2010 - University of Houston
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2010 Biographies

Laura Bellows 

Laura D. Bellows serves as Chairman of the Board of W. S. Bellows Construction Corporation and has been actively involved with managing the company since the death of her husband, Thomas F. Bellows, in October of 2007.  Bellows is certified as a Women’s Business Enterprise (WBE) and as a Historically Underutilized Business (HUB) and is the largest general contractor in Texas that is majority-owned by a woman. Family-owned since 1914, with the fourth generation now working for the company, Bellows has built a variety of notable structures ranging from the San Jacinto Monument to the Wortham Theater Center.  Current projects include the Texas Children’s Hospital Maternity Center, the Asia House and the Kilroy Visitor and Education Center at Bayou Bend. 

Personally dedicated to continuing Bellows’ high standards of integrity and excellence, Laura is committed to client service in her leadership role, as well as supporting the loyal, expert personnel who are the foundation of the company.  A native Houstonian, Laura graduated Cum Laude from Vanderbilt University with a BA in Business Administration and Fine Arts. She has previous experience in public relations and writing, and also draws on years of experience serving the Houston community in numerous volunteer leadership and organizational roles.   


Helen M. Berger, LMSW, M.Ed., Ed. M. 

Helen M. Berger, LMSW, M.Ed., Ed. M. is a graduate of the University of Houston and Teachers College, Columbia University. Ms. Berger is the daughter of Holocaust survivors and the granddaughter of an activist who began the first Montessori School in Vienna, Austria in the 1930's and who created a soup kitchen for Jewish refugees in Shanghai, China during World War II.   

Ms. Berger is the President and CEO of Houston Preparatory Academy, which, through its U-Prep initiative, provides local and international community- and university-based programming and research that extends across the domains of education and social work. Ms. Berger has presented the U-Prep approach throughout the U.S., Mexico Canada, Cuba, and Europe. She has formed international partnerships that enhance educational and social work opportunities, services and resources for under-served youth and their families from a cross-section of international, cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds.    


Susan Bischoff 

Susan Bischoff joined the Houston Public Library Foundation as its first president in January 2007.  The Foundation provides critical financial support for library programs, materials and building projects such as meeting rooms in neighborhood libraries. Previously, she was employed by the Houston Chronicle for 32 years, with 20 of those years as a senior editor. Ms. Bischoff was member of the Houston Chronicle publisher’s executive management committee from 2000-2006. A board member of American Society of Newspaper Editors from 2000-07, Ms. Bischoff helped implement ASNE’s $5.8 million High School Journalism Project as chair of its Education Committee in 2000-2002.  She developed and managed three ASNE partnerships with Houston-area high schools.  Ms. Bischoff directed the 2006 opening of the Chronicle Classroom, a partnership with the Houston Independent School District. She was a member of the ASNE Awards committee and served as a Pulitzer juror in 2004 and 2005.   

Ms. Bischoff is past president of the American Association of Sunday and Feature Editors and was named to its Features Hall of Fame in 2003. She is a former vice president of the Society of American Business and Economic Writers. She serves on the board of A+ Challenge and the steering committee of the Executive Women’s Committee of the Greater Houston Partnership.  Ms. Bischoff previously served on the boards of the United Way of Texas Gulf Coast, the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Psychology Works, Houston March of Dimes, San Jacinto Girl Scouts, YES College Preparatory School, AIDS Foundation Houston, Child Advocates and Greater Houston Women’s Foundation. She is a graduate of Leadership Houston and a co-founder of the Best Boards annual program at Rice University. She was a founding member of the Executive Women’s Committee of the Greater Houston Partnership. Ms. Bischoff’s community recognition includes the first outstanding media award from the Houston chapter of the National Society of Fund Raising Executives, the Strong, Smart & Bold Award from Girls Inc., Jewish Community Center Children’s Scholarship Ball honoree, Child Advocate of the Year, San Jacinto Girl Scouts National Thanks Badge, Crohn’s & Colitis Woman of Distinction and the March of Dimes Mary Owen Greenwood Award. She has been listed in Who’s Who in America since 1986. She and her husband, Jim Barlow, have one daughter, Samantha Barlow Martinez, an employment attorney in Houston, and two grandchildren. 


Carroll Parrott Blue 

Carroll Parrott Blue is a University of Houston Research Professor in the Center for Public History and the Texas Learning and Computation Center. Blue’s course specialties include Documentary Film, American Independent Cinema, African American Cinema and New Media Community-Based Applications. She received her Master of Fine Arts terminal degree in film production from UCLA. 

Blue is an academic, documentary filmmaker and author whose interactive multimedia work has garnered recognition from a 2004 Sundance Film Festival Jury Award and the American Library Association as one of the 30 best American Association of University Press publications in 2004. Additionally, she is the Executive Director of The Dawn Project (Dawn), a 501(c)(3) non-profit media training and production organization. Dawn uses digital media training and production for community development. View Third Ward Story Mapping Project Website at: www.storymapping.org/thirdwardfix00j.html 


Abenaa Brewster 

Abenaa Brewster, MD received her M.D. degree from Harvard Medical School in 1995 and received her M.D.in Epidemiology at the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health. She is an Associate Professor in the Departments of Clinical Cancer Prevention and Epidemiology at the UT MD Anderson Cancer Center. Her clinical interest is breast cancer and she is a medical oncologist in the Nellie B. Connally Breast Center. 

Dr. Brewster has expertise using methods of molecular epidemiology to investigate epidemiological and biological factors that determine a woman’s risk for developing breast cancer and survival. She is particularly interested in understanding how ethnicity and obesity influence a woman’s risk and survival after a diagnosis of breast cancer. She has received research funding from the American Society of Clinical Oncology, the National Institute of Health and the Susan G. Komen Foundation. She enjoys teaching methods of evidence based medicine and serves as a facilitator for the University of Texas Evidence Based Workshop. 


Brené Brown  

Dr. Brené Brown is a researcher, writer, and professor. She is a member of the research faculty at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work, where she has spent the past ten years studying a concept that she calls Wholeheartedness, posing the question:  how do we cultivate a life defined by authenticity, love and belonging, and a resilient spirit, and what gets in the way?  Brené spent the first seven years of her decade-long research journey studying how the universal experiences of shame and fear affect us, and how practicing courage, compassion, and connection in our everyday lives can change the way we live, love, parent, and work. 

Brené is the author of I Thought It Was Just Me (but it isn’t): Telling the Truth About Perfectionism, Inadequacy, and Power (Gotham, 2007) and two forthcoming books, The Gifts of Imperfection: Letting Go of Who We Think We Should Be and Embracing Who We Are (Hazelden, 2010) and Wholehearted: Spiritual Adventures in Falling Apart, Growing Up, and Finding Joy (Hazelden, 2011).  She is also the author of Connections, a psychoeducational shame resilience curriculum that is being facilitated across the nation by mental health and addiction professionals. Brené’s current research focuses on wholeheartedness in families, schools, organizations, and the workplace. 


