Professional Staff

Brian Peterson

Brian Peterson, Ph.D.

Brian is a three-time graduate of the University of Pennsylvania - first from the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, and later earning his masters and doctorate from the Graduate School of Education. Presently he teaches or co-teaches two courses including The History of Women and Men of African Descent at the University of Pennsylvania. He also serves as a pre-major advisor. He is the proud father of five children (Nia, Jalen, Nicholas, Myles, and Quincy), four books (including Higher Learning: Maximizing Your College Experience), and one academic and cultural enrichment program, Ase Academy.


Michelle Gillard Houston, M.S.Ed.
Associate Director

Michelle comes to us from the Center for Africana Studies where she has served as Program Coordinator, executing the Center's major events, including the Summer Institute. Having recently completed her Masters at Penn's Graduate School of Education in School / Mental Health Counseling, along with being a graduate of Howard Univeristy, a track coach, advisor to a program for young women of color, and a board member of the renowned BlackStar Film Festival, Michelle brings a wealth of experience and talents to Makuu.

Ivy McLendon

Ivy McLendon
Communications and Office Coordinator

Ivy is a 2015 graduate of the Wharton School of Business where she received a B.S. in Economics with an Individualized concentration. She was a Makuu workstudy student, and also worked at Makuu post-graduation while freelancing in design, video production, and education. The Charlotte, NC native is passionate about the intersections between entrepreneurship, creativity, and education, and hopes to pursue those interests further while making Makuu a welcoming and supportive space for each student.

Student Staff


Araba Ankuma

Arts Fellow

Araba Ankuma, born in Fairfax, Virginia, and originally from Accra, Ghana is currently a junior in the College. She is studying along the pre-medicine path as well as pursuing a Visual Studies major. When she's not taking photos, Aaba is a member and choreographer of the Strictly Funk Dance Company, as well as a Big Sister and music mentor for grade school students in West hiladelphia. She enjoys meeting new people and welcomees all new faces into Makuu. 


Toshe Ayo-Ariyo

Student Assistant

Toluwaloshe (Toshe) Ayo-Ariyo is a Nigerian native that now lives in Los Angeles, CA. She is a junior in the College of Arts & Sciences who loves finding ways to integrate and study all her academic interests. As one of Makuu's workstudies, Toshe manages some of Makuu's social media sites. But, her ultimate goal is to make sure everyone feels welcome in Makuu. Toshe is the co-founder of West African Vive (WAVe), Penn's only contemporary African dance group and serves as secretary for Black Student League.