Conversations That Matter

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Advancing Cultural Intelligence Within Our Industry
Thursday, August 27 | 1:30 p.m. – 2:30 p.m. ET

Join the SHFM family as we elevate critical topics during our Conversations That Matter webinar series. The sessions are designed to provide critical context on timely issues including diversity and inclusion topics to encourage frank, solution-focused dialogue. In this second installment of the series, hospitality diversity & inclusion executives discuss how they and their organizations are addressing the profound impact of the recent civic unrest and the anti-racism movement in America. Gerry Fernandez, President of Multicultural Foodservice & Hospitality Alliance, will host an engaging discussion on how you can be part of the change with empathy, purpose and bold action.


Gerald “Gerry” A. Fernandez (MODERATOR)
President and Founder, Multicultural Foodservice & Hospitality Alliance (MFHA)
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Nearly everyone who knows Gerry Fernandez and the work that he does for The Multicultural Foodservice & Hospitality Alliance (MFHA), describes him as a man of vision, dedication and passion. As President and Founder of MFHA, an educational non-profit organization that makes the business case for developing cultural intelligence in the workplace, Gerry has been recognized over the years for his work in educating members on, and advocating for and connecting people to the business benefits of diversity and inclusion in the restaurant, foodservice and lodging industry.

An engagingly energetic speaker who practices “straight talk”, bringing authentic perspectives on how building Cultural Intelligence raises the topline, improves the bottom- line and builds cultural authenticity into the brand. Gerry holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Foodservice Management from Johnson & Wales University, where he also earned a Culinary Arts degree, and an honorary doctorate in Business Administration.

Monroe France
Associate Vice President, Global Engagement and Inclusive Leadership, New York University

Monroe France is responsible for enhancing inclusion, diversity, belonging and equity opportunities and resources for NYU community members—including students, researchers, faculty, staff and administrators—throughout the University’s global network. Prior to this position, he was the associate vice president for student affairs and diversity initiatives at NYU. Monroe has more than two decades of global experience as an educator, strategist, consultant, trainer and presenter in the areas of inclusive and innovative leadership, transformation and human rights. He is an adjunct professor at the NYU Silver School of Social Work and the NYU Steinhardt School of Culture, Education and Communication’s Higher Education and Student Affairs program. 
Rodney Ruffin
Vice President, Business Development, Thompson Hospitality

In his current role at Thompson Hospitality, the Nation’s largest minority-owned food service company and the 10th largest overall, he is responsible for acquiring business in Thompson Hospitality’s Joint Venture division, as well as contract negotiation, client retention and supplier diversity utilization. Prior to that, he spent 7 years with Amtrak as Sr. Director of External Affairs, where he was responsible for both the Supplier Diversity program and for Corporate Diversity partnerships and outreach. Additionally, Rodney practiced law in the commercial litigation sections and served for 4 years as an Administrative Law Judge. Ruffin holds a B.A. in English from Hampden-Sydney College, as well as a J.D. from the University of Virginia School of Law.
Merary Simeon
Vice President, Diversity and Engagement, PepsiCo
LinkedIn | Instagram | Website

Merary Simeon is a proven Human Resources Executive with more than 20 years of experience working for various Fortune 100 companies. Her diverse experiences have equipped her with a deep understanding of the needs and opportunities critical to leaders and associates alike at all levels. Merary's leadership expertise includes diversity & inclusion, talent management, leadership consulting, culture change, executive coaching and public speaking. Additionally, she is a co-founder of the Color Forward podcast. Merary is currently pursuing her doctorate in strategic leadership at Regent University. She has a master’s degree in Human Resources from Fordham University and a bachelor’s degree from the College of Saint Elizabeth. 

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