Our Team

Karla E. Vigil

Chief Executive Officer


Born in El Salvador and raised in Providence, Rhode Island, Karla Vigil serves as the chief executive officer and co-founder of the Equity Institute. Karla ensures ongoing programmatic excellence, rigorous program evaluation, and consistent quality of finance and administration, fundraising, and communications systems. Additionally, she’s a strong advocate for recruiting, developing, and supporting historically underrepresented education professionals.

Carlon Howard

Chief Impact Officer


Carlon is the Chief Impact Officer and Co-Founder of Equity Institute. In his role, he oversees organizational strategy, internal operations, and implementation of Equity Institute’s educator pathway program. Carlon is an avid reader and lifelong learner who spends much of his time exploring topics related to social science, history, and leadership.

Katya Rodriguez

Chief of Staff


Katya was born in Mexico, grew up in California, and has chosen to serve in Rhode Island since 2017.  She oversees the development and execution of all policy and research projects as well as organizational evaluation processes. Katya believes that all students deserve a high-quality education regardless of their zip code and she strives to develop an equitable education system throughout the country.

Ayana Bass

Program Manager


Ayana Bass is a lifelong Rhode Island resident and a certified Elementary, Special Educator. At Equity Institute, she focuses on developing alternative educator pathway programs for school support professionals to address teacher shortages and diversity within the teacher workforce. Ayana is an avid volunteer and values the importance and beauty of building relationships with people in her community, and beyond.

Vanessa Vigil

Pathway Specialist


Vanessa primarily supports the development and management of Equity Institute’s educator pathway program. She is a Providence, RI-native committed to strengthening her community and promoting equitable access to education and healthcare across the city. Vanessa is a mother to three and spends much of her time exploring topics related to diversity, equity, inclusion, and antiracism in the healthcare field.

Sophie Engel

Design Lead


Sophie “Fi” Engel was born and raised in Connecticut and spent her early adulthood in New Mexico. She is a designer, illustrator, and maker. She is assisting the team with visual content and the display of information in engaging, accessible, and exciting ways. Sophie believes design is a way to cultivate self resiliency and promote anti-oppression ideology. When not working she can be found drawing or sewing with her cat Cowboy.

Julian Bessinger

Data Manager


Julian was born and raised in Rhode Island. He taught abroad in Vietnam and France before returning to work in the Providence education space in 2020. Julian believes in equitable access to the transformational power of education for all students and he strives to make it a reality through research and policy. In his free time, Julian loves to read and explore the outdoors.

T Sarmina

Training and Content Manager


T was raised in the rural Central Valley of California, where they honed their pen as a poet and cultivated their advocacy for BIPOC communities, migrants, and LGBTQIA+ communities. They spent five years as an educator in South Central Los Angeles where they grew their commitment to liberatory and equitable education, and dismantling the school-to-prison pipeline. As Training and Content Manager, they lead equity trainings for school districts across Rhode Island.

Arryana Olavarria

Director of Educator Pathway Programming


Arryana was born, raised and taught in the Bronx, NY where her experiences on both sides of the public school system have developed her ideas and philosophy around education and ways to engage the BIPOC community in systems that have historically marginalized their voices. She oversees the development of instructional content and materials used to support aspiring teachers as they obtain their certification through our educator pathway programming. Arryana’s goal is to help build innovative methods for educating communities of color outside of K-12 institutions.

Clare Kim

Training and Content Manager


Clare was born and raised in Southern California. After six years as a middle school teacher in Los Angeles and Providence, they learned to engage with education as a process of humanization—that everyone has the capacity for and right to self-knowledge, voice, choice, and community. In their spare time, Clare likes to read and write absurd stories and exercise their green thumb. As Training and Content Manager, they facilitate professional development on topics of equity for schools and districts across the US.

Swetha Narasimhan

Pathway Specialist


Swetha (sway-tha) is an enthusiastic advocate for schools as spaces for community, leadership, and change and for meeting people where they are at. Swetha cares deeply about building strong infrastructure and professional supports for educators from historically marginalized backgrounds to best advocate for themselves, their students, and their colleagues. She supports the development and management of Equity Institute’s educator pathway program in Philly. In her free time, she plays Carnatic (South Indian Classical) violin around the country and enjoys exploring Philly.

Partner with Us

Join a growing community of educators, leaders, and advocates committed to promoting racial equity and diversity in their schools and communities.