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LeadDIVERSITY is designed to build a network of leaders dedicated to creating localized opportunities and solutions for diversity, equity and inclusion in the Midwest. During this program, leaders will engage in topics that will leave them well-versed and experienced in anticipating diversity and inclusion needs in the workplace as well as in the community. LeadDIVERSITY participants (referred to as Advocates) receive exceptional skills training to advance Midwestern workplaces and communities. LeadDIVERSITY will redefine leadership both for the individuals who participate and the organizations and businesses they represent. The program currently operates in partnership with the Omaha Public Power District (OPPD), The Greater Omaha Chamber, and the Tri-Faith Initiative.


Advocate Portal

Application Process

  1. Complete online Application Form
  2. Collect supporting documents (essay, letters of support, etc.)
  3. Submit online
  4. Selection process starts in July – Applicant interviews may be requested

LeadDIVERSITY, is a ten- month intensive program designed to build a network of Advocates who are dedicated to advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion cultures in the Midwest.


Session topics include Identity, Institutional Inequities, Ethical Leadership, Ability and Disability, LGBTQIA2S+ Rights, Interfaith Dialogues and more. The workshops are designed to take participants on a journey of self-awareness and education to empower them with tools and skills to become Advocates within the spaces where they hold power.


Cohort Meet + Greet – August 22, 2024, 8:30-11:30 a.m.

Session One – September 18, 2024

Session Two – October 16, 2024

Session Three – November 13, 2024

Session Four – December 11, 2024

Session Five – January 22, 2025

Session Six – February 12, 2025

Session Seven – March 5, 2025

Session Eight – April 16, 2025

Session Nine – May 7, 2025

Session Ten – May 15, 2025, 8:30 a.m-1:00 p.m.

Graduation – June 13, 2025, 3-7 p.m.

Meeting times and venues TBD


Greater awareness of personal identity + impact of internal and external dynamics

Expanded knowledge of local experts, organizations + resources

Tool kit for addressing issues of diversity in personal + professional settings

Ability to be an advocate for diversity and inclusion

Cohort #6


*partial scholarships are available



An increased pool of involved and educated DEI leaders

Employees with an increased understanding of the connection between inclusion and organizational success

Employees with enhanced organizational leadership skills and a vision for the future.

Advocates are leaders representing nonprofit, corporate, government, education, civic, and community organizations, with a passion for diversity, equity, and inclusion.

Cohort #4 2022-2023

Adia Brightman

Supervisor, Special Education Office

Lincoln Public Schools

Alicia Frieze

Director of Workforce Development

Council Bluffs Area Chamber of Commerce

Becky Nickerson

Senior Director – Division of Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion

Creighton University

Brittney Hodges-Bolkovac

Executive Director of Equity, Diversity, & Inclusion

Lincoln Public Schools

Chastin Bailey

Director of Talent and Culture

Koley Jessen P.C., L.L.O.

