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2014 Biographies

Dorothy M. Ables 

Dorothy Ables is chief administrative officer for Spectra Energy Corp, responsible for the company’s information technology, audit services, human re- sources, support services and community relations functions. She joined the company in 1985 as a senior financial analyst in investor relations for predecessor company PanEnergy Corp and has served as vice president of audit services (2000) and chief ethics and compliance officer (2004). Dorothy gained broad leadership experience with the company’s natural gas transmission business, primarily in the strategic planning and financial areas and provided oversight in areas of information technology, human resources, community relations and public affairs. Before joining the company, Dorothy worked in the audit department of Peat, Marwick, Mitchell & Co. She received her Bachelor of Business Administration degree in accounting from the University of Texas at Austin. 

Dorothy serves on the board of trustees for the United Way of Greater Houston and chaired the 2012-2013 community campaign. She also serves on the board of the Center for Houston’s Future. She is a past president of The Junior League of Houston and The Children’s Fund. In 2010 she was named one of Houston’s Most Influential Women by Houston Woman magazine and one of Texas’ Most Powerful and Influential Women by the National Diversity Council. Texas Executive Women named her a 1998 Woman on the Move.


Sehba Ali 

Sehba Ali is the CEO and Superintendent of KIPP Houston Public Schools, made up of 22 schools serving 10,500 students in grades pre-k through grade 12. She manages over 1,000 staff members committed to ensuring KIPP students and alumni are successful to and through college, with KIPP Houston’s college graduation rate five times the average for low-income students nationally. 

Prior to joining KIPP Houston Public Schools, Sehba served as Chief Academic Officer for KIPP Bay Area Schools. She founded KIPP Heartwood Academy middle school in San Jose, CA in 2004, a nationally recognized Blue Ribbon School consistently rated as one of the highest performing middle schools in California. 

Sehba earned her BA in English and Psychology from UC Berkeley and her master's from Stanford University’s Graduate School of Education. She received training from the KIPP School Leadership Program, including study at the Haas School of Business. Her career began as a middle school English teacher in Houston, Texas, with Teach For America. She has served on the KIPP Foundation Board of Directors, the California Charter School Association Member Council and Rocketship Education’s Board of Directors. Sehba is the proud mother of three young children.


Laura E. Arnold 

Laura E. Arnold is Co-Chair of the Laura and John Arnold Foundation. LJAF’s core objective is to produce substantial, widespread and lasting reforms that will maximize opportunities and minimize injustice in our society by systematically examining areas in which barriers to human progress and achievement exist, applying a rigorous, comprehensive and entrepreneurial approach, considering all possible strategies, tactics and resource levels and teams (including existing players) to effect solutions. LJAF’s current areas of focus include criminal justice, government accountability initiatives and education. 

Laura previously served as Executive Vice President and General Counsel of Cobalt International Energy, LP in Houston, Texas, and as a mergers and acquisitions attorney at Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen and Katz in New York City. She is a member of the New York bar, having earned her JD from Yale Law School, an MPhil in European Studies from the University of Cambridge and a BA, Magna Cum Laude, in Government from Harvard College. Ms. Arnold clerked for the Hon. Judith W. Rogers in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. 

Laura is an Adjunct Professor of Management at the Jesse H. Jones Graduate School of Management at Rice University, where she is also a Trustee. She is also a member of the national board of directors of Teach For America and the Innocence Project and a trustee of Baylor College of Medicine.


Shellye Arnold 

Shellye Arnold brings a wealth of experience in executive leadership and change management including 19 years with Cisco Systems, Hewlett-Packard and Compaq Computer Corporation in strategic planning, marketing and operations. In those roles she developed and executed innovative marketing programs that helped deliver over $5B in sales, led strategy and planning to help a major line of business grow from $4B to $10B and coached and mentored dozens of employees. She served as a management consultant with McKinsey & Company’s Houston and Mexico offices, where she aided energy and high tech clients to identify and access new markets. Shellye studied public policy and is fluent in Spanish, which resulted in early career opportunities working with the Texas State Legislature, the Texas Department of Commerce and the U.S. Department of Commerce, as well as living and working across Latin America delivering public health programs. 

Shellye holds a BA from the University of Texas at Austin and a Master in Public Policy from Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School. As a native Houstonian, she cares deeply about our parks, bayous and green spaces and the wildlife that in- habit them. Shellye has served as a volunteer with the Houston Park’s Board on the Bayou Greenways Initiative to help Houston establish the largest urban trail system in North America, does dog rescue volunteer work and advocacy, and co-leads Girl Scout Troop 21, the nation’s only special needs Girl Scout troop. She may be reached via email at sarnold@memorialparkconservancy.org.


April Bailey 

April Bailey is a Senior Vice President and Manager in Commercial Banking at Amegy Bank, focusing on middle market banking for clients with revenues between $10 million and $1 billion in various industries in the Houston area. 

Responsibilities include originating, negotiating and closing new commercial and corporate loans and deposits for existing and new clients, cross-selling other products and services within the bank and portfolio management of various industries including manufacturing, distributing, energy service, transportation, construction, and maritime. She received her BBA in Finance at the University of Houston and her MBA in Finance from the University of St. Thomas. 

April has served as Treasurer on the Executive Committee, as a board member of the Houston Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and is currently a board member of the Greater Houston Port Bureau and an advisory board member for Child Advocates. Her many committee memberships include the Women’s Finance Exchange, Latin Women’s Initiative, Friends of Child Advocates and the Emerging Women Leaders Group for the Greater Houston Partnership. April is a graduate of the Center for Houston’s Future 2011 Spring Class Business Forum and a 2011 recipient of the Houston Business Journal’s Top 40 under 40. Her community involvement includes volunteering for the United Way Education Initiative, as a corporate guild liaison for Dress for Success Houston, mentoring a student/intern with Cristo Rey Jesuit High School and volunteering with the United Way Community Investment Program to evaluate and determine various levels of funding for United Way organizations. April also manages the Mid-Career Women’s Group for Amegy’s Women’s Initiative Program. A native Houstonian, she and her husband, Kevin, have two young children, Isabela (8 years old) and Jackson (6 years old).


Candace Beeke 

Candace Beeke is editor in chief of the Houston Business Journal, which she joined in 2010. Beeke was editor of the weekly Business Review West Michigan since May 2008, and began her career in journalism at Business Direct Weekly, a predecessor of the Business Review, as a reporter in 2001. Beeke graduated from Western Michigan University with a bachelor’s degree in public relations and a minor in journalism. She taught advanced and basic journalism as adjunct faculty at WMU from 2003 through 2010. 

The Houston Business Journal is one of the nation’s oldest business-to-business news publications. HBJ is owned by American City Business Journals and represents the largest market of the 40 cities in which ACBJ owns publications. Beeke is married to Ben Beeke. The couple has three children: Lily, 10; Jack, 8; and Harper, 4.


Deena L. Buford, MD, MPH 

Dr. Buford completed her undergraduate education at Duke University with degrees in Psychology and Chemistry. She attended medical school at Meharry Medical College in Nashville, going on to complete her residency in Occupational Medicine, and obtained a Masters of Science in Public Health at the same institution. Prior to joining ExxonMobil, Dr. Buford held various occupational medicine positions at IBM and Amoco. She joined Exxon in 1994 as the Medical Director of SeaRiver Maritime, moving to Exxon USA in 1997 to provide domestic support to various Exxon clients including Refining and Supply, Exxon Development Company, U.S. Production, Fuels Marketing and the Exxon Chemical Company. She became Regional Manager – Americas in 2001, and in 2007 was promoted to Occupational Health Cluster Manager, coordinating medical services globally for Downstream and Chemical non-manufacturing sites. 

