Skip to Content
  • Latino Policy Institute

Latino Policy Institute

Anna Cano Morales, Director

Anna Cano-Morales, a Central Falls native, has extensive experience in social services work and policy in Rhode Island. Anna earned a Bachelor of Science Degree - Human Development, Counseling, and Family Studies, with a minor in Latin American Literature, from the University of Rhode Island in 1991.  In 1999, she received a Master’s of Social Work – Policy, Administration, and Systems from Rhode Island College.

Anna’s interest in children and families led her to volunteer in several community-based organizations for many years. Throughout the span of twelve years, Anna worked at several key nonprofits in Rhode Island like Providence Community Health Centers, Rhode Islanders Sponsoring Education (RISE), Women and Infants Hospital, and SStarbirth Residential Program. Anna enjoys mentoring and advising rising young community leaders. She often meets with them and brokers relationships across sectors.  

Currently, Anna is the Chairwoman of the Central Falls School Board of Trustees. In 2008, Governor Carcieri appointed her to the Rhode Island Board of Regents for Elementary and Secondary Education where she served until February of 2011. In July 2009, the University of Rhode Island Foundation elected Anna to the Executive Board of Directors where she served a three year term. She has also served on the boards of directors of Gateway Healthcare, the RI Latino Political Action Committee and RI Civic Fund, and RICAN.

For a decade, Anna worked as the Associate Vice President for Grant Programs for the Rhode Island Foundation.  There she led the Hispanics in Philanthropy initiative and managed a team of Program Officers in the Program Department. Currently, Anna is the Director of the Latino Policy Institute at Roger Williams University and the Director of University Outreach & Engagement at RWU.

Board of Directors   2013

Domingo Morel, Co-chair

Domingo Morel is co-founder and co-chair of the Latino Policy Institute and a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Political Science at Brown University. His research interests are in the fields of American politics and political theory with a focus on race and ethnic, urban and education politics. Prior to attending Brown, Mr. Morel worked in higher education as an Admissions Officer and Academic Advisor at Rhode Island College and the Talent Development Program at the University of Rhode Island. Mr. Morel has previously served as president of the Rhode Island Latino Civic Fund, Rhode Island Latino Political Action Committee and co-founder of the Univocal Legislative Minority Advisory Coalition.

Paola Fernandez, Co-chair

Paola Fernandez is the Director of Public Policy and Government Relations at United Way of Rhode Island. She is responsible for the development and promotion United Way’s Public Policy agenda in alignment with the organization’s Community Impact goals. Ms. Fernandez provides staff support in managing the administrative operations and communications of the department with a strong emphasis in public policy, government relations, and advocacy activities. Prior to her current role, she served as the Coordinator for the RI After School Plus Alliance where she was responsible for development and management of activities promoting quality out-of-school-time programs and the support needed to ensure that children have access to these programs. Ms. Fernandez holds a Bachelor of Science in Management with a concentration in Human Resources from Johnson & Wales University.

Peter Wilbur, Treasurer

Peter B. Wilbur is Vice President for University Outreach & Engagement at Roger Williams University. He previously held senior positions in proprietary education and industry as president and principal of a manufacturing facility; immediately prior to arriving at RWU he served as controller, assistant dean and eventually president of the Katharine Gibbs School in Providence, R.I. In 13 years with the University, Mr. Wilbur has been a senior-level contributor in finance and administration, human resources, strategic planning and community and government relations. He accepted his current position in 2011 and has played a key role in launching significant RWU initiatives such as the Community Partnerships Center, the Latino Policy Institute and more. Mr. Wilbur earned a bachelor’s degree in philosophy and religion from Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine, and completed a master’s of public administration degree at Roger Williams. He is a member of the American Society for Public Administration and serves as the vice chair of the Exeter, R.I., Fire District while he’s not at the University.

