llc speaker Bios and Program SessionS

Check out this talented speaker lineup! Gear up for our amazing signature events offered at certain times during the conference in a group format. Sessions A-E allow you to personalize your professional development by customizing your schedule among the various program session topics.

Belief Sparks Action
Monday, May 23 9-10:15 AM

Our success or failure has nothing to do with the opinions of others. It has everything to do with what you believe about yourself! Tap into your power through beliefs and actions. Mel Roberson will share insights with you about how the people around you may not always understand your goals, sometimes you may even be discouraged, but through the power of belief your actions or inactions matter. So much so that your beliefs and actions will spark the power to push through the present to achieve your future dreams.

Mel Roberson headshotPresenter: Mel Roberson is an accomplished personal and professional development speaker and is a seven-time Amazon best-selling author. His writing and speaking style is extremely captivating specializing in goal setting, personal productivity, leadership, happiness, personal and professional growth. Mel is also a successful SAG actor with several television and movie credits under his belt such as Detective Cullen on Chicago PD. 

Mel is a strong professional development trainer with a bachelor's degree focused in Political Science and Government from Quincy University, an MBA from Robert Morris University Illinois, and a second MBA in 2020 with a concentration in HR at Roosevelt University. His most important and rewarding career has been raising his two beautiful daughters.


Thriving in 2022 – The Best Chaos!
Monday, May 23 5-7 PM

I’m fine. It’s fine. We’re fine. The anthem of 2021. Surviving in the last year and a half of pure chaos has come with its fair share of comedy. Let’s poke a little fun and reclaim our newfound resilience by thriving in 2022 with a smile! Let’s celebrate and get some belly laughs in with this one-of-a-kind cocktails and comedy show by alumna and Comedy Sportz comedienne and trainer Cherise Johnson!

Cherise Johnson heashot smilingPresenter: Cherise Johnson (BA Mathematics, ’13) is from Akron, Ohio, but has spent the better part of the last ten years here in Chicago. She has performed on stages all across the city, including Second City, iO Chicago, and CIC, Logan Square Improv, and ComedySportz Chicago.
Currently, Cherise is the Training Center Director for ComedySportz Chicago. She is also an avid storyteller and often shares stories about her tumultuous time as a high school math teacher. She is the creator and host of Exit Ticket: The Podcast.


Energizing Chair Yoga and Mantra Meditation
Tuesday, May 24 8:30-9:15 AM

Join Julie M. Gentile in this gentle chair yoga session where participants practice poses using a chair. Energize your day with simple practices you can do at your desk while you work—no yoga gear required.

Julie Gentile headshotPresenter: Julie M. Gentile (she/her, Journalism '07), a healthcare communications leader, helps busy people create better self-care habits as a yoga teacher (RYT 500), author of two award-winning books (108 Yoga and Self-Care Practices for Busy Mamas and How to Stay Calm in Chaos: An Everyday Self-Care Guide), and creator of the Stand Up for Your Self-Care blog and YouTube Channel.

Her monthly Nourish Note newsletter and weekly A Second for Yourself videos inspire you to put yourself at the top of your to-do list.


How to Become LinkedIn Famous
Tuesday, May 24 9:30-10:45 AM
Hear from our keynote Lakrisha Davis — career coach, author and CEO of NextUp Resume — about building your influence through personal branding, establishing and leveraging your professional network, and executing a content strategy that drives high engagement and explosive amounts of traffic to your profile.


Presenter: Lakrisha Davis (BBA ’11) is an expert LinkedIn Biz strategist, coach, and speaker who helps ambitious people launch profitable brands on LinkedIn. Starting with zero audience, engagement, or views, Lakrisha began leveraging LinkedIn to grow her career development and resume writing agency in 2017.
Since 2017, Lakrisha has organically grown her audience to over 40K followers, scaled her business to multiple six-figures, generated over 10M views, and landed 50+ paid speaking engagements and partnerships with brands like Capital One, AT&T, Coursera, and Facebook — all on LinkedIn. Her work has been featured on ABC 7 News, Rolling Out, Forbes, LinkedIn News, Newsweek, and more! Brainz Magazine named Lakrisha a "Top 11 Experts to Follow on LinkedIn" in 2021.

The Keynote event will be introduced by Michelle Relerford, Weekday Morning Co-Anchor for NBC 5 News Today. 

