2015 - University of Houston
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2015 Biographies

Rhonda Radford Adams

Table Talk Featured Artist, ARTRRA 

Rhonda Radford Adams is a native Houstonian and life-trained artist.  Working in a variety of mixed media, including fabric design, mosaic tile design, painting, and hand-made wallpaper, Rhonda has work in public and private collections nationally and internationally.  From the bold and rhythmic patterns of West African fabrics to the fine handmade papers of Japan, Rhonda’s creativity is inspired by her travels. She believes that each destination brings a powerful opportunity to create healing art experiences with others around the world.   Her latest body of work, the ARTRRA Collection, is a series of art-inspired mantras. 

In 2000, Rhonda co-founded the Museum of Cultural Arts Houston (MOCAH) with her husband and creative partner Reginald C. Adams. Within MOCAH she also served as director for the Art Angels Healing Arts Program, providing art as a tool to promote social wellness. She has received numerous honors, including recognition as one of Houston's 25 Most Influential Women in 2007, The Sunstar Butler Award in 2008, and Artist of the Year for Texas Children’s “Making a Mark Exhibit” in 2001. In her personal time Rhonda enjoys yoga, outdoor activities, Salsa dancing, traveling, and spending quality time with her husband and their 13-year-old son Jahlani C. Adams.


Wanda Adams

Trustee, HISD Board 

Wanda Adams was elected to the HISD Board of Education in 2013 after three two-year terms as Houston City Councilmember for District D. A native Houstonian, she graduated as a basketball standout from Kashmere High School, then went on to Texas Southern University on an athletic scholarship, where she earned a Bachelor of Science in Public Affairs and a Master’s in Public Administration.  Now a professor of Political Science at her alma mater, Adams brings to her classroom her experience as an elected official and public servant, with the Houston Housing Authority, Harris County Mental Health & Mental Retardation Association, and the Mayor’s Assistance Office. 

As a public servant, Adams has been committed to support for the homeless, veterans, the disabled, the mentally ill, and breast cancer awareness. She volunteers for the Houston Area Women’s Center, YMCA, YWCA, Keep Houston Beautiful, and Meals on Wheels in Sunnyside. She serves as a trustee for the Museum of Fine Arts Houston and a national officer for the Social Action Commission for Delta Sigma Theta sorority and is a member of Leadership Houston Class 30.  Among her awards: Houston Woman’s magazine’s Top 50 Women, the Houston Area Association for the Education of Young Children’s Elected Official of the Year, RollingOut.com’s Top 25 Women, and the Award of Distinction from the National Forum of Black Public Accountants.


Dina Alsowayel, PhD

Associate Director, Women’s, Gender & Sexuality Studies Program, UH 

Dina Alsowayel is Associate Director of the WGSS Program at UH. She joined the University in 1998 as a post-doctoral fellow in Religious Studies. She received her M.A. and Ph.D. from Rice University in Political Science and her J.D. from the University of Houston. Her B.A. is from Wellesley College. Alsowayel, who grew up in Riyadh and Washington DC, teaches a variety of courses in the History department, including the History of the Modern Middle East, Women and Islam, and a History of the Palestine-Israeli Conflict, along with courses in WGSS. She also takes students to the Arab and Muslim world frequently. She and her husband Tony have two beautiful and entirely obedient tweens.


Jacqueline Whiting Bostic

President/Chairman, Antioch Project Reach, Inc. 

Jacqueline Whiting Bostic has had a long career as a groundbreaker in Houston. During her 32-year career with the United States Postal Service, Bostic achieved many firsts, paving the way for others.  She was the first female education specialist in the Houston Postal District from 1967 to 1974.  She was the first female and African American to serve as Investigator in the Southern Region from 1974 to 1986, the first to serve as a Postmaster in several offices, the first to serve as the President of the American Postal Workers, and the first African American female Legislative Director for Texas. She also served on the Central Labor Council, AFL-CIO, and the Texas AFL-CIO Board of Directors. 

As a community volunteer Bostic served on the Board of Directors of the Houston Postal Credit Union, and the Houston YWCA and on the National Board of the YWCA.  She has also served as: the National Vice President of Jack & Jill of America Inc., Treasurer of The Women’s Auxiliary of The National Baptist Convention of America U. S. A. Inc., and she was the first female in the greater Houston area accepted into Rotary International. She has been active in Delta Sigma Theta sorority, since joining at the Alpha Beta chapter at Fisk University in 1956, working to enhance the life skills of young girls, growing a school tutoring program adopted by HISD, and launching political forums that included candidates of all parties and all political races. 

Assisting in the redevelopment of neglected communities in Houston, Bostic has served with the Fourth Ward Community Coalition, the Gregory School and the Fourth Ward Redevelopment Authority. Since 1995 she has been President and Chairman of Antioch Project Reach, Inc., a non-profit providing outreach to neglected areas which has built 72 new affordable homes for new home-buyers. Currently Bostic serves as Chairman of the Fourth Ward Redevelopment Authority  and TIRZ #14 for the City of Houston.  She serves as Secretary for the Friends of Emancipation Park and has been listed in Who’s Who of American Women since 1983.  Her husband the late Joseph Bostic assisted and supported her many efforts locally and nationally.   She has four children, two daughters, two sons, seven grandchildren and two great-grand children.


Lemar Marie Brown

Business Opportunity Manager, Upstream Americas, Shell 

Lemar Marie Brown is currently a Business Opportunity Manager for Shell Upstream Americas, focusing on Acquisitions and Divestitures. She negotiated the sale of Shell’s Eagle Ford Shale to Sanchez Energy for $630 million. 

Lemar has a BS in Mechanical Engineering from Northwestern University and an MBA from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. She started at Shell after college and worked in Exploration & Production as an engineer for 10 years before taking a leave of absence to go to business school. Lemar interned and worked for Goldman Sachs post-MBA, then returned to Shell, where she did strategy and portfolio analysis before moving to Gas and Power as the Vice President of the Cove Point LNG regasification terminal. She then moved to Downstream as the Global Strategy Manager for Shell Sulphur Solutions and Motiva as Portfolio Project Lead.


Elizabeth Chia, MD, MPH

Associate Professor, Infectious Diseases, Baylor College of Medicine 

Dr. Chiao is an Associate Professor in the Department of Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine. Boarded in both Infectious Diseases and Medical Oncology, Dr. Chiao’s clinical work and research focus on malignancies associated with both HIV and human papillomavirus (HPV). She is a nationally recognized authority who has contributed substantially to the understanding of how to best care for HIV-infected patients at risk for malignancies, with an emphasis on screening these individuals for cancer. She has authored over 30 articles published in peer-reviewed journals, and several book chapters. In addition, she has lectured at the local, regional, and national level.  Dr. Chiao has dedicated effort to educating the community infected or affected by HIV infection, providing numerous lectures at activities hosted by the Center For AIDS, the Legacy Clinic, and the AIDS Education Training Center for Oklahoma/Texas, New York and Utah. Her opinions have been sought by local newspaper, and radio news media, including Houstonian Magazine and KTRH Houston. 

Dr. Chiao received her undergraduate degree from Cornell University and has a Master’s in Public Health from Yale University. She then received her MD from the Weill Medical College of Cornell University. She completed her internship and residency in Internal Medicine at the University of Utah then pursued an ambitious course of subspecialty training in Oncology at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, followed by a fellowship in Infectious Diseases at Baylor College of Medicine. She has been on faculty at Baylor College of Medicine since 2006.


Elizabeth (Libby) Cheney

Partner, TRIO Global Consulting, LLC 

Libby Cheney is a Partner in TRIO Global Consulting, LLC that consults on matters of sustainability and risk management in the extractive and manufacturing industries. TRIO believes that sustainability leads to bottom line business profit and results are achieved through innovative nontechnical risk management. 

