Diversity Matters



President Mark Nook, UNI;

Cary Darrah, CEO, Greater Cedar Valley Alliance & Chamber

Quentin Hart, Mayor of Waterloo;

Jim Brown, Mayor of Cedar Falls;

Gwenne Berry, UNI Chief Diversity Officer

Leadership Panel 


Sharina Sallis, Community Relations Manager, CUNA Mutual Group


Jim Denholm, Director of HR Operations, CUNA Mutual Group;

Linda Allen, President, Hawkeye Community College;

Sara Laures, Senior Vice President for People & Strategy, VGM Group, Inc.

Session Speakers  

Education Track Speakers

Kingsley Botchway II, Chief Officer of Human Resources & Equity, Waterloo Community Schools

A.C.T.I.O.N. Group, UNI 

Community Track Speakers

Courtney Maxwell Greene, Communications Director, Alzheimer's Association, Iowa Chapter

Dr. Liang Wee, President, Northeast Iowa Community College

Dr. Wendy Mihm-Herold, Vice President of Business and Community Solutions, Northeast Iowa Community College

Business Track Speakers

Kyle Roed, Human Resources Director, CPM Holdings

Sailu Timbo, Director of Diversity, Hy-Vee, Inc.

Dr. Mark NookDr. Mark Nook

Mark A. Nook began serving as the 11th president of the University of Northern Iowa on February 1, 2017. Prior to this appointment, he served as chancellor of Montana State University Billings (MSUB).

Originally from Holstein, Iowa, Nook has committed his Midwest education and values to higher education for many years and on many levels. He is dedicated to ensuring every member of the university community reaches their individual educational, professional and personal life goals.

Prior to serving as the chancellor at MSUB from 2014-2016, Nook was the senior vice president for Academic and Student Affairs at the University of Wisconsin System from 2011-2014. He also served as provost (2007-09 and 2010-11) and interim chancellor (2009-10) at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point and in a variety of roles at St. Cloud State University in Minnesota.

He graduated from Southwest Minnesota State University in 1980 with a bachelor's degree in physics and mathematics, a master's degree in astrophysics from Iowa State University in 1983 and a Ph.D. in astronomy from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1990.

President Nook and his wife, Cheryl, reside in the UNI President's House. They have three adult children, two granddaughters and two grandsons.

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Cary DarrahCary Darrah 

Cary Willoughby Darrah is CEO of the Greater Cedar Valley Alliance & Chamber.  Prior to assuming the role of CEO in early 2018, she was Vice-President of Community Development for GCVAC as well as President of the TechWorks Campus – and industrial redevelopment project and subsidiary of GCVAC.

Cary was born and raised in Cedar Falls, Iowa and literally grew up on Main Street.  She worked at the family department store from the time she was tall enough to stock the thread rack until Willoughby’s Department Store closed in the mid-1970’s.

After graduating from Cedar Falls High School she attended and graduated from Iowa State University with a degree in merchandising/consumer science.  Before her most recent role with GCVAC and TechWorks, Cary served for 10 years as the Community Main Street executive director for downtown Cedar Falls.  Cary is a nationally Certified Main Street Manager and as director of Community Main Street, Cedar Falls received several local, state and national awards for their revitalization efforts including the Great American Main Street Award in 2002 from the National Trust for Historic Preservation.  Cedar Falls was also named one of the states first Cultural and Entertainment Districts by the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs in 2004 and one of the National Dozen Distinctive Destinations in 2009 by the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

Cary was recently named to the Main Street Iowa Advisory Council by the Iowa Department of Economic Authority and represents the Cedar Valley on many state and regional councils and boards. 

Cary is married to Cedar Falls city councilman Frank Darrah and together they have 4 children, two grandsons and four granddaughters – all located in Iowa!

