Alexis McGill Johnson, Executive Director
Alexis is the Executive Director and Co-Founder of Perception Institute. A thought leader and a bridge builder whose work spans politics, academia, social activism, and cultural strategies, her career has always focused on improving the lives of young people, with an emphasis on youth of color.
Alexis earned her undergraduate degree in politics from Princeton University; and graduate degrees in political science from Yale University where she developed and taught courses on race, urban development, power, poverty, and social movements at Yale and Wesleyan Universities. Throughout her research and writing, Alexis has explored the shifting paradigms of identity politics in the post-civil rights era, increasing civic engagement among youth and people of color, and the implications for demographic and ideological changes of these constituencies on national politics. In 2002, Alexis wrote an article about mobilizing the Hip-Hop Generation entitled, “Can the Hip Hop Generation become the Next NRA?” An interview with Russell Simmons created a unique opportunity to begin work as Political Director of the Hip-Hop Summit Action Network, Simmons’s voter mobilization organization.
From 2002-2004, she worked with Mr. Simmons and his national network of artists and cultural participants to devise the strategic plan for the Hip-Hop Summit Action Network’s voter registration and mobilization initiatives. In July 2004, Alexis accepted an offer as Executive Director of Citizen Change, a nonprofit founded by Sean ‘Diddy’ Combs that educated young voters through grassroots and tailored social media efforts. During the 2004 election cycle, Alexis worked with Sean Combs and his team at Bad Boy Worldwide Entertainment on an unprecedented media and marketing campaign marked by the slogan “Vote or Die!” to educate, motivate, and empower young people about the process of voting. Mixing traditional grassroots mobilization with non-traditional consumer-based marketing methodology, Alexis helped launch a new model for reaching young people and people of color resulting in the most significant increase in youth voter engagement in a decade. Post Citizen Change, Alexis co- founded Brand Architects, LLC, a branding and marketing firm for political, progressive, and philanthropic organizations.
Alexis’s own philanthropic and service work mirrors her professional passions. She is a current board member and former Board Chair of Planned Parenthood Federation of America and Planned Parenthood Action Fund. She is also on the board of Revolutions Per Minute, a nonprofit agency that supports artists with strategy and support for their activism and philanthropy. Previously, she 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, Director of Research
Rachel is the Director of Research and Co-Founder 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 provides trainings and lectures addressing the role of bias and anxiety associated with race, ethnicity, religion, and gender, focusing on education, criminal justice, health care, and the work place.
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 the Eleanor Bontecou Professor of Law at Seton Hall University 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.
Rachel joined Seton Hall University School of Law in 2000 and has been 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, MPH, Research Associate
Jessica is Perception Institute’s Research Associate. At Perception, Jessica has the opportunity to channel her research experience and skills into the racial equity sphere. Jessica conducts original research studies, evaluates programs, interprets and translates data, writes research reports, and contributes to Perception’s Mind Science Workshops. Jessica is constantly thinking about the ways that bias plays out in daily interactions and broader social structures, and she aims to apply rigorous science to the work of combating these biases.
Prior to joining Perception Institute, 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. Her Master’s Thesis was titled “Racism as a Fundamental Cause of Health Disparities: Implicit Racial Bias in the Minds, Structures, and History of the United States.”
Jessica has a research background in the fields of psychology, behavioral HIV prevention, and harm reduction. As part of the Injection Drug Users Health Alliance (IDUHA), Jessica served as the Project Coordinator for a community-based evaluation of fourteen syringe exchange programs in New York City. The first of its kind, this multi-year study enrolled 2,000+ clients of syringe exchange programs, in order to understand the attitudes, behaviors, health, and needs of New York City’s harm reduction population.
Previously, Jessica served as the Research Assistant for Dr. Kathleen Sikkema and Study Coordinator for Dr. Christina Meade at the Duke Global Health Institute in Durham, NC. Jessica contributed to numerous government-funded domestic and international research projects examining the mental health, behavioral, and contextual factors that lead to disease outcomes, particularly HIV infection.
Jessica is originally from Los Angeles, CA. She has a BA in Psychology and Spanish from Duke University.