Sue Burnett 

Sue Burnett is the founder and president of Burnett Staffing Specialists with offices in Houston, Austin, El Paso, and San Antonio, as well as Choice Staffing in Dallas. Her 34-year-old, $73M company is recognized as Texas' top woman-owned staffing and placement specialists and is ranked as: the United States' 57th and Texas' 6th Largest Woman-Owned Business by DiversityBusiness.com, Houston’s Top Technical/Professional Blended Service and Top Administrative Support Blended Service by the Texas Association of Personnel Services.  The Houston Business Journal has named Burnett as the Largest Placement Service and the 2nd Largest Staffing Firm for 2008. Sue is a graduate of the University of Arkansas where the Communications Department’s reading room is named in her honor.  She was honored in 2007 as one of the University of Arkansas’ Distinguished Alums and is the twenty-third woman to receive this honor in the 63-year history of the award. 

Sue's impressive list of honors includes: Ernst & Young's Entrepreneur of the Year, NAWBO's Woman Business Owner of the Year and Community Service Award, the YWCA's Outstanding Woman of Business, the Better Business Bureau's Pinnacle Award, WBEA's Woman Business Entrepreneur of the Year, HAAPC's Outstanding Contribution to the Community, Women's Enterprise's Woman of Excellence, the Houston Chronicle's Woman on the Move, Jr. Achievement Legacy Award, Mass Mutual's Blue Chip Enterprise Award, Goodwill Industries’ Shining Star Award, TXU’s Gold Star Award, University of Texas Trailblazer Award, and the Houston Business Journal's Philanthropy Community Champion Award.  Burnett Staffing is the founding sponsor of the Best Places to Work Awards in Houston, Austin, San Antonio, and Dallas in partnership with the Business Journals in those cities.  Sue is dedicated to giving back to the community and serves on the board of directors of Goodwill Industries and the Better Business Bureau. Goodwill Industries named one of their donation centers in honor of Sue and her husband, Rusty.  A past Board Director of the American Staffing Association and the Arthritis Foundation, she is also a member of C-200, an organization of the top businesswomen in the U.S. She is a Certified Personnel Consultant. 


Lillian Guttinger Care 

Lillian Guttinger Care holds a BA in Communication Studies from the University of Houston-Downtown.  She worked in the petroleum and marine insurance industries, starting out in accounting support, and now works as a loss claims analyst in commercial marine claims.  In 1997 she co-founded Women Against Global Trafficking, a small activist group that was dedicated to ending the practice of buying and selling human beings.  In 2003, Women Against Global Trafficking was invited to join the Coalition Against Human Trafficking, Houston's first city-wide response to the problem of modern day slavery.  Other members of the Coalition include University of Houston Law Center, Catholic Charities, YMCA International Services, various city council members, FBI, Harris County District Attorney's office, as well as many non-governmental organizations. 

In 2000 Lillian joined the team at the radio show “The Progressive Forum” on KPFT 90.1 FM Pacifica radio, a community radio station in Houston.  This shows deals with social justice and human rights issues as well as providing analyses of the media.  Lillian’s segment, titled “A Bird's Eye View,” presents a feminist perspective of current issues as well as highlighting the accomplishments of women. 


Cindy Clifford 

Cindy Clifford is the founder of the Clifford Group, Inc. Specializing in strategic marketing, the Clifford Group provides media and public relations, community involvement and spectacular corporate event production to the best public and private corporations around. Fulbright & Jaworski, Klotz Associates and Suderman & Young, along with local government and quasi-governmental corporations are just a few of her firm's clients. From the launch of the Port of Houston’s achievement of green coffee/raw cocoa port status to the creation of an annual economic development effort, Clifford’s dedication to her clients’ ventures is legendary.  

Clifford is also keen on politics. Her love for political ventures has taken her from the early days of envelope stuffing to her current role on campaign finance committees, with more than a few celebratory inaugurations along the way. Her six-year detour as a $-a-year volunteer advisor to Mayor Lee Brown provided Clifford the opportunity to advocate for economic development opportunities for women. She is particularly proud that she helped Mayor Brown appoint more women to board, commissions, and key staff positions than any previous mayor. Most recently, Cindy served on the finance committee for Mayor Annise Parker’s election. She served on the boards of both the Ensemble Theater and Diverseworks. She is married to David Bray, an award-winning corporate photographer. 


Franci Crane 

Franci Crane honed her trial lawyering skills at Susman Godfrey for almost 20 years. She was named by The Houston Press as one of the “women lawyers that men feared.”  Her husband Jim would agree. 

Franci spends most of her time these days (when not in Nantucket) as a community volunteer.  She is an ardent champion of the arts, sitting on the Boards of the Houston Grand Opera (for which she chairs the HGO Committee); The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (for which she is the co-chair of the Film Committee and the chair of the Art of the Islamic World Subcommittee); and Inprint, Inc.   She has chaired past galas for Discovery Green, the Center for Contemporary Craft, Inprint, CIS, Planned Parenthood and HGO. 

At the request of Mayor Bill White, since at least 2005 Franci has spearheaded a volunteer initiative to stimulate filmmaking in Houston.  The Houston Cinema Arts Society (HCAS) is one of the outgrowths of that initiative. In November 2009 HCAS presented its first Cinema Arts Festival Houston, named in the Houston Chronicle’s Thanksgiving Day Editorial as one of the things for which Houstonians can be grateful. 


Jane Cummins 

Jane Cummins is the Founder and Executive Director of the non-profit corporation Educational Programs Inspiring Communities, Inc., dedicated to serving adults with developmental disabilities.  She created the innovative H.E.A.R.T. Program in 2005, and in 2006, she obtained the DBA for H.E.A.R.T. Vending and Concessions, an affiliate business of the nonprofit agency whose employees are 100% people with disabilities. Recently, she was named one of America 's “Most Extraordinary, Entrepreneurial Women” in a nation-wide search, conducted by Balance Bar, a subsidiary of Kraft Foods North America.  She was also recently appointed to serve as a Commissioner on the Houston Commission on Disabilities, and named an “Outstanding Young Texan” by the Texas Jaycees.  Additionally, Jane has been selected for membership in local and national leadership organizations and she has served on the Board of Directors for Leadership Houston and its executive committee and chaired their 25th Anniversary Gala.  Jane has been involved in international initiatives and charities for a number of years. She traveled with the World Affairs Council to Cuba in 2001, and currently sits on the board of directors of the Hashoo Foundation, an NGO headquartered in Pakistan.   

Jane is a 1997 graduate of The University of Texas at Austin, where she studied humanities and ethnomusicology. While in college, Jane was a board member of the Texas Union, chaired the “Lectureship in Student Leadership”, and served as Chairman of the Distinguished Speakers Committee at UT.  She is now a life member of the Texas Exes alumni association and serves on the Houston Texas Exes scholarship selection committee.  A life-long musician, Jane hosts weekly music radio shows on 90.1FM and 91.7FM in Houston. 


Irma Diaz-Gonzalez 

Irma Diaz-Gonzalez is Corporate President and CEO of Employment & Training Centers, Inc.  She directs the daily operation of various workforce development and training programs with annual budget of 10+ million.  She is also active in Houston community service.  Irma is Chair Elect for the Houston Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and a member of the board of directors for Memorial Hermann Hospital System.  She attended the University of Coahuila, Saltillo, Mexico where she completed coursework in business administration.  She is the winner of numerous prestigious awards including Houston Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Business Woman of the Year, the Association of Hispanic School Administrators “Estrella” Award, and the National Museum of Mexican Art Woman of Achievement Award.  She is married to Roberto Gonzalez and has three daughters: Jessica, Sofia, and Elizabeth.  In her spare time Irma enjoys coin collecting and handwriting analysis. 


