Julio Jordan is the director of diversity, equity, justice, and inclusion at Ibero American Action League. His work ensures that all individuals and organizations are better positioned to meet the cultural, linguistic, diversity, equity, justice, and inclusion needs of the populations and communities they serve.
Herb J. Alexander
Herb J. Alexander is the inaugural chief diversity officer for Cayuga Health and began his tenure in September 2021. As the chief diversity officer, Alexander is charged with shaping and implementing the organizations strategy for diversity, equity and inclusion. His role focuses on both workplace diversity, equity and inclusion, and also advancing health equity in the community.
Prior to joining the Cayuga Health, Alexander worked in multiple roles at Roberts Wesleyan University (RWU). In his most recent role at RWU, he served as the chief diversity officer and associate dean of students. As the chief diversity officer, he crafted the organizational DEI strategy and developed educational offerings for faculty and staff. While serving as the associate dean of students, he oversaw the Health & Counseling Center, led aspects of the organization’s COVID-19 testing strategy, implemented student centered leadership development programs – and served for six years as a Roberts Wesleyan University assistant men’s basketball coach.
Outside of work, Alexander is passionate about connecting and educating others. He currently is the co-host for the “Young, Black and Figuring it Out Podcast,” which aims to empower and educate the community on a number of relatable topics. He also serves as a board of director for the Tompkins County Chamber of Commerce and for Hope Initiatives, which is a Rochester-based nonprofit organization helping people deal with social risk factors.
Sydney Bell (she/her) is the manager of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) at ESL Federal Credit Union. In her role she supports the company’s DEI strategy and oversees the DEI Program Team and the ESL Employee Resource Group Program.
Sydney is certified through the 540WMain Antiracism Facilitator Fellowship Program and eCornell’s DEI Certificate Program. She is also a participant in the Rochester Chamber’s DEI Leadership Exchange Program.
Outside of ESL, Sydney serves as vice chair of the Board of Directors for the Women’s Foundation of Genesee Valley and has served as an adjunct professor of DEI at Nazareth College.
Jessica Cohen (she/her) is the LGBTQ+ Education Coordinator at Trillium Health. A long-serving advocate for LGBTQ+ communities, she has over 15 years of experience providing workshops and training to health care and social service organizations, corporations, K-12 schools, and higher education.
Additionally, she has previously served as a board member of GLSEN Rochester, coordinated LGBTQ+ youth programs and services, and co-facilitated GLSEN Rochester’s Jump-Start GSA Program and the Students of Color Organizing Program. Cohen holds a Bachelor of Science degree from SUNY Brockport and is a Certified Diversity Professional (CDP). She currently resides in Rochester with her wife and two children.
Karen Elam is the executive director of the Levine Center to End Hate at the Jewish Federation of Greater Rochester, an initiative designed to unite the diverse communities of greater Rochester in challenging intolerance and addressing hate through education, dialogue, and positive action.
Previously, Elam served as the first deputy director of the Rochester-Monroe Anti-Poverty Initiative, from 2015-16, and vice president of organizational advancement at Trillium Health, from 2013-15.
Elam and her husband are the proud parents of 19-year-old triplets.
Natalie A. Grigg
Natalie A. Grigg is a partner and department chair of the Default Services Department at Woods Oviatt Gilman, LLP. In this role, she manages all aspects of the department and prides herself in building a collaborative work environment that promotes a culture of teamwork, respect, commitment to excellence, and integrity.
Grigg is the chair for the firm’s Diversity Equity and Inclusion Committee, where she is tasked with developing and implementing a comprehensive DEI strategic plan, establishing trainings and programs, increasing community involvement, establishing employee resource groups, and developing other DEI resources.
Grigg is an active community volunteer. She sits on the Board of Directors for Dress for Success Rochester, and is a member of the Greater Rochester Association for Women Attorneys and Monroe County Bar Association. At a national level, she sits on the Board of Directors for the American Legal and Financial Network (ALFN), and in 2015, she was one of the founding leaders of the ALFN’s Women in Legal Leadership (WILL) Committee. WILL’s purpose is to provide a forum to network, share ideas, receive training and education on management and other areas, while focusing on advocating for fair treatment and the placement of women in leadership roles, promoting leadership roles held by women, helping women maintain a work/life balance, mentoring women, and informing others about issues women encounter on a daily basis. Grigg is a frequent writer and speaker for these and other organizations about numerous topics ranging from complex legal issues to professional development, stress management, and work-life balance.
Rabbi Dr. Sandra Katz
Originally from Tulsa, Oklahoma, Rabbi Dr. Sandra Katz currently serves as executive director of National Coalition Building Institute, Rochester. She directed the chaplaincy department at Jewish Senior Life of Rochester, NY, for 11 years and has supervised other chaplains at Highland Hospital.
