ROI Influencers: People of Color 2021 — Difference Makers, A-C

Shawn Abner-Purnell
Vice president, diversity, inclusion & engagement
South Jersey Industries

Through career development programs, diversity & inclusion efforts and employee engagement, Abner-Purnell creates a culture of inclusion for all — one where every employee can feel comfortable bringing their best selves to work each day.

Baye Adofo-Wilson
Founder and CEO
BAW Development

Former deputy mayor for development in Newark Mayor Ras Baraka’s administration now specializes in historic preservation projects. He’s overseeing the $94 million renovation of Hinchliffe Stadium in Paterson.

Paul Alexander
Chief equity and transformation officer
RWJBarnabas Health

His role encompasses accountable care organization management, the employee health plan and other resources dedicated to building necessary infrastructure. He also will oversee RWJBH’s Social Impact and Community Investment practice.

Angelica Allen-McMillan
Acting commissioner
N.J. Department of Education

Allen-McMillan not only has been one of the leaders in the state when it comes to getting children back into the classroom, she has been instrumental in expanding education, ensuring universal pre-K for all families.

Leslie Anderson
CEO and president
N.J. Redevelopment Authority

Anderson’s impact will be even greater than it already is on the other side of the pandemic — whenever that will be. It will be even harder for members of underserved communities to get funding for investments. Anderson will make sure they do.

Guillermo Artiles
McCarter & English

He’s a star on the rise — in many areas. Artiles chairs the firm’s Government Affairs Practice and has become a key player in the Hispanic legal and business community. Some feel the former associate counsel for the governor could be in line for a greater public role, too.

Mishael Azam
Vice president of external affairs
UnitedHealth Group

Azam remains a go-to lobbyist on all things related to health care. She has gone from being the first Muslim staffer in the State House to heading government relations in New Jersey and the region for one of the largest insurers in the country.

T. Missy Balmir
Political strategist
Thorough Planning

A former aide to both U.S. Sens. Bob Menendez and Cory Booker, Balmir specializes in developing effective strategies for long-term and short-term planning; data-driven outreach; stakeholder engagement; and advocacy. Considered one of the top forward-thinking operatives in the state.

Alison Banks-Moore
Vice president and chief diversity officer
Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of N.J.

As a highly respected and sought-after thought leader, many view Banks-Moore as the gold standard in the state for conceiving, implementing and monitoring DEI programs to ensure they achieve target goals.


William Best
Senior vice president, Northeast market manager, community development banking
PNC Bank 

A former executive director of the New Jersey Redevelopment Authority, he now champions the bank’s commitment to growth and prosperity for low- to moderate-income segments. Highly sought after, he serves on many boards.

Michelle Bodden
Chief diversity and inclusion officer
N.J. Economic Development Authority

The EDA has overseen dozens of grant programs since the pandemic started. Bodden, among a number of DEI initiatives, has helped ensure they are awarded through an equitable lens.

Wasseem Boraie; Sam Boraie
Boraie Development

The second generation of a great development firm, Wasseem and Sam Boraie continue their father’s legacy of creating visionary communities in New Jersey’s urban centers.

Brian Bridges
N.J. Office of the Secretary of Higher Education

Bridges stepped into the role last November, during a time of unprecedented upheaval and uncertainty. University leaders gave Bridges credit for steadying the situation.

Nicole Brown
General counsel
N.J. Assembly

Well-known and well-respected by legislators and staffers, Brown seamlessly transitioned into general counsel role this past March after 15 years of other top roles in Trenton.

Dale Caldwell
Executive director, Rothman Institute of Innovation and Entrepreneurship
Fairleigh Dickinson University

Heads organization that promotes entrepreneurship. Caldwell is widely respected thought leader on education (New Brunswick board of ed) and tennis (pretty good player). We found the recent mask incident to be more trivial than troubling.

Patricia Campos-Medina
Executive director
Worker Institute at ILR School, Cornell University

A strong advocate for workers’ rights and for Latinas in the state. Campos-Medina recently was honored as the 2021 Civil Rights Champion by the Latino Coalition of New Jersey.

Marlene Caride
N.J. Department of Banking & Insurance

As if being the head of DOBI weren’t a big enough challenge, Caride was recently named one of the co-chairs of the Wealth Disparity Task Force, which will work toward combating longstanding wealth gaps based on race and ethnicity.

Vic Carstarphen
Interim mayor

Hand-picked to fill the expiring term of the former mayor, Carstarphen — a favorite son of the city — has the pedigree needed to lead a city that clearly is headed in right direction.

Ben Chang
Deputy VP, communications
Princeton University

Chang, a former Foreign Service officer for both the George Bush and Barack Obama White Houses, is widely respected leader who uses his voice not only as a spokesperson for Princeton, but on behalf of communities of color, especially the Asian American community. 

Elisa Charters
EAC Business International

Consults on strategic planning for diversity and inclusion, commercial real estate investment and economic development, and capital planning for major infrastructure work. The co-founder of Latina Surge, she was recently named to the board of NJIT.

Tai Cooper
Vice president of policy and communications

Well-respected in both government and business circles, she has become a strong player at the EDA at a time when the organization has been called on more than ever.

Claribel Cortes; Francisco Cortes
Surrogate; Co-founder
Middlesex County; Setroc Group

Power couple: She is the first Latina to be elected to North Brunswick council and serve as county surrogate; he leads a top marketing agency.

Jose Cruz
Senior managing director

One of the hardest-working brokers in the state, few understand real estate as much as he does. Cruz has made sure JLL has stayed ahead of the ever-changing curve throughout the pandemic.

Rose Cuison-Villazor
Interim co-dean
Rutgers Law-Newark

An expert on immigration, citizenship, property law and race and the law, Cuison-Villazor is a nationally regarded scholar and founder of the Rutgers Center for Immigration Law, Policy and Justice.

Monica Curry
Manager, diversity, equity & inclusion
Subaru of America

Extensive experience in performance improvement, transformational change, future of work, executive coaching, facilitation and instructional design, she has been called a “gentle disrupter” for her ability to have tough conversations in a way that influences behavior change.

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