RE:CON 2023

re:con 2023 Presenters
Backgrounds & Bios

re:con 2023 Presenter Bios

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Adam Jenovai

Adam Jenovai is responsible for the operations of OCHN including a network of providers that includes services to people with intellectual/developmental disabilities, people with mental illness including youth with serious emotional disturbances, and people with substance use disorders. Services include, but are not limited to, case management/supports coordination, therapies, community living services, applied behavioral analysis, and vocational services. Mr. Jenovai is committed to developing collaborative relationships throughout OCHN’s network to develop innovative solutions for care.

Alvin Brewer

Alvin Brewer is a Vocational Rehabilitation Professional with over 10 years of progressive experience. An eloquent communicator with more than 20 years of experience in people-oriented/customer service environments; known for building strong partnerships at all levels of an organization. His professional interests are job readiness, self-advocacy, career development, reasonable accommodation in the workplace, and mentoring other young professionals. Alvin was awarded the Good Government Symbol of Excellence by the State of Michigan, the State of Michigan Special Recognition by State Representative Sherry Gay-Dagnogo of District 8, and the Michigan Rehabilitation Services Champion Award by the Michigan Council for Rehabilitation Services. Alvin earned his Bachelor’s in Business Administration/Computer Information Systems from Baker College and his Master’s in Community Counseling from Siena Heights University.

Andrea Davis

Andrea Davis serves as the Operations Manager of New Horizons Rehabilitation Services, Inc. She has worked at New Horizons since 2014. Over her 9-year tenure with the organization, Andrea has taken on a variety of roles, starting from Services Coordinator and advancing to Branch Manager before assuming her current role as Operations Manager. Beyond her responsibilities in this capacity, Andrea is a devoted mentor and a passionate advocate for ongoing enhancement. Demonstrating a strong dedication to nurturing talent and fostering future leaders, Andrea’s impact is readily seen in her interactions and involvements. Through the sharing of her own journey, she empowers others to catalyze positive transformations and raise the bar for operational excellence. Andrea’s academic background includes a Bachelor’s Degree from Central Michigan University, complemented by a Nonprofit Management Certificate from Oakland University.

Amy Johnson

Amy Johnson is a Licensed, Master Social Worker, the Director for Services for Adults with Intellectual and/or Developmental Disabilities at Genesee Health System (GHS). They are Genesee County’s Community Mental Health Provider and located in Flint, MI. In their program they serve nearly 1,000 adults and are also expanding and providing supports to additional Genesee County residents. She has been a Social Worker for 10 years! prior to entering the field of Social Work, she was on track to become a special education teacher so she feels like she is where she is meant to be. In her free time, she enjoys listening to music, swimming, and trying new activities.

Amy Maes

Amy Maes is currently the Associate Director for Disability Network Eastern Michigan. She has been working with Michigan’s Disability Community for over 25 years. Before working with DNEM, Amy served as the Leadership & Advocacy Consultant for Disability Network Michigan (DNM and the former Director of the Superior Alliance for Independent Living (SAIL) , the CIL serving the entire Upper Peninsula. Amy is a practicing attorney licensed in the State of Michigan and served as Director of Litigation for Disability Rights Michigan, formerly known as, Michigan Protection & Advocacy Services, Inc.

Asmau Ayub

Asmau Ayub is a second-year Ph.D. student in the Rehabilitation Counseling Program at Michigan State University’s College of Education. Her previous professional experience includes working as a licensed Mental Health Clinician and as a senior management member at the school where she was a school counselor for ten years. As a proactive leader in her community, she spearheads several initiatives and programs that empower individuals to better speak for themselves and the populations they serve. Asmau uses these experiences to challenge the distinctive attributes that clinical supervisors bring to their work. Her purpose is to equip supervisors to master supervisory relationships with their supervisees that will facilitate lifelong learning for their supervisees and lead to career advancement.

Bill Krieger -Keynote

Bill Krieger is an accomplished individual with an extensive background in military service, nonprofit work, and podcast hosting. He currently holds the position of Assistant Program Director for the VFW National Home, a role that involves providing assistance and support to veterans and their families. Additionally, Bill is the president of Veterans Archives, a nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving the stories of veterans.  He has a Bachelor’s Degree in Public Administration and a Master’s Degree in Organizational Leadership, both from Central Michigan University.

In his military career, Bill served for ten years in the United States Navy, reaching the rank of Petty Officer First Class. During his service, he received notable awards such as the Navy Achievement Medal, Navy Commendation Medal, and Enlisted Surface Warfare Badge. He then continued his service in the Michigan Army National Guard, eventually retiring as a Captain after 21 years of combined service. His achievements in the Army National Guard include receiving the Meritorious Service Medal, Bronze Star, Army Commendation Medal, Army Achievement Medal, and Combat Action Badge. Notably, Bill served as the Commander of the 144th Military Police Company during a combat tour in Iraq.

Apart from his military involvement, Bill has been actively engaged in various veteran organizations, holding life memberships in both the VFW and National Guard Association of the United States. He serves as the Legislative Chair for the National Guard Association of Michigan, demonstrating his commitment to advocating for the interests of fellow veterans.

Outside of his professional and military commitments, Bill values spending quality time with his family, including his three children and one grandchild. He also enjoys traveling and has a strong passion for serving his fellow veterans, as evidenced by his active involvement in multiple veteran-focused organizations and initiatives. Furthermore, Bill has showcased his dedication to preserving veteran stories through his presidency of Veterans Archives and his hosting of the Me You Us podcast, providing a platform for veterans to share their experiences and memories.

