The purpose of the “Black & Professional” panel is to provide space for professionals to speak with students and share insights about their experiences: what they’ve encountered; how they handle issues, particularly related to race, stereotypes, discrimination; allies they’ve found in creating supportive work environments; etc. The BHM theme is “deeply rooted”. With that in mind, we want this to be a candid conversation that engages students and reflects reality, and which provides strategies for building safe, welcoming, and productive work environments (and lives). This panel is open to students, staff, and faculty.
· Dr. Gail Cole-Avent, Executive Director for Student Life and Assessment Initiatives (University of Miami)
· Dr. Gregory A. Salters, Engaging Speaker, Visionary Success Coach and Passionate Educator and Major, Support Services Bureau (Fort Lauderdale Police Department)
· Jeffrey McNamee, Associate Director, Multicultural Programs and Services (Florida International University)
· Mercedes Dericho, Coordinator, Career Connections, Career and Talent Development (Florida International University)
· Sandy Sears, Chief Administrative Officer, retired (Jackson Health System) and Mentoring Committee Co-Chair, Vice Provost’s Council (FIU Biscayne Bay Campus)
Dr. Gail Cole-Avent is the Executive Director for Student Life and Assessment Initiatives and an adjunct graduate faculty member in the School of Education at the University of Miami. Student Life is comprised of six departments (Orientation and Commuter Student Involvement, Butler Center for Service and Leadership, Multicultural Student Affairs, LGBTQ Student Center, Student Activities and Student Organizations, and Student Life Administration) as well as the assessment initiatives for the Division of Student Affairs. For six years prior, she served as the Assistant to the Vice President for Student Affairs and University Ombudsperson at the same institution. In that role her oversight included: alternative conflict resolution for students, assessment, crisis management (environmental and student-related), strategic planning, staff recruitment and development, social media & website overview, institution-wide special projects, and served as University sexual harassment counselor. Dr. Cole-Avent earned her B.S. in Communication Studies from Northwestern University (IL), M.Ed. from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), Ph.D. in Education from the University of Georgia (UGA), and completed the Management Development Program through the Harvard Graduate School of Education.
Dr. Gregory A. Salters, Engaging Speaker, Visionary Success Coach and Passionate Educator, currently serves as a Major with the Fort Lauderdale Police Department, where he has worked for over 24 years. Dr. Salters facilitates courses for the Florida Department of Law Enforcement’s (FDLE) Florida Leadership Academy, serves as an adjunct professor at Miami Dade College School of Justice and Florida International University and has served as an adjunct at the Broward County Institute for Public Safety. He has facilitated forums such as FDLE’s Minority Recruitment and Retention Forum. He is a sought after speaker and success coach. Dr. Salters prepares individuals for success, employment and promotional processes. He is also a certified John C. Maxwell coach, speaker and trainer. (www.DrGregoryASalters.com)
Jeffrey McNamee is an Associate Director for the Multicultural Programs and Services at Florida International University and has over 18 years of experience in Higher Education. He is a Jamerican meaning he was born in Jamaica but has lived in America since his teenage years. He has degrees from Miami Dade College, University of Florida and Florida International University. He has worked closely with Pre-Collegiate students, first generation students, high achieving scholarship students, low income students and many other students in Higher Education. He is has created and facilitated hundreds of workshops on various topics including: Financial Literacy, Study Habits, Political Discussions, Social Justice Topics, and many more. Being of a mixed background and having stereotypes and discrimination placed on him differently based on the biases of the person(s) looking at him, he has from a very young age had to deal with coming to grips with his own racial identity in America.
Mercedes Dericho is a native of Miami, FL and a military veteran who served active duty in the United States Army. Upon her completion of service, she earned her Bachelor’s degree from Florida International University (FIU) in Sociology / Anthropology and her Master’s degree from Florida Atlantic University in Criminology / Criminal Justice. In 2014, she became the Professional Development & Continuing Education Assistant at FIU’s Institute for Hospitality and Tourism Education and Research, where she conducted research and writing for new programs, developed training materials, and assisted with e-learning development. In this role, she recognized a love for helping college students and decided to pursue a career in higher education. In 2015, Mercedes transitioned to the Division of Student Affairs, as a Coordinator for Career and Talent Development, where she supports the Department’s mission by connecting students to professionals and opportunities. Her primary goal is to encourage students to look within and outside of their majors and industries, while helping them to identify opportunities for networking and employment.
Sandra “Sandy” Sears is a recently retired Chief Administrative Officer in the Jackson Health System. She served for 39 years in senior level leadership, retiring as the Senior Vice President and Chief Administrative Officer of Jackson North Medical Center. Sandy developed the affiliation agreement between Jackson North and the FIU Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine, which distinguishes Jackson North as an academic community hospital. Ms. Sears currently is a health care consultant, teacher, and volunteer on various boards. She is a resident of North Miami Beach. She earned her Master’s degree in Management from Northwestern University, Magna Cum Laude in 1975. She attended the Wharton School CEO Program for Health Care Leadership in 2007. In 2013, she was named one of South Florida’s Top 50 Most Powerful Business Leaders by Legacy.