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WOMEN OF DISTINCTION Tia Van Fossen Pest Control and Consulting President Owner Mindful Pest Solutions Victoria Leigh Gabriella Writing Self-Published Author Xlibris Publishing Company http victoriagabriella vickeygarner Tia Van Fossen Pest Control and Consulting President Owner Mindful Pest Solutions Myrtle Beach SC T he days of hiring an exterminator to spray a mist of toxic chemicals to control pest are fading away. As more and more homeowners are becoming aware of the dangers that synthetic pesticides can pose to their families pets and the environment alternatives to such products that are chemical-free as well as highly effective are on the rise. Tia Van Fossen president and owner of Mindful Pest Solutions is on the forefront the eco-friendly pest control movement. With a Master Degree in Environmental Science Tia founded the Myrtle Beach-based company in May. Its launch is the accumulation of Tia s professional background and passion for providing safe and effective pest control solutions. No stranger to forging her own path Tia s career in the pest control business happened by chance. In October 2009 Tia s father informed her that he would be closing his business Nobody Pest Control after 40 years of service. Tia did not hesitate she immediately scheduled her license exam and starting working that December. I had to convince those same clients that green pest control not only worked but it was the direction the EPA was taking the pest control industry. I had to change the way people thought about pest control and what a proper application looks like. More is not better and sometimes the customer is not always right. I took it a challenge to change their mindset. I set goals and attended classes to make sure I had all the information and research to back it up. I didn t just go in and say green is good and poison is bad. I approached it as someone whom truly cared about the well-being of their family. It was personal for me. After running Nobody Pest Control for several years Tia found the opportunity to branch out with other side projects. She was approached to assist another company offering steam sterilization and targeted steam to control bed bugs. Having built a reputation as the go to person to get rid of bed bugs in the area Tia was asked to consider consulting for a company called Mister Vaporizer in January 2015. Under the deal Tia became a 25% owner of Mister Vaporizer. In the spring of 2016 Tia decided the time was right to pursue her longtime dream of opening her own green pest control company. She sold her shares in Mister Vaporizer and opened Mindful Pest Solutions shortly after. In a few short months Tia has seen exponential growth in her business. Through social media and word of mouth recommendations Mindful Pest Solutions is quickly amassing a loyal client base. It was a lot of hard work. Going through it there were times that I was questioning whether or not I could make this business work. But now that it is happening it is so encouraging not only for me personally but also to see the industry moving in an eco-friendly direction. Tia wants to encourage women to get involved in the pest control industry. She understands that the field is still very male dominant and women will face some discrimination. Don t let it be discrimination to you. Don t let them tell you that you can t do it. You can There are not many of us but we are out there. I meet them all the time and we all have different stories to tell about how we got where we are. Some are very involved like me and some are not. Take a big dose of big girl vitamins in the morning and don t lose sight of your goals. Go to class and be hands on. It s all mind over matter. In fact Tia s greatest inspiration comes from every single person who said that she couldn t succeed in the male dominate field of pest control. I thought for sure one of my brothers would jump on taking the family business. But when they didn t I knew I had to step in. I immediately saw the opportunity to take my dad s company into the future of pest control. Although Tia had worked with her father on and off for 10 years she found it difficult to convince her father s customers of 15 to 30 years that she could fill his shoes. At first she was not prepared for the onslaught of questions such as Where is your brother or father Or When are the guys coming back Tia s particular favorite was a customer s reaction of You re a girl You shouldn t be spraying hire a guy. Finally one day I had enough and said I m sorry that my dad can t make it but I m just as good as he is. It was like crickets for a few minutes but slowly they started to accept me. After gaining control of the business and earning favor amongst her father s most loyal clients Tia decided to bring Nobody Pest Control into the Green Age of environmentally friendly EPA approved guidelines for pest control. Change in the industry keeps Tia s interest and drive going on a daily basis. They inspire me to prove them wrong. I don t give up. I get up and I let myself go through the emotions and I put on my poker face. I know that I can and I stand up stronger and braver. I am fearless when I go toe to toe. One of the biggest challenges Tia has faced was ironically arachnophobia. She knew that in order to be able to continue in the industry she would need to confront her fear of spiders. Perhaps most of all Tia wants to serve as an inspiration for entrepreneurs in general. As such she is a member of several professional organizations including the National Association of Professional Women the National Pest Management Association and the Women s Small Business Association -- among others. America she believes was built on the backs of entrepreneurs and that more individuals should take the plunge and follow their dreams. The first time in the field I ran into a spider web I wanted to scream and run. I had to tell myself I was ok. It was an internal pep talk I gave to myself. I had to do it to be in this field. I somehow managed to break the fear cycle. Now when it happened I don t think anything about it. When my employees can t identify an insect they place specimens in containers on my desk. We have a running joke about flowers being nice every once in a while instead of bugs. Now a successful business owner of her own merit Tia reflects on the misconception about running a family business. She knows that it is not handed over on a silver platter but it is rather an opportunity. When she first started at Nobody Pest Control Tia had to work three jobs within the company just to make ends meet. Paying it forward Tia is on a mission to help low-income families with bed bugs. She has installed payment plans so that the families can afford to irradiate the pests from their homes instead of continuing to live with them. Tia wants to inspire industry leaders to step up to help low-income families. She would also like to see more education about bed bugs in particular. I want to be known not because I am a woman but because I was the best. I want to make a difference for someone. The greatest lesson Tia has learned up to this point is to put family first. A single mother of two wonderful children she realized early on that as a business owner she was going to have to put in long hours. The best thing to do from her perspective is to leave work at work enjoy the family at home and dedicate the time to them that they deserve. In fact much of Tia s free time is spent with her children. Her ten-year-old daughter is in public school but her seven-year-old son has special needs that cannot be met by the public school system. Therefore Tia commits her time to homeschooling her son. However at night when her children go to bed Tia works on her studies and is in the process of earning her Ph.D. I would like to see a legacy for my kids. I would like to know that they will not struggle. Struggling does build character though so they will have to work for what they have. 5 Women of Distinction Q&A Q What are the dangers associated with traditional pest control chemicals A There are many ways chemicals or pesticides can be dangerous. The EPA often labels the active ingredient as a danger to the user. Different active ingredients can be exposed in different ways. By touch inhalation oral and long term exposure over time can all play roles in how a chemical becomes a danger to us. Not to get too nerdy but chemicals build up in our systems much like we see with antibiotics and medications -- Bioaccumulation. Depending on how it metabolizes in our systems and how our body is able or if it s able to rid itself of it affects how it affects us. Some are labeled as neurotoxins while others maybe carcinogenic. Many times we see the dangers when they are used or sprayed in ways that are unintended. As for the average family most won t know or understand the risk associated. Many people do not even know what chemical is being sprayed in their homes. Education is of the highest importance. Q What types of eco-friendly pest control services do you offer A I offer everything from essential oil based chemicals to biopesticides. All of the chemicals I use are either safe enough to not require registration with the EPA because of its safety rating or is minimal risk. I use a technique the industry calls IPM or integrated pest management. This is an active role that I play in assisting clients to identify and repair issues that are contributing to pest issues. For instance a gap under a door that allows bugs to slide in would be a recommended repair in order to minimize pesticides and still create a pest free environment. Q How effective are toxin-free pest control methods A They work better in my opinion because insects cannot build a resistance to them. These are natural remedies. Whether it s a repellant or it actually kills the insect they can t build immunity to something that their bodies are naturally prone to. Q Is there anything I need to do to my home prior to pest control treatment A The more items that are off the floor and out of my way allows me to do my job more efficiently. I can get to the areas most likely to be factors in pest control and more easily see issues that maybe contributing. Q Is treatment with eco-friendly products more expensive than with traditional ones A As far as cost goes no. There is more time spent with my clients because I ask questions and inspect. I do not charge more for these services. Having a solid relationship with your client often will assist you in determining things they may not be as forthcoming with if there wasn t a relationship put in place. I need my clients to talk to me to understand how to help them. Q Do eco-friendly applications need to be more frequent than traditional A In homes no. They hold up just as well in most cases. Outside they are more prone to being weakened by the environment such as excessive rain or sun. Placement is important when applying eco-friendly chemicals and solutions so that they hold up the best and are put in an area where they will come in contact with the insect trying to be controlled. Q Eco-friendly applications seem to be the latest trend in pest control. How has the industry changed during your career A When I first started I had to convince people. I felt like I was debating the issue often with people very set in their ways. I hear things like if it doesn t smell it doesn t work or you only say that because you re an environmentalist That s actually not the case at all. I originally even had to convince my father that it worked just as well. I am still not sure if he is totally convinced 100% of the time but we work it out. I really have fought hard in this industry to show that yes it does work. This was on top of being one of the only females in the area working in the field. I still might be a little ahead of the game when it comes to going all green but it s coming. People are changing the EPA is seeking safer methods the industry is following suit. Most still don t really know what to think of the pink lettering on my truck or a girl wearing pink coming to their door to kill the roaches but just to be fair I make my father wear pink too when he is helping out. I think it softens the idea that pest control has to be a gross thing. I cater more to younger people mothers fathers pet owners it seems. I do have a strong amount of older clients looking for alternatives now too so it s getting exciting. It is great to see my crazy idea come to light. 