Courageous Conversations Event Series

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Cleveland State University is proud to host “Courageous Conversations,” a virtual series designed to tackle topics on inclusiveness and diversity through honest discussions in a safe space.

We bring together leaders from CSU and various public and nonprofit agencies throughout Northeast Ohio for interactive conversations to share knowledge and brainstorm best practices to help create lasting change in the community, identify solutions to address systemic racial and gender injustice, and foster more inclusive, diverse environments guided by shared wisdom and empowerment.

We invite all students, faculty, staff and community members to join us for these courageous conversations. Registration links will be provided for each event. 


Event Information

the cookout

This in-person panel discussion will engage Cleveland State University partners and community members in a dialogue focusing on topics such as financial literacy, art, music and health within the African American community. Following the panel discussion will be a family-style cookout with food, games and a DJ!

Register here for this in-person event | Friday, June 16 | 10:30 a.m. - 2:30 p.m.

John Parker
Principal Consultant for SHOCC, Ltd
Laquania S. Graham
Education and Outreach Administrator, City of Cleveland
Kiesha Wilson
MultiSite Branch Manager, CItizens Bank
Mary Louise Tatum,MPH, MSN, PMHNP-BC
Global Health Specialist
Jarrett Pratt
Director of Student Success at The Pratt Center at CSU
Something to Talk About: How to 'Normalize' the Conversation Around Substance Use and Mental Health

View the recorded conversation here

The MetroHealth Office of Opioid Safety in partnership with CSU's Wellness and Prevention Program will address factors that influence substance use decisions, debunk myths around substance use and mental health, and discuss evidence-based, practical strategies that encourage productive discussions around alcohol and substance use including the intersection with mental health self-care.

Denise Keary
Wellness and Prevention Program Coordinator, CSU
Natalie Copeland-Traster
Educator in the Office of Opioid Safety, MetroHealth
Libbey Pelaia
Educator in the Office of Opioid Safety, MetroHealth
Ali Martin Scoufield
Assistant Vice President of Campus Engagement and Dean of Students, CSU
Free Speech…What Is It and Why Does It Matter?

Virtual Event Register Here | Thursday, May 4 | 11:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.
This conversation will focus on defining free speech and hate speech and learning what type of free speech is protected by the law. There will also be time to ask questions to our panel of CSU professionals.

Anup Kumar
Professor of Communication and President of the CSU Faculty Senate
Reginald Oh
Professor of Law at CSU
Sonali Wilson
Vice President of Legal Affairs and Compliance, General Counsel and Board Secretary at CSU
Moving Toward a Healthier Us 

View the recorded conversation here.

This conversation will focus on how relationship development and significant influences impact sexual and intimate partner violence and effective interventions that can move us forward.

Liz Goncy, Ph.D.
Associate professor, Department of Psychology at CSU
Danielle Sabo, Ph.D.
Criminology Research Associate at CSU
Arnetta Matthews
Director of Education and Outreach, Cleveland Rape Crisis Center
Denise Keary
Wellness and Prevention Program Coordinator at CSU
the state of the black male... where do we go from here?

This conversation will engage Cleveland State University partners and community members in a dialogue focusing on ways to strengthen, heal and unite the African American community following the tragic death of Tyre Nichols in Memphis, TN.

Thursday, March 2, 2023

Crystal Bryant
Former Executive Director, NAACP Cleveland Branch
Eric King
President and Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor, Mental and Emotional Wellness Center of Ohio
Dr. Ronnie Dunn
Inaugural Executive Director, The Diversity Institute at CSU
Ericka Payne
Detective, Bedford Heights Police Department

Dr. Phillip 'Flapp' Cockrell
Vice President, Campus Engagement, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at CSU

Community supporters
100 Black Men of Greater Cleveland, Inc.
NAACP Greater Cleveland Branch
The Cleveland Cavaliers
The Real Black Friday
CODE M Magazine
Black Faculty and Staff Organization at CSU
The Urban League of Greater Cleveland
Cuyahoga Community College
Cleveland State University National Pan-Hellenic Council
Sigma Pi Phi, Cleveland Chapter, Tau Boule
MetroHealth Health Medical Center

This conversation will highlight the impact cultural programming visual and performing arts has in recruiting, retaining and uniting CSU students from all cultural backgrounds.

