Perception Core Team
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.
Afua Addo, Deputy Director of Programs and Training
Afua Addo is the Deputy Director of Programs and Training at Perception Institute. Previously, Afua was the Women’s Services Coordinator at The Center for Court Innovation’s Hidden Victims Project, where she provided technical assistance to burgeoning trafficking courts in Atlantic City and the USVI and conducted training regarding the intersection of trauma, race, gender and sexuality. The Hidden Victims Project is based in Queens Criminal Court, the largest human trafficking court in the state of New York; the project serves the Human Trafficking Intervention Court, Queens Misdemeanor Treatment Court, and Queens Mental Health Recovery Court.
Previously, Afua served as Criminal Court Advocacy Coordinator at GEMS (Girls Educational & Mentoring Services), providing direct court advocacy, intensive case management and alternatives to incarceration to female victims of domestic human trafficking and child sexual exploitation. Afua began her career in healthcare administration and educational human resource strategic planning with NYC Health & Hospitals Corporation and the NYC Department of Education, respectively.
Over the last ten years, Afua has worked as an advocate for youth of color, victims of child sexual abuse, domestic human trafficking, and domestic violence while also pursuing art as a professional vocal/performance artist. In 2015 she participated in The White House roundtable on the impact of mandatory minimums on women and girl survivors, exploring the impact of criminalizing policies on African-American women and girls. She returned to the White House to join the Office of Violence Against Women in discussion of Girls of Color and Intervening Public Systems: Interrupting the Sexual Abuse to Prison Pipeline. In addition, Afua has partnered with the Crown Heights Mediation Center to provide support for boys and young men of color survivors. She currently manages the Human Trafficking Intervention Court Task Force, is a member of the Close Rikers Task Force: Get Women Off Rikers Advisory Committee and advises the Center for Court Innovation’s Raise the Age Advisory working with local and statewide commissions to ensure adequate responses to young women funneled through the justice system into newly established diversion and alternative to incarceration programming. Afua is based in Brooklyn, NY.
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 linked to identity.
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. 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 at Perception Institute. Aya develops new program content to support learning and development, and facilitates 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. Aya is based in New York, NY.
Rebecca Willett, Deputy Director of Program and Operations
Anurima Bhargava the President of Anthem of Us, a strategic advisory firm promoting dignity and justice in the building of our schools, workplaces and communities. She conducts investigations of harassment and discrimination, assesses institutional culture and climate, and makes policy and practice recommendations.
From 2010-2016, Anurima led federal civil rights enforcement in schools and institutions of higher education at the U.S. Department of Justice. She managed groundbreaking litigation and policy guidance to address school segregation; sexual assault and harassment; religious discrimination and harassment; school discipline and policing; and the protection of educational access and services for students with disabilities, English Learners, LGBTQ and undocumented students. Anurima previously directed the education practice at the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and served as counsel to the New York City Department of Education.
In December 2018, Speaker Nancy Pelosi appointed Anurima U.S. Commissioner on International Religious Freedom. From 2016-2018, she served as a fellow at the Open Society Foundations, where her work was focused on addressing the trauma that children experience after incidents of racial violence. In 2017, she was named a Presidential Leadership Scholar. In 2016, she served as a fellow at the Institute of Politics and the Carr Center for Human Rights at Harvard.
Bhargava currently chairs the board of Doc Society and the National Advisory Board for Public Service and serves as a senior advisor to several think tanks and foundations. She also regularly advises and produces documentary films. Bhargava grew up on the south side of Chicago, where she currently resides.
Dr. Sandra (Chap) Chapman
Dr. Sandra (“Chap”) Chapman is the Founder of Sandra Chapman Consulting, an organization rooted in the belief that, through teamwork, we can learn more about ourselves and others; discuss and discover the foundational research needed to address the needs in a community; create conversations that support individuals where they are and confront barrier issues; and create actionable steps towards building stronger educational communities.
For over a decade Dr. Chap served as the Director of Equity and Community at the Little Red School House and Elisabeth Irwin High School (LREI), a progressive independent school in the West Village section of Manhattan, NYC. In her role at LREI she worked on issues related to equity, diversity, social justice, inclusion and anti-bias curriculum. In addition to her years at LREI, Chap has worked at Manhattan Country School and the Bank Street School for Children, all independent schools in New York City. With 30 years in NYC independent schools, and a lifetime of personal experiences in school and other not-for-profit organizations across the country, Chap has a broad range of knowledge regarding students and their social, cognitive, physical, spiritual and emotional selves, as well as the role loving adults play in children’s lives and in the workplace.
Chap is a member of a grassroots organization that supports Latinx identified educators and students called Latinx Educators in New York Independent Schools (LENYIS). LENYIS runs an annual Latinx Youth Conference in the spring. You can learn more about this organization by visiting. For over five years, she has served on the faculty of the National Association of Independent Schools Diversity Leadership Institute, where she facilitates conversations on racial identity development.
