Tamara A. Johnson, Ph.D.
Vice President of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion
Dr. Tamara Johnson is currently Vice President of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at Harper College. In this role, she provides vision and leadership for the diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives across the campus through working closely with students, staff, faculty, alumni and community partners. As a psychologist by training with a social justice lens, she makes every effort to address institutional barriers and develop the conditions, policies and systems that maximize opportunities for all members of the Harper community to engage, excel and thrive.
Dr. Johnson has over 20 years of experience in higher education. Prior to joining Harper College, she served as Vice President of Diversity and Inclusion at Adler University, Vice Chancellor for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion and Student Affairs at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, Director of Faculty Diversity Initiatives at the University of Chicago and Executive Director of Multicultural Student Affairs at Northwestern University. Her time in higher education also includes teaching at Argosy University, the Chicago School of Professional Psychology and Northwestern University.
Dr. Johnson is a member of a number of professional associations, such as the National Association of Diversity Officers in Higher Education, the American Psychological Association and the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators. She has delivered more than 40 professional conference presentations and serves as a reviewer for the Journal of Diversity in Higher Education.
Dr. Johnson has a doctorate in counseling psychology, a master’s in human resources and a bachelor’s in psychology.
Brittany Barber, MNML
Cultural Center Manager
Brittany Barber serves as the manager of the new Cultural Center. In this role, Brittany ensures that the Cultural Center is a welcoming space for students, staff and faculty, that offers a full spectrum of diversity, equity, inclusion and social justice programs, trainings and resources. Brittany is a higher education professional with 10 years of experience, including various roles at Elgin Community College. She holds a bachelor's degree in Communication and Theatre Arts from the University of Pittsburgh, a master’s in Nonprofit Management and Leadership from Capella University, and is currently a doctoral candidate in Higher Education Administration and Foundations at Illinois State University.
Executive Assistant to the Vice President of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion
Mary Budyak is currently the Executive Assistant to the Vice President of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. In this role, she helps plan and coordinate a wide range of programs, services and resources for the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in collaboration with internal and external constituencies. She also manages fundamental departmental operations and high-level administrative assistance. Currently, Mary supports the Shared Governance Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee and serves as a member of the Awareness and Outreach Goal Team.
Mary has over eight years of experience at Harper College, including working as Administrative Coordinator and Executive Assistant in the Office of the President, Communications/Community Relations and Foundations. She has worked on various committees, including the 50th Anniversary Committee where she served as administrative support and co-chair for the volunteer committee, and the Shared Governance Coordination and Review Committee where she served as support, co-chair and classified staff representative. In addition, she has participated on numerous search committees which include Presidential, Vice President, Director, Manager, Coordinator and Executive Assistant positions.
Prior to joining Harper Mary worked in the insurance, telecommunications, food service and marketing industries in various senior level administrative positions. She has an associate degree in Secretarial Science from Wilbur Wright Jr. College in Chicago, Illinois.
Esmeralda Guerrero Lopez, M.A.
Coordinator for Student Diversity Initiatives
Esmeralda Guerrero is currently the Coordinator for Student Diversity Initiatives at Harper College. In this role, she provides a full range of retention, engagement and direct student support services to support historically underrepresented students to address barriers and successfully navigate systems.
Esmeralda has over 13 years of experience in higher education and has worked in a range of offices including admissions, academic advising, and student life. She serves as the advisor for Latinos Unidos student organization and sits on the executive committee for Diverse Relationships Engaged in Affirming Multiculturalism (DREAM) Employee Resource Group.
Esmeralda has a master of arts in higher education, a bachelor’s in psychology and completed her associate of arts from Harper College. She is a member of the Illinois Latino Council on Higher Education professional group.
Monica R. Shirley, J.D.
Coordinator for Student Diversity Initiatives
Monica Shirley is currently serving as the Coordinator for Student Diversity Initiatives at Harper College. In this role she provides wrap around services for historically underrepresented students in an effort to increase retention and persistence. Monica Shirley started her tenure at Harper College in 2017 as a Diverse Faculty Fellow and continues to serve as adjunct faculty in the Paralegal Studies department.
Prior to her time at Harper, Monica’s experience in education includes serving as an Assistant Dean of Students in a Chicago public high school and as a College Access Coordinator for Northeastern Illinois University.
Monica belongs to several professional organizations including the American Association for Paralegal Educators and the Educational Law Association. She has facilitated various talks on representation and how it contributes to student success. She has made it her personal commitment to provide teachable moments both inside and outside of the classroom.
Monica holds a B.A in English from Loyola University, an M.A. from National Louis University and a J.D. from The John Marshall Law School.
Alina Pajtek, Ph.D.
Professor: English as a Second Language and Linguistics
Dr. Alina Pajtek is a Professor of English as a Second Language (ESL) and Linguistics and currently serves as a Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (JEDI) fellow with the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. As a JEDI fellow, she collaborates with student groups, faculty, and administrators to help complete various DEI projects for the Harper community.
Dr. Pajtek has been teaching ESL and Linguistics for over 25 years in both Romania and the USA. At Harper, she teaches academic ESL courses and linguistics classes as part of the Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) certificate, the ESL endorsement, and several Health Careers programs. Topics covered in Dr. Pajtek’s courses include: language and socio-economic class, “standard” and “non-standard” varieties of English, cross-cultural communication, language and culture loss, political aspects of bilingual education in the USA, multiculturalism, linguistic and cultural barriers, minority health, and structural racism in the healthcare setting. Before coming to Harper, Dr. Pajtek taught at the University of Massachusetts Boston, the University of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania State University, and Michigan State University.
Dr. Pajtek has a Ph.D. in Applied Linguistics from Pennsylvania State University, an M.A. in TESOL from Michigan State University, and a B.A. in English and French Language, Literature, and Pedagogy from West University of Timisoara, Romania.
Markenya L. Williams, Ed.D.
Assistant Professor: Early Childhood and Education Departments
Dr. Markenya L. Williams is an Assistant Professor in the Early Childhood & Education departments at Harper College. Dr. Williams is also one of the inaugural Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (JEDI) Faculty Fellows. As a JEDI Fellow, she leads a range of departmental and institutional diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives. Dr. Williams is a Chicagoan with great Southside pride and has been an educator since 2005. Throughout her career, she has held multiple positions within the K-12 public sector and transitioned to higher education in 2021.
At Harper College, Dr. Williams teaches Introduction to Education and Introduction to Early Childhood Education. Her research interests include: curriculum gaps in teacher education programs, the impact of equity-centered higher education leaders, racialized trauma and healing strategies and transformational diversity, equity and inclusion practices in higher education.
Dr. Williams is a proud Board member and the first Diversity and Equity Chairperson for the Kishwaukee region of the Illinois Principals Association, a Board member and the first Vice-Chairperson for Burst Into Books Inc. and an active member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the National Action Network.
Dr. Williams holds a doctorate in educational leadership from DePaul University, a master's in curriculum and instruction and a bachelor's in board of governors from Chicago State University and an associate's degree in early childhood education from Richard J. Daley College. Additionally, Dr. Williams holds valid Illinois Professional Educator Licenses in Early Childhood Education (Type 04) and General Administration (Type 75).
Click here to read the latest national news article about Harper's JEDI Faculty Fellows program, by Bryan Wawzenek!