Besenia Rodriguez, Ph.D., Secretary

Besenia Rodriguez, Ph.D. is Associate Dean of the College at Brown University, where she oversees advising initiatives in support of undergraduates and faculty advisors. She previously served as director of Student Services at Pepperdine University’s Graduate School of Education and Psychology and managed advising as a Mellon Mays program administrator at Queens College-City University of New York and at Yale University, having also taught undergraduate- and doctoral-level courses at each of these three institutions. She also worked for the Human Rights Research Fund and Fundación Amistad, two non-profit organizations based in New Haven and New York, respectively. Dr. Rodriguez’s research interests are in the areas of modern anti-racist and anti-imperialist movements, comparative racial formations, and black Latin American cultural and political history. She has taught courses on U.S. cultural history, critical theory, and on globalization, education, and digital culture. Dr. Rodriguez earned a Bachelor of Arts with honors in African American Studies and Education from Brown University and a Master of Arts, Master of Philosophy, and Doctor of Philosophy in African American and American Studies from Yale University.

Yamil Baez

Yamil Baez is a middle school Spanish teacher in the Fall River School district. Previously, she taught Italian and Spanish for 15 years at Moses Brown School, where she also served as chair of the World Language department. Ms. Baez served two terms as President of the RI Chapter of the Association of Teachers of Spanish and Portuguese. She has also taught courses in the language department and the School of Education at the University of Rhode Island. Ms. Baez serves on the boards of the Providence Community Library and the Providence After School Alliance, and sits on the advisory boards for The Latino College Access Coalition and Rhode Island Latino Arts.

Adriana I. Dawson

Adriana I. Dawson is the State Director for the Rhode Island Small Business Development Center at Johnson & Wales University. Ms. Dawson is responsible for the oversight and execution of a statewide multifaceted program which provides high quality management counseling and educational training programs to small businesses in Rhode Island through a statewide network of service centers, business experts, JWU faculty and student talent. Prior to joining the RISBDC, she served as Deputy Director of the Affirmative Market Program for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, a program designed to increase the utilization of minority- and women-owned businesses on statewide contracts. Ms. Dawson has received numerous awards, including the "Providence Business News 40 Under 40" in 2008, the nationally recognized Small Business Development Center's State Star Award, and most recently the 2013 Hispanic United Development Organization (HUDO) Excellence in Entrepreneurship Award. Ms. Dawson mentors a number of talented youth in local high schools and sits on several boards, including the International Charter School in Pawtucket. She holds a B.A. from Northeastern University in Communication Studies and an M.A. from Emerson College in Management Communications. Adriana resides in Providence with her husband and daughter.

Diony Garcia

Diony Garcia was born in the Dominican Republic and arrived to the United States at the young age of 6 months. He has been a resident of Rhode Island since the age of four. Diony was educated in the Providence Public School System from head start, to graduating from Classical High School in 2004. He graduated from the University of Rhode Island in 2008, and has more recently graduated from Roger Williams University School of Law in 2012. Diony is now a licensed attorney in RI and Mass, and currently works for the Providence City Solicitor's office.

Lisette M. Gomes

Lisette M. Gomes, J.D. serves as the prosecutor for the city of Central Falls, Rhode Island, managing all the misdemeanor criminal and housing code violations for the city. She continues to run her own legal practice focusing on domestic relations, criminal defense, personal injury, unemployment and landlord/tenant matters. Ms. Gomes is of Cape Verdean descent with close ties to the Latino community by way of Central Falls, where she was raised and attended high school. Ms. Gomes earned a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology with a minor in business administration from Salve Regina University and a J.D. from the University of Toledo College of Law in Ohio.

Veronica Paricio

Veronica Paricio is Assistant Dean of Career Development at Roger Williams University School of Law. Prior to RWU Law, Ms. Paricio worked in the Career Development Office at the University of Colorado Law School, where she held several positions including Career Counselor, Director, and Assistant Dean. She previously worked at two large law firms in New York City, recruiting law students and lawyers. Ms. Paricio is the Law School Professional Chair of the National Advisory Committee for Equal Justice Works as well as the NALP Liaison to Equal Justice Works. She is a member of the Rhode Island Bar Association, the Rhode Island Women’s Bar Association, the Boston Bar Association and Massachusetts Women’s Bar Association. Ms. Paricio is also a member of the Board for the Feinstein Institute for Legal Services. She received her Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology from Dartmouth College.