Beyond Competence: Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility in the 21st Century
Tuesday, May 24 1:15-2:45 PM

Whether you call it ‘diversity and inclusion,’ ‘equity and inclusion,’ ‘inclusion and belonging,’ one thing is for certain: it is trending in a big way. But what does the work of equity, inclusion, and accessibility look like beyond flashy statements or ‘box checking’ compliance? Join Dr. Elizabeth Stigler for a discussion about key concepts, sustainable efforts, and designing impactful DEIA strategies.

Presenter: Elizabeth J. Stigler, Ph.D. (she/her/ella) (MA ‘12)  is an intersectional Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility advocate dedicated to empowering individuals and communities to see themselves as agents for change.  Dr. Stigler is thrilled to serve as the inaugural Director of the Community Equity Research Center at CASL (the Chinese American Service League) where she oversees organization-wide DEIA efforts, government and policy work, as well as the Anti-Hate Action Center. 



In 2018 she earned her Ph.D. with Honors in Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies from the University of Kansas and brings over a decade of experience writing, researching, and teaching about identity based oppression and systemic injustice to her current work. Dr. Stigler holds two Master’s degrees in Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, one from the University of Kansas and one from Roosevelt University, as well as a Bachelor’s in Women’s Studies from Augustana College. As a queer person with an invisible disability, the work of inclusion and equity is a deeply personal pursuit for her. 


Monday, May 23
Social Media Mayhem Session A 10:30-11:45 AM

Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Pinterest, Reddit, Twitter, LinkedIn, Snapchat — the list is overwhelming!  Are you considering your social media plan of attack for the year ahead? Want to know the best social media platforms to help you grow your business? Learn more about the pros and cons of the different media platforms, how to present yourself professionally and personally, and what's most effective.

Deanna Lee headshotPresenter: Deanna Lee (BA Graphic Design '05, MM Education, '12) is the senior brand specialist at Roosevelt University.

Deanna is an award-winning, passionate and committed marketing, brand and design professional with over 16 years of experience within fast-paced environments. Proficient in promoting brands through digital and print media.


The Generosity of Giving Session A 10:30-11:45 AM

Generosity means more than just giving money. Generosity can be expressed in many ways so whatever you donate, you give so much more than just material things. And it feels good doing so! Join this interactive session to discuss the “love of humanity” (philanthropy), how you can pay it forward to your favorite organizations and how to use the best storytelling techniques to attract donors to your signature causes or your own business.

Jared Fritz McCarthy headshotPresenters: Jared Fritz-McCarty (MM Voice ’11) is the director of development and strategic fundraising at Roosevelt University, where he oversees the University's annual giving, major gifts and advancement operations.
His career within higher education has included leadership roles within advancement, marketing and communications, and enrollment management.
Jared is a proud Roosevelt alum, and he holds a master of music in voice performance from the Chicago College of Performing Arts.


FruinAlex Fruin (Bachelor of Musical Arts ’19) is a director at CCS Fundraising. As a Director with CCS Fundraising, Alex works on the ground with leading non-profit institutions to develop and execute comprehensive fundraising strategies to promote their missions.
CCS designs successful and sustainable development initiatives for organizations across every non-profit sector with offices throughout North America, London, and Dublin. 



Keelie JohnsonKeelie Johnson is an accomplished fundraiser, having worked with several nonprofits to increase their annual budget through successful individual giving campaigns and event programming.  As the Leadership Gifts Officer, Keelie plays an important role in Roosevelt’s Office of Institutional Advancement — building lasting and meaningful relationships with the many individuals who enhance Roosevelt’s legacy through their financial support to the institution. 

Keelie earned a bachelor's in international studies from the University of Iowa. Her passion for community organizing led her to further her education by completing a Master of Nonprofit Administration at North Park University. 

Young Entrepreneurs Said YES to Their Wild Ideas!
Session A 10:30-11:45 AM

Have a business idea but don't know where to start? Have a small business and want to take it to the next level? Join us to find inspiration for your business ventures. Hear from this panel of Chicago's talented young alumni entrepreneurs who started their careers and turned their passion into a successful business! 

ric Synajie headshot in suitPresenters:
Eric Synajie (BA Actuarial Science '17) is from Cameroon, Africa but has spent the last eight years in Chicago, Illinois. He is the CEO and founder of A Swift Connect. A Swift Connect is the premier creative design platform built for growing small businesses focused on captivating their audience through award-winning graphic design.
Eric was also the co-founder of Roosevelt University's first Social Entrepreneurship Club. It was during his tenure as president of the club that he adopted the concept of "people before profit" in all his business transactions.