Karen Farber 

Karen Farber serves as the first Director of the University of Houston Cynthia Woods Mitchell Center for the Arts, a position she has held since December 2005. She is also Special Assistant to the Provost and Community Liaison for UH Arts, an initiative that brings together the arts at University of Houston.  

Ms. Farber was previously Major Gifts Officer for Houston Grand Opera, and prior to moving to Houston in 2004, served as Director of Development for Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival in the Berkshires of western Massachusetts. She has been a strategic planning and management fellow at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C., and has worked in administration and programming at New York City cultural organizations including the 92nd Street Y; the Eldridge Street Project, a museum on New York’s Lower East Side; and International Production Associates, a production and management company for large scale international performing arts projects. Ms. Farber is a New York City native, was raised in Los Angeles, and is a graduate of New York University's Tisch School of the Arts with an M.A. in Performance Studies, and a B.F.A. in Experimental Theater. She serves on the boards of the Fresh Arts Coalition, Lawndale Art Center, and The Catastrophic Theatre, and on the Advisory Board of the Houston Cinema Arts Society. 


Samina Farid 

Samina Farid is cofounder of Merrick Systems and serves as the company's Chief Financial Officer. With more than 25 years of business and technical experience in the oil and gas industry Ms. Farid brings extensive knowledge on complex midstream and upstream production and regulatory compliance issues. She has served as a leader in business and planning and strategy, organizational design, contract negotiations and business coaching and she has been an agent for change, stressing the importance of understanding and managing the expectations and fears associated with change when building and implementing new business solutions. 

Prior to co-founding Merrick Systems, Ms. Farid held various management positions at companies including Houston Natural Gas and Enron, Esso Eastern Pakistan, Cabot energy and Brooklyn Interstate Natural Gas. Ms. Farid graduated Magna Cum Laude with a Bachelor of Arts in Production Logistics Management from the University of Houston. She has taken an active leadership role on industry standards committees, having been the Promotional and Education chairperson for American Petroleum Industry’s PIDX group and past co-chair of the Regs User Group that sets eCommerce standards for regulatory and environmental filings. 


Sylvia R. Garcia  

Sylvia R. Garcia has represented Harris County Precinct Two as Commissioner since January 2003 when she became the first Hispanic and the first woman in her own right to occupy that position. As Commissioner, she is responsible for a precinct with a population of approximately one million that spans over fifteen municipalities.  Her precinct features a major base of operations for NASA, the nation’s largest petrochemical complex and the Port of Houston, the sixth largest in the world. She oversees road and bridge projects, parks, libraries, health facilities, community centers and courthouse annexes. She personally appoints members to boards including Harris Co. Toll Road Authority and Hospital District.  Commissioner Garcia serves on regional boards such the Houston-Galveston Area Council of government and the Hurricane Ike Recovery Committee. She has been recently elected Chairman-elect of the Texas Conference of Urban Counties and President of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO).   

Previous to becoming Precinct Two Commissioner, Garcia served as City Controller for the City of Houston and Chief Judge, Houston Municipal Courts.  Commissioner Garcia earned her law degree from the Thurgood Marshall School of Law at Texas Southern University in Houston.  She completed her undergraduate studies in Social Work and government at Texas Women’s University.  


Kalyani Giri  

Kalyani Giri is a fourth generation Indian born in Durban, South Africa. Educated at the prestigious St Anthony's School, she headed the debating team and won several awards for her artistic talent. Hailing from a family steeped in Indian cultural arts, with music taught to her by her mother from a very young age, she was inspired to learn the classical music of South India. To accomplish this, she left for India and enrolled at the Queen Mary's College, Madras University, in Chennai. While studying in India, she discovered a natural aptitude for writing and became a contributing editor with Pondicherry's "Youth Age" magazine. When the opportunity to leave India for the United States presented itself, she found expression in the Houston-based "Asian Woman Magazine", which accorded women an effective forum.  

Soon journalism became her primary vocation, with her contributing articles to local as well as national newspapers - Indo American News, Hinduism Today, Voice of Asia, India Herald, India Post - to name but a few. She was the proud recipient of the Mayor's Office initiated Asia Network Houston's  "Beauty, Brains, and Power" award in 2002. In 2009 she was the sole recipient of the Distinguished Service in Journalism awarded to her by the Hindus of Greater Houston.  Kalyani Giri's commitment to the diverse communities of this city is eloquently represented through her work spanning two decades. She lives in Houston with her husband Krishna and their daughter Anushka. 


Patricia Gras

Patricia Gras is an ardent storyteller, whether it is using the medium of television, or music. She has a background of life experiences as diverse as the city she covers. Patricia speaks five languages, and holds three masters degrees including a masters in journalism from Columbia University in New York.  Patricia’s current award-winning show “Living Smart with Patricia Gras” is now airing on over 113 PBS channels across the country.  A year ago, she also began co-producing and co-hosting “Latina Voices: Smart Talk” with Minerva Perez and Sofia Adrogue.  This is a show unlike no other in the country with three Latina anchors covering current issues of the day.

In 2008, she began hosting and producing the award-winning town hall forums “Houston Have your Say” on pertinent issues affecting the Harris County region.  She has also covered a full spectrum of subjects for Houston PBS including producing for the weekly public affairs magazine the connection, and hosting local specials like “And Thou Shalt Honor,” Hope and Help for Alzheimer’s in Houston, Facing the Mortgage Crisis and Mental Healthcare for Kids in Houston. Patricia has interviewed notables such as formers President George Bush, and Jimmy Carter. Former secretary of State, James Baker and Madeleine Albright and international dignitaries such as Desmond Tutu, Carlos Menem, Princess Elizabeth of Yugoslavia and Queen Anne of Romania.   

She is the recipient of over one hundred and sixty journalism awards including six regional and Lone Star Emmy Awards and fifteen national Tellys. Her work has also been recognized with honors from American Women in Journalism, American Women in Radio and Television, Houston and Dallas Press Clubs, National Communicator and Videographer awards, Houston Area Women’s Center, Texas Mental Health Association, Texas Medical Association, Texas Public Health Association, American Cancer Society, and the American Heart Association.  When Patricia isn’t in the editing suite, or attempting the climb to Machu Picchu, she can be found performing with her band “Los Quartus” a Latin folk-pop and flamenco band which composed the music for her show.  


Joanie Y. Hare, M.D. 

Dr. Joanie Hare is a Maternal-Fetal Medicine physician currently working at Houston Perinatal Associates in the Medical Center.  She received her medical degree from University of Alabama School of Medicine and did her fellowship in Maternal-Fetal Medicine at Pennsylvania Hospital in Philadelphia.  Her mission statement is to give the best healthcare to women and babies despite the reality many women have been told “it is impossible or too dangerous to have a baby.”  Joanie has helped many women accomplish what was assumed to be an impossible dream.    

