Lauren Melendez
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As Director of the Undergraduate Leadership Program, Melendez directs and oversees a program that brings together 30 undergraduate students from across 12 CUNY campuses as Leadership Fellows. Melendez consults with fellows on how to develop their mentoring and leadership skills in addition to helping them learn how to navigate spaces inside and outside their college campuses. The fellows in turn learn about opportunities within and outside their campuses that will help shape, strengthen and prepare them for not only their academic paths but more importantly their life paths.

In her role as administrative specialist, Melendez provides academic and administrative support to the Futures Initiative. She oversees department operations, manages workshop planning and scheduling, conducts research, and organizes and processes materials for all administrative documentation. Melendez manages the program’s budget and coordinates purchasing, accounting, and payroll for the department.



Kelsey Milian 

Kelsey Milian Lopez was raised in Miami, Florida. With a strong sense of cultural identity, she has been able to connect and trace her heritage with her Mexican, Guatemalan, Aztec, Zapotec, K’iche Maya, French, German, Spanish, and Japanese roots. She recently graduated with a degree in Sociology and Educational Studies at the Liberal Arts Institution Furman University in Greenville, South Carolina. She now resides in New York City as she pursues a Ph.D. in Ethnomusicology at CUNY Graduate Center.

Her interdisciplinary education is fostered by her experiences inside and outside the classroom that include non-profit work, community activism and engagement, and a passion for performing arts and programming. All of these experiences feed into Kelsey’s passion for poetry as an artistic outlet to understanding her multi-cultural identity and ancestry. Her poems have been featured in Mujeres De Maiz, Not Very Quiet Online Journal, Bien Acompañada Press, The Echo, South Carolina’s Best Emerging Poets 2019, and The Latino Book Review. She has recently published her debut poetry book called The Sociology of a Miami Girl, where she continues to explore these multi-cultural narratives.



Jackie Cahill 

Jackie Cahill graduated from Hunter College in 2020 with bachelor’s degrees in English, Classical Studies, and Interdisciplinary Studies. She also completed minors in Latin and Art History. She is currently the Program Coordinator for the Futures Initiative at the CUNY Graduate Center, as well as the Assistant to the Senior Advisor to the Chancellor at the CUNY Office of Transformation. She does additional work as a proofreader, and is a student in the Graduate Center’s MA in Liberal Studies Program. As a CUNY alum, she greatly enjoys working with the CPL Program, and is greatly inspired by their creativity and dedication to building a better CUNY.



Past Co-Directors

Kashema Hutchinson (2019-2022)

Dr. Kashema Hutchinson was a Co-Director of the CUNY Peers Leaders Program.  She has facilitated discussion groups with incarcerated populations in New York. Kashema creates and uses Hip-Hop infographics to facilitate engaging discussions in traditional and non-traditional educational spaces including New York’s Department of Corrections centers.  In addition, Kashema also taught CUNY undergraduate and early college students. Her research interests include mattering and marginalization, the socialization of Black girls and women, zero-tolerance policies and Hip-Hop pedagogy.

Kaysi L. Holman (2019-2021)

Kaysi L. Holman was the Director of Programs and Administration of the CUNY Humanities Alliance. She brings over 15 years of experience working with nonprofits and educational organizations dedicated to equity and social justice, both within higher education and achieved through access to higher education. Holman served as a political advocate and community organizer for education and welfare reform in California and at the Alameda County Bar Association in Oakland, CA, before moving to Duke University where she directed programming and administration for HASTAC (Humanities, Arts, Science, and Technology Alliance and Collaboratory) and the PhD Lab in Digital Knowledge in the John Hope Franklin Humanities Institute. She holds a law degree from Arizona State University and a bachelor’s degree from Vanderbilt University. Holman brings a wide array of skills, all of which she will be drawing upon as Deputy Director of the Humanities Alliance: higher education administrator, community organizer and advocate, web developer, social networker, financial manager, and mentor of doctoral students.

Stefanie Sertich (2019-2020)
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Stefanie Sertich is an Associate Professor and Program Director of Theatre at LaGuardia Community College, CUNY, and the LaGuardia Mellon Humanities Scholars Coordinator for the Humanities Alliance. She is also the Co-Chair of the Kennedy Center’s American Collegiate Theatre Festival (KCACTF), Region I. She directs new works, musicals and creates devised theatre pieces for social change.

At LaGuardia, Prof. Sertich has directed several plays, including “Passing Strange” and “In The Heights.” She has also developed a series of devised works with students on contemporary social justice issues, entitled, “Unpacking American Identity” with Steven Hitt, Artistic Director of the LaGuardia Performing Arts Center. Her current projects include the show, Intersections (on tour Spring 2017), a collaboration with The Women’s Bridge Initiative on Alyson Mead’s The Flora and Fauna (in cross-country readings), and her film, Raisin/Rosedale, which premiered at the Queens World Film Festival, and will be shown in the CUNY Film Festival in April 2017. Prof. Sertich has a BA in Acting from Western Michigan University, and an MFA in Directing from the University of Portland. She recently won the Innovative Teaching Award from KCACTF and the Association for Theatre in Higher Education, and is the University of Portland’s 2017 Contemporary Alumni Winner.


Past Facilitator

Chinyere Okafor (2021)

Chinyere Okafor (she/her) is a Ph.D. student in The Graduate Center, CUNY’s Critical Social/Personality and Environmental Psychology program. Her research interests are on race & space, sexuality across the Black diaspora, Black women & femmes’ narratives in higher education, and healing modalities for Black mental health.