We are thrilled for an opportunity to showcase the work we have been doing in the inaugural year of the School of Humanities and Social Sciences.

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Alumni Panel - The Road Less Traveled: Finding Your Career Path

This panel highlights alumni who have used their degrees in the humanities and social sciences in unexpected ways. Come hear from alums Jordan Allen, Kamera Meaney, Daniel Silva, and Melissa Zarda, with Lawrence Brooks IV serving as moderator.


Jordan Allen

Jordan Allen graduated from UMKC in 2017 with her Bachelor of Arts degree in Sociology with a Cultural Anthropology emphasis and minors in both Political Science and Criminal Justice. During her time at UMKC, she was a member of the UMKC Honors College, studied at Charles University in Prague through the Honors College study abroad program, was published in UMKC's undergraduate research journal, Lucerna, and was a Vice Chancellor’s Honor Recipient.

After graduating from UMKC, Jordan spent time in the Middle East volunteering and learning Arabic. She started her post-graduate career as an intern for development agencies throughout the Middle East, which led her to a position at a Palestinian refugee rights and resource center as an International Advocacy Coordinator and staff researcher. Her primary achievement was the development of a program designed to educate and connect international human rights advocates with local Palestinian organizations in order to encourage cross-cultural understanding and create space for Palestinians to speak for themselves about their work and their experiences in international settings and with international audiences.

Jordan recently graduated at the top of her class from the University of London's School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) with an MSc in Development Studies. She focused her studies on problems of development in the Middle East and North Africa and issues facing migrant laborers in the global market, specifically during the COVID-19 pandemic. She hopes to continue her work and passion in the field of human rights, specifically regarding those of migrants and refugees.
portrait of Jordan Allen

Kamera Meaney

Kamera Meaney earned her undergraduate degree in history from UMKC, and is dual master’s prepared with a history degree from Marquette University and business degree from Rockhurst University.

Professionally, Kamera serves as the Director of Advocacy and Government Relations at University Health (formerly Truman Medical Centers), where she strategically works to eliminate health disparities and improve health outcomes for underinvested communities through policy creation and lobbying efforts. As the only woman of color performing government relations work for a major health system in the state of Missouri, Kamera is proudly breaking glass ceilings and transforming healthcare advocacy throughout the region.

As a proud Kansas Citian, Kamera is committed to the betterment of our community and all of those within it. She currently serves as president-elect of the UMKC School of Humanities and Social Sciences Alumni Board and Nurture KC, a non-profit committed to reducing infant and maternal mortality; and is a mayoral-appointed commissioner to the Blue Springs Public Art Commission. Kamera is also a graduate of the prestigious Kansas City Chamber’s Centurions Leadership Program and serves as the vice-chair for the program’s alumni board.

Most importantly, Kamera is a proud mother of the two most beautiful children in the world and a wife who enjoys running the occasional marathon and watching C-SPAN.
portrait of Kamera Meaney

Daniel Silva

As the President and CEO of the Kansas City Kansas Chamber of Commerce, Daniel Silva is charged with focusing on the following priority areas: 1) Access to opportunities, 2) Resources for members, 3) Community development and growth, 4) Business leadership, influence and advocacy, 5) Chamber sustainability, and 6) Board and staff inclusion.

Daniel is originally from Chicago, IL and attended UMKC on a D1 Division Scholarship for Cross Country/Track and Field. Daniel began his professional career with League of United Latin American Citizens National Education Centers (Kansas City) as a Special Projects Coordinator. After LNESC, Silva worked for UnidosUS, formerly National Council of La Raza, in Washington, DC before relocating to Kansas City.

Prior to joining the KCK Chamber, Daniel was the Director of Diversity and Inclusion for the Greater Kansas Chamber of Commerce. Silva is known for his ability to cross political and cultural lines to ensure the best results for the businesses and the memberships he represents. He also follows a strict open-door policy to foster inclusion and is always willing to listen and respond to the needs of all citizens of the community.

portrait of Daniel Silva

Melissa Zarda

Melissa Zarda is a proud UMKC alumna, with a BA ’02 in Studio Art and an MA ’07 in Sociology.

She helped lead the fight to prevent people from being fired for their sexual orientation or gender identity. Melissa took up the cause after the death of her brother, Don, who was fired from his job for that very reason. With help from the ACLU, a N.Y. attorney, and the co-director of the Stanford Law School Supreme Court Litigation Clinic, the case was argued in front of the Supreme Court. The ruling, in a 6 to 3 decision, declared it illegal under federal law to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity in the workplace.

