Meet The Chief
David W. Robinson-Morris, Ph.D. is an author, philosopher, social justice and human rights advocate-activist, educator, philanthropist, community organizer, DEI practitioner, and administrator.
Dr. Robinson-Morris is the Founder of The Center for the Human Spirit and Radical Reimagining. David is also the Founder & Chief Reimaginelutionary at The REImaginelution, LLC, a strategic consulting firm working at the intersections of imagination, policy, practice, and prophetic hope to radically reimagine diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) toward racial justice and systemic transformation by engendering freedom of the human spirit; and catalyzing the power of the imagination to reweave organizations, systems, and the world toward collective healing and liberation. David has come to understand that more than knowledge or power or money is the imagination.
In January 2023, along with two colleagues, David co-founded and serves as co-Executive Director of The André Cailloux Center for the Performing Arts and Cultural Justice located in New Orleans on historic Bayou Road—the site of the oldest Indigenous trading post in the region and nestled in the oldest Free People of Color neighborhood in the country. The André Cailloux Center for the Performing Arts and Cultural Justice (ACC) is a multidisciplinary, community-centered arts, cultural and organic intellectual center dedicated to freedom, flourishing, and the promotion of justice through the arts, community engagement, dialogue, and sustainable arts enterprise development for Black makers.
Most recently, Dr. Robinson-Morris serves as the Executive Director in service to The Center for Contemplative Mind in Society (CMind), a global community of contemplative practitioners and scholars whose goal is the ongoing development of racial, social, economic, and environmental justice and the advancement of human flourishing within society and higher education, more specifically. After nearly 30 years of service to society, the higher education sector and the contemplative studies movement, David made the difficult recommendation to the Board of Directors to sunset the organization due to longstanding financial instability yet successful fulfillment of its founding mission. CMind ceased its operations on October 1, 2022.
David served as the Regional Director of Diversity and Inclusion of the Bayou Region for Ochsner Health. He is the Founding Director of The Center for Equity, Justice, and the Human Spirit, former Assistant Professor in the Division of Education and Counseling and served as Assistant Vice President of Development at Xavier University of Louisiana.
David holds a Ph.D. in Educational Leadership and Research with a dual concentration in Higher Education Administration and Curriculum Theory, and an Education Specialist (Ed. S.) Certificate in Educational Leadership with a focus on applied research, measurement, and evaluation both from Louisiana State University (LSU).
Dr. Robinson-Morris’ career as an upper-level administrator is grounded in his work as a social justice and human rights advocate and academic, whose engagements across several platforms including higher education institutions, government, human rights organizations, corporations, non-profit, religious, and philanthropic organizations seek to impact policy, change practice, and uplift the human spirit wherever it is diminished.
Influenced by his understanding of Ubuntu—a South African philosophical notion of communalism and shared humanity—Dr. Robinson-Morris’ work promotes deep dialogical engagement as an approach to achieving racial, gender, and health equity when communities come to understand that our humanity is shared and is a quality we owe another. True equity and systemic transformation, in our communities and in our institutions, can only be realized when we come to understand difference as generative and the collective mandates systems to align policy and practice toward inclusion, which leads to a sense of belonging and mattering for every individual. His understanding of Ubuntu coupled with that of Eastern (Buddhist) philosophy informs his ongoing understanding of our shared, collective humanity.
As a scholar, David’s primary research centers on a single question: What does it mean to be a human being? This question continuously informs his approaches to management, organizational leadership, teaching, and community involvement.
In 2020, Dr. Robinson-Morris led regional diversity and inclusion strategy for Ochsner Health System’s Bayou region of the state of Louisiana. As the inaugural Regional Director of Diversity and Inclusion for the region, David worked to develop a comprehensive and strategic diversity and inclusion framework that maps onto the System’s overarching efforts to improve health equity and health outcomes, increase patient satisfaction and employee engagement, and create an inclusive environment to aid in employee retention and belonging. In addition to leading and developing the Bayou regional diversity and inclusion strategy, he co-facilitated the System’s Quality and Nursing Diversity and Inclusion Work Groups, served on the System’s Health Equity Council and Steering Committee for the D&I High Potential Mentorship Program.