To list a few of the committees she resides on at The Woman’s Hospital of Texas are: Cesarean Section Record Review Committee; Obstetrical Operations Committee, chairperson; Medical Executive Committee; OB Record Review Committee; and Board of Trustees, The Woman’s Hospital of Texas.  She holds the titles of Medical Director of the Diabetes Program and Assistant Medical Director-Maternal Transport Service at the Woman’s Hospital of Texas.  Also, she serves as chairman, M.D. Anderson Cord Blood Bank Minority Recruitment Committee.  Her professional societies include: Society of Maternal-Fetal Medicine, American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, March of Dimes, Dress for Success-Houston, Periwinkle Foundation-Board member. 


Shelby Hodge  

Shelby Hodge was society columnist for the Houston Chronicle for 18 years, covering everything from presidential inaugurations to the city's top society bashes. Her institutional knowledge of the city's social circles is unmatched. She brings that expertise and valuable insights today to CultureMap, a Houston-centric, web-based magazine covering the best of Houston and the best in Houston. Shelby is editor-at-large of the new entity that launched in November and has met with exceptional success and reader support. 


Helen Hodges 

Helen Hodges is the founder and president of Separation Systems Consultants, Inc. Founded in 1986, SSCI is a multi-disciplinary environmental consulting and field remediation firm with diverse capabilities and experience. SSCI regularly provides consulting services, technical advice, project management, expert witness testimony and general management services to government agencies and the private sector. SSCI specializes in enhancing the environment through its sound solutions approach. As an active real estate investor and developer, Ms. Hodges has developed a suite of services geared towards developers, investors and property owners that allows SSCI to move seamlessly from a Phase I Environmental Site Assessment to a signed contract.  


Pam Holm 

A native Houstonian and citizen activist for more than 35 years, Pam Holm was first elected to Houston City Council in 2008 to represent the people and interests of west Houston.  She is currently serving in her third and final term, which began in January 2008.  During her tenure on Council, Pam challenged budgets and, when necessary, opposed appropriations where there was wasteful spending and information lacking.  She has been a committed, full-time member, engaged on a daily basis, participating on every key committee where some of the city's most significant issues are handled.  

Pam is Chairman of the Pension Review Committee, member of the Transportation, Infrastructure and Aviation Committee; the Quality of Life Committee, which she also chaired; the Regulation, Development and Neighborhood Protection Committee; and the Budget and Fiscal Affairs Committee.  Additionally, she served as Vice-Chair of the Transportation Policy Council of the Houston-Galveston Area Council.  With public and private stakeholders, Pam coordinated efforts to rebuild Looscan Library and the Kendall Library complex that will include a community center.  She shepherded the designation of the first railroad Quiet Zone in Houston and the 2005 Historic Preservation Ordinance establishing the protected landmark status.  She is married to a local attorney Chuck Holm. 


Heidi Horton  

Heidi Horton is a former professional basketball player.  From 1997-1999 she played for the LA Sparks and Washington Mystics WNBA teams.  She also played pro-basketball overseas for five seasons.  She is currently a licensed massage therapist.  Heidi is a graduate of the University of Virginia where she majored in Spanish and Communications.  Heidi speaks six languages including English, Spanish, French, Italian, Greek and Hungarian. During college she appeared in three NCAA Division I Final Four Championships (1990, 1991, and 1992) and led the Virginia Cavaliers to 3 ACC Championship Titles (1990, 1991, and 1992).  She headed her own non-profit organization, “Heidi’s Hoops for Hope,” to benefit less fortunate girls from 1999 to 2009.  She is also the subject of the Disney cable movie Double Teamed, based on her and her twin sister’s life story (2002). 


Willa Hsueh, MD  

Willa Hsueh is the Director of the Diabetes Research Center at the Methodist Hospital Research Institute. She got her B.S. and M.D. at Ohio State University and did an internship and residency at Johns Hopkins. Dr. Hsueh joined the faculty at the Los Angeles County/University of South California (LAC/USC) Medical Center as an Assistant Professor of Medicine in 1979. In 1988, Dr. Hsueh became a full Professor of Medicine at LAC/USC, as well as the Chief of the Diabetes, Hypertension, and Nutritional Division there.  

She would eventually become the Chief of the Division of Endocrinology, Diabetes, and Hypertension at the LAC/USC School of Medicine in 1993, then moved to the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA in 1997. While at UCLA, Dr. Hsueh was Principal Investigator on several NIH grants and published over 40 papers in peer-reviewed medical journals. Her research team was the first to identify a potentially protective role for ligands of the nuclear receptor, peroxisome proliferator activated receptory (PPARy) in vascular injury and, more recently, in diabetes complications, particularly in regulation of genes that may mediate vascular complications. She joined the Methodist Hospital Research Institute in 2007.  

Dr. Hsueh’s current research interests focus on insulin resistance and mechanisms of cardiovascular disease, nuclear receptors, the rennin-angiotensin system, and vascular complications of diabetes mellitus, with the goal of translating observations from her research laboratory to human pathophysiology and prevention of disease. 


Kathleen Kelly 

Kathleen Kelly holds the dual titles Head of Music Staff and Studio Music Director at the Houston Grand Opera. Her 2006 HGO podium debut was the critically acclaimed Basil Twist production of Hansel and Gretel, which she led in her own arrangement for chamber ensemble. She served as assistant conductor, coach and prompter at the Metropolitan Opera from 1998 to 2006. She assisted James Levine on major German pieces such as Berg’s Wozzeck and Lulu; Strauss’s Elektra; and Wagner’s Die Meistersinger, Tristan und Isolde, Lohengrin, Parsifal and the Ring Cycle; plus Berlioz’s Les Troyens, the world premiere of Tobias Picker’s An American Tragedy, and the Met premieres of Schoenberg’s Moses und Aron and William Bolcom’s A View from the Bridge. She has coached under Andrew Davis, Donald Runnicles, Valery Gergiev, Charles Mackerras, and HGO’s Patrick Summers, with whom she worked during her apprenticeship in San Francisco Opera’s Merola program. She is an active recitalist, most notably with the HGO Studio and with Marilyn Horne's ON WINGS OF SONG series. She made her Carnegie Hall debut on that series in January 2009. In the 2009-10 season she will make her Kennedy Center debut in recital with mezzo-soprano Jamie Barton before returning to Carnegie.  In Houston, she co-founded the Recitals at Rienzi series, as well as the Taste This! cabaret series at The Tasting Room.  

Ms. Kelly was the music director of Berkshire Opera, a summer festival, from 2005 - 2008. Ms. Kelly has also worked with Seattle Opera, Opera Australia and Glimmerglass Opera, where she was Director of Musical Studies for the Young American Artists in 2000 and 2001. She is active as a master teacher, notably with the LA Opera Thornton Young Artists Program, the Metropolitan Opera Lindemann Program, and the University of Michigan. She has been the subject of a Wall Street Journal feature as well as a Metropolitan Opera broadcast intermission feature.  

In September 2010, Ms. Kelly will join the Vienna Staastoper as Studienleiter.  


