Speakers

Sara Taylor

Sara Taylor

Sara I. Taylor is the Founding President and Chief Executive Officer of Positive Steps and Managing Director of Taylor- Jones Event Management Services. In addition, Sara is employed full time as a Training Specialist and Community Liaison in Western New York where she focuses on Social Justices and Diversity, Equity and Inclusion initiatives.

Sara’s 20+ year career, across multiple industries, range from direct-care front-line social worker to senior-level administrator. Sara has extensive experience providing leadership development training and capacity building services to organizations as well as managing professional conferences throughout North America. Over the last three years, Sara has become a well-respected leader and voice promoting Diversity, Equity and Inclusion across systems while reminding organizational leaders that “Everyone has a role”. In 2019 Sara was humbled to be recognized with two prestigious community awards: Athena Finalist and Gloria Avis Legacy Award.

A native of western Pennsylvania, Sara became a mother at the age of 16, while already living in a household stricken by poverty. Her entire career has focused on empowering and motivating vulnerable populations living in poverty and women of color who often face barriers related to career advancement. Sara's influence and credibility are also seen in her work as a community leader working on boards, with policy makers, philanthropist and other stakeholders who are collectively dedicated to improving outcomes for vulnerable populations and advancing Racial Equity strategies. Sara is the founder and visionary of the Upstate, NY Women of Color summit and in 2020 Sara became a strong voice for parents of color struggling to navigate the mental health systems and founded Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) PEEEEEEK Parent Mental Health project in Rochester, Buffalo, Syracuse and Utica.

Sara obtained her Master’s Degree in Human Service Administration from St. John Fisher College, Rochester NY and has received various certificates in leadership development. Sara has also completed several ministry and theology training courses and holds ministerial licenses and has received extensive training in conference and meeting planning. Sara has one biological son, Darwin, daughter in law, Dr. Shalon and two beautiful grandchildren Jaxon and Zara. In 2009 Sara became the caregiver of her great niece Ariana and has since been raising her as her own.

Kevin S. Beckford

Kevin Beckford, Senior Director, Staff Diversity and Inclusion photographed March 16, 2018.   // photo by J. Adam Fenster / University of Rochester

Kevin Spencer Beckford (he, his, him) is an internationally recognized Change Agent & Anti-Racist strategist and executive servant leader with experience working in the for-profit and non-profit sector. Kevin has a unique blend of expertise in mass transit, hospital/healthcare administration ($2B/500 bed facility /1,000 RN’s), purchasing/supply chain ($1B scope), bank operations ($100M scope), IT operations (200 plus mission critical servers), technical communications (medical & document imaging products), management consulting for the private & government sector. He is a strategic and tactical leader; engaging well with all levels of leadership, from CEO’s, corporate boards to first-line managers.

Kevin joined the University of Rochester (UR) in December 2017 as Sr. Director, Staff Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DE&I). In this role Kevin provides Anti-Racism and Equity strategies and direction to assist the UR in achieving a more equitable and inclusive culture for its 32,000 employees.

As a change agent, Kevin has served in a variety of progressive leadership roles; holding leadership roles within Call Center Operations, Information Technology, Technical Communications, Supply Chain and Purchasing at Eastman Kodak. Additionally, he has served in Executive Operational leadership roles at Bank of America, PNC Financial, Bank of Montréal and Executive roles in Healthcare and Academic Institutions. Kevin has also provided senior- and executive-level transition and change management consulting services for large, medium and small companies. Throughout these assignments Kevin has brought a focus on operational excellence, effectively managing change, and championing diversity, equity & inclusion in every aspect of the workplace.

Kevin is also active in the community, working on social justice, anti-poverty, anti-racism and education initiatives. In November 2017, Kevin was elected to the Pittsford, NY Town Board and is the first African American to serve on the Pittsford Town Board in its more than 200-year history. He is also the co-founder of the Rochester Anti-Racism Coalition (RARAC). Kevin also hosts a monthly Facebook Live broadcast that focuses on building momentum within the community for Anti-Racism & Equity strategies.

Kevin received an Associated in Applied Science (AAS) degree in Electrical Engineering Technology from Monroe Community College and a Bachelor of Science degree from Roberts Wesleyan College in Organizational Management. Kevin is a life-long Servant Leader and feels he is at his best when he is serving others.

Adrienne Collier

adrienne-collier-04-17-1200x300In her role as Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Manager, Adrienne is responsible for developing and implementing strategies to attract, retain, and promote a diverse workforce and fostering an inclusive culture within the credit union.

Collier joined the company with more than 20 years of experience within the human resources industry. Prior to ESL, she served as the Assistant to the President for Diversity and Equity/Director of Affirmative Action at SUNY Geneseo. She previously worked at The College at Brockport, Walt Disney World Company, Inc., and the University at Buffalo.

Adrienne holds an MBA from the University of Central Florida and a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Daemen College. Adrienne volunteers at Dress for Success, serves on RMAPI’s Employment Working Group, and is on the board of Rochester Education Foundation.

