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Virtual Series Hosted by WGU Building a Future-Ready Workforce

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Work After Service: Veteran Workforce Readiness

Upon military separation, veterans often enter the civilian workforce to either extend their career in a similar civilian role or embark on an entirely new and unrelated career path.

A panel of multi-national employers, veteran employees and a military transition specialist will explore the topic of workforce readiness as it relates to transitioning service members and veterans in the civilian labor force.

We will examine interactions between career preferences, job matching, performance, and retention among veteran employees.

This session was moderated by Jeff Harley, Director of Military Engagement at WGU.

Meet Our Presenters

Jeff Harley serves as Director of Military Engagement for nonprofit, accredited Western Governors University (WGU). In this role he develops and sustains organizational relationships to expand access to WGU’s nationally recognized postsecondary programs among the military community.   

Jeff previously served in the United States Navy for more than three decades retiring as a Rear Admiral. He commanded numerous ships and aircraft squadrons including a Strike Group stationed in Japan. While serving as commanding officer of USS MILIUS (DDG-69), Harley participated in combat operations during Operation IRAQI FREEDOM and was awarded a Bronze Star which he accepted on behalf of his crew. Ashore, he served in numerous assignments including director of the White House Situation Room and president of the U.S. Naval War College.  

Jeff holds a PhD from the University of Reading in the United Kingdom. He also has master’s degrees from the U.S. Naval War College and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, as well as a bachelor's degree from the University of Minnesota. 

Charles Stevens is a Principal on Amazon’s Global Military Affairs, delivering on the promise to be Earth’s most military-obsessed company.

Charles’ 15 years of military service drive his vision for Amazon to be a “Great Place to Work for Military”, where military service members and spouses feel welcomed, appreciated, and thrive from Day 1. Charles and his team define, build, and provide the military community a world-class customer experience across the employee lifecycle, from onboarding to training and leadership learning, with continued developmental support.

Charles also continues to serve the community as a US Army Reserve officer.

Diana Feeley is a Senior Customer Success Account Manager working in Microsoft Federal. She is the primary customer-facing role responsible for customer success through the management of program deliveries and forging strong customer relationships. More specifically, she orchestrates the customer’s successful acceleration, adoption and productive use of Microsoft Cloud technologies.  

Diana previously served in the Air Force and recently retired as a Senior Master Sergeant with over 27 years of service. A true Total Force Airman, she served on Active Duty, in the Air Force Reserves as an Air Reserve Technician (ART) and in the Washington Air National Guard as an Air Guard Reserve (AGR). The first six years of her military career she was a Civil Engineer, Utilities Systems Journeyman.  She then transitioned into Communications and Information Systems roles.  She started as an information manager, then became a client systems administrator, network manager, cyber operator, knowledge manager, information assurance officer, and cyber operations superintendent managing the cyber work force. As a capstone to her military career, she served as an Air Force Inspector General Superintendent, focused on unit inspections, compliance, process improvement, and complaints resolution. Diana was stationed in England, Hawaii, North Dakota and Washington state. She deployed multiple times in her career, the most significant contributions were made in support of Operation JOINT ENDEAVOR, Operation SOUTHERN WATCH, Operation ENDURING FREEDOM, and Operation IRAQI FREEDOM. 

Diana holds a master’s degree in Cybersecurity & Information Assurance from WGU. She earned her Bachelor of Science in Information Technology—Information Systems Security from University of Phoenix. She is certified in Azure Fundamentals and Project Management Professional.  She was also certified in CompTIA A+, N+, S+, CEH and CHFI. Learning is a never-ending and is necessary to maintain connection and trust not only with her account team, but the federal agencies she services in her role at Microsoft.

Sultan Camp is a Navy Veteran, serial military transition specialist and serves as the Director of Hampton Roads Workforce Council’s Veterans Employment Centers. He is also the Co-Chair of the Military and Veterans Executive Committee for Virginia Chamber of Commerce’s Blueprint 2030 and a Board Member for the Fort Eustis Civic Leaders Association (ECLA).

Sultan is considered one of the leading global minds on what’s next in military transition, career management and education. He is described as one of the most forward thinkers in the Military and Talent Acquisition Community – he acutely recognizes trends and patterns early to help others understand how these shifts impact markets and career options after leaving the military or as a military spouse. Whether its emerging industries, social media platforms, hiring trends or military talent acquisition strategies, Sultan understands how to bring brand relevance to the forefront.  

