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Inaugural UCOP EDI Conference provided insight, connections and inspiration

On Dec. 5, the Office of Workplace Inclusion and Belonging hosted the inaugural UCOP Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) Conference with the theme of “Changemakers.” The conference was designed to provide a forum for attendees to envision how UCOP can engage in intentional change-making, individually and collaboratively, in ways that go beyond words and performative allyship to guide UCOP towards becoming an organization centered in equity and anti-racism. More than 120 UCOP colleagues convened in Oakland to participate in the full conference, and approximately 40 colleagues virtually attended the keynote addresses.

“Passion. Insight. Community: These three words defined my experience at the inaugural UCOP EDI Conference,” shared Elizabeth Moon, director of workplace inclusion & belonging at UC Agriculture and Natural Resources. “The speakers sparked curiosity and insight to frame our time together, and conversations with colleagues deepened my understanding of how we are moving forward as an organization. Most important were our collaborative efforts to build and cement our shared commitment to embed EDI into the UC system. I left feeling renewed and inspired to continue this work.”

Conference highlights

In her opening remarks, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Rachael Nava called attention to President Drake’s priorities and the UCOP’s Strategic Framework — with a specific focus on the strategic objective, “Strengthen an Inclusive UC Workforce and Community” — as key drivers of the EDI work at UCOP.

During her keynote address, transformational speaker, mover, inclusionist, and founder of Infinite Flow Dance Marisa Hamamoto shared her EDI journey and encouraged everyone to try salsa dancing! Watch a video (Box log-in required)

Several members of the President’s Advisory Group participated in the conference, demonstrating their commitment to EDI efforts.

President’s Advisory Group Members pose with members of the EDI Conference Planning Committee. (From left to right) Front row: Marisa McAuliffe; Charlie Robinson; Katherine Newman; Jenny Kao, Rachael Nava, Michael Reese; Middle row: Dennis McIver, Jeet Sammy, Sun Yu Cotter, Oscar Lara, Lalitha Sankaran, Sujit Thapa; Top row: Patricia Châu Nguyễn and Tom Myers

Conference attendees chose between six workshops:

  • “Subtle Acts of Exclusion: Interrupting Microaggressions”
    — Catherine Burns, Senior Trainer and Content Developer, Learning and Development, UCOP HR
  • “Introduction to Anti-racism in a Leadership and Coaching Context (People Managers)”
    — Colin Gerker-Junsay, Senior Talent Strategy Partner, Berkeley People and Culture; Co-chair of Cal Coaching Network
    — Isela Peña-Rager, Assistant Director, College of Letters & Science Advising, UC Berkeley; Past Chair, Alianza at UC Berkeley; Co-Chair, Cal Coaching Network
  • “Managing Interpersonal and Systemic Conflict: Psychological Skills and Space to Emotionally Heal”
    — Tanya Erazo, Ph.D., Founder and CEO, Liberate Psychological and Consultation Services
  • “Challenging Systemic Erasure of American Indians in Data”
    — Virginia Hedric, MPH, Executive Director, Consortium for Urban Indian Health; Member, California Racial Equity Commission
  • “Moving in the Movement, Grounded in the Goals”
    — Sarah Crowell, President, Moving Joy, LLC; Belonging and Community Builder, Othering and Belonging Institute, UC Berkeley; Manager of Special Projects, The Dance Brigade’s Dance Mission Theater
    — Evan Bissell, MPH, Arts and Cultural Strategy Coordinator, Othering and Belonging Institute, UC Berkeley
  • “The Substance and Spirit of Mindful EDI Leadership”
    — Sabrina T. Kwist, Ed.D., Associate Vice Provost, Antiracism, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, University of San Francisco
    — Sheila Smith McKoy, Ph.D., CEO, Smith McKoy and Associates; former Vice Provost, Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Faculty Excellence, University of San Francisco

Conference attendee Ryan King, associate director of Strategic Communications and Media Relations, shared, “The breakout sessions were particularly poignant experiences for me. I am talking up the presenter from the session on the erasure of Native Americans in data to just about everyone.”

