2019 Speaker Biographies


Chief of Police, Dr. RaShall M. Brackney

Prior to her appointment as the Chief of Police for Charlottesville, Virginia, Dr. RaShall M. Brackney retired as a 30-year veteran with the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police. She is the former Chief of Police of the George Washington University. During her tenure as a law enforcement professional, she has been responsible for overseeing critical operations to include Administration, Patrol Operations and Investigations. Most notably, she was the first African American female in the nation to oversee a Special Operations Division which included SWAT, Mounted Patrol, Accident Investigation, Hostage Negotiations, River Rescue, Traffic and the “Bomb” Squad.

Dr. Brackney is a recognized expert in the areas of harm reduction, procedural and restorative justice practices, and community-police relations. Due to her work in these areas, she was recently selected by the Department of Justice to address biased-based and hate crimes reporting in the nation. Dr. Brackney currently serves as a Fellow for Carnegie-Mellon University’s Institute for Politics and Strategy, where she specializes in the influences of race on politics and policy. In addition, she was selected by the International Association of the Chiefs of Police (IACP) to serve on their Civil Rights Committee.

She is a committed community advocate and continues to serve an Executive Board member for the Homewood Children’s Village (HCV) and the Alliance for Police Accountability. Additionally, she has served on the Executive and Leadership Board for Operation Better Block (OBB), Amachi Pittsburgh, A Giving Heart, Manchester Academic Charter School and The Heinz Endowments: African-American Men and Boys Initiative. Dr. Brackney earned Bachelors and Masters Degrees from Carnegie-Mellon University and a Ph.D. from Robert Morris University. Additionally, she has earned numerous professional certifications to include the Command Institute for Police Executives and the Police Executive Research Forum.

Dr. Brackney is also a graduate of the FBI National Academy in Quantico, Virginia; the United States Secret Service Dignitary Protection course in Washington, D.C.; Redstone Arsenal “Bomb School” for managers in Huntsville, Alabama, and Leadership Pittsburgh XIX.

Poet Laureate, Rita Dove

Rita Dove, recipient of the 1987 Pulitzer Prize in poetry for Thomas and Beulah, was U.S. Poet Laureate from 1993 to 1995. Author of numerous books, most recently Sonata Mulattica and Collected Poems 1974-2004, she also edited The Penguin Anthology of Twentieth-Century American Poetry. Her drama The Darker Face of the Earth premiered at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in 1996 and was produced at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. and the Royal National Theatre in London, among other venues. In 1998 the Boston Symphony debuted her song cycle “Seven for Luck”, with music by John Williams, under the composer’s baton. Her many honors include the 2011 National Medal of Arts from President Obama, the 1996 National Humanities Medal from President Clinton, and 28 honorary doctorates. Rita Dove is Commonwealth Professor of English at the University of Virginia; currently she also serves as The New York Times Magazine’s poetry editor.


Renee Branson

Pulling from over 20 years in education, counseling and non-profit management, Renee Branson’s passion and purpose is helping individuals and organizations cultivate resilience. Renee began her career as a high school teacher in St. Louis, Missouri working with students who faced many barriers to their education from poverty, to racism and sexism, to mental health challenges. She earned her Master’s Degree in Counseling Psychology and worked for years as a trauma therapist working with adult and children survivors of physical and sexual abuse, war, trafficking and other life-altering traumas. Through her work both as a teacher and therapist, she discovered that those who were able to tap into and grow their resilience were more likely to not only survive their trauma, but thrive. Now Renee brings the skills of cultivating resilience to individuals and organizations BEFORE crisis hits.

Dr. Tamara Wilkerson Dias

In her role as a nonprofit Executive Director, Dr. Tamara Wilkerson Dias works to eliminate the large racial disparity in public education. She leads an organization that supports the recruitment, retention, development, and support of African American teachers. It was in this role that she realized the importance of self-care, and dedicated herself to the mission of supporting public servants in their own selfcare journeys. Dr. Dias established her own self-care routine through her passion for health and wellness. As the Founder and CEO of TWD Coaching & Consulting, she works to support women to live their healthiest lives. A three-time half-marathoner, she believes that putting yourself first allows you to ensure that your cup is full, so you remain at your best for others. Dr. Dias leads with the mindset that self-care isn’t selfish, and is the foundation of a healthy lifestyle. When she is not running, or working on long grant applications, she is usually curled up with a good book.

