Skip to Page Content

Speaker Biographies


    About    Agenda    Program    Speakers    Sponsors    Register    Hotel


    2020 Full Speaker Biographies

    KEYNOTE

    BREAKOUT SESSIONS

    PANELIST

    PANEL MODERATOR

    MASTER OF CEREMONIES

    • Kyndra Joi - Host of On the Move! on WBOK and Executive Director at I am My Sister

    KEYNOTE

    James E. Wright, SHRM-CP -  Diversity & Inclusion Strategist, Trainer and Speaker 

    Session: Keynote Address

    James Wright is a dynamic and compelling leader with a demonstrated ability to inspire and catalyze large corporations to develop strategic plans and programs that frequently receive national recognition for their effectiveness in Diversity and Inclusion. With a track record of delivering practical roadmaps for increasing Diversity in global corporations such as Apple Inc., LinkedIn, NBCUniversal, WarnerMedia (Time Warner), Verizon (MCI), and respected industry organizations, James has become a sought-after speaker in the field of diversity and inclusion, human resources, and social media. A featured guest on NBC and FOX, Wright’s articles and commentary appear frequently on LinkedIn and his expertise has been included in The Washington Post as well as several SHRM articles.

    James, previously a senior leader of Inclusion and Diversity at Apple Inc, led a dedicated team focused on Inclusion Recruiting and External Partnerships. He was also a senior leader in LinkedIn’s Inclusion Recruiting as well as NBCUniversal’s Talent Acquisition focused on pipeline development. In addition, James held roles in AOL’s Operations group as an Engineer and worked in Law & Public Policy at MCI – the nation’s second largest telecommunications company at the time. Additional experience includes organizing lobbying conventions and political visits for senior government officials including two U.S. Presidents.

    In recent years, Wright has built a reputation for enabling organizations to not only achieve and leverage Diversity in the workplace but utilize it effectively to gain speed and flexibility in trend-spotting, decision-making and building a widespread mindset of Inclusion to deliver high levels of employee satisfaction and increased productivity.

    With thought-provoking content and a masterful use of technology, James built his website, JamesWantsToKnowYou.com, to engage audiences with a provocative style that delivers learning that transforms consciousness. He approaches his work with the notion that we – YES, ALL OF US – have a multitude of opportunities in the day to engage, encourage, listen to, and learn from someone who is different from ourselves. Wright constantly poses the question: how will you use today to advance authentic inclusion?

    James attended Erskine College in SC & The Catholic University of America in Washington DC.

    Find out more about James at https://www.jameswantstoknowyou.com/

    Back to Top


    BREAKOUT SESSIONS

    Julia Méndez Achée, SHRM-CP, CDP, CAAP, PHR, CELS -  Principal Business Consultant for Affirmity

    Session: Best Practices for Accommodations: Religion, Gender Identity, Transgender, & Disabilities

    Julia Méndez Achée is Principal Business Consultant for Affirmity. She is based out of the New Orleans area.  Ms. Achée’s current duties include overseeing the training programs for customers as well as creating content and delivering training in areas such as equal employment opportunity (EEO), affirmative action (AA) compliance, and diversity.  She also has over 20 years of experience in assisting clients through OFCCP compliance reviews and offering technical assistance both to clients and internal customers. She has also been invited to speak at national, regional and local conferences on topics such as recruiter compliance with AAPs, regulatory requirements for veterans, and individuals with physical and mental disabilities, updates on EEO laws and settlements, as well as recognizing unconscious bias and other diversity topics.

    Ms. Achée is a graduate of University of New Orleans where she obtained a Bachelor of Science degree in General Business Administration and a Master of Business Administration.  She also has a Master of Arts in Professional Counseling from Liberty University where she graduated with distinction. Ms. Mendez was appointed in 2016 by the governor of Louisiana to the Louisiana Commission on Human Rights. She holds a Professional in Human Resources certification from the HR Certification Institute, is a Society of Human Resources Professional Certified Professional, is a Certified Employment Law Specialist from Columbia Southern University, is a Certified Affirmative Action Professional from the American Association for Access, Equity and Diversity as well as is a Certified Diversity Professional through the Institute for Diversity Certification.

