CEO, Personal Brand + Elevation Strategists
Jennifer Ransaw Smith is a nationally sought-after Personal Elevation strategist, leadership development mentor and Personal branding consultant. As the founding CEO of Brand id|Strategic Partners, the nation’s only full-service personal elevation agency, she works with entrepreneurs and executives from coast-to-coast to help them leverage their expertise to become game changers within their industry—and corporate teams to help them.
After more than a decade of helping some of the nation’s most prominent brands like Burger King, AT&T, Texaco, Clairol and Coke position and differentiate themselves in the marketplace, Jennifer recognized the urgent need for an agency that positioned people the way that marketing and advertising agencies positioned products and services (with a dedicated team enthusiastically motived and focused on the elevation of that specific brand). It resulted in the birth of Brand id|Strategic Partners, one of the first full-service personal branding agencies in the nation to transform experts into brand assets.
Called a True Visionary by her clients, Jennifer is on a mission to empower her clients and audiences by providing them with effective strategies that can be implemented immediately to make significant changes in how they are currently being perceived. Her goal is to teach people to become the Chief Marketing Officer of the Brand Called You, Inc. She divides her time between speaking, training, and coaching clients on how to become the person to know in their industry.
Her tips, tools, and strategies have appeared in a myriad of places including ABC, The Washington Post and The Baltimore Sun and been taught at leading organizations like Microsoft, Duke Energy and Deloitte.
Chief Problem Solver, Simply Sociable
Nadia Alcide is the founder of Simply Sociable, a virtual administrative consulting firm with roots in Gainesville and clients all across the country. Her firm specializes in working with entrepreneurs, small businesses, and busy professionals needing exceptionally trained assistants and consultants to revamp their efficiency and productivity. Simply Sociable has provided services to clients such as CNN, AT&T, and other well known organizations. Nadia is also a double graduate of the University of Florida with a bachelor's degree in Event Management and a master's degree in Entrepreneurship. Nadia is passionate about helping her community, traveling, business operations, and exploring the stories of others.
Associate Vice President for Talent Management & Chief Strategy Officer for Advancement, University of Florida
Tara Blythe serves as the Associate Vice President for Talent Management and Chief Strategy Officer for Advancement, as well as an Adjunct Faculty member for Executive Education at the University of Florida.
Tara’s principal role at UF is leading organizational strategy and overseeing the teams responsible for creating an engaged community of talent, sustainable pipeline and integration model, innovative and flexible work environments and a workplace of choice characterized by a performance culture to advance the University.
She brings 15 years of leadership experience in the areas of talent management, human resources, career development, and training and development. As a former practitioner and leader in the private sector with experience in four distinct industries, she is an accomplished curriculum designer, facilitator and consultant specializing in talent management, organizational development, leadership development, innovation and creativity, and strategic planning.
Tara is a proud member of the Gator Nation, earning her undergraduate and graduate degrees at the University of Florida. Additionally she holds an Ed.S.in Human Resources and Organizational Development from the University of Georgia, and her Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR) certification.
Assistant Director Distance and Continuing Education, University of Florida
Laurel Brown, is a creativity enthusiast. It all started in elementary school, with notes to the parents from the teacher indicating if “Laurel would spend as much time on her school work as she does daydreaming she would receive better grades.”
The passion, imagination and creative spirit that began then, continues today and has helped Laurel create and deliver training programs and presentations, and make meaningful connections and collaborative relationships, personally and professionally.
Laurel works at the University of Florida, in Distance and Continuing Education and employs her ingenuity and imagination as she directs the development and delivery of customized and onsite public training programs and identifies and collaborates with faculty for new program content that will grow and enhance the professional development program portfolio.
