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Meet the Staff

Nathan Stephens, Director
nathans6@illinois.edu

Photo of Nathan StephensNathan Stephens is the new Director of the Bruce D. Nesbitt African American Cultural Center at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He holds a bachelor’s and master’s degrees in social work from Columbia College and the University of Missouri-Columbia respectively. He is a Ph.D. candidate in the educational leadership and policy analysis program at the University of Missouri. Nathan’s research focus examines the impact of racialized trauma on the persistence and retention rates of Black male college students. Nathan also studies diversity and inclusion in higher education, organizational development, and social justice. Nathan’s background includes non-profit administration experience, and he has over 10 years of experience as a student affairs professional. While in higher education, Nathan has taught classes, advised student organizations, created programs, conducted several diversity and inclusion trainings for faculty, staff and students, and served on search committees, strategic planning committees, advisory committees, conference planning committees, and even served on a taskforce charged to respond to discrimination complaint filed with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights.

Previously as the Director of the Gaines/Oldham Black Culture Center at the University of Missouri, Nathan became affiliated with the Association for Black Culture Centers in 2006 while attending the annual conference at North Carolina State University. In 2007, he and served as the ABCC annual conference co-host at the University of Missouri. In 2013, Nathan accepted the position at Southern Illinois University-Carbondale as the Director of the Center for Inclusive Excellence which contained a Black Resource Center, Hispanic/Latino Resource Center, LGBTQ Resource Center, and a Women’s Resource Center.

Nathan is a member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Incorporated who believes strongly in the aims of his fraternity which are: manly deeds, scholarship, and love for all mankind.

Ashley M. Davis, Assistant Director
adavis2@illinois.edu

A classically trained vocalist and instrumentalist, Ashley M. Davis serves as the Artistic Director of the Academy of the African American Arts at the BNAACC. Ms. Davis lends her talents to a group of gifted students in the various disciplines of vocal performance, directs and produces the theatrical writings of students, as well as professional level dance pieces. Under her artistic vision and guidance these students have become an acclaimed group and are frequently invited to perform by local institutions, places of worship, community organizations, and most recently Vice President Joe Biden. The constant artist, she contributes to the University of Illinois Black Chorus (UIBC) as the liaison between the BNAACC and UIBC. A native of Champaign, Ms. Davis has devoted her life to the promotion and development of cultural awareness in the Urbana-Champaign community. Among her many efforts to create an inclusive campus community, she coordinates the annual Black Congratulatory Ceremony, the Black History Month programming for the BNAACC and UIUC campus, and has taught over a dozen courses – with topics ranging from liberal/conservative dialogue, race and ethnicity, and socioeconomic status. Ms. Davis was honored with the William Warfield Creative Expression Award from the Department of African American Studies, the Robert P. Larsen Human Development Award from the Illinois Counseling Center, and commissioned by the City of Champaign to design an exhibit for Black History Month in City Hall. She continues to be an advocate for students, contributing to the field of higher education student affairs and promoting the values of diversity, leadership and civic engagement, health and wellness, and career development. Ms. Davis is a two-time graduate of the University of Illinois, with a B.S. in Food Science and Human Nutrition and the MBA in Management.

Valeri Nesbitt-Howard, Office Support Staff
vahoward@illinois.edu

Valeri Nesbitt-Howard, joined the Bruce D. Nesbitt African American Cultural Center staff in January of 2015 as their Office Support Associate.  She ensures that the day-to-day operations of BNAACC run smoothly including greeting callers and visitors, purchasing programming supplies, managing the facilities, scheduling space requests, processing paperwork, and maintaining financial records. Valeri attended Central State University, majored in Communications. Currently in her free time she enjoys spending time with her lovely family as well as her church family, Jericho Missionary Baptist Church, loves traveling, networking, reading, mentoring and cooking. Val will continue to help build, encourage, and inspire others as they pursue their life journeys. “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:13