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38th Annual Conference Presenters
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Captain George Dom

Captain George Dom is a former naval officer and aviator. His career encompassed key leadership positions in high performance organizations, including four aircraft carrier fighter squadrons and command of the air wing on the USS John F. Kennedy. He was an instructor pilot at the Navy Fighter Weapons School (Topgun) and served as commanding officer and flight leader of the Blue Angels. After “graduating” from the Navy, he became a business aviation consultant to Fortune 500 corporations, private companies and high net-worth individuals.

Flying fighter jets in training and combat, in the unforgiving environment of an aircraft carrier at sea, as well as high-speed and very low altitude formation acrobatics, was a unique thrill and privilege for George. However, what gave him the greatest lasting satisfaction was “building” high performance leaders and teams. For an organization like the Navy, there is no such thing as “lateral entry”. They can’t hire a squadron commander from the business world, so leadership development is not only the key to success, but crucial to survival.

Achieving individual and collective high performance requires High-Trust Leadership and Full Engagement. This is true in sports, the military, medical teams, and in the business world today. Through daily, deliberate and focused effort, a culture of high-trust and fully engaged “wingmen” can be developed at all levels. This results in a “force-multiplier” with results exponentially greater than the sum of the ingredients.

George’s passion continues as he builds high performance leaders and teams across America. He helps business leaders improve their individual and organizational effectiveness by building High-Trust Leadership and Full Engagement by all hands. George shares the science-based method for developing Full Engagement. He helps audience members acquire the ability to intentionally invest their full and best energy–right here, right now.

Dr. AnnMarie Thomas

Dr. AnnMarie Thomas is an associate professor at the University of St. Thomas in both the College of Business and School of Engineering. Her work- at the intersection of technology, creativity, and play- focuses on developing new ways to look at challenge so as to lead to innovative solutions. She is the director of the Playful Learning Lab, where she leads a team looking at the playful side of engineering.

She was the founding executive director of the Maker Education Initiative non-profit, and is the author of the book “Making Makers: Kids, Tools, and the Future of Innovation.” 

Dr. Thomas has collaborated with a variety of organizations and companies ranging from Disney to the Alinea Restaurant Group. She has a PhD from Caltech in Mechanical Engineering, and an SB from MIT in Ocean Engineering.


Shawna Suckow, CMP

Shawna Suckow, CMP, was a million-dollar buyer in the hospitality industry for over 20 years. In 2008 she founded an association of B2B buyers, which now has over 3,000 members across North America. She began studying buyer behavior in earnest in 2009, and speaking to audiences of salespeople who were frustrated with the shifting marketplace and the influences of technology. She wrote her first book on the subject in 2012. Her third book is called Don’t Become Extinct – Join the Sales Evolution.

She now travels the globe helping salespeople and businesses to understand the ever-evolving buyer landscape.

Honors include being named to the Global Top 100 Women Business & Tech Speakers, Planners' Favorite Speakers lists of 2014 and 2015, and Top 8 Speakers of 2013 (along with James Earl Jones!). Shawna lives in Minnesota with her husband, two teenagers, and two really big dogs.

Kim Becking

Kim Becking is a nationally recognized and sought after author, motivational speaker and life coach. She is a “recovering” attorney, a successful business owner, a community activist, a patient advocate, a published author and speaker and more importantly a “survivor” who provides messages of hope, inspiration and humor and encourages people to find their voice and use life’s stumbling blocks to rebuild their own lives. Kim believes life’s inevitable challenges are an opportunity to pause and reinvent ourselves – not only surviving, but thriving.

In 2002, at the age of 30, while planning her son’s second birthday, Kim was diagnosed with breast cancer. She fought it and with her friends and co-authors, wrote a book, Nordie’s at Noon, about the experience. Twelve years later, she is now cancer free. Kim is now on a mission to empower others to be proactive with their health, their life and their future. She is a nationally recognized patient advocate and cancer survivor and has been honored by SELF and Lifetime Television for her tireless commitment to breast cancer awareness.

Kim’s book, “Nordie’s at Noon- the Personal Stories of Four Women “Too Young” for Breast Cancer,” has received national acclaim and been featured in publications such as People, SELF, and The New York Times. She is the recipient of the Natalie Davis Spingarn Writer’s Award by the National Coalition of Cancer Survivorship, the Shining Star of Perseverance by the Will Return Council, and the “You Make a Difference Award” from the Susan G. Komen for the Cure - Greater Kansas City Affiliate, among others.

