Woman on a Mission

Ann Gill (M.A., ’76)

Denver native Simone Ross (B.A., ’04; MBA, ’14) has been on a mission most of her personal and professional life. She works passionately to dismantle racist systems and move individuals and organizations to systems and behaviors that are fair to and celebrate all people.

This passion was what attracted her to CSU in the first place. While she was a student at East High School, the University did “a wonderful job” explaining its programs, such as the Black Issues Forum. These efforts to reach out to students of color made her feel that CSU was the university to help her achieve her goals.

Ross and other students of color found CSU and its programs to be “a test ground for life,” giving them tools for “navigating the hard times.” While on campus, she participated in the Key Academic Community, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., Black Student Services, and ASAP, which brought programs to campus. Ross threw herself into creating equity; one example of her focus was the fact that Black sororities and fraternities were termed “nontraditional” and did not have houses like White sororities and fraternities did. Ross also organized diversity exchanges among student groups, including teaching strolls to White and Latino students.

Following graduation, Ross’s first job was as an account manager at Cigna Health Care. She then was recruited to Philadelphia, where she worked in market expansion. Next she was recruited to a California-based startup doing similar work. When she was laid off, she became a volunteer for the Obama campaign. During the Democratic National Convention, held in Denver, she recommitted to creating alignment between her mission work and “work work” going forward. She told herself, “I got Obama a job, now I need to get myself one!”

She was hired as an account executive at Kaiser Permanente, which she describes as a “mission-driven organization.” While there she started the business development department and was chosen to lead it. This occurred while she was working on an MBA at CSU; she did class projects on healthcare reform, finance, and preparation necessary for starting a department. Two years later, she was recruited to Delta Dental as director of business development, starting a dental company for underserved communities. She founded Spring Rock Dental, which she placed in Kaiser offices, bringing her career “full circle.”

When the supportive CEO of Delta retired, Ross left; “it ignited what I do now.” People of color and women face unique challenges in the business world, and she decided to challenge that, diving into her Integrative Change Management consulting firm to help companies “operationalize their big ideas” while becoming more aware and inclusive. She now is founder and CEO of Simone D. Ross Consulting; the website describes its mission as “catalyzing human thriving” and “elevating opportunities for women and people of color.” She helps clients operationalize their businesses and re-acculturate during mergers, acquisitions, and reorganization, among other things. She calls this her “passion work.” She is the founder of SDR Events, which brings inspiring content to audiences and co-founded S+V Partners, a corporate consulting firm that “activates workforce equity through Courageous Allyship.” She also started Youth United University for children going into sixth to eighth grades. In diverse groups, they learn about race as a construct and have in-depth conversations with a goal of dismantling systemic racism.

A statement on her consulting website wonderfully illustrates Ross’s passion: “One of the many things that makes us beautifully human is how we react to life’s challenges.” She is making a difference.