Rathna Kumar 

Rathna Kumar is an internationally renowned dancer, teacher and choreographer, and the Founder-Director of first Indian dance school in Texas, the Anjali Center for Performing Arts, established in 1975. Rathna has more than 5000 performances to her credit, has trained over 2000 students in her thirty-four- year career as a dance instructor, and has been recognized as a true cultural ambassador of Indian performing arts in the US. She has numerous productions to her credit,and has published two innovative notated books on the fundamental techniques of the two classical dance styles that she performs. A ten-time recipient of Individual Artist Project and Fellowship Grants from the Houston Arts Alliance, Rathna has numerous other awards to her credit, among them a Certificate of Appreciation from Texas Governor Rick Perry, a Congressional Recognition from U.S. Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, the George H.W. Bush Award for Achievement in the Arts from the Asian Pacific American Heritage Association, an Honorary Doctorate in Performing Arts from Telugu University, Hyderabad, India, a nomination to the Texas Women’s Hall of Fame, special Certificates for Volunteerism from ex-President George W. Bush and Houston Mayor Bill White, and the Asian Legacy Award from the Houston Community College. 

Rathna is currently an Adjunct Director on the Sri Meenakshi Temple Society Board, a member of the International Dance Council of UNESCO and the Association of Bharatanatyam Artists of India, an ex-Officio member of World Dance Houston, Network of Indian Professionals, Pratham Houston, Asian Pacific American Heritage Association, Miller Theater Advisory Board, and the India Culture Center. She is also the Artistic Director of Samskriti, Society for Indian Performing Arts. Rathna has taught dance at the University of Houston, the Houston Community College, Houston Ballet Academy, Jewish Community Center, and the High School for Performing and Visual Arts, and now teaches a course in Bharatanatyam at Rice University. In 2006 and 2007, Rathna was invited by the UNESCO to deliver keynote speeches at the World Conference on Arts Education (Lisbon, Portugal) and the World Creativity Summit (Hong Kong).  A summa cum laude graduate in English, Rathna was an Assistant Professor of English in India before moving to Houston and dedicating herself full time to the propagation, preservation, and promotion of Indian cultural arts in the U.S. 


Mary Lawler 

Mary Lawler is the Executive Director of Avenue Community Development Corporation (Avenue CDC), an award-winning nonprofit organization. With more than 15 years of experience in community and housing development, Lawler has helped Avenue CDC continue its mission of revitalizing the community by developing affordable housing and economic opportunities, while preserving the area’s cultural, economic, and historic diversity since joining the organization in 1996. Avenue CDC is currently developing a 49-unit senior apartment complex on Metro’s North Line at Fulton Street across from Moody Park, as well as a 20-acre mixed-use development on Irvington Boulevard, which will include 96 single-family homes, an acre of parkland, and 144 mixed-income apartments. 

Under Lawler’s leadership, Avenue CDC has won numerous awards, including the 2009 Regional Energy Star Award for Excellence in Energy Efficient Affordable Housing from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, a 2002 Citation of Honor from the Houston Chapter of the American Institute of Architects, the 2002 Good Brick Award from the Greater Houston Preservation Alliance and the 2000 Best Non-Profit by the Houston Press. Lawler received her master's degree from Harvard University’s Kennedy School and a B.A. in Economics from Duke University. 


Alecia Lawyer 

Alecia Lawyer is the Founder, Executive Director and Principal Oboist of the River Oaks Chamber Orchestra (ROCO) – a “trailblazer in the orchestral world” creating personal relationships through the language of music.  ROCO concert recordings have been heard on the nationally broadcast Performance Today series multiple times.  Alecia is honored to be in the finals with Willie Nelson for being named Texas Musician of the Year! 

After receiving her master's from Juilliard and her bachelor's from SMU, Lawyer’s career ranged from recording for John Cage and soloing with Rostropovich to a contemporary chamber music recital at Carnegie Hall.  In addition to currently performing as principal oboist of ROCO, she also collaborates with the chamber groups Musiqa and Foundation for Modern Music in Houston, and is on the Advisory Boards of American Festival for the Arts and the Astrodome Studios.  She has taught as affiliate oboe professor at the University of Houston and as the Woodwind Coordinator and Oboe instructor at the summer American Festival for the Arts in Houston while maintaining a competitive private oboe studio.  Often appearing as soloist with Houston area orchestras, her concerto performances have been broadcast on Houston in Concert on KUHF.  Alecia and her husband Larry have two fantastic sons, Jacob, 9 and Zachary, 6. 


Lee Tinker Loe 

Lee Tinker Loe was born in southern California, as the oldest of four children. Her family moved to Texas in 1936, heading for oil fields. They lived in Tomball, Cleveland, and Livingston before Loe moved to Austin to attend the University of Texas. In 1948, the head of the (Methodist) Wesley Foundation, Rev. Paul Deats, held a prayer service for conscientious participants in and objectors to the Korean War. From that point on, Loe had many discussions about Korea, war, and nonviolence with Rev. Deats. She educated herself on the human rights violations occurring in Korea: people making the long march from Seoul in freezing weather, women giving birth in ditches and leaving their newborns behind, and those who threw their children off bridges into cold rivers because they could no longer carry them. Loe decided that anything which so distorted human sensibilities could not be right. 

In 1952, Loe was married. That year, she and her husband voted for Adlai Stevenson in the U.S. presidential election, believing that he could create a peaceful world. After the world learned about the U.S. dropping the atomic bombs on Japan and all the devastation that followed, Loe and her husband worked for the abolition of those weapons. After Loe’s husband completed his internal medicine residency (as a member of the U.S. Army), the couple spent three years in Paris with the Military. According to Loe, Parisians understood that the war in Vietnam was wrong, and Loe subsequently began to vehemently write congress and the U.S. president about ending it. In 1967, Loe and her husband marched in San Francisco against the Vietnam War, with one of their daughters tagging along. Later that year, the family settled in Houston and Loe began her adventure as a peace activist. In 1984, as a member of the Nuclear Weapons Freeze Campaign, Loe became a co-editor of what has since become the Houston Peace News, a monthly newspaper. For 25 years, the newspaper has gathered information “to encourage democratic debate on issues of human dignity and global sustainability.” Loe continues to believe that education can be a key to peace. 


Laura Mayes 

Laura Mayes is an Emmy-winning writer who joined two friends she met through design blogs to start kirtsy.com, a user-generated content aggregator for online news. The three had never met in real life until two months after the site was running. Today, Kirtsy is a thriving community and a profitable company. Kirtsy co-created and co-hosts the Mom 2.0 Summit in February and has launched a nationwide "Hands-On Social Media" program to educate women about social media. Kirtsy blogs at Blog Con Queso, and has just released a book, Kirtsy Takes a Bow: A Celebration of Women's Online Favorites, which highlights some of the best postings on the site, including tips and information on travel and leisure, fashion and style, family and parenting, and politics. In addition to illustrating the site's best content, it also tells the story of how Kirtsy.com became such a huge hit with women around the globe.  

By day, Laura is vice-president of public relations at the advertising agency Marion, Montgomery, Inc. 


