Providence, RI – Now celebrating its 50th anniversary, the Rhode Island Council for the Humanities welcomes seven new members to its board of directors. These leaders bring experience in education, real estate, marketing and development and cultural engagement through writing, art, and media studies. Each is deeply involved in communities across Rhode Island. New board members include: Chrystal Mars Baker, Stephanie Basile, Jaffa Kessler Davies, Emily McHugh, Eric Sung, Mariahadessa Ekere Tallie, and Christopher Joseph Westgate. These members’ terms began April 1.
Chrystal G. Mars Baker is a graduate from the University of Rhode Island, class of 1996, holding a Bachelor of Science degree in Secondary Education/Social Studies. In October 2021 she joined Tomaquag Museum’s team as the Indigenous Empowerment Education Coordinator and was promoted the following year to Education Manager. She is a teacher at heart and enjoys both learning and teaching where opportunity arises.
Mars Baker resides in Charlestown, RI.
Stephanie Basile, Founding Agent of Stephanie Basile Group, received her BS in Mechanical Engineering from Lehigh University in 1995, her MBA in Finance from the University of Chicago (with study at London School of Economics) in 2001 and continues to be an avid and enthusiastic learner. She held several positions in both Chicago and London for a Fortune Global 500 company, fast tracking her way to senior management, before deciding to follow her passion, move back to Rhode Island and start a career in real estate. More than 20 years have passed since that decision and Stephanie has never looked back. Along the way, she has cultivated a loyal following of clients and a deep knowledge of the ins and outs of real estate. Her own experiences with buying on the East Side of Providence, coastal Rhode Island, and Nantucket help her to guide and educate her clients. She is the recipient of multiple customer service awards, peer review awards and sales awards by volume including the KWAOR Circle of Sales Excellence awards 2010-2022, Rhode Island Monthly’s Peer Reviewed Professional Excellence Award winner 2017 – 2022, Real Trends top 1,000 agents in the US 2022 (ranking in the top 1.5% of all agents), and the Five Star Professional Award 2015-2022.
Basile resides in Saunderstown, RI.
Jaffa Kessler Davies grew up and was educated in Providence, graduating from Classical High School and Brown University prior to earning her graduate degree at Syracuse University. She is a psychoeducational specialist and is a founding partner of Delta Consultants, a clinical practice providing therapeutic, evaluation, and consulting services to the greater Rhode Island community. In her professional life, Jaffa has administered psychoeducational evaluations, mentored first-year teachers, served as an educational consultant to numerous charter and independent/parochial schools, provided educational guidance for therapeutic foster care teams, and served as an adult literacy coach. Jaffa has also served on various community boards including Temple Beth El, Dunn Institute, Highlander School, and JCC Preschool.
Davies resides in Barrington, RI.
Emily McHugh is the Director of Strategic Initiatives at SQA Group, a Providence-based tech and advisory services firm, where she is responsible for marketing and all things cross-functional. Prior to working in tech, Emily spent six years working in nonprofit development at a statewide college access organization where she was responsible for grant writing and reporting, donor cultivation, and fundraising event planning and execution. She currently serves on the board of the Providence Animal Rescue League as the Development Committee Chair. Emily earned a BA in political science from Rhode Island College and a MA in legislative affairs from George Washington University. She also holds a graduate certificate in nonprofit leadership from Rhode Island College.
McHugh resides in Warwick, RI.
Eric Sung is an artist scholar and cultural worker. His innovative and creative vision has materialized multiple interdisciplinary ideas into action with a diverse group of stakeholders. Sung’s experiential scholarship and companion works have appeared internationally in peer-reviewed and juried conferences and venues, including the Society for Photographic Education (SPE), International Visual Literacy Association (IVLA), Imagining America (IA), International Association for Research on Service Learning and Community Engagement International Conference (IARSLCE), and Global University Network for Innovation International Conference (GUNI). Sung’s artworks have been showcased in internationally renowned exhibition venues and public spaces. His art, research, and community empowerment projects were supported by the National Endowment for the Arts, the Rhode Island Council for the Humanities, Providence Department of Art, Culture, and Tourism, and Rhode Island State Council on the Arts. Eric is a Professor at Providence College and was appointed as the founding director of a cutting-edge program in Business and Innovation in 2018. Currently, he is a member of the WARP Collective Artists Group and serves on the Board of Directors of the Society for Photographic Education.
Sung resides in Barrington, RI.
Mariahadessa Ekere Tallie is the author of the award winning children’s book Layla’s Happiness (Enchanted Lion Books). She has authored two books of poetry: Strut (Agape Editions); Karma’s Footsteps (Flipped Eye); and Dear Continuum: Letters to A Poet Crafting Liberation. Mariahadessa is a PhD Candidate in Theatre Arts & Performance Studies at Brown University.
Tallie resides in Providence, RI.
Christopher Joseph Westgate is a media scholar whose research program includes Latine media, popular music, and social identities. His articles have been published in Popular Music & Society; Media, Culture & Society; and 12 other peer-reviewed books and journals. In addition, Chris has presented at 30 international conferences. He is currently a Media & Communication Studies professor and a program co-director at Johnson & Wales University in Providence. Prior to this position, Chris taught at SUNY Oneonta and Texas A&M University. He holds a BS from Cornell University, an MA from Columbia University, and a PhD from Texas A&M University. Chris has more than a decade of experience in the radio industry, having served as a vice president, news director, training director, production director, and disc jockey for six nonprofit and commercial stations. He also sits on the board of the Rhode Island Black Film Festival, the Center for Spiritual Living Southcoastal Massachusetts Teaching Chapter, and the Holmes Institute.
Westgate resides in Westport, MA.
Officers of the Humanities Council board of directors include: Doug Popovich, Chair; Tiffini Bowers, Vice Chair; Marcia Sousa Da Ponte, Secretary; and Jorge Mejia, Treasurer.
The Council is grateful for the dedicated service of board members who completed their terms March 31, 2023, including: C. Alexander Chiulli, Elaine Fain, Michael Fein, Kenneth Newman, Julie Nora, and Jonathan Stevens.