BSAY Trailblazers Award

This award is meant to honor the founding members of the organization. Their commendable efforts have made the last 50 years of service, action, and advocacy possible for every class that has followed their legacy.

Alan Woods '68 *Donald Ogilvie '68 * Junius Williams, Yale Law '68

 Paul B. Jones '68 * Armstead Robinson '69 * Craig Foster '69

Roger Collins '69* Glenn deChabert '70 *Woody Brittain '70

Dwight Raiford '71 * Don Roman '71 * Ralph Dawson '71 *Bill Farley '72

Victor Chears '74 * Michael Miller '74 * Frank Reid '74  * Bisa Williams '76

BSAY Achievement Award

There are number of BSAY alumni who have achieved amazing accolades during and after their time with the organization. During our formal gala on October 7th, we will publicly honor both the BSAY Trailblazers and our BSAY Achievement Award winners.


Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. ’73

A graduate from the Class of 1973, Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. is currently a professor at Harvard University in the African and African American Studies department. Twenty-one different books have been written by Gates, who has also made fifteen documentaries including Wonders of the African World, African American Lives, Faces of America, Black in Latin America, and Finding Your Roots, his groundbreaking genealogy series. According to his biography, “his six-part PBS documentary series, The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross (2013), which he wrote, executive produced, and hosted, earned the Emmy Award for Outstanding Historical Program—Long Form, as well as the Peabody Award, Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Award, and NAACP Image Award. Professor Gates co-founded in 2008 and received the “genius grant” from the MacArthur Foundation in 1981.


Colette Holt ’79

In her own words, Ms. Colette holt manages “a national law and consulting practice that focuses on affirmative action issues, Minority/Women/Disadvantaged Business programs, local hire and community benefits programs, and expert witness services regarding these substantive areas.” She is also General Counsel to the American Contract Compliance Association, where her work focuses on promoting and ensuring diversity and inclusion.

Dr. Cheryl Grills ’80

A national Past President of the Association of Black Psychologists, Dr. Cheryl Grills, is a tenured Full Professor at Loyola Marymount University and Director of their Psychology Applied Research Center. She also serves as a Los Angeles County Commissioner on the Sybil Brand Commission which addresses conditions and practices within adult County jails, youth probation and correctional facilities, and group homes for children. Dr. Grills also served as Co-Executive Director of the County’s Blue Ribbon Commission on Child Protection leading to important changes in the child welfare system. Dr. Grills co-designed the Emotional Emancipation (EE) Circles process developed by The Community Healing Network and is the leader of the EE Circles Training Team training people of African ancestry around the world. Her research interests, publications, and projects include African Psychology, mental health prevention and treatment with African-Americans, community psychology, community mental health, and applied research with community based organizations engaged in community organizing on a host of social justice issues.

Dr. Jennifer Ellis ’85

Dr. Jennifer Ellis is one of only a handful of African American female, board certified Cardiothoracic Surgeons in the United States and an expert in heart health matters. Her surgical expertise ranges from minimally invasive and alternative approaches to valve repair and replacement including, Mitral Valve Repair and Aortic Surgery to all aspects of adult and Cardiac Surgery and therapies. Dr. Ellis is an attending physician with the MedStar Heart and Vascular Institute/Cleveland Clinic Heart and Vascular Institute. She practices at MedStar Washington Hospital Center, one of U.S.News top 100 hospitals for Cardiac Surgery. She is a regional and national Top Doctor. She is an expert in the areas of stress and its effect on the heart, weight and dietary effects on the heart, including fad diets (high carb, low protein) and how they influence cardiac risk levels, and the African American predisposition to heart ailments.

Dr. Ellis was a Cardiothoracic Fellow at New York University Medial Center and as a Surgical Residence and later Chief of Residency at New York Medical College. Dr. Ellis attended Phillips Academy, Yale University receiving a B.A. in Philosophy, an MD from Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia, PA, and an MBA from the Carey School of Business at Johns Hopkins. Dr. Ellis is member of the Fellow of American College of Surgeons, the American Medical Association, the National Medical Association, Women in Thoracic Surgery, the Association of Women Surgeons, the Association of Black Cardiovascular and Thoracic Surgeons and the Society of Thoracic Surgeons.

Marco A. Davis '92

Mr. Marco A. Davis, Class of 1992, was a Co-Moderator of BSAY during his time at Yale. He also became a member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc., and served on the Minority Advisory Council to the President during that time. He is a member of the Yale Black Alumni Association, and currently serves as a subcommittee chair of the Yale Alumni Task Force on Diversity and Inclusion. Mr. Davis was active in the Latino student community, and is active in the Yale Latino Alumni Association as well. Professionally, he served under President Barack Obama as Deputy Director at the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics and as Director of Public Engagement at the Corporation for National and Community Service. He is now a Partner at New Profit, a pioneering Boston-based venture philanthropy fund, where he serves as Organizational Lead on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.

