Rachel Pereira, Ed.D., Esq., St. John’s University’s first Vice President of Equity and Inclusion, has been named to the US Department of the Interior’s Advisory Committee on Reconciliation in Place Names. Dr. Pereira’s selection was announced on Tuesday, August 9, by Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland.
The Advisory Committee on Reconciliation in Place Names, established in 2021, identifies geographic names and federal land unit names that are considered derogatory, and solicits proposals on replacement names. Dr. Pereira, also an attorney, fills one of 17 seats on the panel.
“I’m excited about the work of this committee,” Dr. Pereira said. “The United States is the only country to have made a deliberate attempt to create a nation where diverse people can come together. The issues that the committee will engage in exist because we Americans have made the conscious decision to be an inclusive nation."
Dr. Pereira is the former assistant Vice President for Institutional Equity at Vassar College and a former Assistant District Attorney in Philadelphia, PA. She is also a former federal law clerk in the Southern District of New York.
Born in Queens Village, NY, Dr. Pereira attended St. Francis Preparatory School in Fresh Meadows and Hunter College in Manhattan. She earned master’s and doctoral degrees at Rutgers University and a law degree from the University of Pennsylvania.
In a distinguished career, Dr. Pereira has also served as a senior legal and policy adviser for EducationCounsel LLC at the law firm Nelson Mullins, LLC, in Washington, DC, and also as a teacher, school principal, legal counsel to educational institutions, and an adjunct professor at three graduate schools.
A member of University leadership, Dr. Pereira’s responsibilities at St. John’s include the promotion of diversity, equity, inclusion, and antiracism initiatives campus wide. Those skills will form the foundation for her volunteer position at the Department of the Interior.
The Advisory Committee on Reconciliation in Place Names will seek out potentially insensitive place names on the millions of acres of land administered by the Department of the Interior, including national parks, Bureau of Land Management lands, and US Fish and Wildlife Service reserves. Less offensive place-name alternatives will be recommended.
The committee consists of one representative of a Native Hawaiian organization; one person from a Native American tribal organization; four members of a Native American tribe; four citizens with expertise in civil rights or race relations; four scholars knowledgeable in cultural studies, history, geography, or anthropology; and three members of the general public.
“I’m excited for the timing of this appointment,” Dr. Pereira said, “because as we consider these issues on the federal level, we can leverage the opportunity to ensure that all community members at St. John's know we are committed to inclusivity. The work is in perfect alignment.”
Secretary Haaland, the first Native American Cabinet secretary in US history, announced the selections on International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples.
“Our nation’s lands and waters should be places to celebrate the outdoors and our shared cultural heritage—not to perpetuate the legacies of oppression,” Secretary Haaland said. “I look forward to listening and learning from this esteemed group.”