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Dr. Aeriel A. Ashlee, St. Cloud State University

Aeriel A. Ashlee, PhD (she/her) is a proud Asian American womxn of color mamascholar. Her professional praxis is guided by her desire and commitment to facilitating healing and liberation in higher education. Prior to her current role as associate professor and graduate director of the College Counseling and Student Development master’s program at St. Cloud State University, Dr. Ashlee worked in student affairs in higher education advocating for Students of Color and fostering brave space for bold conversations. Her research interests include pedagogies of belonging, womxn of color empowerment and critical consciousness in higher education, and coalition building between transracial adoptee and multiracial communities.


Ian Gibbs-Hall, Sonder DEI Consulting & Professional Development

Ian Gibbs-Hall is a former chemist and teacher who now focuses on enabling perspective shifts to advance the progress of DEI. Ian believes the groups and labels we use to navigate our world and create meaning are the underlying source of our systemic issues. He believes our need to define overshadows our ability to understand each other. Growing up mixed race in predominantly White spaces, he had a front row seat to people’s confusion and need to define “what” he was. Ian now specializes in creating content, strategies, and communications to better understand ourselves and sees every interaction as a chance to learn from the one-of-a-kind perspectives of others.


Shannon Cron, St. Olaf College

Shannon Cron (she/her) is an Associate Dean of Admissions at St. Olaf College. Alongside working with prospective students and families, her primary responsibilities include facilitating ongoing training and professional development for enrollment staff, developing information session content for the campus visit program, and liaising with Twin Cities college access organizations. She's passionate about the individual and collective power of education and strives to center creativity, equity, and empathy in her work. Prior to joining the St. Olaf Admissions Office, she worked as a High School Coach at College Possible, a theater director and educator, and a freelance writer and editor. This spring, she completed her masters' degree in organizational leadership, policy, and development at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities, where her research focused on what trauma-informed admissions practices do (or could) entail.


Ziyen Curtis, Carleton College

Ziyen (she/they) serves as an Access Team member at Carleton College, a private top-ten liberal arts school in Northfield, Minnesota. At Carleton, she serves as an admissions officer and as the lead for QuestBridge and Carleton's Travel Aid program (for both prospective and admitted students). Their passion to assist and develop access initiatives in support of first-generation students, low-income students, queer students, and students of color informs their work and inspires their endeavors.

Emily Owens, Venture Academy

Emily Owens (she/they) serves as the Director of Career & College Counseling at Venture Academy, a Title 1 eligible public charter in Minneapolis. Working in higher education and college access for over 14 years, Emily brings a unique blend of experience having worked on both sides of the desk (and in between). She leverages cutting edge technologies (like AI) to enhance counseling supports in her pursuit of ensuring that students from all backgrounds receive equitable and inclusive counseling. Her commitment to student opportunities extends beyond the counseling office, as she actively participates in state-level initiatives, serving on MnACC, MACAC, and the advisory board for MN Direct Admissions through the Office of Higher Education. Emily is passionate about empowering students and breaking down barriers in post-secondary systems.



Katie Hodgden, IllumINNATE Coaching

With over a decade of experience in career advising and educational leadership in higher education, Katie has honed her skills in engaging staff and fostering growth in diverse academic settings. Currently serving as Assistant Director in the Career Development Center at Minnesota State University, Mankato, where she focuses on building a Strengths based team of Career Advisors. Katie found a love in exploring the world of Strengths in 2019 and recently became certified in 2024. Katie also leverages this expertise to oversee a dynamic Children’s Ministry, empowering volunteers to create a nurturing environment for young learners. Katie holds a masters in Counseling and Student Personnel from Minnesota State University, Mankato, and a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Southwest Minnesota State University.

Mandy Weister, IllumINNATE Coaching

Mandy Weister is a seasoned higher education professional with over 15 years of experience, currently serving as the Director of Career Services in the College of Liberal Arts at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. Prior to her current role she worked in Residential Life and Career Services at Minnesota State University, Mankato in various roles. Mandy has been leveraging her Strengths since 2008 and became a certified Strengths Coach in 2019, passionately pursing how positive psychology and the Strengths approach can illuminate new understanding and excellence in both individual and team settings. She holds a Master of Science in Counseling and Student Personnel from Minnesota State University, Mankato, and a Bachelor of Arts in Communication Studies and Philosophy from Luther College.


Chris Dávila, Dávila Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Consulting

Chris Dávila is an experienced diversity, equity and inclusion professional with a demonstrated history of working in higher education. He is a gay, cis-male, Mexican American and a first generation college graduate. As an 18 year resident of Duluth, MN, I have served as an Academic Excellence Coordinator at the University of Minnesota Duluth Office of Diversity and Inclusion, Director of Diversity and Inclusion at the College of St. Scholastica and Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Specialist at Life House. Chris earned a Bachelor of Arts in Teaching, General Business Certificate and Human Services Certificate at the University of Minnesota Duluth and I am a certified Qualified Administrator of the Intercultural Development Inventory (IDI). Chris’s background in teaching greatly influences his planning, strategies, and approach to DEI work and learning. DEI work requires behavioral changes at its core and I believe that success starts with building strong relationships, supporting a welcoming environment that is challenging and safe for making mistakes and learning.

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