2018 Keynote Speaker – Devine Carama
Here are highlights from the 2018 conference
Believing in Forever
Devine Carama is a socially conscious hip-hop artist, community activist and motivational youth speaker from Lexington, Kentucky. He is also the director of Believing In Forever Inc., the former youth services coordinator for Community Action Council Common Good, and is currently teaching a class at the University of Kentucky called “Lyricism & Leadership: Hip-Hop and Community Change.” He has worked with and opened for acts such as Big KRIT, J. Cole, Talib Kweli, Nappy Roots, LL Cool J, Black Eyed Peas, Canibus, De La Soul and Little Brother. His music has been covered in major music publications like The Source, Vibe and Complex magazines. Through his "The Devine Experience" umbrella he hosted local events such as Brown Sugar, Neo Soul Nights and Poetry in Motion. His youth organization has facilitated such initiatives as Sons Of Single Mother Mentoring Days, Impact 859 in-school mentoring program, Senior Summer Jam, A Coat to Keep The Cold Away youth coat drive, Fresh Water For Flint water drive, Poetry In Motion You, Strive 4 Success youth tutoring sessions and more.
Investing in the future of West Virginia includes a fresh perspective on how we can
leave our legacy. We are pleased that Devine Carama will bring his own experiences
and successes to the Community Leadership Academy this spring!
Kelli Jo McNemar works with individuals and organizations as a Gallup Certified Coach to increase engagement, provide resources to further develop a strengths-based approach and build relationships. She earned a Master of Public Administration from West Virginia University. Her Bachelor of Arts degree in human resource management, with a minor in leadership, was attained at Marietta College. McNemar is an AmeriCorps Energy Express and City Year alum. Her work with leadership development over the past 20 years includes coaching individuals and facilitating active learning experiences with groups in higher education, government and nonprofit organizations.
Director of WVU LaunchLab - West Virginia University
Carrie White is the director of WVU LaunchLab, the applied innovation resource center
for students interested in starting a business or creating a new product. She also
is an adjunct instructor of entrepreneurship. Prior to coming to WVU, White was
the director of the Center for Entrepreneurship at West Liberty University. She
was a professor of entrepreneurship and law from 2004 to 2016. From 1996 to 2004,
White launched, owned and operated two small businesses. She holds bachelor's and
master's degrees in business administration from Franciscan University, a juris
doctor from Duquesne University School of Law and a doctorate of education from
West Virginia University.
Associate Professor, WVU College of Business & Economics
Kelly Nix is an associate professor and former community leadership specialist at West Virginia University Extension Service. In her previous role, she lead the statewide Community Leadership Academy and works with a wide variety of groups and organizations on topics such as strategic planning, facilitation, Real Colors Personality Profile, stress management, walkability and tourism.
Nix received the Team Program Excellence award from WVU Extension Service and Regional Team Excellence awards from the National Association for Community Development Extension Professionals in 2013 and 2014. In 2013, she received the Outstanding Faculty/Staff Resource Development Professional from WVU Extension Service and the West Virginia Farmers Market Association Individual Partnership Award.
Nix is a trained facilitator in The Effective Facilitator with Leadership Strategies, Inc., Success Principles with Jack Canfield and in Real Colors with the National Curriculum and Training Institute, Inc.
Dean and Director - WVU Extension Service
Helping bring University research and resources to the people of West Virginia is something that West Virginia University Extension Service’s Dean and Director Steve Bonanno knows well.
Before taking on the task of leading WVU Extension’s 450 faculty and staff members across the state, Bonanno served as the director of the Community, Economic and Workforce Development unit.
After earning his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in agriculture education, Bonanno began his life-long career with the organization as the Pleasants County WVU Extension agent. The New York-native found a place for himself creating and implementing programming in community development, 4-H, health and nutrition, and agriculture for West Virginians in that county and region.
While there, Bonanno also spent 14 years as director and deputy director of Pleasants County’s Emergency Services. That background helps him lead programming and develop resources for WVU Extension projects – like the West Virginia State Fire Academy and Junior Firefighter Camp.