Libby has 32+ years of leadership in exploration, development and operation of oil and gas resources. She has held executive positions with ExxonMobil, Royal Dutch Shell and Hess Corporation working projects around the globe. Over the last 10 years, she has developed deep insight and experience in the management of nontechnical risks in the areas of occupational and process safety, environment, social and economic responsibility. 

Libby holds a Bachelor's Degree in Chemical Engineering from Vanderbilt University. She has served as a Director on a number of Boards, including IPIECA, Offshore Energy Center, US Oil & Gas Association and the Texas Oil & Gas Association. She is active in many civic and professional organizations, including the United Way Women’s Initiative, Society of Petroleum Engineers, National Association of Corporate Directors and others. Libby is married to Mitch Cheney and they have three grown children.


Deavra A. Daughtry

CEO & Founder, Texas Women’s Empowerment Foundation & President and CEO of Excellent Care Management 

Deavra A. Daughtry is President and CEO of Excellent Care Management, one of the nation’s largest personal in-­‐home care agencies, which started as a sole proprietorship, and now employs over 700 people in Houston.  A native Houstonian, Deavra overcame great odds to emerge as an influential businesswoman and philanthropist. Sharing her compassion and skills, she has trained over 10,000 healthcare employees. In addition, she helms Excel E Care Home Health Care, Purpose to Blessing Productions, Platinum Results Marketing and International Décor & Events. 

Deavra is a founder extraordinaire, having formed Texas Women’s Empowerment Foundation International, in operation since 2002. This foundation serves as a catalyst where families gain the tools necessary for achieving and maintaining a true sense of empowerment—being inspired to reach their personal and professional goals. In 2006, Deavra developed the Empowerment Community Center utilizing her personal resources for construction. Through the Empowerment Center, she has impacted over 100,000 lives, sponsoring many free seminars and workshops. Additionally, she continues to make a difference in the youth of the community through scholarships. 

Deavra holds a Doctor of Divinity and Doctor of Humanity degrees from Logos Christian College and Graduate Schools. She serves on several local, national and international boards of directors. She has published three books, including the best seller, “Purpose to Blessings.” Deavra’s main theme in life is making a difference in the lives of others and she is most proud of her greatest role as mother to her two beautiful children, Chaz and Ebone.


Damla Dryden, MD

OB/GYN, Women’s Specialists of Houston, TCH Pavilion for Women 

Born in London and raised in Houston, Dr. Damla Dryden attended Rice University as a double major in biochemistry and managerial studies. She completed her medical degree at Washington University School of Medicine, in St. Louis, in 1997, and her residency training in obstetrics and gynecology in 2001 at Duke University Medical Center.  As a board-certified physician offering a full range of services and counseling within the general specialty of OB/GYN since 2001, Dr. Dryden is a well-recognized Houston medical provider.  She spends her extra time as a volunteer and educator through her medical training and as a private practitioner. She was awarded the Baylor Voluntary Faculty Teaching Award for three consecutive years and was voted among the Best Doctors in America in 2005 and 2006. 

Her publications have been featured in Obstetrics and Gynecology, American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, and Journal of the Society for Gynecological Investigation.  In her private practice she focuses on excellence, mastering cutting-edge technology and caring in her daily encounters with all her patients and peers. Dr. Dryden is fluent in Spanish and Turkish. Her family is her passion, and her hobbies include mentoring young students, scuba diving, travel, international wine and cuisine.


Anna Eastman

Trustee, HISD Board 

Anna Eastman’s involvement as parent leader in public education and her passionate advocacy for the arts, public health, and social justice led to her election to the HISD Board of Education in 2009 and re-election in 2013. As a trustee, she has consistently been involved in board leadership positions, serving as president, second vice president, assistant secretary, and she currently serves as secretary.

Eastman serves on the advisory boards for Holocaust Museum Houston and the Recipe for Success Foundation, is a member of the Undies for Everyone Board of Directors and serves on the Houston Grand Opera HGO Committee. Twice, she has been nominated as Ally Grand Marshal for the Houston Gay Pride Parade because of her support of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender issues. She is an American Leadership Forum Senior Fellow.


Gayle Fallon

President, Houston Federation of Teachers 

Gayle Fallon is best known as the labor leader who has headed the Houston Federation of Teachers for since 1982.  She worked as the grievance representative for the union from 1981 until assuming the presidency.  Before working with the HISD local affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers, Fallon taught school in Aldine ISD and in North Forest ISD for 12 years. In 1980 she earned a Masters degree in Education Administration. 

A native of Pennsylvania, Fallon attended American University in Washington DC where she received a B.A. in Political Science in 1966.  Following graduation, she was employed by the National Security Agency from June 1966 through August of 1968.  While at NSA, she was sent to language school to become proficient in Vietnamese.  She was assigned to Vietnam section as a Research Analyst/ Vietnamese Crypto-linguist.  Her job consisted of breaking code, translating it from Vietnamese to English and working to coordinate the intelligence gleaned from the signal intelligence received from the field.  In 1968, she left NSA and moved to Texas with her husband.


Andrea Gardner

Longshorewoman, Port of Houston 

Andrea Gardner moved to Houston in 1979. She began working on the Docks in 1981 out of the International Longshoremen's Association Clerks and Checkers Union Local 1351 and has been a dues-paying Union member since.  She founded the Women of the I.L.A., was appointed to the I.L.A. Political Interest Committee as a Program Organizer, and she is an AFL-CIO Delegate.  She currently serves on the Citizen's Advisory Council for Port Commissioner Janiece Longoria, serves on the sub-committee for the I.L.A. Civil, Human and Women's Rights Committee and on the I.L.A. Houston Dock and Marine Council as Assistant Recording Secretary.  She was recently elected to the Audit Committee of her Local for the third time.  She serves as Precinct Chair for Harris County Pct. 531 and as Election Judge in her Precinct. 

She is a strong advocate for Women's Rights as well as Union Rights while bringing attention to the benefits of Collective Bargaining, especially as it pertains to equal pay and opportunity for women in the workplace.  She hosts the Annual Women of the I.L.A. Breakfast each Labor Day at the AFL-CIO BBQ Cook off and held the “Women Lead the Way” book-signing event featuring U.N. Ambassador for Women Rights Linda Tarr Whelan. She sits on the Boards of ROAD women (River Oaks Area Democratic Club) and the Texas Democratic Women’s Club. She appears in a recent PBS Documentary celebrating the 100th Anniversary of the Port of Houston called “Houston Ship Channel:  Deep Water Centennial.” Her hobbies are camping, traveling and curling up with a good book.


María C. Gaztambide   

Associate Director, International Center for the Art of the Americas, MFAH 

An art historian and arts administrator by training, María C. Gaztambide is the Associate Director of the International Center for the Arts of the Americas (ICAA) at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.  There she leads the day-to-day operations of Documents of 20th-century Latin American and Latino Art, a digital archive and publications project that provides access to primary sources and critical documents tracing the development of twentieth-century art in Latin America and among Latino populations in the United States. In that role, for the past nine years, Maria has been involved in the consolidation, recruitment, and management of a network of over 150 scholars and specialists in over sixteen cities throughout the Americas who actively contribute content for this monumental digitization project whose findings are available free of charge on the web [http://icaadocs.mfah.org/icaadocs/Default.aspx]. 

At the MFAH, María also regularly collaborates in research, publication, and long-term exhibition initiatives including: Contingent Beauty: Contemporary Art from Latin America (forthcoming, 2015); Intersecting Modernities: Latin American Art from the Brillembourg Capriles Collection (2013); Resisting Categories: Latin American and/or Latino?, vol. I, Critical Documents of 20th-Century Latin American and Latino Art (2012); American Art & Philanthropy. Twenty Years of Collection at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (2010); and Hélio Oiticica: The Body of Color (2007).  Previous engagements have included teaching courses on Latin American art and culture at Tulane University in New Orleans; running field research projects in several U.S. cities and in Puerto Rico for the Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution; and working for the Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico during its gestational stage. Originally from San Juan, Maria has M.A. degrees in Art History and Arts Administration and is the process of finalizing her Ph.D in Latin American Studies from Tulane University.  


