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Meralis Hood Antonia OlszewskiWilliam WelburnSheena Carey

Community Engagement Conversations: Pursuing Racial Justice and Equity through Community Engagement


Presenters Meralis Hood, Comm ’01, Market President, City Year; Antonina Olszewski, Director of Spiritual Care Services, Ascension Wisconsin; Dr. William Welburn, Vice President for Inclusive Excellence, Marquette University. Moderated by Sheena Carey, Jour ’81, Grad ’83, College of Communication, Marquette University

We are excited to announce a series of Community Engagement Conversations focusing on issues of racial equity, the social determinants of health, and COVID-19. These critical issues panels will include leaders from various sectors among our community and will take place in the fall and spring semesters. Join panelists as they consider the various settings within which they work and the approaches they have taken to advance racial justice and equity through their efforts in community engagement. Whether identifying and changing institutional, or industry policies and procedures, or leveraging more intentional and strategic initiatives to elevate opportunities through partnership, participants will discuss the critical role that racial justice and equity must play in current and future efforts in community engagement.

More about our presenters:

Meralis Hood, Comm ’01, Market President, City Year

Meralis Hood, Comm ’01, is an education thought leader whose mission is to reshape the way we invest in the professionals who work with young people every day.

Most recently heading City Year Milwaukee as its Executive Director and Vice President, she maintains and reinforces strong and strategic relationships with Milwaukee Public Schools, City Year Milwaukee’s board, corporate and philanthropic partners, and the wider community. In this role she has led and supported 33 staff members and 120 AmeriCorps members.  

A strong believer that all students can succeed, she gives her time to the National Executive Leadership Group and Senior Leadership Team for City Year, Inc., working to accelerate and advance the mission of building a more equitable future for our youngest citizens.  Meralis was named to Milwaukee Business Journal's 40 under 40 in 2020. She serves as the Governor's appointee on the Wisconsin Humanities Council and is a member of the board of trustees for the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design.

Meralis was born and raised in Milwaukee after her mother was recruited from Puerto Rico to serve as a bilingual educator in the city. Before joining City Year Milwaukee, Meralis was a veteran educator. She was the assistant principal at Bay View High School in Milwaukee Public Schools, a City Year partner school. Meralis was a bilingual teacher for nine years at MPS and then, transitioned into instructional coaching and administrative roles in the district. 

She holds a Bachelor of Art degree in advertising and public relations from Marquette University, a Master of Science degree in curriculum and instruction from University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and an Education Specialist degree in educational leadership and administration from National Louis University.

Meralis is a proud resident of Milwaukee where she lives with Nakia, her husband of 17 years, and their daughters Salma Esther and Sadie Isabel. In her free time, she enjoys reading, exercising, and traveling with her family.   

Antonina Olszewski, Director of Spiritual Care Services, Ascension Wisconsin

Antonina Olszewski was raised on the US Virgin Island of St. Thomas prior to moving to the San Francisco Bay Area. Antonina attended the University of California at Berkeley, the University of Wisconsin Stevens Point, and Marion University. She holds a Bachelor’s of Science in Biochemistry, Genetics and History, and a Master’s of Science in Organizational Leadership and Quality with an emphasis on Servant Leadership. Additionally, she holds multiple Executive Certificates from the University of Wisconsin Madison Graduate School of Business and Cornell University, and carries a diploma as a Certified Nursing Assistant.

Antonina has worked for Ascension health (or one of its legacy systems) since 2010. She has held roles as Foundation Director, Director of Community Health, and Director of Mission Integration prior to her current position as the Director of Spiritual Services for the Ascension Wisconsin market. She sits on the ABIDE Core Team which is working to integrate a comprehensive national Diversity, Equality and Equity strategy throughout Ascension and the communities in which it operates.

Prior to her transition to Catholic Healthcare, Antonina was the Program Coordinator for the Women Wellness program at the Marshfield Clinic.  She has a history of working in the financial industry in both Europe and the United States, and has taught as an adjunct professor for colleges in both Austria and Germany. On the personal side, Antonina is a published writer and long-time art collector, and speaks fluent German.

Antonina has served on various national committees for both the Association for Community Health Improvement (ACHI) and the Association of Healthcare Philanthropy (AHP). She has participated as a member on numerous community boards including The United Way, The American Cancer Society, The Community Center of Hope and The Rural Health Initiative. Her involvement with children has included work with the Children’s Health Alliance of Wisconsin, where she joined the Executive Committee of the BOD in 2020, Healthy Marathon County and Blessings in a Backpack. However, Antonina is most proud of her work with victims of human trafficking and domestic and sexual assault through her participation on the Board of Directors for The Women’s Community—where she was past president—and her participation in the development of the human trafficking training modules used nationally throughout Ascension.

Dr. William Welburn, Vice President for Inclusive Excellence, Marquette University

Dr. William Welburn is the vice president for inclusive excellence for Marquette University’s Office of Institutional Diversity and Inclusion. As executive director, Dr. Welburn is responsible for leadership in setting a strategic direction on campus diversity and inclusion by working with faculty, administrative, staff and student communities on a range of issues leading toward a more inclusive Marquette. His office’s portfolio includes implementation of the university’s strategic planning theme “A Culture of Inclusion,” and in assisting the university in full implementation of actions recommended by planning and climate assessment.


Sheena Carey, Jour ’81, Grad ’83, College of Communication, Marquette University 

Sheena Carey, Jour ’81, Grad ’83, serves as internship director and lecturer in communication studies for the Diederich College of Communication at Marquette University, is a consultant in the areas of intercultural communication, cultural sensitivity and workforce diversity, small group dynamics, and teambuilding. She has worked in creative collaboration with Coyaba Dance Theater in Washington, DC. and the Ko-Thi Dance Company in Milwaukee, WI. She wrote narrative poetry and performed spoken word for the dance productions. She is a graduate of Marquette University's Master of Arts program in Speech Communication and completed post-graduate coursework in Rhetorical criticism, Literary theory, and Africana Philosophy.