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2021 Conference Speaker Biographies

Vladimir Bassis

Lead Data Consultant, Iowa Department of Education

Vlad serves as a Lead Education Consultant for the Community College Management Information System (CC MIS) within the Iowa Department of Education. In this role, he works with community college data specialists, institutional researchers, and relevant subject matters specialists to ensure that all data exchange, archiving, maintenance, and further data processing projects are conducted in timely and ergonomic manner. Vlad leads a team that is actively involved in a number of research design and implementation projects, resulting in robust and innovative products, reports, and interactive tables covering a wide range of education, employment, and other program metrics or initiatives, some of which are not being done anywhere else in the country! Vlad achieved his B.A. and M.A. in English in 1985 from Odessa State University (Ukraine) and M.P.A. from Iowa State University in 2005. He taught international culture in Iowa public schools, coordinated international exchanges in Iowa Recourse for International Services (IRIS, inc.), and has been working for the State of Iowa in the Department of Human Services and the Department of Education for the past 14 years.

Jathan Chicoine

Program Manager, Home Base Iowa


Jathan A. Chicoine currently serves as Home Base Iowa Program Manager for State and Strategic Initiatives.  Prior to this position, Jathan served as the Director of the Iowa State University Veterans Center. 


Jathan grew up in central Iowa and is a Veteran of the U.S. Navy.  Jathan’s life’s experiences and own challenges reintegrating into the civilian world following military service, helped to set the stage for his continued service.  While pursuing both undergraduate and master’s degrees, Jathan co-founded a 501 (c) 3 non-profit organization focused on strengthening the lives of Veterans, their families, and communities.  As a graduate student, he was appointed to serve on the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Advisory Committee on Veterans Business Affairs, a congressional committee in D.C.  Returning to Iowa, Jathan helped launch and grow Iowa State University’s Veterans Center in 2012.  Jathan has remained highly involved at both the state and national level.  Today, he feels privileged to be part of Iowa Workforce Development and the broader IowaWORKs system.  


Joe Collins 

Education Consultant for Sector Partnerships, Career Pathways, and Work-Based Learning, Iowa Department of Education

Joe works as an Education Consultant for Sector Partnerships, Career Pathways, and Work-Based Learning for the Iowa Department of Education. In this role, he helps to connect, assist, and empower groups of employers in Iowa to address their skilled workforce, economic, and community development issues through collaborative sector partnerships or "sector boards”. Prior to joining the Department, he worked for Iowa Workforce Development to build and lead workshops throughout the community 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 HR, account and project 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. Joe has also recently taken on the lead role for Industry-Recognized Apprenticeship Programs (IRAPs) in Iowa.

Benjamin Drury, MA

Program Instructor, Mindspring Mental Health Alliance


Benjamin Drury is a scholar-advocate with expertise in medical sociology, curriculum development and learning facilitation, and education and mental health policy advocacy. Benjamin earned his MA in Medical Sociology in 2009 and will complete his EdD in 2022 focusing on educational psychology in the context of curriculum, advocacy and policy. 


Benjamin currently teaches sociology and psychology courses for DePaul University, Indiana University, Northern Vermont University, and Ivy Tech Community College. Additionally, Benjamin serves as the Executive Director of the Chicago Education Advocacy Cooperative. He joined Mindspring in 2021 as an instructor and curriculum writer. When he is not working, he enjoys spending time with his wife and children, unapologetically cheering for the White Sox, and searching for the perfect pizza recipe. 


Norma Havlik-Smith

Workforce Career Consultant, IowaWORKS at Kirkwood Community College


Norma Jean is a Workforce Career Consultant with IowaWORKS at Kirkwood Community College. She is a tech-savvy GenXer with natural curiosity to finding shortcuts to save time at work. Working smarter and not harder with technology is the underpinning of her presentation. She uses her training with MS Suite products and research using Google Products to bring these easy tips and tricks that are typically free and accessible without needing permissions from System Administrators. 


