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Catarina grew up in a Cuban and Puerto Rican family, and Spanish was her first language. She learned the value of diversity from her family. She also developed a passion for making the world a better place. As a young child, she began wearing hearing aids. At 17, she was diagnosed with Usher Syndrome, which includes progressive vision loss. Currently, she has about 5% of her vision remaining.
After graduating from Duke University as a Roberton Scholar, Catarina became a bilingual elementary school teacher in the Bronx through Teach for America. She earned a graduate degree in education from Bank Street College.
After 4 years in the classroom, Catarina became passionate about health and nutrition. She started a community health program in her uptown Manhattan neighborhood. She worked for two large nonprofit organizations and earned a second graduate degree in public health from CUNY School of Public Health-Hunter College where she was the valedictorian of her class.
While her disability was difficult for her in the past, she has now developed disability pride and is empowered by sharing her story. In 2020, Catarina founded Blindish Latina, a platform smashing disability stigmas. She launched a business as a public speaker and DEI consultant focused on disability inclusion in the workplace. She has been featured in Nasdaq, Authority Magazine, and as a top 21 DEI influencer of 2021. She was also named one of LinkedIn’s Top Voices on Disability Advocacy for 2022. Past clients have included HarperCollins Publishers, LinkedIn, Hachette Book Group, Whole30, Grant Thornton, ColorStack, and BCG Digital Ventures. Catarina is a TEDx Speaker and spoke at TEDxRolandPark in June 2022. Catarina is committed to social justice. Catarina is a Certified Professional in Accessibility Core Competencies (IAAP).
Speaker Reel: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Obt6CRq5VHw
TEDx Talk: https://youtu.be/wbXxhuraJsE
Egwu Nwankpah is the Head of Supplier Diversity at Cushman & Wakefield. Egwu is responsible for establishing and maintaining the Global Supplier Diversity Strategy. Egwu is a key part of both the Procurement function as well as the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion team. In this role he is an advocate for diverse suppliers, provides critical information related to current and potential diverse suppliers, leads engagement with external organizations aligned to supplier diversity, and promotes utilization of diverse suppliers globally to both internal and external stakeholders.
Before coming to Cushman & Wakefield, Egwu was a Vice President at Bank of America as he served as part of the Supplier Diversity and Responsible Sourcing team. Egwu is noted by several supplier diversity councils and organizations for his work in the field of Supplier Diversity. Prior to his work at Bank of America, Egwu was a Manager in the Financial Services group of Deloitte & Touché LLP. In that role, he provided auditing, accounting and advisory services to both public and private clients, inclusive of banks, broker dealers and mortgage banks. Egwu has more than 21 years of combined relevant experience in the realms of internal audit and advisory services, vendor management, supplier diversity/development, diversity, equity and inclusion.
Egwu earned his Bachelor of Business Administration degree with an emphasis in Accounting from Andrews University where he graduated as a member of the prestigious J. N. Andrews Honors Program. He holds an MBA from the R.H. Smith School of Business at the University of Maryland, where his focus area was Global Strategy. He is a Certified Public Accountant (NY, MD, and CA), Certified Auditor (IIA), a Chartered Global Management Accountant (AICPA).
In his spare time Egwu is very involved in local and national civic activities, church activities, cheering for various sports teams, and most importantly spending quality time with his beautiful wife and three daughters.
Dr. Diana Artis
Dr. Diana Artis is the CEO and founder of Olive Branch Educators®, a diversity consulting firm whose mission is to facilitate cultural change with a collaborative, deliberate, and strategic approach. Dr. Artisʼ passion for diversity, equity, and inclusion was nurtured during her studies at Columbia University. Her doctoral thesis focused on racial and ego identity development theory. She brings over twenty-five years of experience implementing theories of diversity, equity, and inclusion dating back to her work in post-apartheid South Africa.
Dr. Artis has created a diversity education program based on well-established identity development models. She and the OBE team use evidenced-based principles to help transform institutions and assist individuals in their journey towards increased self-awareness regarding diversity, equity, and inclusion.
In addition to her training as a diversity practitioner, Dr. Artis has a background in organizational development and group processes, all of which play a critical role when organizational change is the goal. She has first-hand leadership experience and is skilled in designing and implementing training.
Dr. Artis received her doctoral degree in Counseling Psychology with a specialization in cross-cultural competency from Columbia University, Teachers College.
Amie Kromis is the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Director for Essity North America, a global health and hygiene company. In her role, she supports business leaders in the US and Canada in reaching Essity’s global DEI ambitions.
