Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Summit

Diversity Equity Inclusion 3


According to a National Association of Colleges and Employers survey, 79% of new graduates rate work diversity as “very important.” And truly, it is.

  • Companies with racially diverse leadership are 35% more likely to outperform their competitors, according to research compiled by Zippia.
  • The Zippia report also says that 40% of employees want their companies to be more inclusive in hiring members of the LGBTQ+ community.
  • A 2018 study done by Accenture showed that companies that were inclusive of employees with disabilities saw 72% more productivity, 30% higher profit margins, and 200% higher net income. 

If your business is not thinking about your diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) policies, procedures and practices, you are falling behind. 

During this half-day summit, we will hear from local speakers on a wide variety of topics. We’ll start with an overview of DEI and what it means for your business. We’ll hear from local leaders about how to integrate DEI practices into your business from the standpoints of race, gender, sexual orientation and ability. You will gain insights into how to be more inclusive not only in your hiring, but also in your messaging, advertising, and overall mindset as a professional. You will learn how to translate what you learn into actionable steps for your business. This is your chance to ask the tough questions and a safe space to share your current efforts.


This summit is a great fit for anyone working in human resources, marketing, or upper management of organizations of all sizes. It will take place at the St. Cloud Area Chamber of Commerce office in Downtown St. Cloud. Registration will begin at 7:30am and it includes a light breakfast and a lunch. The cost to attend is $35 for members and $45 for non-members.

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Check-in and Networking


BYOB: Bring Your Own Bias – The Continued Conversation

Dr. Jason Woods, SCSU




“I Will Be a Hummingbird”: Lessons in Inclusive Leadership

Njeri Clement, SCTCC


Out at Work: LGBTQ+ Basics for Employers

Charlie Curtis, SCSU


Break + Lunch


Disability Awareness and Making your Business Inclusive

Cara Ruff, Independent Lifestyles

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Summit Sessions

BYOB: Bring Your Own Bias – The Continued Conversation

The St. Cloud community continues to become increasingly diverse. In order to be a thriving community, it is important to understand how changing populations can positively impact our community when we are inclusively inviting and intentionally recognizing others. Join us for a deeper conversation regarding Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and how we can explore our own lived experiences in order to understand the experiences of others better. We will discuss strategies for engaging different people, how to be proactive from a business perspective on “future-proofing” your business, and create a space for you to ask questions and engage.

Speaker: Dr. Jason Woods (he/him), Vice President for Strategic Enrollment Management, St. Cloud State University

“I Will Be a Hummingbird”: Lessons in Inclusive Leadership

The late Professor Wangari Maathai is the best-known daughter of Africa, having won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004 for her leadership and activism. As a leader, Maathai demonstrates inclusive leadership actions that shape how she engages with the world and others for the common good. This interactive workshop will profile Professor Maathai’s leadership journey to illustrate inclusive leadership lessons that will allow established and emerging St. Cloud business leaders to identify and develop inclusive leader competencies that are essential in today’s global marketplace.

Speaker: Njeri Clement (she/her), Director of Cultural Fluency, Equity and Inclusion, St. Cloud Technical and Community College

Out at Work: LGBTQ+ Basics for Employers

LGBTQ+ people continue to face discrimination in society, including in many workplaces. Even when employers want to create inclusive workplaces, certain policies and procedures may – unintentionally – have negative impacts on LGBTQ+ employees. Given that approximately 20% of Gen Z identifies as LGBTQ+, the importance of creating LGBTQ+ inclusive workplaces will continue to grow. In this session, we will do an overview of basic information about LGBTQ+ identities, discuss policies and practices for improving LGBTQ+ inclusion in workplaces, and talk about why implementing LGBTQ+ inclusive policies/practices can be beneficial for a wide range of employees (not just LGBTQ+ ones).