Christina C. Gorczynski

CEO, First Person LLC 

Christina C. Gorczynski is the Founder and CEO of First Person LLC, a business consulting firm that provides strategy and smart leadership for socially responsible organizations. Christina is also a licensed attorney with the State Bar of Texas and a certified mediator. In her role as chief strategist for First Person, Christina currently serves as Executive Director of the Museum District Business Alliance and does board development with the Texas Council on Family Violence. Christina served as Executive Director of the League of Women Voters of Houston from 2009-2012. Christina earned a joint JD/MBA from the University of Houston and a BA in Women's Studies from Beloit College. 

Christina is a skilled, passionate civic leader who dedicates her time and resources for progressive causes. In September 2013, the League of Women Voters of Houston honored Christina for her civic engagement work with the President’s Medal. In recognition of her overall personal achievement and outstanding service to the community, Beloit College honored Christina with the Young Alumni Award in 2012. Christina is committed to equality for all people and previously served on the boards of the Houston GLBT Political Caucus, from which she received the President's Award in 2010 in recognition of her contributions to advance the organization's mission. Christina is native Houstonian and graduated from Saint Agnes Academy.


Licia Green-Ellis

President & CEO, The Waterman Steele Group 

As President and CEO of The Waterman Steele Group, Licia provides strategic input and direction to all WSG account teams. Since founding the firm in 2006, Licia has represented a broad range of clients from Fortune 500 companies to emerging businesses, nonprofits, governmental agencies, and high-level individuals.  With almost 30 years experience in the political arena, Licia has served as the Chief of Staff or District Director for three former members of the U.S. House of Representatives.  Licia has also served as the chief political operative and as a liaison with federal, state, city, county and school district governmental entities. 

Prior to the inception of WSG, Licia was Managing Director for Apex Advisors, a strategic planning consulting firm headquartered in Houston. Licia also previously served as the President & CEO for Cherish Our Children International, a non-profit that develops and funds programs for vulnerable children and their communities globally. She is highly active in volunteer efforts nationally, as well as the state of Texas and the greater Houston community.  Licia and her husband Rodney Ellis have four children. 


Reyne Hirsch

Appraiser & Host, The Art of Collecting, KPRC 

Media personality Reyne Hirsch, with an expertise in 20th Century Decorative Arts, is called upon to appraise collectibles ranging from antique watches to $20 million dollar paintings by individuals, investment firms, high-end estates and charity auctions. She blogs regularly on The Huffington Post on celebrity events, their collections and other Hollywood highlights.  She was the host and co-producer of The Art of Collecting, a weekly program on KPRC, Houston's NBC station, spotlighting trends and news in the world of fine art, antiques and collecting; has been a repeat guest on CBS' The Early Show and also on Martha Stewart Living Radio; and served as on-air talent for 13 seasons on PBS' Emmy nominated series, Antiques Roadshow. 

After starting her professional life as a model and journalist, Reyne founded Reyne Gallery which specializes in 20th Century Decorative Arts, Wristwatches and Collectible Cars, and co-founded The Finer Things in New York City, a company that acquired and sold luxury goods for clients at auction and privately. 

Reyne is continuously expanding her expertise into new areas; developing original television programming, authoring trade books and using broadcast media and social media to connect with an avid, national fan base of collectors. She has written for - or been interviewed by - publications including The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, The Chicago Tribune, The Los Angeles Times, BusinessWeek, Home & Garden, Hemisphere Magazine, Worth Magazine, TV Guide, Family Circle Magazine, Time Out New York, Traditional Home, Romantic Home, Inspire Magazine and Collectors Weekly. She has also contributed to many books on collectibles including "Antiques Roadshow Collectibles" by Carol Prisant and "Adventures at the Auction" by Leslie Hindman.


Leisa Holland-Nelson

Co-Founder, President/CMO, ContentActive Web & Mobile Development Co. 

Leisa Holland-Nelson is President, Co-founder and Chief Marketing Officer of ContentActive, LLC, Houston’s leading Web and Mobile Technology Company, where she is responsible for Marketing, Business Development and HR. She is also the author and voice of “Women Mean Business,” a weekly segment focusing on extraordinary women, on The Businessmakers Show seen on-line and heard on 20 radio stations across the U.S. 

Leisa also works tirelessly for many Houston non-profits, focusing her efforts on Women, Wellness and Education…including serving as Chair of the Board for the Greater Houston Women’s Chamber of Commerce for two terms, Co-chair of St Thomas University’s Performing Arts Council and Co-chair for Dress for Dinner for the Recipe for Success Foundation, where she’s helped raise countless dollars to fight childhood obesity, a cause dear to her heart. She has also co-chaired the Mayor’s Breakfast for Literacy for the last 4 years and is Co-chairing the inaugural Red Cross luncheon in May 2015. She is a former Table Talk Co-chair (2013)!  Leisa was honored to be named one of Houston’s Fifty Most Influential Women of 2009, a senior fellow of The American Leadership Forum in 2012, one of Mass Mutual’s Powerful Women in 2012, a 2013 Celebrated Entrepreneur by Houston Technology Center, and a 2015 Woman of Distinction for the Houston Chapter of the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation.


Yamile Jackson, PhD, PE, PMP

CEO & Founder, Nurtured by Design 

Yamile Jackson is the CEO and Founder of Nurtured by Design.  Her award-winning products are used in over 300 hospitals in 50 countries and in homes with healthy or sick children and newborns, including preemies.  She applies ergonomics and safety engineering to design products that humanize care and nurture the child even when the parent is not present. Her products, The Zaky and Kangaroo Zak, reduce stress, promote relaxation and conduce sleep, to grow, heal, and develop the brain.  Yamile’s work is proven to reduce cost, improve healthcare outcomes and improve family/patient satisfaction, without the need for expensive equipment, medication, side effects or invasive procedures. 

Yamile has 4 engineering degrees, with specialties in ergonomics and human-factors engineering.  She is a licensed Professional Engineer, a Certified Project Management Professional, & a Certified Kangaroo Care Professional.  Born and raised in Bogota, Colombia, she came to the US as an adult.  After a decade of working in the engineering and construction industry, Yamile gave birth prematurely to her now healthy son, Zachary.  Born in 2001 weighing less than 2 lbs, he survived the deluge of Tropical Storm Allison that shut down his life-support equipment.  Zachary was hospitalized for 5 months and Yamile promised that his pain and struggle to survive would not be in vain.  Nurtured by Design products and Yamile and Zachary’s story have been featured in media globally, including a TNT movie "14 Hours." Her latest recognition was the Toyota’s Standing Ovation Award, given by Oprah on her “The Life You Want” tour.


Lacy M. Johnson

Author, The Other Side 

Lacy M. Johnson is a Houston-based artist, curator, professor, activist, and is author of The Other Side (Tin House, 2014), which is a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award in Autobiography, as well as for an Edgar Award in Best Fact Crime, and was a Barnes and Noble Discover Great New Writer Selection for 2014. She is also author of Trespasses: A Memoir (University of Iowa Press, 2012), and is co-creator of the location-based storytelling project [the invisible city]. She worked as a cashier at WalMart, sold steaks door-to-door, and puppeteered with a traveling children’s museum before earning a PhD from University of Houston’s Creative Writing Program. As a writer and artist she has been awarded grants and fellowships from the Houston Arts Alliance, the Sustainable Arts Foundation, Kansas Arts Commission, the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Center for the Arts, Inprint, and Millay Colony for the Arts. Her work has appeared in Tin House, Fourth Genre, Creative Nonfiction, TriQuarterly, and has been anthologized in The Racial Imaginary (edited by Claudia Rankine et al.) and Literature: The Human Experience. 

