Senior executives with diverse marketing, scientific, and business backgrounds serve on the Edison Awards Steering Committee to monitor the development and successful launch of innovative products each year.
During the Edison Awards nomination process, the Steering Committee reviews each nomination, selecting only those they believe merit consideration for an award. The approved applicants are put on a comprehensive ballot and sent to over 3,000 experienced senior business executives throughout the nation. The ballots are tabulated and the finalists are notified.
In addition, the Steering Committee is responsible for selecting the Edison Achievement Award honorees. They review biographies, practices, and impact of nominees and select individuals who are on the cutting edge of innovation to receive the distinguished award.
The 2015-2016 Steering Committee
CEO & Founder, The Innovation Partners
Sandra Bates, CEO and Founder of The Innovation Partners, is a dynamic innovation entrepreneur, marketing strategist, speaker and author. She has mentored, coached and led more than 100 innovation initiatives, helping her executive teams launch award winning products, services and programs. Her clients include Fortune 100 companies and mid sized organizations in dozens of industries, non-profits, and government agencies. She is the former director and co-founder of the Strategyn Institute, where she established a comprehensive institute for teaching the Outcome-Driven Innovation methodology to executives around the world. She has been a thought leader for breakthrough innovation programs for the past twenty years.
Sandy has most recently turned her focus to the needs of the social sector with a goal of taking state of the art innovation practices, tools, and methodologies to address the most critical issues facing our world such as health care for the uninsured, natural resource conservation, education, and innovation in the government and overall non-profit sector. Her book, The Social Innovation Imperative (McGraw-Hill) was released in January 2012.
Partner and Chair of the IP and Patent Group of PIB Law; Founder and CEO of Behmke Ventures, LLC
Jim is the Managing Partner of the Boston office of Parker, Ibrahim & Berg, LLC (PIB Law), and is the Chair of the Firm’s Intellectual Property and Patent Group. As a patent attorney, his practice focuses on patent preparation and prosecution in a wide variety of mechanical, electrical and computer arts, as well as opinions and IP portfolio counseling, for clients ranging from Fortune 500 companies to start-ups. While at PIB Law, Jim started and manages the firms “PIB e.l.i.t.e.” program, which is geared toward helping entrepreneurs grow their business (without the fear of massive legal bills). Prior to PIB Law, Jim was also a partner at a prominent AmLaw 100 law firm with international presence, and has been recognized as a New England Super Lawyers “Rising Star.”
Outside of his legal practice, Jim is an active entrepreneur himself. As founder and CEO of Behmke Ventures, LLC, Jim has started and helped start a number of successful businesses, including being a founding member of PianoArc, LLC, a 2015 Edison Award Gold winner for innovation in entertainment (prior to his joining the Edison Award Steering Committee). Jim is also the inventor on a growing number of issued and pending patents.
Jim graduated from Worcester Polytechnic Institute, where he earned a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering, and then continued to receive his Juris Doctor from Franklin Pierce Law Center (now the University of New Hampshire School of Law).
Executive Director, The Edison Awards
Frank Bonafilia is the Executive Director of the Edison Best New Product Awards and Edison Green Awards. He is the co-founder of Edison Universe, a non-profit organization focused on fostering the next generation of innovators (future Thomas Edisons) in the K-12 grade level and using tools like creativity, collaboration and immersion to prepare students to identify new opportunities and create solutions around the opportunities. Frank is a 15-year marketing executive with an award-winning career in financial services, real time data synchronization, retail software and the successful development and launch of profitable new products and services. Early in his career Frank was involved with the Edison Awards when he managed the Sponsorship and Awards Division of the American Marketing Association. In that capacity, he was responsible for the Divisions overall profitability and extension of the Edison Awards brand, which is manifested in the Edison Awards current status as an independent organization. Frank holds an MBA from Saint Xavier University and a BA in International Communications from the University of Kansas.
David H. Brenner
Executive Director, Innovation Park at Notre Dame
David H. Brenner
Dave Brenner is the Executive Director of Innovation Park at Notre Dame. Founded in 2009 by Mr. Brenner, Innovation Park has become a significant contributor to the creation of a dynamic entrepreneurial ecosystem at the University of Notre Dame, to cultivate new ideas emerging from university research into marketable new ventures.
