National Summit on Welcoming Environment


National Summit on Welcoming Environment®: From Conversation to Action

Due to social distancing recommendations made by the Centers for Disease Control, this event has been postponed until further notice. We will keep you informed when a new date has been determined.

Diversity and inclusion topics such as gender identity and ableism (the discrimination against people with disabilities) are driving the conversation on what it means to be a Welcoming Environment® in the year 2020.

During this two-day national summit, we’ll unveil the first-ever Welcoming Environment research study to illustrate the financial impact of implementing diversity and inclusion initiatives into your organization’s strategic plan, and the financial consequences of not taking action.

Most importantly, the conversation will not end when the conference is over. Attendees will develop an action plan for aligning external stakeholders and internal team members on these essential issues, and leaders will reconvene at both an online forum and an in-person discussion circle to share their experiences.

Register Today

Event Details

Hilton Chicago
720 S Michigan Ave
Chicago, IL 60605

Attendees can receive a special promotional rate of $109 per night.

Make a Reservation

Monday, April 13, 2020
5 - 7:30 p.m.
National Welcoming Environment Summit Evening of Celebration

Tuesday, April 14, 2020
8:30 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.
National Welcoming Environment Summit Day of Education

Credit Hours: 

$499 (member); $699 (non-member)

Schedule of Events- Evening of Celebration

April 13, 2020
This two-day summit kicks off with an evening reception and keynote featuring actor, author, D&I practitioner, and activist Michael Fosberg.

5 – 6 p.m.

Opening Reception

6 – 7:30 p.m.
Opening Keynote with Michael Fosberg- Incognito, a one-man play about race and identity

Fosberg-Michael.jpgMichael Fosberg
Evening of Celebration Keynote Speaker
Actor, Author, D&I Practitioner, Activist

“There are a couple of things I’m sure your mother never told you.” Michael Fosberg’s father told him the first time they met when Michael was 34 years old. “The first is that I’ve always loved and thought about you, and also that you’re black.”

In Michael’s one-man, autobiographical play Incognito, he humorously portrays over a dozen characters to recount the true tale of the search for his biological father, and to spark a conversation on race and identity as he has come to question and embrace his own.

Michael Fosberg has spoken at nearly a thousand high schools, colleges, government agencies, corporations and not-for-profits since 2001 utilizing his award-winning autobiographical story as an entry point for meaningful dialogues on race and identity. He has worked with groups such as; The Boeing Company, United Way Worldwide, PNC Financial Services, Proctor & Gamble, Harvard College, The U.S. Dept. of the Treasury, and The Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency.

Schedule of Events- Day of Education

April 14, 2020

8:30 – 8:45 a.m.
Welcoming Session: Setting the Stage for a Day of Learning, Understanding and Action
Presented by Dr. Nicole LaBeach, President & CEO, Volition Enterprises, Inc.

The summit learning curator will frame the day’s primary learning objective and discuss the Welcoming Environment ® (WE) program format. The agenda has been carefully curated with conversation circles, knowledge bursts, WE journeys and design labs geared toward putting the WE conversation into action. This session will also provide participants foundational knowledge by sharing a framework that describes what a WE looks like, why it must be part of any leaders’ business strategy and the skills needed for leading such an environment.

8:45 – 9:15 a.m.
Community Builder
Interactive exercise for all participants
Presented by Liem Le, Founder & CEO, Little Lion

Extracting from Little Lion's consequential dialogue series, participants will get acquainted with fellow attendees and join in a collective exercise to create a more DEI Community and Welcoming Environment® for all in the workplace.

9:15 – 9:45 a.m.
The Strategic Reveal: The Welcoming Environment® Research Study
Presented by Jon Hockman, Principal, McKinley Advisors

The wait is finally over. The first-ever Welcoming Environment® research study will be unveiled. The study’s key findings and recommendations will be shared with participants, providing unique insights and new material that will aid participants in building their WE Action Plans later in the summit.

9:45 – 10 a.m.
Putting the Welcoming Environment® Research Study into Action
Presented by Jon Hockman, Principal, McKinley Advisors

Participants will break into small groups to discuss key takeaways from the Welcoming Environment® Research Study that can be applied to WE initiatives at their respective organizations.

