Equity, Diversity, & Inclusion


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Friday Forum: Leading with Equity

September 24 @ 1:00 pm 3:00 pm MDT

Registration for this event is now closed! Join us next month for “Shared Equity Leadership” on October 22.

Friday Forums on Racism in Higher Education, September 24, 1 - 3 PM, Leading with Equity

Leading with equity is an intentional practice that fosters change, engagement, and justice for the purposes of dismantling supremacy in all forms. As defined by the Lumina Foundation’s Equity Imperative, an equity framework is the recognition and analysis of historic, persistent factors that have created unequal systems. While we do not believe individuals set out to intentionally create inequity, we have each been socialized within a system that perpetuates inequities through its language, policies, and practices that result in our implicit and unconscious bias.

After the general session (1 – 2 p.m. MT), attendees will have the opportunity to join one of the following breakout sessions (2 – 3 p.m. MT) to discuss how to move forward:

  • Leading with Equity at Work
  • Leading with Equity in the Classroom
  • Leading with Equity in our Community

Leading with Equity Speakers

Estela Bensimon

Dr. Estela Bensimon
University Professor Emerita, University of Southern California


Estela Mara Bensimon holds the honorary title of University Professor Emerita at the University of Southern California. She is the founder of the Center for Urban Education at USC. She is now leading Bensimon & Associates, a consulting firm that provides services with a focus on racial equity to colleges, universities, and philanthropic organizations. Bensimon is an elected member of the National Academy of Education and a Fellow of the American Education Research Association. She is a governor appointee to the Education Commission of the States. In 2020 she received ASHE’s Howard Bowen Award and the McGraw Prize. Her most recent book is From Equity Talk to Equity Walk: Expanding Practitioner Knowledge for Racial Justice in Higher Education, co-authored with Tia Brown McNair and Lindsey Malcom-Piqueux.

Jelani Cobb

Dr. Jelani Cobb
Staff Writer, The New Yorker
Ira A. Lipman Professor of Journalism, Columbia University


Dr. Jelani Cobb is Columbia University’s Ira A. Lipman Professor of Journalism and a long-time staff writer at The New Yorker, where his writing on race, history, justice, and politics earned him the Hillman Prize for opinion and analysis journalism. Most recently he edited The Essential Kerner Commission Report, a prescient and woefully neglected government examination of more than a dozen urban uprisings from 1964 to 1967, and co-edited The Matter of Black Lives, a collection of The New Yorker’s most ground-breaking writing on race in America. He is also the recipient of the Walter Bernstein Award from the Writer’s Guild of America for his investigative series Policing the Police, which aired on PBS Frontline. His most recent Frontline documentary, Who’s Vote Counts, explores allegations of voter disenfranchisement and fraud in the 2020 election.

Mary Ann Villarreal

Dr. Mary Ann Villarreal
Vice President for Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion; University of Utah


Dr. Mary Ann Villarreal is fueled by an unwavering commitment to ensure the doors to receiving a degree remain open and the table is set for everyone to participate. As the inaugural vice president for Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion at the University of Utah, she provides leadership and strategic oversight of diversity and inclusion initiatives across the University’s academic and health sciences campuses. This opportunity unites her extensive experience in higher education and her passion for social justice in leading the University on its journey to becoming an anti-racist community.

Leading with Equity at Work Speakers

Dani Baum

Dani Baum, MACL
Recruitment Manager, University of Utah


Dani has been the Recruitment Manager at the University Utah of since Spring of 2018. She serves as the recruitment subject matter expert for the human resources department. She consults on recruitment strategy with hiring departments, assists in the facilitation of executive searches, and conducts trainings for hiring managers, departments, search committees, students and other HR professionals on best hiring practices. She currently serves as the co-chair as the Human Resources EDI Committee along with serving on multiple inclusion committees across campus. Dani takes a consultative approach in advising hiring managers on best practices when it comes to sourcing exceptional talent and managing a fair and equitable search. She is particularly passionate about creating an excellent candidate experience and coaching hiring teams on how they can constantly be challenging their own bias and build a more inclusive search process.

Neelam Chand

Neelam Chand
Founder & CEO, Shift SLC


Neelam Chand is the CEO and founder of Shift SLC, a diversity and inclusion consulting firm located in Salt Lake City, Utah. With over a decade of D&I experience, Neelam has worked with several different industries ranging from higher education to financial services and tech startups to break down systemic barriers and to design a more equitable workplace environment for historically excluded identities.