For two years she worked within the Global Benefit Design section of Human Resources, providing advice on the design and health content of the ExxonMobil US health benefit plan and it’s ‘Culture of Health.’ Returning to her Cluster Manager role in 2010, she focused on clinic management and medical service coordination for Production operations in Europe, Africa, Qatar, UAE, Saudi Arabia and Iraq and for the Exploration Company globally. In April 2013 she was named ExxonMobil Global Medical Director. Dr. Buford is a member of the Alpha Omega Alpha Medical Honor society, the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (ACO- EM) and the American Public Health Association. She also serves on the Society of Petroleum Engineers Health, Safety, Security, Environmental and Social Responsibility Committee. She is married with 3 grown children and lives with her husband of 32 years in Houston.


Katherine Center 

Katherine Center is the author of four bittersweet comic novels about love and family, including The Bright Side of Disaster, Everyone is Beautiful, Get Lucky, and The Lost Husband. Her books and essays have appeared in Redbook, People, USA Today, Vanity Fair, Real Simple, the Dallas Morning News, and the Houston Chronicle, as well as the anthologies Because I Love Her: 34 Women Writers on the Mother-Daughter Bond, My Parents Were Awesome, and CRUSH: 26 Real Life Tales of First Love. 

People Magazine calls The Lost Husband, “A sweet tale about creating the family you need.” Library Journal calls Get Lucky a “thoroughly enjoyable girlish romp,” and Kirkus Reviews likens Everyone Is Beautiful to the 1950s motherhood classic Please Don’t Eat the Daisies: “Center ’s breezy style invites the reader to commiserate, laughing all the way.” BookPage named Katherine one of seven new writers to watch, and her first novel, which People calls “cleverly told and uncommonly appealing,” was optioned by Varsity Pictures. 

Katherine sometimes blogs, Facebooks, Tweets, makes video essays, and speaks to all kinds of groups and book clubs. (And sometimes she just hangs out at her house, writing books and goofing around.) She lives in her hometown of Houston, Texas, with her awesome husband, two sweet children, and their fluffy-but-fierce dog, Sweetie.


Rachel Giesber Clingman 

She received her BA with honors from Rice University and graduated with a JD with honors from The University of Texas School of Law where she served as associate editor for the Texas Law Review and Trial Director for the Board of Advocates. She regularly represents energy, chemical, and transportation companies in government, regulatory, and internal investigations. Rachel counsels clients on issues involving billions of dollars and potential criminal consequences, and prepares executives for litigation testimony and testimony before Congress and other investigative entities and has worked for domestic and international integrated energy majors, pipeline and transportation companies, and companies in chemicals, refining, drilling, insurance, and oil "eld equipment and technology. She has been honored regionally and nationally for legal excellence and for her industry and civic contribution. 

Rachel has served on the Houston Area Women’s Center Board of Directors, as Annual Benefit Co-Chair for the United Way of Texas Gulf Coast, on the Steering Committee for Women’s Initiative, with the Alexis de Tocqueville Society, on the Executive Women’s Partnership Steering Committee, on the Economic Advisory Board, and as a former Director with the American Board of Trial Advocates (ABOTA). She is the co-founder of Children at Risk Legal Advisory Board, an Advisory Council member and Past President of Dress for Success Houston and has also been active on the Advisory Board of the World Oil Women’s Global Leadership Conference in Energy and Technology.


Stephanie Coulter, MD 

Dr. Stephanie Coulter, an energetic and vocal advocate for addressing the often overlooked and startling gender differences surrounding cardiovascular disease, provides the medical leadership for THI’s Center for Women’s Heart and Vascular Health, as Director. “Too often,” she notes, “women’s heart disease is ignored by primary care physicians, emergency room staff, and women themselves, not for any reason other than they are unaware that women have different symptoms than men. We aim to change that with a targeted education program for doctors and women throughout the community.” “Much of our understanding of heart disease and heart attack ... are the result of research conducted on men,” she adds. “For this reason we will also undertake a rigorous research program aimed at understanding these differences and developing ... improved cardiovascular care for women.” 

Dr. Coulter earned her medical degree at the University of Texas Medical School, Houston. She completed an internship in internal medicine at Beth Israel Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts and a fellowship in general cardiology at Massachusetts General, the teaching alleviate of Harvard Medical School. Her advanced fellowship was in echocardiography at Massachusetts General and in clinical epidemiology and clinical trials at Brigham and Women’s Hospital/Thrombosis in Myocardial Infarction (TIMI) Group. 

Dr. Coulter is registered as a Diplomat of the American Board of Internal Medicine with a subspecialty in cardiovascular disease echocardiography, and she is certified in nuclear medicine. She is an Assistant Professor in Medicine at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston and Associate Director of the Non-Invasive Cardiology unit at St. Luke’s Episcopal Hospital. She is a member in many profession- al societies, including the American Medical Association, the American College of Physicians, the American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association.


Penny Crianza 

Sheri Garcia’s May 2013 announcement that Penny Crianza was being appointed to the rank of Major marked only the fifth time since 1837 that a female was appointed to the third highest rank in the Harris County Sheriff's Office; it should be noted that three of the five females appointed to Major came under Sheri Garcia’s tenure. In the 22 years Major Crianza has been serving Harris County Sheriff's Office she has been promoted through various ranks including Clerk, Detention Officer, Peace Officer, Systems Analyst and Director of Information Management. 

Her vision is to assist the largest Sheriff's Office in Texas (and the third largest in the country) in implementing new technologies and data collection that will lead to analytic based intelligent-policing. In doing so, the Sheriff’s Office will dynamically advance towards engaging citizens as well as enhancing Officer and Public Safety. It is her mission to ensure the Harris County Sheriff's Office leads Law Enforcement Agencies into the 21st Century. 

Major Crianza demonstrates that hard work and commitment to duty, regardless of industry culture, will lead to a successful and fulfilling career. Leaders can emerge in any organization regardless of rank or title. A true leader has a presence of clear strength, the innate ability to demonstrate leadership, and performs at a higher standard. When you are identified as a leader, success is all about growing others into a leadership role and helping them obtain their goals. Major Crianza sets that example for other female leaders in the department.


Pam Darwin 

Pam Darwin currently serves as Vice President, Africa for ExxonMobil Exploration Company, based in Houston, Texas. 

Ms. Darwin joined Exxon in 1984 after completing her Master’s Degree in Geology from the University of Texas. Since 1990, she has held a number of supervisory and management positions, including Angola Project Manager, Caspian Area Manager, Strategic Planning Manager, Nigeria Area Manager, Upstream Gas Initiative Manager, and Vice President Americas, ExxonMobil Exploration Company. 

Most recently, Ms. Darwin held the position of Vice President, Geoscience, ExxonMobil Production Company, responsible for geological and geophysical operations for ExxonMobil’s global portfolio of producing properties. 

Ms. Darwin is the Houston Area United Way Loaned Executive Chair, is on the Executive Board of Directors for the National Ocean Industries Association, is a man- agreement sponsor for ExxonMobil’s Science Ambassador Program, and is involved with ExxonMobil Women’s Economic Opportunity Initiative. In 2010, she received the BioHouston Award for Leadership in Sciences.


Hon. Sarah Davis 

Sarah Davis earned her undergraduate degree in economics from Baylor in 1998, and went on to earn her Law Degree from the University of Houston in 2001. Sarah is an accomplished attorney devoting her career to defending against personal injury lawsuits. She is a partner with the national law firm of Lewis Brisbois Bisgaard & Smith, LLP. Sarah’s clients include individuals, local businesses, and Fortune 500 companies. 