10 – 10:15 a.m.
Morning Networking Break

10:15 – 10:45 a.m.
WE Journey 1
Case Study
Presented by Doug Harris, CEO, The Kaleidoscope Group

Making Privilege Visible to Those Who Have it – Removing our Blinders to Create a More Equitable Workplace
This session will shed light on how association leaders can apply their power to address inequities in the workplace that they may have inadvertently overlooked. This session will feature an organization’s story of how its executives became accountable for identifying workplace inequities among those who felt their biases were not being addressed.

10:45 – 11:10 a.m.
Knowledge Burst Breakout Sessions
Breakout sessions for all participants

Understanding Ableism
Presented by Nicole Kelly, Miss Iowa, Miss America Organization

This session will provide new information about the current issues that are shaping the development of a Welcoming Environment. It will explain how ableism, the discrimination and social prejudice against people with disabilities in favor of abled-bodied people, should be part of an employer’s WE strategy.

Over the Rainbow: Tools to Be an Authentic LGBTQ+ Ally
Presented by Bernadette Smith, Founder and CEO, Equality Institute

Thirty-one percent of Generation Z and 20% of millennials are identifying as LGBTQ+, yet the “alphabet soup” of letters confuses many well-meaning allies. This engaging presentation provides the tools and know-how to better understand LGBTQ+ colleagues and learn how to avoid (and recover from) common micro-aggressions experienced by this community.

In this talk, we will define key terms, dig into policies which affect the LGBTQ+ community, and share best practices in allyship. This humorous and practical session is designed to empower allies to be advocates and ensure everyone feels comfortable and confident working alongside LGBTQ+ colleagues and clients.

Hiding in Plain Sight – Identify Covering in the Workplace
Presented by Michael Fosberg, President, Incognito, Inc.

This session will foster awareness regarding why individuals conceal individuality for fear of discrimination. This form of identity management is where an individual downplays or disassociates from one of their identities. While covering may seem like a small inconvenience, it can have a disproportionate impact in the workplace from recruitment to retention to productivity.

11:10 – Noon
Conversation Circle: Open conversation to share effective practices and ask critical questions.
Presented by Dr. Nicole LaBeach, President & CEO, Volition Enterprises, Inc.

Noon – 12:45 p.m.
Networking Lunch

12:45 – 1:45 p.m.
WE Journey 2
Breakout Sessions for C-Suite Leaders and Managers

C-Suite Leaders: Silence Tells a Story – Aligning Your Stakeholders
Presented by Doug Harris, CEO, The Kaleidoscope Group

Mid-level Leaders: Internal Skeptics – Aligning the Team
Presented by David Martin, Manager of Global Diversity & Inclusion, Beam Suntory

1:45 – 2 p.m.
Afternoon Networking Break

2 – 3:30 p.m.
WE Design Lab
Hands-on session
Presented by Ralph Gaillard, M.Ed., Founder, Adele Learning Lab, LLC

Participants will retreat to small working groups to develop their tailored 21-day WE Action Plans for implementing one WE idea or program in their organization that was shared at the summit.

3:30 – 4:20 p.m.
Closing Keynote Panel

  • Dr. Nicole LaBeach, President & CEO, Volition Enterprises, Inc.
  • Joel Albizo, FASAE, CAE, CEO, American Planning Association
  • Robin Rone, Executive Director, Association of Pro Researchers & Human Resources Management Association of Chicago

4:20 – 4:30 p.m.

Concluding Remarks and Post-Summit Next Steps
Presented by Dr. Nicole LaBeach, President & CEO, Volition Enterprises, Inc. and Ralph Gaillard, CEO, The Adele Learning Lab, LLC

Participants will receive next steps for bringing the day’s conversation and their action plans to life within their organizations. A summit resource guide, containing useful templates and other actionable tools, will be distributed. Participants will also learn how they can attend and/or participate as a panelist in the post summit webinar, where attendees will discuss their journeys in moving their WE Action Plan from conversation to action after the summit.


Joel Albizo, FASE, CAE-
CEO, American Planning Association
As chief executive officer of the American Planning Association, Joel works with elected leadership, members, staff, partners, and advisors to advance the goal of great communities for all. Joel previously served as CEO of the Council of Landscape Architectural Registration Boards, where he led innovations in professional testing and regulatory advocacy.

Michael Fosberg- President, Incognito, Inc
Chicago native Michael Fosberg has been working to create a national dialogue on race and identity since 2001 when he launched his one-man autobiographical play Incognito. The author-activist has used the unique presentation, along with engaging interactive training sessions and speeches, to embrace diversity in an effort to change corporate and organization cultures.

