Michele Lee Clarke-Ceres
GAB Chair- Organizational Culture and Protocol
Michele is the Co-Founder of WorldCeres Inc., an international consultancy focused on career coaching, soft skills training, and business development. She is the Creator and Instructor of the WorldCeres Inc. Soft Skills Curriculum and is also the Host/Creator of The Global Advocate Career Podcast, a career podcast where she interviews fascinating individuals who are making a difference in their careers from around the globe.
As a Career Coach, Michele’s expertise is in coaching individuals experiencing transitions at any stage of their career. She seeks to help others by using her humor, strong interpersonal skills, and perspective as well as unique knowledge of various workplace dynamics. Michele has taught soft skills at college pipeline programs such as Oliver’s Scholars, educational institutions such as New York University, and for not-for-profits such as Career Gear. She is also a contributing writer for online news sources such as the BKReader.com and ACG Resources.
Prior to her career in professional development, Michele’s international affairs and governmental experience reflects over 25 years of progressively responsible positions in the New York City Council, Executive Chamber – State of New York and for the US Department of State. She has held the positions of Chief of Staff (Principality of Andorra to the United Nations), Deputy Chief of Protocol (United States Mission to the United Nations) and Chief of Staff (Duchess of York, Sarah Ferguson) – a member of the British Monarchy. She also served as Chief of Protocol (Governor of the State of New York) and as Chief of Staff (First Lady of the State of New York) where she was appointed New York State Honorary Chairperson of United Nations Day.
She holds a B.A. in English from the State University of New York, College at Fredonia, an Advanced Diploma in Coaching from New York University (NYU) and her New York State Real Estate License. Michele also completed her studies in scriptwriting, screenwriting, acting, comedy and improv from the American Comedy Institute (ACI).
Michele is fluent in Spanish, proficient in Brazilian Portuguese, and has a working knowledge of French and Catalan. She has a great passion for the performing arts and is an actress, stand- up comedian, writer, and producer. She is also a First-Degree Black Belt in Taekwondo. She is married to Rudyard W. Ceres, Esq. and the proud mother of Rudyard Wade Ceres, III.
Raina Turner currently serves as Executive Director of Sustainable Community Solutions Network, managing a network of 2000 individuals and organizations dedicated to sustainable development in communities across the African diaspora. Raina’s passion for creating healthy sustainable communities, locally and abroad, shifted her career focus from merely advertising the issues to engaging in global research for local solution generation, relationship development and increasing community members’ self-sufficiency.
Formerly serving as Director of Community Engagement and Entrepreneurship at the Center for Civic Innovation, her experience leading social entrepreneurship accelerators, has proven to complement the community engagement work domestically and abroad. Raina’s critical expertise in strategic planning, cultural diplomacy and sustainability, combined with her love of travel has afforded her the opportunity to study and travel abroad in China, Colombia, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Ghana, South Africa, Puerto Rico, and St. Croix.
Raina obtained her B.S. in Marketing and International Business from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. She sits on a delegation in D.C. with the Constituency for Africa, is certified in Sustainable Agriculture (HABESHA Works), Conceptual Selling (UAB – Miller Heiman), Food Bank Nutrition Policy (UC Berkeley), Biomimicry Sustainable Solutions (US EPA), Land Tenure & Property Rights (USAID), Holistic Health and Nutrition (Holistic Therapies and Education Center) and most recently completed a training around bamboo cultivation and construction from the International Network for Bamboo and Rattan (INBAR) in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. She also serves as Operational Efficiency Coordinator for HABESHA, Inc., a non-profit, Pan-African organization, where she specifically focuses on project management and improving internal processes.
As a staunch proponent of employing sustainable solutions to human challenges by emulating nature’s time-tested patterns and strategies, Raina is eager to continue learning and sharing the knowledge she gathers.
"Traveling the globe has provided me with an unrivaled education. Having visited five of the seven continents, I am determined to merge my love of traveling with my ultimate goal of exchanging best practices for creating and sustaining healthy communities without causing irreversible damage to the planet (including the people who occupy those spaces)."
Dr. DeBrenna LaFa Agbényiga
GAB Chair - Curriculum Modernization and Internationalization
Dr. DeBrenna LaFa Agbényiga previously served as Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs at Bowie State University. As the chief academic officer, she was responsible for overseeing the academic and research enterprises of the university. She also worked to ensure the recruitment and retention of high-quality faculty, student, and staff, and promoted educational excellence.