Dr. Chap is a native New Yorker, born and raised in El Barrio, or Spanish Harlem, in New York City. Her mother migrated from Puerto Rico and her father immigrated from the Dominican Republic. Dr. Chap holds a Masters and doctorate degree in Education. Chap, and her wife Imani, are proudly raising Sophia (20), Andrei (15) and Ale (6), with their two cats, Milo and Samuel.
Anjali Chen is Senior Consultant with Catalyst Collaboratives, LLC. At Perception, Anjali manages client projects and teams, working closely with staff and consulting partners to ensure smooth operation. Before joining the Perception team, Anjali was Director of Operations, and Trust Services, at Groundwork USA for 8 years. She managed the organization’s financial and program operations during a period of change and rapid growth, and worked closely with its network of 20 Trusts (local chapters) on their growth strategy, capacity building, and fundraising. Through her work addressing and operationalizing diversity, equity and inclusion across the organization, she gained an in-depth understanding of what it takes to implement and manage change within varying organizational structures and cultures.
Anjali brings deep experience in public policy to her work. She worked as a Senior Economist and Energy Analyst with consulting firms for federal agencies, and as an advocate for sustainable development and social justice with local, national and international non-governmental organizations.
Anjali is active in her community, and served as Vice President and board member of RiverArts from 2013 to 2019, helping to expand the organization from a volunteer to staff-run organization, and is now a member of the Village of Hastings-on-Hudson’s Parks and Rec Commission and its Climate Task Force, working to restore a local gem, Hillside Woods – a rapidly deteriorating 100-acre urban forest. Anjali has a B.A. in Economics & Sociology from Brandeis University in Waltham, MA, and an M.A. in International Affairs & Environmental Policy from Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs in New York, NY.
Sheila R. Foster is the Scott K. Ginsburg Professor of Urban Law and Policy at Georgetown. She holds a joint appointment with the Georgetown Law School and the McCourt Public Policy School. Prior to joining Georgetown, she was a University Professor and the Albert A. Walsh Professor of Real Estate, Land Use and Property Law at Fordham University. She also co-directed the Fordham Urban Law Center and was a founder of the Fordham University Urban Consortium. Prior to joining Fordham, she was a Professor of Law at the Rutgers University in Camden, New Jersey.
Sheila is the author of numerous publications on environmental law, and is one of the country’s leading scholars on environmental justice. She is co-author of the classic text From the Ground Up: Environmental Racism and the Environmental Justice Movement (NYU Press 2001) (with Luke Cole) and co-editor of The Law of Environmental Justice: Theories and Procedures to Address Disproportionate Risks (American Bar Association 2009) (with Michael Gerrard). Over the last two decades, Sheila has worked with government agencies, non-government organizations, scholars, and policymakers to reform environmental and land use policies and practices consistent with the principles of environmental justice. In 2018, she received the Senior Scholarship Award from the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Academy of Environmental Law
Sheila’s most recent work explores city growth and governance through the lens of the “commons,” bringing the analytical lens of her environmental law and policy to the city and the management of urban resources. Her latest article, The City as a Commons, is published in the Yale Law and Policy Review (with Christian Iaione) and is the basis of a forthcoming book Co-Cities for MIT Press. Sheila has been involved on many levels with environmental and urban policy. She was a member of the New York City Panel on Climate Change (co-chair of the working group on community-based assessments of vulnerability), is chair of the advisory committee of the Global Parliament of Mayors, and an advisory board member of the Marron Institute for Urban Management at NYU.
Yolonda P. Harrison is a consultant, strategist, librarian, and attorney who partners with academic institutions, corporations, law firms, and nonprofits. Through Perception Institute, Yolonda collaborates with organizations to develop initiatives, strategies, and solutions related to belonging. She frequently advises on best practices, conducts assessments, creates content, and facilitates various belonging-related workshops. Yolonda’s work often centers around the importance of empathy and how the capacity for empathy relates to interventions that reduce implicit bias, identity anxiety, and stereotype threat.
Yolonda’s prior experience includes serving as the inaugural Director of the Office of Diversity and Inclusion at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law and the Director of Student Services, Diversity, and Inclusion at Seton Hall University School of Law. In addition to these positions, she has worked for Thomson Reuters (Legal Division), Florida International University College of Law and North Carolina Central University School of Law. As a member of the New York State Bar, Yolonda’s pro bono work includes conducting legal research across a variety of practice areas and providing transactional legal assistance in the areas of disability law, domestic violence, estate planning, and family law.
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.
Dushaw is the former Director of Special Initiatives for the Center for Community Change (CCC), a 40+ 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 is 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 (Zipp) Mills
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.
Will Snowden 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