Sarah was elected to her first term to the Texas House of Representatives in 2010, and currently serves on the Appropriations, Calendars and Public Health Committees. 

Sarah was recognized as the “2011 Patient Care Champion” by the Harris County Medical Society and named a “Friend of Medicine” as one of “Texas Medicine’s Best Legislators” of the 82nd Legislative session by the Texas Medical Association. 

Recently, Houston Woman Magazine named Sarah Davis as one of “Houston’s 50 Most Influential Women of 2011,” and The Houston Business Journal just placed Sarah on its “40 Under 40” list for 2012. 

Sarah represents West U, Bellaire, River Oaks, Braeswood Place, Southside Place, and parts of Meyerland, Memorial, Montrose and the Texas Medical Center.


Zoann Dreyer, MD 

Dr. Dreyer is a pediatric hematology/oncology specialist at Texas Children’s Cancer Center and Hematology Service at Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston, Texas. She received both her Bachelor of Science (1977) and her medical degree (1982) from University of California at Davis. She is currently an associate professor of pediatrics at Baylor College of Medicine. 

In her role at the Cancer Center, Dr. Dreyer is involved in patient care, education and research. She coordinates the care of over 1500 childhood cancer survivors, closely monitoring them for the delayed effects of their prior cancer therapy. Her innovative, nationwide treatment protocol, “Induction Intensification in Infant Acute Lymphoid Leukemia”, resulted in dramatically improved survival rates from 20% to over 50% in this most complicated group of patients.

Dr. Dreyer was elected President of the Medical Sta at Texas Children’s Hospital in 2008. She has acted as host and medical reporter for Baylor College of Medicine’s TV Healthline featuring medical breakthroughs at Baylor and shown throughout the United States. 

Dr. Dreyer has been Medical Director for Camp Periwinkle, a camp for children with cancer and their sibs, for over 18 years. She is an Advisory Board Member and the Medical Director for the Ronald McDonald House of Houston and also serves on the boards of a variety of other organizations. 


Janice Evans 

Janice Evans is Director of Communications/Policy for the Office of the Mayor.

She is responsible for managing all aspects of Mayor Annise Parker's communications including media relations, social media ceremonial documents, CitizensNet, HTV and the City's website. She works closely with Mayor Parker to develop strategy for policy implementation and communication with the public about city issues, and serves as the city's official spokesperson when the mayor is unavailable.

Prior to joining government, Janice spent 20 years as a broadcast journalist specializing in government and politics. She has held positions with the Texas State News Network and KTRH-AM Radio in Houston, where she served as the City Hall Bureau Chief for a decade. Janice completed a three-year term on the board of directors of the Houston Heights Association and led the effort to create City of Houston historic districts in Houston Heights. She is a past president of Women Professionals in Government, was selected as a Woman of Excellence by the Houston Federation of Houston Professional Women and holds a bachelor's degree in Communications and Psychology from Millikin University in Decatur, Illinois. 


Fleurette S. Fernando, MFA 

Fleurette is the founding Director of the MA Program in Arts Leadership at University of Houston. Fleurette is a graduate of Claude Watson School for the Arts, the National Theatre School of Canada's Directing Program and holds an MFA degree in Directing from York University. Fleurette served as the Artistic Director of Montreal's Black Theatre Workshop and was the recipient of the Canada Council for the Arts' first John Hirsch Prize for Young Directors as well as a Fellowship of the Americas from the Kennedy Center for Performing Arts. Fleurette has worked as a director, choreographer, educator and arts administrator in arts organizations across Canada and the US including San Francisco's Lorraine Hansberry Theatre, Richmond's East Bay Center for the Performing Arts and Brooklyn Academy of Music. She is a former Executive Director of Katy Visual and Performing Arts Center where she also served as Performing Arts Director and Development Director, Fleurette recently served as the Director of Grants for Houston Arts Alliance and as an Adjunct Professor of Theatre Studies at University of Houston, Downtown.


Veronica Flores-Paniagua 

Veronica Flores-Paniagua is the Houston Chronicle's Outlook Editor and is responsible for coordinating and cultivating reader essays for the Chronicle's opinion pages. An award-winning journalist, Flores-Paniagua's career flourished primarily at Texas newspapers, including the Brownsville Herald, the Corpus Christi Caller-Times, the San Antonio Light and the San Antonio Express-News, where she held roles ranging from reporter to city editor to metro columnist. She also was a reporter for the Chicago Sun-Times and recently stepped briefly into the world of public relations, working from 2011-2013 as Vice President of Communications for the nonprofit small-business lender Accion Texas Inc. Flores-Paniagua received her bachelor's degree in journalism from the University of Houston and was a 1999-2000 John S. Knight Journalism Fellow at Stanford University. Flores-Paniagua is mom to two grade-schoolers, wife to a local TV photographer, and is a runner and avid crafter.


Zina Garrison 

Zina Garrison is a native Houstonian, retired professional tennis player, coach and community advocate. Garrison followed in the footsteps of black tennis champions Althea Gibson and Arthur Ashe while paving the way for Venus and Serena Williams. 

In her 15-year professional career, Garrison won 14 singles titles and 20 doubles championships. She is an Olympic gold medalist, Wimbledon and U.S. Open finalist and was ranked as high as No. 4 in the world. She coached the U.S. Federation Cup and U. S. Olympic teams. She is Founder and Chairman of the Zina Garrison Academy, a member of the Texas Women's Hall of Fame, the Texas Tennis Hall of Fame, the National Black Sports & Entertainment Hall of Fame and in 2004 was honored as one of Houston's greatest Athletes of All Time. 

Over 25,000 children have already benefited from the Zina Garrison Academy at Houston City Parks. Garrison's future hope is to build the Zina Garrison Tennis & Education Facility to serve the community for generations to come.


Tarsha M. Gary

Chef Tarsha Gary is an award-winning Executive Chef and Owner of "CRAVE” Gourmet Bakery & Catered Café - a full-service catering company thriving in the Houston metropolitan area for more than 14 years. Chef Gary is also the enthusiastic President and Founder of ECOTONE World, LLC - an urban sustainability model advocating urban agriculture (community gardening), food education, organic commerce and global enrichment. One of ECOTONE's most successful education initiatives is "Community Kids CookTM w/Chef Tarsha" a healthy food education program targeting urban youth. In January 2013, Chef Gary joined the faculty of San Jacinto Community College (North) as an Adjunct Culinary Professor in the Culinary Arts Department. Some of her honors include: "Ready Houston Preparedness Chef's Challenge 2013 Champion" (2013 - City of Houston), “Top 25 Women of Houston" (2011- Comerica Bank & Rolling Out Magazine), “Texas Blazing Star" (2010 – Texas Women's Chamber of Commerce in Austin), "40 Under 40" (2009 - Houston Business Journal), "40 Under 40 Chefs" (2009 - Mother Nature's Network -national listing #11). "Pinnacle Award Finalist" (2008 - Houston Citizen's Chamber of Commerce).


Anna Maria Garza 

Anna Maria Garza is the founder and Executive Director of Girls Rock Camp Houston. Girls Rock Camp Houston is a one-week summer camp whose goal is to empower young girls through music education. 

Anna is a musician and has been active in the music scene for over twenty years. She has played guitar, bass guitar and drums in various local punk bands.


Chris Goins 

Chris Goins is the Store Director of Tootsies in Houston. Prior to this position, Goins joined the Tootsies West Ave team as the Floor Manager in 2011. Known for her impeccable taste, she styled the Houston elite while ensuring Tootsies day-to-day operations and customer service ran smoothly. 