Dr. Agbényiga came to Bowie State from the University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) where she was Vice Provost and Dean of the Graduate School and professor of Social Work. At UTSA, she was noted for establishing a sustainable foundation to support academic excellence in graduate education.
Prior to working at UTSA, Dr. Agbényiga was Associate Dean for Graduate Studies and Inclusion in the College of Social Science at Michigan State University. In addition to providing significant administrative oversight for graduate programs, she was the founding director of the College’s Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusive Academic Affairs.
An accomplished scholar, Dr. Agbényiga’s research spans organizational culture, international social and economic development, community development and sustainability, women’s rights, children’s rights, gender-based violence, cross-cultural learning and diversity. Dr. Agbényiga has spent numerous years working globally and more extensively in Western, Southern, and Eastern Africa as a researcher and consultant to numerous ministries, NGOs and universities.
Dr. Agbényiga earned her doctoral degree in social work, MBA in strategic management and an MSW in Social Work-Urban Studies from Michigan State University. Her bachelor’s degree in criminal justice is from the University of South Carolina, Columbia.
Her research has been published in leading social work journals including the Journal of Social Work Education, Children and Youth Services Review, Administration in Social Work, and Advances in Social Work. She has co-edited two books and several book chapters published by leading press houses l i k e Springer, Council on Social Work Education, and Lexington Books.
Mr. Deji Akomolafe
GAB Chair - Technology, Research and Innovation
Dèjì is a VMware Global Staff Solutions Architect and Technology Evangelist, specializing in Virtualization and Cloud Computing Technologies and Solutions.
As a Program Manager of the VMware “Virtualize Africa” Program, Dèjì is directly involved inVMware’s Corporate Social Responsibility
initiatives aimed at making technical contents, platform, resources, software and support available, accessible and affordable to Africans in the Virtualization, Cloud Computing and Digital Workspace disciplines. Dèjì represents VMware in supporting and facilitating various human capacity development initiatives across Africa through partnership with Africa-based Academic Institutions, Private Practitioners, NGOs, Community Builders and Individuals involved in similar efforts on the Continent.
The launching and operationalization of the African Union’s “Pan African Virtual & eUniversity” (PAVEU) and collaboration with Egypt’s Information Technology Institute (ITI) towards the realization of Egypt’s “Vision 2030 Sustainable Development Strategy” are some of the notable outcomes of these engagements.
He is a popular and regular Speaker at technical conferences and workshops worldwide, presenting technical subject matters related to capacity building in the age of modern technologies, with a view towards assisting Africa and Africans in the quest to become better prepared for inclusion and direct participation in the modern economies of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
His main passions are his two children (Lanre and Bisi) and the VMware Virtualize Africa Program.
Mr. Van Keith Jakes
GAB Chair -HBCU Africa All-Star Games and Intercollegiate Sports Development
Van Keith Jakes attended Kent State University from 1979-1983. He was a four-year starter as corner back and the captain of the football team during his senior year. He graduated from Kent State in 1983 with a Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice.
Van played with the Kansas City Chiefs during the 1983 and 1984 seasons. He joined the United States Football League (USFL) and played with the Jacksonville Bulls in 1985. After the demise of the USFL in 1985, he returned to the National Football League (NFL). In 1986, he began a three-year career with the New Orleans Saints. Van then played with the Green Bay Packers during the 1989 and 1990 seasons. He retired from the NFL in 1991.
Van became a McDonald’s Owner Operator in August 1992 where he opened his first restaurant in Tampa, Florida. In May 1994, he sold his Tampa store for four stores in Atlanta, Georgia. In the summer of 1996 he acquired two additional stores. In 24 years Van has owned 14 McDonald’s locations. Most recently selling three McDonald’s restaurants in the Stone Mountain/Lithonia area of Dekalb County; Panola Road, Turner Hill Road, and Fairington Road. After selling his McDonald’s locations, Van has gone on to become certified a Denny’s, Jersey Mike’s Subs, Cowboy Chicken and Dunkin Donuts Franchisee. He opened 2 Denny’s locations in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee in the early summer of 2016, and then opened 4 Jersey Mike’s Subs restaurants from the late fall of 2016 to early January of 2018. Having retired in the fall of 2018, Van passed the torch to his wife Chrystal Jakes. In September 2018, the first of several Cowboy Chicken Restaurants opened in McDonough, GA. Chrystal Jakes, with the guidance and tutelage of Van, has several additional Cowboy Chicken restaurants scheduled to open in the 3rd and 4th quarter of 2019. Van continues to consult the Cowboy Chicken restaurant project, and many other athletes, and restaurateurs.
