Home  /   Events  /   Speaker Bio’s

February 26, Speaker James Bruckbauer- “Reviving Michigan’s Passenger Rail Service”

James is a transportation policy specialist for the Groundwork Center for Resilient Communities, a nonprofit advocacy organization based in Traverse City, Michigan, that promotes local food, transportation options, and clean energy.

James leads the organization’s efforts to improve passenger rail, regional transit and bike networks in the northern Michigan. He manages the Local Motion program, which helps companies encourage employees to carpool, bus, bike, and walk to work.  He also plays leadership roles for Transportation for Michigan (Trans4M), a statewide coalition working to reform Michigan’s transportation policy.

James is leading a project that explores what it would take to establish passenger rail service on an existing, state-owned set of railroad tracks between Ann Arbor and Traverse City.

In 2014, James was named by the Traverse City Business News as one of Traverse City’s 40 Most Influential People Under Age 40. His writing can be found on MLUI’s website and has been featured in many statewide media outlets.

James graduated with a degree in Public Administration from Grand Valley State University. He lives in Traverse City with his wife and two children, and usually walks, bikes, or rides the bus to get wherever he needs to go.

January 29, Speaker Karen Anderson- “New Beginnings for Buildings and People”

Karen Anderson is President and CEO of Cordia Senior Living, a woman-owned company that provides advice to owners, operators and investors in the senior living industry nationally and internationally. As the leader of Cordia, she is also an active owner, operator and developer.

Cordia Senior Living, founded in 1996 by Ms. Anderson and now located in the historic Charlestown neighborhood of Boston, operates high quality Independent and Assisted Living communities. Our approach combines traditional values with cutting edge innovation. Since its inception Cordia has set new standards in resident programming, operating communities at the leading edge in promoting dignified, adult lifestyles for all residents. The company’s operations focus on independent and assisted living rental communities. Its consulting services focus on helping owners understand the nuances of property operations in order to allow them to better manage their operating partners.

Ms. Anderson provides the strategic vision and leadership for all facets of Cordia Senior Living. Prior to founding Cordia, Karen was President of Advantage Health Management Corporation. She holds a B.A. in Political Science and an MPPM in Public and Private Management from Yale University. Karen is a past Chairman of the Massachusetts Assisted Living Facilities Association (MASS ALFA), and served as founding President of the Connecticut Assisted Living Association. Karen served on the Executive Committee of ASHA from 199 to 2001 as Treasurer and is a longtime member of the Executive Board.


November 13, Speaker Jan Scruggs- “To Heal a Nation”

In 1979, Jan Scruggs conceived the idea of building the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., as a tribute to all who served during one of the longest wars in American history. Today, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial is among the most visited memorials in the nation’s capital.

Scruggs was a wounded and decorated veteran of the Vietnam War, having served in the 199th Light Infantry Brigade of the U.S. Army. He felt a memorial would serve as a healing device for a different kind of wound—that inflicted on our national psyche by the long and controversial Asian war.

Scruggs launched the effort with $2,800 of his own money and gradually gained the support of other Vietnam veterans in persuading Congress to provide a prominent location on federal government property somewhere in Washington, D.C. After a difficult struggle, Congress responded, and the site chosen was on the National Mall near the Lincoln Memorial.

As president of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund Inc., the nonprofit organization created to build and maintain the Memorial, Scruggs headed up the effort that raised $8.4 million and saw the Memorial completed in just two years. It was dedicated on November 13, 1982, during a week-long national salute to Vietnam veterans in the nation’s capital.

After the completion of the Memorial, Scruggs, along with author Joel L. Swerdlow, put to paper To Heal a Nation—the moving story of Scruggs’ efforts to build The Wall. In May 1988, it became an “NBC Movie of the Week.”

Scruggs continues to lead VVMF as it enters a new phase in its mission to remember those who sacrificed in Vietnam: building the Education Center at The Wall. The Education Center will show the photos and tell the stories of those who made the ultimate sacrifice during the Vietnam War, as well as celebrate the values embodied by American service members in all of our nation’s wars.

He has appeared on 60 Minutes, Nightline, Good Morning America and The Today Show as well as C-SPAN, CNN and FOX. He has written opinion articles for The Washington Post, USA Today, The New York Times, The Washington Times and other national and regional publications. A national speaker and author, Scruggs has written articles on a wide range of topics, including the Civil War and the battle of Gettysburg.

