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2018 Diversity Conference Speakers
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Conference Speakers

Dr. LaVerne T. Harmon

 President of Wilmington University



From Assisting a President to Becoming One


Diversity and Inclusion comes in many shapes and forms.  Journey with Dr. Harmon as she expounds on her unique experience at Wilmington University.   She will share her 28-year journey from Assistant to the President to the President.  Dr. Harmon will further discuss Wilmington University’s diverse and inclusive culture, in terms of its students and employees.  As well as share some of the University’s offerings related to diversity and inclusivity.


Learning objectives: 

  • Attendees will learn about diversity and inclusion initiatives in higher education and to apply them to their organization
  • Attendees will gain knowledge on how to cause positive change, over time, in their company culture
  • Attendees will gain insight on how to develop relationships and welcome diversity of different cultures



Dr. LaVerne T. Harmon became President of Wilmington University in July of 2017 after being unanimously approved by its Board of Trustees. She is the first African-American woman to be named the president of a college or university in the state of Delaware. Dr. Harmon holds a Doctorate in Higher Education Administration from the University of Pennsylvania.

Dr. Harmon began working at Wilmington University in 1989 and held numerous positions while earning undergraduate and graduate degrees from Wilmington University, then maintained her full-time position while earning her doctorate. She held key roles in the University’s internal operations, planning and strategic growth, and her tenacity propelled her to flourish from positions as assistant to the President to Director of Human Resources; from Director of Student Affairs and Alumni Relations to Vice President of Student Affairs; and from Executive Vice President to President. This diverse experience prepared Dr. Harmon for the expanding role of American college presidents, particularly in the areas of student recruitment and retention.

Dr. Harmon is dedicated to the well-being and success of all students. Her greatest strengths are her creativity, determination, and insistence on leading with compassion and dignity. A collaborative leader who thrives on building partnerships, Dr. Harmon created the university’s Leadership Institute and established its Office of Student Affairs. She also advanced its athletics from NAIA to NCAA Division II, and the guidance she provided during those complex negotiations was noted in the Wilmington University Board of Trustees’ official minutes.

Dr. Harmon has earned numerous accolades, including the American Council on Education Leadership Award, the National Association of University Women Educator of the Year Award and the Community Service Award, the Markevic A. Johnson Scholarship Foundation Woman of Distinction Award, and the Phi Delta Kappa Educator of the Year Award.

An ardent proponent of community service, Dr. Harmon is a member of the United Way of Delaware’s Board of Directors. She also is a board member of Boys & Girls Club of Delaware, The Grand Opera House, and the Wilmington Leaders Alliance. Dr. Harmon was instrumental in establishing the Delaware American Council on Education Women’s Network and was a member and Paul Harris Fellow of Rotary International. She has mentored for several groups, including the national Help One Student to Succeed Program, and also founded the Linda Thomas Scholarship Fund at Wilmington University.

t Up

Warren S. Cook




Got Diversity.  Get Inclusion!

Whether or not your workforce is diverse, inclusive, or both may depend on who you ask?  A challenge is ever present in achieving a common understanding of diversity and inclusion in the workplace.  We will dispel various myths and misconceptions.  The audience will learn about the historical and trending perspectives of diversity and inclusion and why awareness of the shift is important to their success.  The workforce is evolving, and a new generation of workers are demanding organizational transformation.  At all levels of the organization the HR Professional must understand what inclusion is and how an inclusive culture positively impacts ROI, engagement, loyalty, and retention.  This session will challenge the audience to alter their views and perspective of diversity and inclusion and motivate everyone to consider being a champion of change.

Learning Objectives:

  • Attendees will have a clear understand contrasting characteristics of Diversity, Affirmative Action, and Inclusion.
  • Attendees will gain insight into current trends and learn practical strategies that can be implemented in their respective organizations.
  • Attendees will be able to articulate how an inclusive culture can directly benefit ROI, engagement, loyalty and retention.