During lunch, President Drake spoke with Sujit Thapa, policy and program analyst, GUEA, and co-chair of the UCOP Asian Pacific Islander Staff Association (APISA). President Drake shared his reflections on the conference theme and the role of UC as a change-making organization, within California, higher ed and the global research community. He had an informal conversation with conference attendees as he answered questions and asked attendees some himself.

At lunchtime, President Drake (second row, center) chatted with attendees and stayed for a group photograph.

The afternoon session brought together UC’s financial experts for a panel discussion, “Cents and Sensibility: EDI and Finance Intersection.” Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer Nathan Brostrom moderated, welcoming:

  • Caín Díaz, Interim Associate Vice President and Director, Operating Budget, Budget Analysis and Planning
  • Meg Gutekunst, Associate Vice President, Capital Markets Finance
  • Paul Williams, Associate Vice President and Chief Procurement Officer

The “Cents and Sensibility” panel discussion. (From left to right) Paul Williams, Meg Gutekunst, Caín Díaz and Nathan Brostrom.

For the afternoon keynote address, Laura Hassner, UC Berkeley’s executive director of Innovation and Entrepreneurship, and co-founder of Berkeley Changemaker®, provided her perspectives on steadfast leadership.

Yvette Gullatt, vice president for Graduate and Undergraduate Affairs (GUEA), vice provost for equity, diversity and inclusion, and chief diversity officer, provided closing reflections and encouraged attendees to remain committed to their efforts by reframing success in the EDI arena as progress over a period of time.

“I am thrilled to see the energy and commitment expressed by participants of the EDI Inaugural conference,” said attendee and planning committee member Jeet Sammi, director of Information Technology Shared Services, UCPath. “I am personally energized to take the next steps in the EDI journey with my team and department.”

Thank you to our committee, staff and volunteers

Thank you to the following colleagues whose efforts made this conference meaningful and contributed to its overall success:

UCOP EDI Conference Planning Committee

  • Dennis McIver, EDIB Program Manager, Office of Workforce Inclusion and Belonging
  • Jeet Sammi, Director, Information Technology Shared Services, UCPath
  • Oscar Lara, Senior Learning and Organizational Development Specialist, Learning & Development, UCOP HR
  • Patricia Châu Nguyễn, Director of Systemwide Alumni Engagement and Diversity Initiatives, External Relations and Communications (ER&C)
  • Sujit Thapa, Policy and Program Analyst, GUEA, and co-chair, UCOP Asian Pacific Islander Staff Association
  • Sun Yu Cotter, Deputy Director, UC Global Health Institute, UC Health
  • Tom Myers, Employee Experience Analyst, UCPath

UCOP EDI Conference staff

  • Barbara Heilmann, Senior Event Planner/Supervisor, Building and Administrative Service Center (BASC)
  • Deb Gruen, Senior Event Planner, BASC
  • Jerome Tapier, Audio/Video Support, IT Client Services (ITCS)
  • Jess Keck, Senior Audio/Video Specialist, ITCS
  • Loreaner Lopez, Customer Service Manager, BASC
  • Maynor Gutierrez, Move and Installation Assistance, Work Management Center (WMC)
  • Mike Zelaya, Lead Building Maintenance, WMC


  • Giselle Jose, Coordinator and Training Specialist, Learning and Development, UCOP HR
  • Karen Arnold, Senior Human Resources Business Partner, UCOP HR
  • Marie-Ann Hairston, Associate Vice President, Systemwide HR Strategy and Staff EDIB
  • Michelle Simms, Communications Strategist, Internal Communications, ER&C
  • Miranda Josafat, Analyst, HR Reporting and Analytics, UCOP HR
  • Trish Dolan, Senior Design Analyst, Asset Management Physical Planning

For questions about the conference, please contact Lalitha Sankaran.


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