Cheryl Murray Kerst

Director of Development

Partnership 4 Kids

Chris Stratman

Community Engagement Manager

Kiewit Luminarium

Dominique Johnson


Union Pacific

Elizabeth Blanco Rodriguez

Economic Development Manager

Nebraska Department of Economic Development

Jamin Johnson

Division Chief, Health Equity and Planning

Douglas County Health Department

Jonathan Acosta

Director of Academic Advising

University of Nebraska at Omaha

Katie Kodad

Culture & Inclusion Program Manager

Children’s Hospital & Medical Center

Laura Fritz

Child Development Program Evaluator

University of Nebraska Medical Center

Leonor Fuhrer

Assistant Vice President of Community Response

Nebraska Children and Families Foundation

Lori Tatreau

Community Activist

Mariana Schell

Assistant Vice President of Cultural & Linguistic Response

Nebraska Children and Families Foundation

Michelle Deseure

Director of Corporate Audit

Omaha Public Power District

Mo Bailey

Community Organizer

Western Organization of Resource Councils

Ralph Kellogg

Vice President of People and Training

Lutheran Family Services

Reno Jameson

Principal & CEO

Jameson Consulting

Robert Aranda

Director of Student Services

Westside Community Schools

Rosalva Reyes

Director of CK26 Programs

Completely Kids

Rosey Higgs

Director of Programs

Nonprofit Association of the Midlands

Stephanie Tafoya Keyser

Sr. Data Insights Analyst

First National Bank of Omaha

Yesenia Valenzuela

Community Relations Coordinator

City of Omaha

Cohort #3 2021-2022

Daryl Anderson

Creative Director

Clark Creative Group

Cody Brookhouser-Sisney


McGrath North Mullin & Kratz PC LLO

Cruz Cabrera

Social Impact Manager

Mutual of Omaha

Shari Collins

DEI Consultant

Ana Diaz-Orozco

Community Engagement Coordinator

Office of Latino/Latin American Studies, University of Nebraska Omaha

Alexis Dickerson

Licensed Mental Health Therapist

Nebraska Medicine/Omaha Integrative Care

Julie Dierberger

Paul Sather Distinguished Director, Service Learning Academy

University of Nebraska Omaha

Lauren Foster

Director of Quality of Life

Greater Fremont Development Council

Ireydisa Gomez-Hall

Quality Child Care Partnership Specialist

Nebraska Early Childhood Collaborative

Wendy Hamilton

Chief Development Officer

Girl Scouts Spirit of Nebraska

Janique Hayes

Assistant Director – Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion/Mission and Ministry

Creighton University

Andrea Haynes

Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources and District Operations

Westside Community Schools

Gina Langel

Senior Vice President and Chief Operations Officer

Metropolitan Utilities District

Tess Larson

Program Associate

The Sherwood Foundation

Scott Lloyd

Co-Founder & COO


Vanessa Martinez-Hernandez

Social Impact Coordinator

Mutual of Omaha

Collette Nero

Omaha North High Magnet

Omaha Public Schools

Caitlin Osborn

Co-Director, Operations

Amplify Arts

Ericka Payton

Program Director

Westside Community Schools – West Campus

DerNecia Phillips

Assistant Principal

Nelson Mandela Elementary

Jamie Reyes

General Counsel

Nebraska Public Service Commission

Connie Schaffer

Associate Professor, Teacher Education

University of Nebraska Omaha

Debra Shaw

Diversity, Community, and Recruitment Leader

Partnership 4 Kids

Justina Struck

Senior Associate

Koley Jessen

Christopher Tooley

Senior Manager, HR Business Partner


Leah Whitney Chavez

Founder/Executive Director

World Speaks

Crystall Williams


Nebraska Methodist Hospital

Melissa Wurth

Wissam Zeineddine

Human Resource Director

Omni Hotels and Resorts

Cohort #2 2020-2021

Alex Foreman

Product Owner

Farm Credit Services of America

Christina Arellano

Inclusion and Diversity Experience Ambassador, Signature Performance Inc.

Damien Coran

Program and Curriculum Supervisor, Partnership 4 Kids

Deana Blount

Site Director, Boys & Girls Club of the Midlands

Kimberly C. Barnes

Director of Programs, Women’s Center for Advancement

Eric Ewing

Executive Director

Great Plains Black History Museum

Alejandra Sinecio

Senior Program Director

National Able Network

Amanda Martinez

Engineering Manager


Amanda Ponce

College Success Navigator

Metropolitan Community College

Ashley Rae Turner

Marketing and Communications Specialist

North End Teleservices

Astrid Munn

Child and Family Managing Attorney

Immigrant Legal Center

Comi Sharif

Senior Associate

Koley Jessen

Craig Moody

Managing Partner

Verdis Group

Dan Whisler

Manager Radiation Protection & Chemistry

Omaha Public Power District

Cynthia Gooch-Grayson

Associate Vice President for Equity and Inclusion

Metropolitan Community College

Denise Hall


Delta Sigma Theta

Drew Weitz

Director of Equity Research/Portfolio Manager

Weitz Investment Management

Graciela Sharif

Cultural Diversity Coordinator for Leadership in Education and Neurodevelopmental and Related Disabilities (LEND)

