2016 - University of Houston
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2016 Biographies

Sharmila Anandasabapathy

Vice President, Baylor College of Medicine, Global Initiatives 

Sharmila Anandasabapathy, M.D. is a Professor of Medicine in Gastroenterology, Director of Baylor Global Initiatives and the Baylor Global Innovation Center at Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, Texas. She oversees Baylor’s global programs and affiliations, as well as The Baylor Global Innovation Center, which seeks to develop novel, environmentally appropriate technologies and approaches to addressing global disease burden. She is currently the Principal Investigator on three grants funded by the National Institutes of Health and National Cancer Institute, and eight clinical trials focused on the development of low-cost, battery-operated, portable technologies for the endoscopic diagnosis of esophageal, gastric and colon cancers. 

In addition to her primary appointment at Baylor, Dr. Anandasabapathy also holds an adjunct appointment in Bioengineering at Rice University in Houston, Texas. She holds a B.A. in English literature from Yale University and an M.D. from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine. She completed her Internal Medicine Training at the New York Hospital-Cornell Medical Center and Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and her gastroenterology fellowship at The Mount Sinai Medical Center, NY. 


Veronica R. Chapa

Executive Director, Early Matters 

Veronica R. Chapa is the Executive Director for Early Matters, a historic coalition of business, civic, education, philanthropic and non-profit organizations, working together through a collective-impact approach to raise awareness about the importance of high-quality early childhood education as investment in the Greater Houston community. Prior to this position she served for five years as the Deputy Director for the City of Houston Housing and Community Development Department. Veronica was also a key member of the executive team that planned the deployment of $151 million dollars through place-based investment strategies to help revitalization efforts in the City of Houston. 

Veronica is a fellow with the American Leadership Forum Class XXXV, a Board member of the Latin Women’s Initiative, a member of Leadership Houston Class XXX, a 2013-2014 Houston League of Women Voters Rising Star and was recently named one of the most influential future leaders in Houston by Latino Leaders Magazine. On September 14, 2015, Veronica was appointed by Mayor Annise Parker to serve as a Commissioner for the Houston Housing Authority. A native of the Rio Grande Valley, Veronica's interests in community development stem from observing challenges from friends and family living in colonies along the U.S./Mexico border. When not working, she enjoys volunteering on projects aimed at improving community engagement, spending time with family, and having a good glass of wine over a great meal. 


Donae Cangelosi Chramosta

Owner, The Vintage Contessa

Donae Cangelosi Chramosta, known to friends as The Vintage Contessa, is a self-proclaimed shopaholic, fashionista, and lover of all things vintage. Alongside her husband, Rob, and with daily input from her little Princessa Bella, she runs a beautiful luxury boutique and website, selling vintage items from the fashion houses of Hermes, Chanel and Louis Vuitton. The boutique caters to customers from around the world, all of whom share a love for finding that perfect vintage piece.

In addition to running her business, Donae is passionate about supporting philanthropic causes, and if you can't find her at her boutique, she is normally to be found organizing charitable events both in her home town of Houston and around the country. 


Sylvie Christophe

Cultural Attaché, French Embassy in the United States - Cultural Services 

Sylvie Christophe is Cultural Attaché of the French Embassy in Houston. She started her career at the French Ministry of Education in Paris where she held positions in human resources and international cooperation before joining the ministry of Foreign Affairs, first as Deputy Cultural Attaché in Los Angeles, then as Cultural and Cooperation Attaché in Melbourne, Australia. 

Sylvie has been involved in promoting international exchanges in the arts and education for the past 15 years in France and abroad. Since January 2013, she has been in charge of developing French-American artistic, literary, audiovisual and educational partnerships in Texas, Oklahoma and Arkansas. Beyond her vast experience in international cooperation, Sylvie is a polyglot - she speaks French, English, Spanish and Portuguese fluently. 


Jo Clem

Worldwide Advisor for Employee Development, Apache Corporation 

Jo Clem is Worldwide Advisor for Employee Development at Apache Corp. She joined the company in 2011 to build a comprehensive, world-class global development program for one of the largest international independent exploration and production (E&P) companies in the industry. Her goal is to create a strategic partnership with Apache’s operational teams and with those who support operations to develop talented leaders for tomorrow’s future. 

Clem’s career includes over two decades of training and development experience in Brazil, the Netherlands, Singapore, Scotland, and China. Her first-hand experience living and working on four continents provides a keen awareness of the challenges of working in a global organization. Clem worked for Kerr McGee, an Oklahoma energy company, as Quality Program Manager, where she facilitated a Company-wide process improvement initiative, “Q.U.A.D.” which contributed to the firm’s most successful financial performance in over three decades.  When Kerr McGee entered the China market, Clem facilitated a three-year project to establish English language schools in Beijing for joint venture operations in the Bohai Bay. As an advisor to the Bill Gates Educational Foundation Alaska Project, she joined a team to evaluate progress achieved in seventeen rural schools. Each received a million dollar grant to implement strategies to accelerate learning and student success. 

Clem received a Bachelor’s in English and Communications from Oklahoma Baptist University, and a Master’s degree in Curriculum and Instruction from Michigan State University. She authored MSU’s first white paper on “Non-verbal communication in the People’s Republic of China.” Jo has written and delivered a dozen copyrighted courses and is a contributor to Roustabout magazine, Rigzone, and other trade and industry journals. Her post graduate studies at the University of California, Berkeley, includes her certification as a trainer for the Bay Area Writer’s Project in Far and East Asia. She is the author of Tell Me Who’s Wonderful. Clem is a member of the Houston ATD Mentoring Project, on the Advisory Board of Women in Energy and Apache’s Women’s Network. 


Amber Cox

VP & CMO, Houston Dynamo & Houston Dash Soccer 

A Missouri native, Amber Cox earned her bachelor’s degree in communications/journalism and master’s degree in business administration from William Woods University in Fulton, Missouri. She joined the Houston Dynamo in 2015 from the Big East Conference, where she served as the Associate Commissioner for Women’s Basketball in November 2013. She managed all aspects of women’s basketball, including scheduling, officiating, television, branding and marketing. Cox was also in charge of the sport’s marquee event, the annual Big East women’s basketball tournament. 

Cox spent nine seasons with the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury. She spent two seasons with the joint title of President and Chief Operating Officer, putting her in charge of all business and basketball operations. Upon her arrival in Phoenix, Cox also contributed to the marketing efforts of the Phoenix Roadrunners, the Valley’s former minor league hockey team, from 2006-09. In her final season with the Mercury, Cox directed the marketing and sales initiatives surrounding the selection of Brittney Griner, the first overall pick in the 2013 WNBA Draft, leading to record-setting sales, website viewership and media impressions. Recognizing her tremendous success and quick climb in the business industry the Phoenix Business Journal named Cox to its Forty-Under-40 Class of 2012. 

Before joining the professional ranks, Cox served on the collegiate level as assistant director of athletics in charge of media relations and development at Columbia College in Columbia, Missouri. She also served as the Sports Information Director for the American Midwest Conference (AMC) and the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) Region V. Prior to that, Cox spent time as an account executive at Visionworks Marketing and Communications, supervising all phases of development plans for the firm’s clients in addition to serving as the financial officer. 


Katya Dow

Legal Program Director, UH Juvenile & Capital Advocacy Project 

Katya Dow is an innovative advocate who is devoted to improving the lives of juveniles in the Houston community. A mother, wife, and lawyer who formerly practiced commercial litigation in Houston, Katya is currently the Legal Programs Director for the Juvenile and Capital Advocacy Project (JCAPTexas.org), a non-profit organization dedicated to improving the lives of socially and economically disadvantaged youth.  As an adjunct professor at the University of Houston Law Center, she teaches a course on juvenile record sealing, and spends countless hours sealing juvenile records for no cost, so that young men and women who have committed minor offenses can have their records sealed in order that they may become eligible for jobs, financial aid to colleges, federal housing loans, and the opportunity to serve in the US military. 

A former volunteer for Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Houston, who previously served as a guardian ad litem for children in the Child's Advocates organization, Katya has shown a deep and enduring commitment to the welfare of our community's least advantaged youth.  She balances this commitment with being a wife to her husband David and a mother to her son Lincoln (and her new puppy Delano!).  She is also a champion Latin ballroom dancer and a passionate fitness advocate, as well as a certified Mindfulness Coach, and enthusiastically promotes the value of mindfulness training. 