Mr. Brenner is an accomplished executive, with over 35 years of experience in FORTUNE 100 companies, with direct responsibility to lead new business activities, either internally or externally via start-ups. His background includes founding and serving as managing partner of IdeaWorks, LLC, a new venture accelerator in Grand Rapids, Mich. Prior to IdeaWorks, Dave worked for Amway Corp., in global market development and as founder and president of Amway Ventures, Inc., which developed and launched new independent business ventures. His professional experience also includes executive management positions at Kelloggs in the US and in Europe, as well as senior marketing roles at Johnson & Johnson and Procter & Gamble.
David has been very active with the Gigot Center for Entrepreneurial Studies in the Mendoza College of Business and is a member of its advisory board. David is a member of the Board of Directors for the Irish Angels; a Notre Dame inspired angel group dedicated to furthering startup growth through early stage investments. He is also a board member of a number of non-profit boards as well.
Mr. Brenner is a graduate of the University of Notre Dame. David and his wife, Denise, also an ND graduate, are proud parents of three ND graduates: Dave '05, Marie '08 and Cindy '09.
Activation Manager, Global Brand Solutions, Google
Dave Brenner leads activation strategies for Google's Global Brand Solutions & Innovations. He is responsible for building Google’s brand advertising business with both the largest brands in the world like Coca-Cola and P&G as well as the small and medium sized businesses that are the engine of the world's economy. Google’s brand building solutions are built on a backbone of Google’s platforms such as YouTube, the Google Display Network, Android, Google+, and Google Search.
Prior to his current role, Dave spent five years at Procter & Gamble in brand management, where he led a number of teams in brand marketing and digital strategy. Most recently, he was the eCommerce marketing leader that launched P&G 's direct-to-consumer eCommerce business while building productive relationships with larger eRetailers. He also formerly led the marketing of Tide to Go (a former Edison Awards winner) including a Super Bowl campaign in 2007 which was voted as the top Super Bowl advertisement of the year.
Dave holds a Masters in Business Administration with a major in marketing and management from Northwestern's Kellogg School of Management and a B.A. in Marketing from the University of Notre Dame. Dave and his wife, Keri, live in Boston, MA. In his spare time, Dave is dedicated to running, beer brewing and exploring the New England coast.
President, Quadrant Management Consulting
Harry Epstein is currently the President of Quadrant Management Consulting based in Chicago. His focus is growth and innovation strategy and IP commercialization through the building of strategic alliances.
Harry is actively involved with a variety of organizations across many industries. In addition, Harry serves on innovation and advisory councils for several major brand organizations. Harry frequently speaks in public in the areas of innovation, sustainability, renewable energy and packaging, and serves as a guest lecturer in academia.
Harry has numerous published articles in peer-reviewed international theoretical physics journals and is an accomplished classical pianist. He was educated at Dawson College and McGill University in Montreal in math, physics, business and chemistry. He is married, has four children and is based in Chicago.
Senior Vice President, Text100
Tim Fiala is a currently a senior vice president with global communications consultancy TEXT100 where he advises technology clients on developing differentiated messaging platforms that translate business strategy and vision into market leadership. He has developed award-winning integrated communications campaigns that work across paid, earned, social and owned media channels.
Over several dozen years, his experience includes leading communications assignments for such industry bellwethers as Accenture, Alcatel-Lucent, HP, IBM, Intel, Lenovo, SAP, and Verizon as well as dozens of small to midsize technology firms and startups.
His career has tracked with many of the seminal firsts shaping technology innovation, including the launch of PC's from three different manufacturers, the first consumer online service, the first online brokerage, the first wireless local area network, the first commercial e-mail service, and the launch of the "information super highway."
Mr. Fiala is a graduate of Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism and is the recipient of two New York Press Association awards for reporting and photography.