Munroe-Meyer Institute for Genetics, UNMC

Jannette Taylor

Executive Director

Women’s Center for Advancement

Jeffrey Southall II

Assistant Director for the Office of Civic and Social Responsibility

University of Nebraska Omaha

Kat Lopez

Director of Communications and Events

Centro Hispano Comunitario de Nebraska

Kathy Peissig

Senior Director of Talent Development

Werner Enterprises Inc.

Kimberly Thomas

Executive Director

CASA for Douglas County

Liz Kendall Weisser

Education and Community Engagement Manager

Omaha Symphony

Lonnie Michael Jr.

Database Marketing Manager

Mutual of Omaha

Lucy Puentes

Program Manager

Omaha Outward Bound School

Mindy Rush Chipman

Director of Equity & Diversity

Lincoln Commission on Human Rights

Nicky Sullivan

Homeownership Success Coordinator

Habitat for Humanity

Noah McClain

Product Development Managerr

Mutual of Omaha

Rebecca Forsyth

Creative Director/Master Stylist

Bungalow 8

Sarah Ericson

Director of Organizational Effectiveness, Mosaic

Steve Hogan


Fraser Stryker PC LLC

Teresa Mardesen

Community Relations Manager

Farm Credit Services of America

Tracy Leavelle

Director of the Kingfisher Institute for the Liberal Arts and Professions

Creighton University

Wendy Goldberg

Executive Director

Tri-Faith Initiative

Cohort #1 2019-2020

Gina Ponce

Director – Latino Community Outreach

Bellevue University

Abigail Moland


McGrath North Mullin & Kratz PC LLO

Al Hoffer

Behavioral Health Case Manager

Heartland Family Service

Amelis Long

Director, Inclusion and Diversity

First National Bank of Omaha

Angela Cooper

Vice President & Chief Diversity Officer

Mutual of Omaha

Angie Balsarini

Community Engagement Manager

Film Streams

Barry Thomas

Educator and Equity Advocate


Bradley Ekwerekwu


Learning Community of Douglas and Sarpy Counties

Christopher Whitt

Vice Chancellor Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

University of Denver

David Scott

Director of Sales & Marketing

Peregrine Hotel, Curio by Hilton

Dulce Sherman

Chief Operating Officer

Whispering Roots Inc.

Erika Volker

HR Director

Prime Secured and Prime Connected

Jennifer Dietloff

Chief Diversity Officer

The Scoular Company

John Staup

Director, Talent Acquisition

Omaha Public Power District

Kara O’Connor

Financial Advisor

Edward Jones

Keesha Davis

Superintendent of Dispatching-Northwest

Union Pacific Railroad

Kirsten Case

Service Learning Academy Community Liaison

University of Nebraska Omaha

Molly Mullin Verble

Director, High School and Post-Secondary

Partnership 4 Kids

Nancy Melby

Vice President, Director of Operations


Peter Edwards

Director, Process Improvement

Conagra Brands

Polly Harris

AVP Workforce Operations

Union Pacific Railroad

Shawntal Mallory

Board Member, HR & Governance

Executive Director, Nebraska Legal Diversity Council

Stephen Osberg

Director of Transportation Development

Greater Omaha Chamber

Wayne Brown


Urban League of Nebraska

Become a LeadDIVERSITY Sponsor

You can support a new Advocate’s journey by contributing to the LeadDIVERSITY Advocate Fund. This fund is a legacy project of Cohort Three and provides scholarship opportunities for future Advocates. If your organization would like to sponsor the LeadDIVERSITY program on an operational level and receive brand recognition for your contribution, please contact Director of Strategic Partnerships Lachelle Rankins at



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