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Former Hooks Institute Staff


Dr. Lawson Bill E. Lawson, Ph.D.
Dec. 2006- Dec. 2007

Acting Director.  Distinguished Professor of Philosophy.  Lawson specializes in African American Philosophy and Social and Political Philosophy. He teaches courses in the areas of African American philosophy and social and political philosophy. 

D'Ann Penner

D’Ann Penner, Ph.D.

Dec. 2004- Oct. 2006

Former Associate Professor, Department of History.  Penner taught Soviet and post-socialist history as well as world, comparative, colonial/neocolonial, and women’s history.  In December 2004, Penner became Director of the Hooks Institute, after having served as Co-Director with Doug Imig for the previous six months. Under Penner’s leadership, the Institute expanded its outreach in the academic and local communities by, among other things, sponsoring symposia on issues related to civil rights, human rights and issues affecting minorities and the disadvantaged. Penner headed the Hooks Institute task force that recorded the victims’ stories and examined the institutional failures that caused Hurricane Katrina to be not only a catastrophic natural disaster, but a man-made one as well.  These interviews, analyses, and commentary will be published in Overcoming Katrina:  African American Voices from the Crescent City and Beyond,edited by D’Ann R. Penner and Keith C. Ferdinand and Prefaced by President Jimmy Carter. (Palgrave MacMillian New York).


Dr. Imig Doug Imig, Ph.D.
2000 - Dec. 2004  

Professor of Political Science.  As Director of the Hooks Institute, Imig worked with Dr. Hooks and University Officials to help secure substantial federal and state funding to endow the Institute. Imig's interests included social movements, social policy, community advocacy, and citizen involvement. His publications include Poverty and Power: The Political Representation of Poor Americans, and Contentious Europeans: Voice and Representation in an Emerging Polity.




 Julie Graves

Julie Graves
Assistant Director, 2010 - 2013

Graves holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Journalism from Lincoln University in Jefferson City, MO, and a Master's Degree in Public Affairs from Park University in Parkville, MO. She has over fifteen years of experience in nonprofit management, fundraising, and partnership development.

Prior to joining the Hooks Institute, Graves served as Community Development Director of a statewide Medicaid division for a managed care organization.


Paul Wright

Paul Wright, Ph.D.
Associate Director for Programming

Dr. Wright also served as an Associate Professor in the Department of Health & Sport Sciences and a Senior Faculty Researcher in the Center for Research in Educational Policy at the University of Memphis.

Wright received his Ph.D. in Education from the University of Illinois at Chicago in 2001. Since then, his teaching, research, and service have been inter-connected and focused on the needs of urban populations, community engagement, and social justice. His primary line of research is positive youth development through physical activity.


Dr. J. Herbert Nelson II
Associate Director

Dr. J. Herbert Nelson II holds a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science/Urban Studies from Johnson C. Smith University and a Master of Divinity degree from Johnson C. Smith Seminary at the Interdenominational Theological Center in Atlanta, Georgia. He received his Doctor of Ministry from Louisville Seminary in 2002 while serving as Pastor of St. James Presbyterian Church.

During Dr. Nelson’s tenure at the Institute, he helped provide staff development training for Teacher Specialists, Curriculum Specialists, and Principal Leaders who provide assistance for low-performing schools. He now serves as the Director of the Presbyterian Church Office of Public Witness in Washington D.C.




 Ardella Jeffries

Ardella Jeffries 
Administrative Associate, 2008 - 2014 

Ardella Jeffries received a Bachelor of Professional Studies Degree with a concentration in Health Services Administration from the University of Memphis in 2007. She also received an Associate of Applied Science Degree from Northwest Mississippi Community College. Ardella was formerly an Administrative Assistant in the College of Arts & Sciences at the University of Memphis in Memphis, TN.



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The Hooks Institute for Social Change | 107 Scates Hall | The University of Memphis | Memphis, TN | 38152-3530 | Phone: 901-678-3974 | Fax: 901-678-0177 | Email: | A-Z Site List
Last Updated: 11/24/14