An Inspiring, Challenging, Fulfilling Weekend at the American Conference on Diversity Common Ground Institute – A must-do for the soul and the work

In the first retreat of its kind, multiple generations of corporate diversity and inclusion leaders, educators, students, social-justice leaders, and healthcare professionals attended the American Conference on Diversity’s Common Ground Institute during Martin Luther King Jr. weekend.

Sponsored in part by L’Oréal USA, Common Ground Institute was created and administered by experienced social-justice professionals with extensive backgrounds in leadership development, implicit bias, and anti-oppression work.

The three-day event was held at Frost Valley YMCA, which provided a safe and serene space for eye-opening exercises and courageous conversations. Facilitated by American Conference on Diversity President & CEO Elizabeth Williams-Riley, Youth and Collegiate Services Director Bari Katz, and social-justice worker/educator/counselor/program developer Julman Tolentino, the retreat provided new strategies and skills-building exercises to increase the leadership capacity of a multi-ethnic and generational group of professionals at various levels of their careers.

The inaugural class deepened their understanding learning about:

  • Leading and engaging in courageous conversations
  • Being a stronger ally and effective change agent
  • Building alliances internally and externally
  • Implicit bias and unconscious privilege
  • Systemic and institutional inequities
  • Barriers and bridges to sustaining inclusive organizations
  • Social-justice history

The enlightening experience sent Common Ground attendees to social media to share their thoughts:

Aha moment: When we institutionalize diversity & inclusiveness, we sow seeds of its destruction as a checkbox.

– Dr. Irma McClaurin, Chief Diversity Officer at Teach For America

Oppression: a pervasive, systemic dynamic like racism, ageism, ableism, sexism. Know your privilege impact!”

– Angela Guy, L’Oréal USA Senior Vice President, Diversity & Inclusion, and American Conference on Diversity Board of Trustees Co-Chair

Thank you American Conference on Diversity for an insightful experience!

– Chloe Bland, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Psychology at College of Saint Elizabeth

 Want to learn more about our Common Ground Institute? Please complete this “Expression of Interest” form.

Click here to view a slide show of the 2016 Institute. 

Participating Organizations

Urban Health Plan Inc.

L’Oréal USA

College of Saint Elizabeth

NYC DOE: School for Tourism and Hospitality

New York University Steinhardt

Teach For America

Prudential Financial

KIPP NYC Public Charter Schools

Wagner College

LaGuardia Community College


Stockton University

buildOn – Mott Haven Community High School

About the American Conference on Diversity

The American Conference on Diversity is dedicated to building just and inclusive schools, workplaces, and communities through awareness, education, and advocacy. The nonprofit organization was founded in 1948 as the National Conference of Christians and Jews. Today the programs, services, and initiatives of the American Conference on Diversity are among the most important work focused on creating a more inclusive society. It is the unfinished business of living in a highly diverse nation: educating and empowering our next generation of leaders; enhancing our workplaces; and helping to create inclusive communities. The American Conference on Diversity builds on a historic mission and creates programs and activities relevant and vital to 21st Century life. It is a journey we can all take together. The American Conference on Diversity operates Regional Community Networks covering all of New Jersey. Visit to learn more.


Gail Zoppo

Media Relations Consultant

109 Church Street

New Brunswick, NJ 08901