Melissa owns and runs a successful small business and spends quite a bit of her spare time volunteering for local animal-welfare groups.

portrait of Melissa Zarda


Lawrence Brooks IV

Lawrence Brooks IV was born and raised in the Marlborough Neighborhood of South Kansas City. He attended Lincoln College Preparatory Academy for middle school and high school but graduated from Southeast High School in 2002. After joining the United States Navy, he spent over a decade on active and reservist duty as an engineer, deploying 4 times and visiting over 25 countries. While on active duty, he earned the rank of E-6 and an Associate Degree from Tidewater Community College in Norfolk, Virginia.

After leaving active duty, he moved back to Kansas City in 2020 to attend UMKC. While there, he earned several academic awards and graduated Cum Laude with a bachelor’s degree in Communication Studies with a dual emphasis in Journalism/Film and Media Studies.

Upon graduating in Spring 2022, he joined KCUR 89.3 as a Race and Culture reporter. He also works part-time in the local film industry with Chuck Brown Productions. He is the proud father of two beautiful girls.

portrait for Lawrence Brooks IV

Freedom Riders Panel


Joan Browning participated in the sit-in movement, picketed segregated stores and facilities, and was the “last Freedom Rider,” the final person selected to join the last Freedom Ride of 1961. She is one of nine southern women who joined the Freedom Rides, and her chapter “Shiloh Witness,” in Deep in Our Hearts: Nine White Women in the Freedom Movement, tells her journey and some of the unique experiences and challenges women faced in the 1960s. More information about Joan’s involvement in the movement can be found in the Civil Rights Digital Library.

Dion Diamond began conducting sit-ins as a teenager in his hometown of Petersburg, Virginia. His activism continued at Howard University. He participated in a Freedom Ride from Montgomery, Alabama to Jackson, Mississippi. Upon the arrival of their bus in Jackson, Diamond and his fellow Freedom Riders were arrested for “breach of peace;” he was incarcerated in Mississippi for much of the summer of 1961. More information about Mr. Diamond’s involvement in the movement can be found on StoryCorps and in this short video

Dr. Bernard LaFayette Jr. has authored several works about his long involvement in the American civil rights movement, and his new memoir is "In Peace and Freedom: My Journey in Selma." The book shares the story of his work as one of the primary organizers of the Selma voting rights movement and the Selma-to-Montgomery marches. This is only one chapter of his deep involvement in the civil rights movement, which extends from the Nashville sit-ins, to the Freedom Rides, to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s decision to appoint him as the director of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) in 1967. Dr. LaFayette was also the leader of the Freedom Summer in 1968. More information about Dr. LaFayette’s life and work can be found in the King Institute’s Encyclopedia of the Civil Rights Movement.

Dr. A. Lenora Taitt-Magubane became involved in the civil rights movement while attending Spelman College in Atlanta, where she joined the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. She attended her first sit-in in March 1960, when she participated in an attempt to integrate the Atlanta Municipal Auditorium. Two weeks later, Dr. Taitt-Magubane was arrested at a lunch counter sit-in with 77 other students and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. She spent 15 days in the Fulton County Jail in Atlanta. In December 1961, traveling by train from Atlanta, she was one of the 11 Albany, Georgia Freedom Riders who tested interstate travel. She was arrested again for her activism and spent two weeks in the Albany City and County jails. More information about her life is available in this interview and her papers at Emory University


Dr. Carmaletta M. Williams is Professor Emerita of English and African American Studies at Johnson County Community College. After her tenure at JCCC, she taught at Central China Normal University. Williams now serves as the Chief Executive Officer of the Black Archives of Mid-America in Kansas City. Williams earned her BA and MA degrees in English from the University of Missouri-Kansas City and her Ph. D. from the University of Kansas. Williams has published widely, including many articles, book chapters, literary encyclopedia entries, book reviews, children’s books, and documentaries about African American history and literature. Her published works include Do Nothin’ Till You Hear from Me: Langston Hughes in the Classroom; My Dear Boy: Carrie Hughes’s Letters to Langston Hughes, 1926-1938; Of Two Spirits: African American and Native American Racial Identity Formation; and two children’s books. Williams has received an Emmy Award for her portrayal of Zora Neale Hurston.