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Slavery, History, Memory and Reconciliation

Laura Weis, Ph.D.

Project Coordinator

Laura Weis, Ph.D.

Project Coordinator

Laura Weis coordinates the SHMR Project on behalf of the Jesuits in the United States, and works to build relationships with descendants, community members, researchers, Jesuit partners, and others to advance the project’s mission and goals. She holds a Ph.D. in Peace Studies and History from the University of Notre Dame, where she studied religion, conflict, and peacebuilding, and the relationship between U.S. culture and foreign relations. She previously worked in Washington, D.C., advocating for the peaceful prevention of violent conflict with the Friends Committee on National Legislation and the American Friends Service Committee. Laura is an alumna of Saint Louis University, where she earned a B.A. in history and sociology.

Jonathan C. Smith, Ph.D.

Co-Director, Vice President for Diversity and Community Engagement, SLU

Jonathan C. Smith, Ph.D.

Co-Director, Vice President for Diversity and Community Engagement, SLU

Dr. Jonathan Smith, Vice President for Diversity and Community Engagement at Saint Louis University and a founder and co-director of the Slavery, History, Memory, and Reconciliation (SHMR) Project, passed away on Juneteenth 2021, a day he was thrilled to inaugurate as a university holiday this year. We at SHMR mourn the loss of our beloved colleague and friend, whose commitment to making the world a better place never ceased to inspire us. Read more about his impact and legacy.

Danielle Harrison
Danielle Harrison, M.A., J.D.

Co-Director

Danielle Harrison
Danielle Harrison, M.A., J.D.

Co-Director

Danielle Harrison is the Co-Director of the Slavery, History, Memory and Reconciliation Project. With over 26 years of experience of working in Christian environments, Danielle is a teacher, facilitator, trainer, consultant, spiritual director, campus minister and retreat director. Before accepting the position at SHMR, She was the director of Mission Integration at Visitation Academy. Danielle also taught Theology at a number of Catholic High Schools in the St. Louis area. She is a graduate of Dartmouth College, Saint Louis University Law School, and Aquinas Institute of Theology, where she received her Masters of Theology with a concentration in Biblical Studies. Danielle is a trained facilitator for Dismantling Racism and promoting Cultural Competency, and is frequently sought after to speak to issues of Equity and Inclusion.

Kelly L. Schmidt, Ph.D.

Research Coordinator

Kelly L. Schmidt, Ph.D.

Research Coordinator

Kelly Schmidt leads the SHMR Project’s research effort to learn the identities and lived experience of the people whom the Jesuits held in slavery. She also coordinates the project’s genealogical research to connect living descendants of the Jesuits’ enslaved people to their ancestors. Kelly received her doctorate in United States History and Public History from Loyola University Chicago. She earned her bachelor's degree at Xavier University, where she was an Honors Bachelor of Arts (Latin, Greek, and Philosophy) and History major with minors in Gender and Diversity Studies, Peace Studies, and Philosophy. Kelly worked for about eight years at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center as a docent, youth docent mentor and museum experiences specialist.

Ayan Ali

Researcher

Ayan Ali

Researcher

Ayan serves as a researcher for the SHMR Project and conducts historical research about the lives of people held in bondage by the Society of Jesus and genealogical research about their descendants. She recently completed her undergraduate studies at Washington University in St. Louis, where she studied women’s studies and history. Ayan previously interned with the Women’s Islamic Initiative in Spirituality and Equality (WISE) and Alternatives to Living in Violent Environments (ALIVE STL).