Agenda: Equity Summit 2022

Duluth, Minnesota – Monday, October 24, 2022: Northspan is announcing the agenda for the second annual Equity Summit, Belonging in Northeast Minnesota, which will take place on Thursday, November 10, in-person from 8:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at the Iron Trail Motors Event Center in Virginia, Minnesota.

The Equity Summit is an opportunity for community leaders, businesses, educators, creatives, workforce & economic development, government, health care, philanthropy, and YOU to engage around themes related to diversity, equity, and inclusion and forge a more inclusive future in northeast Minnesota. The cost is $20 per person.

REGISTER HERE  (No refunds.)

The summit is part of Northspan’s Welcoming Community program with the goal to increase belonging of underrepresented community members and trust between people from different backgrounds and lived experiences in northeast Minnesota.

Summit Agenda

8:00AM           Registration & Check-In 

8:30AM           Justice, Equity, Diversity & Inclusion (JEDI) Coffee & Breakfast Snacks

Welcome, land acknowledgement, and agenda review.

  • Amber Lewis, Welcoming Community Program Coordinator | Lead for Minnesota Fellow Serving Northspan

8:35AM           Native Led Welcome & Blessing

  • Heart Warrior Chosa, Nett Lake community member, registered member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa, artist, pipe holder, mother, and grandmother

8:45AM           Northspan’s Welcoming Community

Learn about programming in northeast Minnesota and just what the terms “justice,” “equity,” “diversity,” and “inclusion” mean.

  • Amber Lewis, Welcoming Community Program Coordinator | Lead for Minnesota Fellow Serving Northspan
  • Miriam Kero, Northspan Consultant & Northland Connection Program Manager

9:00AM           Belonging in the Workplace: The Journey Beyond Hiring Diverse Candidates

Hear from keynote speaker Suriya Vijayasarathy on the topic of creating inclusive workplaces for individuals from minority or underrepresented groups.

Suriya Vijayasarathy is a changemaker who empowers individuals and organizations to lean into discomfort with curiosity and courage. He provides both peers and senior leaders with concrete skills and strategies for advancing equity by building authentic relationships with diverse communities and developing internal cultures of belonging. With a background in social work and a Master of Public Policy (MPP) from the Humphrey School of Public Affairs, Suriya has led organizational change efforts across multiple sectors, including government, education, and nonprofit organizations. Suriya believes that leadership starts with listening, and that the most effective change begins by lifting up the voices of underrepresented communities.

In his free time, Suriya is an avid calisthenics and bouldering enthusiast– he also enjoys cooking, discovering new music, and going on adventures with his dog, Aggie.

9:45AM           Panel Discussion | Where We Feel Belonging and Where We Don’t: A Community Perspective

Community members from across northeast Minnesota will share perspectives, experiences, and stories of where our communities are successfully making spaces of belonging, and where gaps persist.

The panel will include representatives from Trans Northland, Twin Ports APIDA Collective, Fairview Range Community Healthy Aging Committee, and Voices for Ethnic and Multicultural Awareness.

  • Ann Bussey, Thriving in Longevity Advocate
  • Beram Compo, Co-Founder, Trans Northland
  • Heart Warrior Chosa, Nett Lake community member, registered member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa, artist, pipe holder, mother, and grandmother
  • Nathaniel Coward, Co-Founder / Co-Executive Director, Voices for Ethnic and Multicultural Awareness (VEMA)
  • Pamela Hughes, Substance Use Disorder / New Moon Program Director

11:00AM         Lunch & Networking

Menu to include a choice of meat or veggie burger with potato wedges and coleslaw. Catered by Kunnari’s Kitchen.

12:00PM         Breakout Sessions | Belonging Across the Northland

Organizations across the northland in the public and private sectors explain their roles in creating a welcoming community and discuss their current programming or initiatives related to JEDI.

Choose one session to attend during each breakout.

BREAKOUT ONE         12:00 – 12:40PM


Leaning into Difference (Workforce Track)

St. Louis County’s BIPOC Leadership Team & DEI Leadership Team

  • Tonia Villegas, Financial Worker


Leading by Example: Minnesota North College’s Role in Enhancing Regional Equity and Inclusion (Youth/Community Track)

  • Antavius Thomas, Equity Inclusion Officer and Student Senate / Student Life Advisor
  • Brad Krasaway, Director of Operations

BREAKOUT TWO        12:45 – 1:25PM


Building Strong Communities (Workforce Track)

Kraus-Anderson Construction

  • Becca Bohlman, Office Manager
  • Morgan Seopa, Project Engineer


Giinawiind Giginitaawigi’gomin, Together We Grow (Youth Track)

American Indian Community Housing Organization (AICHO)

  • Kayla Jackson, Youth Community Health Coordinator
  • Mia Menendez, Children’s Program Coordinator

BREAKOUT THREE      1:30 – 2:10PM


Breaking Barriers with Broadband (Community/Workforce Track)

Koochiching Technology Initiative and City of Duluth Economic Development

  • Jaci Nagle, Lead for America American Connection Corps, representing Koochiching Technology Initiative (KTI)
  • Emily Nygren, Economic Developer, City of Duluth


Voices for Ethnic and Multicultural Awareness (Community Track)

  • Nathaniel Coward, Co-Founder / Co-Executive Director, Voices for Ethnic and Multicultural Awareness (VEMA)

5-Minute Snack Break & Transition Back to the Main Room

2:15PM           Panel Discussion | Cook County Committee Addressing Racial Equity

  • Beth Drost, Grand Portage Anishinaabe, Executive Director of the Cook County/Grand Marais Economic Development Authority
  • Andrea Orest, Public Health Educator
  • Ann Sulllivan, Cook County District 4 Commissioner
  • Bobby Deschampe, Grand Portage Tribal Chairman
  • Heidi Doo-Kirk, Former County Commissioner working for a Tribal Reservation
  • Kelsey Rogers Kennedy, Associate Director – Program Director at Cook County Higher Education (CCHE)

3:00PM           Closing Conversation: Where Do We Go from Here?

Thought provoking questions and interactive discussions to end our day.

3:30PM           We are Adjourned | Thank You for Joining Us


Participants will learn how groups across the state and region are promoting equity in the workforce, among our youth population, in broadband infrastructure, and within communities. The summit will include an overarching theme of how Northlanders experience belonging. We will discuss ways of taking action in the community, share area resources, and highlight equity efforts underway throughout the region.

From practitioners looking to gain new skills and partnerships, to community members who may be interested in understanding and discussing the implications of equity work in their communities, all are encouraged and invited to attend. We strive to bring everyone’s perspectives and experiences to this learning opportunity and discussion.

Attendees can register here (no refunds).

Check out our speaker bios and resources here: Equity Summit 2022 – Resources – The Northspan Group, Inc.

Continuing Education Units (CEUs) are available for individuals in education, law enforcement, and health care. Please contact if you are interested in receiving credit for attending the Equity Summit.

Northspan’s Welcoming Community program is funded in part by the Duluth Superior Area Community Foundation, Blandin Foundation, Department of Iron Range Resources & Rehabilitation, and the Northland Foundation.

For more information please contact: Amber Lewis, Welcoming Community program coordinator and Lead for Minnesota Fellow serving Northspan by phone at (218) 481-7737 or by email at


Northspan’s mission is to be expert navigators, transforming ideas into accomplishments. The organization specializes in creative thinking, enterprising strategies, and systematic approaches to help businesses, communities, regions, and organizations prosper in a global economy, working cooperatively with economic and community development partners to leverage resources for measurable, sustainable results. Learn more at