2019 LUMINARIES

Laura Schwab
President
Hospital Astom Martin The Americas

LauraSchwab is President of Aston Martin The Americas, and her role centers on promoting the world’s most beautiful cars. Schwab joined Aston Martin in 2015, after having spent 15 years with Jaguar Land RoverShe holds a degree from Notre Dame, where she attended on a full tennis scholarship, and has a law degree from the University of Kentucky. 

Schwab oversees sales, service, marketing and communications to customers and dealers. Aston Martin The Americas has played an important role in a global sales increase of 58% in 2017. As part of the Second Century Plan, Aston Martin has launched DB11 family, the new Vantage, and the DBS Superleggera. Its first SUV, the DBX, will be unveiled in late 2019 

When she’s not on a plane, Schwab is based at Aston Martin’s regional headquarters in Irvine, California, where she’s supported by team she deems the best in the business. 

Susan Jin Davis
Chief Sustainability Officer
Comcast NBCUniversal

Susan Jin Davis, Chief Sustainability Officer, has over 25 years of experience in the communications and technology industry. In her current position, she is responsible for identifying sustainable strategies and priorities and for implementing the Company’s Sustainability Program across all of Comcast NBCUniversal business units and functions.

Prior to her current role, Susan was Senior Vice President of Operations Compliance and was responsible for implementing product policies, operationalizing regulatory and legal requirements, reducing costs to the cable business and managing business compliance. 

In 2011, Susan negotiated a historic Memorandum of Understanding between Comcast and the Asian American community as part of the Company’s merger with NBCUniversal that created ground-breaking commitments in the areas of programming, supplier and employment diversity and community investment. She serves on Comcast’s Internal Diversity Council and is a Company liaison to the Comcast and NBCUniversal Joint Diversity Council. She is an executive sponsor of Asian Pacific Americans at Comcast, a Company Employee Resource Group. 

Susan was also integral in the 2011 launch of Comcast’s Internet Essentials Program, the nation’s largest, most comprehensive high-speed Internet adoption program for low-income Americans in the country. The program has connected more than six million low income Americans to the power of the Internet in their homes.

Susan is also involved in the Company’s approach to digital literacy, providing resources to customers on safe Internet use with particular emphasis on helping families understand the Internet and teaching children how to responsibly use Comcast’s services. She leads the Company’s Online Safety Advisory Council, an external body of leaders in the area online safety.

Susan completed the Women in Cable Telecommunications Senior Executive Summit at Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business and has completed the Women’s Executive Leadership Program at the Wharton School of Business. She received the 2010 Paragon Award of the National Association of Multi-Ethnicity in Cable and completed CTAM’s Executive Management Program at the Harvard Business School. Susan was a fellow in the Betsy Magness Leadership Institute of the Women in Cable Telecommunications. She has been named one of the “Most Powerful Women in Cable” and one of the “The Most Influential Minorities in Cable” by Cablefax for many years. Susan serves as the Chair of the Board of the Asian Pacific American Institute for Congressional Studies and is a director on the Boards of the Asian Pacific Islander American Scholarship Fund, the Asian/Pacific Islander American Chamber of Commerce & Entrepreneurship, and the Juvenile Law Center.  She also serves on the Board of Trustees of Bryn Mawr College.  

Deborah Addo
CEO
Inova Loudoun Hospital

Deborah Addo, CEO of Inova Loudoun Hospital (ILH), comes to Inova with nearly 30 years of leadership experience in healthcare operations and management. Becker’s Hospital Review recently named her one of the “50 Great African American Leaders in Healthcare to Know” and the Loudoun Business Journal recognized her as one of five “Women Who Mean Business.”

She was named CEO of ILH after serving as CEO of Inova Mount Vernon Hospital for nearly three years.  Before joining Inova in June 2014, Ms. Addo served as the chief operating officer and senior vice president of Meritus Health in Hagerstown, the largest healthcare provider in Western Maryland. Prior to that, she served as vice president of patient care services at Washington County Health System, a 300-bed hospital that was voted as one of the top 100 hospitals in the country.

Ms. Addo’s areas of expertise include financial management, LEAN, organization re-engineering, strategic planning, physician engagement and population health. She earned her bachelor’s degree from Georgetown University and a master’s degree in public health from Walden University.

Reverend Addo is also a licensed Minister ordained through the Church of God.