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Waterloo Mayor Quenton HartWaterloo Mayor Quentin Hart

Mayor Quentin Hart is the first African American elected to the office of Mayor for the City of Waterloo, Iowa. Preceding the election, Mr. Hart was the Associate Director of Multicultural Affairs for Hawkeye Community College in Waterloo, Iowa, providing leadership for multicultural initiatives and promoting awareness and appreciation for diversity on campus and the community. In the eight years preceding his mayoral election, Mayor Hart represented the citizens of Waterloo as Ward 4 Councilman and was the first African American-appointed Mayor Pro-Tem for the City of Waterloo.

Hart currently is a doctoral candidate at Iowa State University in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies. He received his MAE in Postsecondary Education: Student Affairs from the University of Northern Iowa and is also a 2013 graduate of the Thomas Lakin Institute for Mentored Leadership.Hart is happily married to Cassandra Hart, a 2007 Gold Star Award Teacher, and is the father of two sons, Quentin Jr. and Quenden; and one daughter, Halayah.

Mayor Harts first term ends  12/31/2019. 

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Cedar Falls Mayor Jim BrownCedar Falls Mayor Jim Brown

Jim was sworn in for his first term of Mayor of Cedar Falls, Iowa, in January of 2016. He grew up in Ottumwa and graduated from Ottumwa High School in 1986. After two years of Junior College at IHCC, he came to UNI in 1989 and finished his Bachelor’s degree in 1991. He was very active with the UNI Glee Club.

Very shortly upon finishing his college degree, Jim met his wife Corrine. They married on November 20th, 1993. Corrine has been a career teacher, first in the CVCS System and the past seven years in Cedar Falls. They have two daughters.

Jim enjoys all types of sports including golf, racquetball, swimming, and general work-outs. He and his family are avid Cedar Falls Tigers’ fans along with the UNI Panthers. He also enjoys the arts with a special affinity towards music and drama where he and Corrine stay busy carting the girls throughout town, and of course, attending those activities.

Throughout Mayor Brown’s professional career, he has been involved with Business Development. In 2008 he was an early founder of a company that was later sold to Pearson VUE. In 2013 he became Business Development Manager for Pearson VUE, selling the test-development software he launched throughout the world with online and in-person demonstrations.

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Gwenne BerryGwenne Berry

Gwenne Berry currently serves as the first Chief Diversity Officer for the University of Northern Iowa, a position she’s found decidedly exciting and challenging. She holds a B.A. in journalism from Iowa State University, and a master’s in organizational communication from UNI. She began her career as a reporter in Waterloo, then went to work for the public relations unit at UNI. Following that, she took on the role of Associate Director for Compliance and Equity Management at the institution where her primary duties included investigation of claims of discrimination, harassment and sexual assault. She holds several certifications related to Affirmative Action, employment investigations related to discrimination and harassment, the Violence Against Women Act, Title IX and Civil Rights.  Berry is a founding member of the Waterloo Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., and secretary of Club Les Dames. She sits on the distribution committee of the Otto Schoitz Foundation, and the commission of the Waterloo Regional Airport.

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Sharina SallisSharina C. Sallis

A native of Waterloo, Iowa, and a 1986 graduate of East High School, Sharina enlisted in the United States Navy, serving 6 years and earning an honorable discharge in 1992.  During her Navy enlistment while stationed in Japan, Philippines and Guam, Sharina experienced the beauty of diverse cultural/indigenous traditions in these areas. 

Upon her discharge from the military, Sharina embarked upon a career opportunity with State Farm Insurance Company in San Francisco, California as a lobby receptionist. She quickly assumed increasing leadership opportunities with the company. In 2002, she relocated to her hometown Cedar Valley Area and earned a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from Upper Iowa University.  Always adept at juggling many responsibilities simultaneously, the single mother of a special-needs child continued to work full-time as representative of State Farm and as advocate for underserved populations in her hometown of Waterloo.

