedicated to bridging the gap between what people imagine and what they achieve.
A native New Yorker who now resides in Maryland, Dushaw has over 20 years of experience in training, community building and organizational development.
He’s the former Director of Special Initiatives for the Center for Community Change (CCC), a 40-plus year old national social justice organization founded in the memory of the late Robert F. Kennedy. During is 12-year tenure at CCC, Dushaw led projects focused on affordable housing, immigration and race.
He’s also a former aide to Representative Nydia M. Velazquez (NY), the first Puerto Rican woman elected to the U.S. Congress.
Dushaw has written several publications focused on citizen engagement and conflict transformation. They include Not Part of the Plan, Crossing Borders and A Hope Unseen.
He has served on the boards of numerous local and national organizations including the National Coalition for the Homeless (NCH) and the National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC).
Dushaw’s current and recent projects include the following:
Allies for Inclusion — a multi-year project with the National Park Service (NPS). The project equips park service employees with the skills needed to create environments that support inclusion and belonging.
Beyond Bias – a partnership with various institutions including but not limited to AFSCME (American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees), IBEW (International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers) and the New York City Department of Education. Beyond Bias introduces the science of implicit bias and equips managers/leaders and other stakeholders with skills in the area of bias reduction and bias interruption.
Facilitating Change – a project that provides transformative facilitation support to organizations/institutions. Recent clients include the Quad Caucus of the National Coalition of State Legislators (NCLS) and the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP).
Finally, for the past six years Dushaw has served as a healing facilitator/practitioner through the W.K. Kellogg Foundation’s Truth, Racial Healing and Transformation Initiative (TRHT). In this capacity, he has facilitated healing circles for numerous organizations including but not limited to the Independent Sector, the American Library Association (ALA), the American Association of Colleges and Universities (AACU) and the Michigan Council on Foundations.
Zipporiah Mills, Facilitator Partner
Zipporiah (“Zipp”) Mills is a Facilitator & Content Developer at the Center on Culture, Race & Equity at Bank Street School of Education in New York, NY. She has over 30 years of experience as both a teacher and school leader, all of which are schools throughout Brooklyn, NY. She most recently retired from the New York City Department of Education as the Principal of PS 261, one of District 15’s most diverse elementary schools.
At a young age, Zipp understood that education plays an important role in creating an anti-racist, equitable society. She sought to bring cultural pride, respect for all, and a progressive education to her students. She holds fast to the belief that anything private school students have access to, public school students should too. Zipp believes that equity begins with caring, supportive partnerships between teachers, parents, and students. Her goal is to support schools through this demanding, ever changing terrain. Her mission is to create culturally responsive communities for learning and success.
William Snowden, Facilitator Partner
Will is the Director of the Vera Institute of Justice’s New Orleans office. In this role, he continues and strengthens Vera’s existing partnerships with criminal justice actors and community leaders while identifying new collaborative relationships with government entities and community organizations. The collaborations will focus on improving criminal justice systems in the South.
Prior to joining Vera, Will was a public defender for five years representing New Orleanians in all stages of a case from arraignment to trial. Will also developed a focus and specialization in advocacy around reforming the procedures, systems, and policies around jury duty in an effort to promote diversity and representativeness in the jury box. Will also launched The Juror Project—an initiative aiming to increase the diversity of jury panels while changing and challenging people’s perspective of jury duty.
Will leads workshops around the country as it relates to how implicit bias, racial anxiety and stereotype threat influence actors and outcomes in the criminal justice system. He received his JD from Seton Hall University School of Law and a BS from the University of Minnesota.
Core Team headshot credit: Heather Weston, www.heatherweston.com