Keynotes and Breakout Speakers

Breakout Presenters:


Keynote Session Title: Racial/Cultural Trauma in Schools”

Speaker: Jennifer Ulie-Wells, Ph.D.

School systems were created to benefit those in white dominant culture. Today, 82 percent of teachers are white and poorly prepared to work with students of color. This session explores how oppressive educational systems create trauma for students of color. Participants will learn about the brain science behind trauma and how that impacts students through bias, white privilege, micro-aggression, white fragility and, more importantly, how to prevent it.

Breakout Session Title: Creating Spaces of Healing

Dr. Ulie-Wells will continue to explore Racial and Cultural trauma left off from the keynote and how educators can create spaces of healing with self-reflection, relationship-building, creating critical classroom climates, and being a teacher activist.

Speaker: Cece Jordan

Session Title: Culturally Sustaining Pedagogies as Resistance: From the School-to-Prison Pipeline to Gardens of Ethical Rebellion

In an anti-Black society, every institution is designed to perpetuate violence. When we knowingly—or even ignorantly—choose to participate in these institutions without deep reflection, we inevitably reproduce systems of inequity and violence. Our schools are ground-zero for our socialization into violence and encourage us to prioritize agendas and standards over listening and healing. We must shift from such commitments to the “ways things are,” to a shared politic of the “way things should be.” It is not enough to not suspend Black students, it is not enough to graduate Black students, it is not enough to be just enough—we must design educational spaces that go above and beyond for Black students as a matter of reparations. In this session, individuals will reflect on the ways they perpetuate anti-Blackness through curriculum and explore opportunities to disrupt.

“Washing one’s hands of the conflict between the powerful and the powerless means to side with the powerful, not to be neutral. ”

― Paulo Freire

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With nearly a decade of experience integrating culturally sustaining pedagogy and restorative justice practices in classrooms of all ages, Cecelia Jordan believes in the power of community-education spaces to sharpen critical consciousness, center radical imagination, and shift people power from the margins of society to the center. She draws upon the legacies of Audre Lorde and bell hooks to support individuals to share their truth, find alignment in mind, body, and spirit, and show up to lead in their greatness.

An East Texas native, Cecelia began her career in Austin where she created the space for elementary-school students to engage in active protests for dignity, justice, and peace. In community with parents and activists she began to understand the power of circle to move through conflict, de-stigmatize trauma, and upend intersectional oppression. Cecelia went on to further her teaching career in Oakland, as a History teacher at Ralph Bunche Continuation High school, and served as a restorative practices coordinator at Roots International, a middle school in East Oakland.

An artivist and 2016 Team Oakland Grand Slam Champ, Cecelia ranked 15th at the 2017 Women of the World Poetry Slam, and 5th at the 2017 National Poetry Slam with the Roots Slam Team. Most recently, she coached the 2018 Bay Area Youth Speaks team to Brave New Voices international poetry festival. Now, Cecelia merges song, writing, and oral-storytelling to create healing experiences amongst Black and Indigenous organizers and leaders of color who are on the frontlines of today’s fights for justice.

Speaker: Kristin Dietzel

Session Title: How Diverse and Inclusive Workforces Strengthen Performance

Leading workforce consultants like McKinsey continue to find strengthening evidence of the relationship between gender and racial diversity and the financial performance of companies. This session will detail the latest research on diversity and performance, and discuss local barriers that exist to building diverse teams and opportunities companies can consider to strengthen their inclusion efforts.

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Vice President of Workforce Solutions, Greater Dubuque Development Corporation As the Vice President of Workforce Solutions, Kristin Dietzel leads the Greater Dubuque Development workforce solutions programs. This includes developing a workforce model for the community that focuses on recruitment, retention and creation of workforce. Kristin works closely with human resource professionals through the organization’s HR Action program to identify and address workforce gaps in the region through Greater Dubuque Development programming such as, Newcomer Services, Big Life Small City recruitment campaign, College Outreach, and the Opportunity Dubuque job training initiative. Kristin also oversees Dubuque Works, a collaborative partnership of employers, funding partners, workforce experts, and educators, focused on implementing a high-quality workforce model in the region.

Kristin holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of St. Thomas and a Master of Arts in Teaching degree from the University of Iowa. Before joining Greater Dubuque Development in 2016, Kristin worked for Northeast Iowa Community College from 2009-2016 in multiple roles, overseeing Grants and Contracts, Legislative Affairs, Marketing and Communications, Institutional Research, and Accreditation. Kristin also serves on the MercyOne Board of Trustees and the Heartland Financial Community Development Board. Kristin is married and has elementary school-aged twins.