Bill Robinson

William (Bill) A. Robinson, III
State of Michigan, Senior Executive
Director of the Bureau of Services for Blind Persons

In Feb 2001, Mr. Robinson was accidentally shot by a fellow hunter. A Life Flight to the Macon Georgia Trauma Center saved his life however the accident left him without sight in his left eye and limited sight in his right eye. Mr. Robinson never lost faith, hope, or the support of family. An accomplished C-Suite Executive, Mr. Robinson’s employer chose to trigger his severance versus accommodating his disability. Unfamiliar with vocational rehabilitation or the skills of blindness, Mr. Robinson embarked on a journey of restoration of his roles as husband, parent and business and community leader. Rehabilitation and blindness skills were eventually arranged through disability providers. Mr. Robinson began to passionately pursue sharing his wisdom, expertise and life skills with businesses, individual clients, and nonprofits in late 2004. Mr. Robinson accepted the position of State of Michigan, Director of the Bureau of Services for Blind Persons (BSBP) in July 2016 and began serving in that role September 2016. As Director of BSBP, Robinson is responsible for the State agency that provides vocational rehabilitation, independent living, and employment training services to Michigan’s blind and visually impaired residents through seven offices located throughout the State. In addition, he is responsible for BSBP’s Business Enterprise Program, Training Center located in Kalamazoo, Braille and Talking Book Library in Lansing, and Youth Low Vision Program. Mr. Robinson began his career in 1981 with Price Waterhouse, a public accounting firm known today as PricewaterhouseCoopers. Mr. Robinson served as VP Taxes and Executive Committee Member of the RTM Restaurant Group from 1989 to 1997. From 1997 until Feb 2001, Mr. Robinson helped lead National Service Industries as a member of Management Committee, VP Mergers and Acquisitions and CFO and Sr. VP of National Linen Service. Mr. Robinson is an appointed member of the Detroit Workforce Board. Nationally, he serves as an Executive Committee member and Past President of the National Council of State Agencies for the Blind (NCSAB) and represents Vocational Rehabilitation as a member of the National Association of State Workforce Agencies (NASWA) WIOA Information Technology Support Center’s Steering Committee. He is an active member of the steering committees for the VRTAC-QM and VRTAC-QE. Mr. Robinson also serves on the advisory committee for Mississippi State University’s RRTC on Employment of People Who are Blind or Have Low Vision and NIDILRR VR ROI Grant Project. He is Chair of the Performance and Accountability Committee of the Council of State Administrators of Vocational Rehabilitation and previously held the positions of Secretary/Treasurer and Region V Rep. Mr. Robinson has served on various task forces with the U.S. Dept. of Ed. Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA). In 2017, Robinson received the Beacon Award from the Michigan Council of Rehabilitation Services in recognition of his dedication to providing the highest quality of vocational rehabilitation services to Michiganders with low vision and blindness. In 2019, Robinson completed the National Rehabilitation Leadership Institute Executive Leadership Seminar in Rehabilitation Administration. He is a frequent speaker on topics related to vocational rehabilitation. Robinson is married with four adult children. He graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a BS in Business Administration and major in accounting.

Cameron Cranna

Cameron is an HR Professional working with and providing coaching to front-line supervisors in the 3rd Party Logistics and Fulfilment line of Business at Peckham, Inc. This has had a large focus on personal and professional development, creating strong teams, effective communication, and setting and achieving goals. He has worked with Peckham for four years and received a Bachelors and Masters Degree from Michigan State University in Social Work: Organization and Community Leadership, and has a focus on enhancing the employee experience as well as the service received by clients.

Carie Branch

Carie Branch is a dedicated advocate for diversity, equity, and inclusion, with a deep understanding of intersectionality and its value in the workforce. In their role as Executive Assistant and Board Liaison at Gesher Human Services, Carie not only exemplifies exceptional organizational acumen, but also serves as a catalyst for progress as Chair of the agency’s DEI Taskforce. Their leadership in this capacity underscores their dedication to driving tangible transformation within the organization. Carie’s journey through gender identity and self-discovery has not only shaped their own perspectives, but has also ignited an unquenchable passion for DEI education. Beyond professional endeavors, Carie is a multidisciplinary artist and muralist. Through their art, they not only communicate their vision of a more inclusive world, but also inspire others to engage critically with the societal narratives that shape our lives.

Carol Bergquist

Carol has provided a variety of services for the Hannahville Indian Community since 1989, and has served as the Director of Project: VISIONS, a federally funded American Indian Vocational Rehabilitation Services (AVIRS) grant since 1995. Carol is the current Chair of the 17 – member Governor appointed Michigan Council for Rehabilitation Services (MCRS) that represents the voice of Michigan Citizens with disabilities, and works in partnership with Michigan’s two State VR Agencies, MRS and BSBP to ensure quality VR services. Carol earned a BS degree in Special Education from the University of Wisconsin, and a MA and PhD in Rehabilitation Counseling from Michigan State University. For her work and commitment to Native American people, her VR colleagues awarded her two honors in vocational rehabilitation, the Michigan Rehabilitation Association’s Award of Excellence, and Michigan’s Tina Award for her “Visionary role in challenging the status quo” and serving as a “change agent for impacting rehabilitation service systems for Native American people in Michigan”.

