Harper College


Tamara A. Johnson, PhD headshotTamara A. Johnson, Ph.D. (She/Her/Hers)
Vice President of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

Dr. Tamara A. Johnson is the inaugural Vice President for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at Harper College. In this role, she provides 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 includes teaching at Argosy University, the Chicago School of Professional Psychology and Northwestern University. She also served as an organizational development consultant with the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Dr. Johnson is a 2023-2024 Aspen Institute Rising Presidential Fellow, recipient of the 2024 Baldrige Foundation Award for Leadership Excellence in the Education Sector and recipient of the 2023 Community College Professional of the Year award from the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators (NASPA) Region IV-E. She also serves on the NASPA Region IV-E Board as Senior-Level Professionals Liaison, the National Advisory Council for Executive Diversity Officers & Executive Leadership for the National Conference on Race and Ethnicity in Higher Education (NCORE) and member of the American Association of Community Colleges Commission on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.

Dr. Johnson has a doctorate in counseling psychology, a master's in human resources and a bachelor's in psychology.

Brittany Barber, MNMLBrittany Barber, Ph.D. (She/Her/Hers)
Cultural Center Manager

Dr. Brittany Barber serves as the Manager of the Cultural Center. In this role, Dr. Barber 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. She is a higher education professional with over 10 years of experience, including various roles at Elgin Community College. Dr. Barber has a bachelor's in Communication and Theatre Arts from the University of Pittsburgh, a master’s in Nonprofit Management and Leadership from Capella University and a doctorate in Higher Education Administration and Foundations from Illinois State University.

Mary Budyak headshotMary Budyak, A.S. (She/Her/Hers)
Operations Coordinator to the Vice President of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

Mary Budyak is the Operations Coordinator 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 ten 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.

Dr. SonnetSonnet Gabbard, Ph.D. (She/Her/Hers)
Coordinator for Student Diversity Initiatives, LGBTQ+

Dr. Sonnet Gabbard is the Coordinator for LGBTQ+ Student Initiatives. In this role, she works closely with students, staff, faculty, alumni and community partners to serve Harper’s LGBTQ+ community. Through designing quality programming, reviewing/developing policies, creating resources and coordinating support strategies for students, she assists in the implementation of the overall mission of the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion to foster a sense of community, belonging, and success for LGBTQ+ students and students from minoritized backgrounds.

Dr. Gabbard has taught for 12+ years at several Midwestern universities, including: DePaul University, Roosevelt University, Butler University, and Ohio State University. Prior to her time in higher education, she worked in the nonprofit sector advocating for LGBTQ+ and women’s rights and health care. She has B.A. in Political Science from Butler University, an M.A. in Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies (WGSS) from the University of Cincinnati and a Ph.D. in WGSS from THE Ohio State University.

Esmeralda Guerrero Lopez, MA headshotEsmeralda Guerrero Lopez, M.A. (She/Her/Hers)
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 15 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's in Educational Leadership in Higher Education, a bachelor’s in Psychology and she completed her associate degree at Harper College. She is also a member of the Illinois Latino Council on Higher Education professional group.

Monica Shirley, JD headshotMonica R. Shirley, J.D. (She/Her/Hers)
Coordinator for Student Diversity Initiatives

Monica R. 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 has 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.

Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (JEDI) Faculty Fellows

Dr. Josh headshotJoshua P. Sunderbruch, Ph.D. (He/Him/His)
Professor: English Department

Dr. Joshua P. Sunderbruch is a Professor of English and currently serves as a Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (JEDI) Faculty Fellow in the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. As a JEDI Fellow, he collaborates with student groups, faculty and administrators to help complete various DEI projects for the Harper community.

Dr. Sunderbruch has been teaching composition for 25 years and has taught in three departments at Harper (English, Humanities, and Speech) while also engaging in campus initiatives as part of the Achieving the Dream program, including serving as the faculty leader on efforts to decrease student achievement gaps in at-risk populations. During his career, he has been heavily involved with new teacher training and with efforts to help college campuses address taboo subjects, navigate conflicts, and create more equitable processes.

Dr. Sunderbruch has a Ph.D. in Rhetoric and Composition from Southern Illinois University Carbondale and a B.A. in English from Bradley University.

Dr. Williams headshot-new-8-2023Markenya L. Williams, Ed.D. (She/Her/Hers)
Assistant Professor: Early Childhood and Education Departments

Dr. Markenya L. Williams is an Assistant Professor in the Early Childhood & Education departments at Harper College, and she teaches Introduction to Education and Introduction to Early Childhood Education. Dr. Williams is a returning Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (JEDI) Faculty Fellow for the 2023 - 2024 academic year and she is also one of the inaugural JEDI Faculty Fellows in the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. As a JEDI Fellow, she leads and supports a range of departmental and institutional DEI initiatives. Dr. Williams also serves as the Chair of the DEI Shared Governance Committee, a member of the Shared Governance Finance Committee and a member of the Teaching & Learning Strategic Goal Team.

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. 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 DEI 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 has 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 degree in Early Childhood Education from Richard J. Daley College. Additionally, Dr. Williams earned two valid Illinois Professional Educator Licenses in Early Childhood Education (Type 04) and General Administration (Type 75).

"Harper’s JEDI Faculty Fellows are a Force for Change!"

Click here to read the national news article about Harper's JEDI Faculty Fellows program, by Bryan Wawzenek!

Last Updated: 5/20/24