New Division of Community, Equity and Diversity is Advancing Inclusive Excellence at RIC


Anna Cano-Morales has plans for a more inclusive campus.

RIC Associate Vice President Anna Cano Morales, head​ of the Division of Community, Equity and D​iversity, has the task of integrating the practice of inclusion into the very fabric of the RIC experience. 

A leader of intelligent strength, Cano Morales describes herself as a “respectful agitator.” Indeed, she combines a gift for advocacy with the ability to listen deeply and with equanimity to conflicting views. This inspires respect in even her most staunch opponents.

Her foremost goal is to gauge the climate, culture and satisfaction of RIC faculty, staff and students through campus-wide surveys and assessments. Based on this data, she will organize campus-wide trainings around issues of inclusion. She will also review all college policies within this framework.

Offices under her division are the Affirmative Action Office, the Disability Services Center and the Unity Center. The latter was restructured from a one-person office to a suite of four complementary offices made up of Interfaith Services, the International Student Office, the LGBTQ+ Office and the Women’s Center. 

Unity Center staff exemplify unity through collaboration. For example, the Women’s Center is working collaboratively with the LGBTQ+ Office on a quilt-making workshop for World AIDS Day, while the chaplain of Interfaith Services is collaborating with the director of the Unity Center in coordinating the Giving Tree holiday gift drive.​​​

And this practice of joining forces extends beyond the division into cross-divisional collaborations. Cano Morales often sits around the table deliberating on projects with Vice President for Student Success Jason Meriwether.

“Jason and I understand how important it is to work together to ensure that the end goal is success for all students,” said Cano Morales. She is acutely aware that “diversity, equity and inclusion involves the entire campus working together.”

Meet the Unity Center staf​f – youthful, energetic and intellectually dynamic, and hear their plans for a more inclusive campus.​

Antoinette Gomes
Unity Center Director Antoinette Gomes​


“It’s inspiring to hear Anna talk about the work of inclusive excellence as the work of everyone here at the college,” said Unity Center Director Antoinette Gomes.

Much of what goes on at the Unity Center is the incubation, cross-fertilization and promotion of innovative ideas around diversity and inclusion. 

For almost 10 years, Gomes has worked tirelessly to develop and support programming that promotes a culture of inclusion, such as Diversity Week, Hispanic Heritage Month, Native American Heritage Month, Black History Month, Women’​s History Month, International Women’s Day, Pride Month, Asian and Pacific Islander events and others. She also advises student organizations, helping to sponsor their cultural events. And ​her reach extends beyond the Unity Center.

Gomes helps coordinate RIC’s annual Promising Practices Conferences. She is the longest-standing chair of the Dialogue on Diversity Committee. She contributes to the work of the new Inclusive Excellence Commission, led by Cano Morales, developing policies, practices and programs that elevate inclusive excellence at RIC. She also sits on numerous administrative, faculty and staff search committees and student organization advisory boards.

Yet ​Gomes’ vision of inclusive excellence, she said, is informed by RIC students themselves. “What I hear from students all the time is the need for more diverse faculty,” she said. “Students also express the need for a cultural studies department. I would like to see the Unity Center work cooperatively with the Division of Academic Affairs to increase cultural studies across disciplines, particularly in light of the changing demographics at RIC.”

“The premise of inclusive excellence is to intentionally and continually create and maintain organizational environments that support the full participation of its agents,” Gomes said. “Therefore, it is important for students to be actively engaged in creating an inclusive campus. When decisions are made, it affects their learning. In order to develop inclusive programs, practices and services that are beneficial for all students, they have to be empowered to contribute to college processes whenever possible.”

Gomes noted that today’s students are more activist-minded than she’s ever seen before. “Student activism is certainly not new,” she said. “By design, college campuses have long been a space for encouraging people to think critically and examine social issues – either current issues or historical issues – such as the GI Bill, anti-war protests, civil rights, gay rights, etcetera. I believe there is momentum building as students become privy to information via social media and other technologies that lift the veil of ignorance around social injustices.” 

She said, historically, the Unity Center has been a safe space for airing​ views on social justice issues. Perhaps it is ​​reflective of the times that these discussions are now spilling​ out onto the Quad and into the classrooms, engaging the entire RIC community. We need to be ready to engage, she said.​

Dante Tavolaro
The Rev. Dante Tavolaro


RIC’s new chaplain is a 2011 graduate of RIC who earned his Master of Divinity degree at Yale University. The Rev. Dante Tavolaro is of the Episcopal faith and felt encouraged by its long tradition of acceptance of the LGBTQ+ community.