    Memberships in professional organizations include the Louisiana Liaison Group (LLG) where she served in 2007 and 2008 as President and continues to serve on the board; Society for Human Resource Management; New Orleans SHRM where she served as Diversity Chairperson from 2007-2011; Society for Diversity, and is a member and past Personnel Committee Chair for the American Association for Access, Equality, and Diversity for which she contributed monthly to their EEO Tips section of their email publication.  She also serves on the editorial board for INSIGHT into Diversity and is active with the Inclusion Allies Coalition.

    Back to Top


    Damona Barnes, SHRM-SCP, SPHR - HR Consultant at HR NOLA

    Session: Practical Diversity: Taking Inclusion from Theory to Practice

    Damona has fourteen years of experience within Human Resources field, including specialized experience within learning and organizational development. Some of her interests within Human Resources include succession planning, leadership and organizational development, training, and recruiting. She has worked in small, local companies as well as large, global companies and in various industries including financial services, manufacturing, and construction.

    She received her Bachelor of Science degree in Human Resource Education with a concentration in Human Resource and Leadership Development from Louisiana State University. She has also obtained her SHRM-SCP certification through SHRM and SPHR certification through HRCI.

    Damona is currently the President-Elect for the New Orleans Society of Human Resource Management (NOLA SHRM), national member of the Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM) and national member of the Association for Talent Development (ATD). Damona enjoys New Orleans festivals with her husband Kenneth, traveling, cooking and spending time with family and friends.

    Back to Top


    Alejandra Guzman - Vice President of Real Estate & International Business Development for the New Orleans Business Alliance

    Session: Practical Diversity: Taking Inclusion from Theory to Practice

    Alejandra is an expert in economic and community development, social responsibility, and new business development. She has developed her work experience in both the public and private sector where her main focus has been to create and analyze inter-sectorial partnership programs combining non government organizations (NGO), government agencies, and private sector companies focused on solving international community and economic development challenges.

    Under her leadership her team has designed and implemented programs and platforms that have reached more than 52,000 people annually.

    She also promoted urban and community development for real estate projects valued in excess of $200 million and lead risk management for assets in excess of $400 million. This included integrating and implementing urban, community, and political strategies into a core business model.

    In 2016 she began targeting her efforts to the +350,000 members of the Greater New Orleans Community whom she serves daily through the New Orleans Business Alliance. 

    Back to Top


    Kimya S. P. Johnson - Senior Counsel at Ogletree Deakins

    Session: Implementing Legally-Compliant Diversity and Inclusion Initiatives: Practices, Pitfalls, and Opportunities

    For over 25 years, Kimya S.P. Johnson has been a champion for her clients in a career that spans law, politics, education, and diversity & inclusion management. Kimya serves as Co-Chair of the Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) Practice at Ogletree Deakins, one of the nation’s largest labor and employment law firms.

    Kimya supports a wide range of employers in their efforts to provide legally-compliant, effective, and organizationally-integrative diversity and inclusion plans. She represents clients by providing D&I-related compliance and risk-reduction services, D&I program assessment and implementation assistance, and D&I-integrated business strategy and leadership development opportunities.

    Prior to joining Ogletree Deakins, Kimya served as the first Director of Diversity & Inclusion at an AmLaw 100 law firm and she also practiced law in the labor and employment group. In her diversity management role, Kimya led the firm’s efforts to recruit, develop, retain, promote and advance diverse attorneys across the firm’s 26 offices in the U.S., Europe and Canada.  Working closely with executive leadership and management across company functions, Kimya built systems, developed processes, and executed a host of programs designed to increase diversity within the firm and to promote its core value of inclusion.  As an employment lawyer, Kimya handled the myriad of employment and labor-related matters, including affirmative action/EEO law, employment discrimination claims, complaint reporting, procedures and investigations, downsizing processes, wage and hour disputes, and union/management relations at the state and federal levels.  She also provided human resource counseling, management/workforce training, human resource policy and handbook creation, and litigation defense to clients across a range of industries.