Additionally, Dr. Robinson-Morris represented the System as member of the Vizient Vulnerable Patient Population Advisory Committee and the Region 3 Healthy Communities Coalition of the Louisiana Public Health Institute. David was also engaged in co-crafting the diversity and inclusion education curricular strategy and was a liaison to the Ochsner Xavier Institute for Health Equity and Research, and Ochsner’s Community and Public Affairs COVID vaccine outreach efforts.
In 2018, Dr. Robinson-Morris created and founded The Center for Equity, Justice, and the Human Spirit at Xavier University of Louisiana. The Center was envisioned to serve as an anchor, a magnet, a beacon of hope, and a catalyst for change through research, community engagement, public scholarship, and public theology. Since its founding, The Center has worked to engage, support, and promote innovative thinking in a multiplicity of contexts and across disciplines regarding race, class, systemic inequities; and a faith that does justice toward a deeper understanding of issues impacting modern societies and vexing the human spirit. The Center’s work has focused on impacting policy, improving practice, and uplifting the human spirit within the areas of PK-16 educational equity, criminal justice reform, and environmental justice.
The global Coronavirus pandemic ushered in a programmatic focus on COVID-19, public health equity and the intersectional issues impacting Black, Latinx, Indigenous, and rural communities. In 2020, the Center hosted public forums to educate communities about the pandemic. Physicians, scientists including public health experts, community leaders, elected officials, educators, and business professionals participated in the series, which collectively drew close to 3,000 attendees. In its public-facing activities, The Center proved a viable resource for citizens to gain clear knowledge and greater understanding of the virus, its transmission, and best practices for keeping themselves and their families safe during such an unprecedented time in history. The COVID-19 forums perhaps exemplify the greatest articulation of David’s philosophy that uplifts the collective by enriching one another and a deep interrogation of the intersectional issues that plague the most vulnerable in society.
Under Dr. Robinson-Morris’ leadership, the Center leveraged a $5,000 yearly institutional investment to raise $1.425 million; created dynamic programs like the Gilead Scholars for Equity and Justice, the XULA Investigative Stories Project; and through the generosity of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, a pipeline program to increase the number of Black male teachers in public education. The Center for Equity, Justice, and the Human Spirit hosted national speakers and thought leaders and engaged the public through informative public scholarship and intellectually provocative convenings. The Center’s work within the areas of PK-16 educational equity, criminal legal system reform, and environmental justice are yielding promising results in the transformation of these systems in the city of New Orleans.
In addition to his equity work, research, and scholarly activism, David formerly served as the Assistant Vice president for Development within the Office of Institutional Advancement at Xavier liaising with local, regional, and national foundations and corporations to meet the growing institutional and educational needs of the Xavier University of Louisiana community; he was instrumental in securing Xavier’s largest gift by an individual donor—$20 million—and on average raised $4.5 million per year.
While at Xavier, in addition to his other duties, David served as an assistant professor in the Division of Education and Counseling, where he taught educational leadership doctoral courses. Previously, he instructed higher education administration masters students at University of Wisconsin-La Crosse.
Ever the educator, in 2021, Dr. Robinson-Morris concurrently served as an adjunct professor of Public Administration in the School of Professional Advancement at Tulane University, where he developed and taught Reimagining and Leading Educational Systems for the Future; and he continues to serve as an adjunct professor at the University of New Orleans teaching theory and research methodology courses to doctoral students in the education and counseling programs.
David previously held graduate assistantships in LSU Community University Partnerships (CUP) in Equity, Diversity and Community Outreach, has served as senior publicist to the former mayor of New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina, as a higher education administrator at Loyola University New Orleans, where he served for four years as the associate director of alumni relations; and as director of development (fundraising) for both the Capital One-New Beginnings Charter Schools Network and Breakthrough New Orleans at Isidore Newman School.
