The latino policy institute
Latino Policy Institute
The Latino Policy Institute at Roger Williams works to stimulate public policy discourse by examining and communicating the evolving experiences of the Latino community in Rhode Island. LPI is committed to educating, activating, and motivating community members and stakeholders to ignite positive change in the lives of all Latinos.
LPI is made up of professionals representing a diverse range of sectors and disciplines. We are anchored at Roger Williams University and are located on the Providence UC Campus.
Marcela Betancur, Executive Director
Marcela Betancur, Latino Policy Institute’s executive director, brings to the position a wide range of experience in key areas of LPI research and advocacy – including housing, education, civil liberties and workforce development.
Marcela’s early professional career began at the Providence Housing Authority where she helped lead and coordinate special programs and policies for its residents. Later, she went on to serve as the director of homeownership for NeighborWorks Blackstone River Valley, where she focused on serving first time homebuyers — specifically Latinos, immigrants, and millennials. Marcela worked as a policy associate for the American Civil Liberties Union of Rhode Island where she worked with local and statewide organizations to ensure that policies, laws, and regulations proposed or enacted protected civil and human rights for all Rhode Islanders.
Marcela serves on the board of several organizations such as New Urban Arts, Generation Citizen, RI Latino Political Action Committee & Civic Fund, United Way of Rhode Island, and New Leaders Council.
Natalie Almeida, Comms & Program Coord.
Natalie Almeida grew up in East Providence, Rhode Island. As a life-long Rhode Islander, she continued her studies at Roger Williams University where she concentrated in Journalism and minored in Spanish. Throughout her studies in broadcast journalism, she gained experience in TV and radio. She was an on-air intern with the Cumulus media radio station, Hot 106 and served as an on-air mediator of Roger Williams University 2018 Election night coverage.
With her degree in Journalism, she found her love in exploring stories in both national and state level politics as they a key role in the world in which we live in. As a granddaughter and daughter of immigrants from the Cape Verdean Islands, her passion lives within exploring the struggles of social justice as well as telling the story of those immigrating to this country. As Natalie gains experience she aims be a voice, advocate and defender for those in her community. Natalie has a passion in reporting, research and mass communication.
Diony Garcia currently works at the Law Offices of William J. Conley, Jr., handling various civil matters and criminal defense. He began his legal career working as an Assistant City Solicitor for the City of Providence before moving on as a Special Assistant Attorney General for the Rhode Island Department of Attorney General. Diony co-founded the Rhode Island Hispanic Bar Association, in which he currently serves as Interim-President, co-founded Millennial Rhode Island, a young professional group, and is the Chair of the Rhode Island Latino Policy Institutes’ Advisory Board. He graduated from University of Rhode Island and Roger Williams University School of Law.
Andrew Bramson is the President and CEO of the College Crusade of Rhode Island, a nonprofit that helps young people become the first in the their families to attend and complete college. He joined the organization in 2016. Prior to joining the College Crusade, Andrew held senior leadership positions at The Providence Plan over a 15-year span, serving as Development Director, Deputy Director, and Director of DataSpark. Since 2017, Andrew has also served as a member of the Central Falls School District Board of Trustees. Early in his career, Andrew served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Hungary, where he taught environmental education and advised nonprofit organizations. A graduate of Leadership Rhode Island’s Class of 2015, he holds a Bachelor’s of Natural Resource Ecology from the University of Michigan, and a Master’s of Organizational Management from the College of St. Scholastica in Duluth, Minnesota.
Christopher J. (CJ) Ryan, Jr. is an Associate Professor of Law at Roger Williams University School of Law and an Affiliated Scholar at the American Bar Foundation.
His research uses econometric methods to examine how organizations make decisions about their fiscal, real, and intellectual property assets, especially in response to legal and economic market forces. In addition to his scholarship in the areas of intellectual property and business law, he studies the legal profession and the economics of legal education, as well as risk tolerance of and labor market, returns to law school graduates. His articles have appeared in law reviews, such as the Alabama Law Review and the NYU Journal of Intellectual Property and Entertainment Law, as well as peer-reviewed journals, including Research in Higher Education and the Journal of College & University Law. His scholarship, including an article about labor market returns to graduates of Hispanic Serving Institutions, has been cited in the Washington Post, Politico, Above the Law, and Inside Higher Ed. He teaches Wills & Trusts, Property, and Statistics for Lawyers, and he has also taught master’s level courses on organizations and administration.
He holds a Ph.D. from Vanderbilt University, a J.D. from the University of Kentucky, a M.Ed. from the University of Notre Dame, and an A.B. from Dartmouth College.
As a Mexican-American, he is interested in the nexus between research and policy impacting the Latino community.
Angela Bannerman Ankoma is the Executive Vice President, Director of Community Investment at United Way of Rhode Island (UWRI). Angela oversees UWRI’s grant-making, public policy, government relations, research and evaluation and 2-1-1/The Point. Angela has Masters Degrees in both Public Health and Social Work from Columbia University and has varied experience in program design, implementation and research. Angela is actively engaged in local community investment efforts. Angela serves on the board of West Elmwood Housing Development Corporation (WEHDC) in Providence’s West End neighborhood; a community she has lived in for nearly 40 years. Angela is one of the founding members of WEHDC’s nationally recognized Sankofa Initiative. The Sankofa Initiative is a multimillion dollar project that combines housing, a world market and farm to improve health outcomes among Providences’ growing immigrant community. Angela serves on the Board of Governors of Leadership Rhode Island and the Latino Policy Institute.