Kim “gets” challenge. She understands the need to reframe and reclaim herself when life tosses her a curve ball. Her challenges have been faced by many of us. Fortunately, as an author and speaker, Kim has a passion to tell her story and share the tools she used to not only survive, but thrive. It’s a story she can tell through many chapters: her battle with cancer, the demands of owning her own business, patient advocacy, the balance of being a working mother, the unexpected challenges of marriage, family and divorce, having a second chance at love, remarrying a widower with two small children, and adjusting to a fabulous new life in a blended household as Kim Becking – mom of three, party of five.

Kim graduated with honors from Missouri State University with a Bachelor of Science degree in marketing and received her Juris Doctorate with honors from the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law. Kim currently resides in Columbia, Missouri with her husband, Jason, and her three children, Brandon (15), Adelaide (12) and Jack (9). She continues to make every day count – looking forward and living life.

Officer Christopher Fonseca (CET)

Officer Fonseca started with the University of Minnesota Police Department in 2013.  He is currently a member of the Community Engagement Team and a Firearm’s Instructor.  Before coming to the University of Minnesota he was a Deputy Sherriff with Hennepin County where he worked in numerous units including SWAT.  He has been in law enforcement since 2007.   

Sgt. James Nystrom (CET)

Sgt. Nystrom has been with the University of Minnesota Police Department and is a 30-year veteran of law enforcement.  He currently supervises the UMPD Community Engagement Team (CET).  Sgt. Nystrom is a certified Active Shooter Response instructor for law enforcement and has been involved in teaching personal safety to officers and the public for more than 20 years.


Jeffrey Arnold, MAM, CAE

In addition to his role as President of Leading Associations, Jeff is a skilled trainer, facilitator and governance consultant, and serves as Executive Director for two clients, the North American Transportation Management Institute (NATMI) and The Sales Association.

NATMI is an international professional association of trucking industry management professionals. Leading Associations is responsible for the entirety of NATMI’s operations, as well as those of The Sales Association, a national association for sales and business development professionals.

Jeff was the lead facilitator and developed the majority of the curriculum for “Association Management Express,” a six-week professional development program for association executives offered through the Colorado Society of Association Executives (CSAE), which focused on strategic leadership and management and preparing executives for the Certified Association Executive (CAE) exam.  Subsequently, he developed and now facilitates governance and leadership training programs for association boards of directors, titled “Building a World-Class Board,” “World Class Governance” and “Strategic Leadership.”

Jeff earned a Masters in Association Management (MAM) from The George Washington University in Washington, DC, and a Bachelors of Science in journalism from the University of Colorado at Boulder.  He also holds the Certified Association Executive (CAE) credential from the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE). He is past President of the Colorado Society of Association Executives (CSAE).  Jeff also serves as an officer on the national Board of Directors for the Theta Xi Fraternity and on the Board of Directors of the Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI).



Joe Criscuoli

Joe Criscuoli is a highly successful self-starter, rainmaker and change agent. He is a sales and marketing professional with a proven record in business development, innovative sales management, marketing, public relations, fundraising, and corporate communications resulting in original, award-winning promotional programs in numerous categories including: sales, public relations, newsletters, videos and other media publications, business communications, and website design. A leader by example, Joe helps others to develop and achieve their professional and personal goals. On February 10, 2014, after thirty-one years of employment in positions of ever-increasing responsibility in the private sector, involved in marketing, public relations, communications and business development, Joe began working for the Conferences & Visitor Services department at the University of Maryland, College Park. Prior to this date, he had no experience with conferences, events, and/or employment within higher education. However, and despite a significant learning curve and a not inconsequential culture change, he has had a tremendous impact on the department, university, and industry. He has personally brought over $2.8 million in new business to the university, created an additional $500K in returning business, expertly managed the marketing, communications, and outreach efforts of his department, and also has found time to share his expertise with his ACCED-I colleagues.



Kim Araya

Kim Araya is the Director of University Conference & Guest Services at American University in Washington, DC.  Prior to her coming to American University in January of 2014, her previous position for 10.5 yrs was the Director of Conference & Event Services at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities in Minneapolis-Saint Paul, Minnesota.  She was instrumental in getting the ONE STOP-SHOP concept set-up on the Uof MN campus.  She currently opened AU’s  new conference center in the Summer of 2017. Kim is currently serving as a board member for ACCED-I and has served  two years as the Region 5 Director and has served on various committees of ACCED-I since 2005.  She works closely with colleagues in various Convention and Visitors Bureaus, area hotels as well as other Universities in the DC/MD area  to help market the surrounding cities as well as her University.