She is immediate past president of Neshama: Association of Jewish Chaplains, with a 21-year history of service to the profession on the board of directors. Katz has served as newsletter editor, founding member of the ethics committee, conference chair, secretary, treasurer, vice president, president and now immediate past president/nominations committee chair in NAJC.
Katz has undergraduate degrees in computer science and music, master’s degrees in human relations and Hebrew literature, and a Doctor of Ministry. She embarks on this career shift with exuberance, seeing shared ground between listening and leadership skills in multiple disciplines.
Stuart J. Mitchell
Stuart Mitchell is the executive director of PathStone Foundation, the principal fundraising affiliate of the PathStone family. For decades Stuart has been known as a force for good throughout the region.
A strong advocate of affordable housing, Mitchell aims to reduce resistance to affordable housing in suburban and rural communities, striving to overcome pushback against decent, safe and affordable living quarters. Still motivated after more than 50 years with the organization, he remains committed to working across racial and economic divides to create a movement to encourage community integration.
Mitchell and his leadership team PathStone developed and managed 6,500 rental homes in 84 multifamily communities, helped 6,600 families obtain a first home, weatherized and rehabilitated 7,500 homes, created a small-business lending fund with a portfolio of 200 entrepreneurs and $8 million in loans, and annually graduate more than 1,200 trained workers into year-round employment. PathStone also administers Section 8 rental assistance to 5,600 families each year. The PathStone budget has grown from $350,000 in 1969 to more than $80 million annually and operates in seven states and Puerto Rico.
Mitchell practices the principles of servant leadership, knowing that leading by serving others can be personally challenging, often humbling, and sometimes misunderstood. He says servant leadership creates organizational resiliency and a shared ownership of essential decisions being made, and has some advice for those looking to experience success.
Rochester native Jonathan Ntheketha has spent a lifetime telling stories, exploring truths and sharing in the richness of cultures around him. He has enjoyed a career teaching, mentoring and holistically developing historically underrepresented students in higher education for over 20 years.
Today, Ntheketha is the director of DEI for The Harley School, providing leadership that serves to develop, implement, and grow the school’s commitment to Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging inside the classroom and across the community. He is one of Harley’s Title IX co-coordinators, and also serves on the Board of Directors for Blackfriars Theatre, the Horizons at Harley Board and the Alumni Board at Allendale Columbia School. Additionally, he serves on the Education Committee of the Seneca Park Zoo Society Board, as well as the Marketing and Fundraising Committee of Leadership Rochester, and is a proud member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc.
Ntheketha is also a performance educator and facilitator with Impact Interactive, a theatre-based training company that specializes in dynamic presentations that help companies and communities address sensitive topics such as unconscious bias and sexual harassment in the workplace.
He is a partner, parent, foodie, traveler, and a lover of all art who lives to uplift and connect communities through a spirit of love, truth, and understanding.
Nikisha Ridgeway, MA has served in the nonprofit sector for over 20 years, supporting individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities, and is currently the president and CEO at Starbridge.
Ridgeway started her career as a residential, direct support professional at United Cerebral Palsy of WNY (now Aspire) and at People Inc. in their Personal Care Vendor Unit. She also led the development of new housing options at LDA Life and Learning Services (now Starbridge) and was instrumental in the successful development and growth of several emerging programs while at Heritage Christian Services. She returned to Starbridge as COO and oversaw all program operations and
community partnerships for the agency.
Ridgeway was a 2022 Athena finalist and serves as a member of Wilmot’s Cancer Institute’s Community Cancer Action Council. She believes in empowering people to be their authentic selves and encourages the practice of leaders building leaders.
Dr. Sheila M. Strong
Dr. Sheila M. Strong has over twenty years of executive-level experience in the nonprofit philanthropy and higher education sectors. As Director of Leadership Development and Equity at United Way of Greater Rochester and the Finger Lakes, she oversees United Way’s six established Leadership Development Programs (Latino, African American, Emerging Leaders, Pride, Asian-Pacific American, and Development of Indo-American Leaders). Dr. Strong also leads the DRIVE (Diversity, Racial, Inclusion, Value, Equity) Team at United Way to advance the organization’s diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives and serves as a resource for community partners to help move equity work forward. She was instrumental in launching United Way’s first Leadership Equity Advancement and Development (LEAD) Mentoring and Coaching Program in partnership with the Greater Rochester Health Foundation.
Strong currently serves as a board trustee of the Friends and Foundation of the Rochester Public Library and as a board trustee of the Susan B. Anthony House, Inc. In addition, she has served as a member of the Brockport Alumni Association and as a mentor with Cheryl Speranza Leadership Institute at Our Lady of Mercy.
Strong completed her Doctorate of Education in Executive Leadership from Saint John Fisher University. She holds a master’s degree in publication administration, a Nonprofit Management Certificate, and a Bachelor of Science in Business Communications from the State University of New York (SUNY) Brockport. She graduated with honors from Monroe Community College in Liberal Arts.