She currently teaches at University of Houston, where she oversees the Interdisciplinary Art program from her base at the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Center for the Arts. Since 2000 she has worked in higher education as both faculty and as a program administrator. She has taught interdisciplinary writing workshops for everyone from bilingual second graders to women recovering from substance addiction — including, not least of all, K-12 teachers, aspiring writers, and pediatric cancer patients. Lately, she often speaks to students and organizations about issues of social justice, sexual violence on college campuses, and the eradication of violence against women.


Sheila C. Jones

Major, Harris County Sheriff’s Office 

Major Sheila C. Jones began her career with the Harris County Sheriff’s Office in 1989, after honorably serving in the United States Army from 1984 until 1988. While enlisted, she received two (2) Army Achievement Medals.  She worked as a Drill Instructor at Harris County’s Boot Camp Facility for three years and was then assigned to the Jail as well as the Classification division. In 1999, Sheila was promoted to the rank of Sergeant and fulfilled a multitude of assignments.  In 2005, she made Lieutenant and spent the next four years in the Detention Command. In 2009, Sheila transferred to the Executive Bureau, assigned to the newly formed Employee Representative Council, where she proved instrumental in implementing Sheriff Adrian Garcia’s vision for the ERC in recognizing the value of constructive employee input. While in this assignment, she also coordinated dignitary protection details, security operations and management plans for the 2011 Sheriff’s Association of Texas Annual Conference hosted by the Harris County Sheriff’s Office.  Sheila spent the next two years in the Patrol Bureau assigned to Districts III and V; On May 8, 2013, Sheila was appointed to the rank of Major and assigned to the Criminal Justice Command as the commander of the Justice Housing Bureau. 

As the commander of the nation’s third largest detention facility, Sheila oversees approximately 1,400 staff members and close to 10,000 inmates, spanning three (3) detention facilities consisting of inmate housing and building operations. She is a Graduate of the F.B.I. National Academy and the Senior Management Institute of Policing, she holds a Master Peace Officer Certificate and is a Certified TCLEOSE Instructor. Recently, Sheila obtained her Certified Public Managers Certificate from the American Jail Association. Sheila is also a recipient of the Excellence in Law Enforcement Award presented to her in 1999 and again in 2009. In her spare time, Sheila enjoys spending quality time with her two handsome sons; 26 year-old Brian, a newly promoted Deputy with the Harris County Sheriff’s Office, and 16 year-old Warren. Raised a Christian, Sheila and her boys are active members of the Fountain of Praise Church. Fully appreciative of her position within the Sheriff’s Office and of her life, Sheila is extremely thankful for her family, friends, and those who have been instrumental in her career.


Carmen Jordan

Houston Market President, IberiaBank 

Carmen Jordan is Executive Vice President, Houston Market President for IBERIABANK, and she provides executive leadership for the growing Houston market.  Her seasoned team of commercial bankers, energy lenders, private bankers, and community bankers covers the full spectrum of financial services for middle market clients.  A graduate of Lamar University in Beaumont, TX with a BBA in Finance, Jordan previously held the position of Chief Lending Officer for Encore Bank.  While at Encore, she managed all commercial and industrial, real estate, construction and private banking.  Prior to joining Encore in 2009, Mrs. Jordan managed the Corporate Energy Services lending division of Amegy Bank where she had been employed for over 12 years. 

Carmen is active in numerous charitable and civic organizations, including serving as Vice Chairperson of the Advisory Board for Lamar University’s College of Business, Board Member of the Houston Holocaust Museum Foundation, and a Corporate Guild Member of Dress for Success.  Since 2011, she has been an active member of Executive Women’s Partnership in Houston.  In 2014, she joined the Advisory Board of The Woods Project.   Carmen is married to Matt Jordan, and they have 2 daughters.


Noreen Khan-Mayberry, PhD

Chief Toxicologist, NKM Environmental Health Science 

Noreen Khan-Mayberry was born in New York City and grew up in Houston. Dr. Noreen, also known as "The Tox Doc," specializes in environmental, space, food and nutritional toxicology. Her personal mission is to translate the language of science for non-scientists in order to educate and inform the public of critical issues that affect their health and quality of life. Dr. Noreen has been featured on CBS & Fox TV and on K-ABC talk radio as a guest expert, and she is an active public speaker internationally. Her book "Talking Toxicology" provides an easy-to-understand breakdown of the science of toxicology and how to recognize and reduce toxic exposures. Dr. Noreen has recently launched a line of supplements specially formulated to provide the essential micronutrients required by our bodies to support our myriad of biochemical processes. All of her supplement products are GMO-free, naturally sourced, cold-processed and contain the highest quality ingredients. Not all supplements are created equally, which is why "The Tox Doc" set out to provide only the best products at an affordable price. 

Dr. Noreen serves as an editorial member of the Journal of Clinical Toxicology and The International Journal of Disaster Advances. The first female Space Toxicologist, she has been with NASA* since 2004, and has authored research articles in Space Toxicology and planetary dust toxicity. She is a Fellow of the International Congress of Disaster Management and a member of the Society of Toxicology and the American College of Toxicology. She has been honored as a 2013 Trailblazer Award for Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM), 2012 Award of Excellence from the Council of Inspector Generals on Integrity and Efficiency (CIGIE), 2010 Technology Rising Star and a distinguished guest speaker at the Women as Global Leaders international conference, among other awards.


Tina Knowles

Designer and Table Talk Honorary Chair 

“I don’t know anybody who loves high fashion more than I do, however, you should still be able to have access to beautiful clothes if you are on a budget.”- Tina Knowles 

A visionary designer from Galveston, Texas, Tina grew up with a fashion-focus.  Her mother, Agnez Deréon Beyoncé, was a professional seamstress, and Tina evolved her own style through experiments re-designing traditional clothing for herself and those around her.  In Houston, Tina founded her own salon, Headliners, which was a style center here for many years. She went on to wow the world by styling and designing for her superstar daughter, Beyoncé Knowles, as well as Kelly Rowland and Michelle Williams, members of the most successful female recording group of all time, the world-renowned Destiny’s Child. With Tina’s fashion guidance, the trio became style icons of a magnitude not seen since the golden age of Motown. 

In 2005 Tina and Beyoncé formed Beyond Productions and named their first contemporary clothing collection, “House of Deréon,” honoring the woman who nurtured Tina’s love of fashion. Tina says, “My mother had a lot of pride in the way she and her surroundings looked and she wasn’t going to let not having a lot of money stop her from dressing and living well.” In 2006 Tina refocused her energy and talent to the young women’s market and created Deréon, a new collection inspired by the independent spirit of her younger daughter, actress and singer Solange Knowles. In 2007, Tina developed a women’s collection called “Miss Tina by Tina Knowles,” which debuted on the Home Shopping Network, marking one of the most successful launches in their history. To continue her mother’s vision and reach a wide audience, the collection was featured in select Walmart stores across the country.   Experienced in nearly every aspect of “the lifestyle industry,” Tina has worked as an interior designer and as fashion consultant on various film projects including The Fighting Temptations, The Pink Panther, Austin Powers Goldmember, and Obsessed.  For the film Dreamgirls, Tina designed an elaborate gown for ‘Deena,’ Beyoncé’s character. Her lifestyle book, Destiny’s Style, was published by HarperCollins in 2002. 