“It is a church that speaks to the inclusion of all people,” Tavolaro said, “and it has allowed for the fullness of my own personhood as a member of the queer community. I found a place in the church where I could be active in the Rainbow Alliance unabashedly and not hide from that. God called for me to continue that tradition and welcome in more people who are marginalized in this world, from immigrants to people of color to the LBGTQ+ community.”

While the Unity Center offers a small prayer/meditation room, Tavolaro’s vision for Interfaith Services is to create more spaces on campus for people to engage in prayer or contemplation in their own tradition. 

He has also created the “Finding Faith” series – informational programs that inform the campus community about various faiths. In March 2018 The Right Rev. W. Nicholas ​Knisely, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Rhode Island, will talk about the intersection of faith and science. 

Tavolaro’s vision includes the creation of more community service opportunities for faculty, staff and students, as well as partnering with Gomes in coordinating holiday gift donations for needy families in the greater Rhode Island community.

Thursday evening prayer services are set to begin Spring Semester in Gaige Hall 200, and one-on-one spiritual counseling with Tavolaro is currently available on Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. 

Tavolaro can be reached at 401-456-8791 or at In addition to his duties at RIC, Tavolaro serves as curate at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in East Greenwich. He will be ordained into the priesthood on Saturday, Dec. 16​.

Karina Mascorro
International Student Advisor Karina Mascorro


RIC’s new international student advisor is Karina Mascorro, RIC adjunct instructor ​​of Spanish and Italian. Mascorro earned her B.A. in psychology and Italian at the University of California, Berkeley; and her M.A. and Ph.D. in Italian studies at Brown University.

Born in Sahuayo Michoacan, Mexico, Mascorro immigrated to America at the age of four with her parents. In elementary school, she was identified as gifted, and by middle school she was placed in the Magnet Center at John Burroughs, which serves gifted and highly gifted students. Yet by her teens, she also experienced the fear and isolation of being an undocumented person.​  

Though Mascorro would later gain citizenship, that period of invisibility and fear left an indelible mark on her life. She would become a citizen of the world.​

At UC Berkeley, Mascorro enrolled in an Italian language course and then traveled to Florence, Italy, as part of a summer program. The following year she studied at the University of Bologna for a full year ​and changed her major from engineering to Italian and psychology.​​

“I’m a strong advocate of study abroad,” she said. “When you travel outside of your native country, you experience life from a different perspective, you develop empathy and form friendships with people of a different language and culture. You find that the people you meet are no longer ‘the other,’ but people who share a common humanity with you.”

As international student advisor, Mascorro’s vision is to revive the International Student webpage to reflect the oral histories of RIC’s 13 active international students and their transcultural experiences. She is also developing strategies to increase RIC’s international student population through student and faculty exchange programs. 

Mascorro said it is of utmost importance that students see their culture represented in the curriculum. “If a professor is offering a course on the history of Cuba, why not include in the course a salsa class? It’s important that faculty align their curricula with interdisciplinary goals. Diversity and inclusion needs reinforcement at every level of the college.”

Mascorro views dance as one of the universal languages. “It’s how different cultures come together – around dance, music and food,” she said. “I envision creating dynamic spaces for movement and dance that allow students to form bonds outside of class.” Mascorro also plans to revive​ the International Film Festival at RIC, “another way,” she said, “of seeing the world through the eyes of another.”

International students receive assistance with admission requirements, immigration, visa procedures and work permits with the help of Mascorro. She can be contacted at​

Chris Susi
Coordinator of LGBTQ+ Office Chris Susi


Establishment of the first LGBTQ+ Office was one of Cano Morales’ first initiatives upon her arrival at RIC. The new coordinator, Chris Susi, is solely dedicated to LGBTQ issues on campus and has the mission of integrating best practices for inclusion of gender, gender identity and sexual orientation into all aspects of campus life.

A two-time RIC graduate, Susi earned his B.A. in gender and women’s studies in 2010​​, and his Individualized Master of Arts degree in 2013.