Mary Kay Baker

Mary Kay Baker is the Director of Conference Services at Lehigh University, where she has worked for 31 years.  Initially serving as the Director of Residence Life for 10 years, she has been in her role as the Director of Conference Services since 1996.  Mary Kay’s current role includes overseeing the recently renovated Iacocca Conference Center, assisting with the planning and execution of both internal and external events, overseeing the summer camp and conference program, and budget and financial management for her area. 

May Kay was the Chair of the Nominations and Recognition Action Team from 2009-2014 and is currently a board member for ACCED-I.  She will assume the President-Elect position at the close of the 28th annual conference.  Mary Kay received her CCEP designation in March 2015.


Jeffrey Barta


Jeffrey Barta, a native of the Boston area, graduated from Florida State University with Dual Bachelor of Science Degrees in Marketing Communications and Multi-National Business Operations.  Upon graduating he obtained a job in the hospitality industry working for Ritz-Carlton Hotels.  His career brought him to several different areas and to his current location in Philadelphia.  After leaving the Ritz-Carlton, Jeff took a job with the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School. 

After several years of service, Jeff was invited to help establish a Conference Services Department at the University in 1999.  Jeff took on the job as Director of Sales and Marketing of Conference Services and worked to bring the department to where it is today.

Jeff served as ACCED-I Regional Director from 2007-2009 and is thrilled to be presenting at this year’s ACCED-I Annual Conference. 


Nicole Braatz

Nicole Braatz is currently the Sales and Marketing Manager for Housing and Ancillary Services at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, Canada. Prior to Queen’s University, Nicole spent 25 years with Canada’s national airline, Air Canada as a Regional Sales Manager.  When she is not working,  Nicole loves to travel, shop and maybe enjoy a little wine!

Taylor Church

Taylor Church works at the University Student Center at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg as the Event Operations Manager. He began working at USF in 2014 and works closely with student organizations and University departments to plan and execute events while overseeing the daily operations of over 3,000 events per year. Taylor is also the Interim Coordinator for the Office of Leadership and Student Organizations and has previously worked at the Tampa Convention Center within their Exhibit Services Department. Before working for the University of South Florida, he graduated from USF with his Bachelor's in Business Management and is currently finishing up his Master's in Business Administration. 

Tammi Clanton, CCEP

Tammi K. Clanton, CCEP, is the Director of Alumni Relations for Schreiner University in Kerrville, Texas. Tammi has been on staff with the university since 2005, with a background in the hotel industry and large festival planning. Tammi served as the Director of Auxiliary Services for 12 years for Schreiner before transitioning to alumni relations in 2017.  Tammi has a BA in Psychology from Schreiner and is completing her MBA in Ethical Leadership from Schreiner and will graduate in May. 

Tammi has been a member of ACCED-I since 2005 and has presented at both national and regional ACCED-I conferences and is a current board member.  

Carrie Cloud

Carrie Cloud has worked for over 10 years as the Director of Programs and Events for the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences at the University of California, Davis. Carrie is responsible for developing and managing programs and events geared to engage the college’s key audiences. She is responsible for creative planning and achieving goals of fostering relationships through events and programs. She manages large scale annual events as well as programs that serve to heighten the profile of the college. Prior to her position at UC Davis, she worked for PCBC, The Premier Building Show, an annual trade show held in San Francisco.

Heather Cockrum

Heather Cockrum is a native East Tennessean who has coordinated special events at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, for twelve years. In her current role as the executive assistant to the Provost and Senior Vice Chancellor, she oversees events for faculty, academic administrators, and VIP guests. In 2012, she decided to chip away at the silos she saw hindering communication between event/meeting planners across campus, and initiated a luncheon to offer space for conversation. Six years later, the group continues to grow in size and build upon the strength of its network, meeting four times a year for lunch ’n learns and idea swaps. Challenged by two takeaways she received at last year’s ACCED-I annual conference to “be the indispensable resource on campus” related to events and “take on more than your job description,” Heather created and now instructs two courses related to event planning, which are offered each semester to campus staff through the university’s Office of Employee and Organizational Development.


Heather has a Master of Arts degree in English from the University of Tennessee.

Kendra Courson

Kendra Courson is the Director of Special Events for the College of ACES (Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences) at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.  Kendra has been with the College for 7 years.  Her previous position for almost 9 years was as the Director of Conferences & Special Events within University Housing.  Kendra’s current position not only includes planning special events such as investitures, farm trade shows and campus wide events with the Chancellor’s office and President’s house, she also manages the conference center within the College’s 6 story library.   Kendra’s 19 years with the University also includes a stint as an Assistant Director of Recruitment and Admissions.

