Hooks Institute Leadership Team

Daphene R. McFerrenDaphene R. McFerren, JD

Executive Director

Contact: drmcfrrn@memphis.edu

As executive director of the Benjamin L. Hooks Institute for Social Change at the University of Memphis, Daphene R, McFerren is responsible for strategic initiatives, program development and implementation, staff management and financial oversight of Hooks Institute operations. Before joining the Hooks Institute, McFerren was in private practice in Washington, DC; was senior counsel in the Office of General Counsel at the United States Securities and Exchange Commission; was counsel to the late Attorney General Janet Reno; and was later Assistant United States Attorney for the District of Maryland prosecuting, among other cases, forced labor and involuntary servitude cases involving foreign victims.

Read McFerren's Full Bio >

Rorie TrammelRorie Trammel, MS

Associate Director | HAAMI Director

Contact: rtrammel@memphis.edu

Rorie Trammel is the associate director of the Benjamin L. Hooks Institute for Social Change. Trammel plays an integral role in the activities of the Hooks Institute, including administrative and operations duties, fundraising and donor relations, and coordination of the Institute's National Book Award. Trammel also oversees strategic planning and implementation of the Hooks African American Male Initiative (HAAMI). Trammel is a native of Rochester, NY, and earned a Bachelor of Business Administration and Master of Science, in Education, from the University of Memphis. She is also a former UofM employee, having worked in the Office of Development for fourteen years. Rorie worked for the YMCA of Memphis & the Mid-South for fourteen and a half years, first as executive director of urban programming and later as vice president for advancement. Rorie was a volunteer radio reader for WYPL, the radio station at the Benjamin L. Hooks Central Library, for many years. She is a member of the New Memphis Institute. Previously, she served on the boards of directors for Partners in Public Education (PIPE), the Association of Fundraising Professionals, Le Bonheur Center for Children and Parents, and the Shelby Farms Park Conservancy.

Daniel Kiel, JDDaniel Kiel, JD

Associate Director

Contact: dkiel@memphis.edu

Daniel Kiel is the Fed Ex professor of law at the Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law, where he joined the faculty in 2008. Kiel teaches constitutional law, education & civil rights, and property law. In addition to his record of publications focusing on disparities in education, Professor Kiel is the director of The Memphis 13 (2011), a documentary sharing the stories of the first graders who desegregated Memphis City Schools in 1961. The film has been screened at universities, film festivals, museums, and schools across the country and was made possible in part by a research grant from the Hooks Institute in 2010.

The university recognized Professor Kiel on campus with the Martin Luther King, Jr. Human Rights Award (2013), the Alumni Association's Distinguished Teaching Award (2017), and various honors within the law school. He has served on the Hooks Institute's National Book Award committee since 2012 and contributed a paper to the Institute's 2018 Policy Papers series. Professor Kiel is a native Memphian and a graduate of The University of Texas at Austin and Harvard Law School.

Nathaniel C. BallNathaniel C. Ball, MA

Assistant Director, Media Initiatives and Programs Support

Contact: ncball@memphis.edu

Nathaniel C. Ball, MA, started as a graduate assistant at the Hooks Institute in 2013 and was later given the role of media and programs coordinator at the Hooks Institute in June 2015. In April 2021, Ball was named Assistant Director of Media Initiatives and Program Support, where he works to grow the Hooks Institute initiatives with a particular focus on media programs. Ball assists the Hooks Institute executive director and staff in creating, planning, and implementing Hooks Institute programs. Ball oversees the planning, writing, design, and implementation of Hooks Institute's social media accounts, websites, newsletters, press releases, and other materials. He is heavily involved in Hooks Institute films, where he has produced, written, and edited several documentaries and short films. Ball coordinates the Hooks Institute grant priorities and assists or authors Hooks Institute grants. Ball earned a BA in Communications focusing on Film and Video Production (2011) and an MA in History (2015) from the University of Memphis.

Ball is an executive producer, writer, co-director and producer of a documentary on Ida B. Wells, "Facing Down Storms: Memphis and the Making of Ida B. Wells," which premiered in Memphis, TN, on April 19, 2022. He is also a producer on an upcoming short film on the Fayette County civil rights movement titled "Freedom's Village," set to begin production in Summer 2023.

