Demetri L. Morgan, Ph.D.

  • https://www.linkedin.com/in/dmorganphd/
  • https://twitter.com/dmorganphd?lang=en

Demetri (he/him/his) is an Assistant Professor in the Higher Education Program at Loyola University Chicago., where he also serves as program chair (beginning July 2021).  The Diverse Democracy and Higher Education Project is the outgrowth of Demetri's deep belief in the necessity of cultivating quality and equitable educational experiences for all students in postsecondary education spaces. Equitable and quality educational experiences are some of the only ways to encourage social responsibility and democratic engagement that can transform political and social norms into their full potential of liberation and justice. Yet, equitable and quality experiences oriented towards democratic engagement don't just happen. This reality must be dreamed of, cultivated, nurtured, and institutionalized with thoughtful policies and defended with sound educational practices.


To this end, Demetri collaboratively leads a number of studies in support of realizing this vision including: a series of studies on student political engagement and activism, serving as Co-Principal Investigator on the ILSPRA project, and a founding member of the Critical Higher Education Governance Collaborative (CHEGC).

At Loyola, Demetri helps lead the Loyola Votes Voter Engagement Initiative and serves the higher education community in a variety of volunteer roles.

Demetri enjoys living in Chicago with his wife and daughter. He is an avid fan of the Florida Gators and Miami Heat, a brother of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc., and an active member at NewStory Church Chicago. Demetri earned his Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania. He has an M.S. Ed. in higher education and student affairs from Indiana University, and a B.A. in Political Science from the University of Florida. In 2019 Demetri was selected as a Next Generation Fellow of the Place-Based Justice Network and in 2021, Demetri was recognized by ACPA College Student Educators International as an Emerging Scholar.


Norma López, Ph.D.

  • https://www.linkedin.com/in/norma-l%C3%B3pez-ph-d-7a4b343/

Norma (she/hers/ella) is an instructor in higher education administration at Northern Illinois University and a postdoctoral research associate on the ILSPRA project. She has over 20 years of professional experience in higher education ranging from admissions and orientation at a small liberal arts college, Williams, to residential life and academic advising at a private research university, The University of Chicago.  Norma has taught a wide array of courses, including:  Organization and Governance, Internship in Higher Education, Helping Skills for Student Affairs Professionals, Budget and Finance, and Social Change Leadership.  

As a critical researcher, her research agenda is focused on examining the academic trajectory, experience, and success of Latinx/a/o students. Norma is specifically interested in narrating the role of critical consciousness in the academic identity development of Latinx college students, as well as discerning how critical consciousness impacts thriving and resilience in that population, if at all. She utilizes Latcrit methodological approaches in this research and is also interested in drawing distinctions within those methods.

Norma's current research project explores Latinx/a/o community college student’s academic empowerment through their trajectories of either entering community college and transferring to 4-year institution or those that have already transferred.


Quortne Hutchings, Ph.D.

  • https://www.linkedin.com/in/qhutchings/
  • https://twitter.com/Capitalq17

​Quortne (they/them) serves as the Director of the McNair Scholars program at DePaul University and recently completed their Ph.D. in the higher education program at Loyola University Chicago. Quortne's research primarily focuses on Black queer men's experiences on college campuses, student affairs professionals’ experiences, and underrepresented graduate students with an emphasis on gender studies, intersectionality, and critical queer frameworks. Quortne is currently working on his dissertation, which examines Black gay, bisexual, and queer men's experiences in men of color and Black male initiative (BMI) programs at higher education institutions. As a doctoral student, Quortne engaged in research projects in civic engagement, political identity development among first-year students of color, and organizational learning in STEM under the direction of Dr. Demetri Morgan. Additionally, Quortne has served as an adjunct instructor, and teaching assistant for two years in the higher education department and as an instructor for a first-year seminar course with the Ramblers Success Program (RSP) at Loyola University Chicago. Quortne has over nine years of higher education professional experience in academic advising, orientation, multicultural affairs, and leadership development.

Quortne earned a B.A. in African and African-American Studies with minors in Sociology and Human Development & Family Studies from Pennsylvania State University and earned a M.Ed. in Education, Organization, and Leadership with a concentration in Higher Education from the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign.

Meet the Research Team

Jonathan J. Okstad, MBA, MEd


Kendrick B. Davis,  Ph.D.

  • http://www.linkedin.com/in/kendrick-davis-phd
  • @Kbdavisphd

Kendrick (he/him/his) is the Chief Research Officer at the University of Southern California’s (USC) Race and Equity Center and Associate Professor of Research in the Rossier School of Education. Kendrick is also CEO of KBD Consulting LLC., an educational consulting firm focused on equity-minded research, professional development, and policy analysis. Kendrick serves as senior research personnel and educational research manager for the ILSPRA project


Prior to his appointments at USC, Kendrick worked as the Vice President of Policy Research at the Campaign for College Opportunity. In 2018, Kendrick was awarded a nationally-recognized American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Congressional Fellowship where he served as an education policy advisor for United States Senator Kamala D. Harris in Washington, DC. His responsibilities included writing legislation and advising in the areas of workforce and K-12, postsecondary, and science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education. 


Before arriving in DC, Kendrick served as the Director of STEM for the city of Philadelphia under Mayors Michael Nutter and Jim Kenney. In that position, he coordinated citywide efforts in STEM education, youth workforce development, and poverty reduction strategies. Additionally, he advised the mayor and cabinet on STEM policy and programs with statewide and national exposure, and served as the city's liaison to the White House Office of Science & Technology Policy (OSTP).