Owner and Principal, Future Strategy Solutions LLC
Dr. Gary Fischman is a materials scientist whose career has been on the nexus of academia, government and industry. He is the owner and principal of Future Strategy Solutions, and an active part-owner of Covalent Coating Technologies. Prior to his current activities, Gary spent five years at the National Research Council, where he was the Director of three boards: The National Materials Advisory Board, the Board on Manufacturing and Engineering Design, and the Board on Infrastructure and the Constructed Environment.
Earlier, Gary was the Director of Biomaterials and Technology at the University of Illinois at Chicago, holding three joint academic appointments (Restorative Dentistry, Orthopaedic Survey and Bioengineering). Previous to his activities at UIC, Gary was at the US Food and Drug Administration.
Gary was also a tenured faculty member at the New York State College of Ceramics at Alfred University, has served as President of the National Institute of Ceramic Engineers, as a Director for the American Ceramic Society, and as a Governor for the American Association of Engineering Societies. He has a B.S., M.S. and PhD. in Ceramic Engineering from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
Senior Product Development Specialist, 3M Corporation
Dr. Simon Fung is a new product developer at 3M Company where he is constantly seeking to discover unarticulated customer needs for the development of innovative 3M products. Simon himself is the lead product developer for the 3M Kind Removal Silicone Tape which is an Edison Award winner and he has commercialized a number of other new 3M products as well. He had served as the chair of 3M Tech Forum, an organization that works with the R&D top management to promote collaborations within the 3M technical community. Simon also participates in the 3M Visiting Wizards, a program that allows 3M scientists to go into local schools to share science by hands-on experiments and 3M’s STEP (Science Training Encouragement Program) where local high school students come to 3M for training in science and engineering.
Prior to joining 3M, he was a research scientist at Eastman Kodak Company where he also served as an Industrial Fellow at National Science Foundation's Center for Interfacial Engineering at the University of Minnesota. Simon has a B.S., M.S. & Ph.D. from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Electrical and Mechanical Engineering.
Simon is also a co-founder of Nova Classical Academy, a K-12 charter school based in Minnesota which has one of the highest test scores in the state and is recognized as one of "America's Most Challenging Schools" by the Washington Post in 2014.
President and CEO, Herman Group
Joyce Gioia is a Strategic Business Futurist concentrating on workforce and workplace trends. She is President and CEO of The Herman Group, a firm serving a wide range of corporate, trade association and governmental clients on an international basis. Through consulting, speaking and training, Joyce helps clients position themselves for future success. Joyce is also CEO of Employer of Choice International, Inc., the organization that certifies employers as Employers of Choice®.
An early entrepreneur, she founded her first company at the age of 14. Later at the age of 28, she was the youngest magazine publisher in the country, publishing a successful buyers' guide for audiophiles.
A respected professional speaker and management consultant, Joyce has earned the designation of Certified Management Consultant, as well as the coveted Certified Speaking Professional designation from the National Speakers Association; she is one of only a handful of people in the world to hold both designations. Joyce earned an MBA from Fordham University and pioneered strategic syndications between magazines and catalogs.
Joyce distributes the weekly Herman Trend Alert to 29,000 people in 87 countries in four languages. She also has authored five books, including three business bestsellers. Her book, How to Become an Employer of Choice was runner-up for the prestigious Benjamin Franklin Award for the Best Business Book of the Year. She is often quoted in media, including Industry Week, Entrepreneur magazine, The Economist, and others.
Executive Vice President at inno360
Dr. Matthew Heim previously served as President of NineSigma - the world's premier open innovation service provider. He has more than 25 years of global executive management experience in the areas of strategic planning, innovation, corporate turnarounds and large-scale systems change. Matthew served on the faculty of the University of Maryland and Dominican University of California. He is a prolific author of journal articles and white papers; his publications include the book, Breaking the Musashi Code: Transcending Competition Through Visionary Strategy, as well as his contribution to the bestselling book, A Guide to Open Innovation and Crowdsourcing.
Prior to his work at NineSigma, Matthew was Managing Partner at Clarkston Consulting, responsible for Strategic Services. He has also served as Managing Director at PriceWaterhouseCoopers, with global practice leadership. Additionally, he spent several years as a Principal with KPMG in Germany, where he served the banking, telecommunications, government and aerospace industries.
