Chamber News

Unlocking Workplace Excellence: Columbus Chamber of Commerce and Workforce Development Board Launch Fourth Next Level DEIA Cohort

January 29th, 2024

In a bold move to champion equity and inclusion in the vibrant and diverse Central Ohio community, the Columbus Chamber of Commerce and the Workforce Development Board of Central Ohio are thrilled to announce the launch of the fourth Next Level DEIA cohort. 

While larger corporations have blazed trails in implementing equity and inclusion strategies, the cost and expertise required often pose challenges for small to mid-sized businesses and non-profit organizations. Addressing this gap head-on, the partnership between the Columbus Chamber of Commerce and the Workforce Development Board of Central Ohio has given rise to the Next Level DEIA program. 

This groundbreaking accelerator program is tailor-made for small to mid-sized business leaders hungry to design and implement customized Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Access (DEIA) strategies. Upon completing the program, participants will gain invaluable insights and earn a certification and digital badge, showcasing their commitment to fostering inclusive workplaces. 

Leading the charge in this transformative journey are Sherrice Sledge-Thomas, Vice President of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Access at the Columbus Chamber of Commerce, and Varsey Laurelle, the visionary owner of Varsey Laurelle, LLC, a Cultural Strategy Firm. Together, they will guide and inspire cohort participants to navigate the challenges and opportunities of DEIA implementation. 

“Next Level DEIA is a game changer,” proclaims Sherrice Sledge-Thomas. “Equity and inclusion should be systemic, not performative. A part of the way an organization conducts business. We’re here to help organizations make that happen.” 

The Next Level DEIA cohort promises to reshape the landscape of inclusive workplaces in Central Ohio. With its strategic guidance, impactful resources, and prestigious certification, this accelerator program is set to catalyze a new era of diversity, equity, and inclusion in the heart of our thriving community. 

The following organizations have been selected to participate in the fourth cohort.  

Congratulations to the organizations that have chosen to participate in the fourth Next Level DEIA cohort. The skills gained through this training are essential to recruiting and retaining diversified talent. When companies celebrate differences, employees can reach their full potential, improving the business’s culture and resulting in better performance

Windy L Murphy, Associate Director of Business Solutions, The Workforce Development Board of Central Ohio 

Diversified Systems is honored to be a part of this program. Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Access is not just a phrase for our organization but serves as a guide to our approach to managing our greatest asset, our clients and associates.  It influences the way in which we think about and utilize our organizational talent.   As we collaborate with others during this cohort, we look forward to sharing our experiences and learning how to move our organization forward to next-level DEIA practices.    

LaVerne Fudge-Williamson, VP of Business Operations, Diversified Systems 

To be a part of this cohort is incredibly exciting for our team and the work that we do at ECDI. Our resources and programs, including the Minority Contractor Resource Center (MCRC), is all about breaking barriers. MCRC provides coaching, capital and connections to minority-owned construction companies. It started with our own headquarter renovation (which was led by a woman-owned construction company) as we pledged to use at least 50% minority contractors on the project. Working with the Chamber of Commerce is an incredible opportunity; being a part of this Next Level DEIA cohort will only strengthen our existing lens and bolster our mission. 

Carlos Mendez, MCRC Program Manager, ECDI 

We are thrilled to support our Vice-President of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion, Yvonne Cherell participating in the 4th Next Level DEAI Cohort on behalf of NAWBO Columbus. It is an amazing opportunity for our organization, and it takes a strong leader, such as Yvonne, to pursue continuing development for the betterment of our sisterhood.  We appreciate our partnership with The Columbus Chamber of Commerce and thoroughly appreciate all your genuine efforts and the impact you have made on behalf of women business owners in Central Ohio. 

K. Zulene Adams, President, NAWBO Columbus 

For more information about the program, please contact us.

The Columbus Chamber of Commerce
Sherrice Thomas, Vice President, Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Access
Phone: (614) 496-1143

The Workforce Development Board of Central Ohio
Windy Murphy, Director, Business Services
Phone: (614) 559-6051


About The Columbus Chamber of Commerce

The Columbus Chamber of Commerce is a mission-driven nonprofit organization serving more than 2,300 organizations throughout the Columbus Region. The Columbus Chamber, founded in 1884, is committed to advancing a thriving business community and provides support in the areas of research, government affairs, marketing, diversity, equity, inclusion and access, education, and talent and workforce development.

About the Workforce Development Board of Central Ohio

The Workforce Development Board of Central Ohio (WDBCO) is a Non-Profit Organization that plays a leadership role in regional workforce initiatives. Our mission is to partner with area businesses and community organizations on workforce needs so that people are fully employed at their ability and potential in the thriving Central Ohio economy. WDBCO is also the fiscal agent and strategic leader of the local OhioMeansJobs Columbus-Franklin County Job Center, located at 1111 East Broad Street inside the Jerry Hammond Building.