We're proud to introduce the brilliant minds behind our organization - The Roots Initiative's dedicated board members. They play a pivotal role in cultivating and activating enterprising Black youth leaders from historically marginalized communities, instilling in them a passion for social justice, and guiding them to be the architects and agents of transformation.
Meet Our Board Members
Joseph Butler holds a Bachelor’s degree in English, Communication, and Black Studies from Denison University, a Master’s in Sociology from Roosevelt University, and A.B.D. in a Ph.D. program at Loyola University.
He has extensive knowledge of diverse communities and a long-standing commitment to strengthening urban community life. He is committed to moving people from passive engagement to active advocacy for a litany of causes. His advocacy work fosters their creativity, leadership, interpersonal skills, and communicative abilities to influence positive outcomes for communities frequently excluded from decision-making.
Wearing numerous hats - from the Director of Development & Diversity at the University of Chicago (UChicagoGRAD) to the Director of Student Success at North Park University - Joseph didn’t merely navigate roles but sailed through them with unwavering commitment and a warm smile, consistently placing students and community at the forefront. His journey in DEI advocacy hasn’t just been about numbers and strategies but a genuine endeavor to thread the rich tapestry of diversity into the academic and social realms.
Joseph has found his calling to bring together his desire for liberation and intellectual pursuits of student engagement in his work with students. As a student and a teacher, he seeks to bridge the gap between students’ passions and professional dreams. Actualizing this reality for as many students as possible has become his life’s pursuit.
Brittany Hogan was born and raised in Chicago, she received a Bachelor of Arts in psychology from Hampton University and a Master of Social Work from Washington University in St. Louis.
Beginning her career, Brittany spent time working in the nonprofit sector in St. Louis before transitioning to education, which eventually led her to become the first Director of Educational Equity & Diversity for Rockwood School District in St. Louis County, one of the largest and highest performing districts in the state. In this role, Brittany created the district-wide equity plan, led the racial desegregation program, Voluntary Interdistrict Choice Corporation program (VICC) and supervised the district social workers.
While at Rockwood, Brittany found herself at the cusp of the highly controversial topic of critical race theory, which resulted in local and national media coverage. Drawing from her personal experience, Brittany and Nic Stone, a New York Times bestselling author, launched Empathy in Equity, speaking nationally on the importance of using empathy in literature to support equity in education.
Brittany continued to advocate for educational equity in public school districts and in 2022, was appointed by St. Louis Mayor Tishaura Jones to serve as a member of the St. Louis Public Schools Board of Education. She also served as an inaugural Manager for the Center of Human Service Leadership at the Delmar Divine in St. Louis to support programs and institutions that are devoted to social change while replacing decades of neglect with innovation, development, and sustainability.
Shining a light on the harsh realities of parent and public concern regarding race, diversity and inclusion in education and literature, led Brittany to launch her own consulting business, BTheGrowth, where she works with schools and organizations to improve systems that create equitable educational practices through the development of equity plans, improves curriculums, and supports educators with their professional equity goals.
Nikki Williams Rucker
Nikki Williams Rucker is a 17-year teaching veteran with a dual Master's degree in Curriculum and Instruction and Secondary Education. She has spoken at conferences all over the U.S. on culturally responsive pedagogy, classroom management, program development, and engaging classroom practices that increase academic achievement. She is also a wife and mom to two amazing kids.
While the majority of her time has been spent in the classroom, she also founded a nonprofit organization focusing on the social-emotional wellbeing of girls in underserved areas. Her teaching experiences span across every school setting and demographic; from private school to urban school districts. Her expertise aligns with inquiry-based learning and culturally responsive pedagogy that reflects academic achievement, community building, and real-world learning.