Matthew holds a Ph.D. in Human and Organizational Systems, an M.A. in Developmental Psychology, an M.S. in Systems Management and a B.S. in Computer Science.
Director - Master of Product Design and Development Program, Professor, McCormick School of Engineering, Northwestern University
Walter Herbst, in 1962, founded what became Herbst LaZar Bell Inc. The firm grew under his leadership to be one of the three largest independently owned product design and development firms in the country. He left that firm after transferring it into an employee owned firm (ESOP) and is a partner in Herbst Produkt, headquartered in Silicon Valley. Professor Herbst holds a courtesy appointment in the Kellogg School of Management where he brings his expertise for product development into the classroom with a course he designed dealing with the Management of Product Development. For the McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science, he created the Master of Product Design and Development Program. The program is the only program in the country that deals with the totality of issues related to product development and includes all the standard MBA courses as well as advanced concepts in PD&D. Professor Herbst is a Fellow in Industrial Design; IDEA, the Institute of Design Engineering and Applications program; as well as the Segal Design Institute and is a NCEER Scholar (Northwestern Center for Education Research) for Northwestern University. Professor Herbst also serves on the Advisory Board for the Department of Material Sciences at Arizona State University and on the Advisory Board for Art and Design at the University of Illinois, Champaign/Urbana. Walter holds over 80 patents in hardware, houseware and medical products. He is listed in "Who's Who of American Inventors", as well as other "Who's Who" publications, and is a frequent contributor of articles in various trade journals. An expert in his field, he is frequently invited to speak at national and international industry trade shows and events. In addition, he was a recipient of the "Design of the Decade" award from the Industrial Design Society of America for his work with Gillette in the spring of 2001.
Edison Awards Founder and Former Chairman of the Board, American Marketing Association
Calvin L. Hodock is former Chairman of the Board of the American Marketing Association, the world's largest professional marketing society. He is a nationally recognized authority on marketing and product innovation. His marketing credentials were earned at the Gillette Company, Bayer, and Johnson & Johnson in senior management positions. He was also partner at Comart/KLP, one of the country's largest marketing service agencies at the time. Hodock currently is on the Board of Directors of NuVim, Inc, a startup company marketing a line of healthy beverages to Wal-Mart and major supermarket accounts on the East Coast.
Hodock is a full time faculty member at Berkeley College teaching marketing courses at their Middlesex and Garrett Mountain campuses. He also teaches an advertising course at New York University and has been a guest lecturer at several colleges, including the Wharton School. During his stewardship of the American Marketing Association, Hodock created the prestigious AMA EDISON AWARD presented annually to American corporations for product innovation excellence. During a twelve-year period, he reviewed Edison submissions for literally thousands of new products and services from America's elite corporations. Some of this material, not available in the public domain, was used in his new book Why Smart Companies Do Dumb Things. He became a heralded new product guru widely quoted in the press as a result of the Edison experience.
Hodock's involvement with the EDISON AWARDS and his book on product innovation have resulted in appearances on Fox Business News CBS, CNN, CNBC, and Bloomberg, numerous radio stations in local markets, and print media, including publications like The Wall Street Journal, New York Times, San Jose Mercury. Brandweek, Advertising Age, Promo Magazine, and Marketing News. Numerous universities and professional organizations throughout the country, such as 3M and American Gas Association Financial Forum, have heard his thought-provoking lectures on marketing and innovation strategies. He is now working on another book The Brainwashing of America which focuses on branding.
SVP Integrated Marketing, Acosta Marketing Group
An innovative integrated marketer with over nineteen years of agency experience, Shannon decided to join the Acosta Marketing Group in April 2010.
Prior to AMG Shannon worked at TracyLocke for nine years where she created shopper marketing and integrated marketing programs, promotions and sponsorships for a variety of blue chip brands including Hewlett-Packard, Kimberly- Clark, Quaker Foods, PepsiCo, and Walmart. Also as part of TracyLocke, Shannon paved the way for expansion in the Bentonville, AR market, where she started and developed a profitable regional office before returning to Wilton, CT.