6 Women of Distinction Kirstie McPherson Public Relations Business Development Chief Executive Officer Edeveco Butte MT 7 Women of Distinction K irstie McPherson has had the mindset of an entrepreneur pretty much her entire life. By the time she was in high school she had already started her first company Sage County Jewelry. She created original pieces contacted local boutiques to get her jewelry sold in stores and managed the essential business functions all by herself. Moving to Montana from Colorado soon after Kirstie pursued a degree in engineering only to discover one semester in that it wasn t for her. Transitioning into the school s business department she felt much more comfortable in her skin. Spending time working for an economic development agency while in college she learned a lot about communication concepts web development administrative work and some of the important aspects of economic and business development. She then worked as a public relations specialist for a startup business while in her senior year. That was when everything began to fall into place. Kirstie has since earned her Bachelor of Science in Business Science and Information Technology Options in Management and Marketing. In 2015 she graduated from Montana Tech of The University of Montana. Just this spring Kirstie started Edeveco in Butte Montana a firm that specializes in public relations business development community development and publicity. Combining efforts in public relations to launch businesses into more productive impactful noticeable organizations Kirstie hopes to make other businesses just as successful as she plans Edeveco will become. I want to help others succeed in their passions ambitions and goals using my unique approach to business Kirstie added about the relationships she is forming with businesses and startups. Working with clients Edeveco begins each new project with a three-step approach in order to uncover exactly what each company needs to successfully meet their desired business goals and objectives 1) evaluate and assess 2) implement and 3) grow. It s that simple. Kirstie s team is focused on driving results. They are honest experienced focus on what is best for each individual company and serve as a better alternative to hiring internal employees simply because they are experts in what they do. Focusing on developing start-up and established companies Edeveco is unique in that they work with each client and their company as part of their team. Edeveco s team focuses on developing the company business and individual brands with a strategic and tactical approach to public relations. They work to get the company noticed taking their efforts in public relations branding and marketing to new and exciting levels to affectively grow each company. Public relations is a big factor in growing the company. To get noticed by networks clients and the media Edeveco begins by doing a communications audit to permeate themselves into each client s business and become a part of that team. Then they rework their approaches and techniques to attain the best results possible. Edevco offers two main services depending on the client s development stage 1) Startups Fractional PR program that helps startup programs get noticed by investors key market players and consumer markets. This service is a low monthly fee so that the entrepreneurs can work on building their company while Edeveco works on telling their story. 2) Developmental Public Relations Edeveco takes established and recognized companies and takes them to the next level by creating a larger company image and transforming them into something bigger such as a franchise or a nationally recognized brand. When it comes to startups and holdings Edeveco plans to buy start-up companies and house them under their own company within the next few years. A development team will be building and growing the start-up company alongside each original entrepreneur. Once the term of each agreement is met the original entrepreneur will choose to either re-buy the company or walk away and start a new venture. If they choose to leave the company will be moved to the holdings company side of Edeveco. Building Edeveco to be a creative new approach to grow and house start-up companies making them more ready and prepared to enter into the industry on their own is something Kirstie believes to be both ambitious and innovative. These companies will become nurtured developed and established companies all under the umbrella of Edeveco. The skies the limit. I love people. I like the passion that people show in what they are doing and I like helping those people reach their goals for the benefit of the company they are building Kirstie said about what inspires her to work in her field. I also enjoy the creativity my job and company brings. Solving problems finding the gaps and building bigger stronger more successful companies and entrepreneurs is a huge factor in what I do I love every minute of it. Building stronger lasting relationships and networks that work together to build stronger companies and individuals is a fantastic feeling. As her firm s CEO Kirstie must constantly sell her business and future concepts of what Edeveco will be doing in years to come. Constantly making efforts to build reputable networks that will work to ensure Edeveco s success she also juggles being a boss to those beneath her a relationship that is based on give and take and a whole lot of trust. But the reason why Edeveco stands tall is for the simple reason that Kirstie wants to be able to foster and house a unique and innovative way to create and build companies and she can only do that by fostering great relationships with clients. 8 Women of Distinction Edeveco also plans to take on a community development pilot program in 2016. They plan to work with the entire community and the major leaders to house and develop new programs for marketing revitalization and industry. With partnerships between cities counties local government agencies and businesses Edeveco will house 7-10 student interns within the local high school and colleges nearby where they will have the opportunity to create their own development firm and create new plans to help their community grow and expand. Edeveco will be providing new resources and options so that local students can become engrossed in the industry and help create some amazing experiences for their future. The program will work with communities under the population of 20 000 and remain in each community for approximately one to two years. Kirstie has set her sights high for the future of Edeveco and she is just getting started. Overcoming many hurdles already she still has a long road ahead of her. As a business owner she has grown some thick skin too. Working in PR means facing some tough ridicule. She has also faced rejection but that is sales and owning a business is all about selling yourself and your product. She s even faced discrimination as a young professional woman but that hasn t stopped her either. Sometimes people look at me like I don t belong in the room especially since most meetings I attend are occupied by men who have been working for decades Kirstie said very matter of fact. You can t simply walk into a room and expect everyone to fall all over themselves about how great your ideas are. Sometimes you have to fight and sometimes you have to just work incredible hard. Eventually with time people will listen to what you have to say and I m okay with that for now. 9 Women of Distinction Q&A Q How do you lead your company as the CEO A Being a leader is different than any other job you ll ever have. You can t read 100 books that tell you how to do it it helps but defining your own leadership style is where it s at. You must be able to step back and give power to the people in your organization. My personal approach and what many leaders do is to challenge my people to do the best they can I don t run ahead of them and yell follow me but run alongside them to work as a team. Q How did you start your own company How did you get the courage A Simple I dove in. It s terrifying and very overwhelming. Find the people to advice you help you and support you. Q How can you start in public relations A Know the trends how to work the media and how to get into networks. Public relations has changed over the last several decades it s a completely different animal now strategize on where you want to go how you want to get noticed and get to work. Q What if I m too young to start a business because I don t have enough experience A I held four jobs at once in college. Get experience anyway you can. If you are given an opportunity you re not sure you re ready for take it and figure out how to do it. Q What are the biggest points on Public Relations that I focus on A I get people noticed I find the best events that they should be at who they should talk to and how they should present themselves. I focus on developing personal and company brands developing new programs for companies to launch for a bigger presence and I look at social media and how to modernize their presence online and in the public eye. Q What is the number one thing you help clients with A Branding. Companies and individuals (especially startups) don t effectively brand themselves for their market and that s where my company comes in. Q Why are you the way you are What has made you this way A At the age of five my mother was taking me to board meetings I think that was the reason why I have always wanted to be in the board room and running the meetings. Not to mention they always had cinnamon rolls and orange juice. Q How do you price for your services A Pricing has always been the most difficult thing to determine. I price my clients based on the services they need. I essentially interview them several times before adjusting the prices to fit the needs of the company. Every company and client is different and because of that every services contract is also different. Q How do you handle client services that you don t specialize in A This day and age it s all about working with other companies. If I can t do something I guarantee you I know the person who can. Networking it s how you get everything done. Q How do you expand into new markets to grow your company A Research. Look at where you are currently sitting and find places like that then you have to build up your client base and networks. 