Xandra Eden                                                                             

Executive Director & Chief Curator, DiverseWorks 

Xandra Eden is Executive Director & Chief Curator of DiverseWorks, a unique multi-discipinary contemporary art organization based in Houston. She was previously Curator of Exhibitions for the Weatherspoon Art Museum in Greensboro, NC from 2005-2015, and Assistant Curator at The Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery in Toronto, Canada  from 1999-2005, where she organized contemporary art exhibitions, special projects, and publications. Eden has curated more than 60 exhibitions of work by national and international artists. Recent major exhibitions include Zones of Contention: After the Green Line (2015); Nancy Rubins: Drawing, Sculpture, Studies (2014); and Diana Al-Hadid (2013). Eden has held positions at The Power Plant, Toronto; the Pollock-Krasner Foundation, New York; and Women & Their Work Gallery, Austin, TX.   She grew up in Houston, Texas.


Amanda K. Edwards

Houston City Council Member, At-Large Position 4 

Houston City Council Member Amanda K. Edwards serves as the Houston City Council Member in At-Large Position 4. Council Member Edwards is also an attorney who specializes in public finance matters, in which she solves complex issues relating to tax-exempt bond financings, public-private partnerships, community development projects, and non-profit organizations. 

Council Member Edwards obtained her Bachelor of Arts from Emory University and her Juris Doctor from Harvard Law School. Before returning to Houston to enter private practice and public service, she served as a judicial law clerk to The Honorable Ivan L. R. Lemelle of the Federal District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana. 

Council Member Edwards remains active in the broader community. She has served on several non-profit boards of directors, and she is the immediate past Chair of the Board of Project Row Houses. As a result of her community involvement and legal work, Council Member Edwards has been recognized in a litany of publications and has received numerous accolades, including recognition with the Future Leader Award by the Chambers Women in Law Awards, USA 2015, among many others. 


Lisa Falkenberg                                                                                                      

Metro Columnist, Houston Chronicle, & 2015 Pulitzer Prize Winner 

Lisa Falkenberg is the Houston Chronicle’s Metro columnist. She writes Wednesdays and Fridays on topics ranging from politics to education to the death penalty. A sixth-generation Texan, Lisa is the daughter of a truck driver and a homemaker, born and raised in Seguin, where her interest in reporting was born at the high school newspaper. While studying journalism at the University of Texas, she covered the Texas Legislature for two news bureaus. She joined The Associated Press’ Dallas bureau in 2001, eventually becoming a regional writer covering Dallas and East Texas. She was named Texas AP Writer of the Year in 2004. Falkenberg joined the Houston Chronicle in 2005, first in the Austin bureau, then moving to Houston in 2007 to write the column. She has earned several local and state awards for her column-writing, and has been named the Chronicle’s Commentator of the Year. 

Falkenberg won the Houston Chronicle's first Pulitzer Prize for Commentary in April 2015. She was named a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Commentary in 2014. She lives with her husband and two daughters in the Heights.


Stacey Gillman Wimbish

President, Gillman Companies           

As President of the Gillman Companies, Stacey Gillman Wimbish is responsible for overseeing all phases of the business, improving organization profits, refining operational systems, employee satisfaction, and achieving the highest levels of customer satisfaction. The Gillman Companies are proud recipients of the Top WorkPlace Award in 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, and 2015. As the daughter and granddaughter of highly successful automobile dealers, Stacey was raised in the business. She began her retail automobile career at age 22 and has personally worked in every position and in every department. Stacey attended school in Houston and completed her education at the University of Texas in Austin.  She then attended the M.E.S. Dealer Management Development course for in-depth study of the General Motors accounting system and financial statements. Stacey is a graduate of the National Automobile Dealers Association Dealer Candidate Academy. She is a certified member of the Association of Finance and Insurance Professionals. 

Starting in 1992, Stacey served as a Director of the Houston Automobile Dealer Association (HADA). In 1999, she was the first woman and youngest person to be named Chairman of HADA.   In 2010, Stacey was designated by Automotive News as one of the “100 Leading Women in the North American Auto Industry.” She is currently on the National Dealer Council for Subaru of America. Stacey was Chairman of the Texas Automobile Dealers Association (TADA) in 2012 representing all 1100 dealers in Texas. Stacey is active in legislative efforts for the automobile industry in both Texas and our National associations. She served as South Texas DEAC chairman for the National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA). In 2012 Stacey was appointed by Governor Rick Perry to join his Economic Development Committee promoting ways to further enhance business growth for all of Texas. In 2015, Stacey and the Gillman Companies were awarded the Trailblazer Award by the American Advertising Federation in Houston which recognizes business leaders who have built Houston companies through effective advertising, marketing and community corporate involvement. She joins a list of distinguished Houston Trailblazers who have been awarded over the years that have all enhanced their companies with their marketing efforts in Houston. 

Stacey is also admired for her community contributions, including an annual fundraising effort with the Gillman Companies for the Fort Bend Women's Center which is dedicated to assisting women and children in abusive circumstances and supporting them in getting back on their feet. Most importantly, Stacey is the proud mother of two children. She enjoys volunteering at school and participating in her children’s activities. Stacey is actively involved with St. Luke’s United Methodist Church. 


Rosa González Décou                                                                                             

Multilingual Programs Outreach Worker, HISD 

Houston ISD Multilingual Programs Outreach Worker Rosa González-Décou provides outreach support to newcomer students and parents. This includes conducting school orientations for new arrivals to provide them with the tools they need to navigate public education successfully. She also facilitates informational workshops and training sessions to students and parents on academic support services such as regular attendance, promotion standards, drop-out prevention and post-secondary education. Décou promotes parent involvement in school and district activities as well as involvement with the community at large, assesses needs then creates and trains parents to implement consistent structure, time management and literacy activities in the home, and assists students with adjustment, acculturation and personal problems and directs them to the appropriate services offered through HISD and community agencies. 

Mrs. Décou has worked in HISD for 12 years, is an alumni of HISD’s Austin High School and holds a bachelor’s degree from University of Houston-Downtown. She has three daughters (Rosangelica, Lourdes, and Cristina) and is married to Mr. Reynold T. Décou Jr. 


Nikki Greenspan                 

Pilot, United Airlines 

Originally from New Zealand, Nikki moved to the USA in 1996 with the goal of becoming an airline pilot. She began twenty years ago working as a Flight Instructor in Phoenix while also flying tourists to the Grand Canyon. She built flight time in Alaska (flying fish, hunters, and all kinds of cargo) and soon after flew a twin engine Cessna for a charter company in Pennsylvania. In 2000 Nikki was hired for her first commercial aviation job at Mesaba Airlines, based out of Minneapolis. 

In 2005 she was employed by Continental Airlines where she has enjoyed being a First Officer and Captain on the Boeing 737 and is now a First Officer on the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, one of the world's newest and most efficient aircrafts. She has also been involved with Women in Aviation in pilot recruitment and worked with both new and seasoned pilots as a Human Factors Instructor. Currently, the percentage of female pilots at United - and in the world -  stands at 5.5%, and it is Nikki's hope that this percentage will increase in years to come.  She is kept busy on her days off with her partner of 15 yrs and 21 month old son. 


Joy Hall                                       

Marine Training Director, ConocoPhillips 

Joy Hall is the Marine Training Director for ConocoPhillips’ Polar Tankers organization.  She has 25 years of experiential knowledge in Maritime Operations, Project Management and Organization Change Management.  Before coming ashore to manage major capital projects in the O&G business, she sailed around the globe on ships as a maritime officer for 10 years.  She attended Texas A&M University and received a B.S. in Marine Transportation as well as the University of Houston for a B.S. in Psychology. 

She serves on the Board of the Offshore Energy Center (OEC) and Chairs the OEC SOCIETY Board. Joy is a recent past President of the Women's International Shipping and Trading Association (WISTA) - Houston Chapter, and an Ambassador of the Hotze Health & Wellness Center. She is also a certified Personal and Professional Performance Coach. 


