Annual Conference: Embracing and Integrating Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Engagement Initiatives Into Your Business Comprehensive Strategic Plan

Join us to learn from expert speakers who will share best practices for addressing inequities in today’s workplace. Define equity, diversity and inclusion and what it means when creating a company culture as your company prepares for successful strategic planning.


7:30: Breakfast and Registration opens

8:00: Welcome- Board President- Ricardo Acevedo

8:05: Greetings- Executive Director- Arlette Rodriguez-Miller

8:10: Open Conference-Special Guest Speaker- Carolyn Colleen, Program Director of  Cancer Center at Gundersen, La Crosse, and local author of FIERCE.

8:30 – 10:30: Sarika H. Bhakta, CDE, President of Nikeya Diversity Consulting LLC
Meet Diversity’s Friends: Equity, Inclusion & Engagement – A Collaborative Journey for Strategic Impactful Change

10: 30: Break

10:45: Guided Conversations – Inclusive Culture and Practices


  • Fred Williams, Owner, Press Break.
  • Sarika Bhakta, CDE, President of Nikeya Diversity Consulting LLC
  • Alesha Schandelmeier, Executive Director, The Center LGBTQ
  • Chongcher Lee, Owner Hmongs Golden Egg Rolls
  • Michelle Pinzl, Department of English and World Languages-Viterbo

12:00: Lunch

12:30: Thomas Harris- Networking/Q&A.

1:00: Dr. Jodi Vandenberg-Daves, Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at UW La Crosse.
Understanding and Addressing Gender Inequities in Today’s Workplace

2:00: Special Guest Speaker- Melissa Murray, SURJ.

2:15: Shane Gesler- Diversity Council upcoming President.

2:30: Conference Ends

Our Speakers

Sarika H. Bhakta, CDE

Inspiring diverse authentic leaders to deliver empowered results.

Nikeya Diversity Consulting LLC

Equity + Diversity + Inclusion + Engagement = Empowered Results™

A Certified Diversity Executive, visionary leader and entrepreneur, Bhakta was born in Gujarat, India and raised in the American Midwest. Adjusting to the American culture was extremely challenging for Bhakta inspiring her life’s mission of helping people identify their authentic self to be successful change agents and leaders in today’s ever-changing global economy. She has over 20 years of experience empowering diverse talent and population groups to maximize their leadership potential while increasing their cultural competency and global perspective.

Prior to launching her consulting firm, Bhakta worked in both the public and private sectors across the US, with several companies who had significant international presence. She applied her expertise in leadership management, strategic planning, talent attraction/management, resource acquisition, program design/delivery, community/economic development and parking management.

She is a sought-after consultant, speaker, trainer and community engager due to her high energy, interactive and inspiring style. In each presentation she brings the diversity pendulum back into balance in a positive, refreshing and authentic perspective. Bhakta transforms organizational cultures enterprise-wide by utilizing Equity, Diversity, Inclusion & Engagement business solutions driving innovation and sustainable outcomes.

Bhakta is also a co-investigator/research collaborator for a national study assessing women’s leadership progression in the workplace while conducting a deeper exploration on challenges and opportunities impacting Asian Pacific Islander women’s leadership trajectory. She is also co-authoring an anthology book on women’s empowerment to be published in 2019. Bhakta is a proud recipient of Corridor Business Journal’s “Forty Under 40” award.


Meet Diversity’s Friends: Equity, Inclusion & Engagement – A Collaborative Journey for Strategic Impactful Change

Due to globalization, technology and demographic trends, ensuring a welcoming, vibrant and safe workplace culture is paramount. A growing body of research sheds light on the business case for leveraging diversity to gain competitive advantage and high ROI. However, diversity initiatives alone will NOT create sustainable results. The magic happens when diversity, along with equity, inclusion and engagement initiatives are holistically integrated as part of a business’s overall strategic plan to impact workplace culture driving innovative results.

EDI&E journey is challenging, but necessary in today’s ever-changing environment. Assessing and developing your talent’s cultural competency is a key skill that will help bridge the gap to creating impactful change. Effective cultural competency is paramount in today’s global workforce and marketplace as it is the foundation to connecting, influencing and engaging diverse internal/external stakeholders.

The interactive and engaging session will set the stage for ultimate call to action. Attendees will be able to assess where one’s workplace is on their EDI&E journey and identify some potential key next steps one can advocate for and/or implement to continue progressing forward.

Session Objectives

  • Define and provide an overview of Equity, Diversity, Inclusion and Engagement (EDI&E) concepts
  • Find solutions to addressing some EDI&E journey challenges: lack of leadership support, “Frozen Middle”, poor metrics, etc.
  • Introduce the concept of cultural competency
  • Identify best practices to become culturally competent when interacting with cultural differences

Dr. Jodi Vandenberg-Daves

Chair of the Department of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at UW La Crosse

Dr. Jodi Vandenberg-Daves is the Chair of the Department of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, where she teaches women’s history and women’s leadership.  She is the former Executive Director of the Greater La Crosse Area Diversity Council (2015-2018) and the author of Modern Motherhood:  An American History.  Her community roles have included serving as Project Director for three federally funded Teaching American History Grants (2001-2009), Wisconsin Humanities Council “Shop Talk” Working Lives Project Community Lecturer (2015-Present), member of the steering committee for the WISE (workforce development) project for the 7 Rivers Regional Alliance (2017), instructor for the Small Business Development Center, and member of UWL’s Community Engagement Council (2018-Present.)


Understanding and Addressing Gender Inequities in Today’s Workplace

This presentation will provide an overview of leadership gaps and other gender inequities in the workplace, as well as strategies to address those challenges. Participants will learn about solutions for creating inclusive and gender equitable workplaces, especially in the areas of developing leadership pipelines, creating policies and culture shifts to promote gender fairness, and taking an informed approach to addressing the intersections of gender and other identities, such as race and sexual orientation.

All employees of GLADC Member Organizations receive a discounted registration fee of $65.00 for this half-day conference. Non-member registration fee is $90. Students at area colleges can register for a special rate of $20.00. Registration fee includes lunch. Registration closes on Monday October 29 at 4:30pm.

Register today!

If you require accommodations (e.g. communication access, alternate formats, dietary needs) to participate fully in this event, please contact Melissa Schultz:

For questions about the conference, contact GLADC Executive Director, Arlette Rodriguez-Miller:

There are many great reasons to become a member.

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Multi­cultural Resource Guide

This guide lists established and emerging resources that reflect and celebrate cultural diversity in our area.

View Guide