Andy Dang

Andy Dang is the Conference & Events Planner with the University of South Florida St. Petersburg’s University Student Center.  Andy got his start in event planning in 2009 working at a 1,500 capacity music venue in Western North Carolina on Appalachian State University’s campus called Legends, staffing hospitality operations for hundreds of local, regional, and national touring musicians a year.  At Appalachian State, Andy enrolled in a graduate program that paved way to planning University Orientation events, marketing & advertising for conferences, and interned at NC State University’s Talley Student Union learning about event operations through an administration that managed 4 student event centers.  In his role at USF St. Petersburg, he combines his years of experience as an event planner and former bartender/server and is the point of contact for all external guest event space sales (ranging from lecturers, banquets, exhibits, political rallies, etc) from the point of inquiry, contract negotiation & development, venue event logistics, invoicing, and customer service assessment.  Additionally, he also assists assigned campus departments with their event logistics.  Andy enjoys any music-related events on his when he isn’t planning events with USF St. Petersburg, volunteering for festivals such as the Tampa Bay Blues Fest, Merlefest Bluegrass Festival, Gasparilla Music Festival, etc

He graduated from Appalachian State University with a Bachelor of Science in Political Science, a Master of Arts in Higher Education Administration, holds a Business Foundations Graduate Certificate from the University of South Florida and will be enrolled in the USF MBA program starting in 2018. 

Brian Denton

Brian is the Assistant Director for Operations at the Duke University Talent Identification Program.  He is in his 13th year with Duke TIP – but in his 27th year at Duke – having also worked in Student Activities and Facilities as well as Undergraduate Admissions.

Among their other duties, Brian and Matthew Philbrook (co-presenter) organize the logistics and contracts for 13 of the 24 Duke TIP summer program sites – most of which occur on college campuses located in ACCED-I region 2.  As you have read in the description for this session, Duke TIP’s individual programs have varied formats and a wide range of participants, but they are all resource heavy, residential programs.  As conference “customers,” Brian and Matthew work with a wide spectrum of Conference and Event Services Offices, and they are here today to discuss the different kinds of partnerships they forge, to share their experiences as “clients”, and to generate some discussion about how to foster successful relationships with your clients.

Sean Ducey

Sean Ducey is an Associate Director of University Events at the University of Portland in Portland, OR. He oversees the EMS system on campus through managing upgrades, approving events and keeping the University’s public calendar up to date. He also works on several University signature events as well as manages the operations of Summer Conferences. Originally, from San Diego, CA he received a Bachelor of Science from the University of Portland and decided to stay in Portland after graduation.

Robert Elliott

Robert Elliott is a Conference Coordinator who partners with companies, individuals and members of the Purdue University community to conceptualize and bring to fruition events of all sizes both on and off of Purdue’s West Lafayette campus. Nearing a decade of work in the hospitality industry, Robert’s background includes catering management, restaurant management, and hotel sales experience. Robert has supported and planned events ranging from a 30 person working lunch to a 2,700+ attendee multi-day conference and everything in between.

Robert holds a Bachelor of Science in Hospitality and Tourism Management from Purdue University.

Brad Feihoefer

Brad Freihoefer (they/them/theirs) is the Director of the Center for LGBTQIA+ Student Success at Iowa State University. During this time, they served as the lead staff coordinator for the 20th Annual Midwest Bisexual Lesbian Gay Transgender Ally College Conference (MBLGTACC), the largest student-run LGBTQIA+ college conference in the country. Prior to this time, Brad served as a sexual violence crisis response advocate, LGBTQIA+ community organizer, and event planner. They received their Bachelor of Science in Women’s Studies (now Gender & Women’s Studies) from Minnesota State University, Mankato. Brad also has a passion for story-telling, philosophy, and photography. @BFreihoefer

Sarah Goodrich, CCEP

Sarah Goodrich, CCEP,  is the Director of Conference Services at East Stroudsburg University of Pennsylvania, where she has worked for 18 years.   She is responsible for all  external groups that utilize the campus during the school year and the summer.  Her office is also responsible for scheduling space on campus and works closely with internal sports camps and community service programs.   Sarah has been part of the CCEP action team since 2005 and is currently completing her term as Action Team Chair.    Sarah has been an ACCED-I Member since 2000 and has served on different committees and action teams as well as a regional leader. 

Emily Guetzoian

Emily Guetzoian is the Marketing & Conference Analyst for Housing & Residential Education at California State University Channel Islands. She has five years of experience in residential conference services, and seven years of experience supervising student assistants. She is currently pursuing an Ed.D in Educational Leadership from Fresno State University.