Prior to joining TracyLocke, Shannon worked at several different agencies including Digitas, Momentum Worldwide and Young & Rubicam. She oversaw the client services, planning and execution for clients and properties that included GM, American Express, Johnson & Johnson, Phillip Morris, KFC, USPS, Outback Steakhouse, AT&T, ESPN?s X-Games, PGA, USTA, NASCAR, The Sundance Film Festival and the Olympics.
Senior Vice President, Research & Development, Mead Johnson Nutrition
Dirk Hondmann, Ph.D., is senior vice president Research & Development for Mead Johnson Nutrition, with responsibility for Discovery, Technology Development, Clinical Research and Medical Affairs, Regulatory and Nutrition Science, Quality Compliance and Product & Process Development. Dr. Hondmann is a member of the Executive Committee of Mead Johnson Nutrition.
Before joining Mead Johnson Nutrition in 2005, Dr. Hondmann worked for Unilever, an international manufacturer of food, home-care and personal-care products. His last position at Unilever was vice president of International Development for Slim-Fast. Prior to that, Dr. Hondmann served in a variety of roles, including head of Development for Unilever Foods in South Africa and head of the Lipton Innovation & Technology Center in California, USA.
Dr. Hondmann is an adjunct associate professor at Indiana University School of Medicine and gives guest lectures on business and innovation at various business schools. Born and raised in Maastricht, the Netherlands, Dr. Hondmann earned a Ph.D. in biochemistry/molecular biology from Groningen University, Netherlands, an M.S. in molecular science from Agricultural University, Wageningen, Netherlands; and an MBA from Heerlen University, Netherlands.
Jennie C. Hunter-Cevera
Acting Secretary of Higher Education, Maryland Higher Education Commission
Jennie C. Hunter-Cevera
Dr. Jennie C. Hunter-Cevera is the Acting Secretary of Higher Education at the Maryland Higher Education Commission. Before that she was the Executive Vice President of RTI International, a non-profit research institution. She brings 22 years of research leadership in the pharmaceutical/biotechnology industry, five with the Department of Energy, ten with academia and three with a government contract research non-profit institution. She has performed basic, applied and translational research, published scientific papers, and has more than 15 patents focused on screening for microbial products and processes.
At RTI, Dr. Cevera was responsible for directing R&D activities for its Discovery and Analytical Sciences Division, which has six key areas of focus: Drug Discovery, Environmental and Industrial Sciences, Advanced Analytical Science, Forensic Science, Microbial Systems, and Molecular, Epigenetics, Genomics, Environment and Health and the Center for Agriculture and Environmental Biotechnology. Her current research focus is on microbial forensics, chemical signaling and metabolomics of microbial communities.
Prior to joining RTI, Dr. Cevera served for ten years as President of the University of Maryland Biotechnology Institute, which focused on applied research in medical, agriculture, biocatalysis, structural biology and marine biology. She received her undergraduate (biology) and Master's degrees (microbiology) from West Virginia University and earned her Ph.D. in microbiology from Rutgers University.
Gail Buerger Kerr
Managing Consultant at Gail Buerger Kerr and Associates
Gail Buerger Kerr
Gail is a proven business builder who brings to clients a 30-year track record of creating new business and profitable growth for companies like Citibank, IBM, and Dun and Bradstreet as well as early-stage technology companies. She is a rare professional who is comfortable talking business with CEOs and technology with CIOs and engineers.
Gail works closely with CEOs and other executives to drive new business development. She engages potential customers in new markets, develops customer intelligence for marketing organizations especially in complicated markets like healthcare, financial services, business intelligence and data/content and technology services.
For the last couple of years Gail has focused her efforts around her very effective sales and consulting skills, helping clients grow revenues. That is a critical challenge and most firms struggle with it.
As an executive with Citibank and Dun and Bradstreet, Gail built sales organizations and delivered programs that generated over $400 million in new business. As a consultant to technology companies, she has successfully launched products into new markets, constructed alliances, captured marquee customers, and facilitated investments from investors.