Charlene Chandler

Charlene Chandler is the Assistant Program Manager of Specialized Employment and Training at Goodwill of Greater Detroit. She has 16 years of experience working with adults with disabilities. She earned a Bachelor of Science in Human Services from the University of Phoenix and has a Qualified Intellectual Disability Professional (QIDP) certification.

Christa Martin, MRC, CRC

Christa Martin, MRC, CRC is the Disability & Community Outreach Specialist for DirectEmployers Association’s Strategic Partnerships & Alliances team. She works closely with their Member companies to educate them on how they can work with Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) agencies and other disability organizations to promote and implement better DEIB strategies, accessibility, and connect with VR services for improved recruitment and retention of individuals with disabilities. She received her CRC in the fall of 2012 and is LPCA qualified. Christa previously worked as a Vocational Rehabilitation Specialist Certified with the Kentucky Office of Vocational Rehabilitation Employer Services Branch, as well as being the Disability Services Coordinator and a Psychology Professor at Kentucky State University. She is Treasurer of the National Rehabilitation Association of Job Placement & Development and their Division Representative to the National Rehabilitation Association Board of Directors, as well as former National Rehabilitation Association Secretary. She is best known for her personal and professional development training around the country, especially regarding ethics. Christa has presented at numerous state, regional, national, and international conferences on different topics of interest and research, including re:con 2018 and 2019 where she was the inaugural opening keynote speaker. She also co-authored and edited two textbook chapters for human services and rehabilitation counseling college students on Ethics & Ethical Decision Making and Resume Development. 

Craig Nowak

Craig Nowak
Gesher Creative Expressions Program Coordinator
Farmington Hills Artist, Craig Paul Nowak is the manager of Gesher Human Services’ Creative Expressions Program, where he manages a comprehensive arts education and enrichment program for adults with intellectual, developmental, and mental disabilities.
Since 2019, he has organized countless arts classes and activities in partnership with cultural institutions like, The Detroit Symphony Orchestra, College for Creative Studies, Detroit Opera, Detroit Institute of Arts, Matrix Theatre, and more.
Craig has a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from the College for Creative Studies in Detroit from which he graduated Cum Laude. He has done various residencies and apprenticeships in Illinois, Michigan, and New Mexico.
Visit to learn more about Craig Nowak’s work as an artist.
Visit to learn more about the Creative Expressions Program.

Craig Saunders, MA, CBSP

Craig Saunders, MA, CBSP – is a Business Relations Consultant with the Business Network Division (BND). His professional interests focus on building relationships with local business, Michigan Works, local schools, and numerous other partners in Northern Michigan. His current projects include assisting with small business development, apprenticeship expansion, and developing and delivering both disability awareness and office ergonomics trainings. He is also a member of BND’s Michigan Business Resource System team. This system is used to track the services MRS provides to their business partners. Craig earned a Master of Arts in counseling from Spring Arbor University, and he is a Certified Business Solutions Professional. 

Deb Balk

Deb Balk is a Resource Navigator with Goodwill of Greater Grand Rapids. She works diligently to help those we serve connect with agencies that provide resources suited to their needs. Deb also utilizes tools to help individuals think of solutions to problems they may have on their own. With her experience as a Life Coach and educator, Deb is able to professionally and compassionately assist people in need of services. Deb is a member of the Employment Services Collaborative (ESC) and is a member of the Economic & Workforce Development Committee through the Essential Needs Task Force (ENTF)

Dessie Johnson MA, CRC, CEAS

Dessie is a seasoned expert in vocational rehabilitation, dedicated to serving marginalized communities. Dessie serves as the Vocational Assessment Coordinator at Work Skills Corporation, where she empowers individuals to navigate their professional paths. Utilizing comprehensive assessments, interest inventories, and labor market analyses, she helps people identify their strengths, set achievable goals, and chart a course toward fulfilling work. Specializing in On-the-Job Evaluations, Trial Work Experiences, and Work Samples, Dessie goes the extra mile to understand the unique vocational rehabilitation needs of each individual. Her work extends to those with disabilities as well as individuals reintegrating into the workforce after a period of incarceration.
Dessie’s history includes being a key advocate at Michigan Protection and Advocacy Services. There, she championed the rights of people with disabilities, and utilized her extensive knowledge of laws and agency policies, including the Michigan Auto No-Fault Law, the Rehabilitation Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, to enhance access to employment services throughout Michigan.
A Certified Rehabilitation Counselor and Certified Ergonomic Assessment Specialist, Dessie’s expertise is both broad and deeply specialized.
Dessie is a servant leader with a passion for the underserved.
“Our business in life is not to get ahead of other people, but to get ahead of ourselves.”

Gary Holik  

Gary Holik, MA, CRC, CBSP – is a Business Relations Consultant with the Business Network Division, Michigan Rehabilitation Services. His professional interests focus on labor market information, disability awareness, rehabilitation technology, assistive technology, and workplace accommodations. His current projects include providing disability awareness and worksite analyses for Michigan businesses. In addition, he holds a national credential as a Certified Rehabilitation Counselor and is a Certified Business Services Professional. He earned his master’s degree in rehabilitation from Michigan State University in 2009. Gary has worked with Michigan Rehabilitation Services for over 25 years.

George Winn

George Winn serves as Chief Strategy Officer for Judson Center, leads the operations and management of the agency child welfare programs. . Mr. Winn provides support and guidance in all aspects of program innovation and implementation. Mr. Winn takes a visionary approach to carefully assisting the agency in strategic planning, while focusing on community partnerships and improving internal systems. He has passion for, and belief in, the family system and believes our children are our future and we must provide innovative, high-quality services to children and families.