Perry Hacker, CMP

Perry Hacker is the Director of The University Guest House and Conference Services at The University of Utah where he has worked for 18 years.  Perry’s current role includes overseeing the management of the University Guest House and Conference Center, University of Utah Conference and Event Management which plans and executes both internal and external conferences and events, overseeing the summer camp and conference program, and budget and financial management. Perry also teaches Customer Service seminars for the University of Utah.

Perry Hacker has his CMP designation since 2006 and has been in the hospitality field since 1985.

Elaine Hanke

Elaine Hanke is a fifteen-year event and conference professional and an eleven-year member of ACCED-I.  She has been the Director of Conference and Event Services at the University of Michigan for just over a year.  In this role she is responsible for a talented team that manages events in three student unions, summer conference housing and Michigan Catering Sales.  Prior to the University of Michigan, Elaine worked in student union and event management at the University of Nevada Las Vegas, California State University San Marcos and the University of San Diego.

A.T. Helix

A.T. Helix is the Operations Coordinator for the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s Student Housing and Residence Life.  In this role she oversees the camps and conference operation.  Over the past almost two and half years, she has helped grow the operation by increasing its presence on campus and the city.  With a Bachelor’s of Science in Neuroscience and a Master’s in Public Health both from UAB, A.T.’s background does not reflect the typical route to conference services; however, this diverse background is what helped her think outside the box and push UAB’s conference services to have continued growth the past two summers.

Steven Kaczmarczyk

Steven Kaczmarczyk [Kaz-Mar-Check] is proud to work at Aspen-prize winning Valencia College in Orlando, Florida, and serves as the assistant director of conferencing and college events. Steven’s primary duties include leading conferences and events focused on college-wide faculty and staff professional development, commencement, high-profile public relations events, national conferences and meetings hosted by the college. In these duties, he frequently works in-depth with event apps, digital surveying, list-driven email distribution, paid online advertising, social media, website analytics and building and more. In 2006, he earned a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration – Marketing from the University of Central Florida and has been a member of ACCED-I since 2013.

Richard Kenney

Richard (Richie) Kenney is the Associate Director for Housing Operations & Facilities, at the University of Miami, in Miami, FL.  Prior to joining the University of Miami in 2013, his previous experience includes stops at the University of Tennessee – Knoxville and Florida State University.  He is currently working on creating and growing a one-stop shop conference and events office for the University of Miami to complement their newest housing village, which is set to open in 2019. Richie is currently serving as a Region 2 committee member working with vendors/exhibitors. He works closely with colleagues in Miami to help promote the University, its’ venues, and all the great things it has to offer. Go Canes!

Julie Kieffer, CCEP

Julie Kieffer, is the Director of Conferences and Events for Conference Planning and Management at Iowa State University.  She leads a team of coordinators who work with events ranging from 15-10,000.  Her background includes work in the hotel industry both in operations as well as sales and marketing, and has been with Conference Planning and Management for  14 years.  In addition to her lifelong work in hospitality, Julie also has her CCEP accreditation as well as an MBA in Sales and Marketing.  

Lois Kubinak, CCEP

Lois Kubinak is the Director of Conferences at Albright College in Reading, Pennsylvania, which she began in the Spring of 2001.  As the main point of contact for internal and external event planners, she oversees the summer camps office, plans weddings, conferences and meetings, and manages Albright’s room reservations system.

Most recently, she served on the Albright College Presidential Inauguration Committee and was chair of the Campus Events Logistics sub-committee.

Lois is a Certified Collegiate Conference and Events Professional through ACCED-I and also serves as a CCEP Candidate Mentor.

Stacie Kurlick

Stacie Kurlick is the Assistant Director, Facility Services Administration and Conference Services for University Housing at Florida State University.  Stacie has been overseeing Conference Services since 2008.  Stacie has worked for Housing since 2001 and her background includes experience in Residence Life, Marketing, Assignments/Admin, and Supply and Inventory.  Stacie has a Bachelor’s degree in Sociology from Eastern Connecticut State University and a Master of Education degree from Lynn University.  Over the last 10 years, the number of conferences and visitors has grown leaps and bounds, which has made a significant contribution to the housing bottom line. 