    Kimya was recognized as a “Lawyer on the Fast Track” by The Legal Intelligencer, as a “PA Rising Star in Employment & Labor” by SuperLawyers Magazine, and as an “Influential Woman” by the NAACP, Philadelphia Chapter.  She also received the “MultiCultural Leadership Award” from the National Diversity Council.

    Kimya has been directly engaged with a host of community, educational, political and social service endeavors for decades.  Before practicing law, Kimya was a public elementary school teacher in South Bronx, New York and received the Sallie Mae Excellence in Teaching Award. More recently, she served as Campaign Manager for a candidate for U.S. Congress who garnered more votes than any other primary challenger candidate in the state. Further, Kimya has first-hand experience with non-profit incorporation, management and governance through, among others, Dare to Imagine—an organization that began in her home in 2014 and has since grown to over 700 members with a campus in East Mount Airy, Philadelphia.  She currently serves on the boards of Big Brothers Big Sisters Independence Region, Dare to Imagine Church, Inc., and Dare to Imagine Community Development Corporation.

    Back to Top


    Amy Landry - CEO of Landry Training, LLC

    Session: Practical Diversity: Taking Inclusion from Theory to Practice

    Amy Landry is CEO of Landry Corporate Training, LLC, a company specializing in employee training and development for a wide range of clients from hospitals to oil & gas to hospitality with experience facilitating workshops from 8 to 500 participants. Landry is a certified Human Resources professional through the Society of Human Resources (SHRM-CP) and a certified practitioner for Meyers Briggs Type Indicator Personality Assessment (MBTI®).

    Landry is Past-President of American Business Women’s Association (ABWA) Crescent City Connections Express Network in New Orleans. She created a Leadership Conference and Equal Pay Day event, which have raised thousands of dollars for scholarship funds and equipped hundreds of women with business skills.  Amy was awarded locally the league's Woman of The Year in 2018 and in 2019 awarded nationally as an ABWA Top Ten Business Woman.

    Landry is Founder/Partner of Diapers to Desk, LLC, an online training resource, for working parents and employers. Diapers to Desk, LLC has programs that support parents before, during, and upon the return from parental leave, leadership training, and work-life balance training.

    From her unique work with women in leadership, Landry collaborated with Loyola University’s on the creation of the inaugural Women’s Leadership Academy and selected to be the inaugural Program Facilitator for the Women’s Leadership Academy at Loyola University in New Orleans.

    Landry has served on the New Orleans Society of Human Resources Management as the Director of Professional Development for two years and is serving as VP of Membership for 2020. Landry is a member of New Orleans Chamber of Commerce Member, POW of Women Business member, Fidelity P.O.W.E.R. member, and serving as Speaker Chair for the inaugural Junior League of New Orleans 2020 Women’s Leadership Conference.

    Landry is a New Orleans City Business Woman of the Year Class of 2018, Greater New Orleans (GNO) Inc. as the Millennial Award Winner in Business 2018, and a Junior Achievement Empower Mentor.

    Back to Top


    Robert C. Perryman - Associate at Ogletree Deakins

    Session: Implementing Legally-Compliant Diversity and Inclusion Initiatives: Practices, Pitfalls, and Opportunities

    Rob Perryman is an associate in the Philadelphia office of Ogletree Deakins. He has represented clients in a variety of different areas.

    Rob is known for his ability to adapt to virtually any legal situation, he has successfully litigated labor and employment, civil rights, insurance, and defense of public entities cases. He’s argued in state and federal court, as well as in front of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the National Labor Relations Board.

    He has also successfully represented clients through motion practice and on appeals. Robert’s practice also focuses on advising clients on best practices and managing employees in efforts to avoid litigation.