Davina Ware headshot
Davina Ware (MBA Integrated Marketing Communications '14) is a Career Transition Coach, marketing professional, and founder of Upwardly Paved Path career coaching. She helps people get out of their own way to transition into their ideal careers that utilize their gifts and talents.
Through the signature 90 Day Career Fix coaching program, she provides career transition strategies, personal growth, and spiritual development as she leads her clients to find fulfillment in their next career move.



Aaron Gottl (BM Cello ’15, MA Arts Admin. '17) founder and creative director of Atlas Arts Media. Aaron provides high-quality audio, video recording, production/post-production, and technology consultancy to the performing arts.
Atlas Arts is the leader in servicing both arts organizations and individuals and is dedicated to uplifting the arts through powerful, all-encompassing media. 




What Does It Take To Be a Leader? Session B 2-3:15 PM

Across industries, management wants to see leadership skills, but doesn't provide employees with any terminology or training. This presentation helps fill in that gap by exploring universal practices. Ultimately, anyone and everyone can be a leader and foster a better work environment where everyone's productivity is increased and ideas allowed to foster.

Eduardo Lopez headshotPresenter: Eduardo Lopez (BM '07, MA Organization Development, '21) is a highly accomplished, self-driven professional with proven success in creating, training and leading teams of technology professionals, Lopez is passionate about collaborating and working with others to find mutually beneficial solutions. Lopez is interested in understanding people and organizations with the goal of making effective productive change.

Lopez has been in the technology industry for over 14 years, starting from entry-level and working up to leadership/management positions. His most recent endeavor has been about honing his ability to facilitate ideas and change among other technology professionals and foster an environment where unique innovative ideas can be made.


Session B 2-3:15 PM
Being successful in today's ever-changing environment is often elusive and exhausting. Professionals tend to put their career pursuits in overdrive in order to arrive at this unknown destination of "success". As a result, their personal lives suffer, they burn themselves out, and end up on a hamster wheel of unfulfillment. In this presentation, attendees will discover the foundational pillars needed to establish success in every endeavor they undertake and how to implement those pillars to reach every target on their personalized journey of consistent achievement. 


Davina Ware headshotPresenter: Davina Ware (MBA Integrated Marketing Communications '14) is a Career Transition Coach, marketing professional, and founder of Upwardly Paved Path career coaching. She helps people get out of their own way to transition into their ideal careers that utilize their gifts and talents.
Through the signature 90 Day Career Fix coaching program, she provides career transition strategies, personal growth, and spiritual development as she leads her clients to find fulfillment in their next career move.


What’s the Secret to Feeling Young and Happy? Lifelong Learning! Session B 2-3:15 PM
If the rising cost of living, career demands and the constant striving for work-life balance meant a high level of stress for many of us pre-Covid-19, the challenges are greater even now. Are the demands of life taking away from your happiness and motivation?  Research tells us that when people feel happier, they are more resilient, more productive and nicer to be around. That we are simply more successful when we are happy. So what’s the secret to feeling young and happy? Hear from Joy Martinez, HR generalist at Lake Forest Place - Presbyterian Homes on how lifelong learning supports socialization, healthy brains and bodies, and increases happiness.
Presenter: Joy Martinez (BA Psychology ‘13) began her career in human resources as an intern for a school district in the suburbs. When Joy and her and her family moved from the Philippines to the U.S., she started her college education with Harper College. She then took advantage of the transfer pathways program between Harper College and Roosevelt University which better positioned her to get her bachelor’s degree. From there, she has worked with Fortune 500 companies as a recruiter connecting industry leaders with top talent. Currently, she is an HR Professional for a nonprofit company in the Northshore and attending the human resources graduate program at Loyola University. Joy enjoys time with her family and volunteers in local community programs.
Using ‘Hahas’ to Create ‘Aha’ Moments Session C 3:30-4:45 PM
Did you know that laughter and humor are superpowers for building more connected, creative, and resilient teams? Do you want to grab people’s attention? Improve their understanding? And help them remember your content longer? Join comedienne Cherise Johnson to capture the missing skill of humor that can help you in nearly all capacities of your work.