Lina Layiktez

Lina Layiktez has over 25 years of experience in the events and marketing industry, spanning meeting planning, marketing and event and tradeshow production. Lina is Director of Conference and Event Services at the University of California at Davis, a department that oversees approximately 12,000 events annually. In addition to running a successful collegiate conference program, Lina and her team plan and manage their own events including bridal shows, green event planning conferences, fun runs, etc. Lina chairs the UC Davis Event Planners Exchange, an ad hoc group of campus event planners started in 1994. Lina and her team teach classes and produce events for the group that is now over 500 strong.

Nathan Lubich

Nathan Lubich is the Assistant Director for Operations with Yale Conference & Events at Yale University.

Nathan received a Bachelor of Art degree from the University of Wisconsin, Stevens Point in History, Spanish and International Studies and a Master of Science degree from Arkansas Tech University in College Student Personnel.

Coming from a Residence Life background, Nathan worked closely with housing operations at Fairfield University before transitioning to the Office of Conference & Event Management where he oversaw summer operations with a focus on summer housing for students as well as non-student interns.

Nathan joined the Yale Conference & Event team in December and continues to focus on the operation side of summer programming.

Nancy Martin

Nancy is the Meeting & Events Manager for the University of the District of Columbia’s newly opened, LEED Platinum, Student Center and manages all space reservations, meetings, & events for the facility. Prior to her work with UDC, she worked as a Conference & Events Coordinator at American University for 5 years, as a Conference Manager at the University of Virginia for 5 years and as a student Conference Assistant at the University of Virginia. She received her Bachelors of Arts from the University of Virginia and her Masters of Science from American University. She is the Region 4 Director Elect and excited to serve in a leadership role for ACCED-I!


Robin Montgomery

Robin Montgomery, is an Event Coordinator at Queen’s Event Services in Kingston, Ontario, Canada, has been in the event industry for over three years now. Her education background is an Honours BA in Communication Studies, and a Post-Grad certificate in Event Management. Robin is a travel lover, cheesecake enthusiast, and can cook minute rice, in 58 seconds.


Christina Patarino

Christina Patarino, has worked in the hospitality industry for over 30 years.  For the last 18 years, she has been with Conference Services at the University of Colorado Boulder. She has planned conferences locally and nationally for up to 13,000 participants, along with organizing youth trips to both Rome & Germany.  Christina has been an active member of ACCED-I for 11 years by volunteering and presenting, along with being a Regional Director and the Hospitality Co-Chair for the Annual ACCED-I 2012 Conference in Denver.  In her “spare time,” Christina is a singing Diva and most of all loves spending time with her family and friends.

Matthew Philbrook

Matthew is a Coordinator of Educational Programs with Duke TIP, and he works in TIP’s Texas Satellite Office located in Austin, Texas.  He is in his 11th year with Duke TIP, previously working with a sports travel logistics company in Chicago. 

Among their other duties, Matthew and Brian Denton (co-presenter) organize the logistics and contracts for 13 of the 24 Duke TIP summer program sites – most of which occur on college campuses located in ACCED-I region 2.  As you have read in the description for this session, Duke TIP’s individual programs have varied formats and a wide range of participants, but they are all resource heavy, residential programs.  As conference “customers,” Brian and Matthew work with a wide spectrum of Conference and Event Services Offices, and they are here today to discuss the different kinds of partnerships they forge, to share their experiences as “clients”, and to generate some discussion about how to foster successful relationships with your clients.

Heather Rappaport, CCEP

Heather Rappaport, CCEP, has worked in special events and venue management for more than 15 years. Her experiences include AEG/Toyota Sports Center, California Science Center Foundation, and University of Nevada, Las Vegas where she currently the Assistant Director, Sales & Business Operations. Some of her most memorable event management experiences include a luncheon with the Dalai Lama, the State of the City of Los Angeles, Stanley Cup photos, and the Presidential Debate. She is the Region 1 Director Elect and a graduate of the CCEP program. She has two kids and enjoys ice skating, hiking, and driving her two little kiddos around town. 

Robin Rathje

Robin Rathje (pronounced like: Ra-chee) currently serves as the Assistant Director of Conference and Event Services at Colorado State University.  She is originally from Michigan, where she earned her Bachelor of Arts from Western Michigan University.  After undergrad, Robin traveled the nation with a mobile marketing firm for 3 years; living in 46 states throughout that time.  She later stumbled upon the Student Affairs profession at Western Kentucky University, where she earned her Master’s degree in Higher Education.  She served as a Residence Director for 9 years prior to discovering the world of Conference and Events, infusing both her marketing experience and her housing experience in Higher Education at CSU.  Her passion for building relationships in a work environment, stem from her traveling days, interacting with various cultures and demographics and throughout her time with campus partners and clients.