He is a prolific military talent and career strategist with numerous recommendations from Flag level officers, Military Magazine articles and one of his articles “Thank you for Your Military Service…Now Here Are 9 Reasons I Won’t Hire You.” Landing 1Million+ views and was featured on Business Insider Magazine. 

Sultan is a Talent Acquisition strategist at heart — he builds business talent focused on the Military Community. Today, he helps Virginia Values Veterans (V3) Certified and the fastest growing companies in the Hampton Roads region leverage their military talent pipeline through the HRWC’s Hampton Roads Veterans Employment Centers, which has offices in Norfolk and Newport News, VA.

In addition to running multiple HRVEC’s, Sultan hosts quarterly Employer Consortiums which CHRO’s, VP’s and Senior Human Resource Managers gain access to exclusive strategies on how to access, attract and retain military talent.

John C. Buckley, II, Colonel, U.S. Army (Ret) is a veteran, career coach and mentor, author, and an expert in the field of military-to-civilian career transition. He currently assists Koch companies to develop and implement recruiting and retention programs for military veterans. 

Prior to initiating his civilian career, he commanded infantry soldiers in combat and peacekeeping operations and directed two of the Army’s most prestigious schools. He teaches transition courses, gives seminar presentations, writes about the barriers to military-to-civilian career transition, and continues to mentor current and former military personnel in their military-to-civilian transition. 

His recent article “Dance With The One Who Brung Ya,” was published in Military Review by Army University Press in 2016.

Jeff Harley Jeff Harley, Director of Military Engagement, WGU
Charles Stevens Charles Stevens, Principal on Global Military Affairs, Amazon
Diana Feeley Diana Feeley, Senior Customer Success Account Manager, Microsoft
Sultan Camp Sultan Camp, Director of Hampton Roads, Vets Employment Centers
John C. Buckley, II John C. Buckley, II, Outreach Strategies Manager, Koch Industries

Race in the Workplace

Across the nation, there are amazing collaborations between educators and employers leading to greater opportunities and outcomes for reskilling and upskilling, especially for working learners. At the table are community college, business, and foundation leaders, partnering together so more jobs are filled with skilled workers with labor market value. 

Join the conversation by attending this webinar with visionaries from Apple, Austin Community College, Trellis Foundation, and St. Charles Community College to learn about regional workforce and education system alignment that is resulting in successful student and career outcomes.

Western Governors University is recognized by SHRM to offer Professional Development Credits (PDCs) for the SHRM-CP® or SHRM-SCP®. Each session is valid for 1 PDC for the SHRM-CP® or SHRM-SCP®.

Meet Our Presenters

Jason Thompson is a thought leader in Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, having spent the past twenty-five years building DE&I programs in sports, health care, technology, and education. Jason is currently the Vice President for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DE&I) at Western Governors University (WGU) one of the largest fully accredited online universities in the US with over 125,000 students.

The diversity and inclusion programs developed by Jason have won several awards at the local and international level. Most recently, the D&I Scorecard developed by Jason received the top honor in the 2016 International Innovations in Diversity Awards program from the Profiles in Diversity Journal. Jason was also recognized as a 2017 and 2018 Diversity Leader by the Profiles in Diversity Journal. In 2015, the USOC D&I department received the Diversity Champion Award for Excellence from the Colorado SHRM.

Jason’s work has been highlighted and quoted in the USATodayWashington PostCNNThe New York Times and The Guardian. Jason's new book Diversity and Inclusion Matters was released in May of 2021.

As Managing Director of North America Inclusion and Diversity Leader, Karen Pavlin is responsible for further strengthening and accelerating the company’s efforts to foster an inclusive. Karen leads the firm’s efforts to advance change and continue accelerating equality across North America, creating a sense of belonging and ensuring all our people feel seen, safe, connected and courageous. 

Prior to her current role, Karen led account strategies to drive large-scale transformation, thought leadership and innovation for the firm’s top Financial Services and Communication, Media and Technology (CMT) clients. Karen served as the client account lead for a global Financial Services account with overall P&L responsibility driving value-led innovation, deep client relationships and business transformation programs, while bringing industry expertise and insight. Most recently, Karen joined one of Accenture’s largest CMT clients comprised of over 2,000 Accenture colleagues. She served as the account portfolio lead helping the client drive large-scale HR, finance and compliance transformations. 

