State of the State

State of the State

Presenter: Lorna Gonsalves, Ph.D., Human Values for Transformative Action, Maumee, Ohio


Dr. Lorna Gonsalves works to bring the values of justice and democracy to life by engaging a wide range of constituencies in the United States and abroad. To this end, she develops innovative strategies for enhancing social awareness, promoting civic engagement, and prompting positive social action. In facilitating her signature Coming to Terms with Racism workshops, she involves people in thinking and talking about what divides us as well as how we can work to establish inclusive environments within which all people feel respected and valued. Her approach is interdisciplinary and action-oriented—every session ending with a strategic plan.

She is the founder and Executive Director of Human Values for Transformative Action (HVTA). This organization prompts individuals—mostly youth—to act out shared values such as justice and equality and serve as agents of change in their local communities. Her Community HeARTbeats Program uses creative expression as a tool for revitalizing communities and to date, fourteen murals adorn the city of Toledo.

Previously, she was the Associate Executive Director and Director of Global Outreach at the UNESCO Chair’s Institute of Comparative Human Rights housed in the University of Connecticut at Storrs. Working in a reciprocal learning relationship with educators and community leaders from South Africa, she launched the Student Ambassadors for Human Rights Program.

Prior to joining the Institute, she was the architect of the Campaign to Promote Racial Justice; a project of the Washington D.C. based National League of Cities. Under her yearlong Directorship, mayors and other elected officials from more than 200 cities from 48 states joined the campaign, plotting out their antiracist agendas in a workbook of Dr. Gonsalves' devising. Undoing Racism, a documentary video which she co-produced, won the Aegis and Telly awards.

Before heading up the Campaign to Promote Racial Justice, Dr. Gonsalves served as Associate Provost for Diversity at Bowling Green State University. Her tenure there saw her spearhead Breaking the Silence, a program that brought together members of the campus and city communities to address the largely unspoken realities of racism. She produced a documentary video outlining the yearlong initiative, and then-Ohio Governor George Voinovich publicly recognized the program for its outstanding contribution to enhancing race relations in the state.

Dr. Gonsalves has taught in the fields of Sociology, Ethnic Studies, Women's Studies, Counseling, Education, and Critical Pedagogy at Bowling Green State University, winning several awards for her teaching and mentoring efforts. She continues to use her pioneering Free Expressions exercise with youth. This novel approach has young people convey their gut-level feelings about controversial topics through visual depictions, which they then share with the general public. The prestigious Toledo Museum of Art displayed free expressions about racism in their community gallery.

A strong proponent of community policing, Dr. Gonsalves has worked extensively with Police Chiefs and law enforcement officials in the State of Ohio. In her work with youth, she moves beyond punitive and retributive approaches to those that are restorative and transformative. Through her groundbreaking program, Contact Zone, candid conversations between law enforcement officers and students of color were initiated. For her activist efforts in the Northwest Ohio area, she received the Martin Luther King, Jr. Drum Major Award from the Black Catholic Ministries.

Born in South India, she was raised in the four major cities of India, and came to the United States in 1972. Her academic background includes a diploma in Opera Performance, an undergraduate degree in Psychology, a master's degree in Counseling, and a Ph.D. in Sociology.