Speaker: Manisha Paudel

Keynote Session Title: Meeting DEI where we’re at 

If “Diversity, Equity and Inclusion” were a music band, they’re at their peak popularity right now. No matter what we call it – terms, concepts, or even a phrase – it’s been a hot topic for a while, but has potentially reached a boiling point as well. However, do we all know what each term individually means and how it applies? Have we truly conceptualized the application and impact of each term in our workplace, in our community, and even in our own home? This session is geared primarily towards workplace culture as well as ways different that plays out in our larger community (and vice versa).


Breakout Session Title: “MY” role in advancing racial equity

Participants will explore ways to identify their own learning of what it means to advance equity, particularly racial equity, and create action steps for their own use. This session will also explore why leading with race, regardless of how uncomfortable the term “race” for many folks. Collectively, we will get uncomfortable and let that discomfort guide us to create specific actions, no matter how big of small, to implement in our lives, workplaces, and communities.

Speaker: Rachel Daack

Session Title: Who We Teach Children to See

Children learn which faces society deems important from images they see in school.  This research analyzes the content of images we give to pre-readers through high schoolers in predominantly white schools.  Artists, authors, editors, librarians, school boards, teachers, parents: we all play a role in this.

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Rachel Daack has been teaching about diversity-related topics for the past twenty years. She currently teaches at Clarke University as Professor of Sociology. Areas of interest include gender and race. As a survivor of a traumatic brain injury, she also has some specific thoughts about disability. Her past professional positions include: college textbook developmental editor, HTML programmer/technical writer, and solid waste educator. Prior to that work she worked in food service, as a valet parker, as a domestic helper, and as an office worker. Rachel earned a BA in Global Studies with a French minor from the University of Iowa. She also earned a 6-12 teaching certificate from Clarke College. She holds an MA in geography and an interdisciplinary PhD from the University of Iowa.

Her relevant community involvement includes: 10-years of leadership with the Lincoln Elementary parent organization (PALS), chair of the Dubuque Branch NAACP education committee, leadership of Clarke University’s Multicultural Issues Committee, and active participation with the Best Practices and Education sector groups of Inclusive Dubuque.

Rachel grew up in the Holy Ghost/Fulton neighborhood of Dubuque. She and her spouse have lived in Dubuque for twenty years and have raised two children here. The children are graduates of Lincoln Elementary, Washington Middle School, and Dubuque Senior.

“The Midwest is filled with untapped human resources. Focused time, challenging information, and real human connection may result in broadened and new understanding and actions for justice.”

Speaker: Samaria Neely

Session Title: The Value of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in the Workplace

This session will focus on how seemingly innocuous practices that are embedded in a company’s culture have the potential to make a segment of its workforce feel unwelcome and alienated. But, when the possible problems with these practices are identified, a commitment to creating an inclusive and diverse culture can lead to changes that can vastly improve a work environment. Businesses can capture a powerful competitive advantage when they invite and include all types of backgrounds, experiences and viewpoints.

The reality is that there’s a huge value of having a diverse workforce, and it’s up to leadership and employees to be accepting of having employees that are different in their own way. An organization’s culture is driven by the values throughout that organization. Employees need to feel included– that their values are being recognized, understood and respected. They need to feel that their ideas and concerns are being heard. Those conditions create strong motivation and momentum for strong satisfaction and performance in their jobs.

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As the community outreach success coach through Northeast Iowa Community College and Greater Dubuque Development, Samaria Neely is able to advocate for an array of those within the underrepresented communities. Not only does Samaria focus on entering people into a certificate program through NICC in order to establish a career, but she also spends countless hours ensuring that they do so successfully by breaking down the barriers that may stand in their way. As she once was a single-parent trying to knock down the doors in order to ensure a better life for her children, Samaria remains passionate and dedicated to those that want the same by finding solutions to exact issues that hinder their movement forward.

Samaria graduated from the University of Dubuque with a Bachelors in Psychology with an emphasis in Criminal Justice. This in itself was its own success story as did not start any form of formal education until she was in the 7th grade. Samaria had to overcome her own adversities as a child while growing up in Africa during a civil war, thus the beginning of her commitment to aiding in the betterment of others. She has been one of two community outreach coaches since 2015 and sits on the board of the Dubuque Food Policy Council and the NAACP Dubuque Chapter.

In her free time, Samaria also volunteers with the local organizations, Resources Unite and the Multicultural Family Center, where she volunteers her time to educate others on the importance of nutrition and holistic well-being through a hands-on Vegan cooking class. Samaria has always had a passion for creating safe spaces for those looking for empowerment whether it be through educating those on health practices or advocating for minorities that feel shut out within organizations.