Gail is a Fulbright Scholar, appointed in 2011 to the roster of Fulbright Specialists, a program of the US State Department. Designed for senior professors and professionals who are recognized for excellence in their fields, Gail has collaborated with universities in Southeast Asia to build programs for improving leadership and innovation in companies, supporting governmental goals for transforming their economies. In the process, Gail has become a big supporter of the "education to employment" movement. Gail developed and taught a course at Vietnam National University - International School in Hanoi in the fall of 2014 and she has been invited to South Africa in 2016.
Gail is a graduate of Mount Holyoke College.
Dean of Academic Foundations at Linn-Benton Community College
Jason Kovac, Ph.D., has over 16 years of public sector experience, including leadership roles in public libraries, academic libraries, and community colleges. Jason currently services as Dean of Academic Foundations at Linn-Benton Community College (OR), where he builds programs that engage at-risk populations for training in high-growth, high-wage career fields. As an invited speaker and author, Jason has contributed scholarship on topics including innovation, grant writing and fund raising, globalization and contemporary pedagogy, and green building. Jason's academic credentials include degrees in English literature, photography, library science, and a doctorate in educational administration from The University of Texas. He and his wife enjoy camping and hiking, traveling, and spending time with family and friends.
Philip T. Krein
Professor, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering
Philip T. Krein
Philip T. Krein received the B.S. degree in electrical engineering and the A.B. degree in economics and business from Lafayette College, Easton, Pennsylvania, and the M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in electrical engineering from the University of Illinois, Urbana. He was an engineer with Tektronix in Beaverton, Oregon, then returned to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. At present, he holds the Grainger Endowed Directors Chair in Electric Machinery and Electromechanics as Professor and Director of the Grainger Center for Electric Machinery and Electromechanics. His research interests address all aspects of power electronics, machines, drives, and electrical energy, with emphasis on nonlinear control and distributed systems. He published an undergraduate textbook, Elements of Power Electronics (Oxford University Press, 1998). In 2001, he helped initiate the International Future Energy Challenge, a major student competition involving fuel cell power conversion and energy efficiency. He holds fifteen U.S. patents with additional patents pending.
Dr. Krein is a registered professional engineer in Illinois and in Oregon. He was a senior Fulbright Scholar at the University of Surrey in the United Kingdom in 1997-98, and was recognized as a University Scholar in 1999, the highest research award at the University of Illinois. He serves as Academic Advisor for the Department of Electronic and Information Engineering at Hong Kong Polytechnic University. In 2003, he received the IEEE William E. Newell Award in Power Electronics. He is a past President of the IEEE Power Electronics Society, and served as a member of the IEEE Board of Directors. In 2005-2007, he was a Distinguished Lecturer for the IEEE Power Electronics Society. In 2008, he received the Distinguished Service Award from the IEEE Power Electronics Society. He is Chairman of the Board of SolarBridge Technologies, a developer of long-life integrated solar energy systems.
Managing Director, Xenergy Holdings
In early 2013 Bret became a managing director of Xenergy Holdings. Xenergy is involved in many facets of the energy industry. Projects include investments in oil & gas exploration, hydrocarbon production, and energy storage facilities. Xenergy also assists companies with emerging technologies related to energy generation and conservation.
From 2007 to 2013 Bret was the Managing Director of Fulton Innovation, where he was responsible for overseeing all operational aspects of the organization and providing value-driven strategic direction for the Fulton Innovation team. Fulton focused on the eCoupled wireless power technology created by a select team of gifted engineers and was a founding member of the Wireless Power Consortium. Bret co-chaired the steering committee that helped lead the development of the Qi standard now globally recognized as the standard for wireless power interoperability.
Bret has always maintained an entrepreneurial mindset. Having successfully owned and operated seven different companies (domestic & international) in diverse industries including component manufacturing, specialized technology, equipment & systems manufacturing, and real estate investments beginning in 1993. Prior to his entrepreneurial endeavors, Bret held senior executive positions in finance, sales, and marketing at a number of public and privately held companies.
Bret and his wife, Rebecca, have two sons and make their home in West Michigan.