Dean of Educational Centers & Director of the Blount Center, Santa Fe College
Cheryl Calhoun is the Dean of Educational Centers and Director of the Blount Center for Santa Fe College. Her career includes over 25 years as a professor, systems analyst and a community organizer. Her community involvement includes co-owning Wild Iris Books, serving as the founding director of Protect Gainesville Citizens, as well as serving on numerous advisory boards. She is Co-Chair of the Academic Alliance for the National Council of Women and Information Technology (NCWIT). She is a lifelong learner and recently returned to UF as a PhD Candidate in Educational Technologies. Her research interests include women’s participation in technology entrepreneurship and effective utilization of online and web enhanced collaborative
Director, Innovation Academy, University of Florida
Jeff Citty serves as the founding director for the Innovation Academy and has over fifteen years of experience in higher education in building programmatic solutions to help solve issues in higher education. He received his Ed.D. in Higher Education Administration, focusing his dissertation on retaining engineering students through first year extended bridge programs. Dr. Citty provides vision, leadership and strategic direction in the development and attainment of the Innovation Academy priorities. As the founding director of the program he oversees all curricular and co-curricular aspects of the program as well as building the institutional infrastructure for the program. Dr. Citty teaches the Creativity in Context course and continues research in retention and advising. Before joining the Innovation Academy, Dr. Citty served as Assistant Director for Undergraduate Student Affairs at UF’s Herbert Wertheim College of Engineering and as the Program Director for the Engineering Freshman Transition Program (EFTP). In 2009, he was recognized by the National Academic Advising Association with an award for Outstanding Advising. Additionally, he was recognized by the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE) as a runner-up for best conference paper in 2012 and was a UF Superior Accomplishment Award Recipient in 2014.
Manager of Training and Development, CSX Intermodal Terminals, Inc.
Barbara Cotes is a retired Navy Veteran with 30 years of experience in developing and delivering learning and performance solutions. She holds a Master's of Aeronautical Science from Embry Riddle Aeronautical University with specializations in Adult Education and Instructional Design. As a senior instructional designer, she has created distance-learning products for the U.S. Army Chemical, Biological, Nuclear, and Radiological School, the U.S. Army Combat Engineer School, and the U.S.M.C. College of Continuing Education. Currently she is the Manager of Training and Development for CSX Intermodal Terminals, Inc. headquartered in Jacksonville, Florida. She and her team support the sourcing, pipelining and professional development of over 1,500 employees, in 38 locations spanning 23 states. In 2011 Barbara’s team earned the UNF Excellence in employee development for their work in designing a new hire and operator curriculum for one of the most modern intermodal facilities in North America.
Anne Rahbun Favre
Executive Director, CareerSource North Central Florida
Anne Rathbun Favre is a seasoned Executive within the Pharmaceutical, Biotech, and Medical Device Industry. She is currently serving as the Executive Director for CareerSource North Central Florida (CSNCFL). In the role of Executive Director, she reports directly to the CSNCFL Board of Directors and to the Board of County Commissioners for both Alachua and Bradford Counties. She is responsible for oversight of the $20 M annual budget for CSNCFL board operations and for the management of all CSNCFL. Her responsibilities include oversight of all workforce operations and external relations while working directly with the board to create policy, interacting with local, state and federal stakeholders, and providing guidance to and reporting from the Board’s multiple contracted service providers and partners.
Founder & President, TriSource Associates
Edith Wysong Gandy is a training facilitator for University of Florida Executive Education and the founder and President of TriSource Associates, an international organizational development consulting firm whose clients include IBM, Omnicom Group, Inc., Mercedes Benz of White Plains, SunTrust Banks, Medivia, Ketchum Public Relations, PNC Bank, Leon Medical Center, Bank of Bermuda Worldwide, Rapp Collins Worldwide and the Public Education Foundation. Founded in 1995 as a provider of customized corporate training seminars, TriSource Associates has expanded its services to include a broad range of organizational development offerings including executive coaching, customized surveys, culture audits, management succession planning and human resources consulting.
Edith is a nationally recognized speaker and consultant whose work background includes senior-level corporate positions as Corporate Training Director, Human Resources Director, Director of Corporate Development and Executive Vice President of Sales. She has served on the board of trustees of the Goodwill Foundation and the University of Tampa. She currently serves as instructor of Strategic Planning for Community Banks for the Graduate School of Banking at LSU, instructor of The Role of Human Resources for the Florida School of Banking at the University of Florida and Coaching for Sales and Service Results for the FBA Supervisor’s Academy at the University of Central Florida. She has authored numerous papers, articles and case studies on organizational development topics such as Building Bench Strength through Succession Planning and The Art of “Teamsmanship”. She is the author of the Interaction Preferences Questionnaire, a popular assessment instrument used for teambuilding and the improvement of interpersonal skills. Gandy has a bachelor’s degree in Education and a master’s degree in Administration and Supervision.