In addition, Karen was Accenture’s NE Inclusion & Diversity (I&D) Executive Sponsor as part of the NE Leadership Team, working closely with our I&D NE leader, national ERG’s and other client account leaders to help drive the I&D agenda and programs at the account level and across the firm. 

Karen joined Accenture in September 2017 after spending 20+ years at Xerox Corporation as a global managing director - managing the firm’s largest and most strategic Financial Services clients and global P&L. Over the span of her career at Xerox, she held leadership roles within Corporate Strategy, World-Wide Alliances and Digital Transformation Services. She was also a part of the Xerox/ACS integration team in 2010. Karen was also a co-founder of Xerox’s Women in Tech, Xerox Global Mentoring Program and the Global Focus Executive Program (a program that aligned top Xerox Executives with the top 25 Strategic Accounts). 

Karen holds a BA and a master’s degree from the University of Virginia in Marketing Communications and Business. She also sits on the Board of Directors of the Apollo Theater and iMentor National Organization. Karen was the recipient of The Network Journal’s Top 25 Black Women in Business in May 2019. 

Crystal Andrews Banks is the Diversity and Inclusion Director at Ulta Beauty. As a proven cultural transformation change agent with over ten years of experience, she furthers Ulta’s D&I efforts by identifying and formulating viable solutions to drive innovation. She drives the organization’s D&I strategy, serves as the enterprise D&I consultant, and provides oversight for a myriad of diversity initiatives.  

Crystal’s background includes stints in Marketing and Internal Communications which assist in her big picture ideology and creative approaches. She studied at St. John’s University and received her MA in Sociology and BS in Communication with a business minor. A sought after thought leader and speaker, she was recently recognized by Essence Magazine as a revolutionary beauty industry executive and serves as the Co-Chair of the Retail Industry Leaders Association D&I Leadership Council. Previously, Crystal worked at the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, KPMG, Baxalta and Johnson Controls where she added value to develop and strengthen their D&I agendas.  

Heath Clayton is the Head of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) for Consumer & Community Banking at JPMorgan Chase. In this role he sets the DEI strategy for Chase’s 140,000 employees. He began his professional career in 2007 at The White House and worked in government for two years before ultimately deciding to continue his career by making an impact in the private sector. He previously served as the Chief of Staff to the Chief Inclusion Officer and as a talent development leader at Deloitte, creating engaging learning experiences for audiences around the world to help them reach their full potential. 

Heath is an Adjunct Professor at the Cox School of Business at Southern Methodist University, lecturing on corporate social responsibility and ethics, and serves on the Board of Directors for Out for Undergrad, a national non-profit that helps LGBTQ+ college students achieve their full potential, and is the Chair of the Board of Trustees for the Urban Inter-Tribal Center of Texas, a Native American health clinic and workforce development center. Heath is Chickasaw and attended Carnegie Mellon University for graduate school in Public Policy and Management on a tribal affairs fellowship.

Denise Banuelos has a track record of transforming company culture as a collaborative change agent that inspires employees to bring their best selves to work. She brings over 25 years of experience leading and implementing Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion programs in both non-profit and private sectors, including higher education, utilities, and healthcare.   

Denise previously worked as Manager of Diversity & Inclusion at the California State University San Bernardino leading university-wide diversity programs. Before that she served as Manager of Diversity & Inclusion at City of Hope, a comprehensive Cancer Research Hospital where she was actively engaged with managing employee resource groups and leading the expansion of Diversity & Inclusion strategies in the organization, the local community, and for patients.

She specializes in gender transition in the workplace and has developed inclusive policies, benefits, and training for non-binary, and Transgender employees. She is accredited to achieving designation in Healthcare Equality Index as a Leader in LGBTQ for City of Hope by the Human Rights Campaign and received the Diversity First award, a prestigious recognition by the National Diversity Council for her commitment to Diversity and Inclusion.  

She has championed equity in the workplace and fair treatment for all employees regardless of gender, sexual orientation, race or ethnic origin and persons with disabilities. She is driven by her passion to make a difference for the good of the whole no matter how difficult it may be. 

Denise has a Bachelor of Science in Marketing from Radford University, Radford Virginia and an MBA with a concentration in Human Resources from Keller Graduate School of Management, Pomona, California. 

