2024 Summit

Inclusive Excellence Summit

The Department of Inclusion and Belonging hosted the 2024 Virtual Summit on March 26 and In-Person Summit on April 17. 

Cornell Inclusive Excellence Summit official flyer

Keynote Speaker

Raquel Willis "The Risk It Takes to Bloom"

Raquel Willis headshot. Photo credit: Texas Isaiah

Focusing on themes from her memoir, "The Risk It Takes to Bloom: On Life and Liberation,” activist and author Raquel Willis intertwines personal experiences with the professional realm, highlighting the necessity of recognizing and addressing the nuanced ways in which identities and systemic oppressions intersect within the workplace. She shares insights on how gender, race, and identity impact our quests to be fully seen and respected in the workplace.

Raquel touches on…

The Personal is Professional: The influence of diverse identities on workplace experiences, using specific examples to illustrate the replication of systemic oppressions.

The Personal Isn’t Always Institutional: The tension of navigating institutional critiques, emphasizing the importance of course corrections.

Responding to Moments and Movements: The importance of acknowledging workplace injustices, the effects of silence and burnout, and the fallacy of claiming neutrality.

Overcoming Resistance: Confronting both personal and institutional resistance to DEI initiatives.

Organizing for Change: The necessity of finding values-aligned colleagues and forging pathways to leadership for marginalized groups.

Empowerment and Action: Advice on creating an inclusive environment through her signature 3C approach: Commitment, Culture, and Content.

Raquel Willis is an award-winning activist, journalist, and media strategist dedicated to collective liberation, especially for Black trans folks. She is an executive producer with iHeartMedia’s first-ever LGBTQ+ podcast network, Outspoken, and the host of Afterlives, a podcast centering the lives and legacies of trans folks lost too soon to violence. She is also the author of The Risk It Takes to Bloom: On Life and Liberation.


Tuesday, March 26 (Virtual Sessions)

9:30-11:00am: Opening Remarks followed by Keynote and Q&A with Raquel Willis

11:00-11:15am: Break

11:15am-12:15pm: Restorative Record: Unlocking Employment, Timothy McNutt, Director of Cornell ILR’s Criminal Justice and Employment Initiative

The U.S. faces a labor shortage, and employers are looking to expand their efforts toward diversity, equity, and inclusion. Yet current hiring methods exclude nearly 70 million Americans with a conviction history. Ninety percent of private employers use criminal background checks, but less than half engage in individualized assessment to determine whether a criminal record should disqualify a candidate. People with criminal records are often denied employment because of discrimination and face added disadvantages related to employment history, education, skills, and career capital gaps. Employers and jobseekers need new tools to replace decades-old hiring heuristics that are inefficient and inequitable.  In this session, Tim will present the Yang-Tan Workability Incubator’s Restorative Record, a new tool to help employers and job seekers look beyond traditional résumés, cover letters, and background reports that narrow talent pools.

12:15-1:00pm: Break with Optional Wellness Activities

  • 12:15-12:45pm: Join C. Lucas' Stretch with Wellness class during the midday break. You are welcome to drop in for some or all of the time. The combination of active, energizing stretches and soothing, relaxing stretches will help you recharge for the IE Virtual Summit afternoon workshops. Join here
  • 12:30-12:45pm: Meditate to Make Space: Join Ruth Merle-Doyle, Work/Life Program Manager, for a 15 minute meditation to help make space. Think of this as making physical space with breath work and making emotional space through self-awareness prompts. Take this moment to make space for all that you are reflecting on and learning about during the IE Virtual Summit!

1:00-2:00pm: I Can't Yell "Fire" But What Can I Say? An Exploration of Free Speech in the Workplace, Cooper Sirwatka, Equal Opportunity Program Director, Office of Institutional Equity and Title IX (OIETIX)

This presentation will include a basic overview of the bounds of free speech in the workplace, including what, if any, free speech rights exist for employees. Further, we will explore concepts of hate speech, when hate speech may be considered a hate crime, and when an employer may prohibit an employee from engaging in certain speech even when it’s not a hate crime. Lastly, we will discuss situations in which words or expressions in the workplace may be considered harassment in violation of Cornell’s Policy 6.4.

2:00-2:15pm: Break

2:15-3:15pm: Don’t Trust Yourself: Media Literacy in the Digital Age, Associate Professor and Geri Gay Faculty Fellow, Drew Margolin, Dept. of Communication, CALS and Ashley Shea, Head of Instruction Initiatives, Mann Library and Doctoral Candidate in Communication, CALS

Americans have become quite worried and even angered by the news. This worry and anger can produce anguish as well as mistrust of our fellow citizens. One reason for these strong, negative responses is that we lack an understanding of how our own thinking is affected by the way we consume and receive news in the digital media environment.  Researchers refer to this understanding as media literacy. In this presentation, Drew and Ashley will report on important findings in media literacy research and show how these can help explain why we often head down this path of anger and fear.  They will end with sharing practical strategies that we can use to be more savvy news consumers. 

3:15-3:30pm: Closing Activity and Remarks facilitated by the Department of Inclusion and Belonging

Wednesday, April 17 (In-Person Sessions)

8:00-8:45am: Check in and continental breakfast, Statler Ballroom Foyer

8:45-10:00am: Opening Panel and Q and A: “The Role of Leaders in Advancing DEI” moderated by VP/CHRO Christine Lovely. Panel will discuss why diversity, equity, and inclusion are necessary for our organization, and how leaders can demonstrate and sustain ongoing and active commitment to prioritizing and advancing inclusion and belonging for staff and faculty.  

