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2014 Keynote Speakers

JJ DiGeronimo is an award-winning author, motivational speaker and businesswoman who provides career and leadership strategies for high impact women. She is founder and CEO of Purposeful Woman and Tech Savvy Women; author of The Working Woman’s GPS and Before You Say Yes, and co-author of The Confident Woman: Tapping into Your Inner Power; and a global spokesperson for women leaders, women in technology, women entrepreneurs and young women in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). She has a degree in computer science from Ohio University and was named one of the Top 25 People in Technology by Inside Business Cleveland.

Over the last twenty years, JJ has immersed herself in technology leadership positions for Silicon Valley-based companies including VMware, Inktomi and Accenture. Through hundreds of hours of research and interviews, she reveals practical strategies that empower women globally. Feature publications and media appearances 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 also shared insights and discoveries with many women’s organizations including CISCO, WITI, YWCA, Mary Kay, Women for Economic and Leadership Development, and Dress for Success

Karen Alexander is CEO of the 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. 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.

Karen’s 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, creating educational products such as Olivia the Octopus and Jamaican Yams. The Auntie Karen Foundation is a global nonprofit charitablecorporation whose mission is to create and implement a series of reproducible community outreach programs that 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 senior policy advisor for the Youth Learning Institute and director of The Girls Center at Clemson University. She has over 30 years of experience in development of youth programming, 18 of those in the juvenile justice field. She holds a M.Phil. 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.

Susan 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. She 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. She has been an active 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 director of the Women in Science and Engineering program at Clemson University. She earned a B.S. in Business Administration from Lander University in Greenwood, then continued her studies at Clemson where she earned a Masters of Human Resource and Development. Her areas of concentration were management and technology, training and development. She’s also a Global Career Facilitator with a special focus on educating audiences about opportunities in STEM. Serita joined Clemson’s Programs for Educational Enrichment and Retention (PEER) staff 14 years ago to work with minority engineering students, where she became the director of Women in Science and Engineering (W.I.S.E.). Under her leadership, W.I.S.E. has expanded to include outreach programs for K-12 girls as well as undergraduate students.

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, Executive Director for the C4W, 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, Amy relocated to Charleston in 2012. As part of her work in nonprofit management, Amy 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. In addition to her undergraduate degree from the University of Kentucky, Amy also received a 4-year certificate from Sewanee Theological Seminary in Education for Ministry in 2001.

Kelly Brown is the principal of Leaphart Elementary School, a K-5 engineering magnet school. She attended the University of South Carolina and earned a Bachelor’s degree in Journalism and Mass Communications, and a Master’s degree in Elementary Education. She is currently completing a Ph.D. on the causal-comparative impact a freshman academy has in student achievement and engagement. She was the Palmetto Citizens Financial Educator of the Year in 2009, and 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 (YLI). 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 YLI in 2004 to lead public relations efforts. Her primary areas of responsibility 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.

Denise Collins-Bennett is the Lead Teacher and Magnet Director of Leaphart Elementary School, a K-5 engineering magnet school. She attended Coker College and Columbia College, earning a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Elementary Education and also 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 Jordan is an author, young entrepreneur, empowerment coach and motivational speaker 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 her 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!" Shauntae is a South Carolina native and graduate of Winston-Salem State University, where she earned an MBA.

Lee Ann Kornegay graduated from the University of South Carolina in 1984 and started working immediately as Broadcast Production Manager for Chernoff/Silver, one of South Carolina’s largest ad agencies. She won numerous national and local advertising awards and was integral to the agency’s success, managing every aspect of high-end big-budget production for clients across the nation. In 2000, she took a chance and left this lucrative 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. Her film Boloba, which explores West African arts, was awarded Best Documentary at the Colossal Film Crawl, has aired on SCETV, and was screened at the 2007 Indie Grits Film Festival. Other documentaries include SC First Ladies; I’m Building a Bridge, South Carolina’s civil rights story; Furman University: A Sustainable Culture; Historic Columbia’s 50th Anniversary and Man and Moment: T Moffatt Burriss and the Crossing.

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 the Valentine’s event What’s Love (one of the most popular annual arts events in recent years); the hallway:community art at 701 Whaley, a gallery for local artists; and The Nick Parade for the Nickelodeon Theatre in Columbia. 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.