10 Women of Distinction Christie Jordan MBA CCE Banking Financial Institution Credit Union Chief Financial Officer - Clark County Credit Union 11 Las Vegas NV Women of Distinction s Chief Financial Officer (CFO) of Clark County Credit Union in Las Vegas Nevada Christie Jordan is responsible for high-risk functions and departments such as Accounting Security Information Technology (IT) Collections Audit and Compliance. A We provide assistance education and charitable giving to young adults in need of leadership mentoring and guidance. We also assist in helping credit unions around the world become self-sustaining entities. She was recently published in Credit Union Management Magazine (CUES) where she wrote about why she s become a leader and reaffirmed that she s doing something that s a core part of who she is. These departments provide support for the sales units but more so provide balance and stability to the organization. My work groups constantly monitor the practices and results of the business to keep everyone safe from multiple risk categories. Christie was originally in school to become a certified medical assistant until she found out she was pregnant with her second child in 1994 and realized she needed a better job immediately while continuing her education. An acquaintance offered me a position in his accounting department and I excelled at it I truly love what I do. Numbers are black and white but the interpretation of numbers deals with gray areas sometimes. Diving into the details forecasting and budgeting as well as finding the patterns and analytics in business finance are rewarding to me. However being a woman and single mom presented challenges to Christie s career advancement. Continuing my education has not only contributed to my success but it s also benefited those around me. I was the first in my immediate family to receive a bachelor s and master s degree. Education is important and reaching for the sky is not only okay it s commendable We literally can be whatever we want to be if we put enough effort into it. We should do what makes us happy not what others think we should do. It s okay to be different from those around you. You can read the full article here http article view id Why-We-Lead For those starting out in accounting (or any industry) Christie advises that you should learn everything you can from everyone you can. Knowledge isn t power the ability to learn something new is power. And the ability to continually learn new things is the core of vitality in any industry. Christie is a positive thinker who s always looking to improve herself and set a positive example for her children loved ones peers and staff. And that begins by creating more positive experiences. Did you know that for every two negative words there s only one positive word That 2 1 ratio can be attributed to life and professional experiences. My biggest inspiration is the possibility of changing that ratio. I want to create two positive experiences for every one negative experience. She believes that she is no different than anyone else. Whether we speak out about it or not there are still gender roles in play. They can be difficult to overcome especially when they are unspoken. I m in an industry that s typically male-dominated in leadership roles. So being who I am (literally) has created difficulty in succeeding. The difference in my case is that I don t give up very easily. That determination paid off as Christie is now a leader in her industry as CFO of the Clark County Credit Union and Treasurer for the Southern Nevada Chapter of the California Nevada Credit Union League. Our mission is to provide education and advocacy for credit union staff management and members. Christie is also a member of the Global Women s Leadership Network specifically part of the Sister Society of Southern Nevada. I don t find myself or my accomplishments extraordinary. I just had an idea of what I wanted my life and children s life to be like and I made it happen. 12 Women of Distinction Q&A Q What is the difference between a bank and a credit union A At Clark County Credit Union we refer to ourselves as The Bank You Own . Credit unions are nonprofit financial cooperatives whose earnings are paid back to members in the form of higher savings rates lower loan rates and in our case cash directly back into their accounts. Banks are for-profit corporations with declared earnings paid to stockholders only. Q What do you believe makes your credit union great A We are fortunate to have great staff which is the core of any member service business. Since our members are literally our owners we take the utmost pleasure and care in helping them with their financial needs. A lot of times we help them with needs they didn t know they had There is nothing better than people becoming financially responsible. Q What is the most rewarding part of being a Chief Financial Officer A Without a doubt it s being able to help shape the lives of others. I ve been able to help people understand financial statements and create budgets. I ve also been able to take complex forms and documents and make them user-friendly so that people aren t intimidated by information but become curious and want to know more. I get to make numbers fun and have people get excited about what they can do to better their own financial health. 13 Women of Distinction Janice Friesen Education Social Work Licensed Clinical Social Worker Bay Valley Medical Group Stanford Healthcare 14 Castro Valley CA Women of Distinction E ntering into college as a drama major Janice Friesen ultimately made the decision to go in a different direction after just one year of study in the field. Transferring in her junior year to the University of California at Berkeley Janice pursued and completed her Bachelor of Arts Degree in Psychology in 1958. After five years of working in the real world she made the decision to pursue her Master s in Social Work obtaining her MSW in 1965. Still working in social work nearly 50 years later it is a field that Janice absolutely loves and something that she believes is a very important service to be able to offer others who so desperately need it. Janice began her part- time private practice when her daughter was about nine-months-old allowing her to remain a full-time mother and still work. Part-time hours sharing parenting hours with her husband and with an older retired woman who came into the home allowed her to be able to raise her young daughter and then her son who followed two-and-a-half years later. Part-time work also allowed her to do the many things she valued with both her children and the schools. Janice earned her lifetime California Pupil Personnel Services Credential in 1965 became a licensed clinical social worker in 1973 a diplomat in clinical social work with the NASW Academy of Certified Social Workers in 1987 certified with National Board of Examiners in Clinical Social Work in 1987 and certified through American Board of Examiners in Clinical Social Work in 1988. She served as an elected school board trustee from 1989-2014 with Castro Valley Unified School District supervised master s degree level social work interns from the University of California Berkeley from 1990-2005 and supervised master s degree level interns from California State University Hayward from 2003-2007. She has also remained an active member of the National Association of Social Workers and the California Association of Clinical Social Workers. During the course of Janice s time spent serving on the school board she was also elected to the delegate assembly for the California School Boards Association serving for for 10 years. She also served as Director of Region 7 (Alameda and Contra Costa Counties) for four years. All of her involvement within the schools including her orientation and experience as a clinical social worker and school social worker certainly defined her contributions and abilities. While my husband was in the Army I worked for six months for a public agency that was not following federal and state laws Janice explained about her earlier years working in public welfare. I felt compelled to join with a few others as a whistle blower. This was before I even had heard the term whistle blower . We were successful but I had to leave my job. I then worked for one year as a teacher with a provisional credential but I wasn t very good at teaching. Those two experiences led to my commitment for lifelong honesty a return to public welfare and eventually to graduate school in social work. During this time while Janice was working in public welfare Janice was afforded the opportunity to collaborate with a wonderful school social worker concerning a specific family. It was this very experience that also led Janice to make the decision to return to graduate school and complete her work for a credential in school social work along with her Master of Social Work degree. During her second year as an intern during her graduate studies Janice chose to do her internship and be supervised by that same school social worker. Working in private practice as a Licensed Clinical Social Worker since 1970 Janice provides individual family and couples therapy counseling. After working directly with children and adolescents for 30 years she now limits her practice to adults only. Referrals come from various insurance managed care entities as well as from within Bay Valley Medical Group. When patients are referred from within the medical group they find it less difficult to begin. Sometimes therapy is scary for people but the coordination of care but the coordination of care is always easier because I am part of the same group practice as the physicians Janice noted. Education turned out to be a much larger part of my life than I could have ever imagined Janice added regarding her lifetime commitment to education. Three of my four grandparents were immigrants to this country. They left from different parts of Eastern Europe for a better life in the United States. They ended up in Southern California and I had the good fortune to grow up in a state where education mattered enough that tax payers would willingly pay for it. I will be forever grateful for what education has provided to me for it was my education that has allowed me whatever contributions I have been able to make to the thousands of children in CV schools during the years I have served and to the opportunity to know and work with everyone I have. 15 Women of Distinction Married to her wonderful husband John B Friesen for 57 years Janice and he live in Castro Valley CA. John now retired taught community college English for 15 years and served as a Dean of Humanities for 22 years. Their daughter Jennifer now resides in Los Angeles attended Castro Valley Unified Schools and California State University in Northridge is an independent supervising TV producer Emmy winner for the production of the Diabetes Prevention Project and sings with Jazz Fondue. Their son Kevin who also attended Castro Valley Unified Schools attended the University of Utah for one year and after transferring to San Jose State University graduated with a Bachelor of Art Degree in Social Work. He now lives in Union City California and is a paraeducator for the Fremont Unified School District working with special education students. Janice is still in private practice today. Seeing anywhere from 10 to 20 clients per week Janice balances her work schedule along with balance in her life. She takes at least five gym classes a week to stay healthy loves to do yardwork care for her dog and four pygmy goats attend live theater with her husband and plan future trips all without having to work around anyone s schedule but her own. Q&A Q Why did you get into social instead of psychology or marriage and family therapy A Social work is the field that takes into consideration all aspects of a person s life. It also has as part of its core mission to serve the underserved. Q What ages have you worked with and what were your favorite A I worked with all ages for many years. The medical group I work with includes pediatricians OB GYN and internal medicine. But about 10 years ago I decided to limit my practice to persons over 