Keynote Address

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Nisha Agarwal

A child of immigrants from India, Ms. Agarwal became a public interest lawyer out of Harvard Law School, leading the Health Justice Program at the New York Lawyers for the Public Interest in 2006. Among other initiatives, she worked for translation services for immigrants seeking health care. She later was the deputy director and co-founder of the Center for Popular Democracy and the executive director of the Immigrant Justice Corps, a legal fellowship begun by Robert A. Katzmann, the chief judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. Agarwal served as Commissioner of the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs since the beginning of the de Blasio Administration, building landmark initiatives like IDNYC, the City’s municipal identification card, and Cities for Action, a national advocacy coalition of local elected officials. For the second term of de Blasio’s administration, Agarwal will take on the role of Senior Advisor to the Deputy Mayor to boost civic engagement among New Yorkers and build DemocracyNYC’s efforts on immigration, disability, and healthcare.


Diversity IS Your Asset

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Stefan A. Kloss


As a leader in ZS Associates’ Value & Access solution area, Stefan develops solutions that enable clients achieve market access for their innovations.

Stefan also currently leads ZS’s New York office on the 51st floor of the Empire State Building.


During his 15 years at ZS, Stefan has advised many large pharmaceutical companies as well as mid to small-sized biotech companies on sales and marketing strategy and implementation.

Although Stefan has been working primarily with US-based pharma clients during recent years, he has also been working on projects in many international markets and is familiar with key pharmaceutical markets in Europe, Asia, and the Americas.

At ZS, Stefan engages with several thought leadership initiatives and supports many ZS project teams globally with his expertise on the global payer environment and with Biosimilars.


Stefan holds a BA, MA in Economics from Cambridge University and an MBA from INSEAD.


Alpa Rajai

Alpa Rajai is a seasoned financial services professional with over 14 years of experience. In her current role, she works on Strategic Initiatives for Financial Control Americas at Barclays. Prior to Barclays, she  worked at PwC, Sapient, and Citi. In her previous roles, she was focused on regulatory initiatives in the capital markets domain mainly Dodd Frank Title 1 and Title 7, MiFID II, FINRA 4210, etc.

She holds a Master of Business Administration in Finance and Entrepreneurship from New York University and a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science and Applied Mathematics / Statistics from Stony Brook University. 

She was born in Mumbai, India and raised by a feminist-but-in-denial family that introduced her to community service early on in life – which is probably why remains passionate about giving back and attaining gender equality. She was the first in her family move abroad to study and, as such, fully understands how the lack of a mentor can negatively impact career trajectory. Hoping to bridge this gap for someone else, she signed up as a mentor for SPEAK.  She eventually joined the board as she saw the value SPEAK provides to the immigrant female population which she closely identifies with. When she is not working or volunteering, she loves to spend quality time and rediscover this beautiful world with her curious little daughter.


Gabrielle Lyse-BRown

Gabrielle Lyse Brown is an Executive Director at Morgan Stanley, where she advises on diversity and inclusion strategy across the Investment Management, Finance, Technology, Operations, Risk Management, and Legal/Compliance divisions. 

 Previously, Gabrielle served as the Executive Director of Diversity and Inclusion for the New York City Bar, where she led the Association’s efforts to enhance diversity in the legal profession across a broad range of internal and external constituents, including law firms, corporate legal departments, nonprofit organizations and educational institutions. In this capacity, Gabrielle spearheaded the Association’s qualitative and quantitative research and developed individualized strategies to increase the retention and advancement of women and minority attorneys. Additionally, she founded the City Bar’s Pipeline Initiative, where she developed comprehensive programming for inner-city students to address academic support and enrichment, professional and substantive skill development, networking/mentoring opportunities and exposure to the legal profession.  

 She is a frequent speaker and trains organizations on data-driven initiatives, implicit bias, professional readiness, mentoring, networking, and developing diversity and inclusion “better practices.” She has spoken at the Practicing Law Institute (PLI), Bloomberg Big Law Diversity Summit, and ALM Legal Week and her work has been featured in publications including the New York Times, New York Law Journal, Bloomberg, Crain’s New York Business and Thomson Reuters. She is a recipient of the Minority Corporate Counsel Association George B. Vashon Innovator Award and the Metropolitan Black Bar Association Presidential Impact on Diversity Award.

 Gabrielle is the co-chair of the Council of Urban Professionals (CUP) Fellows Board and was a 2014 Fellow. She is a member of the Institute for Inclusion in the Legal Profession (IILP) Advisory Board, The National Association for Law Placement (NALP), the Oberlin College Alumni Council and serves on the Executive Board of Directors of Practicing Attorneys for Law Students, Inc. (PALS). Additionally, she serves as a special advisor to the Pipeline to Practice Foundation and as a consultant to the New York Financial Services Diversity Group.


Gunjali Trikha

Gunjali Trikha, Assistant Professor of Marketing, earned an MBA in Marketing and Finance from New York University, Leonard N. Stern School of Business, and a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and Economics from Hollins University. 

Prior to joining Marymount Manhattan College, Gunjali worked at the NYSE for thirteen years, most recently as Director of Corporate Social Responsibility, where she engaged with the world’s largest companies on issues pertaining to women’s leadership, financial capability and environmental sustainability. During her career at the Exchange, Gunjali spent a majority of her time in Marketing as a Product Manager, Customer Relationship Manager and Project Manager for a portfolio of digital services.

At Marymount Manhattan College, Gunjali teaches Marketing, Introduction to Business, Organizational Behavior, Leadership and Advertising. She also teaches Introduction to Corporate Social Responsibility and Women in Business Leadership at NYU.


