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Women, Leadership and Innovation Conference brings together central Ohio leaders

April 18, 2017
Otterbein University

The June 7 conference will feature a panel, breakout sessions and a girls’ track.

Westerville, OH—The 2017 Women, Leadership, and Innovation Conference, presented by WELD and Otterbein University, will be held at Otterbein on Wednesday, June 7, and will feature an amazing agenda for career-minded individuals of all ages and backgrounds at this one-day national event. Leadership through Innovation, the theme for this year’s conference, ties two key elements necessary for career growth. The conference will include a Girls’ Track for tomorrow’s women innovators and leaders.

After a light breakfast, the day will kick-off with a keynote panel of speakers moderated by Dr. Kathy Krendl, Otterbein University’s first female president and will feature: Tara Abraham, chairman and co-CEO of Accel Inc.; Donna James, managing director of Lardon & Associates; Natasha Pongonis, co-owner of Nativa; Elaine Roberts, president and CEO of the Columbus Regional Airport Authority; and Brooke Yoakum, founder of GiftPocket andwinner of the Young Entrepreneur Academy.

A variety of breakout sessions will be offered throughout the day with topics ranging from presentation skills to career acceleration; emotional intelligence to generational disparities in the workplace; and social enterprise to personal stories shared by those who followed an unexpected path to achieve career success.

Lunch will be provided after the morning breakout sessions and after the two offerings of the afternoon sessions. The day will close with a networking reception to be hosted at The Point, Otterbein’s new STEAM Innovation Center.  

For the first time this year, the conference will feature “Full STEAM Ahead,” a girls’ track for grades 6-12. The young attendees will join the women in the morning for the keynote panel before breaking off to engage in an interactive STEAM-based leadership program. During the day, the girls will collaborate in teams on social innovation projects through hands-on, creative experiences in Otterbein’s robotics, engineering, 3D printing, art, and computer studios. At the end of a day’s work, they will have the opportunity to present their projects to conference participants at the inaugural Full Steam Ahead Showcase and Reception.

Registration begins at 8:30 a.m., the keynote at 9 a.m. and breakout sessions from 10:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. There will be an optional networking reception from 4:45-6:30 p.m. The early bird registration cost to attend starts at $150 for members and $175 for non-members by April 28, students (with pre-approval) will be admitted for $75, and the Girl Track is free. Registration at weldusa.org is open through May 26 and is required in advance due to a maximum capacity. Questions about the Girl Track should be directed to cce@otterbein.edu.

About the panelists:

Kathy Krendl, moderator, president of Otterbein University
Kathy A. Krendl, Ph.D., is the 20th president and the first woman to lead Otterbein University. During her tenure at Otterbein, the university has won national recognition for its distinctive undergraduate curriculum and its focus on experiential learning. Otterbein is consistently recognized on the President’s Honor Roll of community-engaged institutions. It also consistently ranks in the top tier of institutions for its commitment to a student-centered learning environment. Prior to joining Otterbein, Krendl served in key leadership positions at Ohio University including Executive Vice President and Provost as well as Dean of the Scripps College of Communication.  At Indiana University, she served as a faculty member, administrator, and Dean of IU’s state-wide School of Continuing Studies. Krendl has served on a number of central Ohio boards including the Osteopathic Heritage Foundation, YWCA Columbus, Ohio Campus Compact, and I Know I Can. She also co-chairs the Ohio Foundation for Independent Colleges Women’s Scholarship Initiative. Krendl currently teaches in the area of Women and Leadership and has established the Otterbein Women’s Leadership Network to develop regional partnerships promoting opportunities for women of all ages.  She also founded the Otterbein Women’s Leadership Advisory Council.  During her time at Otterbein, the institution has hosted WELD’s Annual Women and Leadership Conference as well as several Women’s Summits. In November 2016, she hosted the first 2020 Women on Boards National Conversation on Diversity at Otterbein for the Columbus and central Ohio community, which is part of a national effort to advocate for women serving on corporate boards. Krendl was awarded the Global Women’s Summit Leadership Award, Living Faith Award, Ohio’s Most Powerful and Influential Women Award, and Deloitte’s WISE Woman Award. In 2015, she was honored by WELD (Women for Economic and Leadership Development) as the first recipient of the Riveter Award.  More recently, in December 2016, President Krendl was honored as a finalist for the CEO of the Year (Large Nonprofit Category) by Columbus CEO magazine. 

Tara Abraham, chairman and co-CEO of Accel Inc.
As current chairman and co-CEO of Accel Inc., Tara Abraham leads a premier contract packager specializing in meeting the demanding standards of Fortune 500 clients in the personal care and beauty space. Prior to her 1995 founding of Accel, Abraham was a merchant at Bath & Body Works; she later moved to Bristol Myers Squibb where she was product development manager for Biolage Haircare. She has overseen 20 years of Accel’s growth from a 1,200 square foot walk-in and a handful of staff to its current 517,000 square foot home in New Albany with peak seasonal employment of 1,000+.  Accel’s client list includes Bath & Body Works, Victoria’s Secret, Ascena, Berkshire Hathaway, Cardinal Health, Honeywell, and a large baby formula and nutrition company. Abraham co-owns LGS Preferred, LLC, a temporary staffing agency founded in 2012. LGS Preferred has grown to include a database of 4,500 associates focused on beauty care and other light manufacturing. Abraham serves on the board of directors of People’s Bancorp Inc. (Nasdaq PEBO) and is assigned to the Audit, Risk, Trust and Foundation Committees. Abraham is active in the central Ohio community as a past or present board member of American Heart Association, United Way of Central Ohio, Ohio Health’s Kobacker Hospice, Ohio State University College of Education/Human Ecology Retail and Fashion Studies Advisory (past chair), New Albany Chamber of Commerce (chair emeritus). Abraham is a long term, dedicated supporter of the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC), serving on its board and as chair of the Leadership Forum. She represented WBENC on the National Women’s Business Council from 2011-2014 representing women’s organizations to the President and Congress. Abraham holds a bachelor’s degree in fashion merchandising with an emphasis in marketing from The Ohio State University. She has received continuing education at Kellogg’s School of Management, Harvard, and The Ohio State University. 