Roberta Harris

Artist & Owner, Roberta Harris Studio 

Roberta Harris was born in Passaic, New Jersey and grew up in Houston, Texas.  She has lived in New York, Washington, D.C., and Santa Fe, New Mexico.  Harris studied at Parson’s School of Design and Hunter College in New York. She was chosen for the Independent Study Program, Whitney Museum of American Art in New York in 1972.  Her paintings and sculptures have been exhibited nationally and internationally and her work has been included in exhibitions at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, the Kimbell Museum in Ft. Worth, Texas,  MFAH and CAMH. Harris’ work is included in numerous private and corporate collections including MTV Corporation in New York, Chase Manhattan Bank in New York, Frito-Lay in Dallas,  and Dynegy, Hewlett-Packard, and Texas Heart Health Institute in Houston, Texas. 

Harris has instructed at Glassell School of Art, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston and The High School for the Performing and Visual Arts, Houston.  She has been a visiting lecturer at the Kimbell Art Museum in Ft. Worth, Texas, Museum of Fine Arts in Santa Fe, New Mexico, Brookhaven College in Dallas, Texas, the University of Houston, the Menil Collection. She has also served as an Advisory member of the Art and Architecture Panel for Texas Arts Commission, the Houston Arts Festival, the Cultural Arts Council of Houston, and the Art League of Houston.  In 2009, The Women’s Museum (a Smithsonian Institution), honored Roberta with a retrospective of her work covering the period of 1985 to 2009.  She was a Hunting Prize finalist in 2014 and in 2015 had numerous one person exhibits including her 3rd retrospective (Katy Contemporary Arts Museum). Harris lives and makes art in Houston, Texas. 


Laura Carter Higley

Justice, 1st Court of Appeals 

Laura Carter Higley, a fifth generation Texan, was elected as Justice of the First Court of Appeals in November 2002. During her first term on the Court she demonstrated a breadth of community experience, common sense and depth of legal knowledge that has enabled her to make a positive and lasting contribution to the 1st Court of Appeals. In the last four years alone, Justice Higley has authored 291 opinions and has participated in approximately 800 panel decisions on the merits. Prior to her election, Justice Higley was Special Counsel in the Tax Department at Baker & Botts, Houston’s oldest law firm.  Her practice focused on the areas of employment benefits and health care law. No stranger to the political community, Laura was elected twice by the citizens of West University Place – once as a Council Member and Mayor Pro-Tem, and then as Mayor. While in office she reduced taxes, expanded city services, and increased citizen involvement in local government. 

Justice Higley was born and raised in Port Arthur.  She received her undergraduate degree from Vanderbilt, her masters from the University of Texas, and graduated among the top of her law class at the University of Houston – where she was selected as an associate editor of the Law Review. Laura has served her community with distinction as Development Chair and Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Nehemiah Center, a faith-based community center initiated by First Presbyterian Church. Laura also served as a Director of the Children’s Assessment Center and the Museum of Natural Science. Currently she serves as an elder of First Presbyterian Church, a director of the Houston Law Review Board of Directors and on the Advisory Board of Bo’s Place.  She is an active Rotarian and speaks regularly to local organizations and schools.  Laura was awarded the Mayor’s Award for Volunteer Service in recognition of her devotion to the community. 

Laura is the daughter of Dr. L.C. Carter and Laura Lee Phillips Carter.  Laura’s mother served as the first woman County Judge in the history of the State of Texas. Laura and her husband Bob, have two sons, Garrett and Carter, a daughter-in-law, Jamil, and three granddaughters. 


Andrea “AJ” Johnson

Director, Kane Russell Coleman & Logan PC 

Andrea “AJ” Johnson, a director at Kane Russell Coleman & Logan PC, has been practicing in employment law and employment/commercial litigation for more than 30 years. She represents clients all over the nation, provides day-to-day advice on critical, time-sensitive business and employment matters, has tried numerous cases to successful verdict and/or to dispositive adjudication, and has arbitrated and enforced mandatory arbitration programs in several states. 

A graduate of the University of California, she earned her law degree at Loyola Law School and was admitted to the bar in Texas in 1984.  She has been recognized as a Texas Super Lawyer for eight consecutive years (2008-2015). In recent years, her practice has included learning about and providing advice to numerous oil and gas and energy services companies, among many other clients, on all issues touching employers and employees. Due to AJ’s determined and successful approach, she has had considerable favorable results in court over the years, including successfully defending and guiding companies through numerous overtime class actions and DOL audits, winning discrimination actions of first impression, obtaining one of the largest commercial verdicts in 2013 in Texas, obtaining a summary judgement invalidating a patent, and obtaining a complete defense verdict in a $54 million alleged slander suit in Galveston County (cited in the “Biggest Suits” section of Texas Lawyer).


Lacy M. Johnson

Writer; Author of The Other Side 

Lacy M. Johnson is a Houston-based artist, curator, professor, and activist, and is author of The Other Side: A Memoir (Tin House, 2014), a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award in Autobiography. She was recently named a finalist for the Dayton Literary Peace Prize. 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 the University of Houston’s creative writing program. She teaches creative nonfiction in Sierra Nevada College’s low-residency MFA program, and interdisciplinary art at the University of Houston, and will be starting as an Assistant Professor of English in Creative Nonfiction at Rice University in Fall 2016.


Sippi Khurana, MD

Owner & Physician, Allergy & Rheumatology Specialists of Houston 

Dr. Khurana is board certified in Rheumatology and Internal Medicine. She completed the highly competitive, accelerated 6-year BA/MD program at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. She did her Internal Medicine residency at University of Texas-Medical Branch in Galveston, where she was named Intern of the Year and received an award for excellence in Geriatric medicine. Dr. Khurana then went on to complete a combined Immunology, Allergy and Rheumatology fellowship at Baylor College of Medicine, serving as Chief Fellow there. She is owner and practicing physician of a private practice called Allergy and Rheumatology Specialists of Houston in the Texas Medical Center and also currently serves as Assistant Professor for Texas A&M Health Science Center. 

She is a married to the love of her life, Ajay Khurana, who is Co-Head of Energy for the Americas at Jefferies and Co. and mother of a 6-year-old boy, Shaan, and an infant daughter, Seva. 

Dr. Khurana is passionate about giving back to her community. She is a founding contributor to the Swadesh Khurana Endowed Fellowship benefiting Stroke Care at The Methodist Willowbrook Hospital. This fellowship was established in loving memory of her Mother-in-law. Dr. Khurana sits on the Board of Directors for St. Francis Episcopal Day School, Pratham and Ek Disha Foundation and the Advisory Board of The Women’s Home. She has co-chaired the Inaugural gala for KNOWAutism, Co-chaired the annual gala for The World Chamber of Commerce-Texas, co-chaired the annual gala, Baazi, for Ek Disha Foundation and co-chaired the Pratham Annual Holiday Luncheon. She and her husband will co-chair the annual Women’s Home Gala this year as well as serving as Honorary Chairs for the Developments in Literacy Gala in the Fall. Dr. Khurana has received the John Conner Humanitarian Award from Operation Smile, Whole Life Community Honoree award from The Women’s Home and Excellence in the South Asian Community Award from the South Asian Chamber of Commerce.  She is honored to be named Houston Chronicle’s Best Dressed in 2016.


Farah Killidar

CEO, World Affairs Council of Greater Houston

Farah Killidar was born in Iraq, which she left at the age of 10, moved to the United Arab Emirates and later pursued her education in the UK.  She is a Solicitor of the Supreme Court of England & Wales, with experience in the UK, the Middle East and the US. Farah has worked for international law firms where she was involved in a wide range of corporate and commercial work, including multi-jurisdictional M&A transactions, major international litigation, regulatory projects and legal reforms in emerging markets. She has extensive experience in dealing with government institutions in the Middle East and the US, having advised governments on a number of infrastructure projects, dispute resolution and legal reforms, most recently working with the US Department of Commerce on commercial law developments in Iraq. 

Farah has significant personal and professional interest in foreign affairs and policy. She has published articles and given presentations and invited lectures in the US, the UK and the Middle East on Iraq, its legal system, political developments and regional dynamics. Farah has advised corporate and government clients on foreign investment in Iraq, the country’s interim governance, and ongoing changes to the legal and political system. When residing in Alaska, Farah acted as the executive director of the Alaska World Affairs Council, where her passion for foreign affairs was further ignited.  As CEO of the World Affairs Council of Houston, she manages a highly respected organization with a mission to expand American’s understanding of, and exposure to, the world. 