Jason R. Thompson Jason R. Thompson, Vice President, Diversity, Equity & Inclusion, WGU
Karen Pavlin Karen Pavlin, North America Inclusion & Diversity Leader, Accenture
Crystal A. Banks Crystal A. Banks, Diversity and Inclusion Director, Ulta Beauty
Heath Clayton Heath Clayton, Executive Director, Head of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Consumer & Community Banking, JPMorgan Chase
Denise Banuelos Denise Banuelos, Equity, Inclusion, and Diversity & Workforce Development Director, Kaiser Permanente

Innovation at the Intersection of Community Colleges

Across the nation, there are amazing collaborations between educators and employers leading to greater opportunities and outcomes for reskilling and upskilling, especially for working learners. At the table are community college, business, and foundation leaders, partnering together so more jobs are filled with skilled workers with labor market value. 

Join the conversation by attending this webinar with visionaries from Apple, Austin Community College, Trellis Foundation, and St. Charles Community College to learn about regional workforce and education system alignment that is resulting in successful student and career outcomes.

Western Governors University is recognized by SHRM to offer Professional Development Credits (PDCs) for the SHRM-CP® or SHRM-SCP®. Each session is valid for 1 PDC for the SHRM-CP® or SHRM-SCP®.

Speaker Bios

Dr. Gerardo E. de los Santos is Director for Community College Partnerships at Western Governors University. In the role, Gerardo is responsible for establishing high-level partnerships with community and technical colleges, national and regional community college associations, networks, and supporting organizations. 

Prior to joining WGU, Gerardo was Senior fellow, Civitas Learning. He also served as a Faculty in Residence, Executive Ed.D. in Higher Education Leadership, University of Texas at Austin, as well as Professor of Practice/Major Professor, Community College Leadership Program, College of Education, Kansas State University.

He has served on numerous national advisory boards including the Community College Research Center National Advisory Board; Education Testing Service National Advisory Board; National Hispanic University Advisory Board; Community College Survey of Student Engagement National Advisory Board; the National American University Advisory Board, and the Civitas Learning National Advisory Board, and Change Magazine, Editorial Board.

He is the recipient of numerous awards including the prestigious ETS O’Banion Prize in Education for his significant contributions to teaching and learning, the American Association of Community Colleges Recognition Award for Visionary Leadership, and the International Leadership Award from the National Institute for Staff and Organizational Development.

Gerardo earned an AA degree from Mesa Community College in Arizona, a BA from the University of California at Berkeley, a Masters in English from Arizona State University, and a Ph.D. in Educational Administration from the University of Texas at Austin.  

Dr. Barbara Kavalier serves as President and Chief Executive Officer for St. Charles Community College (SCC), located in the greater St. Louis Region. SCC’s two campuses serve six counties in one of the fastest-growing areas in Missouri. Barbara has held senior leadership positions at some of the most successful multi-college districts in the country, including Dean of Institutional Research and Effectiveness for the Dallas County Community College District, Vice President of Student Services at San Diego Mesa College, and President of San José City College. 

Barbara has a distinguished record of service with national, state, and local organizations. She is the author of multiple books and publications and is a nationally recognized speaker on key issues in higher education. Barbara is a Distinguished Graduate from The University of Texas at Austin (UT). She was recognized as the first Senior Roueche Fellow at UT, the Most Influential Business Woman of the Year award for the St. Louis Region, and was named Who’s Who in Diversity and Color. 

Barbara received her Ph.D. in Educational Administration from The University of Texas at Austin, a master’s degree from Amberton University, and a bachelor’s degree from Texas Christian University.  

Kristin Boyer is Executive Director for Trellis Foundation, a grant-making public charitable organization. Their approach is highly collaborative and prioritizes catalytic investments, focused on changing or informing change to policy, practice and systems. Kristin leads Trellis Foundation’s efforts to advance equitable postsecondary outcomes for low-income students and students of color across Texas.

Prior to her appointment as executive director for the Trellis Foundation, she directed the philanthropic program and activities for Trellis Company. She currently serves as an Advisory Committee member for the Pell Institute for the Study of Opportunity in Higher Education, as a co-chair for the Latino Student Success Funders Group, and as a steering committee member for the Austin Opportunity Youth Collaborative.

Since joining the Austin Community College District in September 2011, Dr. Richard Rhodes has worked to improve pathways into higher education, strengthen awareness of the community college mission, and give students the tools to accomplish their educational, professional, and personal goals.

A native of Alamogordo, New Mexico, Richard received his Bachelor of Business Administration in Accounting and Master of Arts in Educational Management and Development from New Mexico State University. He earned his doctorate through the Community College Leadership Program at the University of Texas at Austin, receiving its Distinguished Graduate Award in 2001. 