18. My favorite group of all is to work with parents of preschoolers. Young children have no real say in their lives. It is up to parents to understand them and adapt to the child s temperament and developmental needs. It is a primary prevention of later problems from my perspective. Q Why were you on the school board for so many years A I started out in graduate school wanting to do school social work but the passage of prop 13 in California really cut school budgets. Prop 13 rolled back property taxes significantly and requires that almost all local funding pass with a 2 3 vote of the electorate. Instead of local communities being able to fund their schools as they choose the state took over most school funding except for a few particularly high wealth districts. This eliminated most school social work positions. I discovered after I was elected to the school board that being on a policy setting board is a profoundly effective way to accomplish the goals of school social work helping hundreds of students at a time not just one at a time. Q Are you overwhelmed with people s sadness and problems A I am so in awe of individual capacity and the desire for growth and change. To be able to watch that process be a part of it and celebrate it is where I like to focus. Q What would you tell someone today who is considering a career in social work A Go to a good liberal arts university and major in child development or psychology. Volunteer for a non-profit and do some internships. After your 4-year degree get a job for one of those non-profits or in social services or some agency that serves poor people. You will know after a while if that is the career you want and then you can return for a more focused master s degree. I have had a wonderful life much better than I ever thought possible Janice admits. Growing up in California at a time when education was valued and accessible has made a huge difference for me and motivates me still to do all I can on behalf of public education. I chose to spend much of my time contributing to the quality of my community not to earning money. It is my belief that children are all that really matter they are our future and we need to take better care of them in every way possible with high quality pre-school through university many routes to get there and as much support as is needed so that every child has the tools to be successful. 16 Women of Distinction Jennifer F. Dobbs Charity Work Volunteer Pet Rescue and Re-Homing President Treasurer Adoption Coordinator PetMatchmaker Rescue South 17 Women of Distinction Memphis TN t the age of 81 Jennifer F. Dobbs is now in her fourth and probably final career. But this time it s different. What she does today is not defined in dollars but instead is measured in matters of the heart. As the President Treasurer and Adoption Coordinator for PetMatchmaker Rescue South a full-time volunteer position that she upholds in Memphis Tennessee she is fighting one by one to find homes for the hundreds of loving dogs that go homeless each year. Why dog rescue Jennifer asks simply because there s a tremendous need. All one has to do is hear the horrific statistics that 1.2 million dogs and 1.4 million cats are euthanized each year in the USA. Many shelters do little to find new homes for the animals that come to them. Most are only required by law to keep a dog that has been picked up as a stray for three days before euthanizing him or her and dogs that are owner surrendered don t even have that long. Beginning this voluntary position after visiting a local shelter and being shocked by the deplorable situation the dogs were living in when volunteering with another existing group at the time Jennifer took over as their leader when the current leader stepped down. Shortly after Jennifer met a woman by the name of Jill Tice while volunteering at the shelter and with a third woman Morgan Sokolow Gall they formed a rescue program together. They accomplished incredible odds together like driving through the night to transport large groups of dogs and puppies from Memphis Tennessee across the country to New England. Half Jennifer s age Jill and Morgan had twice the courage and ability as she but it never stopped Jennifer it only empowered her to want to do more. A Dedicated not only to the relatively adoptable dogs but older dogs and dogs who have become ill from disease like diabetes and mange and suffer hip and other conditions Jennifer does FundMe campaigns and other charitable events to help save every last one of them. Over the last year Jennifer and her team were able to place 76 dogs in loving homes. Every two months they donate medical services to someone that cannot afford to take their pet to a veterinarian for care they have helped dogs belonging to homeless and low income individuals with various necessities and the list goes on and on. Through donations and modest adoption fees of just 250 for puppies and 150 for adult dogs Jennifer s organization is able to get by financially in order to cover general expenses. Grateful for every donation especially from the Bad Boys Band of Canada without which PetMatchmaker Rescue would cease to exist. Jennifer hopes to encourage more people to join the ranks of dog rescuers. If more of those that train dogs for search and rescue the handicapped drug and bomb sniffing or medical detection would come forward and seek out the many available rescue dogs before breeding dogs specifically to be trained it would be a step in the right direction. If more prisons would use rescues for their inmate programs that would be another great leap forward. If more of the general public would simply adopt a shelter dog as opposed to getting a puppy from a breeder it would lessen the amount of shelter dogs by an astounding 60%. The money spent to euthanize dogs could easily be redirected to finding homes for these loving caring animals that too want to find their forever homes. It appears that we are in the cusp of a gentle revolution Jennifer said with love and hope in her heart. A revolution in which animals of all types will be recognized and appreciated for their extraordinary skills and abilities and for their humanlike emotions such as loyalty appreciation and guilt. No longer dumb creatures to be treated and disposed of as common property but creatures to be appreciated respected and loved. Jennifer spend much of her working years as a Montessori Teacher and School Administrator. She designed and delivered a Montessori Teacher Training Program that was accredited by the Pennsylvania Department of Education. She also wrote the proposal and manual that accompanied the course. She holds a BA in English from Washington College an International Center for Montessori Studies Secondary Diploma an International Center for Montessori Studies Primary Diploma a BS in Psychology from the University of Northern Alabama and an MA in Educational Psychology from the University of Mississippi. PetMatchmaker Rescue South is a 501c3 designated charity and all donations are tax deductible. For more information about making a donation or adopting a dog today please email petmatchsouth My roll encompasses it all Jennifer said about her everyday tasks with PetMatchmaker Rescue South from approaching scared dogs on the street and knowing when to call a male friend to help to enticing dogs into my car with bits of hot dog or sometimes having to resort to a large trap. I assess their needs make medical appointments and accompany them find foster homes for them or foster them myself or as a last resort finding a boarding location for these dogs. Jennifer plans and executes fundraisers which includes an annual Photos with Santa in four local pet shops to raise money. Clearing as little as just 1 000 between three volunteers at year s end she works tirelessly to negotiate the best prices mainly for medical veterinary services. Occasionally doing work with other rescue groups to help out when she can Jennifer also feeds feral cats daily. Trapping many of these feral cats and kittens she has found homes for much of them. But it is with PetMatchmaker Rescue where Jennifer usually hangs her hat. 18 Women of Distinction Pet Matchmaker We are a 501(c)3 non-profit rescue group headquartered in Newport Rhode Island and Memphis Tennessee. Our rescue began with three friends that shared the same desire to save as many dogs as possible from unfortunate situations in the southern United States high-risk (often three day kill) shelters abandonment starvation lack of care We have banded together to bring these dogs from the south to New England where we can achieve a greater rate of adoption. We operate as a network of foster homes both in the South and in New England. Our dogs are located in foster care in various states and all are awaiting forever homes. We would welcome the opportunity to work with you to help you find a match and a friend for life. (901) 831-3935 petmatchsouth Eugenia Skupien Energy - Oil & Gas President - Enerpan Technology Inc. Edmonton Alberta Canada T he world was a lot bigger than she imagined when Eugenia Skupien emigrated from Eastern Communist Europe in 1981. Although obtaining her Master of Arts in Economics prepared her for the journey that lay ahead she knew that hard work and perspective was what she needed to move forward. Coming from Poland Eugenia had to learn a new language in order to succeed in Alberta s struggling economy in the early 80s. She began working in the accounting field and educated herself further completing more credentials. The great teachers she worked with inspired her to start her own business. Enerpan Technology Inc. was established in the basement of her home in 1990. Alberta is the second largest supplier of oil and gas in the world (following Saudi Arabia) and its economy is greatly porous to globalization and extreme world demands. These constant challenges of the cyclical global market (the ups and downs) are for the strong but Eugenia s resilience is what pushed the business to succeed through those challenging times. It s a wild industry and the only the fittest survive. Eugenia s strong will dedication apt for no regrets and positive thinking is what built the trust that others have for her. It s the foundation of her success. While the perception of the energy sector is that of being a man s world Eugenia takes on the challenges with the same stroke that of integrity. Within two years we moved into an office with a large staff in Acheson Alberta an industrial area west of Edmonton. Through a few partnership adjustments and economic cycles Eugenia became sole principal of the company. Wearing many different hats she focuses on directing the overall operations and business decisions oversees projects and manages compliance with legal and financial functions. Enerpan has undergone extensive research and development leading them to provide a superior product and become the industry leader as a dependable supplier of structural insulated and tank panels for the energy sector. Believe in yourself. Challenges are what you make of them and the lessons they teach you. Women s involvement in managerial platforms has definitely evolved since Eugenia started Enerpan in the early 90s. Although still miles from equal participation the limits are only posed by those organizations and people that don t foresee growth and the changes in the global market. I m an equal opportunity employer and believe that anyone can do anything if they choose to do so. When Eugenia needs balance from work she enjoys being in nature travelling high-impact aerobics and shopping for her favorite designer clothing. A proud mother of two who are now adults she also loves to hear about their day and spend