Director of Business Development, Edison Universe and Edison Awards
Rob Manes serves on the Edison Universe Board of Directors as Vice President, and is also the Director of Business Development for Edison Universe and Edison Awards. Edison Universe is focused on the roots of accomplishment - promoting the core skills and processes of innovation and fostering a deeper understanding of teamwork and experimentation. Edison Awards, often referred to as the "Oscars of Innovation," are about the triumphs of today - honoring invention, recognizing creative achievement and celebrating success. Rob previously served on the American Marketing Association's Edison Awards Board of Directors' Steering Committee. Rob has remained continually active with the Edison Awards for the past seventeen years.
He graduated from the University of Kansas in 1979 with a B.S. in general studies, at which time he entered the consumer products industry. Rob was specifically sought for his expertise in new product launches, sales and marketing. Companies/brands he represented include H.J. Heinz, Borden, Chef America, Inc./Nestle, Tree Top, Chinet (Huhtamaki), Northern tissue, Brawny, and Dixie.
Rob was born in New York where he spent most of his childhood in Long Island. When Rob was five years old, his father died, leaving three children for Rob's mother to raise. When he was 13, the family moved to Kansas City, where as a young teen, Rob was responsible for the family's rental real estate business.
In 1995, Rob drew upon his teenage entrepreneurial roots and started his own brokerage company, Choice Products Group, focusing on authentic Mexican products. In addition, he also developed his own tortilla brand and distributed it throughout the Midwest. In 2007 he sold his firm to a larger brokerage company.
Twenty-seven years ago, Rob joined Big Brothers Big Sisters where he served on the board and began work as a volunteer; that relationship is still flourishing. Rob currently serves on the Business Administration Advisory Board for Johnson County Community College in Overland Park, Kansas. The institution has the largest undergraduate enrollment of any college in Kansas.
Rob lives in the Kansas City area with his family.
Professor of Industrial Design, School of Art + Design, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; Faculty, Beckman Institute of Advanced Science and Technology
Deana McDonagh PhD., is Professor of Industrial Design in the School of Art + Design at the University of Illinois (Urbana-Champaign) and faculty at the Beckman Institute of Advanced Science and Technology. She is an experienced design practitioner and entrepreneur. She is an Empathic Design Research Strategist who focuses on enhancing quality of life for all through more intuitive and meaningful products, leading to emotional sustainability. Her research concentrates on emotional user-product relationships and how empathy can bring the designer closer to users' authentic needs, ensuring both functional and emotional needs are met by products. She is currently a Research Fellow at Coventry University (UK) and Director of Research for Herbst Produkt design consultancy (USA). She is the Designer Entrepreneur-in-Residence (start-up incubator) at the Research Park (University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign) where she provides design guidance.
Group Chief Strategy & Innovation Officer at Sime Darby Berhad
Hari Nair is currently serving as Group Chief Strategy & Innovation Officer at Sime Darby Berhad. Previously, he worked as the Global Managing Director for Kimberly-Clark's Innovation Center, based in Seoul, South Korea. Hari is a thought-leader and expert in applying disruptive innovation and new business models in emerging markets, having advised several Fortune 500 companies as well as several Asian firms.
Hari has spent nearly half of his 20+ year professional career living and working in emerging markets, launching new business and products in China and India. Prior to joining KC, he spent 14 years with Procter & Gamble Co in R&D leadership roles, including 4 years in Beijing setting and developing innovations for Asia. From 2006 to 2012, he worked with Clayton Christensen's firm Innosight, and led the engagement that helped conceive and develop ChotuKool, an innovative refrigerator launched by Godrej Industries and also was part of the team which developed Medtronic’s Healthy Heart for All innovation (both Edison Gold winners).
Hari received his B.S. in Chemical Engineering from the University of Wisconsin-Madison; he is also an inventor/co-inventor on eight patents.
Director of Strategic Innovation, Allstate Insurance
Moises Norena is a renowned innovation expert practitioner, mentor, teacher, speaker, writer, networker, and pioneer in management innovation. As a thought leader in the space, Moises' perspectives have appeared in leading publications like Businessweek, Forbes and FastCompany. Moises was the winner of 2013's Harvard Business Review/MIX "Innovating Innovation" challenge. He currently holds the title of Director of Strategic Innovation at Allstate Insurance. Previous to this role he led the Global Innovation team at Whirlpool for several years.