Ralph Gaillard, M.Ed.- Founder, Adele Learning Lab, LLC
Ralph is the chief learning architect of The Adele Learning Lab, based in Chicago, IL. Ralph founded the boutique learning design firm to specialize in helping organizations incorporate the latest education strategies, models and technologies into their training portfolios. He serves a variety of clients, including those in the accounting, legal, healthcare and IT software sectors as well as those in the nonprofit association space.

Doug Harris- CEO, The Kaleidoscope Group
Doug Harris is the Chief Executive Officer of The Kaleidoscope Group with over 30 years of experience in the field of diversity & inclusion consulting. As the leader of The Kaleidoscope Group, Doug empowers organizations to achieve their diversity and inclusion goals. His knowledge and expertise guides organizations through the creation of customized strategies that address the specific diversity needs of the business.

Jon Hockman- Principal, McKinley Advisors
Motivated by organizations’ missions and driven by results, Jon Hockman brings more than two decades of consulting experience with over 100 associations in the U.S. and abroad to McKinley Advisors. His personal mission is to help leaders of organizations make the best decisions regarding their strategy, people and performance challenges.

Nicole Kelly- Miss Iowa, Miss America Organization
Nicole Kelly stepped into the role of public figure after winning the 2013 title of Miss Iowa and going on to compete at the 2014 Miss America Pageant. She gained attention for being one of only a few competitors to have ever competed with a physical disability. After working for a year as Miss Iowa and traveling across the country to advocate for those living with a disability, Nicole transitioned into speaking professionally.

Dr. Nicole LaBeach- President & CEO, Volition Enterprises, Inc.
Dr. Nicole LaBeach is a Results Maven with proven experience in the areas of: Executive Coaching, Organizational Development and Diversity & Inclusion. Her expansive background of over 15 years includes working with C-Suite leaders and leadership teams to maximize large-scale change efforts, cultivate leadership strengths and baseline critical weaknesses, champion sustainable diversity and inclusion business solutions, and leverage leadership and business growth strategy.

Liem Le- Founder/CEO, Little Lion
An advocate for social good and champion for work-life purpose, Liem reached a career turning point where she now redirects her efforts to advancing investments in people and communities around the world. Liem founded Little Lion ( to help organizations improve social impact outcomes at scale via its growth platform, social innovation, and engagement workshops. She brings a wealth of experience in marketing, analytics, and research from startup and corporate environments, including Fortune 500 companies.

David Martin- Manager of Global Diversity & Inclusion, Beam Suntory
David Martin is the Manager of Global Diversity & Inclusion at Beam Suntory International. David is accountable for building an inclusive culture and representation of a diverse workforce through candidate pipelines, strong partnerships with external networks, developing education on inclusive leadership/bias, and developing strategies and action plans to impact business performance.

Robin Rone- Executive Director, Association of Pro Researchers & Human Resources Management Association of Chicago
Robin L. Rone has more than 25 years of experience in non-profit and association management, communications, and inclusion and diversity in the workplace. She is a director at SmithBucklin, where here responsibilities including serving as the Executive Director of two client organizations, the Association of Pro Researchers (Apra) and the Human Resources Management Association of Chicago; and serving as chair of the inCouncil at SmithBucklin, which is charged with helping advance SmithBucklin’s organizational commitment to the important areas of diversity and inclusion.

Bernadette Smith- Founder/CEO, Equality Institute
Bernadette Smith is founder and president of Equality Institute, and an award-winning author of three books. In 2004, Bernadette started 14 Stories, an award-winning wedding planning firm with an LGBTQ specialty. Her vision was to disrupt the heteronormative wedding industry with a vision of inclusion of all couples. Several years later, she took this passion and started to share her expertise with her peers in the global wedding and travel industry.

Title Partner


Supporting Partner

Hospitality Partner


Resource Partners

Research Partners

aapmr_logo.jpg American_Planning_Association_logo.png asa-logo.jpg aem-logo-color-stacked-name.png
AWHONN_Logo.jpg ilcma-logo.jpg irem-logo.png napfa-logo.png
Smithbucklin-Logo.png soa-logo.jpg wcma-logo.png

Welcoming Environment® is a registered trademark of Association Forum.  Permission to use is required.