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D&I Symposium 2022 – Schedule and Session Descriptions



9:15 AM


9:30 AM


We encourage attendees to sign in early to explore the platform.

Opening Remarks &
Just added! 5.14 Community Response Panel

We recognize that our community is still healing from the atrocity on May 14th, and we could not host any event – especially one addressing DE&I, without acknowledging this tragedy. 

We’ve added a special 1 hour opening panel session at 9:30am to allow for an open discussion on where we go from here as a community. 

Moderated by WGRZ-TV’s award winning Reporter/Anchor Claudine Ewing, this panel brings together some of Buffalo’s most recognized community champions to discuss “What’s Next”. This is an opportunity for the advocates working within the community to speak to the private sector about the needs of our East Buffalo community. 

The panel will include:  



10:30 AM

10:45 AM

KEYNOTE: Melissa Donaldson, Chief Diversity Officer (CDO) – Wintrust  |  Named to Diversity Woman Magazine’s 2022 Elite 100 list
Keynote Address: Let Inclusion Be Your Guide

Recently named to Diversity Woman Elite 100 list, our Keynote Speaker, Melissa Donaldson, CDO at Wintrust Bank will lead us through a discussion entitled, Let Inclusion Be Your Guide.

Inclusion, as represented by the “I” in the “DEI” acronym, may come last, but it is an essential part of the puzzle — and the value proposition for employees. This is especially true in the wake of the pandemic and during the so-called great resignation, when it is more important than ever to treat employees as people first. (Gartner 2022).

To understand the value of inclusion, think of it as a strategy that brings together and harnesses diverse forces and resources in a way that is beneficial. Inclusion puts the concept and practice of diversity into action by creating an environment of involvement, respect, and connection—where the richness of ideas, backgrounds, and perspectives are harnessed to create business value and overall success.

The” I” at the beginning of inclusion, also sparks many other “I” outcomes such as inspiration, innovation, impassioned.

Are you Intrigued? Don't miss this inspirational keynote address!

Learn more about Melissa in her bio here.

11:45 AM

Q&A with Keynote Speaker

12:00 PM


12:15 PM


Click on the speaker links to learn more and get inspired!

Respond to your recruitment needs in a way that you might not have considered.  

Take an in-depth look at how the answer to filling open positions may be right in front of you. 

Learn how to utilize the power of creating inclusivity by filling positions through developmental disability/refugee/reentry candidates.



Beginner to Intermediate level

Discuss the knowledge and awareness of cultural humility required to be an ally in D&I work.  

Learn how the importance of respect for people's culture and background becomes the foundation for allyship. 


Watch Anna-Lesa describe what attendees can expect on our blog.

Beginner to Intermediate level

Creating a diverse culture is not as easy as ensuring your workforce meets a quota of diverse employees. 

How do you ensure that your hiring practices go beyond tokenism and are truly inclusive? 

This session examines ways to make sure inclusion is not mere gestures and looks at impact over percentages. 


  • Natalia RiceChief Equity OfficerNew View Alliance 

Advanced level

Congratulations. You’ve delved into the D&I basics, Microaggressions, and Unconscious Bias...but what do you do next?  

 How do you elevate your efforts or take your organization to the next level? 

This session will explain the value of intentionality, belonging, and equity to make a real difference in the approach of your D&I efforts 

Panel Moderator:

  • Patrick C. Keating, WNY Regional President, Five Star Bank


  • Kelly DumasChief Operating Office, BestSelf Behavioral Health
  • Mike Cavanaugh, VP of Human Resources, Try-It Distributing
  • Kim Marino, Manager, Diversity, Inclusion & Organizational Development, Independent Health

Advanced level

Learn about the importance of cultural audits/assessments, and how an organizational inclusion assessment will help understand where to start in your D&I work. 

PresenterEkua Mends-Aidoo, CDO Evergreen Health 

Beginning to Intermediate level

1:15 PM


1:30 PM


Click on the speaker links to learn more and get inspired!

Learn how to keep your D&I Councils, ERG’s, employee networks strong.  These resource groups are the key to building an environment where employees feel seen, heard and valued. 


  • Calandra Jarrell  and Doreen Viloria –  Bank of America 

 Level: Intermediate to Advanced

You may unknowingly be excluding a vast talent pool. 

How can employers prepare their organizations to attract and retain URM candidates and employees?   

