Meet the Experts Joining our Inclusive Leadership Development Event

We’re pleased to announce the lineup for our Inclusive Leadership Development event, 9-11 a.m. Tuesday, March 12 at Grand Valley State University’s Kirkhof Center in Allendale.

Be sure to save your spot for this important gathering. You’ll enjoy a light breakfast while connecting with peers from across the region before we dive into a dynamic discussion on the most important DE&I topics facing employers today. HR professionals can earn 2 SHRM professional development credits by attending.


Read on for a preview of the expertise we have assembled for this event.

Keynote Speaker

Dr. Sandra Upton, founder and Chief DEI Strategist with Upton Consulting Group

Sandra brings more than 25 years of experience in DEI consulting, coaching and training with businesses, educational institutions, governmental agencies and nonprofits. At Upton Consulting Group, she leads an innovative team of strategists who work with DEI professionals and organizations around the globe.

SandraUpton Prior to launching UCG, Dr. Upton was vice president, Global Diversity Practice, with the Cultural Intelligence Center. After earning her bachelor’s degree at Michigan State University, she earned a master’s degree in Educational Leadership and Human Resource Management at Western Michigan University, and a doctorate in Global Leadership and Entrepreneurship at Regent University.

In February 2024, she released her book, Make It Last: A Roadmap and Practical Strategies for How to Do DEI Work.” The first 50 to register for the Inclusive Leadership Development event will receive a free copy. Additional copies will be available to purchase at a discount.


Mary Brown, Senior Culture Consultant, Steelcase

Mary brings expertise in culture and inclusion, organizational behavior, change management, and learning development. She helps promote inclusion and unlock employee potential, guiding and equipping clients and employees to be effective across various cultural contexts. She earned her doctorate in Organizational Leadership from Pepperdine University Graduate School of Education and Psychology, and has completed executive education programs on innovation, design, and AI from leading institutions, such as MIT and Case Western Reserve University. Mary also serves as an adjunct instructor at Grand Rapids Community College, teaching psychology and business courses.

Charisse Mitchell, CEO, YWCA West Central Michigan

Charisse leads the YWCA West Central Michigan’s mission to eliminate racism, empower women and girls, and provide peace, justice, freedom, and dignity for all. Before coming to the YWCA, Charisse was executive director for the Center for Women in Transition (now Resilience), which serves victims of domestic and sexual violence in Ottawa and Allegan counties. She served as board president of the Michigan Coalition to End Domestic and Sexual Violence and Co-Chair of the Lakeshore Alliance Against Domestic and Sexual Violence. She earned her Bachelor of Arts and Master of Public Administration degrees from The George Washington University.

Victor Sturgis, Partner + ESG Tax Services Leader, Crowe

Victor is an integrator and thought collaborator who focuses on adding the right mix of tax sustainability strategies to assist clients in meeting their sustainability and other ESG-related goals. He recently represented his firm as a Racial Equity Fellow for CEO Action for Racial Equity, and has over 11 years of experience in public accounting and 10 years of experience working with clients in the construction industry. Victor also is the executive sponsor of the African-American Business Resource Group at Crowe. He earned his bachelor’s degree and Master of Accountancy degree at the University of Michigan.

Mark J. Wassink, Managing Partner, Warner Norcross+Judd

Mark has dedicated his life’s work to leading the firm while holding various positions throughout his legal career – including chair of the firm’s Professional Staff Committee, chair of the Recruiting Committee, leadership team member of the DEI Action Committee – all while maintaining a successful corporate law career. His focus has always been to support Warner in being an inclusive and welcoming place for all. Mark earned his bachelor’s degree at University of Michigan and his law degree at Indiana University School of Law-Bloomington. He is a member of the Grand Rapids, Michigan and American bar associations.



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