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2014 Keynote Speakers

JJ DiGeronimo

Technology Executive, Author, Speaker, Entrepreneur and STEM Advocate

JJ DiGeronimo is an author, motivational speaker and businesswoman who provides Career & Leadership Strategies for High Impact Women. JJ is the Founder and CEO of Purposeful Woman and Tech Savvy Women. She is the author of the highly sought-after books for women, “The Working Woman’s GPS”, and “Before You Say Yes” (e-book). She also co-authored, “The Confident Woman, Tapping into Your Inner Power”. She’s a global spokesperson for women leaders, women in technology, women entrepreneurs and young women in Science Technology Engineering and Math (S.T.E.M.).

JJ has a degree in computer science from Ohio University. Over the last twenty years, she immersed herself in technology leadership positions within Silicon Valley based companies including VMware, Inktomi and Accenture. While accumulating hundreds of hours of research and interviews, JJ reveals many practical strategies that effectively empower women globally through her keynotes, workshops, panels and webinars.

JJ has been featured in numerous publications which include Working Mother WITI, Fox Business, Live on Lakeside, Woman’s Magazine, SHRM, Woman’s Day Magazine, The Glass Hammer, the Grindstone, ITWorld, Career-Intelligence and Rescue a CEO. She has shared her insights and discoveries with many women’s organizations including CISCO, WITI, YWCA, Mary Kay, Women for Economic & Leadership Development, Dress for Success and many leadership and entrepreneur conferences.

She’s received the Innovation Award from the Small Business Network, been named one of the Top 25 People in Technology in “Inside Business Cleveland” and was awarded the Next Generation Indie Book Awards for her book..

Karen Alexander

Karen Alexander is the CEO of Auntie Karen Foundation, a global, nonprofit charitable organization which creates reproducible community outreach programs designed to empower youth. She left an eleven year corporate position with Xerox Corporation to pursue her passion to educate utilizing the arts. Prior to working for Xerox, she spent six years as a first grade teacher at James B. Edwards Elementary School. Entertainment and the arts has always been a part of her life! As a child, she sang often in the church with her family in her hometown of Charleston, South Carolina. Karen is a graduate of the University of South Carolina, where she was an active member of the school’s pop singing group, Carolina Alive. As her performances shifted into the professional arena, she has toured the United States, Europe and South America. Her audiences have greeted her enthusiastically in places as diverse as Greece, Romania, Brazil and Jamaica. In August of 1995, Karen organized the Contemporary Jazz and R&B Band Straight Ahead.

Her vision is to use the arts to educate and empower children across the globe. In 2001, she founded The Auntie Karen organizations. Auntie Karen Inc. is an educational entertainment company. They create educational products such as Olivia the Octopus and the Jamaican Yams. The Auntie Karen Foundation is a global, 501 c 3 charitable corporation certified by the state of South Carolina on October 31, 2001. The foundation's mission is to create and implement a series of reproducible community outreach programs designed to empower, enlighten and educate through the arts. Programs include: The Legends of Concert Series, The Young Entrepreneurs Conference and Artpreneur (an arts based after school program).

Conference Host Bio

Susan Alford is Associate Executive Director for Operations/ Director of The Girls Center at Clemson University’s Youth Learning Institute. She has over 30 years of experience in development of youth programming, 18 of those in the juvenile justice field. She holds a Diploma degree in Criminology from the University of Cambridge, England, and a B.S. Degree in Sociology from the University of South Carolina. Prior to joining The Girls Center, she served as chair of the South Carolina Department of Juvenile Justice-Clemson University Girls’ Task Force and championed DJJ’s efforts to address the needs of girls in confinement.

Ms. Alford is a nationally certified trainer for the One Circle Foundation and AAUW’s StartSmart program, as well as a consultant with OJJDP’s National Girls Institute, and holds numerous awards for her work with youth in South Carolina, including the SCCA Distinguished Service Award for lifetime achievement in the juvenile justice field. Ms. Alford has been a board member on the President’s Commission on Women at Clemson University, and received the Commission’s distinguished contributor award in 2010, in recognition of her advancement of the status of women and girls in South Carolina.

2014 Speaker Bios

Serita Acker is the Director of the Women in Science and Engineering Program at Clemson University. She attended Lander University, in Greenwood, SC, earning a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration. Serita Acker continued her studies at Clemson University, Clemson, SC where she earned a Masters of Human Resource and Development. Her areas of concentration were management and technology, training and development. She is also a Global Career Facilitator with a special focus on educating audiences about opportunities in STEM.

