This two-part event convened the campus community to explore alignments between two Presidential initiatives, build recognition for DEI-focused public engagement, and mobilize our communities for future action.

Leaders who are actively engaged with the broader public discussed how they are working to address today’s critical social justice issues and shared perspectives on how students, staff and faculty can most effectively build partnerships outside of the University to drive social change. The panel was introduced by President Mark Schlissel and moderated by Earl Lewis.

Following the panel, event participants attended a series of working discussions on critical issues on DEI-focused engagement to formulate action plans to support future efforts.


Earl Lewis, Director of the Center for Social Solutions and Professor of History and Afroamerican and African Studies at the University of Michigan

Noted social historian, award-winning author, and educational leader, Earl Lewis, is the director of the new University of Michigan Center for Social Solutions. Also a professor of history and Afroamerican and African studies, Lewis is president emeritus of The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation (2013-18). At Michigan, Lewis and colleagues in the Center will address three core areas of social concern: diversity and race, water, and the dignity of labor in an automated world.

As a scholar and leader in higher education and philanthropy, he has examined and addressed critical questions for our society including the role of race in American history, diversity, equity and inclusion, graduate education, humanities scholarship, and universities and their larger communities. A frequent lecturer, he has authored or edited nine books, scores of essays, articles and comments, and, along with Robin Kelley, served as general editor of the eleven-volume Young Oxford History of African Americans. He currently partners with Nancy Cantor in editing the Our Compelling Interests book series. A member of numerous boards of directors or trustees, he was an Obama administration appointee to the National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity, and is currently president of the Organization of American Historians.


Mary Jo Callan, Director of the University of Michigan Edward Ginsberg Center

In partnership with youth and communities, Mary Jo Callan has spent her career working to advance equitable access to social, political, and economic power. She served in K-12 schools, local governments, and nonprofits prior to coming to the University of Michigan (U-M). Her time at Ozone House, a youth development and housing organization, was particularly formative as she learned alongside young people to stand up, organize, and persist for change. As the founding director of Washtenaw County’s Office of Community and Economic Development, she led cross-sector efforts to collectively address the growing racial and economic inequities playing out across our region. 

At the Ginsberg Center, Mary Jo is continuing her efforts to work with others to create a more just world. The Ginsberg Center’s community and civic engagement work supports student service and faculty teaching and research to come to bear on pressing community challenges. Like her colleagues at Ginsberg, Mary Jo is wholeheartedly dedicated to partnering with others who want to help build healthy and vibrant communities by advancing opportunities for everyone to thrive.

Abdul El-Sayed, Former Democratic Candidate for Michigan Governor and Former Executive Director of the Detroit Health Department and Health Officer for the City of Detroit

Dr. Abdul El-Sayed is a physician, epidemiologist, public health expert, and progressive activist. He ran for governor of Michigan in 2018. Before running for governor, Abdul served as Health Commissioner in Detroit where he rebuilt Detroit’s Health Department after it had been privatized during the City’s municipal bankruptcy.

Prior to his work in public service, Abdul was tenure-track faculty at Columbia University’s Department of Epidemiology. He holds a doctorate in public health from Oxford University, where he was a Rhodes Scholar, as well as a medical degree from Columbia University. In 2017, he was selected as one of 20 recipients of the University of Michigan’s Bicentennial Alumni Awards commemorating alumni "whose achievements carry on Michigan’s traditions of intellectual creativity and academic endeavor, of civic engagement, and of national and international service" for "his leadership and contributions to public health and passion for public service." He is also the recipient of numerous civic and service awards, including Crain’s Detroit Business 40 under 40, and Public Official of the Year per the Michigan League of Conservation Voters.

Angela Reyes, Executive Director and Founder of the Detroit Hispanic Development Corporation

Angela Reyes, MPH, is the executive director of the Detroit Hispanic Development Corporation (DHDC). Ms. Reyes started DHDC in 1997 from her living room “because [she] was tired of burying children”. Ms. Reyes was born in Southwest Detroit and continues to reside there as a community activist for over 30 years. As a teenager, Angie began working with “at-risk” and gang-involved youth. She is the mother of four adult children and has seven grandchildren.

Passionate about education and policy, Ms. Reyes received her master’s in public health from the University of Michigan and is known for her expertise in critical policy issues that impact not only Southwest Detroit neighborhoods, but common issues facing other urban areas. Angela has addressed international and national audiences sharing best practices in resolving community issues, including cultural awareness, youth gangs and violence, substance abuse, immigration, educational reform, community-based participatory research, policy development, and community organizing.

Jim Leija, Director of Education and Community Engagement at the University Musical Society

Jim Leija has served as the director of education & community engagement at the University Musical Society (UMS) since 2011. During his tenure at UMS, Jim has been instrumental in designing and implementing two major educational and performance residencies with the New York Philharmonic; he served as project director for UMS’s “Engaging Dance Audience” grants (through Dance/USA and the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation); launched an arts-academic integration program with the U-M College of Literature, Science, and the Arts (supported by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation); and, most recently, co-curated UMS’s new theater series No Safety Net focused on current social issues. In 2014, he was publicly elected to a four-year term as a trustee of the Ann Arbor District Library where he serves as treasurer. Jim is an occasional filmmaker and performer, and took top prize in the 2014 University of Michigan Stamps School of Art & Design Alumni Exhibition. His non-fiction performance essay "dance or die" is published in the anthology "Queer and Catholic" (Routledge). Jim holds three degrees from the University of Michigan: a master of fine arts in art and design, bachelor of arts in sociology, and a bachelor of fine arts in musical theatre. As a queer Latinx person, Jim is inspired by the growing visibility of stories from people of color, queer people, transgender people, and women across film, television, online media, and live performance. He hopes that this kind of storytelling and media representation is a harbinger for a more politically, socially, and economically just society to come.

Luis Trelles, Producer of Radio Ambulante at NPR and 2018 Knight-Wallace Fellow

Luis Trelles is a journalist and a documentarian. He works as a producer for Radio Ambulante, a podcast distributed by NPR that tells the stories of Latin America and Latino communities in the United States. His reporting has appeared on WNYC's “Radiolab,” and NPR's “Planet Money”, “All Things Considered" and "Morning Edition.” Concentrating on the Spanish-speaking Caribbean and its diasporas in the United States, Trelles has reported on Cuban immigration, the ethnic tensions between Haitians and Dominicans in the Dominican Republic, and the causes for Puerto Rico’s debt crisis. Last year his reporting turned personal, when he covered the emergency efforts after Hurricane Maria struck his home island of Puerto Rico.

Trelles also teaches at the journalism school of the City University of New York, where he mentors emerging Latino journalists through its bilingual program. He has received various journalism and radio awards in Puerto Rico, and was a senior fellow at the Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism at Brandeis University.

He is currently a Knight-Wallace Journalism Fellow in the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.