Mr. Winn has 35 years of leadership experience in human services, leading human resources, operations, information technology, and child welfare teams for a behavioral health and child welfare organization. Mr. Winn also has been a leader in Fatherhood Initiatives in Wayne County. Mr. Winn is very active in advocacy in addressing racial inequity within the child welfare and community mental health systems has previously has served as Diversity Officer and Chief Operating Officer for a local child welfare agency.

Mr. Winn is a native Detroiter, a product of the Detroit Public School system and graduate of Cody High School where he was an outstanding scholar and athlete. He received an athletic scholarship from University of Wisconsin (Stout) and later transferred to St. Mary’s College in Orchard Lake, Michigan where he earned his bachelor’s degree in science. He earned his master’s degree in social work from Wayne State University in 1996.

Mr. Winn was the 2013 recipient of the Michigan Chronicle Men of Excellence Award celebrating men who personify the exemplary qualities of respect, responsibility, passion, brotherhood and leadership. Mr. Winn has also led, and participated in, the Mayor’s Task Force against abuse and neglect, diversity initiatives, as well as other advocacy initiatives engaging elected officials on ensuring every child has their basic needs met. He serves on the board of Neighborhood Legal Services of Michigan, board member of Human Service Association Workers Compensation Fund, member of The State of Michigan’s Committee on addressing racial injustice in Child Welfare, member of the Alliance Black Male Executive Leadership. In May 2015, Mr. Winn completed the Alliance for Strong Families and Communities/University of Michigan’s Executive Leadership Institute. Mr. Winn is a graduate of the Class of 39 Leadership Detroit.

Hung Jen Kuo PhD CRC LPC

Hung Jen Kuo is an assistant professor in the Department of Counseling, Educational Psychology and Special Education at Michigan State University (MSU). Kuo has conducted research focused on interventions for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) and autism spectrum disorder (ASD) on social skills, employment readiness and everyday life skills. He has coordinated/facilitated numerous evidence-based interventions such as: Spartan Transitioning Together (STT), Autism Soft Skills Employment Training (ASSET) and Employment Preparation and Applied Skills Support (EPASS) as a faculty member at MSU. Kuo also has extensive experience as a rehabilitation counselor and assistive technology specialist, as well as direct experience working with virtual reality technology for teaching social skills. Additionally, he is a senior member of the Lifting Individuals and Families through Empowerment (LIFE) research lab.

James Willis, LMSW

James Willis is the Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer at Gesher Human Services (formerly JVS). He has worked for Gesher for over 26 years as a job coach, transition specialist, and vocational evaluator. James has his Master’s Degree in Social Work Administration and is a surveyor for CARF.

Jason Kaszubski

Jason Kaszubski is the Director of Human Resources of New Horizons Rehabilitation Services, Inc. He has worked at New Horizons since 1997. In this role, he is responsible for recruiting, screening, interviewing, selection and onboarding, training, terminations, benefits administration, compliance and background checks for 140+ staff in multiple southeast Michigan counties. Jason is continuously seeking new ways to improve management expertise, enhance team experience, boost company morale and improve overall team focus. His strategic insights have guided countless employees towards realizing their full potential, transforming them into leaders and catalysts for positive change. Jason earned his Bachelor’s Degree in Human Resource Development from Oakland University.

Kaily Kraft

Kaily Kraft earned her bachelor’s degree in human development and family studies and her master’s degree in rehabilitation counseling. She is a Certified Rehabilitation Counselor (CRC) and Limited Licensed Professional Counselor (LLPC) and works as a Career Pathway Coordinator (CPC) for Project STEMM-Up. Her background in education has allowed her to work with individuals with and without disabilities from all different ages, backgrounds, and cultures with a special focus on academic growth and accommodations.

Karen Wang  

Karen Wang is the Transition Specialist for the Michigan Alliance for Families. She is the parent of an adult with multiple disabilities, and a high school student who has a 504 plan. Karen uses her experience as a high school and college instructor to educate families and self-advocates about the transition from special education to adulthood. She is also an active volunteer in several organizations that support and advocate for youth, such as the Michigan PTA and Scouts BSA. 

Kat Thompson

Kat Thompson is an HR Professional that offers one-on-one coaching to Peckham’s front-line supervisors, helping them to become super leaders of themselves and others! She assists leaders in goal-setting activities with a focus on development in areas such as: effective communication, approachability and empathy, confidence and agility, and growth mindset. Kat earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Organizational Management and a Master of Education degree in Trauma and Resiliency from Spring Arbor University. She has a passion for public speaking, people development, and self-care.

Katie Kinde

Katie Kinde is an adult with ASD, who loves learning and helping others learn. She was diagnosed earlier than many girls at the time, at the age of 11.
Wanting to become a medical illustrator, she graduated from College for Creative Studies (with honors) with a Bachelors in Fine Arts in 2013.  After realizing her passion lies with helping others learn, she switched gears and went to Wayne State University from 2018 –2021 to obtain her Masters in Education with a focus in Learning Design and Technology.  While at Wayne State, she also was the Dean of Social Works Secretary, and managed much of the continuing education events and certificate distribution.
She now works for Incompass Michigan as the Education and Administrative Coordinator, planning events, signing up for CEU’s and handling certificate distribution.