Maria Trabocchi
Co-Owner
Fabio Trabocchi Restaurant Group & Partner HamdyFont LLC

Co-Owner of Fabio Trabocchi Restaurant Group – Fiola, Fiola Mare, Del Mar, Sfoglina, Fiola Miami, Fiola Venezia. Born on the beloved island of Mallorca in her native Spain and daughter of a diplomat posted to the United States, Maria grew up in Washington DC where she attended school and started a family. After working in high-end luxury companies such as Cartier and Ralph Lauren, and eventually executive global management at The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, Maria made a winning bet alongside her husband Chef Fabio Trabocchi, and opened their first restaurant – Michelin awarded Fiola – in 2011 in Washington DC.

The diplomatic education and luxury lifestyle training led Maria to business partner Mona Hamdy in the founding of HamdyFont – a boutique consulting firm that advises globally engaged private and corporate clients in protocol, public engagement and positioning. Named one of the 100 most Powerful Women in Washington DC, Maria currently serves as brand ambassador of several firms including Aston Martin, 5Js and Azza Fahmy Jewelers. She is an active member of her local community and is mother to Aliche and Luca, her fierce and dynamic teenagers.

Nicole Fisher
EMCEE
Founder & President
Health & Human Rights Strategies and Forbes Contributor

Nicole Fisher is the founder and President of Health & Human Rights Strategies, a health care and human rights-focused advising firm in Washington, D.C. She is also a health policy advisor on Capitol Hill and expert on health innovation, technology, and brain health – specifically as they impact vulnerable populations. Fisher contributes to Forbes, contextualizing health, and highlighting ideas, companies and people that are changing the health landscape. She also curates an international dinner series, ‘A Seat at the Table,’ bringing together thought leaders for off-the-record discussions for moving research, policy and planning forward. Fisher co-runs the nonprofit Brain Treatment Foundation, and is pursuing a doctoral degree at the University of North Carolina. Her writing has appeared in numerous journals and publications, and her talks can be found on the United Nations website and various news and sports outlets. Before pursuing her doctorate, Fisher earned a master’s degree in public policy from the University of Chicago and an undergraduate degree from the University of Missouri.

Damon D. Jones
Vice President, Global Communications
The Procter & Gamble Company

Damon Jones leads efforts to ensure the world’s largest consumer goods company is also known as one of the most trusted brands in the world.  In addition to his responsibility for global corporate communications, Jones leads a broad portfolio of advocacy initiatives on behalf of the world’s largest advertiser that drive equality and inclusion within and beyond the CPG industry.

During his more than 20 year career with P&G, Jones has had responsibility for a diverse set of geographic, organizational and product portfolios – with assignments in Boston, Geneva, London, and Singapore – leading local, regional and global businesses, including in some of the world’s fastest-growing economies.  Jones also served as the Communications Director for the 2008 Democratic National Convention, part of the successful campaign to elect Barack Obama as the 44th President of the United States.  His passion for community engagement continues through involvement in numerous local and national organizations.

Alicia H Clark
Author & Licensed Psychologist
PsyD, PLLC

Alicia H. Clark is a Washington, DC – based licensed psychologist specializing in anxiety and relationships and author of Hack Your Anxiety: How to Make Anxiety Work for You In Life, Love, and All That You Do, which debuted as #1 New Release on Amazon in August, 2018. She has been named one of Washington’s Top Doctors by Washingtonian magazine and has served as adjunct clinical faculty at the Chicago School of Professional Psychology. Her presentations on stress and anxiety have been sought after by numerous professional conferences and organizations, and she has written for popular media outlets including the NYTimes, Psychology Today, TIME, the Huffington Post, and Yahoo. Visit her at www.aliciaclarkpsyd.com

Melissa Dawn Simkins
CEO, Velvet Suite and
Host, The She-Suite Summit

For nearly two decades, blending human insight with brand innovation, personal branding and accelerated leadership development has found a new champion. Think of Melissa Dawn Simkins not as merely a trusted advisor to Fortune 100’s, C-Suite executives and influencers, but as a visionary personal brand leadership pioneer, redefining and reinventing the leadership development category to harvest the potential of human potential to lead the future.

Simkins founded Velvet Suite® (www.velvetsuite.com) to democratize leadership at all levels. Since its inception in 2006, Velvet Suite has delivered breakthrough business results for an array of leading companies, celebrities, industries and brands by rethinking leadership from the inside out. The results are innovative strategies creating competitive advantage.

Today, her understanding of human capital and personal branding make her a highly-sought after keynote speaker on leadership innovation, a contributor to Inc.com and a frequent guest on news and business media including CNN, HLN, MSNBC, Essence, Black Enterprise and more. Melissa is the best-selling author of Brand Me. Make Your Mark: The Ultimate Playbook for Personal Branding (Xlibris). She is the Creator of The She-Suite Summit.