Donna James, managing director of Lardon & Associates
Donna James is managing director of Lardon & Associates, LLC. In October 2010, James was named by President Obama as chairwoman of the national Women’s Business Council, a non-partisan advisory council to the President, Congress, and the Small Business Administration, a position she held until June 2013.  She is a trusted resource and advisor for business leaders in the public and private sectors, ranging from entrepreneurs to C-suite executives of Fortune 500 companies. She has more than 30 years of diverse management and leadership experience. James is the managing director of Lardon & Associates, LLC, where her areas of focus include corporate governance, business development, strategy, human capital management, financial and risk management, and leadership development. Prior to starting her own business, James was president of Nationwide Strategic Investments, a division of Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company. She led a new business innovation team and a venture capital fund with responsibility for discovering, analyzing, and commercializing opportunities in financial services. James also has served as the executive vice president and chief administrative officer for Nationwide Mutual and its public company subsidiary, Nationwide Financial. She is the founder and board chair of the Center for Healthy Families, a non-profit focused on transforming the lives of pregnant and parenting teens and their children. James serves on the board of directors for L Brands, Time Warner Cable, Marathon Petroleum Corporation and Boston Scientific.  She is also on the board of FIS Group, a private investment management firm. She is a past board member of Coca-Cola Enterprises, Inc., Intimate Brands and CNO Financial Group.

Natasha Pongonis, co-owner of Nativa
Natasha Pongonis is a social media and business communication expert with extensive international marketing experience. Being fluent in four languages – English, Spanish, French and Italian – enables her to reach and connect with a diverse digital audience across the globe. A native of Argentina, she has worked with companies in Europe, North and South America developing a strong sense of understanding companies’ needs. Her most recent endeavor includes the design, creation and implementation of Nativa’s Online Listening software prototype, OYE! Nativa is a multicultural communications agency that focuses on the Hispanic market through digital communications, online advertising and culturally relevant content creation. Founded in 2008, Nativa brings measurable, effective digital work to large national clients including: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Charmin Toilet Paper, Fox Broadcasting, Henkel (Dial Soap, Tone Skincare, Got2b, Schwarzkopf), Arizona State University, and many more. The Nativa corporate headquarters is located in the heart of downtown Columbus. Nativa expanded to Phoenix in 2011 to offer their services in this burgeoning market from their office near downtown Phoenix.

Elaine Roberts, president and CEO of the Columbus Regional Airport Authority
Elaine Roberts is president and CEO of the Columbus Regional Airport Authority (CRAA), which operates John Glenn International, Rickenbacker International and Bolton Field airports. She assumed the position in 2003. Prior to that, Elaine served as executive director of the Columbus Airport Authority, CRAA’s predecessor, and served for six years as executive director of the Rhode Island Airport Corporation, which operates T. F. Green (Providence) Airport and five other state-owned airports. Roberts began her airport management career with the Indianapolis Airport Authority in 1983 where she served for 12 years. Roberts is an Accredited Airport Executive (A.A.E.) and has served in a number of official and organizational capacities within the American Association of Airport Executives. She is past chair of the AAAE-National Board and serves on the Policy Review Committee and the board of the International Association of Airport Executives. She holds a bachelor’s degree in English and sociology from Western Kentucky University, a master’s degree in community development and urban planning from the University of Louisville, and a law degree from Indiana University School of Law in Indianapolis. Roberts is very involved in community initiatives, currently serving on the boards of the Columbus Partnership, Experience Columbus, State Auto Financial Corporation, Columbus Region Logistics Council and Otterbein Women’s Leadership Network Advisory Council. She is also very well known and respected in the aviation industry, currently serving on AAAE’s Policy Review Committee to the board of directors and board member for International Association of Airport Executives.

Brooke Yoakum, founder of GiftPocket and winner of the Young Entrepreneur Academy
Brooke Yoakam is an Upper Arlington High school freshman, actively involved in both student council and the soccer team. As the child of two small business owners, Yoakam was instilled with an entrepreneurial spirit from a young age. She has always had drive, vision and the tenacity to succeed. Yoakam is the CEO of GiftPocket, a mobile app designed to help teens easily store and manage all of their gift cards. She developed the GiftPocket concept when she was 12 years old while attending the Young Entrepreneurs Academy program at Otterbein University. After winning funding for the “best business idea” at the Young Entrepreneurs Academy, she started to develop the app. After finalizing her business plan, she participated in the Concept Academy at Rev 1 Ventures to help turn her app idea into a reality. Yoakam has built an experienced team to work on the implementation of GiftPocket and hopes for a spring launch. Learn more at https://giftpocket.com/ and check out her TedXColumbus talk on the Challenges of Being a Teen Entrepreneur at https://youtu.be/G1BnZkWvKlY.

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