Kevin Spencer Beckford (he, his, him) is an internationally recognized Change Agent & Anti-Racist strategist and executive servant leader with experience working in the for-profit and non-profit sector. Kevin has a unique blend of expertise in mass transit, hospital/healthcare administration ($2B/500 bed facility /1,000 RN’s), purchasing/supply chain ($1B scope), bank operations ($100M scope), IT operations (200 plus mission critical servers), technical communications (medical & document imaging products), management consulting for the private & government sector. He is a strategic and tactical leader; engaging well with all levels of leadership, from CEO’s, corporate boards to first-line managers. Kevin joined the University of Rochester (UR) in December 2017 as Sr. Director, Staff Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DE&I). In this role Kevin provides Anti-Racism and Equity strategies and direction to assist the UR in achieving a more equitable and inclusive culture for its 32,000 employees. As a change agent, Kevin has served in a variety of progressive leadership roles; holding leadership roles within Call Center Operations, Information Technology, Technical Communications, Supply Chain and Purchasing at Eastman Kodak. Additionally, he has served in Executive Operational leadership roles at Bank of America, PNC Financial, Bank of Montréal and Executive roles in Healthcare and Academic Institutions. Kevin has also provided senior- and executive-level transition and change management consulting services for large, medium and small companies. Throughout these assignments Kevin has brought a focus on operational excellence, effectively managing change, and championing diversity, equity & inclusion in every aspect of the workplace. Kevin is also active in the community, working on social justice, anti-poverty, anti-racism and education initiatives. In November 2017, Kevin was elected to the Pittsford, NY Town Board and is the first African American to serve on the Pittsford Town Board in its more than 200-year history. He is also the co-founder of the Rochester Anti-Racism Coalition (RARAC). Kevin also hosts a monthly Facebook Live broadcast that focuses on building momentum within the community for Anti-Racism & Equity strategies. Kevin received an Associated in Applied Science (AAS) degree in Electrical Engineering Technology from Monroe Community College and a Bachelor of Science degree from Roberts Wesleyan College in Organizational Management. Kevin is a life-long Servant Leader and feels he is at his best when he is serving others.

Sady Fischer, CDP

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As the Director of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion at Excellus BlueCross BlueShield, Sady develops, leads and executes the company’s DEI strategy.

Sady is entrusted with challenging the status quo and creating a welcoming and equitable work culture. Under her leadership, DEI went from one department’s job to everyone’s responsibility. She has led the implementation of several policies, programs, and practices that are intentional about addressing and eliminating the impact of biases in all parts of the business. In addition to leading corporate key DEI goals, Sady works across all lines of business to identify and implement key divisional DEI-related goals.

Some recent successes include: Juneteenth is now a company holiday; all employee lock screens feature key monthly DEI messages; 21-Day Racial Equity Challenge was brought inhouse; DEI commitment is included in every job posting; hiring practices include implicit bias training; new mentoring program to increase visibility of diverse talent; pronouns included in standard company templates; gender identity strategy in development to include transgender employees and members; benchmarked policies using the Disability Equality Index to identify gaps; racism, white privilege, and other forms of oppression, are acknowledged as necessary issues to address as a health plan.

She also volunteers her time with many community initiatives. Recent roles include Commissioner on the Racial and Structural Equity Committee; Board Member of the Greater Rochester Health Foundation; first and current Chair of the Pride Leadership Development Program Executive Steering Committee through the United Way of Greater Rochester; member of the Latino Leadership Development Program Executive Steering Committee; an LGBTQ+ Community Representative on the University of Rochester Medical Center’s Community Advisory Council; 2016/2017 Co-Chair of FR=EE’s Summit on Race Education Committee.

Sady is one of 200 women featured in the Changemakers exhibit at the Rochester Museum and Science Center (exhibit runs through May 2021). She is a 2020 and 2019 Profiles in Diversity Journal, Diversity Leader Award Winner; Dale Carnegie “Highest Award for Achievement” and “Outstanding Performance” Award Recipient; 2017 Leadership Rochester Alumna and Class Representative; the 2016 Recipient of Latinas Unidas “Reconocimiento Volunteer Service” Award; a 2013 Democrat & Chronicle’s “Woman to Watch”; a 2009 “Latina to Watch” in La Voz; and the 2008 Recipient of the NYS Commissioner’s “Distinguished Service Award” for her work around HIV/AIDS.

Sady holds a Bachelor’s in Gender Studies from Empire State College and is a Certified Diversity Professional. She is currently pursuing her Master’s in Leadership & Organizational Change at Nazareth College.

When she’s not trying to shift perceptions and break through stereotypes, you can find her spending quality time with her family: her fiancé, Leslie, and their 3 children. “They’re my pride and joy and motivate me to make a difference in the world!”

 

Melissa Geska

geska_melissa_001_hirezAs president of US Ceiling Corp, Melissa Geska personifies the values, ethics, and culture of her growing subcontractor company, bringing an unwavering commitment to change lives, empower communities and help priority populations build economic self-reliance. She takes great pride in paying her success forward and being a good corporate citizen—continually serving as a role model and mentor and contributing to various nonprofit organizations that address issues affecting minorities, women, and their families. Passionate about bridging the labor gap and promoting diversity in construction, Melissa works to provide practical experience and employment opportunities through her firm’s skilled trades training and workforce development program, USC Academy. She currently serves on the executive board of the Rochester Builder’s Exchange, the board of governors for the Al Sigl Foundation, the board of trustees for Young Women’s College Prep, The Monroe County Workforce Development Board, and is a past president of the Rochester Chapter of the National Association of Women in Construction.