In his current role as the leader of WVU Extension Service, Bonanno serves on the WVU Deans’ Council and represents WVU Extension on the Economic Opportunity and Policy Development roundtable for the University’s 2020 Strategic Plan.
“Every day, I am so impressed with the work of WVU Extension agents, specialists and staff as they serve West Virginians,” said Bonanno. “I’m passionate about our mission to improve the lives of citizens in our state and have been fortunate to be able to see our work in action, making a difference.”
Entering her 23rd season as the only coach in Mountaineer women’s soccer history,
Nikki Izzo-Brown has built a one-time infant program into one of the nation’s elite
In 22 seasons, Izzo-Brown has coached 19 players who went on to play professionally,
23 All-Americans, 22 Academic All-Americans, 21 conference players of the year,
15 Missouri Athletic Club Hermann Trophy candidates and the 2016 Hermann Trophy
award winner, the 2016 ESPNW National Player of the Year, two Olympic Bronze Medalists
and FIFA Women’s World Cup participants and one FIFA Women’s World Cup Best Young
The Mountaineers enter the program’s 23rd season one year removed from the team’s
best-ever season in 2016, as the squad made its first NCAA College Cup appearance
and finished as the NCAA National Runner-Up. WVU has appeared in each of the last
18 NCAA tournaments, the country’s seventh longest streak. To date, Izzo-Brown
has led the Mountaineers to an impressive 325-106-49 overall record and a 134-42-21
conference mark that includes 10 regular-season titles and six tournament championships.
West Virginia has won at least one conference title in six of the last seasons,
including the 2016 Big 12 Conference regular-season and championship crowns. The
Mountaineers won the conference regular-season title in each of their first five
years as members of the Big 12, and the title sweep in 2016 was the third time
the squad earned both championships.
Women’s soccer won the school’s first Big 12 championship in 2012 and was the only
WVU program to win multiple Big East tournament titles. Izzo-Brown’s teams have
been a consistent force in the national rankings and reached new levels in 2016,
as the program earned its first national No. 1 ranking. WVU spent eight weeks ranked
No. 1 nationally and was never ranked lower than No. 7. Additionally, WVU has defeated
a top-10 opponent in 13 straight seasons.
In addition to the success she has enjoyed with the Mountaineers, Izzo-Brown has several years of experience with U.S. Women’s National Teams, including serving as an assistant at the teams’ 2012 training camps with the U.S. U-18, U-20 and U-23 squads. She also served as a scout for the 2017 U.S. U-20 squad. Izzo-Brown has never had a losing season as head coach and has led WVU to 18 straight 10-plus win seasons. Additionally, she has earned 13 combined conference and regional coach of the year awards since 2000.
In honor of all these accomplishments, Izzo-Brown is one of six members of the West Virginia Soccer Association Hall of Fame of Class of 2018.
Vice President for Strategic Initiatives - West Virginia University
As vice president for strategic initiatives at West Virginia University, Rob Alsop
is responsible for identifying, developing and managing sustainable resources and
initiatives that support academic, research and service excellence. He was appointed
to his current position in August 2017. His expanded responsibilities include financial,
budgeting, talent and culture, and facilities while still maintaining oversight
of corporate and government relations and continuing innovation and entrepreneurship
efforts. Alsop previously served as the WVU vice president for legal, government
and entrepreneurial engagement.
Alsop earned his political science degree from WVU in 1999 and law degree from the WVU College of Law in 2002. In addition to working in private practice for Bowles Rice LLP and Jackson Kelly, PLLC, Alsop has extensive state and federal government experience.
From November 2010 through May 2013, he was the chief of staff to West Virginia Governor
Earl Ray Tomblin, where he focused on a host of legislative initiatives, including
the Marcellus Shale regulatory structure, Other Post-Employment Benefits reform,
primary education reform and other economic development and budgetary matters.
From January 2005 through November 2007, Alsop served in a number of roles for
former Governor Joe Manchin, including deputy general counsel, general counsel
for the Department of Revenue and secretary of revenue. During his tenure with
former Governor Manchin, he was his designee as chairman of the Workers’ Compensation
Commission, working on privatizing that system. He also served as chief of staff
for Senator Carte Goodwin in Washington, D.C., and clerked for the Honorable Robert
King, circuit judge for the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, in Charleston, West
Virginia, and Richmond, Virginia.