    Back to Top


    Patrick Young - Talent & Workforce Development Training Manager for the New Orleans Business Alliance 

    Session: Getting Louisiana Talent Back to Work: Unlocking the Job Market for the Formerly Incarcerated

    Patrick Young is the Training Manager for the New Orleans Business Alliance. In this role, Mr. Young is responsible for a wide range of logistical and operational tasks related to planning, training and technical assistance opportunities at NOLABA and the five Opportunity Centers in New Orleans. These Opportunity Centers Partners are, GOODWILL Industries of Southeastern Louisiana, JOB1, Urban League of Louisiana and Total Community Action. Mr. Young is responsible for organizing, coordinating and facilitating staff trainings on STRIVE’s CORE Adult Job Readiness and STRIVE Fresh START Life Skills curriculums.

    Through the collective efforts of the Opportunity Centers in less than 3 years, 890 individuals were connected to jobs -536 of them are African American men (60%) of the African American men who graduated from an opportunity center 79% are still working after six months. Nearly, 70% of STRIVE graduates have criminal backgrounds with misdemeanors and or felonies.

    Mr. Young has a wealth of experience serving in a variety of positions in the areas of community development, re-entry and criminal justice, work readiness, pre-employment training, program oversight, strategic planning, and management. He is the Founder and Executive Director of SHARP MEN a non-profit organization that provides professional attire for men looking to overcome workforce barriers to employment.

    Mr. Young was recently nationally selected out of 800 applicants to be one of 80 leaders as a W.K. Kellogg Foundation Community Leadership Network fellow. Mr. Young is a certified community organizer from Midwest Organizing Academy. Certified Advanced Core Trainer from STRIVE International. Graduate of the New Orleans Business Alliance Economic Development Ambassadors Program as well as a Nancy M. Marsiglia Institute of Justice Fellow.

    Back to Top


     

    PANELIST

    Missy Sparks, PhD - Vice-President of Talent Management / Human Resources at Ochsner Health System

    Missy Sparks, PhD serves as Vice President of Talent Management in Human Resources at Ochsner Health System. Her team in responsible developing a diverse talent pipeline to support top quality patient care. In her role she oversees workforce development with a focus on opening career pathways for the unemployed/underemployed, college and post-graduate internships and fellowships, orientation & onboarding, performance management and engagement for more than 26,000 team members. In 2017 she helped to stand up a formal diversity and inclusion strategy at Ochsner.

    She is a board member for the Workforce Development Boards Orleans and Jefferson Parishes, YouthForce NOLA, and Communities in Schools. Additionally, she volunteers weekly to feed the hungry and homeless through St. Mark’s United Methodist in the French Quarter. 

    Back to Top


    Maria D. Buggage, MBA, SHRM-CP, PHR - Director of HR, Diversity & Inclusion, and Talent Development @ Ampirical 

    Maria Buggage is the Director of HR and Diversity & Inclusion at Ampirical, an engineering firm in Mandeville, LA that designs power lines and substations for the utility industry.  She has been with the firm since 2007.  She recently earned her MBA from the University of Phoenix with a 3.78 GPA while working full-time; and is a member of the Delta Mu Delta International Honor Society in Business, Lamba Sigma Chapter.  She holds certifications with SHRM (SHRM-CP) and HRCI (PHR).

    From 2010 to 2018, Maria was responsible for the Supplier Diversity efforts in the firm.  This involved networking with diverse businesses, and partnering them with Ampirical to give these businesses the opportunity to “have a seat at the table” when it came to opportunities in the utility industry.  These duties were transitioned to Operations in early 2019 when Maria was promoted to Director of HR/Diversity & Inclusion; however, she still works closely with the firm’s Director of Operations in the Supplier Diversity effort and occasionally attends a conference or other event on behalf of Ampirical.