Assistant Professor, Computer & Information Sciences and Engineering, University of Florda
Dr. Christina Gardner-McCune is an Assistant Professor in the Computer & Information Science & Engineering Department at the University of Florida. Her research focuses on the integration of computing across the middle and high school curriculum. Through her research, she designs interest and disciplinary-based curriculum and after-school & summer camp programs to engage middle and high school students in computing. She uses these learning environments to broaden participation in computing for female, minority, low-income youth.
Vicki (Hall) Guy
President, Essential Training Concepts, LLC.
Managing Partner, Starter Space
Like many entrepreneurs, Payal Khurana considers herself poly-passionate. She is committed to empowering others to realize that the only way to achieve one's future goals is to be present now, in the current moment. She was raised in Tampa, FL and earned her BS in Computer Engineering at the University of Florida. After graduating, she spent 8 years working in healthcare IT. With a self-reflective l lifestyle, over 10 years of meditation practice, and a growing awareness of her discomfort in the corporate world led her to leave New York City and head back to Gainesville. She co-founded Starter Space, a startup incubator and co-working space, and later created a 4-week mindfulness and meditation program called Find Mindfulness. Payal's is dedicated to creating community, giving back, and fostering opportunities for people of all walks of life to mindfully build their dreams.
President, In Layman's Terms, Inc.
Kelly Layman is a partner, investor, or Board member with several national companies, all headquartered in the Sunshine State. She is a resident of Walton County and has served in all three branches of Florida government: Chief of Staff for two of the largest State agencies—Dept. of Environmental Protection, and later Dept. of Juvenile Justice—in the administration of Governor Charlie Crist; Legislative & Communications Liaison with the State Courts System at the Florida Supreme Court; and as an aide to the Florida Senate Judiciary Committee’s Chairman. For the State University System’s Chancellor and Board of Governors, she served two years on the leadership team as Executive Director of Communications & Press Secretary.
In 2012, Kelly returned to the private sector and became more involved in tech companies and business start-ups. She has assisted entrepreneurs and executive teams with funding strategies and venture capital pitches, primarily along the U.S. Eastern Seaboard. She is a partner in MedAffinity.com, which the U.S. military utilizes for health care training (via its licensing agreement with CAE - NYSE). She is a founding partner in the Virginia Philip Wine Shop & Academy, which operates globally, including in the space of wine investing and wine label launches. In 2014, she sponsored the inaugural video-deck for “Dream IT, Code IT, Win IT!”—a national coding contest with more than $70,000 in prizes, open to high school and college students. The annual awards ceremony is presented by MIT along with Google Ventures, TradingScreen, MIT’s School for Digital Business, and many others. She is a Board of Advisors member to Apollidon.com, which is a UF tech transfer success story.
Her private sector experience also includes more than 15 years directing strategic planning projects with both for-profit and non-profit entities, all related to public policy advocacy at the state and federal levels. That company and small team—In Layman’s Terms, Inc.—has worked with more than 50 clients, including the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars, Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy, American College of Emergency Physicians, Republican Party of Florida, and the Town of Palm Beach, where the firm was based from 2001-2007. For more than 15 years, she also has maintained a Florida real estate license and been involved in several residential and small-scale commercial projects through a separate holding company.
Kelly graduated from University of Florida (JM-1993) and was raised in Jupiter, Palm Beach County. She was selected for the year-long UF undergraduate fellowship in media law. She started her career at The Gainesville Sun and later at the Tallahassee Democrat as an editor, overseeing legislative pages, sports sections, and editorial columns.
Kelly is currently an appointee of Governor Rick Scott on the Board for the Florida Gubernatorial Fellows Program, serving as Vice Chair. Her previous service on statewide boards and commissions includes the Legislative Committee on Intergovernmental Relations, as one of two voting citizens with Florida House and Senate members. She has served on the Florida Historical Commission and Apalachee Regional Planning Council. She is a member of the UF Student Alumni Advisory Board, and a graduate of Leadership Tallahassee.
Oral Communication Coordinator, Warrington College of Business, Univeristy of Florida
M. Sean Limon provides corporate training, executive coaching, and communication consulting for companies and organizations and is currently the Oral Communication Coordinator for the Center for Management Communication at the Warrington College of Business at the University of Florida. Dr. Limon has taught and consulted in the communication field for over twenty years and has provided communication training and consulting for clients such as Disney, Crowley, Skanska, Exactech, Sarasota Memorial Hospital, Baycare, Florida Medical Association, CSX, , Rayonier, , Haskell, Premier Beverage Company, Naylor, and Crom. He leads workshops and training for professionals in the areas of presentation skills, leadership, teamwork, personal branding, organizational culture, conflict, and performance feedback. Dr. Limon also delivers speeches and keynote addresses for an organization or company’s events, conferences, and symposiums.