With over 12 years of claims experience, she joined CUNA Mutual Insurance Group in 2005.  Promoted to the position of Claims Investigator for their Special Investigative Unit (SIU), Sharina plays a key role in supporting the claims department vision:  “paying valid claims, no more and no less.”  Because of her leadership and overall commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion, Sharina now serves as Chair of the Diversity and Inclusion Committee for the Waverly site, a committee whose origin can be traced to Sharina’s advocacy and passion.

In her current role of Community Relations Specialist, Sharina is responsible to be the liaison between the community and the company. She is often referred to as the “local face” of the company and provides insight to CUNA Mutual Group’s corporate giving practices. CUNA Mutual Group provides grants and sponsorships to the communities in which they are nestled. Every year CUNA Mutual Group and its employees donate over 2 million dollars to various organizations and non-profits.  

In addition to her full-time career, Sharina continues her work as community activist and human rights worker.  Her passion for diversity, inclusion and equity issues has earned her commission appointments with Waterloo Commission on Human Rights, Veterans Affairs Administration, and the Greater Cedar Valley Alliance and Chamber Partnership Committee.  Sharina is also a subscribing life time member of the Black Hawk County Branch of the NAACP.  Sharina’s work has earned her a nomination for the Women of Persimmon award and the Heritage Legacy Award in which she was the 2018 award recipient winner. The Waterloo Courier and Inclusion Magazine of the Cedar Valley highlighted the work of Ms. Sallis at titled the article – Inclusive Initiative.

Sharina currently resides in Waterloo with her son Bryson, 17.  

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Jim DenholmJim Denholm

Jim Denholm is director of HR Operations at CUNA Mutual Group.  In the role he is responsible for coordinating and directing the employee and labor relations programs, HR technology, and the HR Service Center delivery channel.

Denholm joined CUNA Mutual group in 1992 and has served in various leadership roles in Customer Operations, Sales and Marketing, and Human Resources.  In his current role, Denholm leads the contract negotiations with OPEIU, Local 39 on behalf of the Company, oversees all employee and labor relations activities, the HR technology delivery channels, including Workday, Saba, and TrueComp, and the payroll, benefits administration, and general call center support for employees and retirees. 

In the past Denholm held a Series 7, 63, and 24 FINRA registrations. In addition, he was licensed in all 50 states for life, health, variable, property, casualty, and surety.  Denholm holds of Bachelor of Administration with emphasis in Accounting and Finance from Wartburg College located in Waverly, Iowa.  Denholm currently holds his Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR) from the Human Resources Certification Institute, is a Society of Human Resources Management Senior Certified Professional (SHRM-SCP) and has received Collective Bargaining and Contract Administration certificates from Cornell University, New York City. 

Denholm works in CUNA Mutual’s Group Waverly, Iowa office.  He is board treasurer of the Friends of the Family, and a board member of the Greater Cedar Valley Alliance and Chamber and Iowa Workforce Development, Region 7.  He and his wife, Amy, have two boys and reside in Cedar Falls. 

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Dr. Linda AllenDr. Linda Allen

Dr. Linda Allen has served as the President of Hawkeye Community College since March 2011. Dr. Allen holds a Ph.D. in Medical Anthropology from the University of Iowa. Her scholarly research and publications are in the areas of medical anthropology, transcultural psychology, immigration studies, Asia-Pacific Rim relations, and gender studies.

Dr. Allen is active in the Hawkeye Community College district by serving on the Allen College Board of Trustees, the Greater Cedar Valley Alliance and Chamber (GCVAC) Board of Directors, the Northeast Iowa Food Bank Board of Directors, and as a member of the Waterloo Rotary, the Waverly Education Roundtable, and the Waverly Economic Development Commission.

At the regional level, Dr. Allen has been appointed by the Iowa Department of Education to serve on the Higher Education Competency Based Education Collaborative, Community College Council, as a member of the Senior Year Plus Postsecondary Course Audit Committee, and the Community College Accreditation Advisory Committee.