time with them and their spouses. She also owns and trains German Shepherds. Our passion resides in engineering a structurally superior product long after it s delivered to the client. Q&A Q As a business owner was entrepreneurship part of your chosen journey A I knew that I wanted to lead projects and had the ability to manage all the details to ensure success. Entrepreneurship came naturally when all the pieces of the opportunity presented itself. Q What made you go into a predominantly male industry A It was never a part of the equation. When you have to do something you do it and the right people will work with you for success. Q What has been your greatest accomplishment A During an economic downturn in 2008 I focused the business in exploring more research and development of a new system. It helped us reach a new and cutting edge level of our manufactured product followed by financial successes. Q How does the slowing of the economy due to oil prices impact your management style A Economic cycles happen throughout history in any industry which allows a shift of perspective and getting leaner. You pay attention to the details much more closely. Also this allows some time for an increased marketing presence. Q What makes your manufactured product so unique (What is your competitive advantage ) A We ve developed the most advanced insulated panel technology in the world. Manufactured with our 40-ton customengineered press our unique WYTRAC panels can weather decades of field use under the most rigorous conditions. Safe to say WYTRAC technology has redefined industry standards in durability and dependability. Q If you were not an owner of a manufacturing plant focused in structural insulated panels and tank panels could you see yourself doing something different A I can t visualize my life in any other context but if I were to do something different in a different industry it might be project management in the construction industry. I really enjoy seeing large scale projects come to fruition and would like to be a part of it. Q How do you stay current in your industry A Most importantly we stay connected to our clients. Understanding the different accomplishments and challenges our clients face is what gives us the grounds perspective. Staying current in media publications conferences etc. is also a daily routine. Q Do you have a future vision in the application of your panel product A Absolutely. I value growth and new development of our product and how we can reach a broader audience and increase scale. Q What do you appreciate most in your day at work A Above anything else I appreciate the people I work with. It s their dedication and excitement that brings our team together. Q What are the core values of your company A At Enerpan we build more than just insulated panels. Beyond selling a product we build relationships with our clients by performing each job with an unyielding resolve to meet their needs. We build our legacy by constantly pursuing new technologies. And we build a positive culture by empowering our team with the tools they need to succeed. 21 Women of Distinction Victoria Leigh Gabriella Writing Self-Published Author Xlibris Publishing Company Williamsburg VA W hat began as just a dream one summer night in 2014 turned into a romance novel written by new author Victoria Leigh Gabriella. SelfPublished through Xlibris A Real Love at Last A Romance in Williamsburg and Places Beyond is the story of two main characters Michael Stevens and Becca Connelly who meet and fall in love in Williamsburg Virginia. Victoria especially loved reading to her students and telling true stories to illustrate or enlighten a lesson. Continuing her teaching career after her divorce in 1996 she retired in 2011. Victoria is a member of Chesapeake Bay Writers National Association of Professional Women and Philanthropic Educational Organization which raises money to help further women s higher education in the US and worldwide. She is now working on a sequel A Forever Love Finally Happily Ever After. Enjoying her retirement years with family and friends Victoria loves movies music travelling visiting wineries and history. She has an older sister Bea who is married with two sons who have children of their own and an older brother Bob who is also married and has one daughter. A brief synopsis of A Real Love at Last... Michael Stevens a retired Marine sees Rebecca Connelly at a restaurant with another man who turns out to be her ex-husband Tripp Richards. After getting Tripp to leave Michael meets her and asks her out. He tries to rush things before she is ready and she runs but he convinces her to give him another chance. They date and meet each other s families and friends before proposing and marrying. Eventually Tripp comes back and messes things up for a while. After a few ups and downs Michael and Becca are happily settling into their married life together. It is the story of a mature loving relationship between a man and a woman in their mid-40 s who have both been unlucky in love in the past and have almost given up hope of ever finding a real love Victoria explains about characters Michael and Becca. Michael is a retired US Marine and Becca a beautiful elementary school teacher. I wanted to write a romantic story about characters to whom I could relate and dream of having their love for myself. Graduating from The College of William and Mary in Williamsburg in 1979 with a BA in Elementary Education Victoria returned to Portsmouth Virginia and began teaching. After marrying an officer in the Coast Guard she lived in Valdez Alaska and Charleston South Carolina before settling in historic Williamsburg. She spent nearly her entire career teaching upper elementary school students as a classroom teacher. 22 Women of Distinction Q&A Q How did you get the idea for writing the book in the first place A My wedding anniversary was in July and I couldn t help remembering my ex-husband and how happy I was to be married that day. But our marriage ended in divorce. I went to sleep that night dreaming about meeting him to give him back a bracelet that once belonged to his grandmother. I woke up and couldn t stop thinking about it so I started to write. Q Who are your two main characters and how did you develop them and their love story A I tell the story from the point of view of Michael Stevens a former Marine who settled in Williamsburg. I made up Michael completely from my imagination. Becca Connelly is a bit like me but she gets to have the love story I only dreamed of having someday. Q Why do you think your romance novel will stand out from all the others A I read many genres but I felt as though many of the current popular romances were about couples in their teens or 20 s. Now that I m older I wanted to read something more suited to me. I also tell it from the man s point of view making it different from other romances. Q Who is your target audience of potential readers and purchasers of your book A I believe most readers of romance novels are women although I hope men would also find it interesting. I tend to think women in their 30 s and above might relate best. Q Your cover features a large peace rose. Why did you select that as your cover illustration A A peace rose has large yellow and pink edged blossoms and it is my favorite rose. To Michael Becca is a peace rose gradually blooming and allowing him into her life. She brings peace beauty love and fun to him. Q What real places are mentioned in your book A Real Love at Last A The places I describe in the novel are based on real places in Williamsburg and Virginia. They get married on the campus of William and Mary have their wedding reception at the Williamsburg Inn and visit places like Switzerland Charleston Savannah and Ireland. These are some of my favorite places and I have been to them all myself. Q Can readers buy your book now or must they wait until it is on bookshelves A Hardback paperbacks and eBooks are available at or as well as on I know it is also in print on demand and can be ordered in bookstores. I hope it will be in selected bookstores sometime this year. Q Do you believe there is a Prince Charming out there for every woman A It is fun to imagine that there is a Prince Charming out there for everyone. I know many mature women have given up on dating and have resigned to a life alone. It makes me sad that so many cannot find love especially once women are of a certain age. I did not find a real love so I imagined characters and let them have what I never found. Q Will there be a sequel to the first book or will there be other books in the future A That is a hard to answer because I have written the sequel called A Forever Love Finally. It continues with Michael and Becca and goes about 10 years into their marriage. This time it s written from Becca s point of view. I m currently still editing and revising it. However whether it is published depends on the success of A Real Love at Last. Q Why do you think readers would enjoy A Real Love at Last A I think it is a romantic interesting erotic and sweet story of two people who find the person they have been waiting for their whole lives. Hopefully it will be a fun read for people who enjoy reading romance novels. 23 Women of Distinction Andrea Just Dog Obedience Training Dog Walking and Pet Sitting Owner and Certified Dog Trainer - Waggly Tails Dog Training LLC Robbinsville NJ T here comes a time when you realize that your career is no longer gratifying and you want something more fulfilling. For Andrea Just that time was in 2014. She was over the trade show industry and wanted a career where she could make a difference. So as an animal lover Andrea researched and found Animal Behavior College (ABC) and enrolled in September 2014. I teach the dogs and socialize them as well as reinforce the obedience cues that the SAVE staff teaches. Working with shelter dogs is truly inspirational. Sometimes I think I learn more from the dogs than they do from me Her mother has always been Andrea s inspiration. She taught me to persevere through tough times and that I could do anything I set out to accomplish. My mother also left a legacy of kindness that I m proud to continue. When I no longer walk this earth I want people to remember me as a kind caring person. I m not just kind to animals I make every effort to be kind to people as well. I try to be as helpful as I can to those in need and believe in paying it forward as kindness begets kindness. Andrea is an inspiration to others as well. She had the guts to drive cross-country alone returning home to New Jersey from California after ending a brief terrible marriage. I lived with friends until I could get back on my feet while working a temporary job and going back to school to become a certified dog trainer in the autumn of my life. The lesson here be determined and tenacious. Don t give up. Never let anyone steal your joy or belittle you. You re never too old to change direction and pursue your dreams. If my actions have inspired even one person then that s the icing on my cake of life In addition to their dog obedience curriculum I took three continuing education courses Training Shelter Dogs Pet Massage and the Art of Giving and Selling Private Lessons. I also had to pass ABC s pet CPR and first aid course. I graduated with honors on May 13 2015 (four months ahead of schedule) and decided to establish my own business immediately upon receiving my certification. Today Andrea is a Certified Dog Trainer and Owner of Waggly Tails Dog Training LLC in Robbinsville NJ. She handles her own marketing advertising and billing along with every other aspect of running the business. Although I haven t been in business very long being a trainer