Our Team

The Centre for Race and Culture’s highly educated, experienced and innovative team has decades of expertise helping organizations see the intrinsic value of living and working in a diverse environment. We work closely with clients to gain insights into cultural issues and find practical solutions for workplaces, teams and individuals. Our non-profit, non-denominational, non-partisan status means we’re committed to neutrality while building understanding across all cultures and all sectors.

Our staff and facilitators are a diverse and highly competent group from a range of sectors, including applied social science, education, international development, youth intervention, business, the arts, and health care.

Team Members

Vanessa de Koninck

Executive Director



(780) 425-4644

Vanessa has over 20 years’ experience in the complex arena of intercultural collaboration, community advocacy and engagement. She holds a BS, MA and PhD in Anthropology, all from campuses of the University of California. She has extensive experience working in international contexts, having worked for twelve years with Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory of Australia, and from four years as a rural community development volunteer in Papua New Guinea. Her work history spanning both public and non-profit settings, as well as formal training in dispute resolution and mediation, all contribute to her commitment to building equitable relationships in line with CFRAC’s vision and mission.

Eugene Chok




(780) 425-4644

After completing his Bachelor of Business Administration degree at the Texas Tech University, Eugene immigrated to Canada in search of the good life and an opportunity to develop his skills in the field of accountancy. From 1980 to 2000, he worked as an accountant in both industry and government organizations. Along the way, he picked up a professional Accountancy Designation with the Certified General Accountant Association of Alberta. In 2000, he accepted an offer to work as an accountant with The Alberta Lung Association and has continued working in the non-profit sector since. He admires the strong commitment that NGO workers hold toward their cause and plans to finish his career in this sector. In his spare time, he teaches Tai Chi Chuan to seniors at the Chinese Freemason Association in Edmonton.

Ashima Sumaru-Jurf

Associate Consultant



(780) 425-4644

Ashima Sumaru-Jurf has facilitated, coordinated and managed programs related to immigration and migration, adult education, and human resources in the not-for-profit and government sectors. She has worked with communities throughout Alberta to build partnerships around creating inclusive and equitable communities.

Ashima is a self-described “teacher-learner” who is interested in connecting academic research and business knowledge with community and workplace practices. She is passionate about creating education, training and programs that bring together multiple forms of knowledge and assisting communities, organizations and individuals to develop their own strengths-based solutions to the issues they face.

Reuben Quinn

Program Coordinator


(780) 425-4644

Reuben Quinn is the Coordinator for our Nehiyaw Language Instruction program. Reuben has been working with Aboriginal youth and adults within Edmonton for 16 years. He has been a Cultural coordinator and Cree instructor for Edmonton Public Schools, Mother Earth Children’s Charter School, as well as the Edmonton Young Offender Center.
Reuben grew up in the residential school era and when the Blue Quills School was taken over by the Aboriginal community, there was a resurgence of language and cultural teachings. Reuben credits the late Mrs. Rosanna Houle for reviving the Nehiyaw (Cree) Cahkipeyihkanah and teaching it to all the students who had been liberated from residential school. The Nehiyaw Cahkipeyihkanah, or as some refer to it ’the Star Chart’, is a tool Reuben uses for teaching the Cree language.

Elli Dehnavi

Senior Consultant



(780) 425-4644

Elli is a story-teller, public educator and university teacher who is interested in the politics of literature and cinema. Believing that education is the key to social change, she has been actively engaged in the community to raise awareness about systemic racism and discrimination. She has developed, coordinated, and managed adult education resources, training programs, and support groups. In 2018, Elli coordinated two projects at the Centre for Race and Culture: Race and Respect, and Refugee Awareness Alberta. She is currently our Senior Consultant and offers educational workshops on intercultural competency, D&I, unconscious bias, creating inclusive communities, and gender equity.

Rose-Eva Forgues-Jenkins

Podcast Production Coordinator



(780) 425-4644

Rose-Eva Forgues-Jenkins joined the Centre for Race and Culture in the role of Podcast Production Coordinator. She completed her Bachelor of Arts in Film Studies and Psychology from the University of Alberta in 2014. Rose-Eva has been volunteering for local community radio station CJSR 88.5 FM since 2013, where she has been able to share her passion for gender equality as a producer for the radio show Adamant Eve. She has a background in youth work and is passionate about sharing stories.


Sarah Brandvold

Project Assistant



(780) 425-4644

Sarah Brandvold was born and raised in Red Deer, Alberta. She completed her Bachelor of Arts at the University of Lethbridge in 2006 and her Master of Arts at the University of Alberta in 2018. In the intervening years, Sarah and her family lived and worked in Iqaluit, Nunavut. Sarah has extensive experience in the education and non-profit/volunteer sectors. Most recently, before returning to Alberta to pursue graduate studies, Sarah served on the board of directors for the Qayuqtuvik Society, a Nunavut-based organization which manages the Qajuqturvik Food Centre in Iqaluit and advocates for increased food security in the North. While working on her Master’s degree, Sarah held a number of research and teaching assistantships at the University of Alberta. She also became heavily involved with the sponsorship and resettlement of a multi-generational refugee family from Syria. Sarah is passionate about working with others to build a more just and inclusive society. As a newbie to the refugee sponsorship experience herself, Sarah is committed to identifying and implementing best practices and to fostering strong, positive relationships amongst refugees, sponsors, service providers, and community members.