At the national level, her professional involvement includes serving as the President of the Council of North Central Two-Year Colleges (CNCTYC). In addition, she also serves as a Consultant Evaluator for the Higher Learning Commission and as a Peer Reviewer for the National Alliance of Concurrent Enrollment Partnerships.

Dr. Allen was the 2015 recipient of the Association of Community College Trustees (ACCT) Marie Y. Martin Chief Executive Award, presented by ACCT to recognize leadership and innovative contributions made by community college chief executive officers.

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Sara LauresSara Laures

Sara Laures is the senior vice president of people and strategy for VGM Group, Inc., where she oversees human resources, talent acquisition, organizational development, facilities, corporate planning and manages strategic projects that support the success of VGM’s 27 businesses and 900+ employees. She works closely with the CEO to develop and implement strategy across the Company. Additionally, she provides leadership oversight to human resources, talent acquisition, organizational development, health and wellness, and facilities functions. A 20-year associate of VGM, her career has included multiple roles in VGM businesses, including a 14-year term as the vice president of VGM Education. Sara has a bachelor’s degree in health services administration from Upper Iowa University and is an active member of the Strategy Leadership Council, Association for Strategic Planning, Gartner for HR Leaders, National Society for Human Resource Management, and Cedar Valley SHRM. Sara also serves on the Cedar Valley Alliance’s Economic Inclusion Partnership.

VGM Group, Inc. is nationally known for providing a wide range of business services for the health care, golf and hospitality industries. It is headquartered in Waterloo, Iowa.

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Kingsley Botchway IIKingsley Botchway II

Kingsley Botchway II is the Chief Officer of Human Resources and Equity for the Waterloo Community School District. He was hired into his current position in July 2018. Previously, he was the Director of Equity and Staffing for the Iowa City Community School District. His current role encompasses leading, directing and managing personnel, state and federal law compliance, reviewing disaggregated data, and pursuing initiatives to reduce disproportionality within the District. Botchway has given a number of keynote addresses at conferences throughout the state of Iowa. He also recently had the honor of presenting at ACT in Ted Talk format on working towards true equity in our schools. Botchway holds a bachelor’s degree in criminology from the University of South Carolina, and a professional doctorate in law from the University of Iowa. Botchway has received additional training and certifications from Harvard, Iowa State, Iowa, and Indiana Universities. Through his work in the community he has served on many boards and commissions while in Iowa, including five years on the Iowa City Council and two years as Mayor Pro Tem. On Iowa City Council, he was a staunch advocate in addressing affordable housing, creating economic development for communities of color, and introducing race conscious approaches to Iowa City policies, procedures, and protocols. 

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Sashay Carroll, Jameka Mosley, Cierra Robinson, Anna Patch, Syntesha Burt, and Jewels Howard

During the take back the story panel participants will engage with the stories of students on campus. We will play diversity bingo to allow members of the audiences to interact and get to know each other. Each panelist will introduce themselves and provide identities they identify with. Members of the audience will put questions pertaining to the experiences of the panelists and their identity in a jar, and presenters will take turns answering questions.

During the panel we use storytelling as a way to give the audience insight into our experiences as students. Panelists will also ask members of the audience questions about their beliefs on diversity and inclusion, and inform the audience of how can assist persons apart of marginalized groups in gaining a sense of belonging in the Cedar Valley. 

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Courtney Maxwell GreenCourtney Maxwell Greene

Courtney Maxwell Greene worked 15 years in television news as a reporter, producer and anchor at WHO TV-13, KCCI TV-8, and WDAF Fox 4 News in Kansas City. She also spent several years in Iowa state government as the governor’s press secretary and as public information bureau chief for the Department of Public Safety.  In 2015, she worked at Iowa Workforce Development (IWD) as Communications Director and was promoted to IWD Operations Division Administrator overseeing workforce services, grants and communications. She also has private sector experience in public relations at Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield, and non-profit experience as vice president for enrollment and communications at AIB College of Business. Courtney is currently the Marketing and Communications Director for the Alzheimer's Association, Iowa Chapter.