Passionate about helping the homeless and the young, Tina, her family and Kelly Rowland along with Houston’s St. John’s Church have built and established The Knowles-Rowland Center for Youth.  The Knowles family also established The Survivor Foundation in 2005 and the Knowles-Temenos Place Apartments, a transitional living center in Houston.  Recently Tina partnered with Beyoncé to create the Beyoncé Cosmetology Center at Phoenix House in New York City as a resource to empower women while providing them the life skills that would give them hope and a means of support after leaving the center. Notes Tina, “I feel as if I’ve done a little bit of everything. I’ve always wanted to help make people feel good about themselves.  I guess you could say that’s been my lifelong passion—to make people look and feel beautiful.”


Caroline Leech

Blogger/Writer, Inspiring Houston

Caroline Leech is a Scottish writer who has lived in Houston since 2007.   She founded the “Inspiring Houston Women” blog in 2013 (www.inspiringhoustonwomen.com) for which she interviews Houston women, each of whom has an inspirational story to tell.  The women she interviews may have careers, families, passions, ambitions, creative gifts or deeply held beliefs, but what they all share is a commitment to making life in this city better for the people around them—at home, at work and in their community. So that the inspiration spreads, each interviewee nominates her own Inspiring Houston Woman for Caroline to feature on the blog. 

Caroline also writes novels for teenagers and won the 2014 Joan Lowery Nixon Award at the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators in Houston for her work-in-progress, “Never Met, Never Parted” set in Scotland toward the end of World War Two. Before moving to Texas, Caroline worked in public relations for opera and the performing arts in the UK, a fifteen-year career which culminated in her editing a glossy photographic book, “Welsh National Opera – the first sixty years.”  She has written numerous feature articles on the performing arts in a number of newspapers and magazines here and in the UK. Caroline is married with three teenage children.

Lynne Liberato

Partner, Haynes & Boone, LLP

Lynne Liberato is a partner in the international law firm of Haynes and Boone, a member of its executive committee, and last year’s chair of the United Way Community Campaign. She has served on or led many boards, including chair of the board of United Way of Greater Houston, chair of the board (and later president) of the State Bar of Texas, president of the Houston Bar Association (first woman), and president and chair of the board of the Supreme Court Historical Society. She is also a board member for the Greater Houston Partnership. 

Lynne has argued before the United States Supreme Court, met with the president in the Oval Office regarding judicial appointments, and lobbied Congress for funding of legal services for the poor.  She handles significant litigation, including recently defeating a multi-billion-dollar claim against a major oil company and representing the City of Houston as lead appellate counsel defending the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance. She is the mother of two sons, Callon, who is a secomd year MBA student at Harvard Business School, and Benjamin, who is the plant engineer for Air Liquide’s largest hydrogen plant.


Marley Lott

Retired Partner, Baker Botts, LLP & Hermann Park Conservancy Board 

Marley Lott joined Baker Botts directly from Harvard Law School and spent her entire legal career with the firm. She was head of the Baker Botts' Global Real Estate Group, as well as the first female member of the firm's Executive Committee. 

Marley's passions are art, parks and architecture. She served over 10 years on the Board of CAMH (Contemporary Arts Museum Houston) in leadership roles and was a founding Board member of the Hermann Park Conservancy. As a member of the Conservancy's Executive Committee and Project Committee, Marley has participated in over$100 million dollars' worth of Park improvements. Marley has also served as a non-architect Board member of ArCH (Architecture Center Houston).


Elizabeth Maberry

Director, Digital Business Development, Direct Energy 

Liz Maberry is a successful entrepreneur who decided seven years ago her life mission was making energy efficiency and energy management simple and accessible, for anyone. She helped to pioneer taking energy digital as a founder of Bounce Energy, and has scoured the globe in her role as Direct Energy’s Director of Business Development for Digital & Innovation, looking for products and services that help people take control of their energy consumption and spending.  She is a recognized expert in home energy and technology, having spoken at various conferences and events for energy services and women entrepreneurship. 

Liz is an energetic, fun, yet polished speaker with over 15 years total experience in energy efficiency and energy home technology. Prior to her energy start-up experience, Liz worked as an early-stage employee at an online home-services website and as a consultant in technology. She lives in Houston with her husband and two beautiful children.


Mary Magsamen

Curator, Aurora Picture Show 

Mary Magsamen is a curator, artist and educator.  For the past six years she has been the Curator at Aurora Picture Show, a media arts center known internationally for presentations of experimental film and moving image art.  Magsamen also teaches courses on interdisciplinary art theory and practices with the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Center for the Arts at the University of Houston.  She and her husband, Stephan Hillerbrand, collaborate as Hillerbrand+Magsamen on video, photography and installation projects and exhibit internationally in galleries and museums. Magsamen received her BFA from the University of Denver and MFA from the Cranbrook Academy of Art.


Jyoti Malhan

Principal, Baylor College of Medicine Academy at Ryan 

Jyoti Malhan is proud to serve as the founding principal at the Baylor College of Medicine Academy at Ryan. Prior to this she cofounded and served as Dean of Instruction at the new Young Women’s College Preparatory Academy.  Jyoti is currently finishing her PhD in curriculum and instruction at Texas A & M University with emphasis in Urban Education. She has a Bachelor’s in Science with an honors in Botany, a Masters in English and a second Master’s in Educational Administration. 

Her lifelong focus and passion is to persistently support efforts to enrich and enhance instructional effectiveness and thus impact student achievement and success. She considers herself a lifelong teacher and a lifelong learner.  She is a test item writer for the state licensing test TEXES for teacher certification in three areas (Principal, English, Gifted and Talented) and holds multiple educator licenses in the state of Texas. Her research is on teacher efficacy and she has presented at sixteen national and state conferences and also reviews proposals submitted for AERA Annual Meetings. 

As Dean of Instruction at the Young Women’s College Preparatory Academy she aggressively recruited students and staff that led to the creation of a stellar academic program with student achievement data that has placed the school among the top tier in every area in Houston ISD. She was recently acknowledged by Superintendent of Schools Dr. Grier and awarded a red hat for the successful launch of the Baylor College of Medicine Academy at Ryan. She was also a finalist for HISD assistant principal of the year in 2012.  She is the 2012 Recipient of the Bravo Award, given by the Texas Council of Women School Executives. She is also a Texas Public Schools Research Network 2010 Cohort member, via the Center for Research, Evaluation and Advancement of Teacher Education (CREATE) and TASA. She is the proud mother of a son who is a freshman at UT Austin and a daughter who is in the ninth grade at DeBakey HS.


Ruchi Mukherjee

Founder/Editor, Lights Camera Action 

Ruchi Mukherjee is the Editor/Founder of Lights Camera Action: Houston Society News, an online lifestyle society magazine catering to Houston’s diverse community. Ruchi started her career with the national daily English newspaper, The Times of India, as a crime beat reporter in Kolkata, India. She was a Lifestyle Sunday Columnist for The Statesman, and Indian Express, for over seven years, covering various facets of life from breaking news to the lifestyles of the rich and famous. Her stories have journeyed from the notorious red-light district of Kolkata, India to the high profile society galas and interviews with Bollywood and Hollywood personalities such as George Clooney, Eva Longoria, Sarah Jessica Parker, Tilda Swinton, Tina Knowles, Tommy Hilfiger, Shahrukh Khan, and many others. Currently, Ruchi also serves as a Houston correspondent for the North American Cable News Network TV Asia, as a contributor to Culturemap, FOX 26 Bloggers Segment, and India Bollywood Journalist. Her International Mothers' Day Soiree at Neiman Marcus honors Houston's talented mothers hailing from various backgrounds. 

Ruchi takes active initiative to volunteer for various nonprofit organizations that involve women and children. A winner of the Leukemia/ Lymphoma Society Citizenship Award, she is a L/LS Nominating Committee member, the media coordinator for Pratham Houston, and was the event coordinator for DAYA for five years. Ruchi has been on the Host Committee for Rothko Chapel and Cheers 4 Charity events, and has successfully conducted fundraiser events for Developments In Literacy (DIL), American Cancer Society, Aga Khan Foundation, and Tahirih Justice Center.