Cherise Johnson heashot smilingPresenter: Cherise Johnson (BA Mathematics ’13) is from Akron, Ohio, but has spent the better part of the last ten years here in Chicago. She has performed on stages all across the city, including Second City, iO Chicago, and CIC, Logan Square Improv, and ComedySportz Chicago.
Currently, Cherise is the Training Center Director for ComedySportz Chicago. She is also an avid storyteller and often shares stories about her tumultuous time as a high school math teacher. She is the creator and host of Exit Ticket: The Podcast.



LinkedIn Makeover Session C 3:30-4:45 PM

It's hard to write about yourself and really showcase your value and reveal your relevancy. About 92% of recruiters use LinkedIn to find high-quality candidates. Take your LinkedIn profile to the next level and turn it into a powerful career tool that spotlights your skills and experiences and impresses your network of connections. Join Nancy for this hands-on workshop that will improve your LinkedIn profile and make it stand out. A laptop is required for this session.

Nancy Inkertsiah headshotPresenter: Nancy Inkertsiah currently serves as the associate director of career services at Roosevelt University providing individualized and group coaching on topics related to career exploration and preparation, entering the workforce, and professional branding. Nancy also leads and manages programming efforts for the career team.

Nancy was born and raised on the northside of Chicago, and attended Northern Illinois University, earning a Bachelor of Arts degree in Communication Studies and a Master of Science in Education with a focus in Student Affairs.



Negotiate Your Salary Like A Pro Session C 3:30-4:45 PM

What am I worth? Join Michelle to improve your salary negotiating skills and help close your personal pay gap. Getting a job offer is exciting and joining the full-time workforce is an all-encompassing event that plays an integral part in financial stability. Accepting an offer should only happen after a thorough assessment of the salary, benefits, and how it all fits in your life plan. The opportunity to negotiate your salary is one that you should never pass up. We will discuss how to negotiate and provide examples of how to initiate the conversation.

Michelle Matthew headshotPresenter: Michelle ”MiMi” Matthews is the founder and Restorative Career Strategist of Boss Up & Hustle Consulting, a consulting firm that assists individuals and organizations drive results by resolving energy deficits that contribute to low employee retention, burnout, and decreased productivity.

Michelle began her career in the career advancement industry as a part-time resume writer. She amassed over $500K in combined salary increases working with professionals. She then joined the Professional Association of Resume Writers and Career Coaches as a certified professional career coach. At Boss Up & Hustle Consulting, Michelle has had the pleasure of delivering keynotes and trainings with various non-profits and higher education organizations. She has been published by and featured in numerous grassroot publications. Her most notable contributions highlight the importance of salary negotiation, job search strategy, and career mapping.

Michelle is currently working on her first book, Powerless to Powerful: Bossing Up & Hustling Minus the Grind, based on personal experience and client case studies. She is also the host of The Boss Up & Hustle Podcast. Michelle graduated in 2018 from Roosevelt University with a master’s in business administration. She has two young sons that she currently homeschools.

Tuesday, May 24
Being in the C-Suite for the First Time Session D 11 AM-Noon

What’s it like at the top of the ladder? Unsure if you have what it takes? Hear from Rhapsody Snyder, Executive Director of the Chicago Jazz Philharmonic, about how the last year has gone as a THE boss. She'll discuss what she learned, how to apply past experiences, how to work with board members and volunteers, how to make hard decisions, and how she positioned herself and the organization for future success. 

A Maryland native residing in Chicago, IL, Rhapsody Snyder (MA Performing Arts Admin. '18) is a graduate of the Interlochen Arts Academy. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Music from DePaul University and a master's in performing arts administration from the Chicago College of Performing Arts at Roosevelt University. Rhapsody has worked as the Chicago Institutional Sales Manager for Steinway & Sons where she cultivated key relationships with Chicago cultural and educational institutions, after which she served as the Director of Operations & Student Affairs at the New Music School and the Community Engagement and Executive Support Manager at The Chicago Philharmonic Society. Currently, Rhapsody is the Executive Director of the Chicago Jazz Philharmonic. 

How to Make Meetings and Events Accessible to People With Disabilities Session D 11 AM-Noon
One in four Americans has some type of disability. As socially justice-minded professionals it's important that for every event and meeting we host, we are doing our part to make it accessible and inclusive. Explore what it means to have a disability, and how through simple changes and thoughtful consideration we can make our in-person and virtual events more inclusive. 
Presenter: Christena Gunther (she/her) is the founder and president of the Chicago Cultural Accessibility Consortium (CCAC) and the Assistant Director of Disability Services at Adler University. Christena also serves in a consultancy role as an disability accessibility advisor who  
Christena has over 15 years of experience working in cultural accessibility, which is making museums and theaters more accessible to people with disabilities.   