Kendrick earned his Ph.D. in higher education, and his master's degrees in both robotics and law from the University of Pennsylvania; his bachelor's degree is in mechanical engineering is from Temple University. In 2021, Kendrick was recognized by Diverse Issues in Higher Education as an Emerging Scholar.

Check out a recent Policy in Practice discussion featuring Dr. Davis - Link

  • https://www.linkedin.com/in/jonokstad/
  • https://twitter.com/itsJonnyO

Jon (he/him/his) is a doctoral student in the higher education program at Loyola University Chicago and works as a research assistant with Dr. Morgan on the ILSPRA project. Jon also works as a higher education/non-profit consultant. Prior to enrolling at Loyola and relocating to Chicago, he served in various higher education roles within academic affairs, advancement, alumni relations, and student activities. Previously, he worked in the non-profit sector in the United States and Central America for an NGO.


Jon received his baccalaureate degree from North Dakota State University with a triple major in sociology, gender studies, and public relations & advertising. He holds a Master's Degree in Youth Development Leadership with a focus in Organizational Leadership, Policy, and Development–Higher Education from the University of Minnesota and a Master’s of Business Administration from St. Catherine University. He is a certified professional project manager (CPPM) from the University of St. Thomas.


When not studying as a full-time student or being a research assistant, you'll find him planning or enjoying his next trip, relaxing at the cabin, or spending time with family and friends

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Tori Callais, M.A. 

  • https://www.linkedin.com/in/tori-callais/
  • @ToriCallais

Tori (she/her/hers) is a first-year doctoral student in Higher Education at Loyola University Chicago and works in support of a number of projects with Dr. Morgan. She has previously served as a practitioner in the areas of orientation, first-year experience, college access and has experience in state government. Her research interests include white privilege, white consciousness, and intersectionality in higher education.


She enjoys playing with her dog, exploring the nearest park, rooting for the LSU Tigers, and spending time with family and friends. She earned a B.A. in Liberal Arts, concentration Women and Gender Studies, and an M.A. in Higher Education Administration from Louisiana State University.

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Maria Acevedo

  • https://www.linkedin.com/in/maria-acevedo-physics/

Maria (she/her/hers) is a fourth-year bachelor student in Physics at the University of Pennsylvania. She is also working on a project to refine the measures of redshifting supernovae. Her other passions include minority representation in STEM and social awareness.

When not focusing on academics, she enjoys knitting, playing with her dog, and watching shuttle launches from the Space Coast.


Alaa Adel

Elsayed Abdelgaffar, M.A.

  • AlaaAdelElsaye1

Alaa -ألاء (she/her/hers) is a first-year doctoral student from Egypt in the Loyola University Chicago Higher Education program. Her research interests center on the internationalization of higher education within the post-colonial theory and in connection to scholarship on decolonization, Orientalism, and Western imperialism; policing of higher education within the context of the Arab Spring uprisings; student political participation on campus; and lastly politics of gender identity development.


In addition to serving as a research volunteer in the ILSPRA Project, Alaa also serves as a volunteer researcher and data analyst in the research project, under the supervision of Dra. Aurora Chang, on Faculty Women of Color and their experiences in Jesuit educational institutions.

Alaa received her BA in Multimedia Journalism and MA in International, Comparative Education, both from the American University in Cairo. As a TEFL instructor certified from the UK, Alaa also works as a part-time online English tutor and teacher trainer.

Most recent academic achievement: Alaa got her book review published in the Middle Eastern Journal in Education and Social Sciences.

Aside from academic hobbies, Alaa loves to hike, row, run, cycle, and travel.  Watching documentaries is what she does to release work exhaustion. Alaa is a plant and cat lover.


Funmilayo Ojikutu, M.B.A.

  • https://www.linkedin.com/in/funmilayo-ojikutu/

Funmilayo (she/her/hers) is a doctoral student in the higher education program at Loyola University Chicago. She currently works at Northwestern University’s School of Communication providing career programming for undergraduate students. In her role, she partners with faculty and alumni to provide professional development opportunities through learning communities, international seminars, internship awards, along with other programming. Before Northwestern, she served as Assistant Director of MBA Career Management at the University of Arizona. Funmilayo has also worked in a variety of consulting, marketing, and advertising roles prior to transitioning to higher education.


Her research interests include intersectionality within the Black community and its impact on the student experience and exploring the structure and dynamics of how universities work.

Funmilayo earned a B.A. in Dance from Shenandoah University and an M.B.A. concentrating in marketing from Willamette University. When not studying or working, she enjoys reading, international travel, museums, and performing arts.


Itzel Velazquez

  • www.linkedin.com/in/itzel-velazquez12

Itzel (she/her/hers) is a second year Master’s student in Higher Education at Loyola University Chicago. She has worked for several nonprofits in Arkansas focusing on educational equity and immigrants’ rights advocacy. She currently works as the director for Replicate, an initiative of the City of Hope Outreach (CoHO) where she is responsible for the implementation, coordination, and logistical support of nonprofit organizations established and supported by CoHO.


Itzel enjoys reading, hiking around The Natural State, trying out new restaurants & coffee shops, and practicing meditation and yoga. Itzel received her Bachelor of Arts in International Studies and Political Science from the University of Central Arkansas.