Courageous Conversations

Courageous Conversations - February 21, 2024

The spring Courageous Conversations panel discussion, Straight Talk on Navigating the Career Maze: Insights from Black Alumni, took place on Wednesday, February 21, 5:30 p.m. - 6:30 p.m. in the Parkway Ballroom, Plemmons Student Union, with a reception to follow. Catering for the reception was provided by Big Brose BBQ.

 Black alumni of the Walker College of Business shared their experiences navigating the job search and finding the right fit during their first steps on their chosen career paths. In this Q&A panel, alumni discussed their own paths - including challenges, opportunities and successes -  and gave insight on how to handle bias, navigate barriers, and identify - or create - a welcoming and inclusive workplace. View event photos here.

Courageous Conversations is an initiative of the Walker College's Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Team.  The Courageous Conversations panel discussion and reception create a space for meaningful dialogue to occur around issues of discrimination and implicit bias in the workplace.

Featured Panelists

Mariah Breeze

Senior Solutions Consultant,


Cary, NC

Cashae Cook

Recruiter and Diversity, Inclusion, and Community Engagement Officer,

Appalachian State University

Boone, NC


Natazhia Lovett

Senior Independent Testing Specialist,

Wells Fargo

Charlotte, NC

Kwani Taylor

Master's Candidate, Industrial and Organizational Psychology and Human Resource Management,

Appalachian State University

Boone, NC



Amaya Crawford

Senior in the Walker College of Business majoring in

International Business and Digital Marketing

 JaVon Siddle

Junior in the Walker College of Business 

majoring in Accounting


Past Events

Fall 2023

The fall Courageous Conversations Workplace Diversity Beyond Borders: Immigrant Narratives panel discussion centered on immigrant experiences in the workplace. The panel discussion topic was inspired by this year's Walker College of Business Shared Reading Initiative selection, "Dear America: Notes of an Undocumented Citizen" by Jose Antonio Vargas.

Moderator: Sarah Donovan, Founding Member, Immigrant Mountaineers MovementRegional Director of Social Services, Southeast for Kids in Need of Defense (KIND)


  • Yolanda Adams, Family Resource Coordinator, Watauga County Schools, from Colombia

  • Marco Fonseca, Director of Coaching for the High Country Soccer Association, from Honduras

  • Andres Tellez, Professor of Applied Design, Appalachian State University, from Colombia

View photos of the event.

Event Video

Spring 2023

The spring 2023 Courageous Conversations event took place on Wednesday, February 22 at 5:00 pm in the Broyhill Music Center Rosen Concert Hall. A reception and book signing followed. Traci Royster, Director of Staff Development & Strategic Initiatives in the Office of Student Affairs, moderated a candid discussion on life and work in Boone with local residents of the Junaluska neighborhood, a historically Black community in the High Country. The multi-generational panel brought together community members whose career paths have included work at Appalachian State University. Distinguished panelists included Anitra Ball, Administrative Support Associate for App State’s Intercultural Student Affairs; Wanda Coles, Retiree of the Child Development Center; Roberta Jackson, Member of the Junaluska Heritage Society; and Lynn Patterson, University Program Specialist at Belk Library. The event was inspired by ”Junaluska: Oral Histories of a Black Appalachian Community,” a collection of interviews of community residents spanning multiple generations, and both the University Common Reading selection and the Walker College of Business Shared Reading selection. The event was sponsored in part by the Appalachian State University Office of Diversity. View photos from the event. Read an article about this event.

Fall 2022

Panelists Kathleen Harb ‘20, Eli Stroud '22 and Dawn Medlin discussed First Gen Identity: From College to Career. These alumni shared their experiences transitioning to the next stage of life and the unique challenges and strengths that go along with first-gen identity status. Senior marketing major Andrea Gonzalez, assistant director of the Business for Good Residential Learning Community, moderated the panel. Read the news post.


The Spring 2022 Courageous Conversations Panel Discussion: How to have bold, inclusive conversations, took place on Thursday, February 10 at 6 pm  via Zoom. Panelists were: SPX FLOW Vice President of Global Operations Meshach Cleary, Walgreens Executive Vice President and Global Chief Legal Officer Danielle Gray, Truist Senior Vice President of Life and Financial Planning James “J.K.” Reaves ’93 and Bee’s Sweet Eats Owner Brenda Young. Moderators were:  Amaya Crawford, International Business and Marketing major, Fleming Scholar and Celeste Ramseur, Supply Chain Management major, Fleming Scholar.


As part of BLM at School Week, students, faculty, staff and community members from the Walker College of Business and the Reich College of Education gathered virtually for a Courageous Conversation on February 4, 2021. Featured speakers:  Dr. Olamide Alabi, Assistant Professor of Surgery in the Division of Vascular Surgery & Endovascular Therapy, Emory University; Yohance Christie, JD, City Attorney, City of Lincoln, NE; Jennifer & Timothy Bibb, Authors, One Hundred Facts Every Black Youth Needs to Know;  Brittney Hodges-Bolkovac, Teacher, Dawes Middle School, Lincoln Nebraska; Brandy Smith, JD, AVP, Chief Compliance Officer & Counsel, Lincoln Financial Group


A virtual Courageous Conversations event was held November 5, 2020, featuring a panel discussion centering around the experiences and challenges around religious identities of industry professionals in the workplace. Read the news post | View the photo album

The 4th Annual Courageous Conversations was held on February 6, 2020 in Peacock Hall Room 1015. 


The 3rd Annual Courageous Conversations was held on Thursday, February 20, 2019.  


The 2nd Annual Courageous Conversations was held on Thursday, February 1, 2018. The event featured a panel discussion followed by a reception for participants. This event was one of many activities on Appalachian State University's campus held in conjunction with Black History Month. Courageous Conversations is an initiative of the Walker College's Inclusive Excellence Team (formerly Diversity Advisory Team), and the 2018 event was co-hosted by the Mu Upsilon Chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc. and the Alpha Alpha Rho Chapter of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc. Read the news post | View the photo album


On Thursday, February 2, 2017, business alumni shared their experiences and advice on speaking with colleagues about race and implicit bias in the workplace. The panel was held in the Holland International Engagement Room in Peacock Hall on the campus of Appalachian State University.   A reception followed the panel discussion, hosted by Appalachian's Chapter of the Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity and the Walker College of Business. Read the news post | View the photo album