Rashayla Marie Brown ’04

Ms. Rashayla Marie Brown, Class of 2004, was the President and Publicity Chair of BSAY during her time at Yale. She has served as the Director of Student Affairs for Diversity and Inclusion where she fosters “queer Afrofeminist narratives across institutions". She is the owner of RMB Studios in Chicago, IL where she, in her own words, highlights “the social contract of photography and other forms of personal accountability in failed representations.” According to her website, her work “often investigates power dynamics through the emotion and personal vulnerability of lived experience.” She has worked across the country and received various awards for her interesting and powerful work. 

Sources: 1, 2

Yohannes Abraham ‘07

Mr. Yohannes Abraham has dedicated his post-graduation life to public service with regard to politics and governance. According to Mr. Abraham (as cited by the Tadias Magazine staff), “…active civic participation can lead to change and I’m committed to being part of that for the rest of my life.” He has served as the Deputy Assistant to the President for the Office of Public Engagement and Intergovernmental Affairs. He also served as Chief of Staff to Valerie Jarrett, who was the Senior Advisor to President Barack Obama. Mr. Abraham was also a Senior Advisor to the National Economic Council., and he contributed to the Obama-Biden 2012 campaign as the Deputy National Political Director. These are just some of the many positions he has held.

Sources: 1, 2

Simone Ellis ‘08

After graduating in 2008, Ms. Simone Ellis earned her Master’s Degree at Boston University. She remained in Boston for the next four years at the Boston University School of Medicine. With the Albert Schweitzer Fellowship, she founded the BUSM Science Teaching Enrichment Program (BUSM STEP), which “promotes a partnership between BUSM and high-school students from the Greater Boston Area” and “advocates for students from disadvantaged backgrounds who have the academic ability, compassion, and interpersonal skills capable of facing the challenges or promoting health and equity in diverse populations.” Ms. Ellis is currently a third-year Resident Physician at the Georgetown University/Providence Hospital where her interests include “urban health policy, health equity and full-spectrum family medicine in an urban underserved environment.” After residency she will return back to her hometown, Bridgeport, CT, to serve her community at the Southwest Community Health Center. 

LaTisha Campbell ‘12

Recipient of the Nakanishi Prize during her time at Yale, Ms. LaTisha Campbell has been called “passionate, cheerful, and unfailing positive” and is described as “committed to public service.” At Yale, she tutored inmates with the Prison Education Project and served as co-coordinator and treasurer of the Social Justice Network at Dwight Hall. She was also the Political Action Chair on the BSAY board. Moreover, she volunteered with the Urban Improvement Corps. She is currently a teacher at Turning Point Schools in Indianapolis, Indiana.

Source: 1 , 2

A.T. McWilliams ‘12

When A.T. McWilliams graduated from Yale in 2012, he served as a Corps Member with Teach for America and Co-Lead Teacher for Uncommon Schools in Brooklyn, NY. He also founded, “a charitable organization that provides free books for low-income schools in the Bay Area.” Today, he is the Program Manager for Google for Education.


Nia Holston ‘14

A graduated from the class of 2014, Nia Holston has previously worked as a Justice Fellow with the Equal Justice Initiative, an organization that is committed to “ending mass incarceration and excessive punishment in the United States, to challenging racial and economic injustice, and to protecting basic human rights for the most vulnerable people in American society.” She is currently as scholar in the NYU School of Law Root-Tilden-Kern program, which is designed for students committed to public service. She is also the director of the Suspension Representation Project at NYU, which provides representation to NYC public school kids at their superintendent suspension hearings. One of main issues she advocates against is mass incarceration. At Yale, she served at Political Action Chair on the BSAY board and co-chair of the Ward 1 Democratic Committee in New Haven.

Source: 1, 2, 3

Eshe Sherley ’16

Eshe Sherley is currently an organizer in training at the Service Employees International Union. Eshe was a co-founder of DOWN Magazine, a campus publication that amplifies the voices of students of color, and was heavily involved with the campus-wide protests during the 2015-2016 academic year. She served as Vice President and Political Action Chair on the BSAY board. In 2016, Yale awarded her with the Nakanishi Prize for her dedication and effort. Off campus, Ms. Sherley interned at Alternatives for Community and Environment, UNITE HERE Local 35, and Community Change Inc.

Sources: 1, 2

Akinyi Ochieng ‘15

Ms. Akinyi Ochieng was a Freshman Liaison and Social Events Chair on the BSAY board during her time at Yale. She was also a Head Peer Liaison at the Afro-American Cultural Center in addition to holding numerous other leadership positions at Yale, where she was also awarded the Robert Farris Thompson Award for Outstanding Research in the Advanced Study of Africa. In her own words, she is “passionate about innovation and opportunity in Africa.” Today, she is a Director at the Africa Expert Network, where she helps drive more visibility and investment to opportunities across Africa. She has developed multi-million dollar public-public private partnerships, and advised non-profits, start-ups, and multinationals alike on media and communications in Africa. Her work has been appeared in publications including NPR, Forbes, Slate and OkayAfrica, among others. For three years, she was also the Executive Editor of Ayiba Magazine, a digital publication highlighting innovation and culture in Africa.  

Sources: 1, 2, 3