Goins has worked in the fashion industry for more than a decade, gaining experience in the luxury retail, beauty and modeling industries. Early in her career, she worked at Mix Boutique, Kuhl-Linscomb, Neal Hamil Agency and Nude Skincare. 

Goins began her journey in the fashion industry studying Fashion Design at Houston Community College and earned her degree from the University of Houston in consumer Science and Merchandising.


Erica W. Harris 

Erica Harris is a trial partner with one of the nation's premier commercial litigation firms, Susman Godfrey LLP. Described by one client as "the best damned lawyer in Houston," she has been honored as a Houston Top Lawyer and as a Texas Super Lawyer. After completing her B.A. at Rice in three years, she went on to UT Law School, graduating with high honors. She serves on the board of ESCAPE Family Resource Center, Inc., and on the steering committee of the Greater Houston Partnership's Women's Business Alliance.


Sharon Haynes 

Sharon Haynes has worked in the Houston food and beverage industry since 1990. With a keen eye for the unusual, eclectic and trendy, Sharon has a long and successful history of bringing unique concepts to Houston. An original owner of Solero Restaurant in downtown, she was one of the pioneers of the downtown revitalization in the late 1990s. Located in the circa 1880 Brashier Building at 910 Prairie Street, Solero was Houston's first tapas style restaurant and garnered many local and national accolades, including being named one of America's "Best New Restaurants" by Esquire Magazine in 1997. After selling Solero, and its equally successful adjacent nightclub, the Swank Lounge, in 2002, Sharon took time off to start a family. Eight years ago, Sharon returned to the restaurant business to open TaCOS A Go-Go, a thriving Tex-Mex concept with locations in Midtown and the Heights. She also owns an equity interest in Natchatee's Supper 'n Punch, and over the years has consulted on numerous Houston establishments.


Lisa Hernandez 

Lisa Hernandez joined KHOU 11 in October 2011 as co-anchor of KHOU 11 News at 5 and 10 with Greg Hurst. She comes to Houston from KABC-TV in Los Angeles, a top-rated ABC station where she spent seven years as a weekday reporter and weekend anchor. Lisa grew up in Indio, California, just east of Palm Springs. She earned a degree in political science from UCLA, then began her television news career in 2001 as a producer for KESQ in Palm Springs. She also worked as a reporter in Charlotte, North Carolina before joining KABC-TV. 

While in Southern California, Lisa covered a wide range of stories. She reported from Tijuana on increased drug cartel violence at the border, covered disastrous wildfires and a mudslide that destroyed many homes. She also enjoyed reporting on the lighter side of LA at the Oscars and the American Music Awards, championship parades for the Los Angeles Lakers, the annual Rose Parade and numerous celebrity interviews. 

An avid runner, Lisa has participated in several marathons, qualifying for the Boston Marathon three times. She is also a big fan of football. For three decades, her father has coached high school football in Southern California, so she and her family live for the gridiron - high school, college and pro.


Rosi F. Hernandez 

In September 2012, Rosi F. Hernández was named President of the Latin Women's Initiative (LWI), a Houston-based non-profit organization dedicated to making a difference in the lives of Latin women and their families through service and support to organizations that provide community resources, education and health services. Prior to that, Rosi was part of the Houston Astros Baseball Club's executive team for 14 seasons. In 2010, Rosi was named Vice President of Corporate Partnerships for the baseball club after serving as the team's Vice President of Market Development since July of 1999. She worked closely with national corporations and regional businesses, identifying and designing brand-specific sponsorship packages. 

Previously, Rosi led the team's market development efforts by growing the Astros' fan base among diverse markets, developing special cultural events such as the Astros Hispanic Heritage, African American special events, and women's initiatives. She spearheaded the day-to-day operations of the Astros Spanish game broadcasts on Univision Radio. She has won many awards for her work and service and currently serves on several boards, including the Greater Houston Conventions and Visitors Bureau, the Devereux Treatment Center, and the Girl Scouts of San Jacinto Council. Prior to joining the Astros, Rosi worked in two advertising agencies in the area. 

A native of San Juan, Puerto Rico, Rosi received her B.A. in newspaper journalism in 1989 and her Master's in public relations in 1991, both from Syracuse University. Rosi, her husband Jorge Luis, and their 6-year-old daughter, Andrea Victoria, make their home in Clear Lake.


Reverend Lisa Hunt 

The Reverend Lisa Hunt is currently the rector of St. Stephen's Episcopal Church in Houston, where she has served since 2006. St. Stephen's was the first Episcopal congregation in Houston to be authorized to perform same sex blessings. She comes from Nashville, Tennessee, where she was the rector of St. Ann's Church for 17 years. While there, she was an elected member of the Metropolitan Nashville Public School Board. She has been an activist in her community, helping to organize neighborhood revitalization efforts, after school programs, and full inclusion of GLBT persons in the life of the Church and the State. She is married to Bruce Farrar and together they have reared Annie, Max and Rose Farrar.


Pat Jasper 

Pat Jasper has thirty years of experience working as a public folklorist, curator and arts administrator throughout the state of Texas and nationwide. In 1978, she was named Folklorist in Residence for Austin Community Television. From 1980 to 1984, she served as Folk Arts Coordinator and Field Representative for the Texas Commission on the Arts. In 1984, Jasper founded and built Texas Folklife Resources (TFR), the only non-profit organization of its kind devoted solely to the promotion and preservation of Texas folk arts and folklife. Along with programming, she oversaw all development, and under her direction Texas Folklife Resources purchased a permanent office space and programming facility in 1998 On South Congress in Austin, Texas. 

Jasper has also served as an independent consultant, curator and panelist for the National Endowment for the Arts, the Texas Historical Commission, the Institute of Texan Cultures, the Museum of African American Life and Culture, the Pew Charitable Trust, the San Antonio Museum of Art. She has served on the boards of the American Folklore Society, the Smithsonian Institution Office of Folklife Programs and The Fund for Folk Culture. Since 2001, Jasper has served as lead consultant on a variety of major projects including the International Accordion Festival, the exhibit Country Music from the Lone Star State at the Texas State History Museum; and the Texas Music, Food and Wine program for the 2008 Smithsonian Folklife Festival on the National Mall in Washington D.C. In 2005, she joined forces with University of Houston folklorist Dr. Carl Lindahl to co-direct the Surviving Katrina and Rita in Houston documentation project with the Library of Congress. 

Since April 2010, she has been employed at the Houston Arts Alliance as the Director of the Folklife and Traditional Arts Program, the only urban folklife program west of the Mississippi River. During her time at HAA she has curated a wide range of multi-media, multi-venue programs such as Sacred Songs, Sacred Sites; Working the Port; Remembered, Regained: Immigrant Arts of Houston; and the Houston SLAB Parade and Family Festival. Her latest project, TRANSPORTED + RENEWED, is a major three-month creative placemaking celebration for the centennial of the Port of Houston and the inauguration of the Houston METRO East End Light Rail Line in the city's historic East End. Planned for Fall 2014, TRANSPORTED + RENEWED will utilize the arts as a primary strategy for animating this under-resourced sector of our community by presenting a bold mix of grassroots and contemporary art projects in collaboration with a large group of civic and arts partners.


Mandy Kao 

Mandy Kao was born in Hong Kong and educated in Vancouver, Canada. In 2001, Mandy and her husband William moved to Houston. Together, they own Titan Management - a real estate investment, management and development company. Due to the family's commitment to community service, Ms. Kao began the Mandy Kao Foundation to help further her goals to help those in under-served and marginalized communities. The foundation serves as a "bridge" leading those in need to better opportunities. It supports outreach and education programs specifically for girls and funds afterschool programs in apartments and elementary schools in low-income neighborhoods. It also supports scholarship programs for students to attend college and offers small matching grants to micro-enterprise loan projects to promote self-sufficiency. 

