Our Team

Iris Romero, MD | pronouns: she/her

Iris Romero, MD | pronouns: she/her

Dean for Diversity & Inclusion

Iris is an Associate Professor in the Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology and the Dean for Diversity and Inclusion for the Biological Sciences Division.  Dr. Romero came to the University of Chicago as a Family Planning Fellow in 2005 and joined the faculty in 2007. She is an active clinician and translational researcher, specializing in the prevention of ovarian cancer.  Iris’s NIH funded research focuses on exploiting anti-tumor and cancer preventative effects of drugs that are FDA-approved for other indications. To approach this, her research group integrates in vitro analysis of the tumor microenvironment, mouse models of ovarian cancer and prospective clinical trials. In her role as Dean for Diversity and Inclusion, Iris and her team support the institution’s commitment to creating an inclusive environment that enables students, faculty and staff from all backgrounds to thrive. Dr. Romero brings to the role of Dean for Diversity and Inclusion a clear understanding of the challenges and rewards of academic medicine informed by her experiences as a first generation college student, a Chicana and a Lesbian. She lives with her wife and her two daughters in Woodlawn where they have found a strong “family of choice.”

Contact Dr. Romero at: iromero@bsd.uchicago.edu

Hannah Lawrence | pronouns: she/her

Hannah Lawrence | pronouns: she/her

Assistant Dean for Faculty Advancement and Diversity

With over ten years of experience in higher education administration and planning, Hannah has extensive experience developing and managing new initiatives from concept to white paper to reality.  As the Assistant Dean for Faculty Advancement & Diversity for the Biological Sciences Division, Hannah is responsible for the management and strategic oversight of the offices of Diversity & Inclusion and Faculty Affairs.  In this role, she also serves as a member of the Dean’s office leadership team, working with the Dean and senior leadership on a number of projects to support and enhance the academic programs in the BSD. Working closely with the Diversity & Inclusion team, she focuses on developing and leading new strategic initiatives and programs to enhance Diversity and inclusion in the BSD and promote the advancement of all faculty. She is also a regular facilitator in the BSD’s Foundational Leadership program.

Prior to serving as the Assistant Dean, she served as Director of Planning in the Dean’s office and helped to launch and run the Center for Research Informatics as its first Executive Administrator. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Philosophy and Theology and a Master’s of Arts degree from the University of Chicago’s Divinity school where she focused on the study of the intersection of religion and politics in the context of the history of religions. In 2017, she was selected to serve as a member of the AAMC’s Group on Institutional Planning Steering Committee.

Contact Hannah Lawrence at: hlawrenc@bsd.uchicago.edu

Tobias Spears | pronouns: he, him, his

Tobias Spears | pronouns: he, him, his

Director of Diversity Initiatives

Tobias is a thought leader who designs and leads interventions that enhance diversity and inclusion within the division. His portfolio includes facilitating “thinkshops,” which are hour-long programs that use social science research to combat implicit bias, promote LGBTQ inclusive spaces, and build skills to confront microaggressions. Tobias works with faculty and resident/trainee recruitment, resource groups, the division’s pipeline programs, and with the office’s outreach and marketing. He most recently deployed the Inclusion Menu, which features a series of “conversation starters” that bring diversity & inclusion related dialogues directly to academic departments and lab groups. Since beginning his tenure in the Biological Sciences Division, Tobias founded the University Resource Group Black Men Engaged, which brings together Black men from across campus for the purpose of mentoring, professional development, and service in and with the South Side community. He is also a consultant for the University of Chicago Center for HIV Elimination and serves as an active member of Howard Brown Health’s South Side Community Advisory Board. Tobias holds a bachelor’s degree in history from the State University of New York at Binghamton, a master’s degree in women’s, gender, and sexuality studies from Georgia State University, and he is a current PhD candidate in the School of Cultural and Critical Studies at Bowling Green State University. Prior to his work in the Biological Sciences, Tobias was director of the LGBTQ Student Life Office at University of Chicago’s Center for Identity + Inclusion.

Hailing from Brooklyn, NY, Tobias grew up on the East Coast and is currently writing his dissertation study examining black gay men, media, and representation. Tobias loves shoes and considers himself an avid sneaker collector. He also enjoys staying fit and riding his bike along Chicago’s beautiful lakefront.

Contact Tobias Spears at: tspears1@bsd.uchicago.edu

Karen Jackson | pronouns: she/her

Karen Jackson | pronouns: she/her

Director of Programming

Karen is responsible for developing and implementing a wide range of programs and initiatives that advance our institutional goals around creating a diverse and inclusive environment and supporting the advancement and development of faculty.  Karen’s profile includes the Foundational Leadership Program, REEL Talk, Diversity Dialogues, and the D&I small grant program for diversity research and career advancement.  She is originally from Wisconsin but claims dual citizenship with Illinois as she attended high school and graduate school in Chicago (Chicago State University).  Karen has a love for all things Chicago, especially it’s economic, social, and cultural history.   You will find her exploring local architecture, music, and theatre and reading sci fi in her free time.

Contact Karen Jackson at: kjackson10@bsd.uchicago.edu

Lisa Vonesh | pronouns: she/her

Lisa Vonesh | pronouns: she/her

Administrative Coordinator

Lisa is responsible for handling the day to day needs of four offices here at the University of Chicago. She is the Administrative Coordinator for the Office of Faculty Affairs, Office of Diversity & Inclusion, BSD Human Resources, and the BSD Office of Academic Affairs. She was born and raised in Chicago and loves her city, especially since she is extremely close to all of her family and friends. Lisa enjoys good food and music and all that Chicago has to offer.

Contact Lisa Vonesh at: lvonesh@bsd.uchicago.edu

Ram Sabaratnam | pronouns: he, him, his

Ram Sabaratnam | pronouns: he, him, his

Graduate Intern

Ram assists the office with a myriad of tasks, but especially enjoys helping to design workshops on various themes related to inclusion and equity, including unconscious bias and the nature of discrimination. He has nearly ten years of experience working on issues relating to diversity and equity on university campuses, particularly at McGill University and the London School of Economics where he completed his undergraduate and masters degrees respectively. He is presently a PhD student in the Political Science department at the University of Chicago. His research focuses on the nature of rights, institutional design, and global inequality. Born and raised in Toronto, Ram enjoys legal and political theory, Tolstoy, late 80’s sitcoms, and cheeseburgers with double cheese.

Contact Ram Sabaratnam at: rsabaratnam1@bsd.uchicago.edu

Olivia Gusman | pronouns: she, her, hers

Olivia Gusman | pronouns: she, her, hers

Student Office Assistant

Olivia is currently a graduate student at the School of Social Administration at the University of Chicago. Prior to her graduate studies, she worked in education in New Orleans as a teacher and instructional coach. Olivia has experience in diversity through her career in education, her involvement with Teach for America, and in her current graduate school work in social work. Originally from New Orleans, she has lived on three continents on her way to Chicago. Olivia enjoys discovering all the amazing food and culture that the city has to offer!

Contact Olivia Gusman at: ogusman@bsd.uchicago.edu