Quynh-Anh McMahan, MSW 

Quynh-Anh McMahan is the Research and Evaluation Manager with Rockwell Fund, Inc., a private foundation located in Houston, TX that provides around $5 million in grants annually, primarily in the areas of education, human services and community health. Prior to entering the philanthropy sector, she served in a variety of nonprofit management positions, specializing in organizational capacity building, faith-based community development and homelessness issues. She has presented at a variety of local, regional and national venues on topics including philanthropy capacity building, volunteerism and social justice issues. Quynh Anh received her Master of Social Work degree from the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work, and a certification in Nonprofit Management from the American Humanics Program. 

She is an Adjunct Professor at the University of Houston, teaching a course on social work and social services, serves on the program planning committees for the Conference of Southwest Foundations and the Greater Houston Grantmaker's Forum, and is a member of Women in Philanthropy. Among her community involvement initiatives, Quynh Anh is a founding member of the Asian American Giving Circle of Greater Houston, a philanthropy group dedicated to supporting Asian/Pacific American-serving organizations and causes. She also volunteers her time organizing and providing direct support services in the resettlement of refugee families from around the world. Her most current and exciting refugee-related initiative is co-founding The Community Cloth- - a microenterprise empowering refugee women in Houston. The project targets economic, educational and social goals through the provision of seed grants, training, and peer support, and by expanding market opportunities for refugee women artisans. Through producing and selling their wares, the women have an opportunity to express their culture and heritage, learn new skills that will assist them in transitioning to life in the US, and obtain much-needed supplemental income. 


Michele (Mica) McCutchen Mosbacher 

Michele Mosbacher is a board member for the Susan G. Komen Foundation in Houston. She is currently Texas Statewide Co-Chair for Texans for Governor Rick Perry. From 2006 to 2008 she was National Co-Chairwoman, Women for McCain. Since 2004 she has served as a member of the board and member-at-large for the Houston Ballet's executive committee. In 2008 she was appointed to the University of Houston Board of Regents by Governor Perry. She has won several prestigious awards including Philanthropist of the Year from the Texas Association Against Sexual Assault and multiple Houston advertising awards for Houston National Gas Corporation as Associate Editor and Editor. In her spare time, she enjoys sailing, horseback riding, playing golf, and skiing. Mica was married to the late Robert A. Mosbacher, Sr., who served as 28th Secretary of Commerce under President George H. W. Bush. 


Neena Newberry 

For over sixteen years, Neena Newberry has been advising and coaching clients in midsize to Fortune 50 companies. As an executive coach, she works with motivated senior leaders and managers to get better results. She helps her clients clarify their goals, play to their strengths, keep developmental areas from becoming barriers, and take action. Neena also specializes in working with women in dual career families. As a consultant, she works with organizations to take their management and leadership capabilities to the next level through coaching and other developmental strategies. Neena's credentials combine expertise in HR and executive coaching with a strong business background to deliver creative, business-driven strategies. Her experience spans from business strategy development and operations improvement to attracting, retaining and developing top talent. 

Neena has a BBA in Management from the University of Texas at Arlington, an MBA in Finance from the University of Texas, a Professional in Human Resources Certification, and is a graduate of the College of Executive Coaching. She is a Certified Professional and Executive Coach and has her ACC certification from the International Coach Federation. Neena is a member of the International Coach Federation, Houston Coaches, the Society for Human Resource Management, the Houston OD Network, the Women's Energy Network of Houston, the Houston Strategic Forum, and the Greater Houston Women's Chamber of Commerce. She was nominated and selected to participate in the Spring 2009 Business/Civic Leadership Forum for the Center for Houston's Future. Neena also serves on the boards of Collaborative for Children (a nonprofit focused on early childhood education), the Houston Chapter of the McCombs MBA Alumni Association, and Houston Coaches. She is also a United Way Young Leader. Neena is known for her commitment to her clients, the caliber of her work, her integrity and professionalism. 


Patricia Oliver 

Patricia Oliver received her master’s in architecture degree from UCLA. After graduation Ms. Oliver worked for many notable Southern California architects including Frank O. Gehry, Charles Moore, Craig Hodgetts and Robert Mangurian at Studio Works, and Coy Howard, 

Ms. Oliver opened her own office, Oliver Kurze Georges, in Los Angeles. While maintaining her practice, she taught at California State Polytechnic University - Pomona, where she was Associate Dean of the College of Environmental Design. 

In 1992, Ms. Oliver joined Art Center College of Design as Chairman of a new department of Environmental Design. In this position she developed programs in Environmental Product Design, Interior Architecture, Environmental Graphics and Entertainment Design, and in 2000 she became the Senior Vice President of Educational Planning and Architecture, working with design architects Frank Gehry, Craig Hodgetts, Ming Fung, and Kevin Daly on the campus expansion. 

On January 20, 2010, Patricia became the first woman and the first non-Texan Dean of the Gerald D. Hines College of Architecture at the University of Houston, since its inception in 1945. Last year she was Chair the AIA National Convention in San Francisco and chair of the AIA National Education Committee. She is currently serving on the AIA National Education Committee and is the AIA representative on the National Architectural Accrediting Board. 


Lidya K. Osadchey 

Lidya Osadchey has been a resident of Houston, TX for the last 32 years. She was born, reared and educated in Moscow, former USSR. Her quest for freedom landed her family in Houston where she continued her education, first at Rice University with Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology, and later, at the University of Houston earning a Master of Arts in Public History. She continuously seeks learning opportunities to increase her professional and personal cache of knowledge and experience. Lidya had been a member of Vistage International (2003-2008), a CEO peer group, and attended Harvard Business School's program for non-profit executives. 

Lidya's passion for community involvement started right then as a new immigrant, and since then, launched her professional career. She has been involved in many civic causes, including human rights and education.  

Lidya is the Founding Executive Director of the Holocaust Museum Houston. In May 2000, she was appointed Chief Executive Officer of the ESCAPE Family Resource Center, a 501(c)(3) private non-profit organization. Its mission is to educate families in crisis to prevent child abuse before a child is hurt, and to teach life skills that ensure a safe and nurturing life for children. In fiscal year 2009, ESCAPE educated more than 6700 parents and children in 73 locations with 92 community partners. ESCAPE classes are delivered in English, Spanish and Chinese. 

In 2007 ESCAPE launched educational programs in Arusha, Tanzania to teach communication, anger management, appropriate parenting and family safety skills in orphanages and local schools. 


Karen Otazo Hofmeister 

Karen Hofmeister combines "Passionate Spouse" with a career as a writer and a thinking partner for executives. Through her work as a no-holds-barred, dynamic thinking partner and executive coach for executives in the US, Europe and Asia she gained valuable experiences which she translated into two successful business books: The Truth About Managing Your Career and The Truth About Being a Leader, Pearson/Prentice Hall - Business Books. Dr. Karen has a doctorate in Human Resources Development and two degrees in Linguistics. Languages and their effect on the way we think first attracted her to multi-cultural work where she utilizes her unique talents for impacting individuals working with different cultures and styles. 

Currently, Dr. Karen is the Executive Director and Treasurer of an exciting new policy think tank, Citizens for Affordable Energy, headed up by her husband, John Hofmeister, retired President of Shell Oil. In her extensive work with women, Dr. Karen also serves on other non-profits like Vital Voices Global Partnership and the Tahirih Justice Center. She is also working on a report for the White House Project for women. Her current book research is interviewing for: Who Took My Balls: Women and Power in the Workplace. 


