Hooks Institute Leadership Team
Daphene R. McFerren, JD
Daphene R. McFerren is the executive director of the Benjamin L. Hooks Institute for Social Change at the University of Memphis. Ms. McFerren grew up in Fayette County, TN where she completed public high school. She attended Yale College and Harvard Law School.
Prior to 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.
Ms. McFerren is also an award winning documentary filmmaker and has produced films that include a documentary on the life of civil rights activist Benjamin L. Hooks. She is currently in production on a film on civil and women rights activist Ida B. Wells whose experiences in Memphis in the late 1800s led her to lead an international anti-lynching crusade to protect the lives of African Americans.
In Dec. 2016, Daphene was named as one of the "100 Women to Watch in the United States" by BizWomen's (a publication of the Business Journals). In Sept. 2016, she was selected as 1 of the 25 “Area Leaders in Business, Nonprofit and Education in Memphis” by the Memphis Business Journal.
Rorie Trammel, MS
Associate Director | HAAMI Director
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 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. For many years, Rorie could be heard as a volunteer radio reader for WYPL, the radio station at the Benjamin L. Hooks Central Library. She is a member of the New Memphis Institute and, previously, 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, JD
Daniel Kiel is a professor of law at the Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law, where he joined the faculty in 2008 and 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.
Professor Kiel has been recognized on campus with the university's Martin Luther King, Jr., Human Rights Award (2013) and the Alumni Association's Distinguished Teaching Award (2017) as well as various honors within the law school. He has served on the Hooks Institute's National Book Award committee since 2012 and also 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.
Andre E. Johnson
Scholar in Residence
Andre E. Johnson, PhD, is an Associate Professor of Rhetoric and Media Studies in the Department of Communication and Film at the University of Memphis. He teaches classes in African American Public Address, Rhetoric, Race, Religion, and Interracial Communication. Dr. Johnson is the author of “The Forgotten Prophet: Bishop Henry McNeal Turner and the African American Prophetic Tradition (Lexington Books, 2012) the co-author (with Amanda Nell Edgar, Ph.D.) of “The Struggle Over Black Lives Matter and All Lives Matter” (Lexington Books, 2018), and the author of “No Future in this Country: The Prophetic Pessimism of Bishop Henry McNeal Turner (University Press of Mississippi, 2020).
Meghan began her career at the University of Memphis in 2015 as a library assistant at the Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law. She has served as a senator for the Staff Senate for two consecutive terms and has had the privilege of being elected president of the Staff Senate during the 2018-2019 and 2019-2020 academic years. Meghan earned a BA in History from Rhodes College (2010) and focused her studies on contemporary American history. Meghan has a very strong background in community activism both on and off campus.
Nathaniel C. Ball, MA
Media and Programs Coordinator
Nathaniel C. Ball, MA started as the media and programs coordinator at the Hooks Institute in June 2015. Ball assists the Hooks Institute executive director and staff in the creation, planning, and implementation of Hooks Institute programs. Ball plays a major role in the planning, writing, design, and implementation of Hooks Institute social media accounts, websites, newsletters, press releases, and other materials. He is heavily involved in the production of the Hooks Institute films, where he has produced, written, and/or edited several documentaries and short films. Currently, Ball is producing, researching, and writing the Hooks Institute's upcoming documentary film on civil and women's rights activist Ida B. Wells. Ball coordinates the Hooks Institute grant priorities, and assists or authors Hooks Institute grants. Ball earned a BA in Communications with a focus on Film and Video Production (2011) and an MA in History (2015) from the University of Memphis.
Rodques Jones. MSW
HAAMI Project Coordinator
Rodques Jones is the HAAMI Project Coordinator for the Benjamin L. Hooks Institute for Social Change. He grew up in the rural area of Bolivar, Tennessee and migrated to Memphis, Tennessee to further his education. Rodques received his BA Social Work in 2014, and Master of Social Work in 2018 from The University of Memphis. He was named 2018 MSW Student of the Year by the Tennessee chapter of the National Association of Social Workers. Since 2019, he has been chair of the West Tennessee branch of the NASW. His experience in social work includes intensive case management, mental health, mentoring, and community impact. Rodques has great passion of enhancing the well-being of others.
M. Elena Delavega, PhD
Programs Research Advisor
Elena Delavega, PhD, 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 including 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.
Gregory Washington, PhD, LCSW
Gregory Washington, PhD, LCSW, is a professor in the Department of Social Work at the University of Memphis and director of the Center for the Advancement and Youth Development (CAYD). He is also a licensed clinical social worker (LCSW) that works as a clinical consultant. He has practiced as an individual, family, and group therapist in Illinois, Georgia, Arkansas, and Tennessee. His research interests include culturally centered empowerment methods, and the risk and protective factors associated with youth development. A major goal of Washington's work is to identify and promote the use of innovative culturally centered group interventions that reduce the risk for disparities in behavioral health and incarceration outcomes among young people of color.
Kirstin Cheers is a graduate student at the University of Memphis, earning an MA in Communications with an emphasis in media rhetoric. She has a BA in journalism with a minor in political science from the University of Memphis. Cheers is also a writer who has been featured in The Huffington Post, The Root, MLK50, We Are Memphis and High Ground News. Cheers ran for Memphis City Council-District 4 in 2015 and continues to remain involved in local and electoral politics through digital media management and content curation.
Tarrin McGhee is a native of Omaha, Nebraska and has spent her adult life living in Memphis, TN. She graduated with her Bachelors of Arts in Journalism from the University of Memphis in 2006. Tarrin is owner and principal of Pique Public Relations, a full-service firm based in Memphis, TN that supports nonprofits, corporations, and government agencies with strategy and campaign development, multi-media communications, and public engagement. She began her MA in Fall 2020 as a full-time film and video production student and Graduate Assistant for the Benjamin L. Hooks Institute for Social Change at the University of Memphis. Her study and research interests include documentary writing, film production, African history, and narrative storytelling to foster progress and collective impact.