Mandy holds numerous board positions, especially in the Asian community, as well as working, taking care of her family and developing many personal business pursuits. Currently, she is a board member for the University of Houston Friends of Women's Studies, an Advisory Board Member for Girls Inc. of Greater Houston, co-founder of the Asian America Giving Circle, and the Chair for Asian Women Empowered. She has received numerous awards, including the Community Impact Award from the Youth Leadership Council. In 2013, Kao was voted as one of Houston's Heroes by the Houston Chronicle as well as receiving the Greater Houston Service Award from Volunteer Houston. President George Bush also recognized the Kao family with the "Points of Light" award through the Points of Light Foundation, the largest volunteer network in the world.


Sara Kellner 

Sara Kellner is the principal of Kellner Consulting, a certified woman-owned business, based in Houston, TX. Kellner Consulting focuses on consulting in the arts, including organizational and creative planning, public art development and management, and fund development. Current and recent clients include Houston Rapid Transit, Parsons Transportation Group, San Antonio River Foundation, Washington Group International, Huitt-Zollars, Rey de la Reza Architects, Houston Center for Photography, and the Orange Show Center for Visionary Art. 

Between 1999 and 2006 she was the Executive Director of DiverseWorks Artspace, a top artist centered organization based in Houston. She led the Board, Artist Board and Staff through two successful strategic plans and securing the organization's participation in the Warhol Initiative and the Doris Duke Charitable Trust's Mid-Sized Presenting Organizations Initiative. Previously, Kellner was the Visual Arts Director at Hallwalls Contemporary Arts Center in Buffalo, NY. She has served as the Board President of the National Association of Artists Organizations (NAAO). She participated in the first year of The Co-Generate, a series of meetings around the country sponsored by The Rockefeller Foundation designed to foster the leadership of artists and arts professionals under the age of 30. 

Other accomplishments include being selected as a National Finalist for a White House Fellowship and participating in the Getty Leadership Institute and the National Arts Marketing Project advanced training. She has served on funding panels such as National Endowment for the Arts, Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation, Philadelphia Exhibitions Initiative, Philadelphia Cultural Management Initiative, Ohio State Council for the Arts, and Houston Arts Alliance. She is currently serving as an advisory board member for the Film Department at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.


Karen Kershner, CPSM 

Armed with a keen ability to market intangibles, Karen founded Communications Plus in 1979 to provide branding services to service professionals. Her keen understanding of the power of differentiation and devotion to providing clients with insightful solutions set Karen and her company apart. The ability to effectively manage internal and external branding initiatives has allowed Communications Plus to develop long-term strategic alliances with energy providers,

wealth managers, architects, engineers, construction specialists and others in the professional services industry. A Certified Professional Services Marketer and IAC Certified Coach, Karen believes marketing is everybody's job. Thus, she spends a fair amount of her time working within organizations developing environments that support successful marketing and sales initiatives that allow her clients to accomplish their strategic goals. 

A Bachelor of Journalism major from University of Texas, Karen has received numerous awards for her ability to create and implement successful communications programs. She's received the Marketing Excellence Award from the Society for Marketing Professional Services (SMPS), Marketer of the Year from the American Marketing Association (AMA), and a coveted Touchstone Award from the American Hospital Association Society of Marketing. In the community, Karen's active in AMA Houston, SMPS, Houston Advertising Federation, AGC Houston, ASA Houston and NRECA. She's served on the board of the Baylor College of Medicine Partnership, the Weekly YMCA and is a GHP Life Member. An avid photographer, Karen enjoys capturing the beauty of the outdoors: skies, wildlife and landscapes are her favorites.


EunSook Kwon, PhD 

EunSook Kwon has developed the curriculum of the new Industrial Design program at the Gerald D. Hines College of Architecture, University of Houston, and built it as a hub for the design community in the southern United States. Kwon has published and lectured throughout the world about creative design thinking and design strategy development. She has been a consultant to numerous corporations, and she has developed educational programs for Government agencies and corporations. She was appointed Director General of Seoul Design Olympiad 2008, a comprehensive design event that she created as a seamlessly connected design and cultural event with 86 programs. Two million visitors participated in the 21 days of design exhibitions and festivals. In 2010, she was selected in Design Intelligence's list of "Most Admired Educators" in architecture, industrial design, and interior design. 

Kwon holds a BFA in industrial design from Seoul National University; two masters degrees-one in industrial design from Seoul National University (MFA) and the other from Ohio State University (MA); and a PhD in arts education from the Ohio State University. She is an editorial board member of Design Issues and member of IDSA (Industrial Design Society of America). She has served as a juror for many international design competitions including Microsoft Next-Generation PC Design Competition, International Housewares Student Design Competition, Singapore Design Competition, Seoul Design Competition, and International Design Excellence Awards (IDEA).


Laura Lark

Laura Lark is a visual artist and writer living in Houston. She received her B.A.in English (1987), an M.A. in Creative Writing and Literature (1989), and an M.F.A.in Painting, each from the University of Houston. 

Since receiving her MFA, Lark's work has been seen in solo exhibitions in non-profit and private gallery spaces nationally and internationally. She has had three solo shows ('05, '07. '09) at Hiram Butler/Devin Borden Gallery and one solo show with Devin Borden ('12). She is currently at work on her second solo show in April 2014 with Devin Borden and on the University of Houston's Blaffer Gallery's Windows Houston downtown space in May of 2014. In 2011, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, acquired one of her drawings for its collection. 

In 2004, she received an Artadia award for visual art. In 2011 and 2012, she was awarded two-month residencies, respectively, at the Mac Dowell Colony and the Virginia Creative Center for the Arts for fiction writing. Her short story "This is Not About You", from the story collection in progress of the same name, was published in Intellectual Refuge, an online literary journal. 

In 2011, she was nominated for the Warhol Foundation's Creative Capital Award for short form art criticism, and was a finalist for the Sundance Screenwriters' Workshop. Her drawing "Janice" was featured in the March 2013 issue of Italian Vogue. Her "Life Story" (2003), which originally appeared on Learning to Love You More, an online project started by artist Harrell Fletcher and artist/filmmaker/writer Miranda July, was translated into Japanese and was subsequently the subject of short videos made by English and Japanese speaking artists. 

She has been an active art and pop culture critic for Artlies, a Texas-based arts magazine, and Glasstire, a Texas-based online journal for the arts. Her most recent project with Glasstire was “Laura Lark Loves You,” a satiric advice column for artists.



Rand Mahmood Omran 

Rand Omran is a cultural orientation instructor at the YMCA International Services. She has Been working with refugees and asylum seekers in all aspects of building their new lives in Houston. 

Rand received her MA in Political Science in 1997 and PhD in Political Science in 2007 at the University of Baghdad. She worked at the International Studies Center at the University of Baghdad as a researcher from 1999 to 2007. Her passion toward women's rights motivated her to establish the Woman Leadership Institute in Baghdad in 2006. Through this organization she initiated a project concerning Iraqi status law and women's role in political elections. She educated female constituents about democratic values, conducted research about women's role in democracy and organized events for political leaders to meet constituents. 

At the end of 2007, she fled with her family from Baghdad to Jordan, and then came to Houston as refugee in 2008. Working with people from different cultures and backgrounds while volunteering at a resettlement agency and in schools, and her personal experience coming to the United States as a refugee, has led her to her current work with refugees and asylees as a case manager, providing initial resettlement and placement services, employment and social services.


