Laker Leadership Conference - Bios and Program Session Details

Personalize your conference experience with these amazing conference sessions!

Program Sessions
Powerful Habits for Building a Personal Brand and Marketing Yourself
Learn about habits, tools, and tendencies to build your personal brand, marketing 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) serves as the Digital Marketing and Communications Officer at The Chicago Council on Global Affairs, where she develops and implements data-driven social strategies. Amber is also a member of Mujeres Latinas En Accion's Young Professionals Advisory Council where she was recently named Communications Officer. She has spent her career working in nonprofits around the Chicagoland area including the Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center, Elmhurst History Museum, Shedd Aquarium, and Reform for Illinois. 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.

Being the CEO for the First Time
Hear from Rhapsody Synder about her new position and how the year has gone as a first-time boss; what was learned, how past skills came into play, how to work with board members and volunteers, how hard decisions were made, 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, holds a Bachelor of Arts in Music from DePaul University, and a Masters 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
One in four Americans has some type of disability, and 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 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
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.  
Presenter: Founded by Poonam Rahman (Psychology '22), Virtue Mental is 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 a book called “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.


What Does It Take To Be a Leader

Management across many industries wishes to see leadership skills across individual contributors but do not provide individual employees with any terminology or training to do so. This presentation helps fill in that gap by exploring practices that can be utilized universally across all roles in any industry. 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.

Presenter: 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.


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. 


Presenter: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.


Using ‘Hahas’ to Create ‘Aha’ Moments
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.

Presenter: 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.


Motivation Through Mentorship

A key issue that many companies are feeling is 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.

Presenter: 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.


Power of Philanthropy
If someone asked you to picture a philanthropist, chances are a billionaire would come to mind. But everyday people who make modest gifts of time or money can make a big difference in their communities. Learn how these two alumni prioritize giving and choose initiatives important to them, and how giving at whatever amount at Roosevelt University makes a difference. 

Presenters: Jared Fritz-McCarty (MA Voice ’11) is the director of development at Roosevelt University.
Alex Fruin (BA Musical Arts, ’19) is a director at CCS Fundraising.


How these young entrepreneurs said YES to their wild ideas!
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 at Homecoming for a special alumni panel to find inspiration for your startup or small business. Hear from this panel of Chicago's talented entrepreneurs who started their careers and turned their passion into a successful business! 

Presenters: Aaron Gottl (BA Cello ’15, MA Arts Admin. '17) founder and creative director of Atlas Arts Media


LinkedIn Makeover

It's hard to write about yourself and really showcase your value and reveal your relevancy. 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, 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.

Presenter: 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. I also lead and manage programming efforts for our career team. Nancy was born and raised on the northside of Chicago, IL, 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.


Social Media Mayhem

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.

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

Framework for Action on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
Hear from Erwin Lee Acox Jr., director of justice, equity, diversity and inclusion at Tides about shared language, key concepts, lessons learned, and how you can elevate race equity culture, activate diversity and lead inclusively.

Erwin Lee Acox Jr. (MBA ’06) has more than 20 years of experience working with executive leaders in complex organizations, Erwin L. Acox, II is a diversity, equity & inclusion expert focused on transforming organizations from the inside out. Based in San Francisco, Erwin has demonstrated success in driving the execution of DEI best practices, strategic programs, curriculum development, and employee engagement. He is a DEI practitioner focused on getting to the root causes of organizational inequities to provide sustainable approaches that help create thriving workplaces where employees feel valued and respected for their contributions. Erwin has led organizations as large as 6,000 employees through shifting practices to be more equitable and employee-centric. He has also coached leaders on discovering and understanding how their actions could lead to negative impacts on women, and People of Color. His areas of expertise are diversity and inclusion strategy and implementation, employee relations, coaching, training development, and transforming toxic cultures to human-centered. 

Thriving in 2022 – The Best Chaos!

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 show by alumna and Comedy Sportz comedienne and trainer Cherise Johnson!

Presenter: 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.