Teresa O’Donnell

Executive Director, Plant it Forward 

Teresa O’Donnell, a former Pediatric ICU nurse and co-founder of Bridgeway Software, is the executive director of Plant It Forward. Plant It Forward originated when her company was looking for a community outreach project and this opportunity presented itself. Teresa is an unlikely lead in this organization with no farming experience other than her experiment with a backyard garden at her childhood home when she was 16.  The secret to her success with Plant It Forward is surrounding herself with very good farmers. Teresa is interested in the concerns of the day and is involved in issues that range from underserved populations to the scenic beauty of Houston. Besides her work at Plant It Forward, Teresa also serves as a board member of Scenic Houston and is a supporter of the Prison Entrepreneurship Program.


Mary Ann Ottinger, PhD

Professor of Biology Associate Vice Chancellor/ Associate Vice Provost for Research, University of Houston 

Professor Ottinger came to UH in 2013, after a long and successful tenure at the University of Maryland, College Park.  As AVC/AVP she assists faculty with developing and most effectively implementing their research grants.  Her own research incorporates an interdisciplinary approach to investigations of endocrine, neuroendocrine, and behavioral components of reproduction.  In addition, she and her students have recently completed a series of studies in neuroendocrine aging and neurodegenerative disease using the double transgenic Alzheimer’s disease (AD) mouse model. These experiments showed that estradiol and estradiol quinol had beneficial effects on the progression of behavioral and neural markers of AD.  At UMCP she was also active in administration, serving as AVP for Research, among other roles, and as and NSF Advance Grant Professor/Fellow.


Roz Pactor

Owner, Founder, and Editor-in-Chief, The Pactor Group/My Red Glasses Blog 

Roz Pactor is a fashion/marketing consultant and fashion & lifestyle blogger based here in Houston, Texas, with more than three decades of experience in fashion retailing that spanned Foley’s, Bloomingdale’s NYC and Neiman Marcus. She was Vice President Fashion Director for Foley’s before starting her own company, The Pactor Group. She is most known in Houston’s fashion circles for her signature personal fashion statement that has evolved from her many years of wearing only RED Glasses.  Her blog, My Red Glasses, provides her unique perspective after decades in the business, on the world of fashion, her appreciation for the arts and interior design and a true love for fine dining.

She stays on top of the Houston fashion scene, in part, by being a member in our local branch of Fashion Group International, Houston Designed Task Force, whose role is to encourage the growth of fashion as an industry for Houston. She also actively participates in the Little Black Dress Designer project. 

In addition to blogging, consulting and public speaking, a true passion for her is to give back to the community through various charities of which she is involved. She is a passionate participant in the American Heart Association Guild, where she served as President and founder of the young professional organization and the current Shop With Heart Card campaign. She was also past marketing chairman for the Bo’s Place Girls Night Out Event for four years.


Bárbara Padilla

Classical Crossover Soprano; Finalist, America’s Got Talent 

Bárbara Padilla dazzles audiences with her transcendent voice. Fluent in Spanish, English, Italian and French, her imaginative, enchanting vocal performances celebrate life’s colorful cast of characters, human resiliency and hope and exhibit her passion for a wide range of genres. Bárbara was born raised in Guadalajara, Mexico, where she took piano and dance lessons and delighted in the stunning recordings of pieces by Ludwig van Beethoven, Charles Gounod and Joaquín Rodrigo and the interpretations of legendary vocalists such as Plácido Domingo and Edita Gruberova. 

In 2000, Bárbara was offered a full scholarship at the University of Houston’s Moores School of Music in the U.S. where she completed her Master’s degree. At the end of 2008, her thirst for fresh, challenging opportunities led her to audition for the fourth season of the popular television program America’s Got Talent, where, thanks to her luminous renditions of songs and her charisma, she finished first runner-up. Her self-titled debut album Bárbara Padilla is a collection of layered pieces of instrumental music mingled with lyrics and hints of some of Bárbara’s favorite arias, classical compositions and pop songs.


Annise Parker

Mayor, City of Houston 

Mayor Annise Parker is a second generation native Houstonian.  She attended Rice University, graduating with a Bachelor of Arts Degree.  In the private sector, she 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. 

Mayor Parker is serving her third term as mayor.  She is Houston’s 61st Mayor and 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 enforcement of all laws and ordinances. 

Parker has spent many years in service to the people of Houston, with six years as a City Council member and six years as City Controller.  She is the only person in Houston history to hold the offices of council member, controller and mayor.


Purva Patel

Therapist, The Couple Zone 

Purva Patel is a Marriage and Family Therapist Associate (LMFTA). She serves as a therapist at Child Advocates of Fort Bend, where she works with survivors of child abuse and their families. She is also in private practice and offers individual and couples counseling in Montrose at The Couple Zone.  Purva is a board member of the Houston Association of Marriage and Family Therapy and has presented at national workshops on culturally responsive therapy with minorities. Purva worked as an award-winning journalist prior to entering the mental health field, most recently for the Houston Chronicle.


Carmen Peña Abrego

Events & Program Coordinator, Houston Public Library 

Carmen Peña Abrego worked as a marketing and publicity coordinator for the University of Houston’s Arte Público Press for 11 years before joining the Houston Public Library as Events & Programming Coordinator in 2013. In this role, she develops and oversees programs and various reading series while working closely with the organization’s Communications team to promote events, services, and special initiatives. 

She serves on the advisory board to Voices Breaking Boundaries, a multidisciplinary arts organization, and Carmen was recently accepted into the School of Library and Information Studies at Texas Woman’s University.


Theola Petteway

Executive Director, OST/Almeda Corridors Redevelopment Authority 

Theola Petteway has a diverse background with extensive professional experience in the private not-for-profit, private-for-profit and public sectors.  She is Executive Director of the Old Spanish Trail/ Almeda Corridors Redevelopment Authority (Authority), which administers Reinvestment Zone Number Seven, City of Houston, Texas (TIRZ #7), a financing tool to promote development/ re-development in the greater Third Ward area.  The Authority’s largest project is the redevelopment of the historic Emancipation Park (oldest public park in the Houston and State of Texas which was established by former slaves in 1872). 

Petteway is one of the founders of Third Ward Community Cloth Cooperative, a coalition of over 450 community-based organizations, churches, schools, businesses, etc.; founding member of the Board of Directors of the Houston Area Women’s Center and Row House Community Development Corporation; and currently serves on numerous boards and commissions, including as Vice-Chair of the Board of Directors of Blueprint Houston; Member of the Board of Directors of the Main Street Coalition, Project Row Houses and Row House Community Development Corporation; Advisory Board Member of Urban Land Institute-Houston; Community Advisory Board Member of Metropolitan Transit Authority Southeast Rail Line; Member of the Urban Revitalization National  Product Council of Urban Land Institute; and is a Senior Fellow of American Leadership Forum (Class XXXI). Petteway received her Bachelor’s Degree from Texas Woman’s University and Master’s Degree from the University of Houston and is a Life Member of the University of Houston Alumni Association.


Jessica Phifer

Associate Vice President, Christie’s 

Jessica Phifer is Associate Vice President of Christie’s, Head of Houston Office and Senior Account Manager on behalf of the Southwest Region. Phifer has worked for Christie’s as their Houston representative for over 8 years. She is charged with business development throughout the Southwest region: sourcing and supervising sale transactions, appraisals, and valuations, through working with private clients, trust and estates professionals, as well as public and private institutions. She speaks regularly on panel discussions and lectures on topics related to fine art collecting, the art market, and philanthropic giving. 

