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2018 Speaker Biographies

Robert "Bobby" Abrahams

Bobby Abrahams has lived in Albion, IA most of his life. Growing up with eight siblings, he is the second to the youngest. None of his family members treated him as disabled and he received no special treatment. Mr. Abrahams had his first job delivering the newspaper and mowing lawns as a young kid. He has been a general contractor for 20 plus years and now works as a full time private contractor and laborer for a local farmer. He resides in Albion with his wife, Kathi, and they have five children and their first grandchild is due in April.

Amy Beller

In December 2016, Amy started with Iowa Workforce Development as the Registered Apprenticeship Program Coordinator. Prior to her current employment, she spent two years developing the Harkin Institute for Public Policy & Citizen Engagement at Drake University and ten years working for United States Senator Tom Harkin. Amy earned her Master’s in Public Administration from

Kim Brinkmeyer

Kim attended Mercy College of Health Sciences and worked as a Surgical Tech before graduating from Iowa State University with a Bachelor's degree in Family and Consumer Sciences. Kim first started working at IowaWORKS Iowa Valley by helping people like herself with career changes. She then became a WIOA Career Development Advisor, specifically working with youth ages 14-24. Kim works one-on-one with participants to help them accomplish career goals. She also teaches soft skill classes to schools throughout Region 6. She is very passionate about helping today's youth succeed in the workforce.

Heather Brooks

Heather Brooks has worked in WIOA youth programming as a Career Planner for Connect 2 Careers since August of 2012, guided by the passion of working with youth to achieve their goals. As a Career Planner, Heather has acquired new skill sets to bring to her work with youth, including developing curriculum with her team which facilitates the learning of essential work readiness skills. Heather is a graduate of Simpson College, where she studied Criminal Justice and Social Work. She is humbled to have spent time in group homes, homeless shelters, and detention centers facilitating needed skills ranging from budgeting and healthy relationships to professionalism. 

Julie Cackler and Wendy Batten Havemann

Julie Cackler is the Program Director and Wendy Batten Havemann is the Mentoring Coordinator for Community Youth Concepts (CYC) in Des Moines. Between them they bring a diversity of youth engagement experience.  

Amber Casebeer

Amber Casebeer is a Workforce Adviser at IowaWORKS where she works with job seekers to provide them with the inspiration and tools they need to not only enter the workforce, but be successful working in it. Amber has over five years of experience teaching and facilitating workshops and classes on a variety of topics including soft skills development, communication, resume writing, interview skills, and more. She is a Nationally Certified Work Ethic and Certified Workin’ It Out Facilitator. Amber has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Human Services from Buena Vista University and an Associates of Applied Science degree in Sign Language Interpreting from Iowa Western Community College. Amber’s passion is empowering people to realize their worth and assisting them in achieving their goals.

Joseph Collins

Joe recently began working with the Iowa Department of Education (IDOE) in the newly developed position of Education Program Consultant for Sector Partnerships. In this role, he has the privilege of helping to connect, assist, and empower sector partnerships across the state, earning the unofficial title “Mr. Sector Partnership” by his colleagues. Prior to joining the IDOE, he worked as a Training Facilitator for IowaWORKS-Central Iowa through a partnership between Iowa Workforce Development and Indian Hills Community College. He developed and led workshops on topics such as resumes, interviewing, work ethic, and conflict resolution to a wide range of audiences. Before diving head first into the public sector, he also worked in Human Resources, Account Management, and Marketing in the private sector. He earned his Bachelor of Science degrees in Marketing, Spanish, and International Business from Iowa State University and a Master of Science degree in Adult, Continuing, and Occupational Education from Kansas State University. He believes in continuous improvement, taking advantage of professional development opportunities such as the Next Generation Sector Partnership Academy and Iowa State University’s Leadership Institute for a New Century (LINC) program.

Josh Davies

Josh Davies is passionate about helping others make a difference in their lives, jobs, and community. Through his work as a speaker and trainer, he has engaged and encouraged professionals across North America, the Middle East, and Asia. He has given keynotes and training workshops to a wide variety of corporate, education, and workforce organizations, including the Association of Talent Development and National Association of Workforce Development Professionals. In preparation for the 2008 Democratic National Convention, he led the training for all 10,000 volunteers and more than 4,000 local service professionals for the event. Training Magazine named him as one of the top 10 trainers under 40 in America and the Denver Business Journal tapped him as one of Denver's 40 Under 40. Davies is currently the CEO of the Center for Work Ethic Development, that through curriculum, certification, and consulting, equips organizations around the world to better prepare their local workforce for employment and life-long success. He is also a published author and is frequently cited in national publications, including the New York Times. An avid runner, Josh has been awarded the Mile High Energy Award by Visit Denver, and an honorary Doctorate of Foodservice by the North American Food Equipment Manufacturers Association for his contributions to the hospitality industry. He is the past President of the Council of Hotel and Restaurant Trainers (CHART), and understands the critical role of engagement and volunteerism locally and nationally. He is past-President of the Lower Downtown Neighborhood Association, candidate for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society Man of the Year, and has volunteered with numerous local organizations. Governor John Hickenlooper of Colorado has re-appointed him as a member of the Colorado Workforce Development Council, where he chairs the Colorado Education and Training Steering Committee.