Rochelle Goodwin serves as the senior associate vice president for academic and public
strategy at West Virginia University. Goodwin has a 20-year career in public service,
law and policy. After practicing law and directing the state’s pro bono legal program,
she spent nearly a decade leading the offices, policy work, economic development
efforts and constituent services for Senator Jay Rockefeller.
In her current role, she furthers those efforts of aligning policy, service and education. Goodwin works to support WVU’s land-grant mission through partnerships with academic and public leaders, community redevelopment and economic development.
Holly C. Kauffman has been president of West Virginia operations at FirstEnergy Corp. since October 2012. Kauffman served as vice president of operations at Jersey Central Power & Light Company since May 1, 2012. She oversaw the operations of JCP&L's transmission, distribution, dispatching, substation, engineering, forestry, meter reading and support services functions. She serves as director of extra high voltage projects for FirstEnergy and managed the engineering, construction and project management of transmission projects.
Norman A. Schwertfeger, MPA, is an Extension agent and associate professor who has worked in the Family and Community Development unit of WVU Extension Service for the past 13 years. Schwertfeger is vice chair of the West Virginia Community Development Hub board and past president of the County Commission Association of West Virginia. He takes an active role in identifying cutting edge community development programs and sharing them with communities around the state.
Executive Director - West Virginia Community Development Hub
A native of Charleston, West Virginia, Stephanie Tyree is the executive director
of the West Virginia Community Development Hub. With nearly 10 years of experience
in policy, community development and community organizing, she has dedicated her
career to advancing community-based, systematic solutions for rural, coal-impacted
communities in central Appalachia. Tyree has an undergraduate degree from the University
of Pittsburgh (2003), a law degree from NYU School of Law (2007) and is a 2016
Leasha Johnson was appointed to the position of executive director on January 1, 2015, following the retirement of Steve Kominar. She has been employed by the authority since 2004. Johnson is a 1988 graduate of West Virginia University where she earned a Bachelor of Science in business administration. Prior to joining the authority, she worked in the land management division of a large coal company for 13 years. She is a member of the Southern Economic Development Council, a member of the West Virginia Economic Development Council, chairs the WVU Mingo County Extension Service Advisory Committee and chairs the Mingo County Board of Education’s Local Education Advisory Council. She is a member of the Hatfield-McCoy Regional Recreation Authority board of directors, as well as the Williamson Health and Wellness Center. Johnson is also an ex-officio member of the Corridor G Regional Development Authority board of directors.
Born and raised in Welch, West Virginia, Jina Belcher was instilled with an entrepreneurial
spirit at a young age. After starting her own business at 16 years old, Belcher
was the first student to receive the McKelvey Foundation Entrepreneurial Scholarship
during their junior year of high school.
After graduating from Concord University in 2009 with a B.S. in recreation and tourism
management with an emphasis in event planning and promotions, Belcher returned
home to assist her family in expanding the only nonprofit food pantry in McDowell
County. While there, she served as trust systems administrator for seven years
at MCNB Bank and Trust Company.
In 2010, Belcher and her husband, JD, fueled their entrepreneurial drive by starting
their first of two multimedia production companies. As their businesses grew in
a declining economy, she followed the urge to leave the finance industry to fulfill
her gut and help her community develop to its fullest potential.
Coalfield Development’s mission and vision perfectly align with Belcher’s core values making it easy to jump on board the Coalfield team as the director of business development. She looks forward to bolstering the drive in central and southern West Virginia with new business and sustainable communities!