Phifer chairs the Steering Committee for the Menil Contemporaries, and is active in several patrons groups at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, the Menil Collection, the Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston, and Lawndale Art Center. She graduated with a joint degree in Art History from the University of Houston and the University of Paris, Sorbonne.


Sina Raouf

Community Outreach Manager, METRO/ Parsons 

Sina Raouf has over 20 years of experience in public outreach and stakeholder engagement for large transportation projects. She has worked in all stages of project development from the conceptual planning phase all the way through construction and pre-operations phases. Currently Sina serves as the Community Outreach Manager for the METRO Light Rail Expansion Project. This design/build project includes the addition of three new light rail lines totaling over 15 miles and 24 stations as well as storage and inspection facilities. Sina is responsible for implementing a comprehensive communications, marketing and public outreach plan. Her duties include identifying and mitigating construction impacts to adjacent businesses and residents; implementing a business assistance program for businesses impacted by construction; developing and maintaining the project website, GOMETRORail.org; planning and coordinating public events such as groundbreaking events, community events and grand opening celebrations; and, developing the rail-safety-awareness campaign to educate the public on how to safely interact with light rail. 

Sina has a B.A. in Architecture from Cairo University and a Masters in City Planning from MIT. She began her transportation career at the Central Artery/ Tunnel Project in Boston. She then worked on transit projects throughout the United States and Canada as a project manager, planner and outreach specialist. She joined Parsons in 2004.


Robin Reagler

Executive Director, Writers in the Schools 

Robin Reagler joined WITS as a writer in 1990, and she has worked in every facet of the organization, from teaching to program development to administration. Currently as Executive Director, Robin not only leads WITS in its Houston endeavors; she also heads the WITS Alliance, a national consortium of literary arts education groups. Robin earned an M.F.A. from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and a Ph.D. from the University of Houston Creative Writing Program. Her poems and essays have been published widely in books and journals such as Ploughshares and HOW(ever), and her chapbook Dear Red Airplane was published in 2011. Robin is Board Vice President for the Association of Writers and Writing Programs (AWP).


Maria Rios

Founder, President & CEO, Nation Waste 

Maria Rios has turned trash into treasure!  She is the Founder President & CEO of Nation Waste Inc., a fully certified Commercial Solid Waste Disposal & Recycling Company and Portable Sanitation Service, working with small business owners, Fortune 500 companies, and government.  Hers is the first female, Hispanic-owned waste removal company in the United States. 

Rios, who emigrated from El Salvador as a child, came to the U.S. to pursue an education.  Upon graduating with a BA from the University of Houston, she purchased two trucks and Nation Waste was born.  Today, she has a fleet of over 25.  As a Goldman Sachs Scholar, Rios has expanded her operations and product line, which has resulted in a multi-million dollar contract with the City of Houston.  She was named one of Houston’s Most Influential Women by Houston Woman Magazine, Female Entrepreneur of the Year by the Houston Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, and has been recognized by the White House and the Texas Governor. Maria won the 2013 Fortune Most Powerful Women Entrepreneur Award for her innovative and ground-breaking business model and The Greater Houston Women Chamber of Commerce 2014 Breakthrough Women Award.  Honored by Goldman Sachs Builders & Innovators 2014 as one of the 100 most intriguing entrepreneurs, Maria serves as an Executive Board member of the Houston Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, on the Greater Houston Women Chamber of Commerce, USGBC, and Houston Food Bank boards, and was appointed by Mayor Annise Parker to the City of Houston Advisory Board.  Maria encourages others to achieve the American dream: “The Sky is the Limit!”


Carol S. Shattuck

CEO & President, Collaborative for Children 

Carol S. Shattuck has served as President and CEO for Collaborative for Children since 1998. In this role, she works with all sectors of the Houston community to strengthen the early care and education system for young children from birth to age six. By working with private philanthropists, business leaders, elected officials, parents, educators, child-development experts and children's service providers, Shattuck continually seeks to put quality early care and education on the community agenda. She also represents Collaborative for Children in the community to increase public awareness of the significant return on investment available when we make early childhood education a priority. 

Prior to joining Collaborative for Children, Shattuck directed a collaboration in the field of women's health care. She worked with a number of health care providers to design a full continuum of care in the area of breast health care for low-income women. In the twenty-six years of her professional career, Shattuck has held positions in strategic and financial planning, program development, and management in both the public and nonprofit sector. For four of those years, Shattuck operated a consulting practice that specialized in strategic planning, board of directors' development, program evaluation, meeting facilitation and collaboration development. Shattuck has a Masters degree from Rice University's Jones School of Administration and a Bachelor’s degree in Public Policy from Duke University. 


Ruth J. Simmons, PhD

President Emerita, Brown University 

Ruth J. Simmons was sworn in as the 18th president of Brown University on July 3, 2001. She had been president of Smith College from 1995 until the time of her appointment at Brown.  A native of Texas who grew up in Grapevine and Houston and a 1967 graduate of Dillard University in New Orleans, Simmons received her Ph.D. in Romance languages and literatures from Harvard University in 1973. She has written on the works of David Diop and Aimé Césaire.  In 1983, after serving as associate dean of the graduate school at the University of Southern California, Simmons joined the Princeton University administration, leaving in 1990 for two years to serve as provost at Spelman College, returning to Princeton in 1992 as vice provost. In 1993, invited by the president to review the state of race relations on the Princeton campus, Simmons wrote a report that resulted in a number of significant initiatives. In 1995 she became president of Smith College, the largest women’s college in the US, where she launched a number of strategic initiatives to strengthen the college’s academic programs and inaugurated the first engineering program at a U.S. women’s college. 

Simmons is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and a member of the American Philosophical Society and the Council on Foreign Relations. Active in a wide range of educational, charitable, and civic endeavors, she holds honorary degrees from more than 30 colleges and universities, including Harvard University and the University of Houston.  She is also the recipient of many prizes and fellowships, including the Harvard University Centennial Medal, the Columbia University Teachers College Medal for Distinguished Service, and the President’s Award from the United Negro College Fund. In 2001 Time magazine named her America’s best college president. In 2007, she was named one of U. S. News & World Report’s top U.S. leaders and — for the second time — a Glamour magazine Woman of the Year. In 2011, Simmons received The Rosenberger Medal, which is the highest honor Brown University faculty can bestow. 

During her tenure at Brown, Simmons created an ambitious set of initiatives designed to expand and strengthen the faculty; increased financial support and resources for undergraduate, graduate, and medical students; improved facilities; renewed the commitment to shared governance; and ensured that diversity informs every dimension of the university. These initiatives led to a major investment of new resources in Brown’s educational mission.  President Simmons announced her decision to step down on September 15, 2011. In May 2012, the Corporation honored her by designating the Lower Campus as the Ruth J. Simmons Quadrangle. She concluded her term as president on June 30, 2012.


Marian Szczepanski

Author, Playing Santa Barbara 

Marian Szczepanski, author of the debut novel Playing St. Barbara (High Hill Press, 2013), holds an MFA in creative writing from Warren Wilson College and a BA in American Studies from the University of Notre Dame. Her short fiction garnered the de Maine Award for an Emerging Writer from Clackamas Literary Review. She has been recognized by the Houston Press Club for magazine feature writing and named to the Houston Press roster of “100 Houston Creatives” for 2014.


Anne Taylor

Vice Chairman & Managing Partner, Deloitte LLP 

Anne Taylor serves as managing partner of Deloitte’s Houston office, which includes 1,700 people.  She has more than 25 years of experience as a management consultant, focused on technology strategy and change management.  Anne joined Deloitte in 1987 through the acquisition of the software-consulting firm in which she was a principal.   Her numerous leadership roles at Deloitte include U.S. Chief Strategy Officer, Global Leader E-Business, National Managing Partner – Solutions, and Regional Managing Partner of the eight-state Mid-America Region. She was the first woman to serve on Deloitte’s U.S Executive Committee and the first woman on the global Management Committee of DTT.  She has also served on the Deloitte U.S. Board of Directors and the Board of Directors of Deloitte Consulting. 