Wednesday, February 22, 2023

Prester Pickett
Coordinator of the Howard A. Mims African American Cultural Center at CSU
DeAndra Stone
Interim Director of Dance/Visiting College Lecturer at CSU
Eric Siler
Director of Programming for the Greater Cleveland Urban Film Festival, Moderator and Study Guide Writer for the Cleveland International Film Festival FilmSlam Streams

Dr. Linwood Whitten
Inaugural Assistant Vice President, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

serving our veterans by serving their families

Monday, November 7, 2022 
View the recorded conversation here 

This conversation will focus on the importance of serving military families. We can take care of our veterans by supporting the educational success and needs of their spouses, children, and dependents.

Donna Davisson
Associate Lecturer at CSU
Ben Baran
Associate Professor at CSU
Michael Forrest
Director, Veterans Transitions and Services

Brandon Thompson
Director, Veterans Student Success Program

College Students Have a Voice, too! It's Time We Use It!

Thursday, October 6, 2022 
View recorded conversation here
Enter the passcode H2+Ab=O8 after registration

Oftentimes, students have questions regarding voting, but are simply too afraid to ask, or they do not know who to ask. This conversation will bring resources to students and provide them with support.

Alexis Crosby
Ohio State Coordinator at Campus Vote Project (CVP)
José-Arnulfo Cabrera
Co-Executive Director of Policies and Programs at The Young Latino Network (YLN)
Erika Anthony
Executive Director at Cleveland VOTES

Sebastian Canales (He/They)
Student Advisory Board Member, Campus Vote Project

Previous Events

Exploring the Impact of Roe V. Wade

Friday, September 16, 2022 
View the recorded conversation here
Enter the passcode 
K9dK%iE* after registration

The purpose of this topic is to highlight the history of Roe v. Wade, the legal and constitutional process of Roe V. Wade, advocacy, medical impact, and legislative effect.  


Nickie Antonio, B.S., M.PA.
State Senator (D-Lakewood)

April L. Cherry, B.A., J.D.
Professor of Law at CSU

Jocelyn Rosnick, B.A., J.D.
Policy Director for the ACLU of Ohio

Dr. Vada Mack, DNP, EMBA, RN-BC
Experienced Director of Nursing 


Evie M. DuVernay
Assistant Director, The Women's Center

juneteenth conversation - Quiet As It's Kept: Discussing Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in the Black Community
Thursday, June 16, Noon-1 p.m.
The diversity of the Black community is as complex as it is beautiful. This conversation will look at the issues and experiences of this community through the lens of community development, job creation, healthcare and education as we attempt to give voice to the topics that have historically been kept quiet.

Allen Boseman


Allen Boseman, Esq.
Principal/Owner, Sherman Boseman Legal Group LLC

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Tajuana Hunnicutt
Director, Pupil Services, Twinsburg City Schools

Percival Kane


Percival I. Kane, Jr., M.H.A.
Chief Operating Officer, University Hospitals Ahuja Medical Center

Sheila Wright


Sheila M. Wright
President and CEO, Frontline Development Group LLC



Jarrett G. Pratt

Jarrett Pratt, M.Ed.
Director of Student Success, The Pratt Center, Cleveland State University

Wednesday, May 25, noon-1:15 p.m.
In January 2020, Ohio identified over 16,000 children in foster care, a 30% increase since 2011 mainly attributed to opioid-addicted parents. Join us for a conversation about our work adding to the growing statewide momentum for improving postsecondary options for transition-aged youth in Ohio.

