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Jessica Pettitt, M.Ed., pulls together her stand up comedy years with 15+ years of diversity trainings in a wide range of organizations to serve groups to move from abstract fears to actionable habits that lead to teams that want to work together. With a sense of belonging and understanding, colleagues take more risks with their ideation, converse precious resources through collaboration, and maintain real connections with clients over time.
It is through Jessica’s work in Student Affairs, as a college administrator, in South Carolina, Oregon, New York, and Arizona that she realized her love for the conversations across difference. As an Social Justice Training Institute Alumna, Returned Peace Corps Volunteer, and a Certified Speaking Professional, Jessica has taken the typical diversity talks to the next level of social justice conversations examining privilege, oppression, entitlement, and our collective responsibility to make change while connecting difficult topics with employee retention, crisis management, and increasing innovation and profits.
Referred to as the “Margaret Cho” of Diversity Trainers, Jessica blends politics, humor, identity, and local flair with big city passion and energy through direct, individualized, and interactive conversations. Her workshops, seminars, and keynotes don’t just leave participants invigorated but inspired and motivated to follow through with action to create change. Having traveled and lived in a variety of communities and environments all over the world, while also engaging with education as student, teacher, administrator, and active community member, Jessica uses her take on life to lead participants through a safe but confrontational process of examination, self reflection, and open dialog that is as challenging as it is rewarding.
Responses to Jessica’s programs are overwhelmingly positive and include comments such as, comments ranging from, “This was awful – I never had to think so hard while laughing!” to “I can’t believe my boss brought, her – thanks for actually treating us like adults,” to “She answered all of my questions knowledgeably and without making me feel dumb for asking.”
With her attention now turning to larger associations and corporate leadership, Jessica is pulling from the past 15 years of direct experience to lead teams to try instead of avoiding a stretch. It is in this trying that clients uncover a deeper sense of belonging, resourceful collaboration opportunities, and reignite their creativity and innovative ideation. Learning, feeling, and being Good Enough Now allows for teams to do the best they can with what they have and persist long into the future no matter the crisis, topic, or challenge.
Graduating from the University of South Carolina with an M.Ed in Higher Education Administration with an emphasis in Crisis Management, Jessica pulls together lessons from teaching History and English in the classroom as well as those from the stand up comedy stages of New York City to bring real and actionable results to meeting rooms and board tables. She is well published, including multiple DVD and online training courses, curriculum guides, and a book that makes the abstract actionable.

Jessica’s Programs

Unconscious bias Conversations That Matter
Learning Outcomes:
1) Learn a 3 part framework or model for taking responsibility of how they show up.
2) Develop skills for a significant and powerful (and free) method to change culture around difficult topics and see other’s as differently right.
3) Utilize personal patterns to recognize them in others so we can leave room for edits in our stories.
4) Personally recognize our “kryptonite” and how habitually it limits our behaviors, responses, and beliefs as well as fuels us to build momentum when we need it the most.
Let’s face it, there are people and topics that at some point are just off limits. You just can’t do it or them right now. Even worse, often it is a difficult topic that you have to bring up with a difficult person. What if you could engage in these conversations with more confidence, humor, and ease? No matter the person or topic, you are your best tool for conversations that matter. Understanding your self and others as differently right gives you the tools to intentionally design teams, groups, and partnerships that can bring value to a single project or topic. We are all frustrating to someone, and at times even to ourselves. Once you know who and how you are, you can reclaim responsibility for these behavior response patterns and leave room for others to do the same. Before you know it, you are having better conversations and fuller relationships with those around you. I promise – it is that easy.
Social Justice: Step One – Knowing What You Don’t Know – 60 minute keynote
Learning Outcomes:
• Feel welcomed to a conversation about the unknown
• Understand the difference between social justice and diversity
• Review real life stories, share and reflect on own experiences
• Learn how to listen and leave some wiggle room in difficult conversations with others
Health care access, serving students, and working within our community is incredibly important work. To best do this work, we need to know who we are, what we bring to the table, and what we don’t know. Join in for a lively conversation to uncover what we don’t know, and how step one is asking the right questions of ourselves and listening to others.
Facing Trans: Education, Advocacy, and Inclusion
Learning Outcomes:
• Increase awareness of the existent of the trans/gender variant populations
• Transfer this knowledge to proactively identify campus actions steps
• Create more corporate leadership advocates for trans needs
• Elevate your organization as a leader in serving trans populations As a participant in this workshop, you will benefit from:
• Professional Development and on-going education about diverse population in the work place
• Hands on resources to take back to your office to be more inclusive for trans/gender variant colleagues
• Personal education and training to raise awareness of trans issues
• Safe space to asks questions, check assumptions, and learn about this invisible population
Introduction, brief of the program: As we become comfortable with the Lesbian and Gay plight in the workplace, we continue to overlook Bisexuals and silence Transgender populations. Trans folks are courageously coming forward and identifying as such more and more often. This workshop reviews language and quickly develops a strategic plan to provide a safe and supportive climate for all and to prepare participants to become better advocates for the trans community. Be a leader by identifying the needs, including invisible populations, advocate effectively for trans people, and empower all community members to take action. Currently fewer Fortune 500 companies protect transgender students, faculty, staff, alumni, and visitors in their non-discrimination policies, yet more and more people are coming forward with trans or gender variant identities that directly challenge existing policies, procedures, and services. Recognizing the Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual community is still a struggle in the workplace. The transgender community needs in regards to policies, procedures, housing, bathrooms, etc., is the next frontier. We will discuss terminology, benchmark practices, and demographic information impacting colleagues and clients served and leave with tangible resources to start conversations on their home campus.


Just Rescue
Learning Outcomes:
• To identify default decision-making processes with regards to logical, relational, creative, and emotional connection.
• To recognize and challenge three stereotypes or assumptions they hold about others
• To identify three stereotypes/assumptions participants have about others
• To name one to three intersecting visible/invisible identities
Who has the power to choose who lives or dies? Who writes the moral code we live by? Who “unwrites” this code? Even with limited information, we are socialized to make quick decisions about another person. This directly relates to how we work with, talk to, and support other people. When given an opportunity to examine “back stories” and assumptions, participants learn the positives and negatives of stereotypes. Participants can use this knowledge to make informed decisions in the future.
Sticks and Stones: LGBT 101

Learning Outcomes:
• To articulate their own stereotypes, derogatory terms, and other assumptions for lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, and heterosexual people
• To identify others’ stereotypes, derogatory terms, and other assumptions for lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, and heterosexual people
• To recognize the U.S. cultural need for binaries when examining sexual identities and gender identities

What better way to learn about sexual identities than to list out social norms, stereotypes, media images, rumors, jokes, and slang! This is a safe space for any and all kinds of interactive discussions regarding Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender,
and Heterosexual identities. By then comparing themes of these messages learned for these different groups, we can then have a much deeper conversation about class, race, educational access, citizenship, ability assumptions, etc. By understanding our language we can hold ourselves accountable to building an inclusive environment for all (regardless of sexual identity).