His professional associations include the American Association of Community Colleges' 21st Century Commission on the Future of Community Colleges; Board Member of the Texas Student Success Council; Board Member of the Texas Workforce Investment Council; and Past Chair of the Texas Association of Community Colleges. Richard also is a Board Member for the Texas Guaranteed Student Loan Corporation, the Carnegie Foundation, the Educational Testing Service National Community College Advisory Council, and a member of the STEM Higher Education Council.

Richard is active in the community, serving as Past Chair of the Board for American YouthWorks as well as serving on the boards of local Chambers of Commerce. He also is a member of the board of the Boy Scouts of America, Capitol Area Council; Austin Partners in Education; and the E3 Alliance.

Prior to joining ACC, Richard served as President of El Paso Community College for 10 years and as Vice President of Business Services at Salt Lake Community College in Salt Lake City, Utah, for seven years.

Jennifer Dame works in the Education division at Apple Inc.  In her role, Jennifer leads Apple’s key initiatives and business development efforts with community colleges in the United States. Seen as a trusted advisor within the company, Jennifer is often called on by other Apple teams to advise on the needs, priorities, and requests being voiced by community college leaders across the country.  No stranger to community colleges, Jennifer began her academic career as a first-generation college student at Victor Valley College. She earned her associate and bachelor’s degrees in Liberal Studies, and received her Master’s Degree in Management and Leadership from Western Governors University. (Go Night Owls!)


Gerardo de los Santos

Dr. Gerardo E. de los Santos, Director,
Community College Partnerships, WGU


Barbara kavalier

Barbara R. Kavalier, Ph.D.
President and CEO,
St. Charles Community College 


kristin boyer

Kristin Boyer,
Executive Director,
Trellis Foundation


rhodes headshot

Dr. Richard Rhodes,
Austin Community College District 


jennifer dame headshot

Jennifer Dame,
Market Segment Executive,
Apple Inc. 

Are We Ready for a Skills-Based Economy?

Across the nation, there are a growing number of jobs that are going unfilled because our current hiring practices are costly, time intensive, and ineffective: employers struggle to identify qualified candidates, and individuals struggle to identify pathways to opportunity.

WGU is building the technological infrastructure to support more seamless connectivity for the workforce. At the table are pivotal partners to support the transformation of the nation’s workforce and talent pipeline by leading a transition to skill-based labor market that connects higher education to the workforce. Join the conversation with global employers; Walmart, Salesforce, and IBM to learn about the open-skill network and the learner employment record and roadmap forward.

Panelist bios.

Alex leads IBM’s global work on the application of emerging technologies as an enabler of lifelong learning pathways and talent transformation. This work encompasses leading IBM’s learning credentials blockchain initiative. Previously, Alex worked closely with the IBM teams that created Personalized Learning on Cloud, Watson Classroom, and Watson Tutor. Alex has closely collaborated with leading organizations in education, including Apple, Pearson, and Sesame Workshop. He speaks frequently on the topic of the transformational potential of advanced technologies on learning and talent. Alex has spoken at; both the Harvard and Columbia Graduate Schools of Education, the IMS Global Learning Consortium, the Getty Foundation, IBM Research, Blockchain Revolution conference and many others. 

Alex is the Global Leader, Blockchain and AI for credentials in IBM’s Talent & Transformation practice. He is also a Member of the IBM Industry Academy and served on the board of directors of the IMS Global Learning Consortium.

Phil is a highly social, entrepreneurial, award-winning senior executive with a 25-year track record of delivering innovative, high-value solutions by aligning existing problems with emerging technologies. Experienced as a c-level executive within higher education that has leveraged entrepreneurial instincts, a broad technical skillset, he has a very strong reputation for developing and motivating teams at all levels to integrate new technologies that create value for the organization. Phil is currently deep in the blockchain and self-sovereign identity spaces investigating how these emergent technologies build trust in our digital world.

In the role of Director of Skills Architecture, Kacey operates at the intersection of higher education and the future of work, where she is responsible for establishing a comprehensive network of competencies and skills that are aligned to workforce needs. This network serves as the foundation for the development of WGU programs and facilitates the ability to offer personalized, workforce-relevant learning pathways. To accomplish this transformative work at scale, Kacey has established an emergent ecosystem of partnerships, processes, tools, and technologies that continues to grow and evolve. Kacey is passionate about the urgent call to action for higher education to better meet the needs of students and employers. She is deeply invested in student success and creating higher education systems that support access, equity, and upward mobility.