Autumn Blatt

Autumn Blatt 
Occupational Therapy Doctoral Student, Cleveland State University

Mikayla LangMikayla Lang
Youth and Young Adult Coordinator, Healthy Transitions Project, Wingspan Care Group

Antoinette McSears-Parker

Antoinette McSears-Parker
Emancipation Unit, Division of Children and Family Services

Betsie Norris

Betsie Norris
Executive Director, Adoption Network Cleveland: The Ohio Family Connection



Jarrett G. Pratt

Jarrett Pratt, M.Ed.
Director of Student Success, The Pratt Center, Cleveland State University

Thursday, April 21
Millions of individuals in the United States are living with disabilities that aren’t visible to those around them. An invisible disability is a physical, mental or neurological condition that is not visible from the outside, yet can limit or challenge a person’s movements, senses or activities. The very fact that these symptoms are invisible can lead to misunderstandings, false perceptions and judgments. Join us for a conversation where we will hear about the lived experiences of multiple individuals living with invisible disabilities. 

Sydney A Bauer (OTR/L)
ODS CARE Specialist and part-time instructor, Cleveland State University

Amy Bitebet Washington
Executive Director, Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation, Northern Ohio Chapter 

Benjamin Zimmer
Licensed Independent Marriage and Family Therapist and co-owner of Larchmere Center for Well-Being 



Luis Gomez
Social Work Intern, Office of Disability and Testing Services, Cleveland State University

Wednesday, April 6
We live in a society that primarily views heterosexual and cisgender identities as the norm. What is the impact on the LGBTQ+ community when everyone is assumed to be straight and cisgender? What are the consequences – for better or for worse – of holding an invisible identity? Join us for a closer look at one of the most courageous conversations of all: coming out.

Nolan Andersky
DE&I Marketing Leader, North America, Avery Dennison 

Sam Miller
Student, Cleveland State University

Gio Santiago
Transgender Advocate, Military Veteran and Founder of META Center Inc.


Kara Tellaisha
Coordinator, LGBTQ+ Student Services, Cleveland State University

The Untold Stories of Women in LeadHERship
Tuesday, March 1
Why aren’t there more women in leadership roles and what will it take to change the inequity? Join us for a courageous deep dive into gender bias and sexism, as our panel explores perceptions of women as leaders.

Laura Bloomberg, Ph.D.
Provost and Senior Vice President of Academic Affairs, Cleveland State University

Jeanell N. Hughes, M.P.A.
Vice President of Administration and Chief of Staff, Cleveland State University

Julie Rehm, Ph.D.
Vice President of Advancement and Executive Director of the CSU Foundation, Cleveland State University
Sonali B. Wilson, J.D.
General Counsel, Cleveland State University



Tachelle Banks, Ph.D.
Presidential Faculty Fellow and Associate Provost for Academic Innovation, Cleveland State University


Why Are Most Chief Diversity Officers Black/Brown Folks?
Wednesday, February 16
Does it take a person of color to lead effective change in diversity? Join us for a courageous conversation that digs into corporate America, roles, initiatives and what it really takes to change a workforce.

Michael Dixon
Chief Inclusion and Diversity Officer, Susquehanna University

Leon A. Harris III, Ph.D.
Assistant Director of Health and Human Services, Cuyahoga County

Jennifer McCary
Chief Diversity and Belonging Officer, Bowling Green State University



Phillip “Flapp” Cockrell, Ph.D.
Vice President for Campus Engagement, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, Cleveland State University

The State of Black Health and Well-being in America
Wednesday, February 9
Why is the death-rate of Black Americans from COVID-19 twice as high as their counterparts? Our panel will delve into health inequality and social determinants that effect long-term well-being, leaving whole communities vulnerable during this courageous conversation.

Katherine Myles, R.N., M.S.N. 
Interim Director and Clinical Operations Manager, CSU Health and Wellness Services

John E. Queener, Ph.D.
Professor, Department of Psychology, University of Akron

Sherdene Simpson, Ph.D.
Visiting Assistant Professor, Counseling, Administration, Supervision and Adult Learning, Cleveland State University


Phillip “Flapp” Cockrell, Ph.D.
Vice President for Campus Engagement, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, Cleveland State University



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