Shannon Langrand

Founder & CEO, Langrand & Co. 

Shannon Langrand is the founder and CEO of Langrand and Company, a brand and experience agency serving the B2B2C market.  Equal parts innovator and intellectual, Shannon has a passion for big projects with long odds, and she’s never satisfied with the status quo. Bilingual and bicultural, Shannon brings her distinctive viewpoint to every challenge. She helps her clients—whether they’re Fortune 50 or a local arts non-profit—think differently about the issues they face and find more powerful ways to connect with their audience, no matter how diverse. 

Shannon is a recognized branding leader who has helmed Langrand and Company’s work with some of the nation’s biggest brands, developing deep relationships and building strong partnerships—many of which are still in place from the time the agency first opened its doors. Her passion? Working with clients in the midst of transformation—in their industry, in their company—to crystallize their vision and craft singular stories that bring their promise to life. 

Over the past 14 years, Shannon has grown Langrand and Company from a small, scrappy agency of two, to one of the top 10 agencies in Houston and one of the fastest growing marketing firms across the country. In 2015, Langrand and Company was named one of the 100 fastest growing inner-city companies and made Inc. Magazine’s list of the 5,000 fastest growing companies in America. Shannon was named one of State Farm’s Inspiring Hispanic Women of the Year and was a recipient of the Emerging 10 Award from the Houston Minority Supplier Development Council. She was recently selected to participate in the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses initiative and is a graduate of Leadership Houston and the Center for Houston’s Future. She serves or has served on the boards of the Center for Hearing and Speech, MATCH Houston, TexHealth Harris County, Association for the Advancement of Mexican Americans, Houston Area Women’s Center, Hermann Park Conservancy and Writers in the Schools.


Leah Lax

Writer, Author of Uncovered 

As a young teen, Leah Lax joined the Hasidim, the Jewish ultra-orthodox, and spent thirty years among them. Uncovered is her memoir of those years–as a closeted lesbian, wife, and mother of seven. Her published work includes award-winning fiction, nonfiction, and two major stage productions. She has won awards in both fiction and nonfiction and her work has been included in numerous anthologies and publications, print and online–including Dame, Lilith, and Salon. Her work for stage has been reviewed in The New York Times and broadcast on NPR. She is currently writing the libretto for an opera version of Uncovered in collaboration with an internationally known composer. She has an MFA in creative writing from the University of Houston. When she isn't writing, you can find her out walking the dog, or playing her cello, or with her partner kayaking around the world.


Deneice Leigh

Owner & Chairman, Anime Matsuri Convention 

Deneice Phan Leigh, Founder, Chairman, and Owner of Anime Matsuri Convention, is a devoted wife and proud mother of two young children. She was born in Vietnam and immigrated with her family to Los Angeles, California. Deneice studied at UC Santa Barbara and moved to Texas to help start a family business where she met her husband, John Leigh. They share a love for Japanese fine arts, fashion and music, and together they founded Anime Matsuri in 2006. In 2015, Anime Matsuri became the 8th largest anime convention in North America, hosting guests from around the world, was featured on the Sci-Fi channel, Japan’s NHK channel and in many fashion and pop culture magazines and news outlets, and continues to give Texas fans the chance to embrace their love of Japanese pop culture. Anime Matsuri has made headlines in Houston and celebrated its 10th anniversary in February with the convention reaching over 27,000 in attendance. 

In December 2015, Deneice opened a Japanese fashion boutique called Shop In Wonderland, and aims to create job opportunities for those inspired by Japanese pop culture. As a notable American public figure promoting Japanese culture, Deneice is also committed to philanthropy through sharing diversity and helping build communities. Some of Deneice’s contributions include Asia Society of Texas, Operation Smile, Asia American Family Services, Miss Chinatown Houston Scholarship Pageants, Japan Relief Fund, Texas Children’s Hospital, Kapiolani Medical Center, SPCA, and many school and refugee programs.


Sarah Luna, PhD

Postdoctoral Fellow, UH WGSS Program 

Sarah is currently a Postdoctoral Fellow in Women’s, Gender & Sexuality Studies at the University of Houston. Luna earned her Ph.D. in Anthropology at the University of Chicago in 2013. She is currently working on her first book manuscript, Sex Workers and Missionaries Transforming Value on the U.S./Mexico Border, based on her Fulbright-Hays funded dissertation research, which examines two kinds of migrants to a Mexican border city prostitution zone: women (mostly Mexican) who migrated to labor as sex workers and evangelical missionaries (mostly American) who migrated to build relationships with and through a “modern day monastery” for sex workers. Her analysis of how these migrants created value through relations of obligation and love forges a dialogue between feminist approaches to sex work and the “rescue industry," anthropological theories of value and sovereignty, and political and cultural theories of non-sovereignty. Luna has also participated in collaborative feminist conceptual art projects and performances with artists, academics, and curators in San Diego, Oaxaca, and Mexico City, and she continues these projects in Houston.


Lynne McCabe

Director, She Works Flexible Gallery 

Director of She Works Flexible Lynne McCabe comes to this position as a multi-disciplinary socially engaged artist who creates videos, installations, performances, and photographs, but it is perhaps most accurate to say that her primary medium is conversation. By facilitating seminars and events, studying texts, and conducting interviews, the Glasgow-born, Houston-based artist at once critiques and partakes in gestures of relational aesthetics and community art. 

A long-time participant in the critical arts landscape of Houston, McCabe served on the Diverseworks artist board from 2012 to 2014. She was an artist in residence at Blaffer Art Museum where she organized the social sculpture workshop and exhibition Room to be (Ms)Understood in 2012 and taught in the University of Houston’s Interdisciplinary Art program through the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Center for the Arts. McCabe served as vice chair of the Programing committee at Lawndale Art Center there from 2003 to 2006, where she curated a statewide survey of photography, video and performance, Impossible Exchange: New Lens Based Work from Texas.  She received her B.A with honors from The Glasgow School of Art in 1999 and received her MFA in Social Practice from California College of the Arts in 2010 and has exhibited nationally and internationally, most notably as part of the 53rd Venice Biennale. McCabe was a recipient of a 2008 Artadia Award and her writings have been included in several books published by Practice and Practice Press, 2009-2010, online at SFMOMA, 2010 and Becoming Love, More Love: Art, Politics, and Sharing since the 1990s – Catalogue published by the Ackland Art Museum, North Carolina.


Teddy McDavid, EdD

President, Old Spanish Trail Community Board 

Teddy McDavid, EdD is the president of the Old Spanish Trail Community Partnership, a coalition of over fifty civic clubs, business owners and community residents.  The focus continues to be economic development and the improvement of the quality of life for the residents of the Greater OST area. Dr. McDavid, a former HISD and TSU educator, also serves as the Board Chair for the Friends of MacGregor Park. This organization has recently launched a Master Plan to completely renovate and revitalize the 87.5 acreage of MacGregor Park. Dr. McDavid is a member of the Board of Directors for the Greater Southeast Management District where she chairs the Service and Improvement and Assessment Committee as well the Policy and Procedures Committee. She is also the author of over 27 studies regarding education problems, policies, and alternatives. 

Dr. McDavid has been appointed and served as an officer in many agencies and organizations including the Community Partnerships in HISD, the E.E. Worthing Institute, the Miller Theatre Advisory, the Express Theatre Board, the Ensemble Theatre Guild, the University of Houston Friends of Women’s Studies, the Houston Symphony African-American Advisory Council, Athena 21, Partner, and Philaé Inc. She has served as the state president of the Teacher Center Network working with all of the universities in the state of Texas. She is a recipient of the Kyle Killough Award, the National Most Distinguished Clinician in Teacher Education, an NDEA recipient from College of Notre Dame, and has been recognized by the Harris County Council of Organization for Meritorious Service. She has been appointed to the National Commission on Alternative Certification and the National Commission of Teacher Induction. 

Of all the honors received and offices held, she is most proud of being the mother of Hjordis Scranton, a professional dancer, choreographer and owner of the Hjordis Scranton Performing Arts Center and Tyishka McDavid, English professor, at the College of the Mainland, and her very special granddaughter, Tsydea.