During her time with Western Governors University, Kacey has served in multiple roles including the Director of Assessment Design and Development and Curriculum Director for Teachers College. Prior to coming to WGU, Kacey served as a high school teacher in health sciences with Canyons School District. She holds a Master of Education, Instructional Design from Western Governors University and a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Utah.

Rick joined the National Student Clearinghouse (NSC) as its President and CEO in 2008. Under his leadership, the Clearinghouse has continued to successfully extend its mission delivery of access-driven service to education, which today comprises over 3,700 higher education institutions and nearly 14,000 high schools, school districts, and 43 states and thousands of outreach organizations, executing over 2.4 billion transactions annually, saving the education community over $850 million a year. Through his leadership, the Clearinghouse has grown its education serving transactions by a factor of 8X over the past decade, with a 12% revenue CAGR to support the nationwide services that the Clearinghouse offers the K-20W community and life-long learners.

In addition, the Clearinghouse has evolved its nonprofit mission execution to the education community by providing accessible innovative technology-based services and data exchange solutions that enable education institutions and organizations to focus on being engines that maximize human potential development. NSC's mission’s intent is to democratize data and information, enabling all learners to benefit, including an intentional emphasis on enabling research-based vulnerable population trajectory change. The Clearinghouse is a leader in advocating privacy, security, transparency, and responsible use of data to provide better understanding of student educational pathway performance to the benefit of students, institutions, and policymakers.

Andy is currently the VP of Walmart US Learning. In this role, Andy and his team are focused on the strategy, innovation, content development, and delivery of the training for all of Walmart US.  This includes all training for the home office, supply chain, and the store academies, which he led in his prior role.

Previously, Andy spent four years as the Senior Director for China Implementation for International Business Processes responsible for sharing and implementing Walmart global best practices within the China business. In this role, Andy and his team manage a locally based implementation team to work with the business in expanding the capabilities of the business functions within China through leverage and execution.  

Prior to this, Andy was responsible for the International Logistics Engineering team where he was responsible for establishing, developing, and working with the logistics engineers in 28 countries to improve productivity and processes within the logistics and transportation businesses. Prior to his international roles, Andy worked in the U.S. logistics division where he worked on the Grocery Industrial Engineering team designing mechanized grocery distribution centers, developing process improvement projects, and managing a team of field industrial engineers. Before Walmart, Andy worked as the Industrial Engineering Manager for Fred’s Inc., a retail store chain based in Memphis, Tennessee.

Andy has 19 years with Walmart and holds a bachelor's degree in industrial engineering from the University of Memphis and a master's degree in business from Webster University.

Alex Kaplan Alex Kaplan, Global Leader, Blockchain for Industry and Academic Credentials; Talent and Transformation IBM
Phil Komarny Phil Komarny, Vice President, Innovation Salesforce
Kacey Thorne Kacey Thorne, Director of Skills Architecture, WGU
Rick Torres Rick Torres, President and CEO, National Student Clearinghouse
Andy Trainor Andy Trainor, VP, US Learning Walmart

State of Workforce Development Across Industries

During the COVID-19 crisis, safety and well-being of employees is the priority. As we’ve come to recognize that this crisis will be here for a while, companies are now defining their approach for the long haul.  

Learn how businesses across the nation are navigating employee resizing; developing and implementing workforce continuity plans; upskilling employees and strategizing for fiscal year 21 and beyond.   

This candid conversation will include a better understanding of how companies are considering the full breadth of their employees’ needs, for many, in phases including stability, self-esteem, mental health, community, growth and meaning in the context of crisis. Leaders will share plans, experiences, successes and pivots as well as what the journey forward may look like. Hearing these first-hand stories will inspire you and your company as we maneuver this new landscape.

Welcome remarks: Dr. Angie Besendorfer, WGU Regional Vice President, WGU Missouri Chancellor 

Moderator: Spencer Stewart, WGU Vice President, Strategic Partnership 


Natalie Guzman has over 20 years of experience in communications, public relations, and marketing. Eighteen of those years have been spent at the 13th largest bank in the U.S., Fifth Third Bank. As a senior-level director with Fifth Third, Natalie oversees internal communications where she leads a team responsible for creating and distributing communications that inform, inspire, and motivate 21,000 employees.