Katie Oswald

Katie Oswald is a nonprofit founder, facilitator, and autistic self-advocate. She founded Full Spectrum Agency for Autistic Adults in 2018, where she facilitates peer support groups, social and recreational activities, and other programs for over 1,000 group members. Katie partners with organizations throughout Michigan to teach sexuality education, social and communication skills for relationships, self-determination, and pre-employment skills. She also advocates for neurodiversity inclusion through corporate workshops, conferences, and community presentations.

Kathy Flagstadt, BA, MSW

Kathy is a member of the Michigan Council for Rehabilitation Services, representing vocational rehabilitation counselors on this Governor appointed board.  Prior to retirement, she worked 17 years as a MRS Site Manager and Vocational Counselor covering the northern most areas of Michigan.  With a career total of over 40-years of experience with various employment, human service and educational programs, Kathy is a recognized expert in providing high quality services to people, businesses and communities across the UP.  She openly shares her knowledge and commitment through conversations, presentations and creating a network of partnerships.  Kathy works to ensure that employment and educational services are equitable, respectful, effective, and available to all.  She believes the key to providing high quality comprehensive services to individuals requires collaboration, coordination, partnerships and action.  Kathy is a vital contributor in her local community and throughout the Upper Peninsula.  Her affiliations include membership in the State Employee Retirees Association, UP Prisoner Re-entry Program, Marquette County Aging Services Advisory Committee, League of Women’s Voters, Diversity Equity and Inclusion Committee, Bay de Noc Community College Alumni Board Treasurer and founding member of both the Simple Kindness for Youth and the Youth Assistance Program. Kathy earned AA degrees from Bay de Noc and Macomb, a BA in Business Administration from NMU and a MSW from MSU.

Kellie Blackwell

Kellie Blackwell is Co-Director for Michigan Disability Rights Coalition’s Michigan Assistive Technology Program. She is a Certified Rehabilitation Counselor. Her passion for access often translates to a sharpened expertise for digital access; ensuring digital content is accessible for all people, no matter their situation. She has used her more than 25 years as a screen reader user to help ensure that organizations and businesses create and maintain accessible documents, websites, and social media platforms. Kellie appreciates and recognizes the importance of including everyone when using said platforms to promote equity and inclusion, while taking the time to create an accessible and meaningful experience for all. Kellie was appointed to the Michigan Council for Rehabilitation Services in 2020. In addition to her statewide service, she serves on the local advisory council for the Capital Area Transportation Authority (CATA). She earned a Bachelors in Business Administration from Northwood University as well as a Master’s degree in Rehabilitation Counseling from Michigan State University. Prior to joining MDRC, Kellie worked at Disability Network Capital Area, a Center for Independent Living, for over 11 years.

Kimberly Pietrylka-Miller

Kimberly Pietrylka-Miller is the Vice President of New Horizons Rehabilitation Services, Inc. She began her career at New Horizons in 1997. In her current role, she oversees the general management of all program and services offered to participants, including program development, delivery, and evaluation, as well as fundraising, budget setting, business and knowledge management, external relationship engagement and community networking. She coordinates and supervises all branch/site operations, development and implementation of projects and new services as they align with the agency’s mission of providing employment opportunities for individuals facing barriers to employment. Kimberly also acts as liaison with agency funding sources and constituents. Kimberly earned her Master’s in Rehabilitation Counseling from Wayne State University and holds a BS in Psychology from Michigan State University.

Malcolm Kletke

Malcolm Kletke joined MHSA in 2020. Malcolm previously held the position of Deputy Director of Legislative Affairs for Governor Whitmer, serving as the chief contact between the Michigan Legislature and Governor Whitmer on all legislative issues. He was involved in historic changes to Michigan’s Auto No-Fault system, the Raise the Age package, sports-betting and online gaming legislation, Rebuilding Michigan Plan, and dealing with the COVID-19 response.

Prior to serving Governor Whitmer, Malcolm served as a policy analyst for the Michigan Senate Democratic Caucus. In this role he provided research, analysis, and policy advice on matters coming before the Transportation, Commerce, Natural Resources & Environmental Quality, and Agriculture Committees. He was also responsible for overseeing the Department of Transportation, Department of Environmental Quality, Department of Natural Resources, and the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development budgets. Malcolm began his career in the Michigan Senate working as a legislative assistant for then-Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer.

Malcolm holds a bachelor’s degree in Political Science – Pre Law from Michigan State University.

Malcolm and his wife Alexandra live in Lansing.

Mandy Matthews

Mandy Matthews is currently a Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor at Michigan Career and Technical Institute. She supports students in various trade programming and runs the campus Social Coaching services. Prior to MCTI, Amanda worked with transition youth and welfare recipients with Michigan Rehabilitation Services, MIWorks! and Goodwill Industries of SWMI for over 25 years.

Amanda earned her B.S. in Psychology at Central Michigan University and her master’s in Vocational Rehabilitation Counseling from Western Michigan University. She recently gained a graduate certification in autism spectrum disorders.

Margaret Avery

Margaret Avery (she/her) obtained a bachelor’s degree in political science and Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, with a focus in legal studies & intersectionality. Margaret has dedicated her professional and educational career to understanding social and economic inequalities to advocate for the community and fight against oppressive systems. Currently, Margaret works as an advocate with Equality Michigan and aims to provide support, services, and education to the community. 

Maria Peak

Maria Peak worked in the field of Special Education for 30 years as a classroom teacher, county transition coordinator, and a project coordinator for Michigan Transition Outcomes Project through Michigan Department of Education, Office of Special Education. Maria first became involved with ASPPIRE as a facilitator and curriculum consultant. In 2015, she became the Executive Director of ASPPIRE. Maria works closely with Incompass Michigan and provides job coach training throughout the state.

