Three champions of workplace diversity to be honored at Multicultural Forum March 17-18

Three longtime champions of workplace diversity will be honored at the 22nd  annual Multicultural Forum on Workplace Diversity, a two-day national training conference that will be held March 17 and 18 at the Minneapolis Convention Center.

The forum began in 1988 as a two-hour videoconference and has grown into the region’s leading event for advancing diversity in the workplace. This year’s event will draw 1,500 participants from 25 states.

Receiving a Winds of Change Award at the forum’s Thursday, March 18, luncheon will be Dr. Reatha Clark King, of Minneapolis, former president of the General Mills Foundation, and Deb Dagit, of Washington, N.J., chief diversity officer and vice president for diversity, work environment and university relations strategy at Merck & Co. The award recognizes sustained support for workplace diversity.

Receiving a Friend of the Forum Award will be Jim Burnett, of St. Paul, senior human resources consultant for diversity programs at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Minnesota. The award recognizes his many years of support for the Multicultural Forum.

Dr. Reatha Clark King

Dr. Reatha Clark King

Reatha Clark King is the former president and executive director of the General Mills Foundation, vice president of General Mills Inc. and chair of the foundation’s board of trustees. She joined General Mills after 11 years as president of Metropolitan State University in St. Paul.

Previously, King was professor of chemistry and associate dean at York College of the City University of New York and a research chemist with the National Bureau of Standards, Washington, D.C.

Currently, she is a consultant in governance and philanthropy and a member of the board of directors for Exxon Mobil Corp. and National Association of Corporate Directors (NACD). She also is a life trustee of the University of Chicago.

King has lectured extensively on the subjects of community service, education and social issues in the United States and 34 countries. Her numerous awards include 14 honorary doctorates. She was inducted into Junior Achievement of the Upper Midwest’s Business Hall of Fame, received a Lifetime Achievement in Philanthropy award from the National Center for Black Philanthropy, was named a NACD Director of the Year, and received the Civic Leader Award from the League of Women Voters. The Minneapolis Star Tribune named her, in 1999, one of the 100 most influential Minnesotans of the century. 

Deb Dagit

Deb Dagit

Deb Dagit joined Merck as chief diversity officer in June 2001 and is responsible for global equal opportunity employment compliance, diversity, inclusion, work environment and university relations strategy. Under her leadership, organizations such as DiversityInc, Working Mother and the Human Rights Campaign have recognized Merck for its efforts in diversity and inclusion.

Earlier in her career, she founded and managed Bridge-to-Jobs, a job-placement organization through which she personally placed 400 people with disabilities into full-time employment. She played a key role in the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act.  She is a past chair of the Conference Board's Workforce Council on Diversity and serves as co-chair of the board of the Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network.

She serves on the business advisory councils for Catalyst and the Tanenbaum Center for Inter-religious Understanding, and is on the board of the U.S. Business Leadership Network and the Families and Work Institute.

She is the author of The Promise of Diversity: Reflections on the Not-So-Level Playing Field and An Employer's Guide to Hiring and Accommodating People with Disabilities. Dagit has received the Champion of the Year award from Out and Equal and an Employee of the Year award from Careers & the DisABLED magazine.

Jim Burnett

Jim Burnett

Jim Burnett has worked in human resources for approximately 25 years and began his career in the United Kingdom at Alcoa Aluminum.  He moved to the United States in 1991 and has worked at Lutheran Brotherhood, First Bank System and, since 1996, at Blue Cross Blue Shield where he is involved with affirmative action and diversity activities.

Burnett has served on the Twin Cities Diversity Roundtable Steering Committee for the past 10 years and is a former board member of the Multicultural Development Center. He is active with the Blues DiversityAlliance, a network of diversity professionals employed at various Blue Cross Blue Shield plans across the country.

Burnett was one of the earliest volunteers and supporters of the Multicultural Forum during its 22-year history. He has helped plan content and market the conference throughout the Twin Cities and the country. He has encouraged forum participation from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Minnesota, and other Blue Cross Blue Shield plans, for many years.

“Securing the D&I Future: Evolving Strategies, Meaningful Outcomes” is the theme of this year’s Multicultural Forum. The forum is presented by the Opus College of Business at the University of St. Thomas in partnership with the Twin Cities chapter of the National Black MBA Association. This year, the conference is receiving support from more than 90 firms and organizations.

Craig Herkert, CEO of SuperValu, Dr. Tassu Shervani, the Marilyn and Leo Corrigan Endowed Professor of Marketing at the Cox School of Business at Southern Methodist University, and Candi Castleberry Singleton, chief diversity and inclusion officer, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, will deliver keynote presentations.

The forum is designed for professionals who manage a diverse workforce, work in a diverse environment or are responsible for diversity within organizations of all sizes. It also is recommended for anyone working with a multicultural clientele.

Participants can choose to attend institutes or workshops on March 17, just workshops on March 18, or a combination of these. For more information or to register, visit the forum's Web site or call (651) 962-4385 or e-mail