DEI Alliance announces inaugural summit

Conference to focus on DEI’s positive economic impact on region

TRI-CITIES, Tenn./Va. — The Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Alliance of Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia (the DEI Alliance) announced plans today for a major regional summit to focus on the economic and social impact of DEI principles and practices on Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia.

The “DEI Alliance Summit 2022: A Regional Call to Action” will be held Thursday, May 5, 2022, from 8 a.m. to 12:45 p.m. at the MeadowView Marriott Conference Resort & Convention Center in Kingsport.

The event top tier sponsors (Alliance Partners) are Eastman and BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee. Other sponsors include Tennessee Valley Authority, First Horizon Foundation, Emory & Henry College, Nuclear Fuel Services, Bank of Tennessee, Northeast Tennessee Regional Economic Partnership (NeTREP), and NETWORKS.

“Diversity, equity, and inclusion are critical pillars to economic growth and sustainability for our communities and region,” said Dr. Katherine Barteck, DEI Board member and chair of the DEI Alliance Summit. “Our community and its leaders must come together to forge a welcoming and inclusive environment where all are invited to thrive and experience true belonging. The Summit is literally a ‘Call
to Action,’ an invitation to co-create meaningful change for the prosperity of our region.”

“We know that for real change to take place, we must look within to see how we can better serve our communities,” said BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee CEO JD Hickey. “BlueCross is committed to advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion to create a workforce that’s representative of our members – and allows us to serve them more effectively. And beyond our walls, we’re working with organizations
like DEI Alliance to promote inclusion to improve the lives of all Tennesseans.”

“I believe it’s very important – to Eastman and to other companies – as we seek to recruit and retain strong talent for our businesses,” said Eryn O’Brien, Eastman’s vice president for Global Talent and Inclusion. “Real progress comes from engaging each other with respect, empathy and kindness, and creating opportunities for meaningful dialogue, which is paramount to breaking down barriers and
creating greater inclusion. I believe this is how the DEI Alliance can contribute to growth in our region.”

“Understanding DEI and what it means creates a change in how we perceive ourselves, which leads to a change in how others perceive us,” Dagenhart commented. “The DEI Alliance’s goal is to help our region become known as a place where everyone and anyone is safe and welcome to live, work and play. For our communities to prosper, we must reverse some negative trends – where deaths outnumber
births and departures exceed arrivals. We must do a better job of attracting and retaining the best talent. This Summit is an important first step in getting us to that point.”

Keynote speakers for the event include Dr. Nika White, president and CEO of Nika White Consulting, Natalie Overton, senior manager of DEI for Better Mortgage, and Tyler Engle, a local economic development official.

Goals for the Summit include:

  • identifying compelling regional trends that drive the urgency DEI
  • learning about experiences of similar communities and regions
    identifying barriers to change and DEI progress
    learning about DEI best practices
    providing resources and next steps to start or expand upon DEI journeys.

The Summit is primarily geared for the following audiences: corporate executives, human resource professionals, non-profit leaders, healthcare executives, education professionals and community stakeholders.

To register for the DEI Alliance Summit or to get more information, please visit

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Alliance of Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia (the DEI Alliance)

The Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Alliance of Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia (the DEI Alliance) was formed in 2021 and reaches across Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia. Established as a non-profit, its purpose is to advocate for the principles and support the practice of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) so the region can retain and attract a more diverse demographic of people who to want to live, work and play in Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia.

The DEI Alliance is a registered 501c3 non-profit organization serving eight counties of Northeast Tennessee (Washington, Carter, Sullivan, Unicoi, Hawkins, Greene, Hancock and Johnson), and four counties of Southwest Virginia (Lee, Scott, Washington and Wise).

For more information on the DEI Alliance, visit or contact Chris Dagenhart (423-967-1412), Adam Dickson (423-676-5547), or Michelle Black (423-833-7714)

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