Kimberly Meyer

Author, The Book Of Wanderings; Visiting Proessor, UH Honors College 

Kimberly Meyer is the author of The Book of Wanderings (Little, Brown), which recalls the journey she and her eldest daughter made by retracing a medieval pilgrimage route to the Holy Land and St Catherine’s Monastery in the Sinai Desert in the summer after the Arab Spring.  Her other writing has appeared in The Best American Travel Writing, Ploughshares, The Kenyon Review, Ecotone, The Oxford American, The Georgia Review, Agni, The Southern Review, and Third Coast. An audio-documentary she produced aired on Public Radio International’s This American Life. Her work has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and has been awarded a Houston Arts Alliance grant and a Michener Fellowship in Non-Fiction, and she has received fellowships to attend the Bread Loaf Writer’s Conference and the Vermont Studio Center. She teaches in the Great Books program at the University of Houston’s Honors College.


Susana R. Monteverde

Owner, SuMo Art 

Susana Monteverde, a Houston transplant from Mexico City, is an art-education consultant specializing in contemporary art.  For over a decade, Susana has worked with teachers, parents and museum docents, exploring ways of linking contemporary art and visual culture to the lives of students of all ages.  Her art-consulting business, SuMo Art, offers curated tours of Houston’s contemporary art galleries, artist spaces and museums. 

Susana expresses her passion for social justice and education in her volunteer efforts. She recently completed a three-year tenure as president of Friends of Women’s Studies, an organization dedicated to supporting the Women’s, Gender & Sexuality Studies Program at the University of Houston.  Additionally, she has actively participated in leadership positions on the PTO boards at her daughter’s schools, strengthening the fine arts enrichment offerings for students and expanding community outreach through parent education programs. 

After finishing K–12 studies at the American School in Mexico City, Susana went on to study Theatre as an undergraduate and Museum Education as a graduate student, both at the University of Texas, Austin.  Susana’s publications as author or co-author include: Dialogic Looking:  Beyond the Mediated Experience (Art Education Magazine); Context, Subtext, School Text:  Building Art-Centered Curricula (Contemporary Issues in Art Education); Art Express (Harcourt Brace); Girls’ Own Stories (Houston Center for Photography).


Rekha Muddaraj

News Anchor, KHOU 

Rekha Muddaraj joined the KHOU 11 News team as a weekend evening anchor and weekday reporter in January 2012. Four years later, she is so proud to be able to call herself a Houstonian. Rekha has covered a variety of stories: from major trials, to devastating floods, to the Rodeo, and she enjoys meeting the people who make up this great community. 

Rekha came from San Diego, where she worked as an Emmy-award winning reporter for several years. Prior to that, she worked in Pittsburg, KS and had the unique experience of covering news in four states: Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, and Arkansas. Rekha was born and raised in Phoenix, AZ. She is a proud graduate of the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism at Arizona State University, and holds dual degrees in broadcasting and political science. When she is not working, Rekha loves to work out, cook, try all of the great restaurants around Houston, and travel. She is first generation American and enjoys visiting her extended family in India. She and her husband Neil are proud parents of two little girls.


Precious Williams Owodunni

President, Mountaintop Consulting 

Precious Williams Owodunni is a trusted advisor and executive coach for emerging and senior leaders. As Founder and President of Mountaintop Consulting, she assists high-impact individuals and growing companies through coaching, strategic planning, and business development training. Her client roster includes Shell Oil Company, Johnson & Johnson, Vinson & Elkins, and the City of Houston, as well as leading financial-services companies, law firms, private-equity firms, and consulting businesses. 

Before establishing Mountaintop Consulting, Precious was a Vice President at Goldman, Sachs & Co., where she made private equity investments and served as an investment banker to energy, consumer goods, and industrial companies. A graduate of Yale University and Yale Law School, Precious is very active in the Houston community. She has participated on the Greater Houston Partnership Business Leadership Council and currently serves on the Houston Parks Board and the Hermann Park Conservancy Advisory Board. Precious and her husband have three young children.


Marilyn Oshman

Founder & Chairman, Orange Show 

Houston-native Marilyn Oshman got her first taste of art in college, where she took an art history course. She and her new husband, Alvin Lubetkin, moved back to Houston in the 70’s.  As a young wife and mother she joined the board of the Contemporary Art Museum, a controversial institution at the time, and soon became chair.  Marilyn learned from James Harithas, the CAM’s then-director, that “We need to look for art at home, not just in New York or L.A.” Through her role at the CAM Marilyn met Jeff McKissack, the creator of the Orange Show. Jeff, a retired postal worker, sold all his possessions to buy the scrap materials with which he built his 3,00-square-foot multicolored maze building honoring nature’s artistry as epitomized in the Orange, which he viewed as the ideal harnesser of the sun’s energy. The pure wonder in Jeff’s work drew Marilyn in. 

She formed a nonprofit in 1980 to help Jeff overcome City of Houston building code challenges.  Sadly, Jeff died a few months later. Marilyn arranged to take Houston arts leaders like Dominique DeMenil, Nina Cullinan and the band ZZ Top to the Orange Show. They all said, “You must find a way to save this.” Marilyn did. She pulled together 21 investors, each contributing $500 dollars. Together they founded the Orange Show non-profit.  The restored Orange Show opened in 1982. 

During her early days with the Orange Show, Marilyn also started working for the sporting goods company that her father had founded and that her husband ran. She helped Oshman’s transform itself into a store serving both men and women, boys and girls.  Because of her business’s sports focus, Marilyn became aware of the lack of funding for girls’ sports. In addition to arranging for grants totaling $100,000 a year for girls’ sports teams, Marilyn hired women artists to design coloring books to encourage young girls to participate in sports. 

Over the years, the Orange Show has expanded its celebration of self-expression, and greatly enriched Houston.  The Orange Show leads tours to Houston’s unexpectedly beautiful places, organizes the largest art car parade in the United States, owns and curates another Houston outsider art monument known as the Beer Can House, and sponsors Smither Park, a community art park created by volunteers under the leadership of artist Dan Phillips.


Misti Pace-Krahl

Founder, The Mommie Series 

Misti Pace-Krahl graduated from Texas Woman's University with a degree in psychology with an emphasis in fashion merchandising. She studied Couture in Paris and London through TWU’s Global Fashion Studies. Upon graduating, Misti's entrepreneurial sense drove her to start her first company, MISTI STYLE, a wardrobe styling, photo styling and fashion production located in Dallas and Houston. In 2010 MISTI STYLE moved into the Houston spotlight in Houston Brides. Misti has successfully produced The River Oaks Fashion Show and the Village Arcade Fashion Show, both of which benefited the American Heart Association. She also produced the Fall Fusion Event at the River Oaks Shopping Center. 

Loving her Houston community, in 2011 she created The Mommie Series, a quarterly educational series for women, based on family, health, finance and fashion. The success of The Mommie Series has been featured in Culture Map, 002 Magazine, Tidbits, & The Houston Chronicle and spotlighted on KPRC Channel 2. The Mommie Series has gained organic recognition in Austin, San Antonio and Dallas, where Pace-Krahl will soon franchise. Misti currently sits on the Pediatric Advisory Board for The Woman’s Hospital, f.r.e.s.h for Houston Food Bank, Nicole’s Garden and the River Oaks Women’s Breakfast Club.


Paula Paust

Executive Director, The Women’s Home 

Paula Paust, MSW, Executive Director, leads the day-to-day operations of The Women’s Home and works closely with the Board of Directors to ensure the agency’s objectives are met. She has served in this position for over 20 years. Since her appointment in 1992, she has overseen two major capital campaigns that expanded the agency’s bed capacity from 37 to 144. She also spearheaded the development of the Women’s Home’s WholeLife® treatment model to ensure the success of the residents. 

Before coming to The Home, Paula was a founding member and served as Executive Director of The Hospice at the Texas Medical Center (now Houston Hospice). Paula attended the University of California at Los Angeles and received her Master’s degree from the Graduate College of Social Work at the University Houston. She now serves as a field instructor for Master’s level social work interns. In 2011, the Texas Homeless Network presented her with their Outstanding Community Service Award for her work in helping to end homelessness. 


Barbara Radnofsky

Lawyer, Radnofsky Mediation Services 

A lawyer since 1979, Barbara Ann Radnofsky is a mother, wife, teacher, mediator and arbitrator. In 2006, after 27 years of law practice, Barbara Ann left Vinson and Elkins as Head of the Alternate Dispute Resolution Section to become the first woman Texas Democratic U.S. Senate nominee and later the first woman Texas Democratic Attorney General nominee.  Barbara Ann was honored as the Outstanding Young Lawyer of Texas in 1988.  Practicing on both sides of the docket, she has been listed for more than 25 years in  "Best Lawyers in America" in multiple areas, including dispute resolution. 