Serita Acker joined Clemson’s Programs for Educational Enrichment and Retention (PEER) staff 14 years ago to work with minority engineering students. There she became the director of Women in Science and Engineering (WISE). Under her leadership, WISE has expanded to include outreach programs for females from kindergarten through 12th grade, as well as, current undergraduate female students. The Women in Engineering Pro-Active Network, a national organization, honored WISE, under the direction of Serita Acker, with the 2005 Women in Engineering Initiative Award for the program’s success in attracting and retaining women to science-based majors. Serita Acker was also recognized as the Clemson University’s 2005 Outstanding Woman. Most recently, (Dec. 2013) Serita was awarded by the National Engineering Foundation, an award for her involvement with the Girls Scouts.

She has also served as a Diversity Trainer for Clemson University. She is a member of the SC Assess and Equity Committee, and a past member of the President’s Commission on the Status of Women at Clemson University. She has worked with Society of Women Engineers, AOE, and the National Society of Black Engineers student organization as an advisor and counselor. She is very active in other local committee’s to promote education and promotion of engineering fields.

In 2005, W.I.S.E. received the Women in Engineering Initiative Award for its success in attracting and retaining women to science-based majors, and Serita was recognized as Clemson’s Outstanding Woman. In 2013, the National Engineering Foundation recognized her for her involvement with the Girls Scouts. Serita has served as a Diversity Trainer for Clemson University and is a member of the SC Assess and Equity Committee, and a past member of the President’s Commission on the Status of Women at Clemson. She has worked with Society of Women Engineers, AOE, and the National Society of Black Engineers student organization as an advisor and counselor, and is active in other local committees to promote education and engineering fields.

Tierica Berry has been inspiring young women since she started writing in 1999. Berry is the author of several empowerment books including Butterfly Tales, a compilation of poems and stories of transition and resilience for young ladies. In response to invitations from a host of organizations across the country including Boys and Girls Cluba and NAACP, Berry has traveled to share her strategies on effectively using the arts for self-expression. In conjunction with Hustle University, Berry recently launched Affirmative Expression, featuring interactive presentations that teach young ladies how the art of honoring one’s feelings can instantly improve self esteem, confidence, and performance at school, work and in life. Berry is especially passionate about sharing her story of using her talents and love for the arts to become a successful young entrepreneur.

Amy Brennan joined the Center for Women in September 2013 building on a 20-year career in nonprofit management and community development. Having successfully started and directed three nonprofit organizations in Georgetown, SC, Brennan relocated to Charleston in 2012. As part of her work in nonprofit management, Brennan has successfully overseen a capital campaign to raise nearly $6m, written and received grant funding totaling more than $2 million from local, state and national foundations and businesses and has worked with various nonprofit organizations in collaboration including SCANPO, Hospice of Georgetown County, Rotary and the League of Women Voters. Under her leadership, organizations have won several local, state and national awards and her work helped Georgetown County earn its 2004 distinction as an “All America County.”

Brennan has been involved on many non-profit boards including President of Hospice of Georgetown County and the AIDS Task Force; she has worked with SCANPO to develop two Annual Conferences and been part of the Blue Ribbon Task Force to establish accountability standards for nonprofit staff and boards. Brennan has spoken at the local, state and national levels at various conferences and events including the National Diversity Conference for the YMCA. In addition to her undergraduate degree from the University of Kentucky, Brennan also received a 4-year certificate from Sewanee Theological Seminary in Education for Ministry in 2001.

Kelly Brown Brown is the principal of Leaphart Elementary School, K-5 engineering magnet school. She attended the University of South Carolina, earning a bachelor’s degree in journalism and mass communications and a master’s degree in elementary education. She is currently completing a PhD on the causal-comparative impact a freshman academy has in student achievement and engagement. She was the Palmetto Citizens Financial Educator of the Year. She spent a day working at the White House discussing education topics with staff members. She is also in the process of writing a children’s book.

Pam Bryant is senior director of public relations at Clemson’s Youth Learning Institute. She has a professional background that includes over 25 years of experience in the areas of public relations, community outreach and service to youth and families. After spending over 15 years managing a PR/marketing firm and teaching college mass communications, Bryant joined Clemson University’s Youth Learning Institute (YLI) in 2004 to lead public relations efforts. Her primary areas of responsibility for YLI include developing and communicating key marketing and public relations messages, managing media relations, identifying and developing new partnership opportunities, professional development training and coordinating special events. Bryant earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism with honors from Benedict College and a Master of Mass Communication degree from the University of South Carolina in Columbia.