Jade L. Morrison, Esq., is a West Indian American Attorney who practices law in Brooklyn, New York. She is currently a Staff Attorney at the Transport Workers Union (TWU), Local 100. Jade is a Labor and Employment Attorney. She is admitted to practice law in the State of New York, the Eastern and Southern District of New York and New Jersey. 

She represents Union members at disciplinary arbitration hearings and negotiates Collective Bargaining Agreements on behalf of both private and public sector employees. Jade truly enjoys fighting for the rights of working-class men and women. She is currently the assigned attorney to the Working Women’s Committee of TWU Local 100. As the assigned attorney, Jade provides legal advice in the areas of law that are of particular concern to women in non-traditional work place. Such as their rights under the Family and Medical Leave Act, New York Paid Family Leave and protections under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Pregnancy Discrimination Act, American with Disabilities Act and New York State and City Human Rights Law.  

Prior to her work with the Union, Jade worked for a private firm in Long Island, New York. She started as a law clerk, but was promoted to Associated Attorney and subsequently became a Managing Attorney before her departure. Her practice allowed her to represent clients in the area of Criminal Law, Family Law and Civil Rights. In the area of Civil Rights ligation Jade practiced Plaintiff side litigation in Employment Discrimination matters. Jade handled claims of race, gender, disability and religious discrimination. She was able to litigate matters before administrative bodies such as the New York State Division of Human Rights (NYSDHR) and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), as well as varies in Federal Courts.

During her time in private practice, Jade had the opportunity to engage in criminal defense work. Criminal defense is Jade’s true passion. She entered law school with the hope of becoming a Criminal Defense Attorney. She earned her J.D, cum laude, in 2013 from Widener University School of Law, Delaware Campus. Where she obtained her Juris Doctor degree, certificate in Criminal Law and was awarded the Judge Cullen Ganey Criminal Procedure Award. Such honor is given to the graduating law student who achieved the highest grades in the area of Criminal Law. While in law school, Jade was a member of Widener’s Journal of Law, Economics and Race. As a member of the journal she was elected to the executive board as the External Managing Editor for the 2012/2013 academic year. As External Managing Editor, Jade organized the Journal’s yearly symposium entitled “Diversity in the Legal Profession.” Through this symposium Jade was able to gather members of the legal profession, from diverse cultural backgrounds, to speak about their professional journey and the obstacles they conquered.

She obtained her Bachelor’s degree from the University of Connecticut in 2010, with a major in Political Science and a minor in Sociology. As an undergraduate student, she became a member of Sigma Gamma Rho, Sorority Incorporated, Nu Mu chapter. As a member of her sorority, Jade held several executive board positions and was instrumental in gaining international recognition for her undergraduate chapter.  

Jade was born in Queens, New York but was raised in Trinidad and Tobago. She was raised by her Aunt and Uncle in Mason Hall, Tobago where she attended nursery and primary school. She returned to continue her education in the States at the age of seven. It at this tender stage in life, she started the journey of embracing her West Indian heritage and facing her new American reality.

Students’ Choice Speaker

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Dr. Edmund Adjapong, a native of the Bronx, NY, is an assistant professor in the Education Studies Department at Seton Hall University. Dr. Adjapong is also a faculty fellow at the Institute of Urban and Minority Education at Teachers College, Columbia University and the author of #HipHopEd: The Compilation on Hip-Hop Education Volume 1. Dr. Adjapong holds a Ph.D. and three masters degrees in science education from Teachers College, Columbia University and received a Bachelors of Science in Biochemistry with a minor in Africana Studies from The State University of New York at Plattsburgh.

Dr. Adjapong holds a teacher certification in science secondary education and is a former is a middle school science pedagogue at a New York City public school in The Bronx. He is the co-founder and director of the Science Genius Program, a program that engages urban students in the sciences through Hip-Hop, and the director of The Science Genius Academy, a program that encourages and prepares students to pursue STEM careers while providing mentoring and support. Dr. Adjapong has appeared on media outlets such as Hot 97’s radio station and is a contributing writer for The Good Men Project, where he writes and speaks about issues of race, diversity, social justice and education.

As a graduate student, Dr. Adjapong was heavily involved in the Institute of Urban and Minority Education (IUME) where he served as a Graduate Research Fellow at Teachers College, Columbia University. As a graduate fellow, Dr. Adjapong’s research focused on engaging black boys utilizing multimedia and evaluating educational programs that utilize Hip-Hop as a tool of engagement. 
Edmund believes every student has the ability to learn and does so differently. He also believes that engaging urban youth with media–despite its unconventional method–is an effective way to educate. Edmund enjoys working with and mentoring youth, especially young men of color, as they are our future. His research interest includes issues of class, race, gender, privilege, diversity, youth programming and STEM education


Student Speakers


Cristal davidson - STudent keynote

Cristal Davidson is a 15-year old high school student at American History High School. She moved from Guyana to America with her family five years ago. She served as the Ambassador in the 9th grade for her school as well as the Vice President of the SPEAK Chapter Club.

Joining the SPEAK Mentorship program was something that she was very excited about because she felt this was the right path to her success. With big goals of wanting to be a very successful book editor, she was dedicated to her responsibilities and was very excited to learn. Reading is something that she is passionate about and hopes she can turn her interest into a career.

In order to get closer to her career path, she took on the role of becoming student editor of the SPEAK Mag and will be continuing her journey with SPEAK through the Exploratory Years. Cristal takes advantage of every opportunity she is given and is driven to achieve all of her goals and continue to dream big.


Ayoko Kessouagni - Student Poetry

Ayoko Kessouagni is a junior at American History high school in Newark, New Jersey. She is also a SPEAK Mentorship alumna as well as a former sophomore Ambassador and President of the SPEAK Mentorship Chapter Club at her school.

With a passion for fashion and literature, Ayoko aspires to become a fashion journalist, and wishes to attend either Brown University or New York University.