Annual summit to focus on Diversity, Inclusion and Economics in the Cedar ValleyThe annual Economic Diversity and Inclusion Summit will be held from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 21 at the Hilton Garden Inn in Cedar Falls. The event is hosted by Grow Cedar Valley and the University of Northern Iowa.

Kate Hightshoe, will deliver this year’s keynote. Hightshoe is assistant vice president and diversity officer for QCR Holdings Inc., the parent company of Community State Bank. For several years, Hightshoe has served at the forefront of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) work in corporate settings while also serving as a community leader in diversity and inclusion. She recently received the Certified Diversity Professional designation from the Institute for Diversity Certification.

“As we all continue to try and create transformational and sustainable change for our teams, businesses, our communities, our incredible country and around the world, we’re going to have to work together. We have many barriers to remove, but perhaps the most important is changing how we continue to have the diversity, equity and inclusion conversation,” said Hightshoe about her upcoming address. “Unfortunately, we stand divided on so many topics and issues. We’ve politicized things like race, gender and sexual orientation and are often subject to divisive rhetoric. Inclusion is where the magic happens, and this is where we must start in order to move forward.”

The summit also will include a lunch-time address by Dr. Kyle Christiason, founder of the inaugural UnityPoint LGBTQIA+ health clinic in Cedar Falls. 

Breakout sessions will feature the following:

  • Doing DEI Every Day by Kristi Hemmer, owner of the Academy for Women’s Empowerment and author of “Quit Doing So Much.”
  • Mental Health Needs in the Workplace, with Amy Bonebrake, LMSW, CADC; Lynette Jordan, LISW; Therese Callaghan, UNI employee well-being coordinator and certified health coach; and Camarion Turner, MSW.
  • Welcoming New Populations to Our Community, by Norman Grant, Director of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion for Western Homes Communities; and Steve Hopkins who oversees the international intern program, both at WesternHome Services. 
  • Finding Ways to Say Yes to DEI in the Workplace with Teri Rottinghaus, Complex Human Resource Manager; and Felicia Smith-Nalls, Community Relations Manager, both at Tyson Foods.

Breakouts will be repeated once, giving attendees the opportunity to choose two separate sessions. Continuing Education Units (CEUs) are pending.

“We’re acutely aware of the issues being faced in today’s workplace,” said UNI Chief Diversity Officer, Gwenne Berry. “When we put together our breakout sessions, we looked for solid speakers who could present solutions and mechanisms for approaching these issues from an equity-minded lens.”

Registration is $80 which includes lunch. Those who wish to attend can register via the Grow Cedar Valley events page.

Cary Darrah, President and CEO of Grow Cedar Valley, said the summit has been occurring for several years and is focused heavily on providing employers and employees with new ways to look at diversifying their workforces and creating welcoming environments for new demographics.

“I’m really excited about this year’s event,” she said.  “We have been putting together an ever-stronger summit over the past six years, looking to meet and exceed the needs of our attendees. We also focus on delivering hands-on methods for creating and sustaining diversity in the workplace.”

The summit is sponsored by Community Bank & Trust, Community Foundation of Northeast Iowa, KWWL/Channel 7, Tyson Foods and WesternHome Services.

Gwenne Berry, Assistant to the President/Chief Diversity Officer, University of Northern Iowa, 319-273-2567,
Cary Darrah, President and CEO, Grow Cedar Valley, 319-415-5005,


Gwenne Berry, Assistant to the President/Chief Diversity Officer