Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Group
Ursinus College is committed to the celebration of and respect for human diversity.
The purpose of the Ursinus College Alumni Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Working Group is to gather voices and experiences of Ursinus College alumni with the purpose of advising and informing the office of advancement of unconscious bias related to race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, disability, socioeconomic status, and other topics that hinder an inclusive environment for all alumni. This group will independently evaluate existing programs and services for alumni with the purposes of making recommendations to programming that address diversity, equity and inclusion, helping to remove barriers to engagement amongst a more representative population of alumni, and encouraging the elevation of alumni leaders into volunteer roles who were previously not represented.
The Ursinus College Alumni Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Working Group will:
- Work with professional staff to support alumni, enlighten the college, and build stronger engagement amongst alumni, amplifying experiences related to race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, disability, socioeconomic status, and beyond.
- Provide a platform for alumni voices to be heard by conducting focus groups, and creating and reviewing a survey to help the advancement office understand how to expand the inclusive campus atmosphere to the alumni experience.
- Analyze trends in higher education and create recommendations to Ursinus College’s alumni affinity programming, with the aim of creating safe spaces for alumni to connect around topics and issues of shared interest, and engage with one another and the College.
- Examine the four questions and the college curriculum’s role in alumni programming, drawing attention to their relevance for issues of equity and inclusion, and make recommendations for programs that allow communities to be uplifted, supported, and heard.
- Examine practices, policies, and trends to determine if barriers exist to alumni leaders serving the college after graduation.
- Collaborate with volunteers and Ursinus College staff to create educational curriculum and resources for the alumni community that guide alumni in furthering their advocacy efforts.
Meet the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Working Group
Rebekah Adens ’01
Rebekah Adens ’01 is the founder and lead consultant for Community Matters Now, a firm that partners with non-profit organizations to provide diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging training and strategic planning. Rebekah and her organization are currently providing support to school leaders in the LAUSD, New York Charter School center as well as smaller schools in the Philadelphia area. Rebekah says, “I am excited to pay it forward to the Ursinus community in the sense that Ursinus was a great example of fostering belonging for underrepresented groups through the Bridge, multicultural, and chapel programs, with Ms. Paulette Patton and the late Reverend Charles Rice. I was deeply changed by these programs, mentors, and peers, and I want to ensure that young Black and Latinx students receive the same life-altering experiences.”
Laurie Battaglia ’98
Laurie Battaglia ’98 is CEO of Aligned at Work® in Scottsdale, Arizona, a leadership consulting firm that has created signature programs focused on successful work-life integration and building and leading inclusive cultures at work. Laurie has spent the last half of her 35+ year corporate career in leadership roles in some of the nation’s largest investment and banking companies, including as vice president for Wells Fargo in Phoenix and leadership development facilitator for Vanguard. She is on a personal mission to wake up the leaders of organizations who think that they can delay inevitable change. Laurie describes herself as “a futurist and strategizer, a connector of people and resources who understands how to lead inclusively, so that all people are valued and thrive.”
Ara Brown ’00
Ara Brown ’00 is search consultant at StrateGenius. Ara’s career has spanned over 20 years in leadership positions at the middle school, high school, and collegiate levels, including at Teachers College at Columbia University and in select independent schools across the country. In addition, Ara was a faculty member at the Kingswood-Oxford Leadership Institute for Educators of Color (KOLIEC) and the inaugural Building Opportunities for Leaders of Diversity (BOLD) Summit, supporting educators of color advance their careers within independent schools. He has presented nationally on DEI issues, made a documentary on the experiences of people of color in independent schools, and has published articles on pedagogy, recruitment practices, and pathways to headship for people of color.
Elizabeth Cannon ’10
Calvin Carthan ’16
Calvin Carthan ’16 is the director of admission, community outreach and marketing for Life Century Academy, an independent school in South Jersey. Calvin’s decision to volunteer for the Alumni DEI Working Group was his own experience at Ursinus. “Building communities by breaking down walls through DEI initiatives has become a passion of mine, and I want to bring that passion to Ursinus College, a place that has played a significant role in my life. “
Matt Ciesinski ’96
Matt Ciesinski ’96 is vice president and head of product management at the Infosys Retirement Services Center of Excellence. He has 25 years of strategic, operational, client relationship, and product development leadership in the retirement services and wealth management industries. As a leader, Matt is especially passionate about talent identification and development. Of his experiences, Matt says, “In the corporate world, I’ve witnessed the positive impact of representation and the productive effects of DEI on team performance and employee morale. As a student at Ursinus, I experienced firsthand the power of inclusiveness when I was welcomed into a fraternity where the majority of the membership was different from me.” Matt joins the DEI Working Group “to bridge the efforts of academia and industry, with the goal of furthering Ursinus’s commitment in this space, now extending it to our alumni.”
Nola-rae Cronan ’01
Darlene Davis ’79
Jena Weaver Dietrich ’92
Jena Weaver Dietrich ’92 joined Coho Partners in 2016 to lead the firm’s marketing initiatives. As head of marketing, Jena helped to establish the firm’s DEI committee focusing efforts on education, building a shared vocabulary, developing new skills, and working to build a more inclusive organization. She is also the founding member of the Coho Cares community outreach initiative and Coho Women for Women, the firm’s first affinity group.
