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.

Donald Ogilvie '68 * Armstead Robinson '69 * Glenn deChabert '70

 Woody Brittain '70 * Craig Foster '69 * Ralph Dawson '71  

Paul B. Jones '68 * Bisa Williams '76 * Dwight Raiford '71

Don Roman '71 * Kurt Schmoke '71 * Ray Nunn '69  

Muhammad Abdullah '70 * Victor Chears '74 * Euclid Irving '73


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 TheRoot.com in 2008 and received the “genius grant” from the MacArthur Foundation in 1981.

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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.

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Dr. Cheryl Grills ’80

A graduate from the Class of 1980, Dr. Cheryl Grills has been a Professor of psychology and the Director of the Psychology Applied Research Center at Loyola Marymount University (LMU) for the past thirty years. According to the LMU website, “her research interests, publications, and projects include African Psychology, African-centered models of treatment engagement with African-Americans; substance abuse prevention and treatment; community psychology; community mental health, prevention, and action research; and program evaluation with community based organizations engaged in social action, community change and prevention on a host of issues.” She is currently working on founding “a CDEP for people of African ancestry” with The Association of Black Psychologists and Community Healing Network.

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Dr. Jennifer Ellis ’85

A graduate from the Class of 1985, Dr. Jennifer Ellis is currently a cardiac surgeon at the Washington Hospital Center in D.C. After earning her medical degree in 1990 from Thomas Jefferson University, she went on to earn an MBA in 2006 from Johns Hopkins University. According to a profile/interview in the Association of American Medical Colleges, Dr. Ellis is “one of only five African-American, female, board certified cardiothoracic surgeons in the country.” She was featured as a PBS Kids Role Model as well.

Sources: 1, 2


Marco A. Davis '92

Mr. Marco A. Davis has served as a Director of Public Engagement for the Corporation for National and Community Service and the Deputy Director on the White House Initiative on Education Excellence for Hispanics. Moreover, he has served as a member of the Alumni Diversity and Inclusion Task Force at Yale. Mr. Davis has dedicated himself to creating educational opportunities for Hispanic students and promoting diversity and inclusion for decades.

 Sources: 1, 2


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 second-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.”

Sources: 1, 2, 3


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 BookBooster.org, “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.

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Nia Holston ‘14

A graduated from the class of 2014, Nia Holston has been working 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. 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. In her own words, she is “passionate about innovation and opportunity in Africa.” She has been published in NPR, Slate, and OkayAfrica among other publications, and she is currently working with the Africa Expert Network. For three years, Ms. Ochieng was also an Associate Editor at Ayiba Magazine, which seeks to “break down perpetuating stereotypes of Africa, while simultaneously building a bridge between Africa’s past and future in a way that connects Africans in the Diaspora to those on the continent.”

Sources: 1, 2, 3