Scruggs is a native of Washington, D.C, and grew up in Bowie, Md.  He received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from American University in Washington, D.C., and his law degree from the University of Maryland, Baltimore.

October 23, Speaker Beata Kirr- “The Case for Dow 20,000 and Other Capital Market Updates

Beata D. Kirr is a Senior Portfolio Manager for Bernstein Global Wealth Management – Chicago Office. She is a member of Bernstein’s Private Client Investment Policy Group, which provides asset allocation, investment and risk management advice for high-net-worth clients, endowments and foundations.  Bernstein Global Wealth Management is a global asset management firm providing investment management and research services worldwide to institutional, high-net-worth, and retail investors.  As of December 31, 2014, it has approximately $474 Billion in assets under management.

Prior to joining the firm in 2007, she was a member of the management committee at Harris Alternatives, a global fund of hedge funds, where she advised investment consultants, institutions and high-net-worth investors on the use of the firm’s fund offerings within their broad asset allocations.  Previously, Kirr was with Goldman Sachs, where she advised corporate clients and institutional asset managers in the institutional equities, mergers and acquisitions, and equity capital markets divisions, working out of Goldman’s New York, London and Chicago offices.

Ms. Kirr holds a BS in economics (magna cum laude) from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania and an MBA from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University.  Kirr has frequently provided market commentary for various organizations, including the Chicago Tribune, WGN News, NPR and The Wall Street Journal.

August 7, Speaker Dr. David Shambaugh- “China at the Crossroads”

Dr. David Shambaugh

Professor and Director of the China Policy Program at George Washington University and Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution.

David Shambaugh is an internationally recognized authority and author on contemporary China and the international relations of Asia. He is presently Professor of Political Science & International Affairs and the founding Director of the China Policy Program in the Elliott School of International Affairs at George Washington University.

He is also a Nonresident Senior Fellow in the Foreign Policy Studies Program and Center for East Asian Policy Studies at The Brookings Institution. He was previously Reader in Chinese Politics in the University of London’s School of Oriental & African Studies (SOAS), where he also served as Editor of The China Quarterly.  He currently serves on the Board of Directors of the National Committee on U.S.-China Relations, and is a member of the International Institute for Strategic Studies, Council on Foreign Relations, U.S. Asia-Pacific Council, and other public policy and scholarly organizations. He has been selected as a Fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, a Senior Scholar by the Phi Beta Kappa Society, a Senior Fulbright Scholar, and a Distinguished Research Professor at the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences. He has received research grants from the Ford Foundation, Rockefeller Foundation, Smith Richardson Foundation, German Marshall Fund, British Academy, International Research Exchange Board (IREX), U.S. National Academy of Sciences, and has been a visiting scholar or professor at institutions in Australia, China, Hong Kong, Italy, Japan, Singapore, and Russia.

Professor Shambaugh is also a frequent commentator in the international media, serves on a number of editorial boards, and has been a consultant to various governments, research institutions, foundations, and private corporations.

As an author, he has written or edited thirty books, including China Goes Global: The Partial Power (2013 and selected by The Economist, Foreign Affairs, and Bloomberg News as one of the “Best Books of the Year”); Tangled Titans: The United States and China (2012); Charting China’s Future: Domestic & International Challenges (2011); China’s Communist Party: Atrophy & Adaptation (2008); and International Relations of Asia (2008); Power Shift: China & Asia’s New Dynamics (2005).

He received his B.A. in East Asian Studies from the Elliott School of International Affairs at George Washington University, M.A. in International Affairs from Johns Hopkins University Nitze School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS), and Ph.D. in Political Science from the University of Michigan.

July 24, Speaker Dr. Mustafa Mohatarem “China’s Business Culture: The GM Experience”

Dr. Mustafa Mohatarem, Chief Economist, General Motors

Dr. G. Mustafa Mohatarem has been General Motors’ Chief Economist since 1995, leading an economics team responsible for assessing the impact of worldwide economic developments on the world’s second largest automaker and providing advice to the company on various competitive and economic policy issues.

An expert on trade policy, Dr. Mohatarem led the GM Team responsible for advocating China’s accession to the World Trade Organization.  He was also the lead executive from GM interacting with U.S. trade negotiators during the U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement negotiations.  Currently, his team is advising General Motors on the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations and other regional and international trade agreements.

