Conference Presenter Bios

Keynote Speaker

Michelle Marks, Ph.D.

Dr. Michelle Marks is the Vice President for Academic Innovation & New Ventures at George Mason University. In this capacity she is responsible for identifying, launching and sustaining educational initiatives that fulfill George Mason’s strategic plan and generate financial resources to support students, faculty and the educational mission. Charged with creating accessible student pathways and bringing learning science innovations to campus, Dr. Marks is leading strategic partnerships designed to deliver online programming at scale, create pathway programming for international students and support adult degree completion at Mason. She is also forging critical relationships with businesses, government and education institutions to support the university’s mission. Dr. Marks oversees Mason Learning Solutions, the Office of Digital Learning, the Academic Ventures project management group as well as academic initiatives, accreditation and registration.

Dr. Marks previously served as the Vice Provost for Academic Affairs and Associate Provost for Graduate Education at Mason. As a Professor of Management in Mason’s School of Business, Dr. Marks has spent her career researching organizational leadership development and teamwork. She has published studies illustrating the dynamic nature of the collaborative processes used by organizational teams and the critical roles of team leaders. In 2006, Dr. Marks was honored with the George Mason University Teaching Excellence Award and was the recipient of the Executive MBA Professor of the Year award in 2008 and 2011.




James Witte, Ph.D.

James Witte is a Professor in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Director of the Center for Social Science Research (CSSR) and Director of the Institute for Immigration Research (IIR). Witte, who earned his Ph.D. from Harvard University in 1991, has been a professor at Clemson University and Northwestern University. He was a postdoctoral fellow at the Carolina Population Center and a lecturer in sociology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Dr. Witte has written numerous articles that have appeared in journals such as The European Sociological Review, Population and Development Review and Sociological Methods and Research. He has also published three books, Labor Force Integration and Marital Choice, the Internet and Social Inequality and The Normal Bar. The Normal Bar, co-authored with Chrisanna Northrup and Pepper Schwartz, was released in 2013 and made the New York Times bestseller list. Dr. Witte came to Mason in the fall of 2009 to take over leadership of CSSR. Since then CSSR has grown in the amount and range of funded research it conducts. Major projects should be have included the privately funded Institute for Immigration Research and the University Partnership with the University of Karachi funded by the U.S. State Department.


Michele Waslin, Ph.D.

Michele Waslin is Project Coordinator at the Institute for Immigration Research. In her role, Waslin tracks and analyzes immigration research and policy, writes on related topics, coordinates the work of the IIR, and builds relationships with academics and other experts. Waslin has written extensively on immigration policy, has authored multiple book chapters and publications, and has appeared in English- and Spanish-language media. Prior to joining the IIR, she was a senior policy analyst at the American Immigration Council. Before that, Michele was the Manager of the Immigration and the States project at the Pew Charitable Trusts and was director of immigration policy research at UnidosUS (previously the National Council of La Raza). Ms. Waslin holds a Bachelor's degree in Political Science from Creighton University, a Master's Degree in International Relations from the University of Chicago, and a PhD in Government and International Studies from the University of Notre Dame.


Bianca Kwan

Bianca Kwan is a Research Assistant through the Office of Student Scholarship, Creative Activities, and Research. She is an undergraduate student in the Honors College pursuing a dual degree in Social Work and Criminology. Her primary research interests include human trafficking, child maltreatment or abuse, domestic violence, and the legal system.

 Rodrigo Velasquez


Rodrigo Velasquez

Rodrigo serves as Senior Legislative Aide to Delegate Kathy Tran (D-Fairfax). In his role, he works with Delegate Tran on advancing policy that lifts up our communities and creates opportunities for all. His background primarily focuses on immigration policy and advocacy, having worked on both state and federal initiatives. 
Rodrigo graduated from George Mason University in 2016 with a B.A. in Communication. He is the past Mason DREAMers President and currently serves on the Mason DREAMers Advisory Board. His passion for public service stems from his experience as an undocumented student. 
Teresita Wisell

Teresita Wisell

Teresita (Tere) Wisell serves as Vice President of Workforce Development and Community Education (WDCE) at Westchester Community College. The Division houses programs and services that support workforce development and lifelong learning for the diverse population of the college’s service area. Programs include ESL, public workforce training programs, employee training and training-related services to employers, community and business engagement, leisure and enrichment courses.  In addition, the Division oversees the college’s extension locations offering credit and non-credit courses throughout the county.

Ms. Wisell also serves as Executive Director of the Community College Consortium for Immigrant Education (CCCIE), a national network of community colleges and other organizations committed to expanding programs for immigrants and leveraging the role that community colleges play in successful immigrant integration. She is a National Community College Hispanic Council fellow and a SUNY Chancellor’s award recipient. In 2014, the White House recognized Ms. Wisell as a Champion of Change for her contributions to workplace citizenship programs. Ms. Wisell serves on the Board of the National Council for Workforce Education (NCWE), the National Advisory Board of the National Skills Coalition for Skills Equity and the Board of Neighbors Link of Northern Westchester, a regional organization that strengthens the whole community through the healthy integration of immigrants.   She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in International Relations and an MBA in Marketing.  Ms. Wisell immigrated to the United States from Cuba as a toddler.



Diana De Jesus-Brent

Diana De Jesus-Brent graduated from Salisbury State University with a B.A. in Psychology.  She holds a Master of Education, Major in Secondary Counseling from West Chester University, West Chester Pa.

In 1990, he began her career as a school counselor at Mount Vernon High School, Fairfax County.  Since that time she has been employed as a school counselor and career counselor at several high school within Fairfax County and Prince William County. She currently serves as the ESOL school counselor at Centreville High School, Fairfax County.

Diana De Jesus-Brent married Eric in 1991, who is also an educator.  They are the proud parents of Eric, Jr. and Daniel.  She enjoys spending quality time with her family, attending church, and vacationing at the beach for her leisure time. 

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