Steve Robertson

Steve Robertson is the CEO of Julian Krinsky Camps & Programs (JKCP), an organization specializing in youth-to-adult programming that turns curiosity into passion and skill. Steve has been with the company for over 19 years, utilizing both his talent with people and passion for the growth of the business. He started as Director of Human Resources & Operations, quickly moved to Chief Operations Officer and, four years ago, became CEO. His primary goal has always been to cultivate a positive company culture and build a dynamic team of professionals within JKCP that achieves results - moving the company forward in a continuous state of growth, while staying on the cutting edge of technology and programming. 

As CEO, Steve, steers the Julian Krinsky brands, JK Camps & Programs (est. 1978) and JK Program Development & Management (JKPD&M), which he helped spearhead. He is a speaker and published expert on the topic of Millennials and Gen Z, is a guest lecturer at Wharton School of Business of the University of Pennsylvania’s summer programs, and has published articles in Entrepreneur, Inc., Huffington Post, TODAY Parenting Team, and more.

For JKCP, he oversees 20-plus programs and camps ranging from business, cooking and sports, to pre-college academics. These programs attract participants from across the country and around the world. JKCP partners with highly esteemed institutions such as the University of Pennsylvania, Yale University, Villanova University, and even the NFL! 

JKPD&M partners with leading organizations, foundations and universities to create innovative, professionally run programs for children, teens, college students and adults, and has developed and refined services required to successfully manage and operate educational, academic and sports programs. Steve was instrumental in bringing this arm of the business to life and believes the company will continue to grow in this direction. 

Both organizations have earned international recognition for providing high quality programs in safe environments, conducive to learning and growth. Steve surrounds himself with strategic thinkers & creative professionals, key ingredients for an entrepreneurial and visionary leader to thrive in, as he continues to steer the company, keeping it focused on its mission and vision. |

Tess Mabry Saffar

Tess Mabry Saffar is the Assistant Director of Sales & Marketing at American University in Washington, DC. Tess started out in the field by spending two summers throughout her undergraduate at American University working in summer conferences.  Despite receiving her Bachelors of Arts and her Masters of Arts in the unrelated field of International Relations from American University, she was hooked on working in conferences. The day after her graduation from AU, she was hired to work full time as part of the University Conference & Guest Services Team.  Now, almost 5 years later, Tess is still excited to still be a part of the ever changing conferences team at AU!

Tara Schule

Tara Schule is a Program Director with Yale Conferences & Events. As the Program Director Tara oversees our Housing only programs, she manages the relationships with our internal service providers, and works with our dining team for placement and assignments. Tara also manages technology platforms such as CVENT for registration/websites, Salesforce for inquiries and or our portal, & StarRez our scheduling system. In addition to coordinating all space needs for the hundreds of programs conducted annually, Tara serves as the summer registrar, coordinating all academic class needs for Yale Summer Session as well. Tara has a bachelor’s degree in communication from Southern Connecticut State University and has been with YC&E since January 2008.

Kirstin Taylor

Kirstin Taylor is a Professional Services Consultant with Kinetic Software. She has a Bachelor of Science degree in Hospitality, Restaurant and Tourism Management with a double emphasis in Event Planning and Lodging from the University of Nebraska - Lincoln. She worked for UNL Conference Services and The Walt Disney Company in the hotels at the Disneyland Resort. Kirstin joined the Kinetic team in 2014 and works with new project implementations and ongoing client consultations.

Jill Thornton

Jill Thornton has been planning special events and conferences for over twenty years. She is currently the Director of Conference and Events Planning for Reed College in Portland, Oregon.

In 2017, her team received the ACCED-I 2017 Outstanding Institutional Achievement Award (Long-term process) for their annual community engagement event and fundraiser, the Reed College 5K.

Prior to moving to Portland, Jill spent ten years working for The College of Idaho. During her tenure, she won the ACCED-I award for Individual Achievement.

Outside of the academic arena, Jill has planned events for; DIRECTV Corporate, The Big Mountain Ski Area, and the Resodyn Corporation. In her “spare time,” Jill loves photography, scuba diving, chasing her little one, and finding creative ways to incorporate unicorns and glitter into daily life.

Jessica Weirauch

Jessica Weirauch is an Assistant Director of Full Service Conference and Summer Operations with the University of Michigan, Conference and Event Services. In this role Jessica manages a team responsible for hosting 225 summer groups annually.  Jessica has been with the University of Michigan for four years and prior to the University, she worked as an event manager in the corporate and association industries. 

