Cultivating Inclusion in the Workplace

Couldn’t make it to this event? No worries!

The live recording can be accessed here: 

(Read more about the event and the presenters below.)

If you have questions about incorporating inclusive hiring practices within your organization, please reach out to the Career and Advising Center at NDSU. We can get you in touch with the experts who can help you make it happen.

Thank you for your commitment to support inclusion in the workplace!



Tuesday, February 11, 2020
4:30 p.m. – 6 p.m.
FARGODOME, Arena Floor
1800 N University Dr, Fargo, ND 58102

NDSU contributes significantly to the pipeline of talent for the region’s workforce, supplying a steady flow of qualified and trained interns and graduates. We believe in making connections, encouraging collaborations, and creating new opportunities for students, faculty, and employers.

More often than not, diversity and inclusion are employed interchangeably, and while these concepts are related, without authentic and internal inclusion, diversity is a mere statistic. Many employers and recruiters strive to diversify their workforce either by choice or mandate, but often lack the essential organizational groundwork needed to foster an inclusive environment, so all hires can thrive and successfully contribute to the organization.

This panel of experts will provide insights, considerations, and strategies employers and recruiters can adopt to implement diversity hiring strategies and create more inclusive work environments and cultures supporting retention efforts.

Moderator & Panelists:


Dr. Taj Smith
Director of Diversity Education, Rochester Institute of Technology

Dr. Taj Smith is a cultural humility and inclusive pedagogy consultant and social justice activist. He also serves as the Director of Diversity Education at Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT). He oversees diversity training and other educational opportunities to increase the cultural humility of faculty, staff and students. Recently, Dr. Smith became a steering committee member for the Center to End Hate in Rochester, NY.

Prior to RIT, he worked at Xavier University (Cincinnati, Ohio) as the Director of the Center for Diversity and Inclusion for 4 years where he advocated for students of color, women and LGBTQ+ students. He also oversaw the university’s bias response team. While in Cincinnati, he served as a board member for Design Impact, a non-profit social innovation firm that uses design and innovation techniques to empower leaders to address community issues.

Dr. Smith has also served as the Assistant Director of the Davis Center at Williams College (Western Massachusetts) with a focus on diversity facilitation training and advising student leaders. During his graduate student career, he coordinated the Intergroup Dialogue Program at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, co-founded a men’s dialogue and performance troupe and studied African American History at Cornell University.

A native son of two small cities, Paterson and Passaic, NJ, he is most proud of being a first-generation college graduate in spite of attending one of the worst high schools in the state.

His assets and talents are listening with empathy, facilitating difficult conversations, consulting on cultural humility, strategic planning, curriculum development, teaching diversity courses, understanding how systems of oppression function and engaging men in critical conversations about masculinity.


Sandi Piatz
Site Leader and Senior Director, Microsoft

Sandi Piatz is a Sr. Director at Microsoft, serving as the Site Leader for Microsoft’s campus in Fargo. Sandi started her career in technology at a startup software company. From that startup, she went to Microsoft where she served in various partner roles with global software companies. In 2007, Sandi joined Eide Bailly LLP, a top 20, national CPA & Consulting Firm. She spent over 9 years at Eide Bailly in their technology consulting services practice eventually achieving Partner.

In September of 2016, Sandi returned to Microsoft as the Site Leader. Today, Sandi and her team lead the operations of the Microsoft Fargo campus. They work on initiatives to engage with customers & partners, curate the culture & morale, lead community & STEM engagement and retain talent. Sandi has an undergrad in Education, a Master’s in Business Administration and a Master’s in Leadership.

James Whirlwind Soldier
Employee Relations & Community Outreach, Goldmark Property Management

James Whirlwind Soldier is a Sicangu Lakotah registered with the Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota. He earned an undergraduate degree in Anthropology from the University of Minnesota and an MBA from the University of Mary. He graduated from Portland State University’s Executive Education program in 2012, and the Small Business Administration’s Emerging Leaders Initiative in 2016.

More recently, James served as the chairperson for the administrative committee on the North Dakota Workforce Development Council and is a member of the board for TrainND.

Currently, James works for Goldmark Property Management, specializing in Employee Relations and Community Outreach. He helped develop the Inclusive Workforce Employer designation with CareerForce in Minnesota. Previously, James worked with Mindshift, placing adults with high functioning autism in long-term, meaningful, careers.”

Mark Coppin
Director, NDSU Disability Services

Mark Coppin is the Director of Disability Services at North Dakota State University. For 32 years, he was the Director of Assistive Technology at a non-profit center in North Dakota where he coordinated the provision of assistive technology services for the Center.

Mark has presented at state, regional, national, and international conferences on such topics as technology and teaching, special education, assistive technology, mobile devices in education, and autism. He has presented twice at the United Nations on the importance of accessibility.

In 2009, Mark was named an Apple Distinguished Educator, and served on their advisory board from 2009 -2012. In 2013, Coppin was one of 10 educators recognized as a Champion of Change by the White House.

Tabitha Thomas
International Faculty & Scholar Advisor, NDSU Office of the Vice Provost for Faculty and Equity

Tabitha Thomas is an International Faculty & Scholar Advisor in the Faculty Immigration unit of the Vice Provost Office. Her primary duties are to help petition for employment authorization for international faculty and staff at NDSU, and issue immigration documents in support of visa applications for visiting researchers who wish to participate in NDSU’s Student and Exchange Visitor Program – which is sponsored by the Department of State.  Tabitha has been in her advisor role since 2011 and has met and worked with over 500 individuals, representing 59 different countries. She believes one of her greatest attributes is her ability to make individuals feel comfortable and welcome after arriving in the US and on campus.  Her work experiences have led her to encourage her children to travel abroad, leading them to travel independently to France, Italy, and Germany. She often tells them, “There is a big world out there – go see it.”

Creighton Brown
Inclusive Excellence Initiatives Coordinator, NDSU Office of the Vice Provost for Faculty and Equity

Creighton Brown serves as the Coordinator for Inclusive Excellence Initiatives at NDSU, where he guides LGBTQ Programs and facilitates Inclusion Initiatives for students, staff, and faculty. Currently, he also serves on the Board of Directors for Pride Collective and Community Center in Fargo, ND. Before joining NDSU, Creighton taught literature and writing courses exploring issues of social and environmental justice at the Universities of North Dakota and Kansas. During his time at the University of Kansas, he served as lead researcher on an Emmy-winning film for the Kansas City Public Library.