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Dr. Liang Chee WeeDr. Liang Chee Wee

Dr. Liang Chee Wee joined NICC as the Calmar Campus Provost in August 2007. Prior to coming to NICC, Wee served Luther College for 15 years, first teaching in the Department of Economics and Business then serving as chair of the department. In 2001, he accepted the position of associate dean for advising and special programs and registrar. He held that position until 2007 when he came to NICC. Wee earned a Bachelor of Science and a Bachelor of Arts degrees in management information systems, a master's of business administration, and a Ph.D. in business administration all from the University of Arizona, Tucson.

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Dr. Wendy Mihm-Herold Dr. Wendy Mihm-Herold

Dr. Wendy Mihm-Herold currently serves as the Vice President of Business and Community Solutions, Northeast Iowa Community College. Prior to this position she was the executive director for the Upper Explorerland Regional Planning Commission (UERPC) in Postville where she was responsible for the economic development activities of a five-county region in Northeast Iowa. Previous to her work with UERPC, she was employed jointly by NICC and the state of Iowa as the Regional Director of Iowa Workforce Development (IWD) Region One in Decorah for eight years. Mihm Herold, a Fort Atkinson resident, has her Ph.D. in educational leadership, higher education administration from Iowa State University. She has previously served as the Regional Chair for the Northeast Iowa Employers’ Council of Iowa and as a member of the Clayton, Howard and Fayette County Enterprise Zone Boards. Mihm-Herold has also served on the Boards of Directors for Decorah Area Chamber of Commerce and Winneshiek County United Way.

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Kyle RoedKyle Roed

Kyle Roed is the Human Resources Director for CPM Holdings, Inc., an equipment manufacturer headquartered in Waterloo, IA.  In this role, he oversees all aspects of strategic human resources for 26 domestic and international locations.  Prior to this, Kyle was the Sr. HR Manager for MasterBrand Cabinets, Inc. in Waterloo, IA.  Kyle previously held the roles of Executive Team Leader – Human Resources for Target Corp and IT Project Manager for West Burlington Community School District.  Kyle received his Bachelors in Business Administration from the University of Iowa Tippie College of Business, and holds the certificates of Professional in Human Resources from HRCI and Society for Human Resources Certified Professional from SHRM.  He resides in Cedar Falls, IA with his wife, Sarah and three children, Jude, Thea, and Sienna.  When he’s not shuttling kids to activities, you can find him on the Cedar Valley Nature Trails biking or running.

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Sailu TimboSailu Timbo

Sailu’s Hy-Vee career began in 1998 in Waterloo and he continued to work for Hy-Vee while attending the University of Iowa.  After graduation, Sailu decided to take the Store Director career path.  Along the journey he worked at 11 different stores and was the Store Director at 4 of them.  In late 2017, Sailu accepted the position of Director, Diversity where his main focuses are recruiting, training and education to strengthen our inclusive culture.  He has a degree in African American World Studies from the University of Iowa along with his Entrepreneurial Certificate.  Sailu and his wife Kaitlyn reside in Waukee, Iowa with their two daughters Lyla (4) and Lena (2).

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Premium Sponsor:

University of Iowa Credit Union

Platinum Sponsors:

  Diamond Event CenterVeridian Credit UnionTable 1912


Gold Sponsors:

Cedar Valley Nonprofit Association  |   Courier Communications 
Covenant Medical Center  |   CUNA Mutual  |   KWWL

Engage, Empower, Act Task Force: 

University of Northern Iowa  /Greater Cedar Valley Alliance & Chamber Cedar Falls Human Rights Commission   

IowaWorks logo City of Waterloo Infiniti Enterprises logo

  The VGM GroupLegacy Branding and Events  CVP logo