One Positive Thought Can Change Your Whole Day
Session D 11 AM-Noon
Positive psychotherapy centers around gratitude, wisdom, forgiveness, and hope. A practice where positive moods are promoted after using narrative structures and reflections. Join Poonam Rahman at her writing therapy workshop where participants will be given writing prompts to practice the exploration of reflecting, feelings, thoughts, and healing of positive thoughts.  
Poonam Rahman headshotPresenter: Poonam Rahman (Psychology '22) founded Virtue Mental, an international nonprofit organization that seeks to provide free mental health resources to historically marginalized communities and collaborate with other mental health organizations with the intention of creating a larger impact on the world! Poonam also published the book“Shattering Bias in S.T.E.A.M.” named after her second nonprofit, which focuses on the implicit bias women within the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts, and Mathematics face and ways to eradicate gender discrimination in the workplace. Poonam is also the 2021 Future Alumni Awardee at Roosevelt University and has graciously gifted LLC participants with a copy of her book as well.


Powerful Habits for Building a Personal Brand and Marketing Yourself Session E 12:15-1:15 PM
Learn about habits, tools, and tendencies to build your personal brand, market yourself, and promote your business. This program will also feature how to leverage information about Roosevelt to your advantage in self-promotion and self-efficacy.  
Featured speakers: Amber Alvarado (MS Integrated Marketing Communications '17) is the Social Strategist at KNOCK, Inc. where she develops strategic social strategies and insights grounded in data. She's passionate about helping brands create more meaningful relationships with their audiences. Her expertise in integrated marketing has successfully served clients across several brands and categories. Her career has included working for nonprofits around the Chicagoland area including Mujeres Latinas En Acción's Young Professionals Advisory Council, The Chicago Council on Global Affairs, Reform for Illinois, Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center, and many more. Amber also holds a BA in history from Northern Illinois University.


Amanda DePalma (MS Integrated Marketing Communication '19) is the Director of Brand Marketing at Roosevelt University. She holds a bachelor of science in Fine Arts from Valparaiso University and a Master of Science in Marketing Communications from Roosevelt University.
She has spent her career telling brand stories in creative and innovative ways. She sits on the boards of Healing to Action, Bikes and Music and America’s Urban Campus.



Motivation Through Mentorship Session E 12:15- 1:15 PM

Many companies are feeling the need to attract, develop, and retain talent. Employees need more support from their leaders than ever before. One powerful tool that we have, which will enable us to remain competitive and effectively manage talent, is mentoring. Join Dr. Marlon Haywood on the best methods and practices in mentorship, community engagement, and how to attract and engage Gen Z hires in the workforce.

Marlon Haywood headshotPresenter: Dr. Marlon Haywood (Ed.D. Educational Leadership '18) is the director of Neighborhood and Community Impact Development at VOA Illinois and founder of Urban Male Network. Dr. Haywood co-developed the male mentoring program Urban Male Initiative, a program that provides academic support to first-generation and minority male students at Malcolm X College.

Dr. Haywood is an active in Mentor Teacher Brother (MTB), a non-profit organization that mentors young African American male high school students in Chicago. Most recently, he started Marlon Speaks, LLC, a platform that promotes social change.


Turning Talent into Treasure Session E 12:15- 1:15 PM

Are you incredibly talented as a creative artist but struggle with picking the right opportunities that lead to a profit? How do you scale yourself in a way that does not overextend your capacity? Hear from singer-songwriter and CEO of Balú Smoothies and More Brian Alwyn (MA Voice ’10) aka Brett Axell from Netflix’s Sing On! Singing competition on how his talents have translated to treasure over time and how to approach yourself as an artrepreneurial asset with a business-forward mindset.

Brian Alwyn Brett Axell headshotPresenter:  Brett Axell was born in Guyana, South America, and moved to the U.S. at the age of two. Axell has been playing music since a child but in Florida, at Northport Middle School the music director Shirley Lyons ignited a passion for music which would lead to music becoming a career path. Throughout his life journey, he kept busy with studies at Indian River Community College, Appalachian State University, and at the Chicago College of Performing Arts at Roosevelt University. Axell frequently makes appearances on stage, at sporting events, and with symphonies. He is a proud member of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity and Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia. Brett is the owner of Balú Smoothies and More which provides a healthy, tasty, and refreshing experience for Chicagoans.