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Student Life

Meet Our Staff

Claudia Ramirez IslasClaudia Ramirez Islas




Claudia Ramirez Islas serves as the Director of the Intercultural Relations Office. As the Director, Claudia Ramirez Islas helps facilitate intergroup dialogue on themes related to identity development, social justice education, diversity, systems of oppression and best inclusive practices as we strive for a more inclusive and more accepting campus climate.   

Claudia Ramirez Islas graduated from Lewis & Clark College with a Bachelor of Arts in Studio Art with a Mathematics minor and graduated from San Diego State University with a Master of Arts in Postsecondary Educational leadership with a Specialization in Student Affairs. Driven by a passion for social justice education Claudia Ramirez Islas prides herself in constantly creating safe and inclusive spaces for individuals to freely express themselves and share their stories of strength and resilience. As a proud Latina, Claudia Ramirez Islas uses her identity and culture as a way of self-expression that is embodied not on in her work with students but also in her work as a social justice educator, artist, activist and community member.  

Claudia Ramirez Islas has facilitated and led various workshops at the regional and national level, across different institutions and organizations like the National Association for Student Affairs Professionals (NASPA) and the National Conference of Race and Ethnicity (NCORE). Claudia Ramirez Islas has consistently utilized creative mediums like the arts to engage others more deeply and fully on relevant and pressing issues impacting underrepresented communities and students during the current political and social climate.

Claudia Ramirez Islas has utilized her identity, experience, knowledge, and story to influence and contribute to the diversity and inclusion of all community members at every institution that she has been a part of. She has been intentional in giving back to programs and services that have historically supported underrepresented and marginalized populations like the NASPA Undergraduate Fellows Program (NUFP) and has formally mentored different students as they navigate predominantly white spaces within higher education.



André Omari Meeks                                                                                                      he/him/his
Assistant Director




My social justice work is fundamentally interdisciplinary focusing on guiding students to an understanding of their place in a complex social world. To this end, I rely on a dialogical approach to student engagement to help students reflect and act on their personal worldviews. I always begin by challenging students to think critically about who they think they are and the role geography, history, and social context play in that assessment. Students investigate their factual and normative understanding of themselves, develop a matrix that represents said understanding, and create a model for socially responsible leadership based on this evaluation.

My work in the community is also fueled by a desire to move the social justice agenda forward. In 2011, I had the honor of conducting independent research on the use of protests in facilitating communal resiliency in areas of protracted conflict with the Joint Advocacy Initiative of the East Jerusalem YMCA. This work sparked in me the desire to be proactive in all my dealings with injustice. In graduate school, I served as a Graduate Research Assistant with DePaul University’s Egan Urban Center (now the Egan Office of Urban Education and Community Partnerships) working as a member of the Fathers Families and Healthy Communities program evaluation team. In this work, I realized the value of designing programs that not only seek solutions to injustice, but are also measurably effective and efficient. I have come to learn that I can best answer the call for social justice by building and mobilizing coalitions through education. To this end, I regularly consult with community organizations such as the Lawndale Christian Legal Center, Claretian Associates, Goodcity Chicago, the Oak Park Education Foundation, and Chicago Public Schools.



 Karen Taboada Buur                                                                              she/her/hers
Assistant Director



Karen Taboada Buur is the Assistant Director of Intercultural Relations. Karen oversees the five Empowerment Groups and assists in planning and executing various signature, retention, and persistence programs on campus. Karen also serves as a mentor to students as they navigate their college career at Lake Forest.

As a first-generation, Latina, and alumna of the College, Karen provides perspective from her personal and professional experiences. She is energized by the relationships she develops with various faculty, staff, and students. Karen believes that the task of creating an equitable, inclusive, and safe community is achieved through understanding the people that occupy the space every day.

Karen is passionate about including individuals whose voices are not always heard at the table. She brings in a unique perspective as she has previously worked in the world of admissions at the College. This has lent her a lens that allows her to think about the future students that will be entering the community and preparing ways to better serve incoming classes.



First Connection Coordinators

Annmarie BuabengAnnmarie Buabeng

Major: Chemistry and Pre-Med                       

Born: Lake Forest, IL

Pronouns: she/her/hers

Extracurricular activities/hobbies: Dancing and singing

Fun Fact: I am a first-generation American, and my family is originally from Ghana in Africa.


Monia Alhelou Monia Alhelou

Major: International Relations 

Minor: Sociology and Anthropology  

Born: Gaza, Palestine 

Pronouns: she/her/hers

Extracurricular activities/hobbies: Creative writing, Poetry, Content Creation Club.

Fun Fact: I travelled to 16 European countries in the 2 months!    

Student Workers 


Kaihan Rahimi New Student Worker Kaihan

Major: Political Science

Minor: International Relations 

Born: Kabul, Afghanistan 

Pronouns: He/him/his

Extracurricular activities/hobbies: Soccer, Table Tennis, Flamenco Guitar.

Fun Fact: I’ve only been in the States for a year and a half, but I have visited 16 States. 


Gabriel K. Anzezegab

Current Year: First Year(freshman)

Major: Politics & Economics

Born: 23rd March 1999

Pronouns: He/Him/His

Extracurricular activities/Hobbies: Boxing and Basketball

Fun fact: I attended a UWC!



Brandon ChristopherBrandon

Current Year: Freshman 

Major: Business 

Minor: Public Policy

Born: 12/18/2000

Pronouns: He/Him/His

Extracurricular Activities: Black Men’s Group, United Black Association, Umoja, Intramural Basketball

Fun Fact: I am a classically trained dancer with 14 years of experience under my belt.