Tamera Maresh-Carver began her career with FedEx in 1998 as a courier in Irving, Texas, and advanced into management in 2003. She has held numerous leadership positions in operations including Senior Manager Positions in Missouri, Illinois, and Oklahoma and since 2017 has been in HR leading Global QDM and Learning Technology in the Global Learning and Development Organization. 

Cynthia Williams joined Mercy in the role of senior vice president of human resources in January 2011.  In 2013, she was asked to expand her role as chief administrative officer to include government relations, community relations, and other staff responsibilities supporting the executive office. In 2014, Mercy Health Foundation was added to Cynthia’s areas of service; assuming the role of president, Mercy Health Foundation. Today, Cynthia serves as executive vice president and chief administrative officer of Mercy, and president of Mercy Health Foundation. 

Herman Bulls is Vice Chairman, Americas, as well as an International Director and the founder of JLL’s highly acclaimed Public Institutions which specializes in delivering comprehensive real estate solutions to federal, state and local governments, nonprofit organizations and higher education institutions. Herman works with the firm’s largest public and corporate clients to devise and implement integrated real estate strategies to lower occupancy costs and increase productivity. During over 30 years at JLL, Herman has worked in the areas of development, investment management, asset management, facilities operations and business development/retention. He provides thought leadership and strategic guidance to senior level executives. Herman has served as an expert witness on real estate matters in court and testified before Congressional committees on real estate issues.

Natalie Guzman
SVP, Internal Communications Director
Fifth Third Bank

Tamera Maresh-Carver
Managing Director, Development, Innovation, and Organizational Strategy
FedEx Express

Cynthia Williams
EVP and CAO, Mercy
President, Mercy Health Foundation

Herman Bulls
Vice Chairman, Americas
International Director, JLL

Control your Destiny: Career Advancement via Online Learning

Careers aren’t always made of lockstep, paint-by-numbers kinds of moves. That said, it is still important for your career decisions to be grounded in a larger goal, plan, or purpose. Knowing what you are working toward can help you figure out what your intention should be. Knowing your intention will help you develop the filter for your career-related decisions. Hear from a panel of WGU grads as they share their intentions and career-related decisions and successes and how they are navigating in our unprecedented times. 

Moderator: Mitsu Frazier, Vice President, Academic Operations, WGU College of Business



Chris Abbey is a two-time WGU graduate, first earning a bachelor’s degree in IT Network Design and Management in 2013, and then later a master’s degree in Information Security and Assurance. He’s held various leadership positions in cybersecurity and is currently the Incident Handler Manager at Red Canary, in Denver, Colorado.

Chris’ greatest accomplishment is his marriage to Gina Abbey, who is also a WGU alum (bachelor’s degree in marketing, 2014), and their two little girls. When he’s not working or enjoying time with his family, Chris volunteers through Catchafire, an organization that makes skill-based connections between professional volunteers and other nonprofits. He also consults on technology projects; serves as a board member of a local Cybersecurity Education Professional Organization; and volunteers as a programs/marketing and sponsorship chair at a nearby cybersecurity conference.   

Dustin Beasley is a Global Business Manager with T-Mobile, where he spends time remotely supporting call centers in the Philippines. Dustin has worked for T-Mobile for 13 years, starting as a call center customer service representative in 2007. He began his academic journey with WGU in 2016 and completed the program with his Bachelor of Business Management in 2018. Dustin is currently working on completing his Master of Business Administration with a projected graduation date of November 2020.

Dustin lives in Springfield, Missouri, with his partner of three years Sean, and in his free time enjoys entertaining with friends and family at home, learning new recipes to cook (and shopping for new kitchen gadgets!) and spending time with friends at Table Rock Lake.

Gussie Hopkins started her career in IT over 13 years ago as a cable technician specializing in aerial and underground cable splicing. Gussie is a recent graduate of WGU with a bachelor's degree in Business IT Management.  

Gussie is a PMP certified project manager at Stratix, a large mobility solutions provider headquartered Norcross, Georgia. She learned to utilize her high-energy and inquisitive nature to craft solutions for her clients. She strives to understand the “why” so the company/team can benefit by making better decisions for future implementations.  

Gussie enjoys spending time with family, traveling, karaoke, and camping (as long as nature does not touch her). She has been a Boy Scout leader in various capacities over the past nine years. Gussie and her husband have active schedules as they support their two teenaged young men. Both young men are Boy Scouts and band geeks. 