Paola Prado, Ph.D

Paola Prado, Ph.D., is Assistant Professor of Journalism and Digital Media in the Communication Department at Roger Williams University, where she specializes in digital inclusion, digital journalism, and multimedia production. Her research focuses on the adoption of information and communication technologies for development and social change in Latin America. Dr. Prado is co-creator of the Community Communicators journalism and multimedia workshop program, which trains community reporters in under-resourced rural areas in Colombia and the Dominican Republic. She is the author of journal articles and book chapters on topics related to digital inclusion, media diversity, and the impact of the Internet on gender roles in Latin America. A pioneer in online media, Dr. Prado directed content for the Latin American and U.S. Latino arm of RealNetworks and led U.S. operations for the Latino community portal El Sitio. She began her professional career at the Reuters television news agency, where she produced and licensed world news coverage for television broadcast. She went on to head affiliate relations for the pan regional cable news network CBS TeleNoticias and later, for the Weather Channel Latin America. Dr. Prado holds a Ph.D. in Communication from the University of Miami, an M.A .in Latin American Studies from Georgetown University, and a B.A. in Cinema from Denison University. She is fluent in English, French, Portuguese, and Spanish.

Rick Quiles, M.D.

Rick Quiles, M.D. is a pediatrician whose practice serves approximately 4000 children in Rhode Island. His practice provides primary care for a diverse and underserved patient population that is predominantly Latino. Dr. Quiles is a proud community leader devoted to urban minority youth, serving on the Advisory Board of RI-CAN, and supporting several community organizations, including Latino Dollars for Scholars, Make a Wish RI, Manny Mota Hispanic Softball League, and Cal Ripken Little League. A graduate of Brown University, Dr. Quiles and his wife Soljane, a teacher at the Highlander Charter School, have two sons.

Manuela Raposo

Manuela Raposo, M.D. is Director of Workforce and Director of the RI Welcome Back Center at Dorcas International Institute of RI. As Director of Workforce for Dorcas International, she is aware of the need to implement innovative ideas that would provide solutions for those seeking education and training in order to become more employable.  As Director of the RIWBC, Dr. Raposo provides the necessary resources to help internationally educated professionals enter the workforce in a capacity that is worthy of their education and training. In addition, Dr. Raposo is a tireless advocate for professionals educated in other countries, creating strategies to help them address barriers and policy issues that prevent them from full participation in the workforce and in our communities. She has worked in research, advocacy and direct services in a range of areas including leadership and civic engagement, mentorship and community development and asset building. Among her many forms of community engagement, she serves on the Governors Workforce Board, RI Board of Nursing and Nurse Regulations, the RI State Nursing Institute Middle College Board, the RI Kids Count Board, the Latino Policy Institute Board, The Immigrant Professional Integration (IMPRINT) Steering Committee, The Welcome Back Initiative Board, and the RI Professional Latinos Association (RIPLA) Board. Dr. Raposo earned a degree in Medicine from Universidad Iberoamericana in the Dominican Republic.

Leanne Yinusa-Nyahkoon, Sc.D.

Leanne Yinusa-Nyahkoon, Sc.D. is clinical assistant professor at Boston University, Sargent College of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences and a research associate at Boston University School of Medicine/Boston Medical Center, Department of Family Medicine. Dr. Yinusa-Nyahkoon is committed to reducing health disparities that plague underrepresented minority groups. Her research interests include understanding families' perspective of the illness experience and the factors within their daily context that impact illness management and health maintenance. Her research explores preconception care and the risk factors associated with poor birth outcomes among African American women. Dr. Yinusa-Nyahkoo's research team is developing a web-based health education system that assesses the health risks of young African American women, and then delivers tailored, evidence based, health interventions aimed at minimizing the prevalence of preterm births, low birth weight, and infant mortality among African American women. Dr. Yinusa-Nyahkoon was raised in Providence, RI, where she attended Classical High School. She then went on to earn Bachelor, Master's, and Doctorate of Science degrees from Boston University.

Jeshua Zapata

Jeshua Zapata is president and co-founder of Xzito Creative Solutions LLC, an online marketing firm that has won numerous awards including the 2007 Hispanic Business of The Year, 2013 SBA Young Entrepreneur of The Year, and inclusion in Diversity MBA Magazine, Top 100 Leaders under 50. His career began with MetLife Auto & Home Insurance, where he established the project management, process review and information technology skills that laid the foundation needed for his role as President at Xzito. Mr. Zapata has served on the Board of Directors for the Junior Achievement, the American Marketing Association, and English for Action. He is a graduate of Central Falls High School and Bryant University, where he earned a degree in Business Administration focused on Computer Information Systems and a minor in Communications.