Annise Parker 

Annise Parker is a second-generation native Houstonian. She attended Rice University, graduating in 1978 with a Bachelor of Arts Degree. In the private sector, Ms. Parker spent 20 years working in the oil and gas industry, including 18 years with Mosbacher Energy Company. She also co-owned a retail bookstore for 10 years and a bookkeeping and income tax company for 15 years. Mayor Parker was sworn in to her first term as mayor of Houston on January 4, 2010. She is Houston's 61st Mayor, one of only two women to hold the City's highest elected office. As the City's Chief Executive Officer, she is responsible for all aspects of the general management of the city and for seeing that all laws and ordinances are enforced. 

Prior to her election as Mayor, Ms. Parker served for six years as Houston City Controller and six years as an at-large member of Houston City Council. She is the first out gay mayor of a major U.S. city and the only person in Houston history to hold the offices of council member, controller and mayor. 


Sue Payne 

Sue Payne is the Geoscience Resource Manager for ExxonMobil Exploration Company. A native of Hickory Flat, Georgia, Sue graduated from Georgia Institute of Technology with a Bachelor of Science degree in Physics. Sue joined Mobil in 1976 as a geoscientist in Dallas, Texas. Over the past 30 years with Mobil and now ExxonMobil, Sue's management and operations experiences have afforded her a variety of assignments. She has been Planning Manager for ExxonMobil Exploration Company; U.S. Area Exploration Manager; Geoscience Operations Manager for ExxonMobil Production Company; Vice President for Mobil's Onshore U.S. Producing Business; Commercial and Negotiations Manager for Mobil New Business Development in Latin America; and an advisor at Mobil's corporate headquarters. She has held positions in Lagos, Nigeria; New Orleans, Louisiana; Fairfax, Virginia; Dallas; and Houston, Texas - where she has been since 1993. 

Her current assignment as Geoscience Resource Manager encompasses managing the training, career development, and project deployment for the 1500+/- geoscientists in ExxonMobil's worldwide operations; and providing specialist geoscience technical support for ExxonMobil Upstream projects. 

While a member of several organizations, Sue is currently the Chairman of the United Way of Greater Houston Women's Initiative and active member of the Georgia Tech Alumni Association. She is the proud mother of her daughter, Hannah, who recently graduated from the University of Mississippi in Oxford, Mississippi. 


Kathryn Peek, PhD 

Kathryn Peek serves as assistant vice president for the UH Office of University Health Initiatives. She oversees academic, administrative, and strategic development and operation of UH's initiatives and programs in health-related areas of instruction, advancement, and research. Before joining UH in July 2009, Peek served as Associate Professor in the Department of Imaging Physics, University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center and adjunct associate professor, Department of Bioengineering, Rice University. She has also held faculty and administrative positions at the University of Texas Medical School at Houston and the University of Houston College of Optometry. 

In 1991, as a UH faculty member, Peek chaired a women's health conference, one of the first projects of the newly formed UH Women's Studies Program. She has been an active member of the Friends of Women's Studies ever since. 

In 2002, Peek co-founded and served as first president for the Texas Medical Center Women's Health Network, an organization of more than 600 local health professionals. She has won numerous teaching awards and lectures extensively about health and education issues throughout the country. 

A life-long resident of Southeast Texas, Peek holds degrees from Lamar University (B.A., English), the University of Houston (M.S., Biology), the University of Houston at Clear Lake (M.A., Behavioral Sciences), and the University of Texas Health Science Center (Ph.D., Biomedical Sciences). She is former president of the Association for Women in Science-Gulf Coast Houston Chapter and has served on the Board of Directors for several non-profit organizations. 


Monica Pope 

Monica Pope was named Best Chef at the 2009 Houston Culinary Awards and is a 2007 James Beard Award Nominee/Best Chef Southwest; she is still the only Texas woman chef to be named a Top 10 Best New Chef by Food & Wine Magazine (1996). Her restaurant, T'afia, that celebrates all things local, has received local and national accolades and has been featured on 7 different Best New Restaurant lists, including Bon Appetit Magazine, Gourmet Magazine, and Texas Monthly Magazine. T'afia was also chosen Best New Restaurant in 2004 and Best Restaurant in 2005 by The Houston Press

Chef Pope recently launched her interactive online cookbook, Eat Where Your Food Lives, available at www.ChefMonicaPope.com. She is also working on a cooking memoir, entitled Eating Hope (and Other Things I've Had to Stomach), an insightful, poignant and humorous look at a woman's place in the (restaurant) kitchen. 


Carla Powers 

Carla Powers is a 1978 graduate of Baylor University School of Law and currently serves as world-wide head of litigation for Royal Dutch Shell. Before joining Shell in 2000, she was a trial lawyer for twenty-two years; most recently, as an equity partner in Shook, Hardy & Bacon, L.L.P. She specialized in complex commercial and product liability cases, representing such clients as Philip Morris Inc., Koch Industries, Bristol-Myers Squibb and the City of Houston Municipal Employees' Pension System. In addition to maintaining a full-time practice, Carla was adjunct professor of law at the University of Houston Law Center for fourteen years, teaching trial advocacy, mass tort litigation and pre-trial procedure. She is also a legal writer and has given over one hundred speeches on legal topics. 

Additionally, Carla is the author of Matches in the Gas Tank: Trial by Fire in the Armstrong Cult and is an accomplished motivational speaker.  


Shanta Raghuthaman 

Shanta Raghuthaman is originally from India and has been living in the United States for thirty-three years. She is one of the founders and the current President of Asians Against Domestic Abuse. Her community work started with involvement in her children's schools. After their graduation from high school she began volunteering with Crisis Intervention of Houston and the Fort Bend County Women's Center. She served as a Board member with the Fort Bend County Women's Center for six years and is now on their Council of Resources. She has also served on the Board of the American Heart Association East Fort Bend Chapter as well as the Fort Bend Literacy Council.

In addition to being Board President of AADA she is also a member of the Friends of Asian Art Sub-committee at the Museum of Fine Arts Houston. She also works as an office manager for Houston Gastroenterology. 


Janie Reyes 


Janie Reyes was one of 16 children born into a family of 12 boys and four girls. She attended 

school in Edinburg, Texas where she met her future husband Frumencio Reyes Jr. 

Janie dropped out of her Junior year in High School, got married and moved to Chicago, Illinois where she lived for the next 12 years. When her husband was accepted 

into law school Janie returned to Texas, settling in Houston. After her husband 

finished law school, Janie returned to school, ultimately earning her Doctorate in Juris 



Janie's contributions in political, social and public services have earned 

her numerous honors and awards, and she currently sits on the Harris 

County-Houston Sports Authority Board. Her proudest accomplishments are her two 

daughters. Imelda Reyes- Castillo is an Attorney sitting as Municipal Court Judge and 

Donna Mendez is an ER Doctor at Texas Children's Hospital. Her six grandchildren 

are the love of her life. 