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Van has many affiliations, hobbies and philanthropic interests. He is a member and past president (1997-98) of the Atlanta Black McDonald’s Owner Operator Association (BMOA), and serves on the Executive Board of the Greater Atlanta McDonald’s Owner Operator Association (GAMOA) and is president of the African American Consumer Market Target Marketing Subcommittee. He is the former president of the Stonecrest Business Alliance, and serves on the SDIA (South Dekalb Improvement Association). He formerly worked on the McDonald’s Workers Compensation Committee. He has been the chairperson for the Wheels of Dreams Youth Foundation Celebrity Golf Classic where he worked tirelessly to fulfill its mission to “create future business leaders.” In April 2008 Van was inducted as a member of the prestigious organization “100 Black Men of Atlanta”. Van is a member of Antioch A.M.E. Church in Stone Mountain, Georgia.
In 1998, Van received the Women Looking Ahead, Blue Print Award, for Entrepreneur of the Year. He has been cited by the Atlanta Tribune, several years in a row, as one of Georgia’s Top 20 African-American owned businesses. He has also received commendations from Governor Roy Barnes as an “Outstanding Citizen.” In September 2002 he was inducted into the Harvard Cup High School Hall of Fame in his hometown of Buffalo, New York. He is also a current member of the NFL Players Association, while also a Partner in Education with several schools in Dekalb County. In December 2009, he was inducted into the Atlanta Tribune, Hall of Fame with three other local NFL greats. In 2015 he was awarded the NAACP, Benjamin L. Hooks Award for “Outstanding Service in the Community.” He is an avid golfer and racquetball player. Van is a devoted husband and father to his wife Chrystal and their four children: Leigh, Van II, Jasmine, and Jordan.
Dr. Yussif Mijirah Dokurugu
Dr. Dokurugu is the director of the Office of Global Health at Florida A&M University’s College of Pharmacyand an assistant professor of epidemiology. Dr. Dokurugu holds bachelor’s and master’s degree in sociology from the University of Ghana. He earned master’s and doctoral degrees in public health from Florida A&M University.
Dr. Afua Arhin
GAB Chair - Health and Safety
Dr. Afua Arhin is the current Dean of the College of Health, Science and Technology at Fayetteville State University. She has 25 years-experience in nursing education and extensive expertise in educational program improvement and enhancement, as well as program growth.
Dr. Arhin also has over 15 years’ experience in establishing and maintaining collaborative programs. She is currently the Primary investigator of a $1.45 million HRSA grant that supports a project that recruits and prepares veterans for the primary healthcare workforce.
She also recently was awarded a $1.5 million HRSA grant that supported the establishment of a comprehensive Inter-professional Behavioral and Collaborative Practice Institute that focuses on the biopsychosocial health of military personnel, veterans and their families.
She also has initiated and directed a SAMHSA funded project whose primary goal was designing a social media- based student peer educator led Health Education Program directed at the prevention of substance abuse, HIV and hepatitis. Dr. Arhin also has previous experience in establishing a successful mobile health clinic funded by the Susan G. Komen Foundation that focused on breast health to individuals living in rural Louisiana as well as establishing a state of the art simulation laboratory through funding by the US Department of Education Title III grant.
Dr. Arhin is passionate about educational outcomes of students of color and as a result has targeted her career to Historically Black Colleges and Universities. She has served as a faculty member and administrator at HBCUs including Fayetteville State University, Grambling State University and Florida A&M University. These academic, administration, and clinical experiences as well as the ability to secure grant funding and resource utilization makes Dr. Arhin a perfect fit for this position.
Dr. Arhin has a PhD from the University of Florida, an MS from University of Wisconsin in Madison and a BS from University of Ghana.