Keynotes and Breakout Speakers

Breakout Presenters:

Christine Darr is the chair of the Dubuque Democratic Socialists, which is a local chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America. She is also an Assistant Professor of Christian Ethics at the University of Dubuque, a mom, and an avid reader of post-apocalyptic fiction.


Howard Lee III aka The Motivational Poet. He graduated from The University of Dubuque with a Bachelor’s in Criminal Justice and a Master’s of Business Administration. He is a Master Spoken Word Artist, Published Author, Youth Empowerment Champion, Community Relationship Pioneer, and an Exuberant Orator who has improved the living conditions of hundreds of families and youth with mentorship in parenting, connecting community resources and promoting healthy relationships. He launched a dynamic Youth Empowerment platform that instructs poetry and business modeling concepts to promote entrepreneurship. StoryBook Enterprises consists of Poetry. Publishing and Radio. He launched a dynamic Youth Empowerment platform that instructs poetry and business modeling concepts to promote entrepreneurship. StoryBook Enterprises consists of Poetry. Publishing and Radio.

Howard has impacted hundreds of youth and their families during 5 plus years within the community. Howard has taught the nationally recognized and respected by community-based organizations, schools and faith-based organizations curriculum known as Dare to Be King. He also has taught The Phoenix Curriculum, an evidence-based and recognized by National Gang Center/OJJDP/Bureau of Justice Assistance gang intervention curriculum for middle school, high school and alternative school students. Howard has training in the Nationally Recognized Aggression Replacement Training (ART), a research-based, proven-effective approach for working with challenging youth. A curriculum of over 30 years of use in schools, community agencies, juvenile institutions, and other settings. He is training within the Nationally Recognized, evidenced-based Trauma Informed Care.


Dr. Parks earned her Ph.D. in Sociology at Texas A&M University in 2007 and has been a faculty member in the sociology departmant at Loras College since then.  She has taught courses on the sociology of education, social demography, research methods and statistics, social problems, democracy and global diversity, the social construction of whiteness, race and ethnicity, among others.  Her research interests often focus on racial and educational inequality. Currently, Dr. Parks is working on a project about the impact of motherhood on academic careers.  She also has experience with designing research projects, analyzing data, and consulting on projects.  When she’s not teaching or reading sociology, Dr. Parks enjoys time with her husband and two kids.  She enjoys travel, films, podcasts, playing board games, knitting, reading, and singing karaoke. She also serves as a Human Rights Commissioner for the city of Dubuque.


Oather Taylor is a Diversity, Equity & Inclusion consultant and adviser based in Cedar Rapids, IA. In September 2018, Oather retired from Alliant Energy as their Director of Recruitment & Diversity. He was with Alliant Energy for 17 years previously holding the roles of Director of Security, Facilities & Continuity of Operations, and Director of Gas Engineering and Operations Support. Before joining Alliant Energy, Oather spent 14 years in the Oil, Petrochemical & Chemical industries in various engineering and management positions living most of that time in New Orleans, Louisiana, but leading large projects throughout Louisiana, Texas, Iowa and in Trinidad & Tobago. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering from The Ohio State University.

Oather serves on the board and Executive Committee of the Greater Cedar Rapids Community Foundation. Oather is a board member of the Academy of Scholastic & Professional Success, an origination in the CR/IC region focused on underrepresented students by developing their leadership skills and getting them prepared for college. Oather recently stepped down as chair of the Iowa Energy Workforce Consortium, and as co-chair of the Madison (WI) Regional Economic Partnership’s Labor & Diversity Committee. Oather also served on State of Iowa’s Sector Partnership Leadership Council. Oather was the first male to serve as a board member of the Corridor Women Connect organization. Oather has served as Board President of the African American Museum of Iowa, and also served on The Board of Trustees for the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art as a member of their Executive Committee and chair of the Buildings Committee. Oather was a Loaned Executive to the United Way of East Central Iowa in 2005. Oather is the co-founder and former Chair of the Cedar Rapids/Iowa City Employee Resource Group Consortium (ERGC) now known as Inclusive ICR, and he remains a member of the organization’s Advisory Committee.

Oather was born and raised in Freeport, IL. He and his wife have a daughter in high school and a son attending the University of Iowa.


Mr. Todd Schmidt graduated from University of Iowa law school in 2006 has been an attorney at the Dubuque office of Iowa Legal Aid since then.  His areas of legal expertise includes fair housing law, veterans law, consumer law, among others


Dr. Anderson-Bricker is Professor of History at Loras College, specializing in race and gender reform in the United States. She has served as a consultant and has been a member of many different boards and committees, including the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library Association; the State Historical Society of Iowa; National Endowment for the Humanities/Iowa; the Effigy Mound National Monument; and Humanities Iowa, to name just a few.


Ernest Jackson is the operations manager of John Deere Dubuque Works, Construction and Forestry Division. He began his career as a welding engineer and over the years has had many opportunities with John Deere including, Engineering Supervisor, Quality Manager, Business Unit Manager and Director of Global Operations.

Ernest holds a degree in Welding Engineering from Ohio State University and his MBA from the University of Dubuque. Throughout his career he has served on numerous boards and committees throughout the community. Currently Ernest is a board member of Dubuque’s True North, Community Foundation of Greater Dubuque and Dubuque Black Men Coalition. Ernest is also a mentor with the Dubuque Youth Mentoring Program and a member of the Deere Black Leadership Forum


Tom Lo Guidice, PhD is a retired professor of Human Relations education and immediate past chair of the Friends of Fair Housing, A Dubque Branch NAACP sponsored organization.