Founder of The Brand Leadership Institute ® (BLI), a successful digital accelerator merging coaching, content and community, she’s disrupted the leadership development industry without apology. BLI offers clients a proven platform and pipeline to advance and develop the next generation of leaders by proving again how self-confidence and enhanced performance are born out of self-discovery. Results have been simply extraordinary.

Melissa’s is the first African American female advisory board member for the World Brand Congress in Mumbai. In partnership with the NFL, Velvet Suite created the NFL Player Brand University, the first of its kind personal brand development academy in professional sports. Velvet Suite clients include Boston Scientific, Lincoln Financial, Allstate, Home Depot, Southern Company, the National Basketball Association, C-Suite executives, celebrities, pro-athletes and more.

Emily M. Dickens
Corporate Secretary and Chief of Staff
SHRM

Emily M. Dickens, J.D., serves as SHRM’s Corporate Secretary and Chief of Staff. She is the executive responsible for coordinating staff to implement the CEO’s vision, serving as corporate secretary for the SHRM Board and subsidiary boards, as well as managing external partnerships and providing oversight for the Government Affairs division.

Dickens is an attorney with significant and progressive experience in government, higher education and the non-profit sector. She has served as a member of the leadership team at the University of North Carolina system, the Association of Governing Boards of Colleges and Universities and the Thurgood Marshall College Fund. Her prior roles include general counsel, chief relationship officer, senior vice president, vice president for public policy and assistant vice president for federal relations. Dickens has also worked at Duke University and Fayetteville State University in administrative and external affairs roles.

Emily is actively engaged in board service. She formerly served on the Fayetteville/Cumberland (NC) Chamber of Commerce (Secretary of the Board), the Cumberland County Workforce Development Board, the North Carolina Partnership for Defense Innovation Board, and the Educational Advancement Foundation. She is currently a member of the Advisory Council of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute (CHCI), the Advisory Board of the College of Arts and Sciences at North Carolina Central University, and chairs the International HBCU Task Force for Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated.

She is a graduate of North Carolina Central University and North Carolina Central University School of Law.

Melon Yeshoalul
Global Vice President of HR
DXC Technology

Melon is a Global Vice President of HR at DXC Technology and is passionate about helping organizations and leaders translate complex problems to drive set objectives. Melon has more than 18 years of experience in talent management, leadership development, organizational design, culture transformation, and workforce management.  Her passion is creating cultures that enable success. 

Prior to joining DXC, Melon served as the Executive Vice President and CHRO of the Wills Group in 2015 and is the Vice President of Human Resources.  In this role, Melon worked directly with the CEO and executive team to develop and execute the people strategy.  During her time, she was a catalyst for corporate rebranding, stood up the Wills Group’s first learning and talent acquisition organization and redesigned the variable compensation plan.  Melon’s prior experiences includes serving as the Director of Human Resources and Chief of staff to CEO for The Boeing Company.  In the course of her 18-year career, Melon has assumed a variety of HR leadership and consulting roles, focusing on Talent Management, Succession Management, M&A, Recruiting, Strategy and Organizational Effectiveness with Fortune 500 organizations such as PricewaterhouseCoopers, Standard and Poor’s, Andersen Consulting, and the United Nations. 

Melon is a member of the Society for Human Resource Management, HR People + Strategy, Neuroscience Leadership Institute, and Evanta.  She earned her Bachelor’s Degree from The State University of New York at Buffalo and holds a Senior Professional Human Resources (SCCP-SPHR) certification.  

When not working, she enjoys traveling, painting and crafting.  She lives in Northern Virginia.  She is married with 2 sons.

William A. Simkins
President
VS Financial

William A. Simkins III is President of Velvet Suite Financial, LLC. Simkins is a trusted wealth advisor with more than 20 years of proven performance in comprehensive financial services including retirement, business planning, life insurance and employee benefits. His practice uniquely serves high net worth individuals as well as small to midsized businesses with a concentration in qualified and non-qualified retirement plans.

Simkins career in comprehensive insurance and investment planning began at Northwestern Mutual Financial Network in 2001. Simkins found early success in his financial service practice and was recognized as the top in his class for client acquisition. He went on to obtain his Certified Financial Planner Certificate from Virginia Commonwealth University. Soon after, Simkins transitioned to Mass Mutual Financial Group where he achieved the Blue Chip Council (top five percent of Mass Mutual representatives) and Top of the Council as well as received the highest industry award in insurance and financial services through the Million Dollar Round Table.

Simkins is a recognized industry expert and speaker who discussed topics such as the inclusion of protection and qualified planning into agency practices. He is a member of the greater Washington National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors. He has also served as the board of Education Chair for the Capital Region National African American Insurance Association.

He graduated with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Political Science from Morehouse College in 1995. As a student-athlete and scholar, Simkins discovered his passion for his career and earned his life and health insurance license his junior year in college.

