Meet the Staff
Renee A. Thomas currently serves as director of the Purdue University Black Cultural Center. She has 20 years of experience in higher education administration with expertise in program development, student services, community engagement and fundraising. Thomas is committed to promoting a campus climate that ensures the inclusion of diverse students, faculty, and staff in all aspects of the university. During her tenure, Thomas has been known for her ability to nurture, support and mentor students, and she plays an active role in enhancing student success and retention. She is service oriented and encourages global citizenship and academic achievement. [Read more]
Bill Caise, a native of Kentucky, is from a small town just outside of Lexington. Caise did his undergraduate work at the University of Kentucky and received his MFA from the University of Iowa. While at the University of Iowa, Caise appeared in the world premiere productions of Karin Coonrod's "Everything that Rises Must Converge" (an adaptation of Flannery O'Connor short stories), Robert Alexander's "The Last Orbit of Billy Mars" as well as the Hansberry award-winning production of Levy "Lee" Simon's "The Bow Wow Club." Some of Caise's favorite roles have been as Cutler in "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom", Boy Willie in "The Piano Lesson", Nick Bottom in "A Midsummer Night's Dream" as well as Chasuble in "The Importance of Being Earnest". [Read more]
Juanita M. Crider currently works full time as the Program Advisor for the Purdue University Black Cultural Center. She is also a doctoral student in American Studies at Purdue who has completed course work and is preparing for qualifying exams in the summer of 2017. Her research interests are examining representations of aging/elder black females in contemporary black feminist literature, film television and visual culture with special focus on representations of elder sexuality. [Read more]
Artist in Residence
James Dekle is a native of Statesboro, Georgia. Dekle came to the Black Cultural Center from Atlanta, Georgia, where he served as Choral Director for the Dekalb Early College Academy and the Atlanta Music Project, a 501(c) 3 non-profit organization that provides intense music education for underserved youth. James Dekle received a Bachelor of Science degree in Music Education from Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University in Tallahassee, FL, and a Master of Music Education degree from Winthrop University in Rock Hill, SC. [Read more]
Programs and Facilities Manager
Danicia Malone serves as BCC Program and Facility Manager. She is an arts & culture ambassador and urban planner pursuing her PhD on the User-Experience of Race. Her research is focused on the context of Race & Space – Growing Critical Cultural Capacity in the Built Environment. As a Next City Vanguard Fellow and Intercultural Competency Facilitator, she challenges the ideas of public space and place-making to encourage a people-centric status quo. [Read more]
Business Operations Specialist
Carla Smith is a native of Gary, Indiana, with over ten years of diverse professional experience in legal services, process improvement, human relations, and quality control. She earned a Bachelor of Science in Industrial Engineering Technology while working full-time here at Purdue University. Carla is currently pursuing a Master of Science in Management and Leadership from Purdue University Global. In her latest role at the BCC, Carla's focus will be supporting the administrative team to advance the mission and vision of one of Purdue's most vibrant cultural centers. Her specialized skills and strengths are in the areas of marketing, project management, technical support, and building rapport with campus and community stakeholders. [Read more]
Ula Gabrielle Gaha is the Purdue University Black Cultural Center Librarian. She completed her Bachelor of Arts degree in English literature at Augusta State University (Now Augusta University) in Georgia. She minored in Women's and Gender Studies, which began her on the path of pursuing research through the lenses of feminist thought and thory. Her research interests include African American literature, literature of the American South, Black Feminist Thought, and William Faulkner scholarship.
In 2010, Ula earned both her Master of Arts in English and her Master of Library and Information Science degrees at the University of South Carolina. Her master's thesis, "The Futility of Conformity: The Danger of Gender Constructs in The Sound and the Fury" focuses on William Faulkner's novel The Sound and the Fury and the role that sexuality plays in Quentin Compson's construction of identity.
After earning her MLIS, Ula earned a Specialist degree in Academic Libraries from the University of South Carolina in 2011. She was a faculty member at Mississippi State University from 2011-2013, and a faculty member at Saint Mary's College, Notre Dame from 2013-2020, where she earned tenure.
Brenda has worked in different positions at Purdue University for over ten years. She started working in University Residences as a clerk on nights. She then moved to the academic side as a secretary in the Writing Lab; later became a graduate coordinator in the Philosophy Department. Brenda moved to Texas for a time, where she worked at UTSA as a Senior Administrative Associate in the Office of the Senior Vice Provost for Academic Faculty and Support. She returned to Purdue in 2017.
Her daughter graduated from Purdue with a degree from Liberal Arts. Brenda enjoys working at Purdue for the myriad views from diverse groups of people, both domestic and international.
In her free time, Brenda likes taking pictures of the landscape in the rural area in which she lives.