Michele Eicher Whiteside

Michele Eicher Whiteside is currently the Director of Advancement Events at the University of Mary Washington and has been at UMW since March 2016. However, she has been in the events and conferences industry for over 20 years; in fact she started in events as a 16 year old in the catering department at University of Richmond.  Michele spent most of her career at UR starting out in catering and then moving over to the Events Office where she was the Events and Technology Manager and Commencement Coordinator. She "retired" from UR in 2010 and to pursue her consulting business working with universities and colleges on setting up their scheduling software systems.  And to take a much deserved break!

During her time as a consultant and the 6 year "retirement" from full-time higher ed, Michele had the opportunity to do some traveling. In those years she has been to the Grand Canyon, New Orleans, Charleston, Savannah, Orlando, Chicago, Toronto, Oregon numerous times, the Caribbean a couple of times, Italy and Israel. Her upcoming adventures include a Baltic/Scandinavian Cruise this summer and a trip to the see The Open in Scotland in 2018.

Michele has been a part of ACCED-I since 1998 and has been attending regional and annual conferences since the beginning, volunteering or presenting at most of them. She served as Regional Director for Region 10, Hospitality Co-Chair for Baltimore 2007, Events Program Co-Chair for Orlando 2011, on the Hospitality Committee for Portland 2016 and Orlando 2017, Education Action Team 2017, and served on the Board of Directors from 2017 to 2010.

Dennis Weller

Dennis is a Conference and Event Coordinator for Messiah College in Mechanicsburg, PA. Since receiving his Bachelors degree in Music Education in the early 1980s Dennis has worked in all phases of the event process from set up crew to client contact. He is equally comfortable speaking the language of the set up crew and the language of the client. On any summer night you might also find him on a baseball field calling strikes, balls, safes, or outs.

Mark Williams

Mark is the COO at Event Guru Software where he oversees all aspects of the company’s operations from marketing and selling to client management, training, as well as leading product development initiatives for their cloud based conference and events management solution.  He joined the Event Guru Software team in September of 2016 bringing over 15 years experience working in the collegiate conferencing world. 

Prior to working for Event Guru Software, Mark got his first taste of the conference industry during a work study program at the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown’s conference center.  After a few years he later returned to Pitt-Johnstown’s Conference Center and secured a full-time professional position as the Conference and Sales Manager where he learned the ins and outs, ups and downs of collegiate conferencing. 

He has been involved with ACCED-I for 16 years as both an institutional and corporate member.  He is the current Chair of the ACCED-I Corporate Advisory Council where he is working to strengthen and improve the Corporate Membership program.  He resides in Johnstown, Pennsylvania along with his wife and their two daughters.      

Erica Wilson

Erica Wilson is a Conference Coordinator at Purdue University where she has planned on average around 75 events and conferences a year for the last 14 years.  She has nearly 30 years experience in the hospitality industry in meeting planning, hotel sales, catering management, corporate concierge and marketing.  Her specialties at Purdue include working with student organization leaders to host student led events, career fair and tradeshow management, and mega-conference planning for groups of 3000+.  She loves to mentor students and feels working on a university campus keeps her young, connected and open-minded which gives her lots of hope in raising her teenage daughter.

Erica holds a dual degree -Bachelor of Arts in Communication and Theatre Arts.

Leo Young

Leo Young is originally from the great state of Texas, but is also a proud Californian; currently serving as the Conference Coordinator in University Housing Services at San Jose State University. Leo earned his Bachelor of Science in Psychology and Master of Educational Administration with a concentration in Student Affairs from Texas A&M University.  Leo has served as an Activities Coordinator for Student Activities at Georgia Southern University; working with student organizations and the University Programming Board. Leo has also served as a risk management and event planning consultant for student organizations with the Risk Management team at Texas A&M University. In his current role at SJSU, Leo has focused on optimizing procedures and supporting staff to deliver exceptional service to all Conference Services guests. To that end, over the past three plus years, Leo has experientially discovered several key insights to supporting students to thrive on the front lines in service to guests, which he is excited to share with you (today).

Jen Zuccaro

Jen Zuccaro is a Program Director with Yale University Conferences & Events.   She is responsible for managing inquiries, as well as developing new business and fortifying existing client relationships for both academic year business as well as summer programs. Jen has a wide range of duties focusing on the development of program budgets, managing internal and external service providers, negotiating venue needs and insuring proper compliance with Yale’s policies and procedures. She has a B.A from UNC-Chapel Hill and a law degree from Fordham University.   After five years of practicing commercial litigation in New York City, Jen found her passion in the event planning industry.  In the time since, she has worked as both a wedding planner and in the hotel industry as a catering sales manager.