Director of Operations and Intellectual Capital, Crosslinear Consulting
Julieanne McGuinness has been in the Gainesville area for almost 10 years and is a graduate of the University of Florida. Having worked in property management, project management, account management, consultative sales, outbound sales, marketing, staffing, and public education. Julieanne has a mission to help others achieve their highest level of success and brings a unique level of excitement to her engagements. Her no-nonsense approach to problem solving, in combination with her fervent belief that we create our own success make her an invigorating speaker and an enthusiastic cheerleader for all of her clients. Julieanne is only able to do this because of her unique experience of leaving her corporate job to pursue her passions. She is the first to say that without taking charge of her finances, she never would have been able to achieve such joy in her professional – and personal – life. Join Julieanne as she covers some basic tenets of budgeting and guides you through questions and exercises to recognize what your potential could be if you finally make the decision to achieve financial freedom and live out your passions.
Erica Rodriguez Merrell
Director of Finance, Peaceful Paths Domestic Abuse Network
Erica Rodriguez Merrell is the Director of Finance for Peaceful Paths Domestic Abuse Network. Her activist career has included a position as Director of Patient Services for Planned Parenthood and she co-owned Wild Iris books, Florida's only feminist bookstore for 8 years. While she initially attended Rochester Institute of Technology for their Biotechnology program, she left college to focus on working in corporate bookstores and her volunteer efforts. She's been awarded the Haven Hospice Heart of the Community Award and the Abby Goldsmith Young Activist Award by the Human Rights Council of Gainesville. Her volunteer commitments focus on feminism and social justice. To support literature and southern authors, she serves on the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance as a Board Member.
Director, Innovation Hub, Univeristy of Florida
Jane Muir’s career spans three decades with a broad range of professional experiences in marketing, management, and technology transfer. She spent the first decade of her career in the private sector and for the past 20 plus years she has held leadership roles in technology transfer at the University of Florida. She currently serves as Director of the Florida Innovation Hub at UF – a unique 50,000-sq.-ft. incubator and Director of UF Tech Connect. She is co-founder of Empowering Women in Technology Startups (Ewits) and Startup Quest; both programs targeted at providing experiential entrepreneurial training in a virtual technology startup.
Jane has served in leadership positions on numerous boards and is a past President for the Association of University Technology Managers (AUTM); a 3300 member association for technology transfer professionals. She also served as the Vice President for Professional Development implementing training programs internationally on a variety of marketing and technology transfer topics.
Jane has received numerous awards and recognition for her accomplishments including the University of Florida Superior Accomplishment Award, the Gainesville Sun Spirit of Entrepreneurship Award, and most recently recognition by Girl Scouts as a Woman Who Make a Difference. She has been awarded numerous grants for technology-commercialization programs; an $8.2 million grant in 2009 from the Economic Development Administration to build the Innovation Hub at the University of Florida and in September of 2015 received another $8 million grant from EDA to build Phase II of the Innovation Hub. Jane graduated cum laude from Southwest Minnesota State University with a B.S. in Marketing and a B.S. in Business Administration & Management.
Kathy Sohar Assistant Director, Innovation Hub, University of Florida Dr. Sohar is the Assistant Director for the Innovation Hub at UF technology incubator. A seasoned executive with over 15 years of experience in the telecommunications field, Dr. Sohar was an early employee in two technology start-up companies (both acquired), managed a 20+ land-grant university emerging technology collaborative, and has served as an evaluator and best practices technical trainer for statewide educational technology grants. Dr. Sohar is a co-founder of Empowering Women in Technology Startups (Ewits) a 10-week experiential program designed to educate, inspire and empower women to pursue leadership roles in technology-based companies. She also currently serves as the Chair for the AUTM Women’s Inventor Committee (WIC), whose mission is to increase women’s participation in the commercialization process. In addition to her work with AUTM, she has participated in other large-scale team projects including research for the State of Florida Department of Health and Florida Department of Education and has taught at the university level. She is also a mentor for Girls Rock! Gainesville, a week-long camp that teaches girls 8-17 empowerment through music. Kathy holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Connecticut and earned her master’s and doctoral degrees in Mass Communication at the University of Florida.She has won several awards for her work on innovation projects and frequent guest speaker on innovation, entrepreneurship and gender panels.
