Business & Education Leaders
Panel A: Building Unity in the Workplace
Dr. Seanelle Hawkins is the first woman to ever serve as President and CEO of the Urban League of Rochester. Dr. Hawkins joined the Urban League from her position as Executive Director of Sojourner Home — a local nonprofit that empowers women, children, and their families through transitional support services as they recover from trauma. As the Urban League of Rochester President, she has proven her mettle in transparently engaging with the Rochester community, advocating for antiracism and equity, fundraising, and innovating in organizational operations.
Dr. Hawkins is an expert in community engagement and cultural change, advocacy, transitional and permanent supportive housing, fiscal stewardship, strategic planning, and staff development.
Melissa Jordan is the Vice President and Business & Professional Banking Relationship Manager at M&T Bank. She is the Founder and Co-President of M&T Rochester Women’s Interest Network Employee Resource Group. Melissa is committed to improving the Rochester community by helping small business owners fulfill their dreams, and she is passionate about helping women- and minority-owned businesses succeed and thrive.
Joshua Wu is a Vice President at Edelman Data & Intelligence. A data science team lead who advises stakeholders and clients on research and data best practices, he is also developing analytics-driven solutions to inform the company's DEI initiatives and measure progress in DEI goals. He is active in the Asian employee resource group and is co-leading a pro bono research partnership with Stop AAPI Hate.
With more than 15 years of experience in the field of workplace diversity and inclusion, Dr. Deanna Kimbrel is Monroe County’s first-ever Chief Diversity Officer and head of the new Department of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. She is also the proprietor of Kimbrel Management Consulting, which provides workplace climate assessments, educational programs, and workshops on organizational culture, leadership, and DEI to a range of industries.
Mubarak Bashir is the regional director of Greyston’s Rochester Center for Open Hiring. Prior to this, he worked at the Urban League of Rochester for over 11 years, most recently as head of its workforce development programs. Mubarak was recently recognized as one of Rochester Business Journal’s 2020 Forty Under 40.
Panel B: Teaching History through an Anti-Racist Lens in Monroe County
Thomas V. Cuyler Jr. is a proud graduate of the Rochester City School District, attending School 33 for Elementary School and School Without Walls for Middle School and High School. He has served as a Youth Worker for Ten years, working at a number of community agencies in the Greater Rochester Area. Graduating with his Bachelors of Art in Community Youth Development at Nazareth College of Rochester in 2020, his education paired with his direct support experience in youth work has enabled him to bridge resources and advance advocacy work for Rochester area youth.
When Thomas is not working, he enjoys writing as well as film and video editing. Thomas also founded On Cuyler Time, a media platform in which he uses to "give a voice to those who have been silenced. To tell the stories of the forgotten. To shine a light on the lost."
Shaun Nelms is the superintendent of East Upper and Lower Schools, formerly East High School in Rochester, N.Y., a new position created through a unique partnership between the New York State Education Department, Rochester City School District, and University of Rochester. As the Educational Partnership Organization (EPO) superintendent for East, Nelms has been charged with creating a school reform model that can be replicated in urban settings throughout the United States.
In 2018, he was named the first William and Sheila Konar Director for the Center for Urban Education Success (CUES) at the Warner School. In this role, Nelms leads the center’s efforts to support the success of K-12 urban schools both locally and nationally through a combination of research, relationship building, and a commitment to pursue and share best practices.
Prior to his superintendency, Nelms served as chief of schools for the Rochester City School District, where he supervised the Northeast Zone and successfully led implementation of the New York State Regents reform initiative. His focus on professional development for principals and teachers led to improvements in leadership capacity, instructional delivery, and student achievement. Nelms also worked as a principal in the Rush-Henrietta School District, and as an assistant principal and social studies teacher in the Greece School District.
Throughout his career, Nelms has maintained a focus on helping students to be successful. He has served as a role model and mentor for students and faculty alike, and his legacy includes several successful programs that he established to give all students the opportunity to reach their academic and personal goals.
Nelms has been a frequent speaker on topics related to the creation of equitable school systems and administrative leadership. He is also an associate professor at the Warner School, where he teaches courses in human resource management, school governance, and leadership in urban schools. He is active in numerous community organizations and has been honored with several awards for his leadership and work in education.
Dr. Kevin McGowan has been the Superintendent of the Brighton Central School District since 2009. He began his career as an elementary teacher in the Starpoint Central School District before becoming a High School Assistant Principal at Iroquois High School and then an elementary principal at Wales Primary School. Before arriving in Brighton, Kevin was the Superintendent of the Warsaw Central School District in Wyoming County.
Kevin previously served as the President of the Monroe County Council of School Superintendents and is the President of the New York State Council of School Superintendents. He is Past President of the Leadership for Educational Achievement Foundation (LEAF). He is a board member of Western New York Educational Service Council, Brighton Education Fund, Brighton Alumni Association and Brighton Chamber of Commerce. Kevin has been a member of several national, state and local committees, including the College Board’s Superintendent Advisory Board, NYSCOSS legislative committee, the Commissioners Advisory Council, Jewish Family Services Basic Needs Advisory Board and the Farash Foundation Jewish Education Advisory Committee. He also serves on the United Way Campaign Cabinet.
Mary Grow began her career in East Irondequoit in 2002 as a social studies teacher at Eastridge High School. She moved to the role of assistant principal at the school in 2007 and then took over a principal the following year.
She helped foster the International Baccalaureate Programme, Project Lead the Way, AVID and after school tutoring for students. The school also earned national recognition from Newsweek magazine and the Washington Post.
In 2014, she moved to the district's central office and served as director of secondary education. Grow earned her bachelor's degree from Niagara University and a master's degree in education from Roberts Wesleyan.
She received her administrative certificate from The College at Brockport.