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The Team

Erica Nelson

Erica Nelson is the Director of the Race to Equity Project, an initiative to dramatically reduce racial disparities in Dane County, Wisconsin (Madison) and throughout the rest of the state. The multi-year project, which was launched in 2012, has resulted in a vast increase in public awareness of the community’s deep racial inequalities, generated scores of public and private policy and practice initiatives to advance inclusion and equity, and fostered the development a widely embraced comprehensive community plan to level the playing field and improve outcomes for the region’s families and children of color. The Project is part of the Wisconsin Council on Children and Families.

Before taking up this work, Erica practiced public interest law for three years in New York City, representing low-income families involved in the child welfare system in Manhattan Family Court. Her legal work followed a six year career as a dancer/choreographer with New York-based contemporary ballet companies.
Erica received her BA Degree in history from the University of Wisconsin in 1994 and her Juris Doctorate from Rutgers Law School in 2004. She as well as the Race to Equity Team are the recipients of numerous honors and awards, including recently: Urban League of Greater Madison’s Whitney Young Award in 2014; the Rainbow Project’s Extra Mile Award in 2014; her selection as a “Woman to Watch in 2015” by BRAVA Magazine; the 2015 “M Awards for Social Innovation” to Race to Equity; and the Liesl Blockstein 2016 Community Leadership Award presented by Community Shares of Central Wisconsin. Erica is a frequent presenter and speaker on race, social justice and family policy issues.

Erica and her two children, Nia and Nelson, live in Madison, Wisconsin.

Michelle Robinson

Michelle Robinson is the Research, Data and Policy Associate for the Race to Equity Project, a project of the Wisconsin Council for Children and Families. She is a dissertator in the Department of Sociology at the University of Wisconsin, Madison; a fellow in the Institutes for Education Sciences’ Interdisciplinary Training Program in Educational Sciences housed in the Wisconsin Center for Education Research and the Institute for Research on Poverty, both of which are located at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

As a quantitative sociologist she is interested in racial inequality and social stratification, and their relation to societal institutions, social and public policy, and the State. Michelle has published in peer-refereed journals such as Education Evaluation and Policy Analysis and the American Journal of Education and her research has explored how training educators to leverage data effectively can improve student outcomes, as well as, examining how the racial/ethnic and language background structures how teachers and parents perceive each other, and their relationship, and the effectiveness of a family engagement program for improving these relationships.

In her dissertation, she takes a place-based approach in order to examine how the interaction of changing racial and ethnic composition, and the local political economy, constructs demographic diversity into a social problem generating and demanding institutional and policy responses; and the consequences of these responses for understanding local configurations of contemporary racial inequality.

Michelle brings to our work over a decade of experience in research, data, and policy at the city, state, and federal levels—within and outside of academia. Her experience includes working on issues and programmatic responses related to recruitment and retention in regards to the high school-to-college pipeline among low-income students in the state of Texas at the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board; assisting with the development of research studies and statistical analysis pertaining to education in our nation at the National Center for Education Statistics and the American Institutes for Research; as well as supporting the successful matriculation of middle and high school youth involved in the criminal justice system as an AmeriCorps member at an alternative school in the Austin Independent School District.

She currently holds a B.A. in Sociology from the University of Texas at Austin and a M.S. in Sociology from the University of Wisconsin, Madison. In her free time, drawing on her Texan and Louisianan Creole southern roots, she enjoys cooking and entertaining her husband, family members and friends.

Wenona Wolf

Wenona Wolf serves as the Communication and Development Manager for the Wisconsin Council on Children Families (WCCF) and its Race to Equity Project. In this role, Wenona oversees all fundraising efforts at WCCF and manages the organization’s website, social media accounts, and works with the media. Wenona also provides development and communication support to the Race to Equity Project and advises the project on Native American policy. Her passion is translating complex public policy issues and matters related to racial equity to the broader public to educate, engage, and garner support. Wenona is also a vocal advocate for the Native American community and works to raise awareness about important issues affecting Native people.

Wenona has resided in Madison for almost 10 years and currently spends much of her time volunteering to help marginalized communities. Wenona is the Vice President of the Board of Directors for Community Shares of Wisconsin, the country’s oldest social action fund and serves on the Board of Directors for the Bayview Foundation, a low-income housing complex and community center, and We Are Healers, an organization working to engage Native American youth in the health profession. She is also a board member for the Wisconsin Women’s Network and serves as a mentor for their Women’s Public Policy Institute.

Wenona grew up on the St. Croix Chippewa Indian Reservation in northwest Wisconsin and is an enrolled member of the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe. Prior to working with the Wisconsin Council on Children and Families, Wenona worked in government relations with the St. Croix Chippewa. She holds a B.S. in Communication Studies from the University of Wisconsin La Crosse and a Master’s in Public Administration from the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh. In her free time, she likes to travel, enjoy Wisconsin’s beautiful outdoors, and stay-up-to-date on politics.

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Jennifer Leavitt-Moy

Jennifer Leavitt-Moy is a Policy Associate with the Race to Equity Project. Within the Race to Equity Project Jennifer works to create County Wide movement toward decreasing racial disparities through stakeholder identification, the mutual development of agreed upon metrics, holistic community engagement, facilitating dialogue between disparate but interconnected organizations, and supports the coordination of community wide endeavors.

A long time Madison resident, Jennifer is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin – Madison (BA in Economics and English) and the LaFollette School of Public Affairs (Master of Public Affairs: Nonprofit Management and Social Welfare Policy Analysis). Jennifer spent eight years in Chicago where she worked in Economic Consulting, specializing in transfer pricing. While in Madison, prior to leaving for Chicago, Jennifer served as the first Executive Director for the young professional’s organization (MAGNET), she served on the Executive Board for the Urban League of Greater Madison, was a Policy Coordinator at the Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce, and served as the President of the LaFollette School’s Student Association.

Jennifer lives in Madison with her husband, Roberto Rivera, and her two sons, Phoenix and Justice. She loves to read, hasn’t met a cocktail she doesn’t like, and aspires to run a marathon (but currently settles for having run a few half marathons).