Institute of Urban Policy
Institute of Urban Policy

Staff Bios

Kevin Cokley, PhD  |  Director
Dr. Cokley is a counseling psychologist and editor-in-chief of the Journal of Black Psychology. His research and teaching can be broadly categorized in the area of African American psychology. His research foci have included examining (1) the psychological and environmental factors that impact African American student achievement, (2) the influence of racial and ethnic identity, and (3) correlations of mental health including perceived discrimination, religiosity, and spirituality, and most recently the impostor phenomenon. Using social science research, personal anecdotes, and references to popular culture, his current book project debunks the myth of Black anti-intellectualism.

Richa Gupta, MPH | Research Associate
Gupta is an epidemiologist with research interests in health disparities, specifically how health outcomes and access to health care are impacted by gender, race, and ethnicity. She's passionate about data and enjoys translating complex data into evidence that can support policy and program development. She previously conducted policy analysis on the Texas Medicaid program as a data analyst at the Legislative Budget Board. Gupta received her MPH in epidemiology with a specialization in biostatistics from Columbia University.

Shavonne Henderson, JD | Assistant Director of Policy Research
Henderson provides legal perspective and analysis on IUPRA's policy reports and briefs. She also serves to connect IUPRA with community members and policymakers. She conducts research, speaks, and lectures about race and the law and their intersection with policy. Her interests include the application of critical race theory to the law, reproductive justice, and health outcomes for Black women. Henderson has varied legal experience that includes private practice for national law firms and higher education. Licensed in Texas, Henderson holds her Juris Doctor from The University of Texas School of Law. She received a Bachelor of Arts in the Plan II Honors Program and a Bachelors of Arts in Government from The University of Texas at Austin.

Desireé M. Ledet, MA | Grants and Contracts Specialist
Ledet assists IUPRA staff and Black Studies affiliates in identifying and applying for funding opportunities to finance research and educational activities in alignment with the program’s mission. Upon award, she provides advanced contract management support to recipients and ensures compliance with the sponsoring agency’s general terms and conditions. Ledet received her Master’s degree in Public Affairs from the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin and a dual Bachelor of Arts in International Studies and Spanish at Texas A&M University. She is also a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer, serving in northern Peru from 2005-2008.

Lauren Lluveras, JD | Postdoctoral Fellow
Lluveras previously was an equity and inclusion specialist at the Office for Minority Health Engagement and Statistics, and clerked for Texas Advocacy Project, Texas Rio Grande Legal Aid, and the Center for Legal and Social Justice at St. Mary's University, School of Law. Lluveras holds a Juris Doctor from St. Mary's University and a Bachelor of Arts from Texas A&M University.

Naomi Reed, PhD  |  Postdoctoral Fellow
Dr. Reed’s research explores the relationship between White racial epistemologies, the curricular representations of Blackness and Whiteness in Texas education, and the political behaviors of upper-class White suburban residents. Her current projects cover education policy and critical race theory as she aims to impact textbook reform and the racial regulations shaping admissibility in policy writing more broadly. She previously served as a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of African American Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles. Reed received her PhD in Social Anthropology and African Diaspora Studies at The University of Texas at Austin in 2013.

kihana ross, PhD  |  Postdoctoral Fellow
Dr. ross's program of research draws on critical ethnographic and participatory design methodologies to examine how Black educators and students collectively imagine and resist antiblacknes, and racialization processes more generally, through Black educational sovereign spaces. She is currently leading two projects. In the first, she is working on a book manuscript that utilizes Black feminist thought to examine how Black adolescent girls are uniquely experiencing and resisting antiblackness in racially heterogeneous urban schools. In a related project, she is collaborating with colleagues across multiple institutions of higher education to explore the current wave of Black undergraduate activism across the country, and the ways the complex interplay between the surge of Black student opposition and the ascendancy of a white nationalist (and anti-Black) movement, is shaping and is shaped by Black student identities.

Kae'lyn Thompson | Administrative Assistant
Thompson provides research and day-to-day assistance to the department as a whole. She brings her experience from a local startup where she helped build the company from the ground up, writing and helping establish policies and procedure in a new branch of the tech industry.

Shetal Vohra-Gupta, PhD  |  Associate Director
Dr. Vohra-Gupta conducts research in the intersection of race, gender, policy, and the social and cultural determinants of health. She has written op-eds featured in many Texas news outlets on the topics of pay equity and minimum wage. Vohra-Gupta, as PI on a foundation grant, just completed a needs assessment of low income communities of color to assess health disparities in Williamson County. She has designed and taught a graduate course titled Introduction to Race, Ethnicity, and Gender in Public Policy. Vohra-Gupta has published research articles in the areas of health policy, educational attainment, and impact of policy on gender and race. She has also worked at the United Nations in New York City.

Samantha White-Wilson, BJ  |  Communications & Events Manager
White-Wilson oversees the Institute's web presence by maintaining the website, social media accounts, and blog; managing media and press requests; editing and designing processes for all IUPRA projects including briefs and reports; and is responsible for all IUPRA communication efforts. She also plans and manages all events put on by the Institute. White-Wilson previously handled communications for the Texas Academy of Family Physicians and received her Bachelor of Journalism in Photojournalism at the University of Texas at Austin.