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.

Daven Baptiste Daven Baptiste

Director of Creative Content

Contact: dbptiste@memphis.edu

Daven Baptiste is a distinguished Memphis-based filmmaker and accomplished director, specializing in commercials, film, and television.  His impressive portfolio includes over 100 commercials, two independent films, and an array of viral videos. He started his career in Los Angeles as a Vice President, Creative, at the prestigious boutique advertising agency, Relevant Content + Media. There, DBaptiste oversaw campaigns for Nike, Coca Cola and 20th Century Fox, while meticulously cultivating his talents as an eminent photographer and masterful short-form storyteller. Presently, DBaptiste is in pre-production for "Interrupting Love," an inaugural installment of a profound cinematic trilogy meticulously set in the enigmatic landscape of Memphis.


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.

Amy RuggaberAmy King Ruggaber, MPA 

Assistant Director

Contact: amy.ruggaber@memphis.edu

Amy Ruggaber is an expert in public policy within the arts and culture sector and has worked as a performing artist, educator, arts administrator, and advocate for 20+ years.  She has worked with the Benjamin L. Hooks Institute for Social Change in various contractor roles since 2018 and developed and designed two exhibits for the Hooks Institute at the University of Memphis: “Uplift the Vote” and “The Fayette County Civil Rights Movement and the Photos of Art Shay,” which is currently on display at the Memphis International Airport.  Most recently, she served as the Arts and Culture Social Policy Consultant for the "More for Memphis" project, working with cross-sector leaders and community members to analyze inequities in current policy systems and develop recommendations for legislation and interventions that would improve economic mobility for Memphis-based artists and culture-bearers.  Previously, she was the manager of the award-winning Fellows Program for ArtsMemphis and has worked locally with Tennesseans for the Arts, Cazateatro Bilingual Theatre Company, Hattiloo Theatre, and more.  Deeply committed to shining a light on the vital role of the arts in communities, she is an experienced arts advocate and has led advocacy efforts and training across the state of Tennessee and nationwide.  An Arts Integration and Community Engagement Specialist, Amy has written and directed over 60 devised theatre pieces with children and differently-abled individuals. She has a Master of Public Administration degree with a concentration in Public Policy and a Graduate Certificate in Nonprofit Management from the University of Memphis, as well as a Bachelor of Music in Vocal Education from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.

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.

Curtis Chamblee smiles at the viewer.Curtis Chamblee, MA

Graduate Assistant, HAAMI

Contact: c.chamblee@memphis.edu

Curtis Ladrillo Chamblee serves as the Graduate Assistant at the Benjamin L. Hooks Institute for Social Change. Originally from Las Vegas, Nevada, Chamblee completed both his bachelor's and master's degrees in communication studies before pursuing further studies at the University of Memphis in the Department of Communication & Film. His research interests revolve around the intersections of place, race, gender, and health, with a focus on understanding how these factors influence the representation and navigation of Black masculinity.

As a self-identified Blerd (Black nerd), Chamblee's passion for comics, science fiction, fantasy, and comic book movies has fueled his dissertation topic, which examines the impact of place on representations of Black masculinity in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). Through his research, Chamblee aims to shed light on how different spaces shape and constrain the portrayal of Black masculinity within popular culture.

Along with his research in comics, Chamblee also does research in social change. An important and timely area of research. Rhetorical fractals: an Afrocentric analysis of #JusticeForGeorgeFloyd, sounds like a significant contribution to understanding the ongoing cycle of state-sanctioned violence against Black individuals and communities. By applying an Afrocentric lens, Chamblee and his mentor likely provided valuable insights into the systemic and recurring nature of these injustices, shedding light on the need for sustained activism and structural change to break this cycle.

Prior to his role at the Hooks Institute, Chamblee served as a peer mentor for the HBCU Pipeline at the National Communication Association, where he guided undergraduate students from Historically Black Colleges and Universities. In his current position, Chamblee takes on administrative responsibilities, provides advising support, and advocates for students at the Hooks African American Male Institute (HAAMI) and A Seat at the Table (ASATT) programs.