Lori McKinney is a co-founder and administrator of the RiffRaff Arts Collective,
and a performing and recording artist (vocals, drums, dance, spoken word). She
has been writing and recording music since 2000. Her previous years were spent
gaining a B.A. in music theatre from James Madison University, performing in scores
of productions there and performing professionally over the summers as a featured
singer/dancer at Paramount’s Carowinds in Charlotte, North Carolina and Dollywood
in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. She spent a semester her senior year in London, where
she discovered her alternative sensibilities and emerged as an independent, veering
from a life of auditions into a world of her own creation. She established LLyniuM
entertainment and dreamed of producing multimedia shows that would bring people
together and inspire change. McKinney searched for musical collaborators and hit
the jackpot when she found her soul mate, Robert. The two merged in a profound
way and have not stopped writing and recording since.
Choosing to plant roots in McKinney's hometown of Princeton, West Virginia, together they founded Culturefest World Music & Arts Festival and Option 22 in 2004, formed the RiffRaff Arts Collective in 2006 and All Together Arts Week in 2009. In 2012, she and Robert teamed with members of the community to create Princeton Renaissance Project, a multi-faceted downtown development effort. McKinney feels blessed to have merged with the rest of the members of the collective. They have found a mutual space in which to create, encourage and inspire one another and the community.
The couple, joined by Option 22, now tours the region inspiring and empowering other communities to transform their environment with their original multimedia production, Create Your State. McKinney lives and works at RiffRaff, doing what it takes to make the wheels of the business turn as she and the other artists conceive productions for the future.
Jennifer Wells is the youth development director and statewide school organizer with West Virginia Healthy Kids and Families Coalition and the Our Children Our Future campaign. As an organizer, Wells is recruiting and developing young leaders throughout West Virginia to build a sustainable young leader movement. The movement seeks to place young West Virginians in places of power and decision-making in the state’s future. Wells holds a Master of Social Work from West Virginia University with a concentration in community organizing and social administration. With over 10 years of social work experience, she has worked in child welfare, juvenile justice and Medicaid Disabled Waiver programming.
John Deskins serves as assistant dean for outreach and engagement, director of the Bureau of Business and Economic Research, and associate professor of economics in the College of Business and Economics at West Virginia University. He leads the bureau’s efforts to serve the state by providing rigorous economic analysis and macroeconomic forecasting to business leaders and policymakers across the state. He received his Ph.D. in economics from the University of Tennessee.
Matthew D. Wender currently serves as president of the Fayette County Commission
where he is serving his third elected term. He is retired from employment as an
investment manager where he was in charge of a $26 million portfolio for the West
Virginia Jobs Investment Trust, the state’s venture capital fund.
Prior to joining WVJIT, he was employed in a privately held venture capital firm. Wender’s earlier years included 21 years as a self-employed businessman in retail. He holds a B.S. in finance and an MBA from West Virginia University, as well as being a CPA. He is a current and founding board member of the New River Gorge Regional Development Authority, which serves Fayette, Nicholas, Raleigh and Summers counties. He also serves on the following boards: West Virginia Workforce Development Board, Central Appalachian Empowerment Zone, Upper Kanawha Valley Economic Development Authority and the New River Humane Society.
Wender is the father of two children and the proud grandfather of three grandchildren.
L. Christopher Plein, Ph.D., is an Eberly Professor of Outstanding Public Service at West Virginia University. Plein’s area of specialty is public policy formation and implementation. Recently, his research has concentrated on the study of social programs with a special emphasis on the effects of welfare reform and state health policy.
Plein’s research has reached national audiences through numerous publications and presentations. He also studies public administration and policy in West Virginia.
Sean O’Leary is a senior policy analyst with the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy. Since joining the center in 2010, Sean has authored numerous reports on working family issues, economic development, and state and federal budget and tax policy, including annual reports on the state budget and the State of Working West Virginia. In 2011, O'Leary co-authored “The Importance of Federal Earmarks to State Coffers” that appeared in the Journal of Public Budgeting, Accounting and Financial Management. He also collaborates with West Virginia Kids Count for the annual West Virginia Kids Count Data Book.
O'Leary holds a B.A. in political science and economics and a Master of Public Administration from West Virginia University.
Health and Economic Policy Analyst - West Virginians for Affordable Health Care
Director - West Virginia Together for Medicaid
Kat Stoll serves as the health policy analyst for the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy, and she is director of the West Virginia Together for Medicaid campaign, a project of West Virginians for Affordable Health Care. Stoll also is the principal of Kat Consulting, providing health policy and economic analysis to diverse state and national clients.