    Diversity and Inclusion on the “people” side was a natural initiative for Maria to transition to, given her passion for fairness and equality.  She is working with the executive team to ensure that all of Ampirical’s employees are recognized, not only for the talents in their respective fields, but for what each person’s unique and individual background can bring to the table to align with fellow colleagues.  This collaboration will help to develop best practices and ideas that will continue to ignite Ampirical to grow and remain competitive with much larger, more tenured professional engineering firms.

    Maria is also currently the Director of Diversity & Inclusion for the Northshore SHRM Chapter (“NSHRM”) and is entering her second year in this role.  During her tenure, the chapter has been involved in helping students with resume preparation, interview techniques, and career planning.  NSHRM has also enjoyed a very successful clothing drive, a Christmas toy drive for children, a Christmas gift drive for senior citizens and disabled veterans; and the chapter is currently working with a local organization (STARC) to collect beads as a fund raiser to benefit this non-profit organization.

    Back to Top 


    Kevin Monroe - Vice President of Operations at Cox Communications

    Kevin has served as Cox’s vice president of operations for the New Orleans market since January of 2019. As the market vice president, he is responsible for the market’s more than 400 employees.  Kevin is a strategic business partner and collaborator.  He served on Cox’s National Diversity and Inclusion Council for four years and is currently the Executive Sponsor for the Southeast Region Diversity Council.

    Prior to arriving in the New Orleans market Kevin held the market vice president role in Gainesville, Florida.  In 2018 Kevin also served as the chairman of the board of directors for the Greater Gainesville Area Chamber of Commerce. In addition, he served on the board of directors for the Council for Economic Outreach, Florida Museum of Natural History, Cotton Club Museum and Cultural Center, Children’s Home Society of North Central Florida and Dance Alive National Ballet. The Business Magazine in Gainesville recognized him as an Impact Award honoree and in 2018 Synergy Magazine recognized Kevin as one of Gainesville’s influential leaders. 

    Kevin has also held leadership roles with Windstream Communications and Southwest Airlines. He obtained his Executive Business Administration Certification from the University of Notre Dame and studied Computer Sciences at DeVry Institute of Technology. 

    Back to Top 


    Michael Williamson - President and Chief Executive Officer of  United Way of Southeast Louisiana

    Michael L. Williamson serves as President and Chief Executive Officer of United Way of Southeast Louisiana serving Jefferson, Orleans, Plaquemines, St. Bernard, St. Tammany, Tangipahoa, and Washington parishes.

    Before coming to UWSELA in April 2009 as Chief Operating Officer, he served as Vice President of Field Leadership at United Way of America (UWA) in Alexandria, VA.  Williamson provided overall management and leadership to the UWA Hurricane Response and Recovery Fund developed in Hurricane Katrina’s wake.

    As COO of UWSELA, Williamson was responsible for all fund-raising campaign activities and related committees.  He oversaw campaign and marketing staff to assure United Way conducted an effective annual campaign.

    Under Williamson’s leadership as CEO, United Way developed a Blueprint for Prosperity with a framework to eradicate poverty in Southeast Louisiana and a bold vision of equitable communities where all individuals are healthy, educated, and economically stable. The Blueprint included an expansion of the traditional United Way granting process with the addition of seven collaborative grants.

    Some of United Way’s most significant challenges and successes have come in the wake of disaster – Hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Isaac, the BP Oil Spill, and most recently, the August 2016 Floods.  Before the rain stopped falling, Williamson had people on the ground and a fund created on United Way’s website to begin collecting critical donations.  Altogether more than $1.1 million was raised; over $1.4 million collected and distributed in much-needed supplies, and volunteers amassed 1,700+ hours helping their neighbors.

    Among his accomplishments, Williamson created United Way’s Million-Dollar Roundtable, whose initiation requires a gift of $1M. The group has grown from a single member to six distinguished individuals and couples who continue to lead United Way’s investments and help to inform the organization’s fundraising strategy.