Mary Foley

Passionate to share what she’s learned and how to apply it, Mary created a simple, powerful approach to revving up other women entrepreneurs. Today she is an author, speaker, business coach, host of the P.O.W.E.R. Plug Podcast, and lover of Wonder Woman. When she’s not wearing her red cape, she is having the best conversations ever while sipping wine at a RVA restaurant or yet another Virginia winery.



Ginger Germani

With a degree in Economics from Randolph-Macon College in Virginia and a heart intent on helping others, Ginger has over twenty years of experience in relationship based, custom business solutions from marketing to commercial lending. She seeks to leave everyone she meets, either personally or professionally, better informed and on a successful path.



Lisa Harris

When you think of Lisa Harris, she wants you to think of transformation and inspiration. Her fervor and commitment to developing people to lead and to be leaders is evident in her successful and rewarded careers in the automotive and financial services industry and as an entrepreneur in the learning, business development and consulting space. Her clients describe her as focused, results oriented, motivational, disciplined, and a determined partner who in coaches people and organizations to achieve their personal and professional goals.Her clients ranged from small businesses, to governmental and nonprofit organizations. Her love for learning included teaching management and business ethics to graduate and undergraduate students in her home state, New Jersey. She presently shares these skills as an L&D consultant at UVA. She earned her master’s degree from Northwestern University, Kellogg Graduate School of Management in Evanston, IL. She earned her leadership in legacy “degree” from the hard work and privilege of growing leaders across the country!

Joyce Ivory

Joyce Ivory is a non-profit leader, HR professional, and PhD candidate in Organizational Leadership. For over ten years Joyce has worked in the areas of Diversity and Inclusion, recruitment, program management, performance management, coaching and business processes. At the University of Virginia Joyce works with HR recruitment processes, promote fair and equitable hiring processes, and apply innovation to diversity recruitment.Her greatest passion is helping people connect to their passions and purpose.

Karen Kuhlmann

Karen Kuhlmann, Regional Associate, CUNA Mutual Group Annuity Solutions. With almost 30 years of experience in the financial services industry, Karen has worked with clients from all walks of life. As a financial professional and mother of four daughters, she has a firsthand perspective of the unique challenges women face in reaching their financial goals. She is committed to educating women about financial planning, investing and saving for retirement. Karen lives and breathes CUNA Mutual Group’s purpose to break down the barriers to financial security for all.

Kelly Landes

An Organizational Consultant and Executive Coach, Kelly has spent the past 22 years as a psychotherapist in private practice. Having a diverse career with a deeply reaching population, Kelly’s professional network is varied and includes educational systems, start-up businesses, technology, banking, the travel and service industries and the media. She works with top leaders to clarify and solidify their mission and core values.


Jennell Lynch

Currently serves as the Vice President for the NAIC, a trade association comprised of more than 50 member firms representing over $90 billion in assets under management, it is now the largest network of women and diverse-owned private equity firms and hedge funds in the United States. In her role as Vice President of the organization, Jennell oversees dayto-day operations; manages membership services, programs, and national events.


Lynsie McKeown

A local Yoga Educator, Speaker, Dharma Development Coach and Mentor who specializes in teaching women how to create long lasting positive change so that they can be free from the fears, frustrations and limitations that hold them back from living an extraordinary life. She credits her own transformation to the solid teachings of Yoga and Meditation and to wellness techniques that are now backed by science.

Lorraine Sanders

A media entrepreneur and podcast producer devoted to sharing female entrepreneurs’ stories through her weekly podcast, the Spirit of 608, and helping women in business increase visibility and earn more media coverage through the podcast’s sister business, PressDope by Spirit of 608, a membership-based platform offering DIY PR training and resources to socially-responsible brands.

Paula Vest-Woodfolk

Mary Baldwin College Alumni and graduate student of Liberty University’s Professional Counseling program. Whether working with families in crisis, ex-offenders re-entering the community, or loyal listeners of a country radio station she has been described as a seasoned professional that is “down to earth” and approachable. Paula listens with a keen understanding and works for the success of others while encouraging and empowering them to participate in their own success. With honesty and laughter, Paula will embrace you like family, encourage you like a mother, and teach you like a mentor. She often shares her guiding principle, which is “I really just want to do the best I can with the resources I have in the time I’ve been given.”

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