Chico State Alumni Association

Wildcat Connect Webinar | Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

Diversity Webinar

Webinar Recording

Date: Thursday, February 24, 2022 | 2 p.m. 

Title: Chico State Alumni: A conversation on diversity and the journey from classroom to boardroom.

Description: In this webinar we will talk to a diverse collective of Chico State alumni and hear about what it took for them to go from classroom to boardroom. They will discuss how they overcame challenges, the important role of mentors and advocates, and the role of diversity in leadership.

Panelists: Karen Wilkins-Mickey (Communications, '92); Rick Callender (Industrial Technology, '94); Alexa Benson-Valavains (Journalism, '00)

Moderator: Michelle Morris, Chico State Interim DEI Officer

Karen Mickey

Karen Wilkins-Mickey is the Vice President of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion for the Seattle Seahawks. Wilkins-Mickey (she/her) joined the Seahawks in January 2021 and brings over 20 years of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) leadership experience to the team. In her role, Wilkins-Mickey leads the Seahawks' overall DEI strategy, and acts as a liaison for the team, its senior management group, players and the community to drive strategic DEI initiatives and programs. She also oversees the team's internal DEI Council, represents the team for NFL social justice initiatives, and acts as an internal consultant to department leaders across the team's football and business operations to ensure diversity, equity and inclusion are part of the decision-making process throughout the organization. Prior to the Seahawks, Wilkins-Mickey was Director of Diversity & Inclusion for Alaska Airlines, and has previously held diversity and inclusion leadership roles within Expedia Group and Microsoft. She recently completed the first McKinsey Black Executive Leadership Program and is a founding member of the DEI Community of Practice, which is a growing network of professionals committed to establishing and enhancing diversity, equity and inclusion practices within Seattle-area organizations. She was recently appointed to the Leadership Council for UNCF, which supports a goal of providing every local minority student with the funds they need to support their college education. In 2018 Wilkins-Mickey was honored by the Seattle Mariners as part of African American Heritage Day, where she was recognized for her contributions to the Northwest community.

Rick Callender

Rick Callender currently works as CEO of Santa Clara Valley Water District, where, since July 2020, he has overseen an integrated water resources system that includes the supply of clean and safe water, flood protection, and environmental stewardship of waterways for the district’s 1.9 million residents. In fall 2020, Rick Callender was named president of the California-Hawaii chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). As the chapter’s first new president in 20 years, he’s working to build off the remarkable successes of his predecessor while also bringing new vision and embracing national momentum to confront racism and improve equity. Callender previously worked as a field campaign organizer for the California Democratic Party and is a two-time Congressional Fellow. He completed all coursework for his MPA from San Jose State University, earned his Juris Doctorate from Northwestern California University School of Law, and is a member of the California State Bar. He has also attended and graduated from eight executive leadership programs at different universities throughout the nation.

Alexa Benson Valavanis

Alexa Benson-Valavanis has served as president and CEO of the North Valley Community Foundation (NVCF) since 2005. She was recruited to play basketball at Chico State and graduated in 2000 with her degree in journalism. After graduation, she worked in business development in Shanghai, China before starting an organization supporting nonprofit development in Guatemala. Under her leadership, the NVCF has experienced tremendous growth in clients, services, and revenues of more than $175 million to causes in northern California, the U.S., and all throughout the world.