Dr. Richard Deming

Dr. Richard Deming is medical director of Mercy Cancer Center in Des Moines, Iowa. He received a Bachelor’s degree at South Dakota State University and his medical degree at Creighton University. Dr. Deming is known in the community for the compassionate care he provides cancer patients and their families. He is involved in many national, state, and community organizations and is the recipient of numerous awards. He was awarded the Lane Adams Award by the American Cancer Society for excellence and compassion in patient care. He is the recipient of “the one hundred” Award by Massachusetts General Hospital for his work with cancer survivors. He was awarded the Iowa Cancer Champion Award for his tireless efforts in the field of advocacy. Last year he received the Iowa Star Award from the Des Moines Register for making a measurable difference within the community, striving to improve the quality of life for families, for our most vulnerable, and for Iowans everywhere. Dr. Deming is also the founder of Above + Beyond Cancer, a non-profit organization dedicated to elevating the lives of those touched by cancer. Dr. Deming has led cancer survivors on inspirational mind-body-spirit pilgrimages to Mount Everest, Mount Kilimanjaro, and Machu Picchu. He is dedicated to the principals of human dignity, social justice, and compassion. He is inspired by the courage and compassion of his patients and their families. His greatest ambition is to encourage others to pursue lives of meaning, purpose, passion, and compassion.

Brian S. Dennis

Brian S. Dennis has worked in disability and low-income services for the past 18 years. His career includes residential care, mental health case management, local housing services, and now education/training and employment services through Iowa’s implementation of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA). He is currently the co-lead for Iowa’s Disability Employment Initiative (DEI) Project which is part of a multi-state pilot project to assist persons with disabilities to move to employment through services and supports provided by America’s Job Centers (AJC). Mr. Dennis holds a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology, a Master’s Degree in Clinical Rehabilitation Counseling, as well as his CRC (Certified Rehabilitation Counselor) licensure, and is a certified SSDI/SSI benefits planner. He currently serves on several local and statewide boards and is an adjunct instructor at Drake University teaching courses related to Family Counseling and Disability Policy.

Janice Dolan, PHR, SHRM-CP, CWDP

Various career experiences have provided Janice a wide array of employment knowledge in human resources, educational institutions, manufacturing, and employment agencies. Janice’s Master’s in Organizational Leadership has provided a foundation to understand the strengths of the people that build teams where everyone contributes to the success of the project, and her preference is to develop people to be the best they can be through coaching and counseling. Janice is currently employed with Eastern Iowa Community College, where she is the Operations Coordinator at the Region 9 IowaWORKS office in Davenport. She also stays connected with human resource professionals as a member of the Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM) and as President of the SHRM local affiliate, Great River Human Resource Association.

Steven Faulkner

Steven Faulkner was born and raised in Davenport, Iowa and graduated from Central High School in 1971. He went just across the Mississippi River to Augustana College, where in 1975 he received his Bachelor’s degree in pre-dental science, then went on to the College of Dentistry at the University of Iowa. He graduated from dental school in 1979 and set up a solo practice in a very small, beautiful farming community in Cedar County where he practiced successfully for 8 years. However, due to progressive blindness, Dr. Faulkner was forced to make a career change. He decided to return to the University of Iowa to pursue a Master’s degree in rehabilitation counseling at the College of Education, graduating in December of 1988. Faulkner joined the staff of IVRS at the Mason City Area Office in March 1989 as a rehabilitation counselor serving Mitchell County, then later served IVRS clients at the NIACC Service Unit. Since 2001, Faulkner has been the proud supervisor of the Mason City Area Office, and beginning January 2, 2018, he was named chief of the Rehabilitation Services Bureau at IVRS.

Otto Gunderson

Otto Gunderson has been involved in Community Youth Concepts programming since he was in sixth grade. He has served on the CYC Board of Directors for three years and has been on the uVoice Youth Philanthropy Board. He is a senior at Roosevelt High School in Des Moines and will attend college in the fall. 