  • Avery August, Deputy Provost and Presidential Advisor on Diversity and Equity
  • Kathryn J. Boor, Dean of the Graduate School
  • Rachel Dunifon, Rebecca Q. and James C. Morgan Dean of the College of Human Ecology
  • Ben Houlton, Ronald P. Lynch Dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences
  • Jose Martinez, Senior Associate Dean for Diversity and Academic Affairs in College of Engineering

10:00-10:15am: Break

10:15-11:30am: Conflict Resolution in the Workplace with a Focus on Communication and Dialogue Building

  • Ati Alipour, Assistant Ombuds

We all know that dialogue building is a key component of effective team building. However, sometimes the communication style of majority of a team or the mainstream culture will inadvertently dominate the workplace and exclude some employees. In this interactive session we will work together to identify and examine how different styles of communication, identities, and personality types affect the overall culture of workplace. Furthermore, we will brainstorm how we can productively reach a point where the team's functioning and effectiveness is inclusive of everyone's styles, opinions, and goals.

11:30-11:45am: Debrief of morning

11:45am-1:00pm: Buffet lunch and break

12:30-1:00pm: Optional Wellness Activity: "Stretch With Wellness" in the Penn Room: Drop in any time during this half hour to learn and engage in some basic stretches led by Kerry Howell, Director, Cornell University Wellness Program. 

1:00-2:30pm: Campus Speech Conflicts and Community Building 

  • Donica Thomas Varner, VP and General Counsel

The university’s core values of purposeful discovery, freedom of expression and open inquiry, and a community of belonging are all equally necessary to maintain a thriving, multicultural academic community.  Yet, tensions and conflicts can arise when expressive activity undermines a sense of belonging or disrupts the regular operations of the university.   

This session will provide an overview of the intersection of (1) the university’s Policy Statement on Academic Freedom and Freedom of Speech and Expression; and (2) the university’s policy prohibiting Bias, Discrimination, and Sexual and Related Misconduct. Through cases studies of expressive activity conflicts in the workplace, participants will gain an understanding of how to leverage the university’s cores values to support inclusive excellence in its broadest form. Participants will also be invited to explore effective techniques to build relationships across difference and to foster community within their workplaces.

2:30-2:45pm: Break

2:45-4:00pm: Charting the Course: Strategies for Driving Change through Action Planning

  • Angeline Gomez, Program Coordinator for Inclusion & Belonging and Milstein Summer Cornell Tech | Home of the Jacobs Technion-Cornell Institute;
  • Jennifer Majka, Ph.D., Director for the Office of Diversity and Inclusion Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management SC Johnson College of Business
  • LeeAnn Roberts, Ed.D. Director for the Office Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Cornell Bowers College of Computing and Information Science
  • Victor B. Younger, M.Ed, Director of Diversity and Inclusion The Nolan School of Hotel Administration SC Johnson College of Business

This will be an immersive workshop designed to explore the pivotal realm of action planning. With a focus on empowering individuals, our session aims to ignite conversations surrounding the significance of designing strategies for action planning. Together, we'll draw from our collective expertise to share best practices and lessons learned on how to transition a vision into a tangible success. Our ultimate goal is to equip participants with practical tools that they can readily apply within their respective spheres of influence. But that's not all – our session goes beyond mere discussion. We'll conclude with a hands-on activity crafted to engage every attendee. Through this interactive experience, participants will have the chance to draft a concrete plan for implementing one key idea garnered from the Inclusive Excellence Summit. This ensures that every individual leaves with tangible takeaways and actionable strategies to drive change within their own domains. Don't miss this opportunity to delve into the world of action planning and emerge with the tools you need to enact meaningful transformation towards a future of inclusive excellence.

4:00-4:15pm: Afternoon debriefing and closing remarks

4:15-5:00pm: Social in Statler Ballroom Foyer


Due to an unforeseen technical error, the recordings of the Virtual IE Summit sessions are audio only and not visual. The session presenters have graciously agreed to provide their presentation slides for viewers who wish to look at them while listening to the recording. These materials will remain available on this site until June 30, 2024

Note: the Opening Keynote with Raquel Willis does not have a PowerPoint presentation to accompany the audio recording. 

Click here to access Raquel Willis's keynote presentation "The Risk It Takes to Bloom."

Click here to access the recording of "Restorative Record: Unlocking Employment" with Timothy McNutt, Director of Cornell ILR's Criminal Justice and Employment Initiative. 

Click here to download presentation slides. 

Click here to access the recording of "I Can't Yell 'Fire' But What Can I Say? An Exploration of Free Speech in the Workplace" with Cooper Sirwatka, Equal Opportunity Program Director, Office of Institutional Equity and Title IX (OIETIX).  

Click here to download the presentation slides.

Click here to access the recording of "Don't Trust Yourself: Media Literacy in the Digital Age" with Associate Professor and Geri Gay Faculty Fellow, Drew Margolin, Department of Communications, CALS and Ashley Shea, Head of Instruction Initiatives, Mann Library and Doctoral Candidate in Communication, CALS. 

Click here to download the presentation slides.

Reflection and Processing Guide

During both the Virtual IE Summit and the In-Person Summit, there will be breaks to provide time and space for participants to engage in self-care, reflection, connection, and processing in whatever ways they need. To assist you in this, we have created this "Reflection and Processing Guide” and Wellness opportunities found in the schedules for each day. 

Click the link to access the 2024 Inclusive Excellence Summit Reflection and Processing Guide and download the file to your computer to edit.

Thank you to all who contributed to and attended this year's event!