Marilyn Noble, AA

Marilyn has served Lakestate Industries (Escanaba, MI) as an Employment Specialist for over six years. She is responsible for assessing job candidates’ general capacity for job tasks and providing appropriate job matching within Delta and Menominee Counties. She also provides job candidates and employers with job restructuring and/or job tools and consults with outside sources to benefit job candidates and employers. Marilyn partners with Incompass Michigan to providing training to over 40 employment specialists in the course of two years. For fun, she is an advocate for the No One Dies Alone program and Victim Sheriff’s Unit, Treasurer for the Delta County Non-Motorized Trails, and an Election Inspector for the City of Escanaba.

Mary Shehan

Mary Shehan-Boogaard holds and MS in Psychology from Eastern Michigan University and, is a Qualified Sexuality Educator Qualification through Western Michigan University. She has worked in the field of rehabilitation in Michigan for over 40 years. She currently serves as the Community Inclusion Coordinator for the Michigan Developmental Disabilities Council. She is the Council’s lead staff on its expanding employment for youth initiative. She is a frequent presenter on the topics of Advocacy, Self-Determination, Person-Centered Planning, Supported Decision-Making, Youth Employment, and Sexuality Education. Mary is also the family member of several people with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities so, she approaches her teaching from many different perspectives.

Matt McDonald

Matt McDonald is a 28-year-old man with autism who graduated with a diploma from Charlotte High School in 2014. Matt works parttime at Speedway as a stocker. He lives independently in an apartment complex. Matt enjoys spending watching sports, especially baseball. Matt also spends time with his neurotypical girlfriend who is a graduate of Michigan State University. Matt has many hobbies such as gardening, cooking, being outdoors, watching TV, playing sports and attending live sporting events.

Menachem Hojda LMSW

Menachem Hojda is a Clinical Social Worker and Trainer with Oakland Community Health Network and Fairsky Foundation. He is passionate about making the world a more compassionate place by sharing information about the power of connection and empathy to build resilience as a response to trauma.

Michael Laird

Michael Laird is a 3rd year student at Michigan State University in the Rehabilitation Counseling Program. He is currently working at the Battle Creek Veterans Administration as a Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor Intern. Before that he served over 20 years in Military, three years in the U.S. Army and 17 in the U.S. Force, retiring in 2017. Michael is also a Co-Founder and the current Secretary and Treasurer of Mending Souls, 502(c)3, an all-volunteer organization focused on charitable works for underserved and disenfranchised groups. He earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Arizona with a major in Care, Health & Society with a double minor in Psychology and a Thematic Minor: Healthcare, Law and Policy. He was also awarded the College of Social and Behavior Sciences Outstanding Senior, Fall 2020.

Mudita Jagota – Keynote

Mudita Jagota is a first-year doctoral student in the Counselor Education and Supervision Program at Michigan State University (MSU), holding a Master’s in Rehabilitation Counseling. She is also a Certified Rehabilitation Counselor. Her extensive experience includes research and clinical work with individuals with disabilities. She has contributed to Project STEMM-Up and interned with organizations like Disability Network Capital Area, the Michigan Employment Clinic (Mi-EC) at MSU, and the Resource Center for Persons with Disabilities (RCPD) at MSU. Her personal experiences as a disabled woman motivate her work. She’s an active disability rights advocate on social media, which connects her to the global disability community. Mudita aspires to dedicate her life to disability service and advocacy.

Narae Yu

Narae Yu is a first-year master’s student in Rehabilitation Counseling at Michigan State University. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Counseling Psychology and Social Welfare, demonstrating her dedication to assisting individuals facing various challenges. Her aspirations extend beyond the classroom; she envisions herself as a versatile practitioner and researcher in Rehabilitation Counseling, open to a diverse range of interests within the discipline.

Nathan Volz

Vice President of Community Inclusion at Gesher Human Services

Norman G. DeLisle Jr.

Norman DeLisle has been working in the disability community since 1970 and has a lived experience of severe disability for most of his life. He has worked in medical, school, substance abuse, mental health, and developmental disability services and support programs, but his passion is advocacy. He worked for Michigan Protection and Advocacy Services for 13 years and has long experience in policy advocacy around all issues that can expand and support the free choice of people with disabilities for the lives they wish to live. He is currently a Policy Consultant in Physical and Behavioral Supports for the Michigan Disability Rights Coalition and was the Executive Director for 18 years. He is a “true believer” in the ability of the disability community to make real use of technology and personal relationships of support to make a world of choice and possibility.

Rachel Prevatt

Rachel Prevatt is Disability Rights Michigan’s (DRM) Voter Engagement Specialist, working to ensure that Michigan voters with disabilities are informed, empowered, and able to exercise their voting rights. DRM is Michigan’s federally mandated, state-appointed Protection and Advocacy agency. Rachel is a Central Michigan University graduate and current student in Michigan State University’s MSW program. Previous to Voter Engagement, Rachel was an advocate on DRM’s community and institutional rights team, investigating abuse and neglect, monitoring facilities, and providing direct advocacy to Michiganders with disabilities. Rachel’s past experience includes work in juvenile justice diversion, mental health peer-support, batterer intervention, healthy relationships and sex education for adults with Intellectual/Developmental Disabilities, and LGBT youth services.