Speaker: Charlie Curtis (they/them), Director, LGBT Resource Center at St. Cloud State University

Disability Awareness and Making your Business Inclusive

People with disabilities comprise between 20-25% of our population. They are an underutilized base of employees that could dramatically enhance your business. Making your business diverse, equal and inclusive primes your company and your goals to achieve greater success. Diverse businesses can achieve greater effectiveness and public reputation when hiring people with disabilities, including hidden disabilities. In this session, we will learn what you can do to become more inclusive and equitable for people with disabilities, discuss appropriate language, terminology and perspective that makes life better for all of us, and how to make low or no cost workplace accommodations.

Speaker: Cara Ruff (she/her), Executive Director, Independent Lifestyles 

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SUMMIT Speakers


Dr. Jason Woods (he/him)

Vice President for Strategic Enrollment Management, St. Cloud State University

Dr. Jason Woods is currently serving as the Vice President for Strategic Enrollment Management at St. Cloud State University in St. Cloud, Minnesota. He has over 23 years of enrollment- and student life- related experience in higher education. Dr. Woods earned his doctoral degree in 2013 in Higher Education and Organizational Change from Benedictine University in Lisle, Illinois.

Dr. Woods has served as the associate vice president for student services and the interim director of undergraduate admissions at Western Illinois University and previously served as Dean of Admission and Financial Planning at Loras College in Dubuque, Iowa. He also held increasingly responsible positions in admissions for Wartburg College in Waverly, Iowa and Ashford University in Clinton, Iowa. He has taught as adjunct faculty and was the men’s and women’s soccer coach for Wartburg College from 2000-2005, and co-founded the Intercultural Allies for Higher Education (IAHE), which brings college leaders and students together to collaborate about intercultural practices.


Charlie Curtis (they/them)

Director, LGBT Resource Center at St. Cloud State University

Charlie Curtis (they/them) is a trans and queer educator with an academic background in anthropology. Prior to St. Cloud State, they worked as an academic counselor for first-year students at Utah Valley University in Orem, Utah.

Charlie has a Master’s degree from the University of California, Irvine and a B.A. degree from Bowdoin College, both in Anthropology. Their graduate research examined varied interpretations of safety among queer and trans communities in Iowa. 

As the Director of the LGBT Resource Center at St Cloud State University, they lead campus efforts to support LGBTQ+ communities and address sexuality- and gender-based inequities. Charlie especially enjoys making academic theories accessible to varied audiences for the purpose of creating positive social change.


Njeri Clement (she/her)

Director of Cultural Fluency, Equity and Inclusion, St. Cloud Technical and Community College

Njeri ‘Jeri’ Clement is the director of cultural fluency, equity, and inclusion at St. Cloud Technical and Community College (SCTCC) and also an adjunct faculty member at St Cloud State University (SCSU) in the Department of Gender and Women Studies. In addition, she is a Humphrey public policy fellow, a graduate of the Harvard Business School’s Young American Leaders program in Minnesota and the St Cloud Area Chamber Leadership program. 

Njeri holds a master’s degree in public and nonprofit administration from Metropolitan State University and continues to pursue her education by working towards her doctorate in leadership studies from Johnson University. 

She is a scholar deeply committed to advancing gender, leadership, diversity, equity, and inclusion. As a director, she leads programming, community building, strategic planning, and shapes policy around equity and inclusion processes. She volunteers by serving on nonprofit boards in Africa and the U.S. 


Cara Ruff (she/her)

Executive Director, Independent Lifestyles 

Cara Ruff is the Founder and Executive Director for Independent Lifestyles, Inc. a Center for Independent Living (ILICIL). ILICIL is a private nonprofit organization which serves persons of all disabilities throughout a thirteen county service area.  Cara, a licensed social worker, Founded ILICIL in 1997. Cara brings decades of experience in establishing programs, facilitating retreats and workshops, motivational speaking, outcome measurement and community building. Cara is involved with and Chairs numerous Task Forces, and is the current Vice President and legislative Liaison of the MN Association of Centers for Independent Living, Founder of the Disability Awareness Task force, and former Chairwoman of the St. Cloud Area Regional Human Rights Commission.

Cara Ruff is also the Director and Transformational Life Coach for the Starfish Program, which is sponsored by the Women’s Fund of CMCF.  Over the past 15 years Cara has worked intensely with women who have experienced domestic violence and/or sexual assault.