is what I plan to do for the rest of my life. My goal as a professional certified dog trainer is to prevent dogs from being surrendered to shelters by teaching them and their owners that a well-trained dog will be a loving member of their family for life. This member of the APDT (Association of Professional Dog Trainers) volunteers for SAVE (a friend to homeless animals) at community adoption events and at their facility in Montgomery Township NJ. 25 Women of Distinction 26 Women of Distinction CJ Stafford Customer Care Consulting Marketing President Owner Stafford Communications Group Inc. 27 New Providence NJ Women of Distinction C J Stafford has a unique resume. She enjoyed a 20-year career with Johnson & Johnson first as a toxicologist ensuring the safety and efficacy of wound closures. When she moved to the communications side of the business she became part of an International Public Relations Team and managed consumer affairs and healthcare professionals for Splenda brand sweetener which included building the brand s first customer care program. That s when she saw a market opportunity and got the impetus for forming Stafford Communications Group in 1995. In addition to being a full-service outsourcer Stafford has built a reputation over the last 20 years for its customer service consulting services. We help companies improve their customer service programs. We build and improve their processes restructure consolidate train and provide quality assurance services to help them be their best There was a need to help companies of all sizes provide high-end service to their customers CJ recalled. Most customer service outsourcers cater to large companies and well-known brands so there was a huge gap. CJ oversees operations and provides strategic direction for the company as well it is her passion. She s also responsible for sales and is personally involved in all project planning and implementation. Believing in four principles (independent thinking risk taking perseverance and high standards) CJ has been able to build a self-managed virtual workplace where producing results and having fun is the norm. Proud to be able to offer internships to college students participate in worthwhile fundraisers provide pro bono services to nonprofit organizations and raise money for worthy causes like breast cancer research CJ is also an active member of the Society of Consumer Affairs Professionals where she previously held a leadership position. Having grown her business from 35 employees to 100 since 2012 CJ plans to continue building on the company s past success and growth trajectory. A mother to one daughter Cassandra a graphic designer and program manager at Stafford CJ believes in hard work and having a sense of humor because she says laughter and fun are essential to a happy work life balance. The result was a boutique company with three distinct yet complementary lines of business customer care consulting and marketing services. The company works with healthcare pharmaceutical food consumer packaged goods and beauty care companies ensuring their customer service initiatives are aligned to their marketing programs so they intrinsically support each other. The foundation for Stafford Communications was leveraging CJ s knowledge of science and compliance and recognizing the unmet need for high-end customer service in regulated industries like food healthcare pharmaceuticals and beauty care. One of Stafford s guiding principles is providing out-of-the-box thinking to clients. CJ explained The cornerstone of our company is listening to clients needs and continually developing solutions to meet those needs. We are not bound by what is or what was. We are creative and nimble. Our clients know we have them covered. 28 Women of Distinction Denise Jackson R Early Childhood Education Lead Teacher Preschool Nurtury Learning Lab Jamaica Plain MA emaining in education for such a long time due to personal life experiences unique teaching abilities and tremendous personal growth in the field Denise Jackson actually began her career in education while she was still in high school. Participating in the Madison Park Vocational High School in Roxbury Massachusetts in 1989 she chose childcare as her vocational study attending classes twice a week for academics and vocational training. By the time Denise was a sophomore in high school she had already had the opportunity to visit local daycare centers and gain hands-on experience in early childhood classrooms. There was no question in her mind that this was the field she wanted pursue for the rest of her life. Making herself present by coming to work every day on time she is also sure to be mentally present at all times in order to provide the support staff and administration the assistance they need of her. Denise believes that personal growth and development are major factors in becoming a successful teacher. Creating a foundation that will support the next platform of one s career is vital. Although it has been difficult at times it has certainly been worth it for her. And although this field is not known to be a money making opportunity it is a lifelong commitment that creates a stable path for generations to follow. For that reason alone it has been worth the many sacrifices Denise has endured that come with being a teacher. Denise would love to someday open her own daycare facilities in the communities where she grew up because they ve helped mold her into the person she is today strong and passionate. Giving back in these environments she says can only strengthen these children s futures. Now with two sons in tow ages 14 and 8 Denise s days are jammed packed. Between work and tending to her sons especially her youngest who has pervasive development disorder a form of autism they keep her both humbled and grounded. Thankfully she gets to share her life with a very supportive and loving spouse who also happens to work in the community with children and families. Seeing how generations have drastically changed and opened new doors for challenges improvements and supports I ve continued to strive to be the voice of children who need an advocate who will fight for them Denise said who is now the Lead Teacher at Nurtury Learning Lab s preschool in Jamaica Plain Massachusetts since 2014. But working with children and families became transparent to me when I noticed how complicated and unsupported my life became long ago. Raising my first-born son as a single parent the major parts of parenting that I felt were crucial to a young child like social emotional and physical support from both parents were non-existent. Providing quality care to the children and the community she serves as Lead Teacher Denise strives to be a positive role model and leader to her staff at Nurtury Learning Lab. 29 Women of Distinction Divya L. Selvakumar University Education International Global Health Allied Health (Nutrition and Dietetics) Director Founder American Hindu World Service Nutrition Specialist Consultant Professor 30 Laurel MD Women of Distinction H opeful to serve the world as an educator consultant clinician and counselor in the field of nutrition Divya L. Selvakumar of Laurel Maryland initially discovered an interest in nutrition as an undergraduate at the University of California San Diego. Divya truly enjoyed nutrition and being able to apply it to a number of different fields. Making the decision to pursue higher education and study dietetics she s been practicing in her field now for more than 13 years. This is what inspired her to create her organization in the first place and she eventually was able to partner with charity organizations in Pakistan Nigeria and Nepal making great strides. AHWS has been gaining tremendous recognition and has been invited to the United Nations US State Department the White House and USAID for a number of events. Delighted to be making headway in an organization that she s invested so much of her heart and soul into Divya has also been teaching as a Nutrition Health Professor at Montgomery College in Rockville Maryland since 2009. The author of Food for Thought Life Lessons on Nutrition and Empowerment in 2014 Divya plans to publish her PhD dissertation called Relationships Between a Prenatal Nutrition Education Intervention and Maternal Nutrition in Ethiopia soon. Divya is also a member of The Development Executive Group Society for International Development Golden Key International Honor Society the Walden University Pi Alpha National Honor Society and National Association of Distinguished Professionals. She holds a MPH in Public Health Nutrition from Tulane University s School of Public Health and Medicine and a PhD in Public Policy and Administration concentrating on international NGOs from Walden University. Married to Sunil a computer consultant and expert Divya and he enjoy quality time together and traveling to experience new cultures. She also relishes playing piano Karnatic vocal music and Bharatnatyam dance. I m particularly interested in vegetarianism holistic nutrition and two ancient Indian traditional medicine branches Ayurveda and Siddha Divya said. However my commitment to service and interest in international development is what led me to create my organization American Hindu World Service (AHWS). As Director and Founder of AHWS Divya remotely manages all operations in Pakistan Nigeria and Nepal through administration financial tasks program support and development. In Pakistan they ve partnered with an organization that promotes minority rights and supports interfaith awareness poor school children s education and women s empowerment. In Nigeria they ve been undertaking the promotion of malaria nutrition and HIV AIDS awareness through medical camps and interfaith programs. In Nepal they ve recently contributed toward sending donations to victims of the recent earthquake and plan on undertaking a sustainable agriculture project in the future. After working on a consulting project for World Vision in 2008 Divya discovered that there were no international nongovernmental organizations based in the US that represented the Hindu community. 31 Women of Distinction Eleanor Gilpatrick Arts Fine Arts Painting Drawing Owner Sole Proprietor Eleanor Gilpatrick Inc. New York NY E leanor Gilpatrick remembers making clothing for her cut-out dolls as a child. By the time she was in high school she had won prizes for draftsmanship from both her school and the Educational Alliance in New York City. But once she went to college Eleanor studied the social sciences rather than pursing a degree in art. Graduating with a Bachelor of Arts from Brooklyn College she then earned a Master s in Economics from The New School and a PhD from Cornell University. As a professor at Hunter College City University of New York Eleanor taught in the School of Health Sciences directed a master s program in health services administration pioneered courses in critical thinking and writing and authored four books. Her art remained a secondary activity but grading papers seemed less and less attractive. It was time to retire. Eleanor also participates in an annual show at Jadite Galleries in New York City. She was on display in Havre de Gras Maryland for many years. Equally important is her online site at Etsy. Eleanor never sells reproductions of her work because she believes that the energy of the creation lies in the original piece. She says that she does not judge artists who do sell reproductions they are a needed source of income for many people. Her success in the art world is not measured by the income she makes from selling her pieces instead she measures it in terms of personal satisfaction. I never thought about art as my career Eleanor said. My career was at Hunter College. My life as an artist came into being when on walking trips in Europe I noticed that one of the guides had a sketch book with her so I started doing the same. Around 1998 I took some plein-air workshops in Italy returning to serious study at Hunter College while I was still teaching. I retired as a professor and moved from painting at Hunter to painting at home. I incorporated as Eleanor Gilpatrick Inc. Don t be afraid to paint what you care about Eleanor said lastly advising other artists. She says My paintings about 9 11 Iraq and Afghanistan contrast the lives we live here every day with places we were or are at war. I also paint about climate change. It s important to me that my paintings be beautiful but I also want to bring attention to the issues we face as Americans. Eleanor has no children but close friends are like daughters to her and they have eight children all of whom have enriched her life. She is still involved with politics enjoys visiting with friends and just enjoying life. Using her photographs as the basis of her paintings many of them reflect places to which Eleanor has traveled and people she has met along the way. Landscapes are her favorite subjects but she also paints abstracts still life and portraits. She created four permanent Calendar Books illustrated by her art and two books of artworks she has sold 103 of her pieces are in private collections. 