Prior to “retiring” to West Virginia four years ago, Stoll served as the deputy executive
director of Washington, D.C.-based Families USA for 15 years, bringing the voices
of consumers to health care policy debates.
Elaine Bowen has thirty-nine years of experience as an Extension educator at county and state levels, with a primary focus on health education. She currently serves as WVU Extension Specialist-Health Promotion and Director of Outreach with the WVU National Center of Excellence in Women’s Health. Major programs and research interests include women’s wellness, heart health, and the 4-H Health Initiative. Her academic background includes a B.S. in Home Economics Education and Extension from Virginia Tech, a M.S. in Family Resources from West Virginia University, and a doctorate in Educational Leadership from West Virginia University. She maintains certification as a licensed dietitian in West Virginia and family and consumer science professional.
Associate Professor, Extension Specialist - WVU Extension Service
Daniel Eades is an Extension specialist in rural economics for West Virginia University Extension’s Family and Community Development unit. His technical expertise in community data analysis and economic impact analysis provides communities and local leaders with information necessary to make informed economic development decisions.
Previously, Eades worked as a research associate in Clemson University’s EDA University Center and Regional Economic Development Research Laboratory. His research and outreach interests include regional and community economic development, economic impact analysis and local/regional agriculture initiatives.
Denis Scott is& a civic engagement and global education specialist at WVU Extension Service. His first job in Hawaii taught him how interconnected people around the world can be. In his role with WVU Extension, Scott proves that you don’t need to live in an urban area or leave West Virginia to experience culture and diversity. He works with the global education team with “in-reach” efforts in communities across the state.
Pat Smyth has a background in journalism and event planning. She has a passion for food and an appreciation for local restaurants that strive to be unique.
Susan Riddle is the executive director of the Greater Morgantown Convention and Visitors
Bureau, representing all of Monongalia and Preston counties. She has been leading
the regions’ official tourism marketing agency and the source of visitor travel
information since August 2016.
A graduate of WVU, Riddle received her Bachelor of Science in corporate finance in 1985. Her career has involved everything from home health care administration, real estate property management, real estate development and financial services to hotel management. She is a certified trainer and business development coach. Her financial education and years of industry experience has prepared her well for her current role at the CVB.
She presently is a member of the West Virginia Association of CVBs, West Virginia Hospitality and Travel Association, and the Southeast Tourism Society. Riddle is also a very active member of her community. She presently serves on the Greater Morgantown Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors, Main Street Morgantown’s Board of Directors and Mylan Park’s Board of Directors. She is also the secretary and treasurer of the University High School Foundation and a trustee at Suncrest United Methodist Church.
Riddle and her husband of 31 years, Kelly, have raised three awesome adult children – Amanda, Tyler and Sarah, and the entire family are WVU alumni. Riddle is always more than willing to share what makes Morgantown and our Mountaineer region very special and why it is the place she has called home for more than 33 years.
With more than 25 years in the communications and marketing arena, Sharon Martin oversees executive communication, internal and external communication, strategic marketing and messaging, brand and creative development, trademark and licensing, and the Visitors Center. Martin has served on the boards of several professional associations including National Mortar Board, Association of Women in Communications, the American Marketing Association and the American Cancer Society.
William J. “Bill” Woodrum is the project coordinator for Robert C. Byrd Institute’s
Agricultural Innovations program. He has been in this position since April 2014.
Agricultural Innovations has a mission of introducing technology advances from
the manufacturing industry into agriculture and building a stronger food supply
system in the state of West Virginia. His work includes e-commerce and social media
promotion, technology development with entrepreneurs and building connected food
systems across the state.
Woodrum’s career has been dedicated to higher education extension and nonprofit fields.
He holds a Bachelor of Arts from Marshall University and received his Master of
Science in agriculture education from The Ohio State University. He has presented
seminars on best practices in management, leadership and volunteerism at the local,
state, national and international level.
Woodrum lives in Winfield, West Virginia, with his wife, Lori, and their son, Alex,
on farm land that has been in his family for nearly 200 years.