Becky Hassett

Becky served in the Air National Guard and has a BS in Sociology. She worked at Mid Iowa Community Action before coming to IowaWORKS Iowa Valley. Becky was a WIOA Youth Advisor before taking on her current role as the Region 6 WIOA Director/Youth Advisor. Becky enjoys teaching soft skill classes and guiding youth towards the right career path. 

Marcela Hermosillo-Tarin

Marcela Hermosillo-Tarin is an Education Consultant for the Iowa Department of Education. In her current position, she provides leadership to the state-funded ESL (English as a Second Language) grant, the federally funded EL/Civics grant, AmeriCorps grant, Iowa Literacy Council and the professional development needs of the state’s adult education programs. Marcela obtained her Masters of Science degree from Drake University in Behavioral Science (Counseling). Marcela is a published author for Spanish journals, and brings experience with adult learning design and project management. Prior to joining the Department, Marcela held several learning and development positions with the State of Iowa and Forbes 500 companies. Marcela graduated from the Leadership Institute for a New Century (LINC) class of 2017 and was involved in the Greater Des Moines Partnership Institute class of 2016. In her free time, she enjoys playing chess, soccer, and spending time with her husband, 16-year-old son, and her four year-old lab, Coco.

Clay Huston

Clay Huston is a PACE Navigator at Southeastern Community College {SCC} in West Burlington and Keokuk, Iowa. Clay has been employed by SCC for nearly four years. As a navigator, he supports students by providing career exploration, financial, educational, and personal support to help remove barriers that impede student success. Clay has a Bachelor’s degree in Environmental Science with a minor in Political Science, and has a strong background in sales. He is a certified Career and Transition Coach. Additionally, he is a guitar instructor, studio musician, and enjoys live performance. 

Keri Kono

Keri Kono, Career Pathway Navigator with Hawkeye Community College, holds a passion for collaboration and partnering with other programs to better serve each individual participant. She holds a Bachelor’s degree from Iowa State University in Psychology and Family Services. She has experience partnering with various programs and agencies including Vocational Rehabilitation, Adult Basic Ed, WIOA Adult/Dislocated Worker and Youth, Promise Jobs, and the DHS E&T program. Her dedication to customer service and communication has resulted in solid partnerships that support individuals on their pathway to success.

Michelle Krefft, M.S.

Michelle Krefft, M.S., is a Resource Manager for Business Services for Iowa Vocational Rehabilitation Services.  She works closely with our business partners to recognize the success that comes with a diverse workforce including persons with disabilities. Michelle works with local and regional Iowa businesses to solve hiring and retention difficulties through identifying barriers and problem solving.  She is the chair of the EDRN (Employment Disability Resource Network), sits on the Diversity and Inclusion Counsel with the Greater Des Moines Partnership, represents IVRS on the National Employment Team, and is on the Sector Partnership Leadership Counsel of Iowa. Prior to her position as a Resource Manager, Michelle was a counselor in the Mason City IVRS office. While working in Mason City, Michelle accomplished lofty goals by earning the most successful outcomes in the state for several years in a row. She did this by matching Iowans with disabilities to the needs of IVRS business partners.  She was also the recipient of the Iowa Rehabilitation Association job placement award and the National Rehabilitation Association placement award. She has also been recognized for her partnership through several awards with several Chamber of Commerce offices. Michelle received her Master’s degree in Rehabilitation Counseling from Drake University.

Jill Lippincott

Jill Lippincott has been the project manager for Iowa Economic Development Authority’s (IEDA) 15B Apprenticeship funding program since 2016. In addition to managing the 15B program, Jill is also the project manager for the 260 G program – a training program supported by IEDA in partnership with the community colleges – and the state’s Targeted Small Business program, which supports business owners that are women, minorities, and individuals with disabilities or veterans with service-connected disabilities. In Jill’s role as 15B project manager, she manages the annual application and distribution of funds to qualified Iowa Registered Apprenticeship programs, promotes Registered Apprenticeship throughout the state and helps coordinate statewide activities for National Apprenticeship Week each year. Prior to working for the State of Iowa, Jill helped United Way of Central Iowa manage its annual and long-term strategic planning processes, and led individual mission-driven projects focused on community impact, fundraising, and quality improvement. Jill holds a Bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and a Master’s degree in Public Administration from the University of Colorado-Denver.