Dr. Mohatarem holds an MBA and a PhD in economics from the University of Chicago Graduate School of Business and has previously served as visiting assistant professor at the University of Notre Dame and as adjunct assistant professor at the University of Michigan and the University of Detroit.

June 26, Speaker Keith Schneider “China’s Environmental Challenges”

Keith Schneider

Keith manages multimedia story development, reporting, editing, and production for Circle of Blue. He is a nationally known journalist, online communications specialist, and environmental policy expert. For more than a decade, Keith was a national correspondent for The New York Times, where he continues to report as a special writer on energy, real estate, business, and technology. Before joining Circle of Blue, Keith was media and communications director at the US Climate Action Network and communications director at the Apollo Alliance. Keith developed one of the first independent online news desks as the founder and executive director of the Michigan Land Use Institute. A sought-after public speaker on the role of original reporting and online communications in the public interest, Keith is a regular contributor to the Times, Yale Environment 360, Grist Magazine, and other prominent news organizations. You can read his personal site at Modeshift.org.

May 22, Speaker Matt McCauley “A Regional Economic Outlook for Northwest Michigan”

Matt McCauley

Matt McCauley is the Director of Strategic Initiatives for Networks Northwest. Networks Northwest is the Regional Prosperity Initiative convening agency in northwest lower Michigan, representing a true public private organization that administers workforce, community, and business development under the same agency umbrella.

Matt has been with Networks Northwest (previously Northwest Michigan Council of Governments) for 11 years. He has a bachelor’s degree in business administration and master’s degree in public administration – both from Grand Valley State University.   In 2013, he was recognized internationally as a German Marshall Fund Urban and Regional Policy Fellows.

April 24th, Speakers Keith Nielson & Kevin Vann and Dakota & Garret Porter “Traverse City Inventors”

Keith Nielson & Kevin Vann

In 2005, a couple of grade school friends began meeting late on Thursday nights to rebuild a ‘41 Chevy truck. However, with engineering and creative backgrounds, Truck Night quickly evolved into product development and start-up projects.

A passion for creativity, design, innovation and life enjoyment lies at the core of our company. Founded in 2011 by lead designer Keith Nielson and CEO, Kevin Vann, KMN’s initial product debut of the DrawerDecor® organizing system was a significant achievement in our efforts to succeed in the world of consumer product design and manufacturing. The drawer organizer’s high design and unique innovation have helped establish KMN as an up-and-coming consumer brand with endless potential.

The founders of KMN are a solid team and trusted partnership with equal ambition.  Both have a strong technical and engineering background yet have been successful performing all areas of a start-up company.  Their collaborative achievements have also included the design, commercialization and license of The Caution Clip® to a third party for mass market retail as well as the marketing and brand creation for a start-up homebuilding company.  Pathway Homes was founded in 2006 and has grown into a multi-million dollar company.

Keith M. Nielson, co-Founder – As the namesake of KMN, Keith is an inventor and artist with a passion for creating new products and building a team into a great company.  He holds a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from GMI (now Kettering University), Michigan Real Estate Salesperson’s License, Private Pilot’s License, Instrument and Rotorcraft ratings, Ice Rescue certification and is a purple belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. He has over ten years of c-level management experience in manufacturing, private equity, real estate, home building, and oil and gas. Keith is also a member of the Young Presidents Organization (YPO). Keith lives in Traverse City, Michigan with his wife and six kids.

Kevin M. Vann, CEO & co-Founder – Kevin has been responsible for the overall operations of KMN since its founding.  He is a passionate entrepreneur and problem solver with a creative mind and detailed eye. Along with his project oversight experience, Kevin’s academic background in engineering demonstrates his strong quantitative and analytical skills. He holds a B.S.E. in Naval Architecture & Marine Engineering and M.S.E. in Industrial & Operations Engineering from the University of Michigan. Prior to co-founding KMN, Kevin worked as a Naval Architect and Marine Engineer in Bristol, Rhode Island as well as Vice President of Real Estate Development & Trust for a family office in Traverse City, Michigan. Kevin enjoys spending time with his wife and three kids at their home in Suttons Bay, Michigan.