Dr. Robinson-Morris’ scholarly activity includes published work in Lion’s Roar Magazine, peer reviewed articles in educational journals, book chapters on racial equity in higher education amid the pandemic, and higher education curriculum development and (de/) reform, and presentations at academic conferences. He is the author of a research monograph titled, Ubuntu and Buddhism in Higher Education: An Ontological (Re)Thinking published by Routledge and released in 2019. In 2016, his dissertation was 1st place in the 2016 American Association of Blacks in Higher Education (AABHE) Dissertation Award competition.
Dr. Robinson-Morris consults and lectures frequently in his free time and continues to serve on dissertation committees at both Xavier University of Louisiana and the University of New Orleans.
In keeping with his philosophy that we are all “multiplicities of one,” not only is he a board member of the Contemporary Arts Center New Orleans, Dr. Robinson-Morris was also invited to serve as guest curator of the 2021-22 season opening annual Open Call exhibition titled, Behind Every Beautiful Thing: Encountering Bodies, Wrestling the Human Condition. The exhibition emerged following an unprecedented pandemic year, the heightened visibility of health inequity throughout the nation has elevated concerns about mental and physical well-being, the industrialization of medical practices, disease, illness, and (dis)/ability. It featured multimedia artworks from 36 Gulf South artists and offered a deeply personal portrayal of artists’ experiences with health and illness, and the reverberating impact on the life, body, and psyche of the individual and their community.
Dr. Robinson-Morris is an active member in several organizations including: Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc., the American Association of Blacks in Higher Education (AABHE), the American Educational Research Association (AERA), the Association of Fundraising Professionals, (AFP), the African American Development Officers Network, and the National Association of Diversity Officers in Higher Education, to name a few.
Currently, David is a chair of the St. Charles Avenue Center for Faith + Action Board of Directors, member of the Forum for Equality Foundation (Louisiana) Board of Directors, member of Emerging Practitioners in Philanthropy (EPIP) Louisiana Steering Committee, and a member of the Teach for America—Greater New Orleans Board of Directors.
Dr. Robinson-Morris serves as a Community Advisory Member on the Acquisitions Committee of The Historic New Orleans Collection Board of Directors, is a member of the historic city of New Orleans Street Renaming Commission’s Outreach and Research subcommittees, the Loyola University New Orleans Historic Naming Committee, the Overcoming Racism Committee for the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, and is an appointed member of Governor John Bel Edwards’ Louisiana Climate Initiatives Task Force Equity Advisory Group. He is a founding member of the Charles Deslondes Branch of the Association for the Study of African American Life and History. In 2021, David was appointed to the New Orleans Steering Committee of the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), where he serves as the Louisiana Political Action Committee and to the board of directors for the Louisiana Budget Project, ADL South Central Region, the Contemporary Arts Center New Orleans, and the New Orleans African American Museum.
David has served as Commissioner of the city of New Orleans Human Relations Commission where he was appointed co-chair of the Commission’s Truth and Reconciliation subcommittee, a former member of the Academic Advisory Committee of E. Pluribus Unum Fund and served as the Higher Education Cluster Co-Leader for the Campaign for Equity New Orleans (CENO). He is the former vice president of the College Beyond Board of Directors, former vice chair of the Leona Tate Foundation for Change, past board chair for Emerging Philanthropists of New Orleans (EPNO), former member of the One Book One New Orleans Board of Directors, the Historic New Orleans Collection’s DEI Strategic Planning Advisory Council, Son of a Saint Foundation Advisory Board, Lycée Français de la Nouvelle-Orléans Board of Directors, the Loyola University New Orleans Alumni Association Board of Directors, and is a founding board member of Propeller (née Social Entrepreneurs of New Orleans).
In July 2021, David’s commitment to education, equity, justice, and the flourishing of the human spirit within the New Orleans community was recognized by the New Orleans Young Leadership Council (YLC) as a 2021 YLC Role Model awardee and by The Gambit Weekly as a 40 Under 40 Class of 2021 honoree.
Dr. Robinson-Morris obtained his Bachelor of Arts in Communications – Public Relations from Loyola University New Orleans in 2006, Master of Public Administration (MPA) from the University of New Orleans in 2011, Ph.D. from Louisiana State University in 2015, and an Educational Specialist Certificate in 2016. He is a native of Galveston, Texas.