Barbara co-founded the Houston chapter of the National Association of Urban Debate Leagues and has served on numerous local charitable boards and as a volunteer peer-mediation teacher in public and private schools.  She and her husband are active in supporting the Dead Sea Scrolls Foundation, enabling museum displays of the Scrolls and commissioning publication of a Scrolls volume. She serves with several of her co-owners on the Board of the Brazos Bookstore.


Sukaina Rajani

Co-Founder & Baker, MACARON by Patisse 

Sukaina Rajani moved to Houston in 2008 from Canada, where she was born and raised.  Her educational background in pharmacology and secondary education, as well as her graduate education in holistic nutrition, led her to work in the holistic wellness sector. Always an entrepreneur, she founded ‘The Balance Clinic,’ where she focused on food-sensitivity testing, nutrition counseling, and Physiological Stress Assessments.  The majority of her patients were people who suffered from IBD, or children who had been diagnosed with autism or ADD/ADHD.  With their sensitivities in mind, she began to make gluten, color, and allergen free French macarons as treats for their visits. Word began to spread not only about their nutritional qualities, but just how delicious they were, and before she knew it, Sukaina was private catering thousands of macarons out of her apartment kitchen. With the help of her brother, Mohammed Rajani, who has a business degree, they opened the first French macaron boutique in River Oaks, Houston, called ‘MACARON by Patisse.’ 

This boutique has received a lot of press and recognition since opening and has been bestowed with multiple awards, including ‘Best Commercial Design’, and most important, “Best Macarons” by many publications. MACARON by Patisse is also going to make an appearance as a participant in an upcoming CNBC reality-TV production. MACARON by Patisse ships their macarons nationally, has an extension location in the Galleria, and recently opened their newest boutique in the Woodlands.  Besides the pastry world, Sukaina is also a yoga instructor and actively involved in multiple professional organizations, and not-for-profit works.


Mary Jo Rapini, Med, LPC

Relationship Psychotherapist, Mary Jo Rapini LPC 

Mary Jo Rapini, MEd, LPC is a psychotherapist specializing in intimacy, sex and relationships, based in Houston, Texas.  Mary Jo maintains a private practice as an Intimacy/Sex Psychotherapist and is a renowned lecturer, author and television personality.  Currently you can find Mary Jo on Fox 26 Monday’s and Thursdays’ with her segment “Ask Mary Jo.” She contributes on air for CNN’s Prime News and has been on CBS up to the Minute, Fox National Morning News, Montel, Steve Harvey, the Today Show and Dateline. Mary Jo was also featured in TLC’s Big Medicine which ran two seasons and Discovery Health Channel about her Near Death Experience which aired Jan 4, 2010. 

Mary Jo Contributes and writes a love/relationship blog for the Houston Chronicle online, healthnewsdigest.com, Your Tango, Prime Living Magazine, mom.me.com as well as contributing to Cosmopolitan Magazine, Women’s Health First, Seventeen Magazine, Redbook and Self Magazine. Mary Jo is a popular key-note speaker across the nation. Her dynamic style is particularly engaging for those dealing with intimacy issues and relationship challenges, or those simply hanging on to unasked questions about sex in relationships. She also excels at speaking to groups of young girls dealing with body image issues and delivers a message that is geared to helping girls become strong women. Rapini is the author of Is God Pink? Dying to Heal and co-author of Start Talking: A Girl's Guide for You and Your Mom about Health, Sex or Whatever and co-author of Re-Coupling: a Couple’s 4 Step Guide to Greater Intimacy and Better Sex. 


Susan Rogers

LPC Associate Professor of Architecture, UH & Director, Community Design Resource Center 

Susan Rogers is an Associate Professor of Architecture at the Hines College of Architecture and Design at the University of Houston and the Director of the Community Design Resource Center (CDRC). The CDRC, a Center that she founded over ten years ago, has a mission to apply design thinking to the broad spectrum of challenges that face our cities and communities. Under her direction, the CDRC has completed over three dozen projects in partnership with communities across the region ranging in scale from small temporary public art interventions to large scale community visions. She has presented her work across the globe and her writing has appeared in Urban Design International, Urban Infill, INT/AR: Interventions and Adaptive Reuse, ii the International Journal of Interior Architecture + Spatial Design, Places Journal, Cite: The Architecture and Design Review of Houston, and ArtLies, A Texas Art Journal.  She is the coauthor of “An Architecture of Change,” the Introduction to Expanding Architecture: Design as Activism. 

She recently received the Educator of the Year Award by the AIA Houston. She has received a teaching award for Excellence in Community Engagement from the University of Houston, a Certificate of Excellence from UH’s Provost, and a national ACSA Collaborative Practice Award for the “Collaborative Community Design Initiative” a yearlong partnership with four communities in Houston, funded in part through a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. Professor Rogers holds a Masters of City Planning in Community Development and a Masters of Architecture from the University of California at Berkeley and a Bachelors of Architecture from the University of Houston.  


Robin Russell

Houston Office Managing Partner, Andrews Kurth LLP 

Robin Russell is the Houston Office Managing Partner of Andrews Kurth LLP, an international Texas-based law firm. She serves as a member of numerous firm committees, including the Policy and Finance Committees. She is co-chair of the firm’s Bankruptcy and Financial Restructuring section where her practice combines a depth of experience in bankruptcy restructuring and litigation with financial transaction work.  Cited as a leading lawyer in her field by numerous legal and trade publications, Robin is listed as one of Chambers USA’s Leading Business Lawyers in Bankruptcy and Restructuring, among The Best Lawyers in America® and a Texas Monthly “Super Lawyer.” She was elected a fellow in the American College of Bankruptcy in 2011 and is an author and frequent speaker on legal ethics, secured lending, bankruptcy and other financial topics. 

Robin is a member of the Alexis de Tocqueville Society of the United Way and the Texas Bar Foundation and serves as an advisory member of multiple charitable boards.  In 2014 she received the Louise B. Raggio Award from the State Bar of Texas Women and the Law Section and has been named by the National Diversity Council as one of the Most Powerful and Influential Women in Texas. Robin began practicing law at Andrews Kurth following a Texas Supreme Court clerkship. She received her JD, cum laude, from Baylor University School of Law in 1986 where she was the highest ranking graduate and Editor-in-Chief of the Baylor Law Review. She holds an LLM in Banking Law Studies from Boston University. Robin has been married for 27 years to Professor James W. Paulsen and has two children.


Allison Shigo

Executive Director & Founder, Healing Hands of Joy 

Through her travels to Ethiopia working on the Emmy Award winning documentary, A Walk to Beautiful, a film following the lives of five Ethiopian women who have suffered from obstetric fistula, Allison witnessed firsthand the need for an organization that works with the Ethiopian community to ensure all women suffering from obstetric fistula are reintegrated into their communities, receive psychological care, education, support and the means to be productive post-surgery. In 2009, she founded Healing Hands of Joy (HHOJ) a non-profit dedicated to serving the needs of women with obstetric fistula.  She currently serves as Executive Director. 

She has spent the last two years working with a team of Ethiopian advisors and staff to develop the HHOJ program and the Safe Motherhood Ambassador Training pilot project to transform and improve the lives of former fistula patients. In the US, she is working side-by-side with the world's leading fistula-related international organizations in an effort to eradicate fistula and galvanize change. In 2011, she was selected to present the outcome and experience of her work with HHOJ at the International Obstetric Fistula Working Group’s annual meeting. Her vision is to see the Safe Motherhood Ambassador Training program change fistula patients’ lives around the world and prevent more women from suffering needlessly.


Diana Shu-Lian Chow, PhD

UH Professor of Pharmaceutics & Director of the Institute for Drug Education and Research 

Diana Shu-Lian Chow, PhD, is Professor of Pharmaceutics and Director of the Institute for Drug Education and Research at the College of Pharmacy, University of Houston. Chow is known for her work to develop innovative pharmaceutical formulations and drug-delivery systems, especially that of Parental Busulfan which dramatically improves the clinical safety for transplants. She is the recipient of the 2009 Inventor of the Year by the Houston Intellectual Property Lawyers Association. She holds 9 U.S. patents and 2 international patents, from 3 of which a pharmaceutical product was developed, approved by the FDA and commercialized. 