32 Women of Distinction Elizabeth O. Olagunju Life Business Coaching Transformational and Leadership Coaching President SEGMEM Inc. Senior Coach Achieve Success Life Business Coaching Hallandale Beach FL T he secret to Elizabeth O. Olagunju s ability to learn how to focus and concentrate stems from her former years in college. Trained as a scientist she studied botany and zoology something that has benefited her throughout her life and in career. Now as President of SEGMEM Inc. in Hallandale Beach Florida Elizabeth is able to use her talents to pass on her knowledge to others as a life and business coach specifically as a success transformational and leadership coach. Elizabeth is the author of three books Raising High Achieving Kids Seven Ways to Enhance Your Child s Future (selected by Amazon as one of the Top Best Books of 2014) 2014 Love Is It 2013 and Tasha (a novel) 2004. She also coauthored Real Hope for the Unemployed 2014 and Journey to Your Vision 2014. Born in Nigeria Elizabeth first worked with the Federal Government of Nigeria as a Lecturer and as Head of the Biological Sciences Department then with Bank of America as a Senior Credit Analyst for Red Lion Christian Academy as Faculty and Curriculum Committee Chair and with JP Morgan Chase as a Lending Risk Analyst. She s a current Consultant with Midland Info Tech Academy and a Senior Coach with Achieve Success Life Business Coaching. Affiliated with Women Speaker Association Connect GroupFirst Impression Church Program and Women s Program (a church program) Elizabeth holds a BSc in Botany an MSc in Zoology an MEd an MBA and is a Certified Project Manager. I encourage all young people to develop their minds and study science she said. This discipline made it possible for me to go into many different careers and vocations. It gave me the confidence discipline and tenacity to want to succeed. In 1973 Elizabeth began working as a faculty member in a local high school before becoming a college lecturer. After 20 years of teaching at various levels and another 20 years working with major fortune 500 companies as a leader coach mentor and lending risk analyst she s now able to impart her knowledge to others. Offering individual coaching to clients which can take place online or over the telephone Elizabeth offers threemonth six-month and one-year packages. She also offers as-needed sessions to fit into clients busy schedules. Additionally Elizabeth does group coaching sessions which take place by telephone conference call on a weekly basis and last for 50 minutes each. Consisting of all age groups group sessions are designed for those with similar career goals and serve as a dynamic support system. As president of SEGMEM Inc. Elizabeth works hard to seek out clients and develop strong lasting relationships while inspiring her current clients to achieve their personal and business goals by determining the correct tools and methodologies to build their careers. I am a woman who believes that everyone has a unique and special gift that he or she can give to the world Elizabeth noted. Everyone should strive to reach their potential. Married to a wonderful and supportive husband she has four children a graphic artist medical doctor business leadership administrator and attorney. She is blessed with three grandchildren. 34 Women of Distinction Ilona Oltuski Music Journalism and Classical Music Productions Founder of GetClassical Journalist at New York NY S ince 2012 Ilona Oltuski has been producing salonstyle concerts with the intention of creating a space for classical music in New York City s nightlife and designed GetClassical to provide a platform for conversation among readers performers and music lovers. She hopes that the organization and its events will promote artistic variation in the New York cultural scene and bring new audiences to classical music. Ilona is always looking for amazing new artists to share with her growing audience through her writing and the events she produces with some of them. I needed to know as much as possible about them to write the best story. I wanted firsthand knowledge most importantly how their personality and preferences would translate into their music. She is honored to be a member of MCANA (Music Critics Association of North America) along with some of the most brilliant writers of American music journalism. Ilona is also a member of CMA (Chamber Music America) an organization for chamber music with many events and novel ideas about how to present classical music. The events I produce bear a communal goal in mind bringing classical music to new audiences by expanding the venues people can listen to great young artists performances. While I m certainly not in opposition to large concert halls I prefer small intimate venues where artists can be heard up close and concerts are a friendly get-together with the audience and the performer profiting from each other s immediacy. Unlike the great impresarios the world has seen Ilona doesn t see herself as a manager but rather as a collaborator with the artist. I ve reinvented my creative side by writing about my diverse encounters in the world of music with artists that inspire through their talent and artistic expression. I like to look to the very human side of these endeavors through collaborations that reach right under the skin. From her early years in Berlin and Frankfurt Germany Ilona was passionate about the piano. She took classes at the Hoch sche Conservatory in Frankfurt (founded by Clara Schumann) and continued her pianistic education in New York where she was fascinated by the amazing talent she met along the way. While attending mind-opening seminars of the Golandsky Institute at Princeton University Ilona met some of the artists who inspired her and started to interview them. Many felt that I got them and that I should write about their performances. One particular inspiring performance led me to publish my first article in the U.S. on Blog Critics. When my blog became more popular I approached other artists I admired and was even able to engage with some very wellknown performers. Ilona was really curious about the personal side of the artists she discovered. What made them click with their instrument How was it they all played so differently What led them into their careers My greatest pleasure is to be a little part of their performances. In today s competitive music market it makes me happy when I can help bring him some new fans. 36 Women of Distinction Jenny Lin Public Policy Founder Chief Executive Officer Asia Taktik LLC Sugar Land TX W ith so much to learn and accomplish in the world of public and foreign affairs it is no wonder Jenny Lin of Sugar Land Texas has been able to maintain an enormous curiosity for other cultures political systems and economies and a drive to want to stay working in the field. Beginning her career in public policy with the acceptance into American University s Master of Public Policy master s degree program in 2008 Jenny was privileged and lucky to attend the well-known private university in Washington DC. Eager to learn how to merge the intellectual tools she gained from the courses taught at their School of Public Affairs and the School of International Service she was excited to pursue a career in public policy. In the public sector Asia Taktik serves as support to agencyspecific missions by providing ideas expertise research and analysis for policy success in Asian Pacific countries with services helping government officials effectively address the challenges of foreign relations and policy implementation. Jenny previously worked at Baker Botts Fairfax County Chamber of Commerce the Greater Dallas Asian-American Chamber of Commerce EVA Airlines and as an intern to former congressman Tom DeLay. She also holds a BA in Government and Asian Studies from the University of Texas at Austin. Previously married Jenny was born in the Republic of China Taiwan immigrating with her family to Watsonville California at the age of nine. Five years later the family relocated to Sugar Land Texas where Jenny plans to continue working and living for many more years. Jenny has contributed to the foreign policy community by working as an independent contractor and writing a number of publications. A member of the US Women Chamber of Commerce and Fort Bend Chamber of Commerce she s also a committee member with the Asian Pacific Heritage Association. I ve always stayed focused on my passion Jenny said about her entrepreneurship mindset. It s important for people to keep doing what they love because they ll always be able to accomplish whatever it is they set their minds to. Taking a bold leap forward just a few years later Jenny formed a start-up company called Asia Taktik LLC in 2013 a technical consulting firm that specializes in protecting companies assets and reputations by managing and mitigating risks so her clients can focus on business at hand. Based on her diverse experiences Jenny recognizes a real need for private and public sectors to be able to engage and do business with other countries yet in foreign markets and with third-party vendors it can be risky so that s where Asia Taktik comes in. In the private sector Asia Taktic protects clients assets by identifying and managing counter party risk political risk and security (operational and cyber) risk. In addition Asia Taktik assists clients in developing a culture around cyber and reputation risk awareness and proactive management. It s my hope that we can create a more prosperous US and Asia through cultivating and maintaining good relations between Americans and Asians because ultimately we want the fruits of better foreign relations to benefit both families 37 Women of Distinction Judy Praska Non-Profit Sports Executive Director North Country Region Volleyball Edina MN fter a car accident in August 1996 left Judy Praska asking herself what she really wanted to do with her life she made the decision to retire from teaching math and computers at Clarksville High School in Clarksville Iowa to reenter college and work toward her master s degree. Completing the two year program in just one year Judy graduated with a Master s in Sports and Health and Leisure Service with an emphasis in Athletic Administration at the University of