Join a candid discussion with the UB School of Management for a special panel discussion featuring current students preparing to enter the workplace. 



  • UB School of Management Students

Beginner to Intermediate level

Being inclusive is more than just race.   

When age, ethnicity, gender, physical ability, and sexual orientation are a part of your diversity efforts, your organization's culture is even more enriched.  

Join us for a discussion on the dimensions of diversity. 


  • Sesha Yalamanchili, President On-The Mark Consulting 

Intermediate level

An Interactive conversation 

A gut check for leaders: Are you walking the walk or just talking the talk?  

Want your employees to see you as a “real” leader? 

Learn to create an environment for valuing the authenticity of all employees through the lens of your team.

A Webside chat with: 

Advanced level


  1. The conversation may become uncomfortable and emotional 
  2. **Requirements Camera Must remain on

Racial healing recognizes the need to acknowledge and tell the truth about past wrongs created by individual and systemic racism and address the present consequences. It is an experience and a tool that can facilitate trust and build authentic relationships that bridge divides created by real and perceived differences. 

 The experience relies on intentional listening. It may be an emotional, even transformational, experience for participants, as conversations can unearth truths and conscious and unconscious biases. It can also raise awareness, consciousness, compassion, and empathy among those who participate. Trained Racial Healing Circle practitioners are responsible for helping to ensure that these circles are confidential safe spaces for participants to have truthful conversations with one another.  


  • Rene Petties Jones (& Team), President at National Federation for Just Communities of Western NY   

Beginner to Intermediate level

2:30 PM


2:45 PM

MAIN STAGE: D&I (Diversity & Inclusion) Best Practices Panel

This panel will provide insight into efforts organizations that are leaders that leading organizations in our region have taken taking to produce the greatest steps forward in creating an environment of diversity, equity and inclusion. This discussion will share insights from D&I leaders who are leading the charge in our geographical area, and steps to take to make a "real" difference. 



3:45 PM

Closing Remarks

Meet our Keynote Speaker


Melissa Donaldson, Senior Vice President & Chief Diversity Officer - Wintrust 

Melissa Donaldson is the first chief diversity officer at Wintrust, where she partners with leadership to establish diversity and inclusion strategies for business success, employee engagement and positioning Wintrust as an employer of choice and responsible corporate citizen. Prior to joining Wintrust, Melissa was Director of diversity networks and communication for Walgreens, where she implemented regional diversity councils, set strategies to enhance employee engagement, spearheaded the award-winning Walgreens Diversity & Inclusion Annual Report, and produced the inaugural WBA Global Executive Women’s Conference. Previously, she served as CDW Corporation’s first director of inclusion practices and led the company to earn the Exemplary Voluntary Efforts Award from the U.S. Department of Labor in 2008. 

Thank You To Our Sponsors

Event Sponsors:

Presented By:


What Past Attendees Have To Say

This is the first event I’ve been to like this—where the whole day was dedicated to diversity and inclusion topics and the focus was on getting started...You could feel that everyone in the room knew the importance of diversity and inclusion efforts but wanted to learn more about getting started, get questions answered, or share ideas.

Claire Petrie, MBA, PHR, SHRM-CP

I just wanted to take a moment to thank you for putting together and hosting such a great symposium!  In addition to being on the panel, I was also able to attend and found all of the sessions incredibly informative and eye-opening. Fantastic job!

-Danielle Evancho Bozich VP HR Heritage Ministries

“What an exciting opportunity to learn and celebrate D&I with the BNP team. It was no surprise the event included some of the most thoughtful leaders in our community. It was time well spent. Thank you, BNP, for hosting the 2021 Diversity Symposium.  We look forward to seeing everyone next year.”

- Tracey Gordon, District Human Resources Manager, The Home Depot.

“I thought the Symposium was excellent.  Definitely collected a lot  of  jewels  that  will  help  an organization on out DE&I journey.”

- Jason T. Daniels, Corporate Attorney, Catholic Health

“Today I had the opportunity to  attend  the  BNP  D&I  Symposium and  what  an awe-inspiring experience it was. From the guest speaks to the breakout session a whole day of empowering, teaching, sharing, and coaching the gens of knowledge provided us today were priceless. Thanks for the awesome event BNP.” 

- Constance McMillian Human Resources Professional, Buffalo Niagara Human Resources. 

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