Kate Farnon ’00
Kate Farnon ’00 has worked in public education for over 20 years, most recently as a special education teacher at Radnor High School. She received the 2018 Delaware County Right to Education Task Force Making a Difference Award and the 2021 Radnor Educational Foundation Educator Impact Award. Kate notes, “I was lucky to have received the educational foundation to be a lifelong learner and make lifelong friends at Ursinus. I hope to promote the inclusivity and respect that I have always felt as part of the Ursinus community.”
Daniel Greene ’94
Alex Harwood ’12
Alex Harwood ’12 is finding his way, most recently as a freelance tutor and narrative structure instructor, and is eager to really dive into Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion as a career field after an MA in Communications. He recognizes that inclusivity initiatives often feel merely performative, that intersectionality is often overlooked in favor of visibility, and that even the best of us have unconscious biases we’re viewing things through—and is therefore dedicated to making the DEI Working Group as productive as it can be, to help create a stronger connection from the values instilled in him as an Ursinus student, as well as for the engagement opportunities for alumni.
Chris Hauck ’14
Chris Hauck ’14 currently works for the PA Department of Human Services as a clerk typist. He joined the DEI Working Group because being queer and disabled are both important parts of his life, and he wants to help others understand and empathize with people different than themselves.
Mark Hickey ’14
Mark Hickey ’14 is a current Ph.D. student in curriculum studies at Oklahoma State University. Mark earned their master’s degree in teaching, learning, and leadership from Oklahoma State University in 2020. Prior to going back to graduate school full-time, Mark taught high school English in Little Rock, Ark., Philadelphia, Pa., and Brooklyn, N.Y. Mark’s academic and professional research interests are motivated by exploring what it means to be a queer subject in public educational spaces. They are especially concerned with research that benefits queer and gender-nonconforming teachers and students.
Sara Jacobson ’94
Sara Jacobson ’94 serves as executive director of training for the Public Defender Association of Pennsylvania (PDAP), where she trains public defenders across Pennsylvania in trial skills, criminal defense, and case theory, often in partnership with Dickinson Law School. Before joining the PDAP, Sara served as the director of trial advocacy and an associate professor at Temple Law School. At Temple, she also co-chaired the Dean’s Advisory Council on Diversity and Inclusion. Sara is a member of the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS)-PA Diversity, Equality, & Inclusion Board Committee and has trained judges, prosecutors, public defenders, court staff, and law professors on transgender competency in the courtroom and in the classroom.
Heidi Jensen ’14
Heidi Jensen ’14 is the assistant director of alumni relations at Ursinus College. Prior to becoming a staff member, Heidi volunteered on the DEI Working Group, Alumni Council, and the Bear2Bear Benefit & Bash Committee. Heidi is happy to continue her service as a volunteer on the DEI Working Group as a staff member of the college and shares, “I am invested in amplifying what the DEI working group’s recommendations are and will carry them with me into my other roles at Ursinus to create a safer, more diverse, and affirming experience for everybody.”
Mackenzie Kilgore ’17
Mackenzie Kilgore ’17 worked in education following her graduation from Ursinus and is planning on pursuing a graduate degree in disability studies. Mackenzie says, “I’m thrilled to be a part of the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Working Group because I have a physical disability and representation is very important to me. I want to make sure current and future students have the same great experience that I did.”
Dr. Conrad Lindes ’70
Dr. Conrad Lindes ’70 is a retired family physician after 42 years of practice and after serving many years in leadership of his hospital medical staff and medical specialty. Dr. Lindes is also an acknowledged Quaker minister and, currently, executive director of a beginning non-profit dedicated to improving his local government. Dr. Lindes is volunteering on the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Working Group because, personally and professionally, he has always valued every person as a unique and precious child of God. He is looking forward to helping to expand this perspective at Ursinus.
Melanie Mercado ’14
Melanie Mercado ’14 is currently the community planner for the New Jersey HIV Planning Group (NJHPG) in collaboration with the South Jersey AIDS Education and Training Center at Jefferson Health. Before working with the NJHPG, she was a program coordinator in the Population Health Department at Jefferson Health Center City, providing administrative support to value-based programs within the primary care setting. Melanie also has a close understanding of social services for individuals experiencing homelessness and mental health services. As a member of the DEI Working Group, she is focused on providing an inclusive space for the community, including students and alumni, to feel empowered to make a change towards equity and access to all.
Rickie Lee Sands ’68
Rickie Lee Sands ’68 retired from FEMA after 18 years and now spends much of her time volunteering. Rickie is active at the Manna on Main Lansdale food bank, serving as adjutant for her VFW post, and teaching/running ranges as part of the BSA Cradle of Liberty Council shooting sports committee. Rickie is an an NRA training counselor and a USA Archery Level 2 coach. Rickie was recently involved in a group at her church called “Creation Stewards” with the goal of an improved, inclusive society. Since her retirement, Rickie is interested in supporting the LGBTQIA community and is hoping that engaging with the DEI Working Group will open the doors for the free exchange of ideas on inclusivity.
Courtney Stewart ’14
Courtney Stewart ’14 is chair of the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Working Group and Senior Associate in Communications and Investor Relations at the Reinvestment Fund in Philadelphia. Courtney also coaches youth basketball and lacrosse. Courtney has been a member of the Graduates of the Last Decade (GOLD) Council and now Ursinus College Alumni Council for several years. During her time at UC, she often felt like the only person of color on the lacrosse field and in her courses. Courtney is volunteering on the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Working group because she would like to help change the dialogue and create a more inclusive and diverse active alumni base.