Moises is a multi-faceted individual; he holds a bachelor's degree in Architecture, a master's degree in Information Systems from La Salle University in Mexico City and a MBA from Purdue University. He is also an artist, a traveler, a photographer, a cook, an outdoor explorer, a music junkie, but most of all a committed family man.
Colonel John P. Powell
President, PAMCO Investments Corp.
Colonel John P. Powell
Colonel John P. (Pierre) Powell (Retired) is currently serving as the President of PAMCO Investments Corp., a family investment holding company, managing assets for Oil & Gas Exploration, Private Equity, Real Estate and other business ventures. He retired from the U.S. Air Force in 2008 after 21 years of service. He retired as the Vice-Commander of Air Forces in Afghanistan, responsible for 4,500 Airmen stationed at more than 27 locations across that country. His previous assignments included 33rd Maintenance Group Commander, logistics leader for 54 F-15C aircraft, Air Combat Command Chief of Programs, with duties including management of their $180B five-year budget. Colonel Powell has also served as Aide and Executive officer to the Secretary of the Air Force and as country director for procurement support to Saudi Arabia, among others. Pierre has logged over 2,200 hours of flight time in the F-15, F-4, and AT-38 fighter aircraft, having been awarded the Legion of Merit, Distinguished Flying Cross, and Bronze Star (among others) during Operations Desert Storm, Provide Comfort, Northern Watch, Noble Eagle, Iraqi and Enduring Freedom.
Pierre recently completed an executive MBA degree from Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University; he has attended the John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard, as a National Security Fellow, and has additional Master's Degrees from Air Command and Staff College as well as Troy State University. He graduated with an Aerospace Engineering Degree from Missouri University of Science and Technology.
Pierre has been an active member of the Kellogg Innovation Network and Colorado Innovation Network. He also founded a 501(c)(3) supporting military transitions and has membership in other charity, community and leadership activities.
Clinton O. Robinson, P.E.
Associate Vice President, Black & Veatch Corporation
Clinton O. Robinson, P.E.
Clint is the father of three publicly educated girls; a recovering school board member; and a registered professional engineer in a global engineering corporation. Individually none of these accomplishments are significant but in concert they are a powerful force towards better connecting education and business. Clint is the great grandson of one of the first three professors at the University of Kansas teaching Greek and Latin back in 1865. He is also the great grandson of an attorney that made elixir in his basement and founded the Burma Vita Corporation. This company was responsible for one of the most successful advertising campaigns with roadside jingles for the first brushless shaving cream, Burma Shave. It is not surprising then that Mr. Robinson has dedicated himself to finding ways to improve education and how we sell it. While serving on the Blue Valley School District School Board he helped create and implement the successful Center for Advance Professional Studies (CAPS) which revolutionized how business and education work together for a common goal. Now while providing thought leadership in his industry to the US Conference of Mayors and National League of Cities he is never very far away from the topic of how to create jobs, fill the pipeline, and change the landscape of education forever. His motto is "learn to teach" which means 1) if you can teach it then you know it and 2) there is no value in learning something if you are not willing to teach it to someone else.
President, CIE Learning
Sheree Speakman works on public and private education projects that support the common goals of social justice and deeper learning. From 2007 to 2011, she was Evaluation Director of the Walton Family Foundation, working with the K-12 Education Reform, Environment and Home Region program teams and grantees on performance analysis. She continues to work with the Walton Family Foundation as an independent consultant on evaluation related to its environmental grantmaking.
Prior to joining the Foundation, Sheree worked in the education sector to develop and implement performance improvement data for school leaders and teachers. She served as COO for British Schools of America between 2005 and 2007. Earlier, she was President of Fox River Learning, a consulting organization specializing in systems that originated and analyzed student performance and school finance records. Sheree received an A.B. from Albion College in Michigan and a M.B.A. from the University of Chicago.