Iowa. Interning at USOC-USA Volleyball in the summer of 1998 and the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics from August 1998-April 1999 Judy landed a position with North Country Region Volleyball the following May. Still with the organization today Judy continues to serve as their Executive Director. A She since become a member of the Minnesota National Girls and Women in Sports Day Award Committee member as well as former co-chair and award chair board member of Sports Alliance of Minnesota Regional Volleyball Association Associate Chair and is the is the former Regional Volleyball Association Compliance Chair. Being a part of these organizations Judy explained has helped her to brainstorm with colleagues and better understand how they handle different situations. Judy has assisted with World League for USA Volleyball was a volleyball rep for the Minnesota Senior Games in 2014 and is currently serving as the Volleyball Coordinator for the 2015 National Senior Games. Married to her husband Dan for 15 years with two sons she also volunteers as the Pancake Breakfast Chair for Cub Scouts has been a Den Leader with Dan for the past four years served as the boys basketball coach and bench coach is a playground duty volunteer volunteer lunch server and former uniform chair at their sons school and is a Eucharistic minister and usher at their church. I am a jack of all trades Judy confessed about her position. I handle accounting public relations event management background screenings partnerships with potential sponsors technology assistants and as North Country Region s rep at the national meetings. I love what I do the diversity of the position and the people I work with. The world of volleyball and sports in general continuously change so it keeps me on my toes. Prior to leaving her teaching career Judy was a head volleyball coach and assistant basketball coach at Clarksville Iowa from 1995-97 and the high school volleyball coach assistant basketball coach and head track coach at St. Edmond s High School from 1992-95. Growing up in a small town in Iowa on a farm Judy s parents taught her the importance of great work ethic. It was also during this time that she fell in love with sports. Joining North Country at the age of 29 it has been a very interesting yet challenging role. Judy s colleagues have been very supportive and their staff of four grew to eight with some part-time help since Judy was first taken on board. 38 Women of Distinction Kathy Ehret Mental Health Education Psychiatric Rehabilitation Program Manager 2Succeed in Education LINK2Succeed Mental Health Center of Denver Denver CO K athy Ehret began caregiving early in her life after her mother was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (MS). Her desire to help others spilled into her adolescence and then adult life becoming a Resident Assistant at Western Illinois University while in college. Upon graduation from college (1981) Kathy began working with residential services serving individuals with various types of disabilities. In 1986 she became the program manager at Platte River Industries a vocational training workshop working with adults with developmental disabilities. Eight years later Kathy began working for Mental Health Center of Denver (MHCD) in 1994. She leads meetings coordinates committees as she supervises interns from colleges universities in the Denver Metro area interested in mental health rehabilitation nutrition arts culinary and wellness. She also serves as the liaison in community partnerships in Denver co-facilitates the Disability Awareness Festival on the Auraria campus (tri-institutional event each year) and as a Certified Mental Health First Aid Instructor she offers courses at MHCD on the Auraria Campus and in the community. It was Kathy s mom that led her to her calling of helping deserving people. All people want to be well happy and appreciated in life. Working side-by-side helping people find what works best helping a person find solutions build skills believe in oneself learn work in their community and work through symptoms of serious illnesses creating stability and wellness is very rewarding for her. Kathy networks with colleagues in higher education and mental health as a member of Psychiatric Rehabilitation Association International Professional Women s Association and Community College of Denver Human Services Advisory Board. She earned a nomination for the 2008 NAMI Award and was also the recipient of a 2009 Jenny Hinkle Award. Born in southern Illinois Kathy moved to Colorado as a young adult and loves living in the West. She is the daughter of a successful businessman who has been a huge support all her life especially after her mom passed away in 2001. Now remarried to a wonderful southern woman with a big heart she is a great addition to their now blended family. My mother was an RN before MS challenged her Kathy said about her life early on. She was a mother of four children and instilled in us that success comes through willpower knowledge passion creativity compassion integrity and love. She taught me that success can be achieved with dedication and hard work in spite of disability and stigma. As a Program Manager at Mental Health Center Denver 2Succeed Kathy runs a specific supported education program named LINK2Succeed assisting people to begin return college trade school or any adult higher education program within the community. Students are completing their degrees certificate programs areas of specialties and updating skills to re-enter the workforce. Kathy instructs classes at 2Succeed Life Skills Leadership in Well-Being Baby Boomers (seniors) Psychiatric Rehabilitation study sessions and college prep. 39 Women of Distinction Kristen Kang Insurance Retail Commercial Insurance Co-Founder Executive Vice-President Commercial Global Insurance Services of California LLC Irvine CA W orking toward her bachelor s degree Kristen Kang spent her summer months as a receptionist and administrative assistant to gain valuable work experience. Graduating from the University of California-San Diego with a BA in Psychology Kristen was unsure at first of the direction she wanted to take in her career but she knew that she enjoyed working in a dynamic office environment. After working for 10 years as a commercial insurance claims specialist and account manager she received an exciting opportunity to establish a new retail insurance brokerage in Orange County. For the last seven years she has served as co-founder and executive vicepresident at Commercial Global Insurance Services (CGIS) in Irvine California and she s loved every minute of it. As a member of various organizations such as the California Independent Petroleum Association and Association of Energy Service Contractors Kristen and her company stay informed of issues affecting her industry resulting in a higher level of service and expertise for clients. Kristen makes a concerted effort to contact clients and underwriters directly either by phone or face-to-face. She says that the world has become a rather unfriendly place with email and texting becoming more commonplace. Asking someone about their day and demonstrating that you truly care will go a long way in solidifying long-term relationships. Work ethic is equally important to Kristen as she learned from her parents and grandparents. When we first established CGIS I didn t foresee myself sitting on the front lines with a client or negotiating an insurance program Kristen said admitting that it was completely outside of her comfort zone. I always took direction from someone else. I am fortunate to have a supportive business partner and mentor who saw my potential and gradually expanded my role and responsibilities to what they are today. They were some of the hardest working most humble people you ll ever meet and I feel incredibly fortunate to have such a supportive family rooting for me Kristen is best known as a mother of two beautiful 8-yearold twin girls. As a single parent she sometimes feels overwhelmed juggling parenthood and career but always reminds herself about the example she is setting for her children and the bright future that lies ahead. In recent years Kristen transitioned into an account executive overseeing insurance program design and negotiating coverage terms for clients. CGIS has grown significantly since 2008. The company specializes in the upstream oil and gas sector insuring operations across the country and internationally. 40 Women of Distinction Tres Townsend R Healthcare Non-Profit for Epilepsy and Seizure Disorders Executive Director for the Epilepsy Foundation of Mississippi Flowood MS aised in a Christian home Tres Townsend s parents taught her to treat people the way she would want to be treated. As the Executive Director for the Epilepsy Foundation of Mississippi Tres works with people who have disabilities and their families on a daily basis. Tres is someone who always strives to do better and never settles. She feels that you should be passionate about your work and understand that true riches don t come from money but in the rewards you receive from helping others. However in the nonprofit world money is crucial. Most nonprofits depend on donations grants and fundraisers. If the economy is bad then nonprofits suffer. When nonprofits suffer then their clients suffer it s the domino effect. Learning how to run a nonprofit with very little money and turning it around to thrive and stay true to its mission has been challenging. In her free time Tres enjoys volunteering for the Junior League of Jackson cooking playing bunko watching the Mississippi State Bulldogs and traveling with her family. She s happily married to Brent Townsend an Outside Plant Engineer for AT&T and her son Bradley Robertson is a junior at Mississippi State University. They all live in Northwest Rankin County (also known as the Reservoir) in Mississippi with their two dogs Teri and Rocky. I love my family and the place I m at in my life Tres truly cares about people and wants the best for everyone. They need to be treated with love respect and kindness. That s the way I want to be treated and just because they have a disability it doesn t mean they don t deserve to be treated with love respect and kindness. In 1998 her 3-year-old son was diagnosed with a chronic illness. That was my first encounter with a nonprofit. It was also then that I realized I wanted to give back to people the experience I received while trying to deal and understand his illness. Then in 2008 my father started having seizures and I knew this was the place I was meant to be. Her focus now as the Executive Director for the Epilepsy Foundation of Mississippi is to ensure that every decision made is based on the best interest of those living with epilepsy through the foundation s mission. It s easy to run this as a business and make business decisions but to run an organization as a nonprofit you must always put the people you serve at the forefront of all your business decisions. I want people to remember me for being an honest and genuine person who truly followed her dreams and passion all while doing good for others. 41 Women of Distinction Women of Distinction Team WDM Jennifer Hardy EDITOR-IN-CHIEF Holli M. Narvaez EDITOR LAYOUT GRAPHIC DESIGN Jill Mongonia Anne Silar SELECTION COMMITTEE SELECTION COMMITTEE Diane Barry Women of Distinction 560 Broadhollow Road Ste. 310 Melville NY 11747 Phone (631) 465-9024 Fax (631) 465-9035 Tres Townsend Healthcare Non-Profit for Epilepsy and Seizure Disorders Executive Director for the Epilepsy Foundation of Mississippi Kirstie McPherson Public Relations Business Development Chief Executive Officer Edeveco44 Women of Distinction