Meet the Academy of Fellows

Every 18 months, the Institute invites people of remarkable accomplishments from a cross section of professional endeavors to join the distinguished Academy of Fellows chaired by renowned journalist and author Bankole Thompson. Invitees go through a rigorous process of selection through which their passion and specific interest and field of research are taken into consideration.

During the 18-month fellowship, fellows are expected to write four articles regarding inequality, inclusion and poverty that will be published on the PuLSE’s commentary section as the Poverty Matters blog, participate in at least three activities of the Institute and complete a personal project that helps to fight poverty.

All fellows are social impact volunteers driven by their interest and commitment to improving the lives of those who live in the shackles of poverty. Announcement of the 2020 cohorts will be made in September 2019.


 Luba Lukova, Senior Fellow
Arts and Social Justice 

Internationally renowned, New York-based Luba Lukova is regarded as one of the most original image-makers working today. Whether by using an economy of line, color and text to pinpoint essential themes of humanity or to succinctly visualize social commentary, her work is undeniably powerful and thought-provoking.

In Lukova’s art, less is more. More effect, more message, more expression; all while doing it with less. The graphic elements are bold with few fine details but the intent is clear. Her messages reflect the human condition, fundamental fairness, and justice. Yet while it is easy to focus solely on the messages of her provocative works, it is important to take a step back to appreciate the artistic merit in her simplicity. Her use of striking, metaphoric images gives the viewers art to not only appreciate visually but intellectually.

Lukova’s work is included in the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art, New York; Denver Art Museum; Bibliothèque nationale de France, Paris; Hong Kong Heritage Museum; Centre de la Gravure et de l’Image imprimée, La Louvière, Belgium; the Library of Congress; and the World Bank, Washington, D.C. Her solo exhibitions include UNESCO, Paris; DDD Gallery, Osaka, Japan; La MaMa Gallery, New York; the Art Institute of Boston; and the Museum of Design Atlanta (MODA).

Reflecting on complex social issues has been Lukova’s career-long focus because of her firmly held belief that art is central to human existence and that morality and creativity are aligned. In 2008 she released her Social Justice portfolio, addressing themes such as peace, censorship, immigration, ecology, hunger, and corruption. The twelve iconic images soon became a best-selling publication and requests for exhibits and reproductions in magazines, newspapers and books came from around the globe. The collection was included in the prestigious art exhibition at the first inauguration of President Obama in Washington D.C. and has been exhibited widely in the U.S., France, Turkey, Greece, Israel, and Mexico. Nine years since its publication, the series is as relevant as ever and the artist continues to create new social commentary work. In her words, she has “plenty of topics to tackle in the future.”

​Lukova has received commissions from Adobe, Sony Music, Canon, The New York TimesTime, and Harvard University, among others. Her drawings grace the Verve Records CD box set Ella Fitzgerald and Duke Ellington at the Cote D’Azur, which was nominated for a Grammy Award for best recording package design. Lukova has collaborated with some of the visionaries of the contemporary theater, creating striking posters for the productions of Judith Malina and the Living Theatre, Ellen Stewart and La MaMa Theater, and Sir Peter Hall. The first theater poster she ever designed, There Is No Death for the Songs, is now included in the permanent collection of MoMA, New York. Lukova’s many awards include the Grand Prix Savignac at the International Poster Salon in Paris; the Gold Pencil from The One Club in New York; Honor Laureate at the International Poster Exhibition in Fort Collins, CO; and a grant from the Reisman Foundation. She holds an honorary doctoral degree from the Art Institute of Boston.

At The PuLSE Institute, Lukova focuses on arts and social justice.



Mike Smith, Senior Fellow 
Labor and Economics

Mike Smith is currently the Johanna Meijer Magoon Principal Archivist at the Bentley Historical Library at The University of Michigan. He is also archivist for the Detroit Jewish News Foundation.  He has 30 years of experience as an archivist and historian of Detroit and Michigan, including nine years as Director of the Walter Reuther Library at Wayne State University. Before earning his academic degrees, Mike worked as a truck driver, mechanic, pizza maker, and warehouseman in Detroit, and served in the United States Marine Corps.

Smith has presented and published extensively on such topics as Detroit history, Michigan History, African American History, Detroit Jewish History, and the history of the American Labor movement and automotive industry.  He has appeared in numerous local, national and foreign documentary films about Detroit, and has been quoted in such in local and national media as the New York Times, Washington Post, Financial Times, CNN, and The Detroit News and Free Press.  In 2009, Mike was nominated for Archivist of the United States.

Smith’s work in Detroit has provided him with the opportunity to meet many people and communities in Detroit.  He has been an advocate for the city and state, as well as such organizations as the Detroit Rescue Mission Ministries.

At The PuLSE Institute, Smith, contributes to how poverty affects the economic prosperity of people, and how labor contributed to building the middle class in Detroit and the region.


Dr. Ebere Azumah, Senior Fellow
Health and Human Services

Ebere Azumah MD FACOG is a Board-Certified Obstetrician and Gynecologist who resides in the Metro Washington DC area and works in DC at a Community Health Center. Dr. Azumah received her Bachelor of Science degree in both Biology and African American studies from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. She went to Wayne State School of Medicine in Detroit Michigan for her medical degree. She then completed her Ob/Gyn training at Long Island Jewish Hospital in New York.