Dr. Thomas Bias was recently named director for the Health Research Center at WVU School of Public Health. His research interests are in public health policy, specifically how public policy can influence access to health care and how policy can reduce obesity and other chronic disease (with a focus on the built environment and transportation policy and other forms of regulatory action including environmental protection). He is especially interested in policy at the state and local level in rural Appalachian communities.
Katherine “Kat” Garvey began her career at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Region. She developed and audited environmental management systems for military and large agricultural operations. Garvey transitioned from federal to local government in 2006, when she worked for the city of Lee’s Summit, Missouri, as the environmental coordinator. She helped the city comply with permitting requirements for their airport and landfill.
Garvey now works with local governments, land trusts and other nonprofits to address legal questions related to land conservation in the Northeast.
Patrick Kirby has been the director of the Northern West Virginia Brownfields Assistance Center since 2006. Kirby developed the FOCUS WV grant program to assist communities overcome barriers to brownfield redevelopment. He co-chairs the West Virginia Brownfields Conference Planning Committee and sits on the Abandoned and Dilapidated Structure Steering Committee. Kirby also sits on the Engineers Society of Western Pennsylvania Conference Planning Committee and serves as an ex-officio member of numerous local brownfields task forces throughout West Virginia.
Community and Economic Development Extension Agent - West Virginia State University Extension in Partnership with the New River Gorge Regional Development Authority
Ray Moeller has a degree in computer science and spent over 28 years in the pharmaceutical
industry as a programmer, facilities coordinator, manager and ultimately global
contract manager for print and graphics. After separating from Pfizer as a result
of downsizing, Moeller moved from Michigan to West Virginia, spending three years
as an AmeriCorps VISTA and is now in the midst of his fourth year as an Extension
agent. He lives with his artist wife, Connie, in Summersville and works primarily
in Nicholas County and throughout the New River Gorge region.
Andrea McCardle is the Director of West Virginia University (WVU) Women's Business
Center (WBC) in Morgantown, West Virginia. As Director, she coordinates programming
which encourages nascent entrepreneurs to take their business to the next level.
Andrea also organizes trainings that provide emerging entrepreneurs with the skills
necessary to take their ideas to the next level and provides one-on-one coaching
for clients interested in services tailored to their exact needs. Cultivating strategic
partnerships with other organizations that support small businesses in an effort
to both gain financial support for the WBC and to secure additional training and
support for clients is a long term goal of the center Andrea is already working
hard to achieve. Additionally, she manages the miscellaneous, yet necessary, aspects
of daily operations of the WBC.
Prior to the establishment of the WVU WBC, Andrea served as the Assistant Manager
of the WVU student entrepreneurship center known as the LaunchLab. There, she assisted
students in developing their business ideas with guided research in regards to
potential customers and markets, facilitated product development, and provided
instruction for financial projections. She also has experience in teaching, having
served as an adjunct faculty member with the WVU Davis College of Agriculture,
Natural Resources, and Design. There, she taught courses in environmental regulation,
agribusiness law, and entrepreneurship. Prior to joining the academic world, Andrea
practiced law at a large, West Virginia based law firm. Her legal work focused
primarily on property rights related to extractive industries. Andrea also actively
participated in business development and marketing activities for the law firm.
Andrea McCardle earned both her undergraduate degree in Agribusiness Management and Rural Development and her Masters in Agriculture at the WVU Davis College, and went on to earn a Juris Doctorate from the WVU College of Law. Andrea pursued this diverse blend of education in part because of her early life growing up on a small farm. Now, in addition to her education and career experience, she and her husband also manage their own small agribusiness.
Michael Dougherty has been an Extension specialist with West Virginia University since 1995, working in the areas of local government technical assistance and community planning. At WVU, Dougherty has worked with local governments and community organizations in over 40 counties. Tasks include aiding in the comprehensive planning process, developing strategic plans for development, and providing advice and education on operational and administrative issues, ranging from setting up commissions to creating pay classification systems for employees to examining the efficiency, effectiveness and economy of various governmental operations.