Jamie McLaughlin

Certified Workforce Development Professional Jamie McLaughlin has worked as a Business Services Specialist, Re-employment Advisor, Staffing Recruiter, and WIOA Employment and Training Counselor, to name just a few of her past professions. Jamie has over 15 years of experience in Regional Recruiting, WIOA Business Services and case management. Her favorite quote is “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results” by Albert Einstein. Please join her to see how you can use your talents to be a change-agent in your organization!

Melinda Perez

Melinda Perez, an Iowa native and Grinnell College graduate, is a Business Development Manager at Nepris, where she helps connect industry to classrooms for meaningful virtual interactions between professionals and the future workforce. Prior to assuming this role, her experience includes working with students and families as a Special Education Consultant for Great Prairie Area Education Agency, teaching K-8 students in three states and three countries, and supporting student success through positions at a variety of nonprofits. She received an Ed.M. from Harvard University Graduate School of Education, and is passionate about Nepris’ work to create equity of access to career fields and bring real world relevance to learning.

Claudia Schabel

Claudia Schabel, President of Schabel Solutions, combines over a decade of experience as a Diversity and Inclusion practitioner with Fortune 100 and 500 companies and her multicultural background to offer coaching and consulting services in the areas of Diversity and Inclusion to businesses, educational and not-for-profit organizations. 

Andrew Schramm

Andrew Schramm is Iowa’s Food Assistance Employment & Training program manager for Kirkwood Community College. As the program manager, Andrew bridges the program’s administration between the Iowa Department of Human Services and member colleges, and supports member colleges’ front-line staff. He has over seven years of experience in program management, policy analysis, and state and federal government relations. Andrew participated in the 2017 USDA Office of Employment & Training SNAP E&T Academy and holds a Master’s of Public Policy and Administration from Iowa State University.

Lisa Smith

Lisa Smith is currently a Career Planner for the Workforce Innovation Opportunity Act (WIOA) and a partner for IowaWORKS in the workforce center, serving six rural counties in Western Iowa. She has previous experience as the director of a job training program and has over 19 years of experience guiding youth, adults and dislocated workers with their education and career goals. She is a Nationally Certified Work Ethic Trainer and Certified Real Colors Facilitator. Lisa has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Social Work from Luther College. Her passion is to help people explore their strengths and learn that their goals are achievable with determination and perseverance. Lisa facilitates other workshops in the workforce center, schools, and in the community. She has been a longtime volunteer with the Red Cross and Relay for Life.

Paul Smith

Paul has spent over 25 years coordinating the development of training resources to support corporate initiatives and individual improvement toward achieving success. He has designed, implemented, and evaluated instruction in both the public and private sectors, as well as for all career levels and learning styles. He serves as The Waldinger Corporation’s Talent Development Manager. He is active within the Workplace Learning & Performance profession, including the Association for Talent Development. He has written multiple articles and a book for ATD on the topic of Structured On-the-Job Training. Currently Paul serves on ATD’s Public Policy Council and is a member of the Central Iowa Workforce Development Board and chairs the Region 11 WDB Planning & Operations committee. For more information about Paul’s background and experience, please visit:

Sheila Stoeckel

Sheila Stoeckel currently works with Iowa Workforce Development as a Workforce Advisor and Lead for the State’s Ticket to Work Employment Network. She has been employed through the Disability Employment Initiative and was the coordinator for the state’s Work Incentive Planning and Assistance (WIPA) project. She has also been employed as a Disability Program Navigator for four years with Iowa Workforce Development. Sheila has 18 years of experience as a Benefit Planner and 35 years of administrative and direct care service experience working with individuals with a variety of disabilities and mental health issues. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Human Services and Psychology from Buena Vista University. Sheila has a Master’s degree in Vocational Rehabilitation Counseling from Drake University and credentialed as a Certified Rehabilitation Counselor (CRC). She has also received in-depth and on-going training on Social Security rules, work incentives, Medicaid for Employed People with Disabilities (MEPD), and other state and local supports.

Rachel Thompson

Rachel Thompson is a Training Facilitator at the IowaWorks office in Ottumwa. She provides soft skill and professional development training to job seekers, community members, employees, students, and other professionals. She has more than six years of experience in Human Resource Management, seven years of experience in Law Enforcement and Security, and 10 years of experience in Human Services fields. Rachel has a Master’s degree in Criminal Justice Administration, Bachelor’s degrees in Human Resources and Human Services Management and an Associate’s degree in Business Administration & Leadership. Rachel’s mission is to impact people to overcome barriers to become positive and productive community members.

