Black Male Retreat Presenters

Dr. H. Justin BallengerDr. H. Justin Ballenger is an Assistant Professor of STEM Education in the Tift College of Education. He has extensive experience with the implementation of programming that supports the academic development of youth from underserved populations.  Dr. Ballenger served as the Development Coordinator for the successful implementation of the Call Me MISTER Program® at Jackson State University in Jackson, MS. This program works to recruit, train, and place males of color in middle and elementary schools. Dr. Ballenger also conducted research with the Clemson University Institute for Biological Interfaces of Engineering (IBIOE) to create inquiry-based lesson modules for middle school students. He has worked with the National Dropout Prevention Center to develop web-based coursework for pre-service teachers who work with underserved populations. 

Dr. Ballenger’s current research is focused on effective means for establishing organizational networks that improve access to high-quality STEM enrichment programming for underserved populations in the United States and abroad. Dr. Ballenger works in collaboration with a number of STEM focused organizations that support STEM engagement among girls from diverse backgrounds from rural, suburban, and urban areas of Georgia. He is also engaged in international STEM education projects in the Dominican Republic and Kenya. Those projects focus on the sustainable integration of aquaculture systems into high poverty communities.  The aquaculture systems serve as sustainable food sources for the communities they are established in and also engage youth in hands-on STEM education that involves service to the local community.


Robert  A. Bennett III, PhD is the Special Assistant to the Executive Director of the BNRC and a Program Specialist with Education Abroad in the Office of International Affairs (OIA) at The Ohio State University. He is also an instructor in the Department of African American and African Studies. A native of Decatur, Georgia, Bennett graduated from Morehouse College with a Bachelor of Arts degree in History with honors and was also a member of the football team. He earned his Master of Arts degree and Doctor of Philosophy in History from The Ohio State University. During his time at Ohio State, he has also worked with the Student Athlete Support Services Office (SASSO). His research interests are 20th century American history, college athletics, and international education. He has publications in Racism in College AthleticsThe Journal of African American HistoryJournal for the Study of Sports and Athletes in Education, and the Journal of Sport History. He is also co-editor for Black Males and Intercollegiate Athletics: An Exploration of Problems and Solutions. Bennett resides in Columbus, Ohio and is married to Gisell Jeter-Bennett, PhD and they have a son, Amari.

Jonathan HallJonathan Hall is an Assistant Professor of Geography and Director of the Wilderness Lab at West Virginia University in Morgantown, West Virginia. For the past decade Dr. Hall has conducted research in the fields of conservation, human/wildlife interactions and conflict, and environmental impacts of modern civilization, with research sites in India, Southern California, Montana, and West Virginia. More recently Dr. Hall’s lab has focused on work involving food provisioning through hunting and foraging practices as well as issues of environmental justice and land restoration, particularly as it pertains to black and indigenous peoples. The focus of the Wilderness Lab is to better understand and help facilitate coexistence of human and other species through deep socio-ecological understanding, reconciliation, and justice.

Dr. Hall hails from Columbia, MD where, from a very young age he had an interest in the natural world. He pursued his interest in all manners of wild creatures in the Boy Scouts, after school in creeks near his house, on Dishing trips with his dad, and later at Morehouse College in Atlanta earning a bachelor’s degree in Biology. While at Morehouse Jonathan’s interest in wild landscapes and humanity’s relationship with the natural world grew. After graduating, Jonathan attended Ohio State University earning a Ph.D. in Ecology and becoming the first African American to do so in that department’s history. Dr. Hall’s dissertation focused on human/wildlife interactions in Northwest India where he spent several months living in rural villages for his work. Dr. Hall came to WVU as a postdoctoral fellow in the Prof-Doc Program. After completing the two year fellowship in the Department of Geography at WVU he was promoted to Assistant Professor in the same department. Jonathan lives with his wife, Dr. Audra Slocum, and two kids, Simone (3) and Oscar (6 months) in Morgantown.

Gary JamesGary James is from Manhattan, New York but relocated to Columbus, Ohio 17 years ago. He is a family man, a business man, and an entrepreneur. Gary has served as a Branch Manager for PNC Bank since 2014. Previously Gary served as a Financial Sales Consultant for the bank and prior to that he worked for Huntington National Bank in Business Banking overseeing an active $50M pipeline and managing a multi-state territory spanning Ohio, Indiana, Pennsylvania and West Virginia. Gary has been in the banking and investment industry for approximately 17 years and is an MBA graduate with a Business Administration degree from the Ohio University. Gary has also served as keynote speaker on finance and retirement readiness for multiple organization such as The Ohio State University, the WIN organization and COMPASS. Gary considers himself to be a lifetime student and as such enjoys spending his spare time reading up on financial trends and upcoming technology.