Tom Maloney

Tom Maloney
Professor, Department of Economics
University of Utah


Tom Maloney is an economist with expertise in the areas of US economic history, demography, and labor. His research focuses mainly on issues of socioeconomic inequality, both in the long run and in the current period. He regularly teaches US economic history (for general education students, undergraduate economics majors, and doctoral students); the economics of discrimination; microeconomic theory (intermediate and master’s level); and labor economics. From 2011 to 2017, Maloney served as the chair of the Department of Economics at the University of Utah, and from 2010 to 2018, he was the Director of the Barbara L. and Norman C. Tanner Center for Human Rights. He received a bachelor’s degree in economics from the University of Dayton and master’s and doctoral degrees in economics from the University of Michigan, and from 1992 to 1994 he was a post-doctoral fellow in the Center for the Study of Urban Inequality.

Leading with Equity in the Classroom Speakers

Kurt Guner

Kurt Güner, Ph.D.
Adult Learner Program Coordinator, University of Utah


Kurt Güner helps stopped out students return to school as the Adult Learner Program Coordinator at the University of Utah, where he recently graduated with his Ph.D. Over the past several years, he has presented workshops on inclusive teaching and on how to handle race/class/gender issues in the classroom across the state of Utah, training graduate students and faculty interested in building stronger, kinder, and more impactful classroom environments.

Sonia Salari

Sonia Salari, Ph.D.
Professor, Department of Family and Consumer Studies
College of Social and Behavioral Sciences, University of Utah


Sonia Salari, Ph.D. is Professor in the Department of Family and Consumer Studies at the University of Utah and Fellow, Gerontology Society of America. She is a member of CSBS EDI Committee and Co-PI of Climate Survey. Her research focuses on inter-generational families, interpersonal relationships, minority aging, immigration, diversity, formal service use in health emergencies and public policy. As an advocate for victims, she is co-founder of the University of Utah Gender-Based Violence Consortium, Co-PI Office of Violence against Women Campus Prevention Grant and works closely with the Utah Domestic Violence Coalition. She recently published 2nd ed. of her book Family Violence Across the Life Course: Research, policy and prevention (2021). Dr. Salari has taught over two decades at the University of Utah and her teaching has won awards, including the Distinguished University Teaching Award.

Leading with Equity in our Community Speakers

Juliet Carlisle

Juliet Carlisle, Ph.D.
Associate Profesor, Department of Political Science
Associate Professor, Environmental and Sustainability Studies Program
College of Social and Behavioral Science, University of Utah


Juliet Carlisle is an Associate Professor in the Department of Political Science and the Environmental and Sustainability Studies Program. Her research substantively deals with political behavior and public opinion with an emphasis on environmental politics and policy. In particular, Dr. Carlisle broadly considers public opinion and has investigated the interplay of demographic, cognitive, psychological, and contextual factors on attitudes regarding the environment, offshore oil drilling, large-scale solar development, and vaccines.

Her co-authored book, The Politics of Energy Crises (2017), published by Oxford University Press applies the theories of agenda setting and punctuated equilibrium to energy crises and explores energy policy during energy crises with specific attention on the role of public opinion, business interests and environmental activists.

RyLee Curtis

RyLee Curtis, MPP
Director, Community Engagement; University of Utah Health


RyLee Curtis is a Utah native. She graduated with a dual degree in Communications and Political Science from the University of Utah, where she also received her master’s degree in Public Policy. She worked on Medicaid policy in Utah for many years, before joining University of Utah Health as the Director of Community Engagement. In this role, she is leading the Hospital’s Healthcare Anchor Institution work, engaging with community based organizations to address Social Determinants of Health, and building partnerships across University of Utah Campus, University of Utah Health Plans, and the University’s Hospital.

Diego Zegarra

Diego Zegarra
Vice President of Equity & Impact, Park City Community Foundation


Diego migrated from Peru in 2005 to attend the David Eccles School of Business at the University of Utah. His journey in the philanthropy sector began in 2009 when he managed education programs and directly worked with immigrant families and their children. With a focus on collaboration and community organizing, he works towards improving equitable outcomes for communities of color as well as other marginalized groups. Diego believes that through empowering folks and creating more inclusive environments, philanthropy can do more than just address the symptoms, but rather, examine the root causes and systems in place creating these disparate outcomes.

Friday Forums on Racism in Higher Education


Friday Forums is a commitment to the state and region in elevating national conversations and showcasing models of disrupting complicit racism. Each session welcomes national thought leaders to lead discussions and provide opportunities for participants to share ideas on actionable items towards a diverse, equitable, and inclusive campus.

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Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion

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