Joy Sewing 

Even as a child, Joy Sewing knew she would become a journalist. Now, as the Houston Chronicle's fashion and beauty columnist and writer, she covers current trends and issues - from the lack of models of color on runways to the meager clothing options for plus-size teens. She has interviewed hundreds of noted designers and fashionable celebrities, from Oscar de la Renta and Robert Cavalli to Sean "Diddy" Combs and Taylor Swift. In her weekly Recessionista column, Joy offers readers ways to navigate fashion on the cheap. 

A Houston native, Joy received a bachelor's in journalism from the University of Houston and an MBA from Webster University in St. Louis. Joy was a guest lecturer at the University of North Texas' Mayborn Literary Nonfiction Writers Conference in summer 2009, and she regularly mentors aspiring journalists and speaks to schools, colleges and businesses about fashion and journalism issues. In 2007, her work was honored by Houston Community College and Fashion Group International. Other honors include the National Press Foundation's Spanish Language Fellowship, which sent her to Mexico, and the Case Media Fellowship focusing on Latin America. As a freelance writer, she has written for People, Money, Town & Country, Vibe, Heart & Soul, Crisis and Shape magazines. 


Carla Sharp

Dr. Sharp trained as a clinical psychologist at the University of Stellenbosch, South Africa from 1994-1997, after which she obtained an Association of Commonwealth Universities Scholarship to complete a Ph.D. in Developmental Psychopathology at Cambridge University, UK. In 2004, she moved to the United States to take up an appointment as Assistant Professor in the Menninger Department of Psychiatry at Baylor College of Medicine. In 2009 she was appointed as Associate Professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of Houston.

Her published work reflects her interests in the wider field of developmental psychopathology. She is particularly interested in social-cognitive, affective and reward processing as it relates to childhood disorders (most notably antisocial behavior and emerging personality disorder), as well as psychometrics. Dr. Sharp recently obtained federal funding to develop diagnostic measures for early identification of emotional-behavior disorders in children affected by AIDS in South Africa.

She has co-authored two books: an edited volume with Oxford University Press titled Social Cognition and Developmental Psychopathology and a book with MIT Press titled Midbrain Mutiny: Behavioral Economics and Neuroeconomics of Gambling Addiction as Basic Reward System Disorder, and has published numerous articles in peer-reviewed journals including Science and The Journal of the American Academy for Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. Her current research is funded by the NIH Centers for AIDS Research, NARSAD, the Child and Family Program of the Menninger Clinic and the South African Responsible Gambling Foundation. 


Myrtle Alice Sims 

The daughter of a schoolteacher and a social worker, Myrtle Alice Sims grew up in Chattanooga, Tennessee and earned her undergraduate degree in journalism at the University of Tennessee. She then left home, school, and the South for eight years, heading to New York City, where she worked briefly for publishing giant Charles Scribner & Sons and then landed a job as a bank officer for Citibank. The banker's pace and numbers suited Ms. Sims but she yearned for something more—for dusty chalkboards, starry-eyed kids, and fun-filled lesson plans. She returned to school and the South, her roots. She earned a master's degree in Educational Leadership from the University of Houston and taught at three different Houston public schools.

On the verge of becoming an elementary school principal, she opted instead to venture into private education and began teaching math at St. John's School in 1986. From 1992 to 2007, she served as St. John's Director of Admission, overseeing the school's marketing efforts and extensive application processes. Splitting time between the boardroom and the classroom, between admission spreadsheets and math lessons, between navy suits and plaid skirts, Ms. Sims fused her two lives: businesswoman and teacher. In 2007, she opened Sims Educational Assessment Services LLC, a consulting firm dedicated to helping families find the best match between their children and schools. Intensive, individual attention, whether in a single consultation or an in-depth school-search program, is the company's hallmark.


Gael Stack 

Gael Stack is a Moores Professor of Art at the University of Houston. She has won numerous awards, including two from the National Endowment for the Arts and a Tiffany Foundation Award. She was a Visiting Distinguished Professor of Art at Yale University. Her work had been written about and exhibited in museums and galleries nationally and internationally. Some of the permanent collections in which her work is included are: the Beaux Arts Museum, Saintes, France; the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; the Menil Collection, Houston; Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven CT; the Krannert Art Museum, Champaign IL; the Dallas Museum of Art; the San Antonio Museum of Art; the El Paso Museum of Art; the Blanton Museum of Art, Austin TX; and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. 


Ellen Spencer Susman 

Ellen Susman has more than 25 years of experience working in television news as a reporter, anchor, host, producer and moderator. In 2001, Ellen became fascinated with the challenges facing women in the workplace. With support from companies such as Reliant Energy, JP Morgan Chase, KPMG and others, The Myth of Superwoman conference was a sellout, with 300 women attending one week after 9/11. Her 13-week series, Superwoman Central, featured 26 Houston-area women and aired on Houston PBS in 2005. Recently, Susman hosted and produced Balancing Your Life with Ellen Susman, a groundbreaking program that ran on PBS and addressed the choices and challenges women face juggling career, family, marriage, and motherhood. 

Recently, Susman edited a memoir based on her late sister's life as a photo-journalist in the Middle East. "Danger Pay," was published by the University of Texas, in November 2008. Since then, Ellen has presented numerous readings and held book signings in Colorado, California, New Jersey, New York, and her home state of Texas. 

Susman is also a regular contributor to the Huffington Post about work-life balance, women's issues and animals' rights. 


Indira Vishnampet 

Ms. Vishnampet is the of CEO of Hydus, Inc., an Information Technology firm focused on strategic IT solutions in Enterprise Information Management including Enterprise Integration, Business Intelligence and Data Warehousing. In addition, Ms. Vishnampet has also been a founder/co-founder of three start-up corporations. 

Ms. Vishnampet is also very active in the local community. She recently has been nominated to the Board of St. Luke's Sugarland Hospital which is part of St. Luke's Episcopal Health System. She is an active volunteer with the Indo-American Chamber of Commerce of Greater Houston and heads various activities including initiating and moderating a panel discussion on Professional Women. She is also an active member of the Executive Women Partnership which is part of Greater Houston Partnership. Ms. Vishnampet is married and is a proud mother of two girls. 


Karen Walrond 

Karen Walrond is a former corporate attorney. She is currently a writer and photographer and the creative mind behind the award-winning blog "Chookooloonks," a visual site that helps readers see that their ordinary lives are, in fact, extraordinary. Her line art images and photography projects have been included in exhibits around the country. She was one of the founding contributors to the collaborative website, "Shutter Sisters," a photoblog aimed at inspiring and creating community among avid women photographers. A seasoned speaker, she has appeared at several national conferences and given several keynote speeches; in addition, she has appeared on both local and national radio and television shows, including an appearance on The Oprah Winfrey Show. She is the author of the upcoming book, The Beauty of Different, to be published by Bright Sky Press, Fall 2010.


Jennifer Wheler, MD

Jennifer Wheler is the founder and Board President of COLLAGE: The Art for Cancer Network. COLLAGE, founded in 2006, has a mission to bring innovative art programs to patients living with cancer. In collaboration with M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, COLLAGE programs have reached over 1200 participants.  

Dr. Wheler is also an Assistant Professor in the Department of Investigational Cancer Therapeutics at M.D. Anderson where she works to develop novel cancer therapeutics.


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