Voices of Social Equity

Social Equity & Activism Summit

How we tell the stories about ourselves, traumatic or otherwise, can be used to categorize us in ways that are not always equitable. Are marginalized groups expected to share traumatic experiences when dealing with institutions of power? Join sociologist, Aya Waller-Bey, community engagement storyteller Mike Keo, and Andrus Awardee Betty Bajek to explore what’s contributing to this issue, why it hurts us all, and how we can best address it.

Aya Waller-Bey

Aya M. Waller-Bey is a proud Detroiter and Ph.D. candidate in sociology at the University of Michigan. Her research examines how Black undergraduate students confront, negotiate, and make meaning of expectations to narrate trauma in college personal statements. Aya is a decorated scholar receiving local and national praise for her research. She is a 2020 Ford Foundation Predoctoral Fellowship awardee and, in 2021, received the National Center for Institutional Diversity Anti-Racism Summer Research Grant for her dissertation project. She is also a 2022 inductee of the Bouchet Graduate Honor Society at the University of Michigan. This prestigious honor is awarded to graduate students who exemplify scholarship, character, leadership, service, advocacy, and contributions to the academy. Her efforts have also been highlighted in a PBS Newshour special, the Cambridge Alumni Magazine, the Washington Post, and the University World News.

Aya received her B.A. in Sociology from Georgetown University. In 2015, she was awarded the Gates Cambridge Scholarship to the University of Cambridge in England—a scholarship awarded to only 40 people in the U.S. each year—and completed her Master of Philosophy in Education. She has presented her research at the University of Amsterdam, symposiums at the University of Michigan, op-eds in publications like Huffington Post U.K and Forbes, and invited talks, including the Aspen Center of Physics Winter Conference in 2021 and the University of Florida Center for Public Interests Communication's annual frank gathering in 2022. She also discussed her research at SXSW EDU in Austin, Texas, in March 2023 and closed out TEDxDetroit in 2022. Aya is a proud member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated.


Mike Keo

Mike Keo is a storyteller, public speaker, and photographer that weaves personal and community narrative to create local dialogue on equity, inclusion, anti-racism and collaboration. He is the founder of #IAMNOTAVIRUS, a co-op, that highlighted Asian American stories across the diaspora and successfully advocated for the No Hate Act. Through partnerships they created a coloring book of Asian American heroes that included Southeast Asian, South Asian, LGBTQIA+, and multi-racial from STEM, Public, and Art backgrounds and a mental health workbook for Asian Americans that have been utilized in over two dozen universities. Mike was a co-founder of Make Us Visible, where he helped successfully advocate for bills in CT in NJ for the inclusion of AAPI history and connected local communities with one another. He currently serves on the Governor Lamont's Hate Advisory Crimes Council and was recognized as 40 Under 40 for CT Class of 2023.


Betty Bajek

Education is one of Betty Bajek’s passions. She began her career as a third-grade teacher. Subsequent to teaching in the public and private sectors, Betty decided to broaden her horizons and parlayed her skills and talents into a corporate educator position.

Betty Bajek retired from corporate life in 2013 after 20 years in the pharmaceutical business.  She held significant positions in various departments and disciplines, and managed both domestic and international staffs.

Realizing she still had more ‘gas’ in her tank, she embarked into the world of volunteerism. When AARP CT was seeking volunteers to present their Fraud Watch Network (FWN) program, Betty knew it was a perfect match because she experienced credit card fraud first-hand. Betty became an appointed volunteer in March 2016. In addition to FWN, Betty presents the Caregiver Roadshow program having been and continues to be a caregiver for her 97-year-old mother. She volunteers in several programs focusing on age-friendly living and supporting the work to keep individuals living in a setting of their choice as they age.

Betty is proud to be a certified trainer for AARP’s Disrupt Aging Classroom. This program is presented at colleges and universities across the country where students are engaged in transforming attitudes about aging and how the aging trend will affect their lives and careers. Currently, she is participating in the national implementation of Disrupt Aging in Your Community.

Betty is the Chairwoman of the Board Directors for the Greater Waterbury Transit District, representing the town of Prospect.  Betty also volunteers as non-medical personnel with Chesprocott, the public health district providing health services and information to the communities of Cheshire, Prospect, and Wolcott.  Betty is also a member-at-large of the Prospect Business Association representing the non-profit Friends of the Prospect Public Library, Inc. She serves on Prospect’s Economic Development Commission, the Water Pollution Control Authority, and the Sidewalk Task Force.  Additionally, she is a member of the Project Advisory Committee (PAC) for the State of Connecticut’s New Mix Program, which is a project regarding the rehabilitation and eventual newly constructed I-84 and Route 8 interchange.

Betty is the 2019 recipient of the prestigious Andrus Award, named after AARP’s founder, Ethel Percy Andrus, for her volunteerism with AARP and within her community.

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