Elebeoba (Chichi) May, PhD 

Elebeoba May is an Associate Professor of Biomedical Engineering at the University of Houston's Cullen College of Engineering. She earned her BS, MS, and PhD degrees in Computer Engineering from North Carolina State University in 1996, 1999, and 2002, respectively. Prior to joining the university, she held an appointment as a Principal Member Technical Staff at Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque, NM. Her awards include the NIH-NHLBI K25 Quantitative Mentored Career Development Grant and a Women of Color Research Sciences and Technology All Star Award. 

The May Laboratory focuses on the design of integrated quantitative and empirical platforms for the development of multi-scale, predictive models of biological systems with an emphasis on host-pathogen interactions and microbial communities. The goal of Dr. May's research is to understand and ultimately engineer methods for control and modulation of molecular mechanisms that lead to disease, reactivation of latent infection, or molecular machines of consequence to the emerging bioenergy and biopharmaceutical industries. 

Dr. May has given plenary and invited talks at international conferences, symposia and workshops on her research in the areas of multi-scale modeling of disease and biological coding theory, a research field she has been instrumental in pioneering and promoting. She is a member of the IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society and has served as reviewer of several journals, as Associate Editor of the IEEE Transactions on Information Technology in Biomedicine and as Guest Editor for IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology Magazine.


Kate McLean

Houston native Kate McLean is the first woman to hold the chef de cuisine position in the nearly fifty-year history of Tony Vallone's flagship restaurant Tony's. She was also the first woman to work as Tony's sous chef, a position she had for nearly three years. 

Kate began working in restaurants while in college in Boulder, CO, where she completed a degree in business and marketing. From an early start as a prep cook at a Colorado resort, she quickly rose up in the ranks, working first as a line cook, ultimately landing a job as garden manager at the famous Dahlia Lounge in Seattle, WA. 

Her career has taken her to work in such far-flung places as the island of Kauai and Provence, France. In 2010, she landed a job at the famous Les Carmes hotel in Provence. It was there, under the guidance of a classically trained French chef, that she developed her knowledge and skill in haute cuisine. 

These experiences helped to prepare her for the physical and emotional demands of working in a world-class kitchen like Tony's. By December 2010 she was back in Houston, where a family friend helped her obtain an "audition" with Tony. Later that month he offered her a job as the restaurant's sous chef. 

Through Tony's influence, she has been able to obtain stages at several leading restaurants in Manhattan where she has further honed her skills.


Jessica Michan 

Jessica Michan is currently the Manager of External Relations for Direct Energy, one of North America's largest energy and energy-related services providers. Her responsibilities include managing Direct Energy's media and public relations in Texas. From 2010-2013 Jessica worked for Mayor Annise Parker as her Press Secretary. In that role she was responsible for creating and managing day-to-day relationships with members of the press in Spanish and English.

Jessica has worked in the media relations and communication industry for 10 years. She also served as the Spanish spokesperson for then-Mayor Bill White, and as communications director for then-Congressman Nick Lampson. She also handled public relations for St. Luke's Episcopal Health System as well as the Houston World Affairs Council.

Jessica graduated with honors from Northwestern University with a B.S. in Communication and International Studies. She also holds an M.A. in Mass Communication from the University of Houston and is currently an adjunct lecturer at the University of Houston - Downtown.


Amber Mostyn 

Born and bred in Fort Worth, Amber received her Bachelor of Arts from Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, with degrees in Anthropology and Spanish. After taking a year off to work in Washington, DC and travel to El Salvador, she received her law degree from the University of Texas where she excelled in trial advocacy, receiving many awards and honors, including induction into the nationally recognized Order of the Barristers. Amber practiced with her father in Fort Worth before moving to Houston in 2005 where she and her husband, Steve, run their own law firm. Enjoying trial advocacy, Amber has been an adjunct professor of Advocacy at Texas Wesleyan Law School and at South Texas College of Law, where she taught mock trial courses. She and her team tried the first Hurricane Ike trial in Harris County (Houston) in 2011. 

As the current chair of Annie's List TX, Amber energetically supports the recruitment, training and campaigns of female progressive candidates in Texas. She supports many other charitable causes as well, and has been named the top fundraiser for multiple regions in Texas for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. With her husband Steve, she co-founded the Glenda Jean Mostyn and Joe E. Moreno Educational Foundation, to move mountains for special needs children and their families. She and Steve have two children, Ava, 7 & Mitchell, 12, a Brussels Griffon, Tuffy and German Shepherd, Indo.


Delesa O'Dell Thomas 

Delesa O'Dell-Thomas is a distinguished educator with 20 years of education expertise in teaching and administration. She is a native New Orleanian who moved to Houston in 1994. Mrs. Thomas is the principal of Houston Independent School District's first all-girls school, the Young Women's College Preparatory Academy, The YWCPA, which opened its doors in August of 2011, is a model of a private school in a public school setting. 

Prior to YWCPA, Mrs. Thomas was the principal of M.C. Williams Middle School for seven years, and assistant principal at Patrick Henry Middle School before that. Prior to moving to Houston, Mrs. Thomas taught in Orleans Parish School System in New Orleans, Louisiana. 

Her many awards include the Secondary Principal of the Year for the Davis/Washington Feeder Pattern in 2007, the Ivy League Trailblazer in Education Recipient in 2009, and the Married Ladies Social & Art Charity Club of America, Inc., Outstanding pioneer woman in 2012. In the spring of 2013, she was honored in Austin, TX by Rep. Sylvester Turner and the TX Legislative Black Caucus where she received the Outstanding Texan Award. In November of 2013, Mrs. Thomas was awarded the United Negro College Fund (UNCF) John and Drucie Chase, Young Builder's Award at their annual gala for her work in opening HISDs first all-girls academy. 

Mrs. Thomas earned a B.A. at Southern University and an M.A. in Secondary School Administration at Xavier University, both in New Orleans. She is currently a doctoral student at Texas Southern University, in Educational Leadership. She is a member of the Houston Association of Secondary School Administrators, the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, the Houston Alliance of Black School Educators, and the National Coalition of Girls School.


Eesha Pandit 

Eesha Pandit is a writer and activist who believes in social justice movements and the powers of intersectionality, feminism, sisterhood and art. A member of the board of the National Network of Abortion Funds, her writing can be found at The Crunk Feminist Collective, Feministing, Salon, The Nation, RH Reality Check, Feministe and in These Times. She's also a longtime human rights activist and most recently served as Executive Director of Men Stopping Violence. She's also worked with Breakthrough, Raising Women's Voices, the Civil Liberties and Public Policy Program, Carr Center for Human Rights at Harvard, and Amnesty International Women's Human Rights Program.


Ruth Pennebaker 

Ruth Pennebaker blogs about women, men, families, marriage, politics, aging, writing and anything else that occurs to her at her Fabulous Geezersisters' blog, www.geezersisters.com

Pennebaker's debut adult novel, Women on the verge of a Nervous Breakthrough, was released in 2011. She's also written three highly acclaimed young adult novels, Don't Think Twice, Conditions of Love, and Both Sides Now, as well as essays and articles for The New York Times, The Dallas Morning News, Parents, Redbook, McCall's, Cooking Light and other nationwide publications. Her favorite newspaper columns are collected in A Texas Family Time Capsule. 

Ms. Pennebaker lives with her mad-scientist husband in downtown Austin, hoping this will make them look cool. They are parents of an adult daughter and son. Ruth's hobbies are reading, yoga, social criticism, and free from worrying. A card-carrying member of the Chickasaw Nation, Ms. Pennebaker was born in Ponca City, Oklahoma, close to a refinery. She holds a bachelor's degree in comparative literature from Eckerd College and, for reasons that now elude her, a J.D. with honors from the University of Texas School of Law. 