Jessyka AllynJessyka Allen

Administrative Coordinator

Contact: jallyn@memphis.edu

Jessyka transitioned her career to the University of Memphis from the private sector in 2002, when she assumed the role of Administrative Secretary in the Department of Finance, Insurance and Real Estate in the Fogelman College of Business and Economics.  In 2008, she received her Certified Professional Secretary (CPS) rating from the International Association of Administrative Professionals (IAAP).  She became the Administrative Associate for both the Department of Finance, Insurance and Real Estate and the Department of Economics in the fall of 2020, before proudly joining the Staff of the Benjamin L. Hooks Institute for Social Change as Administrative Coordinator in the spring of 2022.  Away from the University, Jessyka is also a writer with a creative bent toward music, art, and varied other ventures. 

James Beasley HeadshotJames Beasley, MS

HAAMI Project Coordinator

Contact: jkbasley@memphis.edu

James Beasley is the Project Coordinator for the Hooks African American Male Initiative (HAAMI), a student success program of the Hooks Institute for Social Change. James is a native of Willisville, Arkansas and takes pride in his humble beginnings. As a military veteran of the United States Army, Beasley understands the importance of sacrifice and service to the community. Beasley received a Bachelor of Business Administration from the University of Management and Technology in Arlington, Virginia, a Bachelor’s of Professional Studies with a concentration in Social Work and African American Studies from the University of Memphis (both with honors, Magna Cum Lauda). James was an active member of HAAMI while an undergraduate student at the UofM. He was inducted into the Carson’s Circle, the highest award given to a University of Memphis senior. Beasley is committed to lifelong learning, and earned a Master of Science in Leadership and Policy Studies in May 2022.

Elena Delavega, PhDM. Elena Delavega, PhD

Programs Research Advisor

Contact: mdlavega@memphis.edu

Elena Delavega, Ph.D., MSW, is an associate professor at the Department of Social Work at the University of Memphis (UofM), where she teaches social welfare policy, advanced community practice, and poverty. Her research is complex and multifaceted and consists of three broad areas: understanding poverty, social and economic exclusion, and promoting social and economic development. Delavega evaluates the research component of the Hooks African American Male Initiative and plays an integral role in the writing and publication of the Hooks Institute's Policy Papers.

Marty LangMarty Lang

Filmmaker in Residence

Marty Lang is an assistant professor of film at the University of Memphis. He holds two Master of Fine Arts degrees: one in film production from Florida State University and one in screenwriting from California State University, Northridge. He has written and directed two feature films, Stay with Me, the opening night film of the 2022 Southeastern New England Film Festival, and Rising Star, released worldwide by Content Film in 2013. 

Lang is a prolific independent film producer. His credits include the web series The Ride, featured at the 2020 Sundance festival as a world premiere; Out of My Hand, a 2016 Indie Spirit Award nominee; and Chompy & The Girls, featuring Udo Kier, released in 2021 by Freestyle Digital Media. Lang is also writing The Self-Sustaining Filmmaker, a book about obtaining crowdsourcing, crowdfunding and community-support for independent films (Focal Press, 2023).

As Filmaker in Residence, Lang and the Hooks Institute will collaborate on current and future Hooks Institute media projects. Additionally, Lang and the Hooks Institute will strategically create opportunities to showcase Hooks Institute and independent filmmakers’ projects.

Kat Robinson HeadshotKat Robinson

Graduate Research Assistant

contact: knrbnsn3@memphis.edu

Kat Robinson is the graduate research assistant for the Hooks Institute. Robinson is currently enrolled as a dual-degree Master's candidate for Anthropology and Public Health. As a graduate student, she has held fellowship positions at the Memphis Tilth, as well as conducting a practicum in support by Friends for Life. Robinson co-authored a forthcoming publication in Human Organization as a graduate assistant; she was also the lead author for a poster presentation at the annual meeting for the Society for Applied Anthropology in 2022. As an undergraduate, Robinson earned a Bachelor of Arts for Anthropology and Geoarcheaology at the U of M, graduating Magna Cum Laude. Additionally, she served as Outreach Coordinator for the Student Leadership Organization Safety-Net, which partnered with UM's Women History Month committee to bring Tarana Burke to the U of M in 2019. Robinson is a member of the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society, a competitive academic honor society.