45th Parallel Lighting, LLC is a company created by two young entrepreneurs with a patent pending product called Action Glow™. Action Glow™ is a patent pending LED lighting Kit for your sporting equipment. The Kit comes with everything you need, and can be easily applied. The business and product were born when they were snowboarding at their local mountain when everything looked too ordinary. With extensive amounts of research and prototypes, they could finally launch their product. As new ideas kept developing, the two added several more sports into their product line. The Kits offer a chance for consumers to add a stylish lighting design to individualize their sporting equipment, while expressing their personal style.

Dakota Wyatt Porter

President/Co-Founder of 45th Parallel Lighting, LLC, Product Development & Assembly

Dakota is 19 years old. Dakota will be graduating from NMC this spring with an Associates Degree in Business/Entrepreneurship and will continue his education this fall for his Bachelors Degree.  Dakota became an Eagle Scout at the age of 15 and renovated the baseball field at Grace McDonald Park raising $20,000 in product /services and was honored when Eastbay Township Parks Commission named the field in his honor (D. Porter Community Field).  Dakota will soon be a Merit Badge Counselor – (Entrepreneurship & Public Speaking) for the younger scouts. Dakota ranked in the top 4 in Accelerate Michigan Student Innovation Competition out of over 720 students across Michigan 2 years in a row and has won several other competitions offering seed money and valuable business prizes.  When Dakota is not working on school, a part-time job, community service and Action Glow™, Dakota enjoys photography, snowboarding, longboarding, surfing, wakeboarding, hunting, fishing and golf.

Garret Weston Porter

Vice President/Co-Founder of 45th Parallel Lighting, LLC, Customer Service, Assembly, Event Coordinator & Social Media Content Creator

Garret is 16 years old. Garret is currently a Junior at Traverse City Central High and dual enrolling in his second semester at NMC taking classes in business and public speaking.  Garret made the Deans List for his semester at NMC. Garret is currently a Life Scout and planning on obtaining the rank of Eagle in the near future.  Garret has won several competitions in Michigan and ranked third in the Primi Civitas Foundation Student Innovation Competition and has also alongside of Dakota placed first in several Best Shot Product Pitch Competitions from Traverse City to Detroit.  Garret also holds a part time job, works countless hours on Action Glow™, is on the Traverse City Central Golf Team and participates in community service. Garret plans on becoming an Orthopedic Surgeon.  In his spare time, Garret enjoys golf, hunting, fishing, surfing, longboarding, wakeboarding and snowboarding.

March 20th, Speaker Tom Menzel “Driving Organizational Change”

TOM MENZEL, Executive Director- Bay Area Transportation Authority

MBA- with Honors-Project Management-Lake Forest Graduate school
BA-History and Political Science-Valparaiso University
Secondary Certification-Western Michigan University

Bay Area Transportation Authority-Executive Director
National Cherry Festival-Executive Director
City of Rolling Meadows, Illinois-Mayor-City Treasurer-Alderman
Northwest Suburban Alliance for Commerce and Industry-President
McGraw Hill Training Systems-National Sales Manager- 7 companies
Xerox Learning Systems-Sales-District Manager-Regional Manager East Coast
Allstate Insurance-Public Affairs
Roosevelt University-Adjunct Faculty-MBA Program-Executive Leadership

Your Bay Your Say Committee
T.C. Convention and Visitor’s Bureau Board of Directors
Selected as one of the top 50 Business Leaders in Chicago Metropolitan area in 2004 and 2005 by Crain’s Chicago Business
Rotary Club Leader of the Year Award in 1999 and 2003
Recognition Awards- Boy Scouts of America-Rolling Meadows Park District-Palatine Township-Greater Woodfield Convention & Visitor’s Bureau
Northwest Municipal Conference-Co-Chair Strategic Planning-Technical-Transportation-E-Commerce-Recognized for leadership in 1995 & 2003
Illinois Treasurers Association-Vice President–Legislative Committee Chair
DePaul University-Suburban Advisory Board
Northwest Philanthropic Trust Board of Directors
Northwest Housing Partnership-Board of Directors
Northwest Illinois commercial Association of Realtors-Board of Directors
Community Education 214 Advisory Board of Directors and Vice President
Greater Woodfield Convention & Visitor’s Bureau Board of Directors
O’Hare Field Advisory Board of Directors and Chair –Technical Committee
JAWA-Joint Action Water Agency-Board of Directors

Structuring Public-Private Partnerships
Illinois Municipal Review
To Win In Today’s Market for Economic Development Cities – Must succeed At Point Of Customer Interface
Illinois Municipal Review

Page 3 of 6<12345...>>>