Executive Team

photo of Adrienne

Dr. Adrienne Dixson is the Executive Director of the ECRI and a professor in the Educational Leadership Studies department. Her research primarily focuses on how race, class, and gender intersect and impact educational equity in urban schooling contexts. She locates her research within two theoretical frameworks: Critical Race Theory (CRT) and Black feminist theories. Dr. Dixson and her colleague, Celia K. Rousseau-Anderson, edited CRT in Education: All God’s Children Got a Song (2006, Routledge), which was one of the first book-length texts on CRT in education. She is also a co-editor with Marvin Lynn, of the Handbook of Critical Race Theory and Education. Most recently, Dr. Dixson has been interested in how educational equity is mediated by school reform policies in the urban south. Specifically, she is interested in school reform in post-Katrina New Orleans, how local actors make sense of and experience those reform policies, and how those policies become, or are “racialized.” Her research has been funded by the Spencer Foundation, the Kellogg Foundation, and the National Science Foundation. Dr. Dixson is the recipient of multiple awards and honors for her research on CRT. In 2021, she was inducted as a Fellow in the American Educational Research Association.


photo of Sarah LaCour

Sarah LaCour, J.D., Ph.D. is the Assistant Director of Education Law & Systems for the ECRI, and an assistant professor in the department of Educational Policy Studies and Evaluation. Her experiences as a former secondary classroom teacher and former litigator inform her scholarship. Sarah’s research is focused on equity, opportunity, and access, primarily in primary and secondary grade levels. Most recently, this has included engaging with schools and districts to perform equity audits and address areas of growth. Her methodological interests also include policy evaluations using both legal and quasi-experimental analyses. Sarah’s work is published in peer-reviewed journals as well as legal handbooks and practitioner periodicals.


Thais Council

Dr. Thais Council is the Assistant Director of Community Engagement for the ECRI. She joined the University of Kentucky as an Assistant Professor of Literacy Education in the College of Education and a Faculty Affiliate of African American and Africana Studies in 2021 after nearly two decades as a reading specialist, literacy advocate, and teacher educator. Her scholarship explores the intersection of urban education reform and gentrification in Black communities. More specifically, Dr. Council examines how profiteers use deficit literacy narratives to advance reform agendas, counter to the critical literacy practices Black community members employ to lay claim to neighborhoods and schools. She employs the Black Intellectual Tradition as a theoretical lens to privilege the lives, expertise, and wisdom of Black people and participatory research methods as a methodological alternative to academic research conducted through a hegemonic gaze.


photo of Mariama Lockington

Mariama Lockington (she/her/hers) is the Chief of Staff for the ECRI. She comes to the University of Kentucky with over thirteen years of youth development, partnerships and programs, and nonprofit leadership experience. In addition to her passion for education, Mariama is the author of critically acclaimed young adult and middle grade novels, For Black Girls Like Me (FSG 2019), In the Key of Us (FSG 2022), and Forever is Now (FSG 2023). Mariama earned her M.Ed. from Lesley University and her MFA in Creative Writing from San Francisco State University. In her free time, she enjoys cooking, boxing, teaching youth writing workshops, and reading all the books.


To contact a member of the Executive Team, please email: CivilRightsInstitute@nulluky.edu.

Graduate Student Team

photo of Onesimo Banda

Onesimo Banda is a graduate assistant working towards his PhD in Educational Policy Studies, Measurement and Evaluation. A teacher almost two decades, Onesimo has built a career working exclusively with At-Risk and Historically Marginalized populations. He was born into a Mexican American sharecropping family outside of Austin, Texas. Being part of the first generation to graduate high school from in family, he is the first of his family to earn a Bachelor’s and Master’s Degree. He is also the first male of the family to not build a career in construction, leaving a career as a welder to finish his dream of becoming a college graduate.

He built a career working at Title I schools and was successful in raising testing scores and passing rates at the schools he worked at, because he was able to communicate and connect with these students, as he experienced many of their stories firsthand.  Learning from his parents through their firsthand experiences in the Civil Rights Movement marching with Cesar Chavez and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Onesimo learned the importance of standing up for the voiceless and against injustice everywhere.


photo of Jessie Hayden

Jessie Hayden is a graduate student in Education Policy and Evaluation. As a native of Mississippi, he earned his bachelor’s degree in Agriculture Economics from Alcorn State University and his master’s degree from Mississippi State University in Agriculture Extension and Education Leadership. He now serves as the research assistant and social media curator for the Education and Civil Rights Initiative (ECRI). Jessie enjoys playing golf, writing poetry, and martial arts.


photo of TeAsia

Te’Asia Martin is a first-generation, third-year doctoral student in the Educational Policy Studies and Evaluation Higher Education program. Originally from Muskegon, Michigan, Te’Asia earned both her bachelor’s degree in Music and master’s degree in College Student Affairs Leadership from Grand Valley State University where she focused her work and research on students of color, first-generation/low-income pathway programming for first year students. In her spare time, you can find Te’Asia volunteering in women’s initiatives, Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Inc., singing at church, or building her financial services businesses and personal brand. She currently serves the ECRI team as a research assistant and is developing her doctoral thesis around undergraduate Black women’s experiences in higher education.