Rene Dell

Rene Dell received her Masters in Counseling from Oakland University. Rene is a Certified Rehabilitation Counselor who currently works as the Vice President of Vocational Rehabilitation at Gesher Human Services. She sits on the board for the Commission on Rehabilitation Counselor Certification. She has extensive experience working with individuals who sustained traumatic brain injuries, spinal cord injuries, intellectual impairments, developmental disability, mental health diagnosis, substance use disorders and other catastrophic injuries. Rene has been successful in placing individuals with significant disabilities in competitive community-based integreted employment. She has worked with those who are referred by Michigan Rehabilitation Services, those currently receiving Workers Compensation benefits, and private pay cases which all involve working with participants with a wide range of disabilities. Rene looks at each person on an individual basis and develops an approach which maximizes the potential for the participant. 

Rene Sherwood

Rene currently works as the Executive Director for Vocational Independence Program, Inc. located in Flint Township. She has worked with VIP for just over 5 years. She also works on behalf of CARF International, the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities for the past 16 years as a Surveyor. She previously worked for Goodwill Industries of Mid-Michigan as the VP of workforce development in 10 counties, Area Supervisor for Michigan Community Services, in Swartz Creek, and Job Placement Professional for Work Skills Corporation in Brighton. Rene has worked in the employment & training field working on behalf of persons with disabilities and barriers to employment for over 35 years. She holds a Master of Business Administration degree from Baker College, with a minor in Science. Rene grew up in Rankin Michigan and graduated from Ainsworth High School. She has 2 boys Brick (27), Tech Sgt in the US Air Force & Donald (21) Communications Technician for BAM Construction. She is newly married to Mr. Matt Sherwood, Army Veteran & Business Consultant for VetBiz Central.

Sally Smolinski

Sally Smolinski oversees the vocational provider network at OCHN which includes 11 providers of vocational services in both community and facility-based settings. She is committed to building a strong, quality collaboration in vocational services within OCHN’s provider network.

Sara Chernick, MA, CRC

Sara Chernick, MA, CRC – Sara is a Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor with Michigan Rehabilitation Services (MRS).   In 2000, she started her career as a Rehabilitation Counselor with the Hannahville Indian Community (HIC).  As a MRS Counselor, she continues to partner with HIC, with current responsibility for providing services under the Interagency Cash Transfer Agreement (ICTA) between MRS and the Hannahville Indian Community.  While providing individual vocational rehabilitation services, Sara partners with community resources, including local schools, Lakestate Industries, Superior Alliance for Independent Living (SAIL), Michigan Works, and many other partners in the Upper Peninsula.  Her compassionate and client-centered approach has resulted in numerous success stories of clients reintegrating into the workforce and achieving vocational goals.  Sara earned her master’s degree in rehabilitation counseling from Michigan State University.  Sara has worked with Michigan Rehabilitation Services for 10 years.

Sarah George, CRC

Sarah George is a Certified Rehabilitation Counselor with more than 24 years of experience in the field of vocational rehabilitation. In her current role as Director of Mission Initiatives at Peckham, Inc., Sarah provides strategic thinking and clinical expertise in the design, implementation, and evaluation of programs and interventions that support Peckham’s mission to provide a wide range of training and employment opportunities for people striving for independence and self-sufficiency. Sarah is passionate about workforce inclusion, belonging, and mental health. Sarah earned her Master’s in Rehabilitation Counseling from Michigan State University.

Scott Caesar

Scott Caesar is the founder of WordWorks AI, a generative AI research and innovation consulting organization. With over 15 years of experience in the enterprise software industry and a BS in Computer Science from the University of Michigan, Scott is a proven leader in driving growth and launching innovative products.

Scott is passionate about the potential of generative AI to drive innovation and positive social impact. His approach to leading and innovating is grounded in continuous learning and agile methodologies.

Sean Luechtefeld, Ph.D., CAE

Sean Luechtefeld serves as ANCOR’s Vice President for Membership & Communications. Since joining the ANCOR team in 2018, Sean has led communications for ANCOR and the ANCOR Foundation, collaborating across the organization to strengthen the association’s brand and positioning. In 2023, Sean added membership to his portfolio, overseeing member outreach, operations and engagement for ANCOR’s growing community of more than 2,000 providers and associations.

Prior to joining ANCOR, Sean worked for more than a decade in an array of communications roles supporting mission-driven organizations. Additionally, he has served since 2015 as an adjunct professor in the Master’s program in Communication at Johns Hopkins University, where he teaches courses in content marketing, advocacy communications, speechwriting, research methods and more.

Sean holds a Ph.D. in Communication with a focus in rhetoric and political culture from the University of Maryland, a Master’s in Communication from Wake Forest University, and dual Bachelor’s degrees in Communication Studies and Political Science, both from the Florida State University. In 2023, he earned the designation of Certified Association Executive from ASAE, the Center for Association Leadership.

Shannon Kelley

Shannon Kelley is the Digital Skills Supervisor for the Specialized Employment and Training program at Goodwill of Greater Detroit. She has nine years of experience working with adults with disabilities and loves developing digital literacy and life skills curriculum that helps others to realize their independence. Shannon also has 12 years of experience teaching middle school and high school choirs across the state of Michigan. She earned a Bachelor of Music Education from Calvin College and has a professional teaching certificate with the State of Michigan. In her free time, Shannon likes to grow vegetables in her garden, collect old books and sheet music, and read about and discuss religion and politics.