While in her global role, Anne was the strategic partner advisor to the World Economic Forum’s Technology Pioneer program and she attended the Forum’s annual meeting in Davos for four years.  Her reputation for excellence has touched almost every industry Deloitte serves, with clients from start-ups to Fortune 50 companies.  Residing in Houston, Anne serves on the Board of Directors and Executive Committee of the Greater Houston Partnership and Central Houston, Inc.  She also serves on the Board of Directors of the Center for Houston’s Future and the YMCA of Greater Houston and is Co-Chair of this year’s Alexis de Tocqueville Society campaign for the United Way of Greater Houston. She is a member of the Texas Business Leadership Council, the Council of Overseers of the Jones Graduate School of Business at Rice University, and the Advisory Council of All Kids Alliance.

Anne received her B.S. and M.S. degrees in Civil Engineering from the University of Utah and holds an M.A. in Engineering from Princeton University, where she also completed Ph.D. studies. She is married and has four children.


Maria A. Trujillo

Human Trafficking Program Manager, Colorado Dept. of Public Safety 

Maria A. Trujillo serves as Human Trafficking Program Manager, Colorado Dept. of Public Safety and was recently the Executive Director of the United Against Human Trafficking (UAHT), a non-profit organization in Houston dedicated to preventing and combating human trafficking by raising public awareness of the issue and harnessing the power of the community to put an end to this horrible crime. Trujillo came to UAHT from Washington, DC, where she worked for an international development organization and where she obtained her Master’s degree from American University. Trujillo also holds a BA in International Relations from Claremont McKenna College. She has extensive international travel experience, including significant time spent living and working in France, Israel and Japan.

Trujillo first learned about the issue of human trafficking in 1996 while working on a year-long research project on the use of sweat shop labor in developing countries. While living in DC she expanded her knowledge on the issue as she took on a leadership role with the grassroots community group, DC Stop Modern Slavery, which focuses on raising community awareness about human trafficking. Trujillo serves as a speaker and expert technical advisor on the issue of human trafficking at the national, state and local levels. Trujillo is a member of the Human Trafficking Rescue Alliance, the Houston-area law enforcement task force on human trafficking and was appointed by the Attorney General of Texas to serve on the state-wide Human Trafficking Prevention Task Force. In 2012, Trujillo was appointed by the Mayor of Houston to serve on the Mayor’s Advisory Council of International Communities and to Chair the Blue Ribbon Committee on Human Trafficking for the City of Houston. Trujillo has also been recognized for her work on combating human trafficking as a “Circles of Change” honoree by Building Bridges for Peace.


Hallie Vanderhider

Managing Partner, Catalyst Partners 

Hallie Vanderhider is Managing Partner of Catalyst Partners LLC, an investment banking firm providing financial advisory and capital services to the energy and technology sectors.  As Managing Partner of Catalyst, Vanderhider has represented numerous oil and gas companies as well as individuals in capital-raising activities, acquisitions and divestitures primarily focused on oil and gas fee minerals and overriding royalty interests.  She served for ten years as President, Chief Operating Officer and member of the board of Black Stone Minerals Company, L.P., the largest private oil and gas fee mineral owner in the country, where prior to becoming President in 2007, she served as Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer. During her tenure at Black Stone, the enterprise grew from a third-party valuation of $220 million to over $4 Billion through a series of acquisitions and participation through the drill bit.  Prior to Black Stone, Hallie served as Chief Financial Officer for EnCap Investments, a leading private equity firm focused on the upstream oil and gas sector.  Before joining EnCap, Vanderhider served as Chief Accounting Officer of Damson Oil Corp., a publicly traded oil and gas firm in Houston.  Hallie began her career in public accounting with Deloitte (formerly Touche Ross & Co.). 

Hallie serves on the boards of Bright Horizon Resources, Mississippi Resources and Grey Rock Energy.  She serves on the board and is the current President of the Houston Producers' Forum and the Houston Energy Finance Group and is a member of, among others, the Independent Petroleum Association of America, the Texas Independent Producers and Royalty Owners Association, the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, the Texas Society of Certified Public Accountants, the Energy Subcommittee for the Greater Houston Partnership, and the Steering Committee for the Executive Women's Partnership of the Greater Houston Partnership and is a director of the Texas Business Hall of Fame Foundation. She serves on the advisory board for the Holocaust Museum of Houston as well as the Advisory Counsel for the Mays Business School for Texas A&M University and the UT – Tyler Engineering School JV with Houston Community College. Vanderhider received a B.B.A. in Accounting from the University of Texas at Austin and is a Certified Public Accountant.


Sannam Warrender

Stylist & Fashion Blogger, Sannam & Style 

Sannam Warrender was raised in New York City and graduated from George Washington University with a degree in International Relations and the American University - Washington College of Law. As a lawyer, Sannam served as an Assistant District Attorney in the Bronx specializing in domestic violence, sex offenses and child abuse. Since moving to Houston in 2003, she has become an active member of the community through volunteering at the Museum of Fine Arts, the Junior League, Heroes and Handbags, the Bayou Children's party and Depelchin.  Sannam is a current board member for Inprint, and Kezia’s Kids.  In October 2013 she decided to pursue a long lifetime passion in fashion and launched her personal styling business and blog Sannam and Style.  She has since been featured in Instyle and Marie Claire magazines.  In her spare time, she is also attempting to raise her three young children.


Lorie Westrick

Principal, RdlR Architects 

As a Principal at RdlR, Lorie Westrick leads RdlR marketing and management. With thirty years of architectural practice, Lorie has participated in a wide range of assignments, including educational, commercial, governmental, housing and interior projects. She engages clients fully in project development and her broad range of experience encompasses all project phases from programming and goal setting to construction administration and furniture installations. Lorie’s versatility as a programmer, designer and architect and her exceptional communication skills make her an invaluable asset to the Firm.


Kristin Wong

MSN Reporter, Blogger, Scriptwriter 

Kristin Wong is a freelance writer and regular contributor to Lifehacker, Get Rich Slowly, and ThriveWire. Her work has been featured on Hollywood Elsewhere, Forbes, American Public Media and Fox and Friends.  Kristin graduated from the University of Houston's English Department in 2005 and, that same year, she won a top award at Houston's Worldfest International Film Festival for her first film. Kristin was formerly a contributor to ArtsHouston magazine and MSN Living, where she won the NW Excellence in Journalism Award from the Society of Professional Journalists. Kristin also won an award from LA Webfest for a Netflix comedy series she co-wrote for Fox Digital: Let’s Big Happy. Her blog Brokepedia explores the exciting world of frugality, providing money-saving tips for every area of your budget.


Mia Knight Wright

Co-Pastor & Executive Director, The Fountain of Praise & Metamorphosis 

Mia K. Wright is inspiring women around the globe to pursue their passion for living. She is the founder and Executive Director of Metamorphosis Conference, Inc., which encompasses a women’s conference, empowerment seminars, compassion outreach, a girls’ leadership program and international programs in Brazil, Tanzania and South Africa. Mia is helping people to positively change their lives. 

Mia earned her Bachelor’s degree at The University of Texas at Austin in 1987. Following college, she embarked on a highly successful career in pharmaceuticals with Merck and Astra Zeneca. In 2005, Mia graduated with Highest Honors with a Master of Divinity degree from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.  She is married to Pastor Remus E. Wright and serves as Co-Pastor at The Fountain of Praise, a 20,000-member mega church in Houston.   She is the mother of three sons, two of whom are current university students.


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