He is an adjunct faculty member in the Feinstein School of Education and Human Development, co-facilitating with Professor Lesley Bogad the A.L.L.I.E.D. course, which is designed to support underrepresented students who are going into the teaching field. 

Susi is also a frequent guest lecturer in education, gender studies and history courses and at events held by Pride Alliance, a RIC student organization. A former president of Pride Alliance, Susi is now the organization’s faculty advisor.

“One of the issues I hear most from LGBTQ students is the lack of education around LGBTQ issues,” he said. “The world right now is a tumultuous place. Students are bringing those issues into the classroom with them, but they’re finding that faculty knowledge isn’t there or that topics aren’t being handled in the way that they should.”

“There is a whole set of language, terminology and culture around LGBTQ,” Susi explained. “When faculty don’t have that awareness, it impacts student performance. Studies have found that students don’t achieve at the level that they should. I want faculty, staff and students to know that I am here and that I am a resource for them.”

Susi is also working to make policies at RIC more inclusive of LGBTQ students. He noted that though admission forms ask students to self-identify race, ethnicity and gender, an LBGTQ+ checkbox is absent on forms. Susi is advocating for an LGBTQ+ identifier on admissions and Common App materials. 

“Based on the national average, one in 10 students identify as LGBTQ, and that number consists only of those students who are willing to self-identify. I think the number is much higher,” Susi said. With a total enrollment of 8,446 students, he estimates RIC has at least 500 to 800 students who could be served through his office.

 “I want RIC to be a progressive, proactive campus,” he said. “I want to create policy now rather than wait to create a policy when we have a problem in front of us.”

Susi can be reached Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at ext. 9033 or by emailing 

Lisa Hoopis
Women’s Center Coor​dinator Lisa Hoopis​


Lisa Hoopis was employed for 10 years at Planned Parenthood of Rhode Island before she became the Women’s Center’s new coordinator. 

Throughout her tenure at Planned Parenthood as regional manager of education and training, Hoopis provided professional development at middle schools, high schools and for entire school districts focused on sexuality education and reproductive justice. 

“At Planned Parenthood, I was working with teens who were given misinformation or no information at all about pregnancy and how to prevent it. One out of every two pregnancies are unintended,” she said. “I saw the need for education right away. Even at the college level, the assumption is that our students are coming in having had sex education in high school, but that is not the case.”

Sex education includes awareness of sexually transmitted infections. “HIV is not talked about in the way it was in the 80s and 90s,” Hoopis said. “However, the reality is that though we are seeing teen pregnancy rates decreasing, we’re seeing the rate of sexually transmitted infections increasing.”

Hoopis earned her B.A. in psychology at Rhode Island College in 2003. In 2014 she was made an adjunct faculty member in RIC’s Department of Health and Physical Education, where she teaches a course on Human Sexuality. In January 2017 she was hired as coordinator of RIC’s Office of Health Promotions to create a comprehensive health and wellness program on campus. And in July 2017 she was hired to direct the Women’s Center,​ whose mission is to educate and advocate for the advancement of women and to provide the student body with information and referrals regarding women’s issues.

Hoopis supervises two peer educator groups: the Student Collaborative, which seeks to raise awareness around sexual assault and prevention; and Co-Exist, which focuses on the education and prevention of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections. 

Though much of her focus has been on raising awareness around sexual health, Hoopis intends to expand programming at the Women’s Center to include worksho​ps that empower women, such as assertiveness training, recognizing inequality, identifying and challenging sexual harassment, negotiating salaries, finding the work/life balance and self-advocacy.

Hoopis encourages faculty and student organizations to visit the Women’s Center and use it as a resource for programs they’d like to offer. She can be reached at 401-456-8474 or at

Ultimately, all of the offices within the Unity Center and its staff seek to advance diversity and inclusion through education and programs that raise awareness.​

“We all benefit from diversity,” said Cano Morales. “Not only do we expand our knowledge and our perspective, it makes us stronger as a community.”​

Meet the VP and​ division staff at a fall open house on Monday, Nov. 20, from 4-5:30 p.m. in Suite 301 of Roberts Hall. Welcoming remarks will be given by RIC President Frank D. Sánchez, followed by refreshments. In the spirit of giving, please bring nonperishable snacks and microwavable foods (e.g. peanut butter, crackers, granola bars, popcorn, packaged cookies, canned soups, etc.) to replenish the Unity Center pantry.