Andrew Hilliard

Business Relations Specialist, Iowa Vocational Rehabilitation Services (IVRS)


Andrew is the Business Relations Specialist for Iowa Vocational Rehabilitation Services. He hails from the Pacific Northwest and relocated to Central Iowa in 1987.  He began his professional career in the service industry, working in Iowa's largest employee-owned grocery store. He graduated with his Bachelor's of Science in Business Management; this combined with 25+ years in regional retail management has been an invaluable experience. It taught the true meaning of guest service and developing enthusiastically satisfied customers.  Regional retail positions within the quick service industry allowed Andrew to work throughout Iowa (Des Moines, Ames, Ankeny, Cedar Falls, Cedar Rapids) and Minnesota.  Andrew’s family relocated to Atkins, IA in 2017 and joined the IVRS team in 2020 at the Cedar Rapids Area Office.  When time permits, Andrew & family can be found relaxing on summer weekends at the campground.


Andy Huls

One-Stop Operator, Greater Lincoln Local Workforce Area; Equus Workforce Solutions


Andy Huls is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist and holds both a Master’s Degree and Doctorate Degree in Clinical Psychology. After completing graduate school in 2009, Andy began teaching and practicing psychology in various health settings. Andy treated a variety of individuals but primarily treated clients who suffered from anxiety, depression, and trauma related disorders. After seven years in the mental health field, Andy began noticing changes in his own life, which sparked a desire to explore new career opportunities. In hindsight, Andy was dealing with his own levels of burnout, compassion fatigue, and work-related stress; thus, his current interest in workplace wellness was born. Since leaving the mental health field, Andy has joined Equus Workforce Solutions and works as the One-Stop Operator in Lincoln, Nebraska. Through his own experiences, combined with expertise in trauma and stress, the objectives of this presentation are twofold: 1. Identify signs and symptoms of compassion fatigue and burnout, and 2. Identify and implement self-care techniques to increase resilience to workplace stress.


Jennie Null

Learning and Development Manager, Meraki Institute of Learning at Tanager Place


Jennie serves as the Learning and Development Manager for the Meraki Institute of Learning at Tanager Place in addition to providing therapeutic services to a small caseload of children, adults, and families. Jennie is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and Registered Play Therapy Supervisor. She has advanced trainings in Family Therapy, Play Therapy, Sand Tray Therapy, Eye Movement Desensitization and reprocessing(EMDR), impact and treatment of trauma, Clinical Supervision, Restorative Practices, and Leadership. Jennie is an experienced trainer providing expertise in the areas of trauma, resilience, wellbeing, leadership, clinical supervision, and clinical practice with children, families and adults.


Cherisa Price-Wells

Midwest Regional Director, Equus Workforce Solutions


Ms. Cherisa Price-Wells has worked with WIOA, TANF, SNAP and Reentry programs in various positions for 19 years. As the Midwest Regional Director for Equus Workforce Solutions, she provides programmatic oversight and support. She has a passion for workforce innovation and collaboration.


Kendra Schaapveld

Project Director, Equus Workforce Solutions


Kendra Schaapveld is a Project Director with Equus Workforce Solutions providing Title I leadership in the Mississippi Valley Local Workforce Area. Kendra received her Master's of Public Administration from the University of Illinois and for over 6 years, Kendra has been in workforce services, providing programming for individuals receiving cash assistance prior to transitioning to Title I in mid-2020. Kendra is well-versed in Trauma Informed Care practices for participants and staff.


Melissa Sliver

Business Development Specialist, Iowa Vocational Rehabilitation Services (IVRS)


Melissa is the Business Development Specialist for Iowa Vocational Rehabilitation Services. She has worked in human services for over 20 years and served marginalized communities in the area of workforce readiness for most of that time. Her favorite part of her job is being a bridge between businesses and the right job candidate. She serves as the 2021 Workforce Readiness Chair for Eastern Iowa Human Resources Association. This year, she joined the IowaIDEAS Advisory Board and Inclusive ICR Employer Resources Committee. She graduated from the University of Iowa with a B.A in Political Science and decided to stay in Iowa City and make it her home. Melissa enjoys making spicy carrots for her family’s restaurant. Melissa has an amazing son who loves playing soccer and music with his friends.

Mike Williams

Education Program Consultant, Iowa Department of Education

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 (IET) and Training 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 three daughters, Madeline, a Graduate student from UNI, Hayden, Graduate Assistant at Ottawa University, and Abby, a senior at UMKC.


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