Pennebaker has been a speaker or panelist at gatherings such as the Texas Book Festival in Austin, the Texas Library Association in Houston, University of Texas at Arlington Women's Studies Friend's Luncheon, the Writer's League of Texas in Austin, the Mid-South Independent Booksellers Association in New Orleans, and the West Texas Book & Author Festival in Abilene, Texas.


Thuy Pham 

Thuy grew up in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and moved to Houston about two years ago. While Baton Rouge and Houston may seem like different worlds to some people, she came from a much more different world. Thuy was born in Vietnam to a father who was Lieutenant for South Vietnam during the war and mother who was an accountant. When former President Carter granted permission for all POW's and their families to legally enter America, her parents took a leap of faith because they wanted opportunities that were unobtainable in their former country.

Thuy was four years old when her family arrived in California. They later moved to Louisiana to be closer to relatives and friends. Thuy attended Louisiana State University and graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Accounting. While at LSU, she started an online clothing store. Thuy soon realized that going to school and trying to run a full-time business became a one-woman circus. When she closed the site, Thuy knew that one day she would build something better. With the joint power of her sister and business partner, WildBloom Boutique came to life in May 2013.

Running a business is rewarding as it is challenging but she is grateful every day that she gets to pursue her passion. 

Thuy considers herself a world-traveler, not because her passport is filled with stamps from London to Paris, but because her world is enriched with multicultural life experiences. She plans to take a world tour and fill every empty space in her passport.


Rachel Afi Quinn, PhD 

Rachel Afi Quinn is the 2012-14 postdoctoral fellow in Women's, Gender and Sexuality Studies at the University of Houston. She received her PhD from University of Michigan's Program in American Culture in 2012. Her book project, "Ya Somos Americana: Dominican Women's Transnational Identities in Santo Domingo" is an interdisciplinary cultural studies project about the identities and experiences of middle- and working-class Dominican women in contemporary Santo Domingo. Her research on Dominican culture employs transnational feminist theory, ethnography and visual culture studies. She is passionate about art and literature of the African diaspora. Her past work in documentary film distribution with California Newsreel and work with under-served youth and communities in the US and abroad informs the way she teaches students in the classroom. She is currently at work on a documentary film on Maroon culture in the Dominican Republic. 


Lois Ramondetta, MD 

Dr. Lois M. Ramondetta joined the M.D. Anderson Gynecologic Oncology Department after completing her fellowship in 2000. She holds a full time Professor faculty position at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, and she is currently the Chief of Gynecologic Oncology at Lyndon Baines Johnson General Hospital, Harris County Hospital District. She is a key member of the M.D. Anderson Outreach Program, which provides quality cancer care at regional medical centers, and trains fellows, residents, and medical students in the field of gynecologic oncology. Aside from direct patient care and resident training, she has chaired or co-chaired the HCHD Cancer Committee since 2004 which is responsible for all cancer related activities in the District and assuring accreditation of the district by the American College of Surgeons. 

Caring for patients at both M.D. Anderson and the indigent patients in the county, she is extremely active in developing and running clinical trials in both locations. She is the Principal Investigator or co-Pl for several treatment and psychosocial trials at M.D. Anderson and Lyndon Baines Johnson Hospital, and has been integral in bringing these trials to the community through the outreach program. She focuses her clinical research on biomedical ethics, and the effect of spirituality during cancer treatment and quality of life as well as on treatment trials for cervical and endometrial cancer. She also participates actively in treatment trials for ovarian cancer. One of her passions is to evaluate and eliminate barriers to care for indigent patients afflicted with gynecologic cancer. She has published over 70 peer-reviewed articles and authored many book chapters on cancer treatment and palliative care. 

Dr. Ramondetta has served on the Memorial Hermann and University of Texas M.D. Anderson Clinical Bioethics Committee and has completed three-year terms on both the American College of Obstetrician and Gynecologist's (ACOG) Ethics Committee and the American Society of Clinical Oncologist's (ASCO) Ethics Committee. In 2010, she became Board Certified in Palliative Care. 

Ramondetta has a B.A. in Religion and a B.S. in Biology from Emory University, has completed a Lay Chaplaincy program, and has a strong interest in improving physician-patient communication. In 2008, she co-wrote a book with a patient and friend entitled, “The Light Within" published by William Morrow/HarperCollins that further explores the sanctity of the doctor-patient relationship.


Deborah Stavis 

Deborah Stavis began her career over 30 years ago with a Fortune 500 company, where she, along with a team, developed the first financial planning office for CIGNA Individual Financial Services. In 1996, Deborah founded Stavis Margolis Advisory Services, a full-service planning and investment firm with $1 billion under management at the time of her departure, which she merged with a Fortune 500 bank in 2005. In May 2009, Deborah and Eddie Cohen founded Stavis & Cohen Financial. 

Deborah has been ranked as a Top Wealth Advisor by Worth magazine six times, including the last three years. As a firm, Stavis & Cohen has been featured in the Houston Business Journal as a 2012 NABCAP Premier Advisor, as a featured business in the Growth Strategies section, and as one of the best places to work (2012 & 2013). Deborah has taught retirement and estate planning courses through the Rice University Susanne M. Glasscock School of Continuing Studies since 1984 and serves on the Advisory Board. 

Additionally, she serves the community as a Committee Member for the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy, as a Member of the Board of Visitors for the University of Oklahoma Weitzenhoffer Family College of Fine Arts. She also serves on the Greater Houston Community Foundation Council and the Women's Energy Network. She is also actively involved in developing musicals for Broadway. 

Deborah resides in Houston with her husband Monte, a Pediatric Ophthalmologist, and their children, Chelsea and Andrew.


Jiliet K. Stipeche, JD 

Juliet was born and raised in Houston, Texas, and is the daughter of immigrant parents from Argentina and Mexico. In 1992, Juliet graduated valedictorian of the High School for Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice, earning an academic scholarship to Rice University. Before starting college, she spent the summer participating in the YMCA's Mano-A-Mano Foreign Exchange Program where she worked with a small community near Chihuahua, Mexico, and developed a dental health program for children in the area. 

Juliet later graduated with a Bachelor of Arts magna cum laude in Political Science, Policy Studies and Religious Studies from Rice University in 1996. She attended UT School of Law and was admitted to the Texas State Bar in November 1999. Juliet is a civil litigation attorney and a certified mediator. She started practicing law in the Rio Grande Valley and has courtroom, trial and appellate experience in numerous counties throughout the state of Texas. 

Juliet is a member of various professional organizations including the National Association of Latino Elected Officials, Houston Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, National Hispanic Professional Organization, and Houston Hispanic Bar Association. Over the years, Juliet has also mentored, tutored and volunteered at HISD schools. She has been active in her community, serving on the Idylwood Civic Club for several years and volunteering for organizations such as Ya Es Hora, the Human Rights Campaign, the American Heart Association, Barbara Jordan Ambassadors' Program for Disabled Youth, the American Red Cross, Talento Bilingue de Houston, and the Urban Souls Dance Company. In 2013, she was admitted as a Fellow for the Texas Bar Foundation and as a Fellow for the American Leadership Forum - Houston/Gulf Coast Chapter's Core Class XXXI. 

Juliet's lifelong commitment to service, justice, and quality public education motivated her to run for the HISD's Board of Education. She was elected as the HISD Trustee of District Vill in November 2010 and re-elected in 2011. She presently serves as the Board's First Vice President and Chair of HISD's Audit Committee. In 2013, Juliet joined Rice University as Associate Director for the Richard Tapia Center for Excellence and Equity and serves as the project manager for various programs including the XSEDE Scholars Program and Empowering Leadership Alliance - Rice. She remains of counsel at the law firm of Nagorny & Stipeche, P.C.


