UROC Staff

Makeda Zulu
Executive Director
612-626-9829 | [email protected]
Makeda Zulu is UROC’s chief executive officer with primary responsibility for securing UROC’s success in all aspects of its work. She provides executive oversight of strategic planning, revenue generation, financial stewardship, organizational development, staff management, and operational activities. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in business management from Grambling State University and a Master of Public Affairs degree from the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs.

James De Sota
Assistant Executive Director
612-624-4514 | [email protected]
James De Sota works to connect University researchers with community needs. He oversees a wide variety of projects including UROC's Research Agenda, scholarly affiliation process, budget and human resources management, and grant-related initiatives. Prior to joining the University, he served as the neighborhood director for the Southeast Como Improvement Association, an AmeriCorps VISTA with the Minnesota Literacy Council, a Peace Corps Volunteer in Gambia, and researcher and consultant for several for-profit industries in the geographic information sector.

Kai Ecker
Graduate Research Assistant

612-626-8762|[email protected]

Kai Ecker studies clinical mental health as a master's degree student at the University of Minnesota College of Education and Human Development's School of Social Work. They support the UROC Research Agenda, the  Josie R. Johnson UROC Dissertation Fellows Program, and the UROC affiliation process.

Johneva McCoy
Office Manager 

612-624-5881 | 
[email protected]
Johneva McCoy works closely with the UROC leadership team in support of UROC research projects and outreach programs, communications, and community-engaged initiatives. She oversees UROC's day-to-day building operations including room reservations and rentals, manages the creative and logistical aspects of UROC's presence at community events and special events taking place at UROC, and supervises UROC's front desk team.

Lea Scott
Principal Office and Administrative Specialist  

612-626-8762 | [email protected]

Lea Scott is a principal office and administrative specialist at UROC. She provides clerical support to the UROC leadership team, works closely with UROC's office manager, and helps staff UROC's front desk. Lea holds an interdisciplinary degree in Eco-Womanist Studies from the University of Minnesota Duluth.

Nina Shepherd
Marketing and Communications Director

612-626-8762 | [email protected]

Nina Shepherd designs and implements marketing, communications, public relations, and brand strategies for UROC, as well as for the University of Minnesota's Office for Public Engagement.  She has held leadership roles in marketing and communications in offices throughout the University, including with University Relations, the Water Resources Center, and the Bell Museum of Natural History, and has held media relations and editorial positions with General Mills, Inc., Weber Shandwick, Corporate Report Minnesota, and Twin Cities Magazine