Kristen MilbourneKristen Milbourne is a proud graduate of The Ohio State University. She has extensive training in dance, fitness, and yoga. As a veteran of regional and national dance competitions, Kristen was selected to perform with the prestigious Tanzomer Stars of Tomorrow Co., which toured throughout Europe. Following the tour, Kristen served as the Director and Sr. Instructor of New Life Dance Academy for eleven years providing fitness and dance instruction to students ages 3 to 80+. She completed her Yoga Teacher Training in 2014 and currently teaches a variety of fitness and yoga classes empowering individuals to challenge themselves in fun and rewarding ways.  Kristen desires to educate, motivate, support and encourage others along their journey to meet their personal health and wellness goals while finding success through fitness. 

Ronnie OppongRonny Oppong serves as the Head of Retail Relations for Liberty Fashion and Lifestyle Fairs. In this role he oversees and facilitates the relationships between domestic and international fashion brands and buyers. Ronny lends a hand in brand health, design and marketing strategy for some of the top brands in the fashion industry. A graduate of The Ohio State University, College of Education and Human Ecology, BS, Ronny studied Fashion Merchandising and Retail Studies. Ronny developed and enhanced his leadership skill sets through his campus involvement on campus. He was a member of the Ohio Union Activities Board (OUAB). Ronny previously served as President and was the National Chapter Liaison for The Ohio State Chapter of Black Retail Action Group (BRAG). Ronny helped mentor and cultivate the skills of his counterparts and underclassmen through his active involvement as an Alumnus of the Buckeye Leadership Fellows Program (BLF). BLF builds, in partnership with alumni and community leaders, unique transformative experiences for undergraduate students so they can achieve a competitive advantage in their post-graduate pursuits and remain deeply connected to the university. Oppong’s diverse resume has given him a strong background in Retail Merchandising, Public Relations, Consumer Market Research, Social Media Marketing, and Community Relations. Ronny has been able to cultivate his life and experiences through his personal brand of iRonTheWorld. This fashion influencer, image consultant and pop culture maverick always has the inside for the latest brands, styles and jet-setting trends for both men and women. A true renaissance man, Ronny has featured collaborations with Adore Colour, Zara, VOGUE India, ASOS, Balenciaga, and many more brands. His work as a global citizen lends infectious and everlasting impressions with every encounter. Years of travel, teaching, work experience and consulting with men and women of all cultural backgrounds and ages, iRonTheWorld is the link between brand, fashion, and global citizenship. Ronny recently traveled to Barbados to oversee the second annual Barbados Fashion week to discover up and coming design and talent. He is passionate about volunteering and always provides his time to community events. Ronny currently serves as the National Representative for Columbus Urban League Young Professionals organization which functions to support the local and national initiatives of the National Urban League.  After seven years of schooling and working in Columbus, Ohio, Oppong returned to his home town, Newark, NJ. Ronny strives to leave his mark on his community, He is a partner and cofounder of a new venture called envsnFEST an empowerment summit targeted to the upcoming generation of thought leaders and global citizens. Keep up with Ronny on social media @iRonTheWorld. 

 Ezekiel PeeblesEzekiel Peebles is the Founder & Clinical Director and Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor Supervisor of Key Counseling & Consultation LLC, which is a private practice in Gahanna, Ohio.  He specializes in psychotherapy that focuses on the wellness of the whole individual, not just sustaining mental/emotional health, but also managing their life and relationships.Ezekiel has over a decade of experience working in the mental health field assisting individuals, couples, families and groups in counseling and workshops. As a Counselor he provides clients with the highest level of care, attention to detail and empathy that everyone deserves.  He has been featured as a panelist with Power 107.5, The Ohio State University, Denison University and various community partners.  Ezekiel received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Criminology from The Ohio State University and a Master’s in Clinical Counseling from the University of Dayton.  He is a member of the American Counseling Association, Ohio Counseling Association, Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc.,  and is a member of New Salem Missionary Baptist Church.Ezekiel resides in Columbus, Ohio with his wife Kennetha and son Sean.