She has published more than 50 articles and book chapters, and serves as editor of the British Journal of Pharmacology, and an editorial board member for Drug Development and Industrial Pharmacy. Chow has trained 19 postdoctoral associates/visiting scholars, 31 PhDs, including 2 PharmD/PhD, and 7 Masters graduates over 1984–2015. They are all well placed in academia, the Pharmaceutical industry, the FDA, and in consulting and business. Chow is a member of the New York Academy of Sciences, the American Association for Cancer Research, the American College of Clinical Pharmacology and the American Association of Pharmaceutical Scientists.  She was recently named to the National Academy of Inventors in recognition of her work in drug development. 


Sadhna Singh, DAOM                     

President, Eastern Harmony Clinic 

Dr. Sadhna Singh graduated from medical college in India in 1983. She has practiced medicine for over 10 years in the fields of obstetrics, gynecology and internal medicine. She completed her Masters in Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine in Houston. Sadhna holds a Doctorate in Traditional Oriental Medicine with an emphasis in Women's Health & Gynecology from the American College of Traditional Chinese Medicine (ACTCM) in San Francisco. The degree of Doctor of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (DAOM) is a newly accredited, advanced doctoral degree for licensed acupuncturists. She is one of the select few Doctorates of Acupuncture in the US and is considered a specialist in the area of women's-health-related matters, including fertility enhancement. With her vast background in both western and eastern medicine and her compassion and concern for patients, she is dedicated to providing effective, comprehensive and exceptional care. 

Dr. Singh is a Fellow of the American Board of Reproductive Medicine (ABORM) and currently serves on the governing board. She is a professional member of Resolve--The National Infertility Association & The American Society of Reproductive Medicine. Sadhna is also past President Emeritus of the Complementary and Alternative Medicine Special Interest Group - CAM SIG, for the American Society of Reproductive Medicine (ASRM). She has lectured extensively nationally as well as internationally for acupuncture practitioners at continuing education seminars and annual symposiums. Currently she is part-time faculty at the Doctoral program in Acupuncture at ACAOM, Houston & ACTCM in San Francisco.


Rhonda Skillern-Jones

President, HISD Board of Education 

Rhonda Skillern-Jones was first elected to the Houston Independent School District (HISD) Board of Trustees in 2011. She served as board secretary in 2012 and 2013, and first vice-president in 2014. Skillern-Jones is currently HISD Board President and Master Trustee. She also represents HISD on the Texas Association of School Boards (TASB). In 2014, Ms. Skillern-Jones served as national liaison for Parents for Public Schools-Houston, and as the legislative chair of the Parent-Teacher Association (PTA) Council. 

Skillern-Jones works as a manager for the U.S. Census Bureau during each ten-year census, and she has been a precinct clerk, alternate judge, and a national delegate for presidential elections. She has also been on the Board of Pilgrim Federal Credit Union. Since 2014, Ms. Skillern-Jones has served as Chairman of the Board of Barbara Jordan Endeavors, a non-profit organization that provides scholarships and services to students with emotional, mental and physical disabilities. The organization encourages, empowers, and equips students to become self-sufficient, discover their maximum potential and achieve their academic goals. She currently also serves as an Advisory Board Member to the Leading Ladies Service Organization and is a board member of the Mt. Ararat Child Development Center. 

A native Houstonian and a product of HISD, Ms. Skillern-Jones attended River Oaks Elementary School and Lanier Middle School. She graduated from Eisenhower High School in Aldine ISD, then earned both a bachelor’s degree in business administration and a master’s degree in clinical sociology from Texas Southern University. After college, Ms. Skillern-Jones worked with teen mothers for five years as a state social worker, and she continues to serve as a volunteer social worker today at Mt. Ararat Baptist Church. She is a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority. A full-time volunteer at HISD for 24 years, Ms. Skillern-Jones has served on the District Advisory Committee, Parent Engagement Committee, Superintendent’s Parent Advisory Committee, Budget Advisory Committee, and the Gifted and Talented Committee. She is a member of the Parent Visionaries Group and has served on five separate PTO/PTA boards over the years in various capacities, including president. In recognition of her community and district efforts to enhance the lives of Houston children and citizens, she has received numerous achievement awards and honors. Ms. Skillern-Jones and her husband are the parents of five wonderful children.


Kristi Taylor

Captain, Houston Pilots, Houston Ship Channel 

Kristi Taylor earned her Bachelor’s degree in 1995 from the United States Merchant Marine Academy at Kings Point, New York.  She worked as a Deck Officer in the maritime industry on various types of cargo ships, traveling to many ports throughout the world. In 2005 Kristi earned her MBA from Michigan State University with concentrations in Supply Chain Management and Finance.  She returned to shipping in the maritime industry and was accepted into the Houston Pilots Association in 2011. 

Captain Taylor is an expert in the navigation of the Houston Ship Channel, a 55-mile waterway known for being one of the most congested and challenging waterways in the US, having more twists and turns than any other port. The purpose of a pilot is to protect the assets of the port by guiding ships safely in and out. From onboard the ship she serves as an advisor to the captain directing the ship’s every movement to and from its cargo berth and the Gulf of Mexico.


Terzah Tippin Poe

Partner, TRIO Global Solutions 

Terzah Tippin Poe is a partner at TRIO Global Solutions, an international environmental science and policy lecturer at Harvard University, and a published author. She has worked as a project leader and change agent for over 20 years with global, national, and regional development and policy organizations in the Americas, the Arctic, and Europe. Poe has also led sustainability programs for TransCanada and Royal Dutch Shell. Her work focuses on delivering economic benefits by advising corporations and communities on how to progress business objectives using a mutual gains approach.

As part of Poe’s portfolio in her corporate sustainability role with a global energy company, she negotiated agreements with communities and worked with international organizations including the IFC (World Bank), Inuit Circumpolar Council, WWF, First Peoples Worldwide, Living Earth, The Nature Conservancy, and others to progress development projects spanning Greenland to South America.

 Poe holds a Master's from Harvard in Sustainability and Environmental Management, a Bachelor's in Journalism and has done post-graduate studies in Public Policy and Ethics.


Linda Trevino

Senior Stakeholder Affairs Representative, Metropolitan Transit Authority 

Linda Trevino has always been a fan of variety in her workload, which made the position as Stakeholder Affairs Representative at METRO a perfect fit. Finding just the right strategy to handle different situations and clients has been her specialty. Her career began at AT&T, where she honed her customer service and consumer-marketing skills. There she successfully developed a profitable sales team of more than 300 in a five-state area. She also worked at corporations such as H-E-B, ChaseCom, and most recently, Direct Energy, where she learned how to ramp up quickly and execute plans efficiently and effectively. 

Linda is a native Houstonian and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts Degree from the University of St. Thomas. She is involved with many community organizations including the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, Ladies Into Purchasing Stock (LIPS), LULAC (officer for Council #643), Memorial Ashford Town Home Association Officer, Talento Bilingue of Houston, and is a proud graduate of the American Leadership Forum (ALF), Class XX. Linda is primarily responsible for communicating with Businesses, Community Leaders, and Government Officials along the Downtown Segment and East End Line. 


Ashley Turner

Chief Operating Officer, Bee Busy Wellness Center & Houston First Lady 

Ashley Paige Turner was born and raised in Houston, TX. She attended the University of Texas at San Antonio where she received a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Biology. She continued her studies at Texas Woman’s University where she received a Master’s in Healthcare Administration. Upon graduation from TWU she accepted a position at Legacy Community Health Services in the Human Resources department and later transitioned to Marketing and Communications. On February 2, 2015 she became Chief Operating Officer at Bee Busy Wellness Center. 

Ms. Turner makes it a point to give back to her community. For the past eight years she has volunteered for Turner Family Day in the Park where she assists both senior citizens and youth. Furthermore, she is a mentor for youth at Texas Women’s Empowerment Foundation and she participates in the Less than 40 Alliance at Loving Word Fellowship where she helps prepare young people for higher education. She recently played an active role in her father’s successful campaign for Mayor of Houston, and now assumes the ceremonial responsibilities that normally fall to the first lady of Houston.