Angela’s service to the community has garnered both local and national recognition. Awards of note include: National Civic League Award for Health Equity (2018), Robert Wood Johnson Foundation: Health Equity Award (2018), Providence Business News “40 under Forty” award for young leaders in Rhode Island (2013); NeighborWorks America, Dorothy Richardson Award for Outstanding Resident Leadership (2015); NAACP Providence Branch awarded Angela the Rosa Parks award (2016).
Angela, along with her husband, Frank are the owners of two small businesses located in Providence called Copa Menswear and Copa Xclusive Cuts.
Gonzalo Cuervo is Chief of Staff and Deputy Secretary of State to RI Secretary of State Nellie M. Gorbea. He previously served as Communications Director, Deputy Chief of Staff and Chief of Staff to two past Providence Mayors. In addition to LPI, Cuervo serves on the boards of Crossroads RI, the Roger Williams Park Conservancy, Teatro ECAS and the ALS Association RI Chapter. He is a past board chair of Progreso Latino and the RI Latino Civic Fund and PAC. Cuervo is a graduate of Springfield College and has two children, Daniel and Stephanie, with his wife, Francis Parra.
Antonieta Falconi is the Chief Financial Officer at Social Enterprise Greenhouse. She is an experienced business professional committed to supporting businesses with a deliberate social and/or environmental mission. Antonieta’s work experience has spanned a variety of industries in both the for-profit and non-profit sectors, including a position as Small Business Coach at the Latino Economic Development Center in Washington DC. Her nonprofit work followed her initial career in management consulting with Accenture in Boston and five years as General Manager of Ocean Rodeo, a Canadian company that designs and distributes kiteboarding equipment. Antonieta’s education includes a BS in Electrical Engineering and an MBA with specialization in Entrepreneurship.
Antonieta grew up in Quito, Ecuador and is very involved in her Providence community. She is a member of the Advisory Board of the Latino Policy Institute, the Council of Urban Greens Coop Market, the Board of the Providence Revolving Fund, and the Community Advisory Board of The Public’s Radio and has an appointment to the Board of the Small Business Loan Fund Corp. of Commerce RI.
Julie Nora, has been Director of the International Charter School in Pawtucket Rhode Island since 2003. Prior to her appointment to that position, she worked for over 10 years as a teacher of ESOL (English to Speakers of Other Languages) in several K-16 educational settings.
She received her B.A. in U.S. Intellectual History from U.C. Berkeley, her Masters in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) from San Francisco State University, and her Ph.D. in Education from the University of Rhode Island/Rhode Island College in 2007 with a Specialization in Language, Literacy, and Culture. Dr. Nora’s dissertation research was published in One Classroom, Many Learners: Best Practices for Today’s Multilingual Learners, an International Reading Association (IRA) edited volume and she recently co-authored No More Low Expectations for English Learners (Heinemann) with Jana Echevarria. She is the co-author of “Seen from Within” with photographer Mary Beth Meehan in the edited volume Art as a Way of Talking (Routledge, 2018).
Under her leadership, the International Charter School has been recognized by the Center for American Progress and the National Council of La Raza and by the State of Rhode Island for its work of significantly closing the achievement gap between English Language Learners and their English-speaking peers.
Dr. Nora is bilingual in English/Spanish and has familiarity with French and Portuguese. Julie serves on several state education groups and committees, including as the President of the Rhode Island League of Charter Schools. She is also Vice President of the Board of the Rhode Island State Council for the Humanities and Secretary of the Latino Policy Institute Board.
Joseph Molina Flynn is a native of Medellin, Colombia and a native Spanish speaker. He is an attorney and handles family, immigration, and criminal cases, and has offices conveniently located in Boston and Providence. He obtained his Juris Doctor from the University of Michigan Law School in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Prior to attending the University of Michigan, he earned his Associate of Science degree in Business Administration and his Bachelor of Science degree in Accounting from Johnson and Wales University.
Currently, Joseph serves as the President of the Rhode Island Latino Political Action Committee as well as the Civic Fund, is on the board of Rhode Island Latino Arts and the Rhode Island Public Health Institute, and he was recently appointed to the Governor’s Complete Count Committee.
Katiuska Perez is Principal Policy Analyst for the Rhode Island Senate Policy Office where she focuses on economic and workforce development. Previously, she was Director of Community Relations for the City of Providence where she served in a number of roles related to urban development and community empowerment. While completing her graduate degree, she administered the University of Rhode Island’s study abroad program in Salamanca, Spain. Katiuska attended Providence Public Schools and holds a BA in Political Science and Economics as well as a Master’s Degree in Political Science from the University of Rhode Island. She is a 2013 graduate of the Rhode Island Latina Leadership Institute and a former board member of the Providence Human Relations Commission as well as a 2015 New Leaders Council Fellow.