Denise Collins-Bennett s the Lead Teacher and Magnet Director of Leaphart Elementary School, K-5 engineering magnet school. She attended Coker College and Columbia College, earning a bachelor’s degree and master’s degree in elementary education and holds the National Board Certification. She has been with Leaphart for seven years, teaching third grade, fourth grade, and the gifted and talented program. She currently works with teachers to integrate engineering into their current practice.

Shauntae "Sunny" Jordan is an author, young entrepreneur, empowerment coach and motivational speaker who is dedicated to positively impacting the lives of young women. Her book, Learn How I Made A Fortune While In College, tells the story of persistence, perseverance, resilience, motivation and drive that helped Jordan leave college practically debt-free after earning over $60,000 through scholarships, grants, work-study and a part-time job. Her message inspires young women to develop transferable skills like leadership, communication and relationship-building to “Get paid and get noticed, NOW!" Jordan is a South Carolina native and graduate of Winston-Salem State University, where she earned an MBA.

Lee Ann Kornegay Kornegay graduated from the University of South Carolina with a media arts degree in 1984 and started working immediately as Broadcast Production Manager for Chernoff/Silver, one of South Carolina’s largest ad agencies. From 1984 until 2000, she was integral to the agency’s success, managing every aspect of high-end big-budget production for clients across the nation. Kornegay won numerous national and local advertising awards.

In 2000, she took a chance and left this successful career to create L.A. Kornegay, Media Productions, pursuing a life-long goal to direct, shoot and edit documentaries and to work on other community-based projects. She won Best Documentary at the Colossal Film Crawl for her film Boloba, which explores the cultural arts in West Africa and has aired several times on South Carolina Educational TV and was shown at the 2007 Indie Grits Film Festival. Kornegay’s other documentary projects that have aired on SCETV include: 701 Whaley, also screened at the 2009 Indie Grits Film Festival, SC First Ladies, I’m Building a Bridge, SC’s civil rights story Furman University, A Sustainable Culture, Historic Columbia’s 50th Anniversary and Man and Moment, T Moffatt Burriss and the Crossing. Shorter educational, entertaining, informative and web based videos include, Darla Moore School of Business, Historic Columbia Foundation’s Woodrow Wilson Restoration, Girls Inc. and Curtiss Wright Hangar.

For the past 15 years Kornegay has been studying, performing and teaching West African music and culture to schools all over South Carolina. Using the hands on drumming program Positive Repercussions she has taught students from 2 to 100 years old. Her expertise in community art organization includes one of the most popular arts events in recent years What’s Love, a Valentines event, the hallway:community art at 701 Whaley, a gallery for local artists and The Nick Parade down Main Street Columbia, SC for the Nickelodeon Theatre. Kornegay’s current projects include the Nickelodeon Theatre’s Indie Grits Film Festival, The Olympia Festival and The Quarry Crusher Run.

Tammy Pankey is an Education Program Designer for Pitsco Education and former teacher. With Pitsco, she travels around the nation helping schools incorporate STEM education into their classrooms. Tammy taught for five years in the Kansas City area. Her experience includes teaching various high school science subjects and Project Lead the Way’s (PLTW) Engineering, Biomedical Sciences and Gateway to Technology courses. She has taught elementary programs in pre-K, science and zoology. She is a former adjunct instructor in the Engineering and Technology Education Department at the University of Central Missouri, and served as an apprentice Master Teacher for PLTW.

Candice Alexia Caldwell is a 25-year-old inspirational speaker who wants to send a message to the women of today; letting them know that everything they could ever want is in their grasp. She inspires others through inspirational videos, workshops and powerful speeches. During college, Candice sent inspirational text messages every morning Monday- Thursday to over 150 people. She has written a book entitled “30 Texts That Will Change Your Life” This book is a devotional that acts as a guide to help others see their path to success in a whole new light.

Ms. Caldwell resides in Fort Mill, SC. She has a Masters in Mental Health Counseling and works as a counselor for at risk teen girls in Charlotte, NC. Candice shares her powerful message at many organizational functions and special events in North and South Carolina. She is the founder of an organization called “Be You Be Beautiful” where she empowers teens and young women to be who they were born to be.