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Who We Are

Meet Our Team

Andra Gillespie | Director

Andra Gillespie is Associate Professor of Political Science and Director of the James Weldon Johnson Institute at Emory University.  She earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in Government & Foreign Affairs and African American Studies from the University of Virginia. She went on to earn a Master of Arts in African American Studies and a Master of Philosophy in Political Science from Yale University, where she also earned her doctorate in 2005. Before joining the faculty at Emory, she worked as an analyst for Democratic pollster Mark Mellman.

Gillespie’s teaching portfolio includes numerous classes on race and politics in the United States. She teaches the undergraduate survey course in African American politics, as well as a specialized course called “New Black Political Leadership.” She has also taught courses in political participation, experimental methods, and race and elections.

Gillespie’s current research focuses on the political leadership of the post-civil rights generation. She is the author of The New Black Politician: Cory Booker, Newark and Post-Racial America. (NYU Press 2012). This book uses a case study of the evolution of black politics in Newark, New Jersey to challenge students of black politics to revise their understanding of the connection between racial solidarity, vote choice and policy preferences. She is also the editor of and a contributor to Whose Black Politics? Cases in Post-Racial Black Leadership (Routledge, 2010).

This book features case studies of prominent black elected officials born after 1960 to shed light on whether the advent of a new generation of black political leadership will actually revolutionize our understanding of African American politics. Due to her academic training and personal faith, Gillespie also maintains secondary academic interests in political participation, inter-minority group competition, and evangelical politics in the United States.

For her efforts, Gillespie has received numerous honors.  She is a member of Phi Beta Kappa.  Before earning her doctorate, she won an American Political Science Association Minority Fellowship (funding declined) and the prestigious National Science Foundation Pre-Doctoral Fellowship.  She was honored by the Urban Section of the American Political Science Association as a 2009 Norton Long Fellow.  She also was a 2009-2010 Ford Foundation Diversity Post-Doctoral Fellow in the Center for African American Studies at Princeton University (in partial residence).  In 2011-2012, she served as a Martin Luther King Visiting Scholar in the Political Science Department at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

In addition to her academic work, Gillespie maintains an active public profile, providing regular commentary for local and national news outlets.  She has appeared on Atlanta’s local ABC, NBC, Fox, CBS, and PBS affiliates, as well as CNN, NPR, and FamilyNet.  Her editorials have been featured in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, The Washington Post, and Politico. In addition, she is a contributor to’s Arena.


Rhonda Patrick | Assistant Director

Rhonda Patrick joins JWJI with more than 16 years of marketing experience in the telecommunications and banking industries. She has developed multiple strategic marketing campaigns and programs including go-green initiatives and event activations for targeted audiences focused on increasing brand awareness and acquisition growth.

Rhonda has a long-term passion for community development. She is a 2018 graduate of United Way’s VIP certification program focused on developing board leaders and is currently serving on the boards of Lanta Gras (providing brass and percussion instruments and instruction to middle and high school children) and Emmaus House (providing education, assistance, and advocacy for the neighborhood in Peoplestown) 

In 2017, Rhonda was a finalist in the Community Ideas Challenge competition led by the Center of Civic Innovation in Atlanta. Her idea for increasing community engagement and voter registration for the past mayoral election was selected as one of the top five finalists out of over 100 candidates.

Rhonda is a Georgia State University alumni and holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism with a concentration in Public Relations.


Antoinette Burrell | Administrative Assistant

Antoinette has over 15 years of experience as an Administrative Assistant. She has worked for a diverse array of environments: non-profits, small businesses, corporate America, and the local government.

She holds a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration, a Bachelor of Arts in both Human Resource Management and Management from Columbia College of Missouri.