Sharon Emery

Sharon Emery struggles to speak — she has a severe stutter — but has nonetheless made a career – several careers, in fact – as a communicator.

First, she set her sights on being a reporter. After graduating from Wayne State University and earning her Master’s degree from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism in New York City, she went to work at a small daily newspaper in Ohio.

She then taught journalism part-time at Michigan State University, while working on her doctorate and starting a family.

She returned to full-time work as an editor at the Lansing Bureau of what is now Mlive. Sharon spent most of her career there, including a year as a Knight-Wallace Journalism Fellow at the University of Michigan.

When the newspaper industry began to implode, she turned to public relations. She became vice president at Truscott Rossman in Lansing, and continues as a senior consultant there.

Sharon has since added “author” to her resume. Her memoir, “It’s Hard Being You, A Primer on Being Happy Anyway,” was named a 2023 Michigan Notable Book and she has spent the year speaking to audiences across the state.

Forging a career in communications was a battle, but she also struggled with other losses and limits. Luckily, it taught her a lot about life, which she is now sharing with others struggling to make their way.

New York Times bestselling author Lori Nelson Spielman calls Emery’s message “a gift to the world.”

State Rep. Sharon MacDonell

State Rep. Sharon MacDonell is serving her first term in Michigan’s 56th House District, which encompasses parts of Birmingham, Bloomfield Township, Clawson, Royal Oak and Troy. For nearly 30 years, she has lived in Troy with her husband and two daughters. She is the co-founder of Troy Indivisible, served as a precinct delegate for 10 years and was elected the co-chair and chairperson of the Troy Democratic Club.

Rep. MacDonell graduated from the University of Michigan with a bachelor of arts in history. She has worked for several broadcasting and automotive firms in a wide variety of creative and problem-solving positions, including as a journalist, marketing professional and video producer.

Her priorities as a legislator are funding and supporting public education, protecting voter rights, fighting discrimination, improving access to health care, and continuing to strengthen Michigan’s infrastructure, economy and green initiatives.

Shonda Rushing

Shonda Renee Rushing is a author, poet, motivational speaker, leadership consultant co-host of Road2damascus Podcast, founder of the Clean Your Soul class and has been in ministry and leadership over 20 years. Her greatest achievement is being mom to 2 sons TJ and Brayden.

Susan Salhaney

Susan Salhaney is the Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of Judson Center, a human service agency headquartered in Farmington Hills, MI. Ms. Salhaney is an alumna from Western Michigan University where she earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Criminal Justice.

Throughout her 36 year career, Ms. Salhaney has dedicated herself to insuring the safety and well-being of children and families. In her current role as Chief Operating Officer, Ms. Salhaney oversees autism, disability and integrated health care services, which includes primary health care and the operations of a certified community behavioral health clinic (CCBHC) offering mental health and substance use disorder services. Prior to assuming the role of Chief Operating Officer, Ms. Salhaney worked very closely with children and families as the Child Welfare Director at Judson Center. Ms. Salhaney is an alumna of Leadership Detroit XL. She has been a member of numerous statewide committees focused on child welfare services and a strong advocate for the well- being of vulnerable children, families and adults in Michigan.

Tim Hatfield

President/CEO at New Horizons Rehabilitation Services, Inc. New Horizons Rehabilitation Services, Inc.

Todd Culver

Todd Culver is the President and CEO of Incompass Michigan, a statewide network of comprehensive human service providers working together to develop independence and achieve inclusive communities. Through advocacy, innovation, education, and leadership development, the association empowers members to achieve their mission.

Todd also serves as Fund Administrator for the Incompass Michigan Self-Insured Group Workers’ Compensation Fund. He has been with the association since 1995, also serving as Project Director and Assistant Director.

Todd serves on the Board of Directors for the Michigan Nonprofit Association, and was appointed by the Governor of Michigan to service on the Michigan Council for Rehabilitation Services.

He holds Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts degrees in English from the University of Michigan.

Toni Jordan MA, CRC, LPC

With more than 20 years of experience serving the disability community, Toni is both a Certified Rehabilitation Counselor (CRC) and a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC). She holds a Master’s degree in Rehabilitation Counseling from Michigan State University. Toni began her relationship with MRA as a graduate student in 2013 and deepened her commitment by joining the board in 2016. Currently, she serves as a Site Manager at MRS, where she oversees operations to ensure optimal client outcomes.
Toni joined MRA to network with other professionals who share her commitment to rehabilitation services. She fervently believes that fostering these connections is the key to forming stronger alliances that can advance the cause of a more inclusive and equitable society for individuals with disabilities.

Paul Landry

Paul Landry serves as a Director of Employment Programs at MI-UCP and manages the Work Incentive Planning & Assistance (WIPA) Project covering Livingston, Oakland and Wayne counties. He has established the Fee for Service with Michigan Rehabilitation Services & the Bureau of Services for Blind Persons. Paul is also involved in Michigan’s Employment First initiative subcommittee, aiding Benefit Counseling services at a statewide level and making recommendations regarding the state’s Medicaid – Freedom to Work program. Paul is also a Benefits Counselor and CWIC Certified.

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re:con Awards

BOOM is a statewide award ceremony recognizing individuals with a disability who have excelled. The goal of the BOOM Awards is to provide stereotype-busting role models for people with disabilities.

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The apex awards recognize outstanding achievement in the following categories: Outstanding Employer, Outstanding Community Partner, Transformational Leadership, and Lifetime Achievement.