Warren Cook is a co-founder of SymbianceHR and leads all client consulting engagements.  He is a human capital strategy management subject matter expert with over 20 years of experience as a strategic business partner, project manager, and people leader across private and public-sector organizations.

Warren is responsible for all client consulting engagements from initial needs assessment and compliance review through delivery of customized complex human capital strategy solutions that meet the client's business goals.   He has a proven track record of providing executive coaching and guidance to business leaders and human resource professionals at all levels including the C-Suite of Fortune 100 companies.

Warren combines his human capital, project management, and business management experience with a philosophy of solving business challenges through the strategic implementation of policies, processes, and procedures to deliver sustainable solutions that demonstrate ROI, mitigate and manage employment practices risk, and empower organizational success.

Warren is the author of “Applicant Interview Preparation – Practical Coaching for Today” and holds a B.S. in Human Resource Management, an MBA in Project Management, and a M.S. in Industrial and Organizational Psychology.  Warren is a member of the DE SHRM Board of Directors, and is a SHRM Certified Professional.



Stephanie Staats

YWCA Delaware



D&I How To For Small to Mid-sized Organizations

Little to no budget for diversity and inclusion initiatives? Designing, communicating and implementing a Commitment to Diversity & Inclusion can transform an organizational culture and lead to better recruitment, retention and leadership development.  Continuous feedback, transparent communications and intentional refinements build trust and better outcomes. Stephanie Staats, CEO of YWCA Delaware will shares the strategies she developed for YWCA to live its mission to eliminate racism and empower women in its day-to-day operations and employee relations.    

Learning Objectives:

  • Demonstrate a general awareness and understanding of and respect for cultural differences and issues
  • Demonstrate acceptance of colleagues from different cultures
  • Promote inclusion in daily interactions with others
  • Supports an organizational culture that values diversity and promotes inclusion

Stephanie Staats has devoted more than two decades to advancing the mission of Delaware nonprofits. She is experienced in all facets of organizational leadership which includes strategic planning, fiscal management, program development, marketing, public relations, fund development, board relations, and human resources. She joined YWCA Delaware in 2004 as chief program director and under her leadership client engagement doubled and new revenue sources increased almost 20% within five years. Her accomplishments include the design, launch and successful implementation of an 8-year, $1.2 million entrepreneurship program; a nationally recognized, multi-sector statewide coalition to increase asset building opportunities for Delaware families; and in 2015, a $.5 million Sexual Assault Response Center. In 2016 she was selected as Chief Executive Officer for YWCA Delaware. Stephanie’s prior experience includes the positions of Director of Development for the Delaware Community Foundation, Chief of Staff for the Delaware Humanities Forum, and Communications Manager for the Grand Opera House. She currently serves on the board of the Delaware Theater Company, Delaware Continuum of Care, and the YWCA USA CEO Advisory Council. She is a member of the Forum of Executive Women and the International Women’s Forum. She holds a Master’s degree in Public Administration from Wilmington University, a Bachelors degree from the University of Delaware, and professional certificates in Community Economic Development from Neighborworks America.



Michelle Taylor

United Way of Delaware


In$anity is Expensive


Insanity is doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting a different outcome. Unchanged outcomes around diversity & inclusion have cost people, organizations, and communities their growth.   Learn how United Way of Delaware values and promotes culture differences. Consider Michelle Taylor’s professional journey to CEO/President and discover sustainable strategies in your career and within an organization that will enable you to “lean in ” to integrate new ideas, to drive greater results!

Learning Objectives:

  • Promote culture differences and inclusion in a small business
  • Understand the key factors or D & I , to promote growth in the organization
  • To understand strategic methods to drive personal and company results


Michelle A. Taylor is President and Chief Executive Officer of United Way of Delaware, one of the state’s largest non-profit community impact organizations.  As the leader of the organization, she has the vision to address our communities’ challenges through collaboration and partnerships to increase outcomes that align with Early Education Success, Career and College Readiness, and Financial Stability. Ms. Taylor works across all sectors of the community to include private, public and corporate sectors and particularly the communities that are beings served to improve conditions to strengthen Delaware. She possesses a high level of broad business and management skills and is effective at generating resources and financial support for the organization, and is dedicated to shared and measurable goals for the common good - creating, resourcing, scaling and leveraging strategies for large investment and impact. 