Julia Tang Peters
International consultant and speaker, Julia Tang Petershelps leaders bring out the best (1) in their selves and (2) in their people--especially at pivot points of defining change. With trained eyes and strong instincts for nuances of individual behaviors, team dynamics and organizational habits, Julia works with groups and individuals to increase engagement and invite communications that lead to better decisions. Her perspective bridges business and psychology, the profit motive and human motives, leading and managing. Her global network of relationships and extensive global travel also inform her outlook about leadership and business.
Her clients include Goldman Sachs, John Hancock Retirement Plan Services, Prudential Financial, American Medical Association, Astellas Pharma, Cardinal Health, Leo Burnett Co., Hutchison PLLC, Wagner Law Group, Kaplan, venture capital firms and other leading companies as well as universities.
Julia acquired her unique set of skills from a career that spans business, education, family therapy and business coaching. Prior to coaching, Julia held leadership roles at Hewitt Associates and Leo Burnett Company. As Chief Marketing Officer at the technology venture firm Divine interVentures, she helped take it from start-up to IPO in two years. At Northwestern University, she advised faculty and students on career development and diversity.
Julia conducted a study of leadership and decision-making for her book, Pivot Points: Five Decisions Every Successful Leader Must Make (Wiley, 2014). Publishers Weekly stated, “Peters offers a breath of fresh air on leadership by focusing on decision-making.” Huffington Post said, “an understanding of these pivot points will equip you with the knowledge you need to take the right path on decisions when it matters most.” Forbes adds, “Pivot Points should interest anyone who appreciates leadership.”
For recreation, Julia enjoys global travel, photography, and meeting people who have bold ideas and act on them.
Julia’s education includes a MBA from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, a M.S. in Psychology from Northwestern University School of Education & Social Policy, and a Certificate for Marriage/Family Therapy from The Family Institute at Northwestern University. Her B.A. is from Lake Forest College, Phi Beta Kappa. Julia is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in the State of Illinois.
The Garden Connection
Hollie wants to live in a world filled with puppies, flowers and pink flamingoes; and where everything is self-cleaning and maintenance-free! She believes life is about creating who you want to become and connecting with others in meaningful ways.
As a horticulturalist and a two-time breast cancer survivor, she created, The Garden Connection, a garden therapy program designed to help cancer patients and survivors enrich the quality of their lives through positive experiences with gardening. Throughout her career in sales and management at an independent garden retail center, Hollie enjoyed public speaking and giving seminars to garden clubs and other community organizations. She is passionate about making a difference in people’s quality of life as they connect with nature and each other. Hollie holds a bachelor of science degree in Therapeutic Recreation and an Associate of Science in Horticulture. Now retired, Hollie is a volunteer with the Alliance of Therapy Dogs and she and her Brittany spaniel, ‘Rhodie’ visit classrooms and libraries to enhance children’s self-confidence and to improve their reading skills by reading out loud to a therapy dog.
When Hollie is not outside digging in the dirt or hiking in the woods, you can find her inside planning the next big adventure with her sister, Laurel. Or writing in her journal with dreams of one day becoming published. She also loves spending time with her family in beautiful South Carolina and cheering on the Florida Gators.
Jennifer Webb is an internationally recognized motivational speaker, author, consultant, trainer and coach, one of a prestigious group of women using magic as a technique to inspire, motivate and educate.
Jennifer’s extraordinary programs combine magic, psychology, Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP), Emotional Intelligence, accelerated learning, behavioral kinesiology and other interactive tools to reach people instantly with messages of inspiration and content. Her most popular programs are designed to propel thinking from challenges and frustration to “can do” and “possibilities. Her core message: Our attitudes and expectations create our realities and impact everyone around us; when we reprogram how we think we create the results we’re looking for.
Business communications specialist, human performance coach, author of four books on human potential and motivational speaker with a background and graduate degree in psychology, Jennifer teaches how to increase peak performance and create and reach goals. Her client base ranges from Honeywell Space Systems to Ernst & Young, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Microsoft, American Airlines, the U.S. Navy and Airforce and leaders in numerous industries. She also served as a personal power coach for CBS Morning News, Reno affiliate for three years.