    Williamson is committed to a focus on community outcomes as the top strategy for increasing accountability and maintaining United Ways’ leadership in philanthropy. He has worked to strengthen United Way’s public-private partnerships at the local, state, and federal level to create scalable community building efforts while creating and leveraging the state’s only United Way advocacy program, which has been responsible for countless legislative advancements since its inception.

    In 2018, United Way experienced some of the most significant advancements in its 95-year history with Williamson at the helm. The organization launched the Kay Fennelly Summer Literacy Institute and Nancy M. Marsiglia Institute for Justice, secured major contracts to manage state funding for prisoner re-entry work and SNAP Employment and Training, introduced an emergency crisis grant program under Hospitality Cares, and celebrate a year of extraordinary financial capability grown for the clients of the J. Wayne Leonard Prosperity Center. 

    Williamson has 30 years of executive level nonprofit management experience, 25 of those years served in the United Way system. He has served as President of United Way of Aiken County, Aiken, SC, and Resource Development Director/Executive Director of ATC Foundation, Aiken Technical College. Aiken, SC.

    Back to Top 


    PANEL MODERATOR

    Michelle Craig - Managing Partner at Transcendent Law Group

    Michelle D. Craig is Managing Partner of Transcendent Law Group. With over 15 years of Am200 law firm experience, she became the first African-American female Partner in the New Orleans Office of an Am200 regional law firm before starting her own firm. She holds dual degrees, including a Juris Doctorate (J.D.) and a Bachelor of the Civil Law (B.C.L.), from the Louisiana State University (LSU) Law Center. She also studied International and Comparative Law at the Université d'Aix Marseille III in Aix en Provence, France.

    In her practice, she facilitates effective resolution of legal matters for small to large companies in all practice areas. She regularly provides legal counsel to existing and newly formed charter schools. In that capacity, she assists charter schools with their employment and legal needs from inception through operation, including drafting employment documents, vendor agreements, student handbooks, parent teacher handbooks and authorization documents. She also assists with ongoing personnel matters, board governance and procedures, compliance with the charter application processes, and the selection and training of administrators. In addition, she serves as the outside general counsel for several companies by providing transactional and litigation advice, proactive management and human resources guidance and counseling. To assist small and medium-sized firms in their process improvement, she created Prosquire, a legal project management software. She is very active in the community and very passionate about the economic sustainability and development of the New Orleans area. She currently serves as both the Chairperson of the Orleans Parish Civil Service Commission and the Secretary of the Downtown Development District in New Orleans.

    Back to Top


    MASTER OF CEREMONIES

    Kyndra Joi - Host of On the Move! on WBOK and Executive Director at I am My Sister

    Kyndra Joi is the host of the newest show on WBOK, On the Move! She serves as the Executive Director of the non-profit I Am My Sister, is a Licensed Master Social Worker, Cultural and Holistic Family Health Consultant, Certified Belief Therapist, Certified Herbalist, Recording Artist, and Emcee. Kyndra has earned a Master of Social Work degree from Illinois State University and has over 16 years of experience in the community servicing children and families.

    Kyndra has used her experiences in clinical and community settings to develop curriculums and seminars on holistic mental and spiritual health. In addition to facilitating wellness workshops, she also consults with for- and non-profit organizations to assist in meeting the need for development and growth in the community while being a mentor and learning as a mentee daily.

    Born and raised in Charleston, South Carolina, Kyndra is affectionately known as “Gullah Gal” in the community and actively educates and creates awareness of the Gullah culture through her interactive workshops of language, dance, and song.

    In addition, when not imparting light with the community, she and her band, Soul Theory are bringing a clap to your hand a groove to your feet with their sultry mixture of Funk and Soul. Kyndra and this dynamic group have performed with musical greats such as Kermitt Ruffins, Davell Crawford, Charmaine Neville, and Dr. Michael White just to name a few. Kyndra serves as a vocal instructor for a Girl Jazz Camp in New London, CT and is an avid fan of the Golden Girls!

    Click here to learn more about Kyndra.

    Back to Top