Kalamazoo College names executive director of social justice center


Mia Henry. Courtesy Kalamazoo College

The new executive director of Kalamazoo College’s Arcus Center for Social Justice Leadership wants the center to be a social justice model for the higher education industry.

Kalamazoo College said last week that it has named experienced social justice leader Mia Henry the new executive director of the Arcus Center for Social Justice Leadership.

Henry will assume her role at the college on Aug. 11 and will replace Jaime Grant, who announced her decision to leave the position last year.

Prior to the appointment, Henry most recently served as director of special initiatives for Black Space, which is an initiative of Safe Places for the Advancement of Community and Equity.

The organization seeks racial equity across the U.S. by supporting inter-generational groups of community leaders.

The role

As executive director at the Arcus Center for Social Justice Leadership, Henry will oversee the development of programs and partnerships with local, national and international organizations, while maintaining and furthering the vision of the human rights and social justice center.

She will also work with Lisa Brock, academic director at the Arcus Center, and other faculty, staff and students on social justice leadership projects and practices.

Established in 2009, the Arcus Center for Social Justice Leadership supports the pursuit of human rights and social justice through programs and activities teaching social change practice and developing leaders and sustaining existing leaders in the field.

The center recently pursued the construction of a new 9,500-square-foot facility designed by Studio Gang Architects.

Model center

Henry said she’s looking forward to having the opportunity to share her passion for social justice advocacy among faculty, staff, students and the community.

“I was really quite thrilled and honored. It is a very unique place, really one-of-a-kind center on a college campus,” Henry said. “The values and goals of the center align so closely to my personal ones. It is just really amazing that I have an opportunity to work in a place so dynamic and so interesting.

“I want to see the center become a resource and also kind of the go-to place for people who are looking for models on how social justice plays itself out in higher education and in progressive communities. What lessons does it have to teach us?”

Based on previous experience interacting with activists across the county in developing new training and programs, Henry feels her work infusing learning into social justice activism and developing inter-generational partnerships will help her in the leadership role at Kalamazoo College.

Eileen Wilson-Oyelaran, president at Kalamazoo College, said Henry will help build on the multi-faceted collaborative efforts that have shaped Kalamazoo’s social justice leadership center into the first of its kind in higher education.

“She is a strategic, thoughtful leader with wide experience in social justice, education and leadership development,” Wilson-Oyelaran said. “She’s served as an executive, educator, entrepreneur and supervisor.”


Henry also serves on the board of directors at Chicago-based Community Justice for Youth Institute and the Worker’s Center for Racial Justice, while working as a consultant with the Chicago History Museum, Chicago Public Schools, the University of Chicago Hospital and the University of Chicago Oriental Institute.

With an extensive background in social justice leadership, Henry also founded Reclaiming South Shore for All, a grassroots group, and owns the small business Freedom Lifted.

The grassroots organization consists of residents committed to strengthening Chicago’s South Short community by institutionalizing systems promoting peace and economic development, while the entrepreneurial business immerses people in social movement history through events such as civil rights tours to Alabama, Mississippi and North Carolina.

Previously, Henry held various positions: founding director of the Chicago Freedom School; associate director of Mikva Challenge; senior program consultant in youth development at the University of Chicago; and program coordinator for City University of New York.

Henry holds a bachelor’s degree in sociology and criminal justice from Rutgers University and a master’s in secondary education from University of Pennsylvania.

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