Prior to Essity, Kromis served as the first National Director of Vendor Diversity for Skanska USA Building where she lead a team of ten and over $1.5bn in commitments to small and diverse businesses. During her time at Skanska she worked with both the construction and development business units in multiple geographies. Kromis began her formal DEI career at Southwest Airlines where she supported leadership in the newly created Diversity & Inclusion department.
As an active member of her community, Kromis served on the Black Alumni of Southern Methodist University (SMU) board, as a consultant for a Washington D.C. non-profit through Compass Pro Bono and currently sits on the inaugural Forte Alumni Leadership Council to advance women in business.
Kromis received her bachelor’s degree in corporate communications and public affairs from SMU and holds an MBA from Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business where she was a Forte Foundation Fellow. Kromis hails from Nashville, TN and now calls Washington, DC home.
Christine Smitz [her / she] is the Senior Program Manager of Brand Transformation, and head of its’ _Center of Excellence at Sustainable Brands (SB), where she actively steers global brands towards more sustainable, collaborative ESG solutions. Through thought leadership, dynamic programming, exclusive member-led insights and deep inquiry, Christine supports the SB network of over 80 organizations and their executives looking to improve environmental and social practices, impacts and purpose-driven performance.
Christine is also the Principle of Sustain 365, a boutique sustainability consulting body that supports stakeholders who are increasingly committed to more mindful, and sustainable procedures for responsible corporate and community relations.
Christine brings nearly a decade of agency, communications and social impact experience, and an excitement around the convergence of sustainability and behavioral change. She believes in the power of scaled efforts to change the future, and the significance of diverse, innovative voices driving that transformation. A Southern California native, Christine is a twice HBCU alumna, with a Masters in Urban Sustainability, who currently lives in Washington D.C.
Alison Francis started her career in 1997 at the Issaquah, Washington Costco as a Cashier Assistant. In 1998, she interned with Costco.com in its early stages and gained a lot of experience in the Ecommerce business. In 1999, she left Costco to attend Oakwood University in Huntsville, Alabama. In 2000, Costco opened its first warehouse in Alabama, and Alison rejoined the team as a Membership Assistant. During her time at Oakwood University, Alison pursued studies in Business with a specific focus in Marketing, in addition to this she minored in English with a writing emphasis. In 2003 after leaving Oakwood University she relocated to Virginia and became the Membership/Marketing Manager at the Chantilly, Virginia Costco. After completing staff level rotations, Alison was promoted to Assistant General Manager in 2008 at the Brandywine, Maryland location. In 2010, Alison transferred to the Pentagon City location as an Assistant General Manager until being promoted to General Manager in 2012 at the Arundel Mills, Maryland location. After assuming her role as a General Manager in 2012 Alison became very active with the Journeys organization within Costco. Alison became the Chair for the Northeast Region Chapter of Journey’s in 2014. In 2016 Alison was appointed to the Executive Steering Committee for Journeys overseeing the Northeast Region. In September 2019, Alison transferred to the Brandywine Maryland location as the General Manager. After transferring back to Brandywine, Alison decided to continue her educational pursuits by attending Georgetown University. In January of 2020, Alison began pursuing her Master’s Degree in Human Resources Management with an emphasis in Diversity and Inclusion. Alison completed her Master’s degree in December of 2021. The degree in HR with an emphasis in DEI is timely as she is a member of Costco’s Diversity and Inclusion committee. In November of 2020 Alison was promoted to Regional Administration Manager of the Northeast Region of Costco. In December of 2021 Alison was promoted to AVP, Chief Diversity Officer. In October of 2022, Alison was promoted to VP/Chief Diversity Officer. Over the last year the focus has been on launching Costco’s Global Diversity, Equity and Inclusion strategy and focusing on supporting the community of employees, members and diverse suppliers.
Dave Leong tells stories through live experiences, food, fitness, business transformation and books. Born in Sydney, Australia, he constantly pushed the limits by riding mattresses down stairs, breaking guitar strings and accidentally starting oil fires in the kitchen. After graduating from the University of Technology, Sydney, he continued to push limits around the world by leading the creative, strategy and production divisions of global agencies and live event production companies in Sydney, New York, Toronto and Austin. During that time, he built adventurous worlds and explosive stories for his clients to tell through their experiences.
Driven by a phenomenon he noticed in film and TV that he coined “casual representation”, Dave aims to include characters in his worlds whose diversity is introduced to the audience nonchalantly: their race, sexuality, gender or ability aren’t the most interesting things about them, they just are. He wants to inspire other storytellers in all modalities to consider their own worlds full of diversity, if only because the real world is too.
Dave resides in Orange County, CA with his family and is currently working on his next children’s book and young adult series.