Elaine Turner

Owner/Designer, Elaine Turner 

Elaine Turner empowers women, personifies style and wholeheartedly supports causes related to cancer, women and children. She believes that laughter is the best medicine, hard work and dedication can lead to amazing strides, and that living glamorously means giving back and not taking yourself too seriously. 

Elaine Turner is known as “Houston’s handbag queen,” with the infectious laugh, relatable personality and positive view on life. She has built the foundation of her company on the pillars of originality, celebration and love of all things pink here in our hometown! Elaine designs classic silhouettes with feminine edges, and has grown her business to ten retail stores and counting, a successful e-commerce site, and a line that includes handbags, shoes and jewelry.  Last year, the designer launched her first-ever apparel collection. 

Elaine’s goal for the company is simple: to use the language of design to create elegant, yet affordable accessories that make women feel beautiful inside and out. Each of the brand’s stores, in Houston, Dallas, San Antonio and Nashville, has become a platform for women to connect and inspire each other, while raising awareness and funds for causes they care about.  Last year, the company held over three hundred events and raised over one hundred thousand (100,000) dollars for charity. 


Shannon Walker, PhD

Astronaut, Johnson Space Center 

After receiving a Bachelor of Arts degree in Physics from Rice University, Dr. Walker began her professional career with the Rockwell Space Operations Company at the Johnson Space Center in 1987 as a robotics flight controller for the Space Shuttle Program. She worked several Space Shuttle missions as a flight controller in the Mission Control Center before receiving her Masters of Science and a Doctorate of Philosophy in Space Physics from Rice University in 1992 and 1993, respectively. 

In 1995, Dr. Walker joined the NASA civil service and began working in the International Space Station (ISS) Program at the Johnson Space Center.  She worked in the area of robotics integration, working with the ISS International Partners in the design and construction of the robotics hardware for the Space Station. In 1998 she joined the ISS Mission Evaluation Room (MER) as a manager for coordinating on-orbit problem resolution for the International Space Station. In 1999, Dr. Walker moved to Moscow, to work with the Russian Space Agency and its contractors in the areas of avionics integration for the ISS as well as integrated problem solving for the ISS. She returned to Houston in 2000 after a year in Russia and became the technical lead for the ISS MER as well as the Deputy Manager of the On-Orbit Engineering Office. Prior to selection as an astronaut candidate, Dr. Walker was the Acting Manager of the On-Orbit Engineering Office. 

After being selected by NASA, Dr. Walker completed Astronaut Candidate Training in February 2006. She first assumed the duty of crew-support astronaut for the ISS Expedition 14 crew, which was on orbit for 215 days, from September 2006 to April 2007. As a crew-support astronaut she was the primary contact for all crew coordination, planning, and interactions, and was the primary representative for the crew while they were on orbit. In addition, Dr. Walker was assigned as a Spacecraft Communicator (CAPCOM) in the Mission Control Center in Houston. In that role, she was the primary communication link between the crew on the Space Station and the ground support team.  Her work as a CAPCOM culminated in her assignment as the lead Space Station CAPCOM for the STS-118 Shuttle mission, which docked with the Space Station, carried out four EVAs and added the S5 truss to the Station. In the Summer of 2007, Dr. Walker began training for a long-duration flight on the International Space Station, and was assigned as a primary crew member for Expedition 24/25. Dr. Walker launched and served as flight engineer (co-pilot) of Russian Soyuz spacecraft, TMA-19, on June 15, 2010, for a long- duration mission aboard the ISS. She again served as a Flight Engineer during landing, which occurred November 25, 2010.  The entire mission lasted 163 days, 161 of them aboard the Station. 

Dr. Walker has been honored by the Goethe Institute Scholarship for Study Abroad, Rice Fellowship for Graduate Study, Rockwell Sustained Superior Performance Award, seven Group Achievement Awards for work in the International Space Station (ISS) Program; three Going the Extra Mile Awards for work in the ISS Program, a Space Flight Awareness Award for contributions to the ISS Program; and nine Performance Bonus Awards. She is a member of Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association and The Ninety-Nines International Organization of Women Pilots. She is married to astronaut Andy Thomas. Shannon’s recreational interests include cooking, soccer, running, weight training, flying, camping, and travel. 


Fran Watson

Partner, Simoneaux & Watson PC 

Fran Watson is a native Houstonian who has a passion for equality and believes everyone deserves a life of dignity, equal access, and fair treatment.  Her goal is to align herself with causes and organizations that live out those beliefs. Because of this, Fran is an active volunteer for various organizations and events in and around Houston. She served as the Disability Hospitality subcommittee chair for the 26th National Conference on LGBT Equality, Creating Change. She is currently a member of two Black LGBTQ groups, the Houston Civil Rights Strategy group and “The Misfits Series,” a collection of quarterly panel discussions focusing on issues facing the black LGBTQ community.  Additionally, she serves on the Minority Opportunities in the Legal Profession committee, which seeks to provide first-year law students of color access to valuable summer positions as law clerks in different areas of the legal field. She also serves as the board president of Montrose Grace Place, a safe, welcoming environment for vulnerable, homeless youth, ages 13-21, of all sexual orientations and gender identities, providing nourishment, healthy relationships, and hope for the future. 

Fran has also taken on leadership roles in the community.  She serves on the board of Stonewall Law Association of Greater Houston, an association of legal professionals whose objective is to provide an LGBTQ presence in the community while promoting the study of LGBT and HIV law.  She is also the current vice-president and volunteer coordinator for the Houston GLBT Political Caucus, the South’s oldest civil-rights organization dedicated to advancing gay and transgender rights through the endorsement of pro-equality political candidates. She was recently appointed to the Houston Executive Board of the Houston chapter of New Leaders Council (NLC), a progressive leadership institute that recruits, trains, and promotes innovative young leaders to affect change in their surroundings.  She is also a member of the newly formed NLC4 Women’s Caucus, a committee of women from across the country seeking to promote an agenda of equality for women. 

Fran is a partner at Simoneaux & Watson, PC, a Houston-based law firm with a focus on estate planning, probate, and probate litigation. She enjoys traveling with her wife, Kim, reading, hiking, and hanging out with friends and family.


Aimee Woodall

Owner & Founder, The Black Sheep Agency 

Aimee Woodall is the President of The Black Sheep Agency, the first cause-driven agency in Texas. The agency is committed to energizing communities around things that matter, by building meaningful connections with brand advocates and igniting movements that inspire powerful change. The 12-person agency was tapped to create an engagement campaign for the White House, called Better Make Room. With a growth rate of 1202% in six years, Black Sheep was named best Mid-Sized PR Agency of the Year by PRSA in 2015 and was deemed one of the Houston Business Journal’s Best Places to Work in both 2014 and 2015. 

A loud and proud advocate for local community, a Houston Business Journal 40 Under 40 recipient, and League of Women Voters “Rising Star,” Aimee is dedicated to elevating and celebrating Houston. Born and raised in the Bayou City, she has only lived away from Houston twice—once to get her BFA in Public Relations from the University of Texas and once to hike the entirety of the Appalachian Trail. She’s still not sure which experience was more challenging. 

When she's not hosting large-scale, cause-driven events or shepherding the flock at The Black Sheep Agency, you can find her serving on the Advisory Board for Theater Under the Stars or mentoring business-minded college students at the University of Houston Wolff Center for Entrepreneurship. As for her spare time, keep an eye out around town for the blonde with the bullhorn. You never know where she'll show up next. But when she does, one thing is certain – it will shock, it will awe and it will change minds.


Courtney Wyckoff

CEO & Founder, Momma Strong 

Courtney Wyckoff is a Certified Personal Trainer and Corrective Exercise Specialist, with 14 years experience in the field of fitness, nutrition, and injury prevention/treatment. She has been working exclusively with pre- and postnatal women for the last 8 years.  In 2012, she founded www.mommastrong.com, an online strength-conditioning resource for women which now serves over 10,000 women worldwide. 

Additionally, she and the MOMMASTRONG team now operate an innovative outreach program called Share the Show Up that provides real-deal stress-relief techniques to women in survival mode, through agencies like Council on Recovery, Santa Maria Hostel, Star of Hope, Houston Area Women’s Shelter, and Houston County Jail Re-Entry.


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