Timothy Mulcahey is a graduate of Western Governors University having completed his undergraduate degree in education, and, in 2014, his Master's in Business Administration. His background is highly colorful, having originally entered the professional world as a network architect in the 1990s, and then making the transition to a business analyst in the early-2000s. Currently, he is a senior business analyst at a consulting firm in Chicago, Illinois, and working at O’Hare International Airport as the primary point of contact for the Chicago Department of Aviation.

Timothy resides in the suburbs of Chicago with his wife of 20 years and their three children. When he has downtime, he tends to his hobbies of coin collecting, gardening, and raising a small flock of backyard chickens. He also enjoys traveling and has been to over 25 countries in Asia, the Middle East, and Europe.

Chris Abbey

Christopher Abbey
Incident Handler, Manager
Red Canary 

Dustin Beasley

Dustin Beasley
Global Business Manager

Gussie Hopkins

Gussie Hopkins
Certified Project Manager  
Stratix Corporation

Timothy Mulcahey

Timothy Mulcahey
Senior Business Analyst
The William Everett Group

How to Advance and Retain your Workforce of the Future

To address the waves attached to the unemployment crisis, collaboration across employers standing on opposite sides of the growing labor market riptide is necessary now more than ever. While many segments of our economy are imploding others are growing. Employers on both sides of the hiring spectrum must be engaged in the process that connects laid-off workers with new opportunities.

Join us for a lively roundtable conversation with top employers across the nation. Together, we'll discuss how closing skills and equity gaps is challenging employers to think differently about credentials and experience, and how these top employers are searching for talent in unconventional places.

Moderator: Natalie Murray, Vice President, Student Experience, Western Governors University


J’ai Brown serves as the HR Director for HUB International, leading the HR function for the Midwest-West division. In her role, J’ai is a member of the executive management team providing strategic insight and support across the Midwest-West division on all aspects of HR including employee relations, diversity and inclusion, talent acquisition, compensation, performance management, organizational design, and career development. Additionally, she is the executive sponsor for the Midwest-West Diversity & Inclusion Council and a member of the organizing team for the HUB Women Network ERG. Prior to joining HUB, J’ai worked in roles of increasing responsibility in claims administration and human resources at Allstate Insurance Company before continuing her career in human resources at BMO Financial Group.

J’ai received an MBA and B.S. degrees in HR Management and General Management from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and has her PHR and SHRM-CP designations. She is the Education Chair for Chicago SHRM and mentor's youth with Posse Chicago and Chicago Scholars. She is a 2020 Chicago Urban League IMPACT Leadership Development Fellow, 2019 Black Queens of Chicago, 2018 Wall Street in the Black Future Leader and 2016 Chicago Scholars 35 under 35 honoree.

Dennis Rossow is a director of Human Resources for Comcast in the Greater Chicago Region, which encompasses over 5,000 employees in three states delivering residential and business-class video, voice Internet, mobile, and security products and services. His HR career spans 28 years.

With a staff of four HR professionals, Dennis supports over 800 employees in a wide range of technical and professional functions across all three states. He is a certified Professional in Human Resources, a certified change practitioner, and a Myers-Briggs practitioner.

He has a passion for volunteer and nonprofit work, having served two terms as a trustee for the Ela Area Public Library in Lake Zurich, Illinois, as president of the board for The Center for Changing Lives in Chicago, and is currently serving as vice president for the Board of Artists Breaking Limits and Expectations, a theatre company showcasing the work of people with disabilities.

Clayton Pryor serves as the director of Workforce Development at Advocate Aurora Health where he is able to carry out his passion for job creation, neighborhood revitalization, and building sustainable communities. In this role, he manages a multi-million-dollar portfolio dedicated to creating a pipeline of prepared candidates into the healthcare industry by offering job skills and training in underserved communities. In addition, he provides oversight to college and university partnerships, internships, education assistance and an internal frontline workforce development program, NAVIGATE. 

Clayton has been instrumental in connecting Advocate Aurora to CareerSTAT, a national initiative to validate and spread the investment in frontline, low-wage earners to move into sustainable wage positions through training and education programs initiated and/or supported by employers. In addition, he is an inaugural member of the Employer Academy offered to healthcare employers and advisory board member. 

Clayton received his B.S. in Business Management from Southern Illinois University Carbondale and an M.A. in Organizational Leadership with a concentration in Public Policy Administration from Lewis University.

J’ai Brown
Human Resource Director 
Hub International

Dennis Rossow
Director of Human Resources
Comcast – Chicago Region 

Clayton Pryor 
Director, Workforce Development
Advocate Aurora Health

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