Although, Dr. Azumah is a practicing physician, she also has multiple passions but with one driving force: To help people improve their lives.

She is the founder of Hapatoma Wholistic Services LLC which provides affordable Professional Life Coaching services, Child birth Education and Doula services to her community. She believes through Life coaching people can begin to recognize the greatness that exists in them and then begin to live again.

Dr. Azumah is also a Dona internationally trained Doula. It is her desire to bridge the gap between Doulas and Obstetricians in a more formal way. Bridging this gap might empower women and possibly lead to a decrease in the maternal mortality rate in the United States.

In 2014, Dr. Azumah’s desire to help people was made concrete after she became a victim of a drunk driving. This accident left her with 30% skin burn.  Through faith, good medicine, friends and family support she was able to return to work and continue to enjoy life again. During this trial she realized that the strength we need lies within. She loves to share this mantra with many others.

When Dr. Azumah, isn’t working in the hospital or in the clinic, she is seen taking pictures, micro-blogging, writing, walking, visiting a museum or traveling.

At The PuLSE Institute, Dr. Azumah, contributes to how improving health and human services can help address poverty.


Venkata Rathna Anirudh Mamidipaka, Associate Fellow
Technology and Poverty

In 2014, Venkata Rathna Anirudh Mamidipaka, was honored by the current Prime Minister of India Narenda Modi for his contributions towards solving the critical national challenge of malnutrition.

Mamidipaka, currently pursuing a Master of Science in Information Technology with a concentration in Business Analytics at Lawrence Technological University in Southfield, MI, sees poverty as the greatest moral crisis and wants to use science to address inequality.

He believes that the next generation of science and information technology leaders must do all they can to stem the tide of rising inequality.

Former British Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill during a mid-century convocation speech at MIT said, “If, with all the resources of modern science, we find ourselves unable to avert world famine, we shall all be to blame, but a peculiar responsibility would rest upon the scientists.”

He further stated, “I do not believe they will fail, but if they do, or were not allowed to succeed, the consequences would be very unpleasant because it is certain that mankind would not agree to starve equally, and there might be some very sharp disagreements about how the last crust was to be shared. This would simplify our problem in an unduly primordial manner.”

For Mamidipaka, Churchill’s words ring true and he remains convinced that those in the field of science and information technology have no option but to confront poverty using their enormous talents and resources to do so.

According to Mahatma Gandhi, the father of non-violence philosophy, those who are deeply concerned about the persistence of social inequality ought to be the change that they want to see take place in the world.

Gandhi’s admonishment serves as a guide to Venkata Rathna Anirudh Mamidipaka.

At The PuLSE Institute, he focuses on the intersection of technology and poverty.


Stephanie Shannon, Associate Fellow 
Veteran Affairs

Sgt. Stephanie J. Shannon has over 28 years of experience in the fields of business, social work, community development, leadership, ministry, collaborations, work shops and seminars. She is an honorably discharged disabled U.S. Army veteran who has served her county for eight years including in the 1990-1991 Desert Storm/Desert Shield Persian Gulf War I.

She is the Founder/CEO of Michigan Women Veterans Empowerment a non-profit faith based organization that empowers women veterans in the eighth dimensions of wellness. Shannon is the best selling author of “Battling the Storm Within” a memoir about her military experience and a second book “Our Voices United: Women Veteran Anthology.” She is an inspirational speaker and a veterans advocate. She is also an licensed and ordained minister since 2017.

As The PuLSE Institute, Shannon, contributes to how poverty affects women veterans in Detroit and Wayne County.


Varun Vikram, Associate Fellow
Technology and Poverty

Varun Vikram is of the fundamental belief that students of all diverse backgrounds must not only be the future vehicles for meaningful social change, but that they should be involved now in changing society for the better.

Currently pursuing a Master of Science at Lawrence Technological University Vikram, is an International Honor Society (Beta Gamma Sigma) recipient, whose tremendous scholastic achievements have earned him multiple and diverse recognition.

Vikram, views technology as an important and powerful tool in this age that can be used to fight poverty, including both its causes and impact on people’s lives. He has a strong interest and commitment to the creation of anti-poverty reduction programs that can help alleviate the suffering of many people who are cut out of economic opportunities.

“Our society should be equal. We have too many people who are disadvantaged and it is our duty to help those who are deprived of resources,” Vikram says about poverty.

Past and present leaders have taken on the issue of economic inequality even as it remains the major hindrance to quality of life for many today. Among them was the global statesman, Nelson Mandela, who once said “We pledge ourselves to liberate all our people from the continuing bondage of poverty, deprivation, suffering, gender and other discrimination.”

 Vikram is inspired by the works of Mandela and wants to use his gifts to help those who are underprivileged.

 At The PuLSE, he focuses on technology and poverty.


Chris White, Senior Fellow
Criminal Justice Reform

Chris White is a theorist, political consultant, and activist who brings cutting edge analysis to some of today’s most pressing issues. He has advised state, federal, and local elected officials, community leaders, and non-profit executives. Chris serves as Executive Director of the Institute for Public Policy and Educational Affairs; Director of Operations for the Detroit Coalition against Police Brutality and Peace Zones for Life; and Co-Chairs the Coalition to Restore Hope Through Education. He also hosts podcast’s on soundcloud.comand

At The Pulse Institute, White focuses on criminal justice reform and community engagement.