Clare Sullivan Jackson, CSEP 

Clare Sullivan Jackson is the Founder and CEO of Sullivan Group, a Global Meeting Management, and Event Marketing firm. Sullivan Group provides everything from consultation to turnkey production of award-winning corporate meetings that achieve client objectives. A 1985 graduate of the University of Houston, Clare founded Sullivan Group in 1989, building on her event management experience at Four Seasons Hotels and the Houston Country Club. 

Clare's individual honors include the Founding Dean's Award from the Hilton College Alumni Association at UH and the Founder's Award from the International Special Events Society. She was among the Texas Executive Women's 2010 Women on the Move. 

From 2006-2009, Clare served on the Board of the Petroleum Club of Houston. She served as 75th Anniversary Chair of the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo in 2007, and from 2008 to 2010 as Vice-Chair of the HLSR Wine Auction Dinner, raising over $1 million for HLSR scholarships, research, and education programs. 

From 2010-2011, Clare co-chaired "A Special Evening" benefitting Dress for Success Houston, which raised over $350,000 both years to aid disadvantaged women. She also serves on the boards of the Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau, the UH Hilton College, Prepared 4 Life/Lemonade Day, and Dress for Success Houston. Clare is married to Steve Jackson and has a daughter, Joanie.


Hon. Senfronia Thompson 

Rep. Thompson was born in Booth, Texas, and raised in Houston. The Dean of women legislators, currently in her 21st term representing Northeast Houston and Humble, "Mrs. T" has served longer in the Legislature than any other woman or African American in Texas history. 

Rep. Thompson has a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology and a master's degree in Education from Texas Southern University; a law degree from Thurgood Marshall School of Law and a Master of Law in International Law from the University of Houston. 

A Houston attorney and former public school teacher, Rep. Thompson currently chairs the House Local and Consent Calendars Committee and the Women's Health Caucus. She is co-chair of the Joint Interim Committee to Study Human Trafficking and a member of the House Licensing & Administrative Procedures Committee, the House Judiciary & Civil Practices Committee and the Select Committee on State Sovereignty. 

Rep. Thompson is the author of Texas' first-ever alimony law, the James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Act, laws banning racial profiling, the state's current minimum wage law, laws creating drug courts, the Contraceptive Parity law, the Sexual Assault Program Fund, the Model School Records Flagging Act, and scores of other reforms benefiting women, children and the elderly. She also sponsored the National Domestic Violence Hotline, passed legislation aimed at protecting women and children against domestic violence, extended protective orders to last longer and more widely and fought to end sexual discrimination in the workplace. 

Among many other initiatives, Rep. Thompson pushed through major reforms in child support enforcement including the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act and the Uniform Child Custody & Jurisdiction Enforcement Act, simplified probate proceedings by passing the Durable Power of Attorney Act, and made complete overhauls of statutes dealing with statutory county courts and municipal courts. 

Mrs. T is a member of the Texas Legislative Black Caucus, the Texas House Democratic Caucus, the Democratic National Committee, Women in Government, the National Organization of Black Elected Legislative/Women (NOBEL/Women), the House Farm to Table Caucus, and the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority. 

Among many other honors, Rep. Thompson received the "Prevailing Champion for Justice” award from the Texas Civil Justice Coalition and is the only recipient of the Rosa Parks Award from the Texas Legislative Black Caucus. She received the Matt Garcia Award from the Mexican American Legislative Caucus and was an Eleanor Roosevelt Fellow at the Center for Public Policy Alternatives. 

She has been named one of the "Top 10 Legislators" by Texas Monthly, one of 6 lawmakers “Who Rocked the Legislature" by the Associated Press, one of the Top 5 House members by Gallery Watch; and one of 8 legislators in the country "who could teach Congressional Democrats" by the Nation.


Nicole Vogel 

Nicole is the Founder, President and Publisher of Sagacity Media Inc., parent company of Houstonia magazine, as well as Seattle Met, Portland Monthly, Aspen Sojourner, Park City Magazine, Vail-Beaver Creek Magazine, Portland Bride & Groom, Seattle Met Bride & Groom, and twenty-one other custom and editorial publications. Houstonia, Seattle Met, and Portland Monthly are currently among the top ten biggest-selling city magazines in the nation, and are the number one selling magazines in their respective markets, over all national and regional titles.

Previously, Nicole was Vice President of National Sales and Business Development for Cendant's (now Realogy) online real estate company. From 1994 to 1999, she served in various capacities at Time Warner, specifically Turner/CNN Networks. She held the roles of Vice President of Corporate Strategic Planning, for the $1.9 billion cable ad sales organization, and Vice President of Interactive Business Development, helping to create Turner/Time Warner's interactive strategies, from development of sites to strategic acquisitions. Nicole is a member of YPO Pacific Northwest and sits on the board of the Seattle Symphony, advisory board of Ronald McDonald House Charities of Oregon & SW Washington, and the Journalism Advancement Council for the University of Oregon.


Sandra Wicoff 

Sandra Wicoff, an alumna of the University of Houston Law Center, is the Executive Director of Urban Harvest, a Houston-based non-profit that builds healthy communities by growing sustainable local food systems. Her legal and non-profit experience has put her in positions of leadership requiring skills in management, fundraising, human resources and community partnering. From 2005 to 2013 Ms. Wicoff was the Executive Director of The River Performing and Visual Arts Center, and led it through a successful merger with Theatre Under The Stars.


Wei Yang, MBBS, FRCR 

Wei Tse Yang, MBBS, FRCR, ACR, is Professor of Radiology, Section Chief of Breast Imaging, and Medical Director of the Ben and Julie Rogers Breast Clinic, at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. She co-chairs the Divisional Council of Gender Inclusiveness at MD Anderson, and directs the Division Clinical Research Committee. After obtaining her Radiology training in Singapore, Hong Kong, and England, she began her academic career at The Chinese University of Hong Kong in 1992 where she focused on small part ultrasound, including mammography and ultrasound of the breast. She translocated to Texas in 2001, and currently practices in a vibrant multidisciplinary breast center, with a keen interest

in the multimodality imaging of the biological subtypes of breast neoplasms. She is passionate about clinical trials that explore the role of novel imaging (optical techniques) for the detection of breast cancer, and the identification of imaging surrogates for monitoring therapy response paired with biologic correlates. Dr. Yang has authored over 140 articles in peer-reviewed medical journals, lectured at international conferences, held hands-on workshops, and is Assistant Editor of Women's Imaging, AJR. 


Karen Stokes 

Karen Stokes is a choreographer and dance educator. As a dancer. She has danced in New York and abroad with David Gordon, Larry Clark, and Stephan Koplowitz. As a choreographer, Stokes has premiered eight evening length projects, and over 40 repertory works. 

In January 2013, Karen Stokes Dance, Stokes's non-profit company, was the first contemporary dance company in Houston to receive a "Masterminds Award" by the Houston Press. In January 2014, she was listed as Best Choreographer in Houston. She is a nine-time recipient of Houston Arts Alliance grants and was co-recipient for the 2008 Buffy Award in Best Evening Length work category (Hometown) for 2003-2008. 

Stokes' documentary short on "Framing Dance," received "Editor's Choice" for best video from Dance Teacher Magazine in September 2010, and her dance for camera video "Gallery Construction 1" received "Editor's Choice" for best video from Dance Magazine in March 2012. Stokes has also won the Distance Education Teaching Award at University of Houston, the ACHE Teaching Award, and the Ross M. Lence Teaching Award. In Fall 2010, Stokes was promoted to Full Professor at the University of Houston.


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