Jackie Turnquist Sandoval

Jackie Turnquist Sandoval is a graduate of East Tennessee State University with a degree in Spanish. During college, Jackie worked extensively with Migrant Farmworker and Latino communities, volunteering in her community and creating leadership opportunities focused on engaging youth and adults though outreach and education. Currently, Jackie is a Bilingual Career Planner at Children & Families of Iowa’s Connect 2 Career Program working to provide pre-employment training, career readiness skills and job search to youth with a focus on Re-Entry and Immigrant youth. She brings years of experience as a case manager, outreach and recruitment professional, and public speaker that engages with hands-on activities and role-play as a learning tool. 

Diane Twait Nelsen

Diane Twait Nelsen has been involved in special education transition services for 30 years in the state of Iowa. She is currently serving as a transition coordinator for Prairie Lakes AEA and as an AEA Building Rep. Her experiences in the transition field is extensive and she has served on many state and local transition committees including WIOA Youth with Disabilities Committee and as a member of her area’s regional Workforce Development Board. Diane is also a licensed school counselor and is a past president of Iowa’s DCDT, a division of the Council of Exceptional Children. Diane’s unique perspective of having a learning disability and working in this field bring a valued authenticity to her presentations. Additionally, she is involved with the highly successful transition website available for teachers, parents, and students!

Michelle Vandenberg

Michelle Vandenberg is a Career Advisor/Rapid Response Coordinator for Region 16 with the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act in Keokuk, Iowa. She has been employed with Southeastern Community College for 25 years. She has coordinated grants such as the Emergency Public Jobs in 1993, 1998, 2001 and 2008. She facilitates many workshop classes assisting customers with writing resumes, filling out job applications, and interviewing techniques. She currently is a nationally Certified Work Ethic Trainer and Real Colors Facilitator. Michelle is an active member as a Certified Workforce Development Professional since 2005. Michelle has a Bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education from Buena Vista University and a minor in Music.

Jim Wightman

Jim Wightman serves as an Apprenticeship Training Representative for the USDOL/ Office of Apprenticeship (OA). Under the cognizance of the State Director, he is responsible for oversight of the Registered Apprenticeship system in Iowa. The Office of Apprenticeship ensures Registered Apprenticeship exemplifies high standards, instructional rigor and quality training in a variety of traditional and nontraditional apprenticeship occupations. Jim proudly served 26 years in the US Navy. Upon returning to Iowa, Jim and his family have made Winterset their home.

Mike Williams

Mike Williams has a Master’s in Public Administration and has been in his role as an Education Program Consultant with the Iowa Department of Education (DE) since April of 2014. Mike works with the PACE, GAP and HiSET programs and collaborates with the Iowa Community College Adult Education program administrators in the development of their Integrated Education and Training (IET) and Integrated English Literacy and Civics Education (IELCE) programs. Previous to his position with the DE, Mike worked for 14 years at the Iowa Department of Human Rights working with high school and college transition programs along with Title I, II, and III of the ADA as well as a state resource for accessibility issues related to the Americans with Disabilities Act Accessibility Guidelines (ADAAG). Mike and his wife, Jo, live in Des Moines and have two daughters, Madeline, a senior in college, and Abby, a freshman in college.

Lieutenant Colonel Jason Wisehart

LTC Jason Wisehart serves as the Recruiting and Retention Battalion Commander for the Iowa Army National Guard. He serves as the primary advisor to the Iowa Army National Guard’s senior leadership relating to recruiting, retention, and attrition management and develops organizational plans and reviews and implements National Guard Bureau’s established enlistment criteria, incentive policies, benefit programs, training and career development policies for the Iowa Army National Guard. He is responsible for the command and control of over 800 soldiers that are in the training pipeline across the state of Iowa.

Pam Wright

“I believe that the greatest investment an employer can make is in the training and development of an employee. Giving a person the right toolbox to perform their job sets them up for success and gains a competitive advantage for the employer—everybody wins!” Pam Wright joined the Hawkeye Business and Community Education department in January 2010 and is the director of business and community outreach. She works with coordinators and businesses to recognize industry workforce training trends, presents with regional economic developers to offer incentives to new and expanding businesses in the Hawkeye service area, and provides oversight for Accelerated Career Education program partnerships. Wright has completed degrees from Hawkeye Community College and the University of Northern Iowa (UNI). She earned a Master of Business Administration in 2014 from St. Ambrose University. She also holds certificates in Training & Development from UNI, a Certificate in Contract Training (CCT) from LERN, and is a licensed analyst for Economic Modeling Specialists, Inc. She has also served two terms as director of the Region 7 Employer’s Council of Iowa and is a local and national Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) member with certifications from SHRM and the HR Certification Institute.

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