KINGSTON, R.I., October 4, 2016—When Joanna N. Ravello graduated from Hope High School more than two decades ago, she wasn’t prepared for college. The University of Rhode Island stepped in to provide much-needed academic and community support and now the 43-year-old Providence resident is giving back in her new role in the Office of Community, Equity and Diversity.
On Sept. 19, Ravello started her job as director of community and organizational development. Through her leadership and organizational skills, she’s responsible for fostering a sense of community and strengthening inclusiveness on campus.
“I’m extremely excited about my new position,’’ she says. “For years, I’ve helped students at URI on an individual basis, which was very fulfilling. Now I’m working at a broader level to ensure that the University is moving forward with its social justice goals.’’
Born in Trinidad and Tobago, islands off the coast of South America, Ravello and her family moved to Providence when she was 6 years old to live with her grandmother, who worked as a home care aide. She attended grade school on the East Side and middle school at the First Baptist Christian School in West Warwick. After graduating from Providence’s Hope High School in 1991, she spent a year in URI’s College Readiness Program preparing for University-level studies.
“I just wasn’t ready for college, and URI reached out to help,’’ she says. “It was a wonderful experience that opened doors and set me on my way.’’
She enrolled at URI in 1992, graduating five years later with a bachelor’s degree in human development and family studies, with minors in women’s studies and sociology. It was at URI where she developed a passion for social justice and righting wrongs.
“Thanks to my professors, I discovered that I wanted to explore issues of inequality for women and other underrepresented groups,’’ she says. “I always had a sense that things weren’t fair for certain groups in this country, but I didn’t have a language to express it. URI changed that.’’
She went on to earn her master’s degree in college student personnel from URI, eventually landing a job in 2000 as an academic advisor in Talent Development, a highly regarded program at URI that guides disadvantaged students during their college years.
In 2005, she was promoted to assistant director of the program, overseeing the Providence Advising Program, the Guaranteed Admissions Program, and the Recruit and Educate Local At-Risk Adults and Youth Project. Ravello held that job until her new position with the Office of Community, Equity and Diversity. In May 2016, she earned her doctorate in higher education administration from the University of Massachusetts, Boston.
Her scholarly work focuses on the experiences of racially underrepresented students, staff, faculty and administrators in higher education. Her dissertation, “Intersectionality at Work: Black Women Administrators’ Perceptions of Their Work Performance at Predominantly White Institutions,’’ explored black women administrators’ perceptions of their identities in the United States and how they viewed those identities in their work lives.
Over the years, Ravello has taught college-level courses, including “Personal and Career Development,’’ “College Student Development and Learning,’’ “Environmental Theory and Assessment in Higher Education,’’ and “Organizational Development.’’ She is an adjunct faculty member with the Human Development and Family Studies Department.
“The United States was founded on the idea that everyone can get ahead if he or she works hard,’’ says Ravello. “But the reality is that everyone doesn’t get the same opportunities. I feel like I have a role to facilitate possibilities for disadvantaged groups that don’t know how to navigate the system. It’s my duty to give back.’’
Naomi Thompson, associate vice president for the Office of Community, Equity and Diversity, welcomes Ravello: “We are thrilled to have Dr. Ravello join the Community, Equity and Diversity team, as we are confident that she will be instrumental in facilitating the ongoing transformation of our community.”
Ravello’s office is on the first floor of URI’s Multicultural Student Services Center. Visitors are welcome.