A career non-profit professional, Ms. Taylor is a standing board member of several professional organizations and agencies.  She believes that change is on the horizon but will require all of us to move from out of our comfort zones and truly work united. Ms. Taylor holds a B.S. degree in accounting from Morgan State University and an MBA from Wilmington University.


Chandra Pitts 

One Village Alliance

The Power of a Millennial Voice

  This workshop will bring authentic voice to a courageous conversation on diversity, beginning with the true meaning of the idea. The focus of my presentation will be to provide clarity on how millennials can use the power of their voice to influence and lead diversity and inclusion initiatives in their workplace and community. We will explore the concept of Social Entrepreneurship and my personal journey as a first generation Mexican American and Black female CEO. 


The learning objectives will be to empower Millennials to:

  • be human centered in their work 
  • remain conscious of the elements that inhibit diversity
  • and be intentional in their commitment to foster true diversity and inclusion


A dedicated visionary, philanthropist and social entrepreneur, Chandra Pitts is committed to growing youth into their true greatness through education, entrepreneurship and the arts. As a first-generation Mexican American and a Black woman, her passion, integrity and authentic voice of advocacy for marginalized youth locally, nationally and globally is driven by her own life experiences. A justice-driven businesswoman, Chandra created a social enterprise securing her first multi-million dollar contract to address the needs of marginalized youth and families at the age of 31.

Chandra Pitts began her life’s work organizing youth in Jamaica whose families could not afford to send them to school. In 2008, she developed the largest school-based mentoring program in Delaware’s Christina School District serving 247 at risk youth. In 2009, she founded The Village Learning Center securing a 2.1 million dollar federally funded contract to continue her work with marginalized youth. Her company's innovative education model was adopted by the Department of Education in Delaware and New Jersey, implemented in 42 schools throughout the region, and created 62 new jobs in its first year alone.  

She used this successful social enterprise to launch non-profit, social impact agency, One Village Alliance, Inc. As founding President & CEO, Chandra’s primary work takes a gender specific approach to growing purpose-driven youth into their true greatness with a strong focus on education, global leadership and social enterprise. “Girls Can Do Anything!” empowers hundreds of girls throughout the Delaware Valley to redefine womanhood and what it means to be a girl. Raising Kings changes society’s prominent image and expectations of men and boys of color by elevating the level of positive male engagement in the lives of boys. And Suitable Men provides fatherhood training, man-to-man mentoring, and leadership support for dads in our "village" approach to holistic youth development.  

In 2017, Chandra Pitts became the youngest person ever inducted into the Delaware Hall of Fame for Women, an esteemed honor she accepts on behalf of all the extraordinary women who paved the way before her. The YWCA featured her among 12 social innovators in a life-size travelling exhibit that opened at  Delaware's African American Heritage Museum. Chandra graced the September 2017 cover of Delaware Today Magazine as one of the most Intriguing Delawareans. The Center For Urban Families selected her among the nation's 10 most promising practitioners in fatherhood, family strengthening and Black male achievement.  Glamour Magazine's Women of the Year issue featured Chandra as one of the nation's 50 Hometown Hero's. She's been honored at the United Nations Global Women Leaders Forum; is a recipient of the NAACP Youth Impact Award; and was named one of Delaware's most influential 40 under 40. Ebony Magazine highlighted Chandra's work among Afro-Latina leaders making transformative impact across the nation. A University of Delaware Women’s Studies documentary depicting Chandra's personal narrative of won the Nanú Paloma Guerrero Award for Excellence.  

While Ms. Pitts continues to be recognized locally and nationally, her greatest reward remains the impact made through her life of service and the unparalleled honor of raising her son, Jahlihl.  

“Perseverance is my motto.” 
Madam CJ Walker. 




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