William is married to Melissa Dawn Simkins and has four sons Kingston, Kevin, Shunn and Amari. William is a coach of youth and high school basketball and is a member of Grace Covenant Church in Chantilly, Virginia.

Theresa Selvaggio
Regional VP
Estée Lauder

Theresa Selvaggio is Regional Vice President for Estée Lauder, a global brand leader in prestige beauty. Estée Lauder is the flagship brand of the Estee Lauder Companies with products sold in more than 150 countries. They are technologically advanced, high-performance luxury products with a reputation for innovation, sophistication and superior quality.

As Regional Vice President,  Mrs. Selvaggio is responsible for retail sales, staffing, merchandising and P + L’s for stores including Macy’s, Dillard’s, Nordstrom, Neiman Marcus, Sak’s Fifth Avenue, Ulta and Sephora in the Midwest and Eastern regions of the US.

As an accomplished executive in the prestige beauty industry for more than 30 years, Ms. Selvaggio is regarded for her proven track record of developing talent, identifying regional relevant opportunities for generations of customers, remarkable strategic insight and great retail partnerships. A passionate advocate of leadership development throughout her career, Ms. Selvaggio seeks to inspire and engage young women to become exceptional leaders and mentors. Ms. Selvaggio was honored to receive the Joseph and Estée Lauder award for Marketing Director of the Year and the Estée Lauder Account Executive Rookie of the year award.  

Prior to her RVP assignment, Ms. Selvaggio served as an RVP for Estée Lauder Canada, Marketing Director Chicago, and Account Executive in Detroit.

Ms. Selvaggio attended the prestigious Leonard Lauder Executive Symposium, the Estée Lauder Executive programs at the Aspen Institute and Harvard, the Estée Lauder summer program at Vassar College and Wayne State University. Ms. Selvaggio is a 25-year Member of The Fashion Group and was the recipient of the Style-maker of the Year award. She is a long-term member and board director for Grosse Pointe Theatre. Ms. Selvaggio has long advocated that theatre disciplines apply to business success. For 25 years Ms. Selvaggio has been very active in the Breast Cancer Research Foundation, founded by Evelyn Lauder. She believes volunteering in your community and giving back is an important part of a balanced and rewarding life.  

Ms. Selvaggio and her husband raised 3 daughters and reside in Grosse Pointe Farms, Michigan. She is a role model for female executives who want to master the balance between work, motherhood, and family.

Ernestine Shepherd
Female Body Builder & Wellness Advocate
Personal Fitness

Ernestine Shepherd is a fitness guru in her own right whose mantra for the past 25 years has been “Determined, Dedicated, Disciplined – To be fit for life.”  She believes that it is never too late to become physically fit.

At the age of 56, she began working out at Coppin State College with her sister. The story goes that she and her sister were displeased with how they looked in swim suits and decided to do something about it. They began to train vigorously but unfortunately, her sister succumbed to a brain aneurysm. However, Ernestine Shepherd decided to work even harder and vowed to carry on in her sister’s memory.

At age 71 she had former Mr. Universe, Yohnnie Shambourger train her to become a body builder. Her success has grown worldwide since.

Now at age 81 Ernestine Shepherd has been married for 61 years and is the mother of a 60-year-old son, and has a 21-year-old-grandson.

Ernestine Shepherd is truly an inspiration to all who meet her. Her fashion is above reproach. She is easily recognized by her gray, pushed-back hair, with a long braid extending down her back, not to mention her colorful outfits embossed with her mantra, and decorative high heel tennis shoes.

Two of her favorite songs are, “Here I Am Lord,” and “This Little Light of Mine.” Her “little light” is her energy and eagerness to take time out from her busy schedule to hold classes for seniors at her church, various community organizations, and particularly at the Energy Wellness and Fitness Center. Her favorite Bible verses are 1 Corinthians, Chapter 13 and the 23rd Psalm. Ernestine Shepherd strongly believes that it is extremely important that Christians actively live out their faith. When life is good, human faith is up. When life is gloomy, human faith disappears. Faith endures all trials and tribulations, and there is no other choice but to succeed.

Overall, her most inspirational song is “One Moment in Time,” by Whitney Houston. To paraphrase the song, Mrs. Shepherd says,

“Life is a race against destiny, but we are all given that one moment in time to be the best that we can be.”

Sherrie Beckstead
Partner
Liljenquist & Beckstead 

Sherrie Beckstead is a Partner at Liljenquist & Beckstead Jewelers in their five locations across the DC Metropolitan area. In addition to her role as an owner and investor in the boutique jewelry company, Sherrie also just launched her own cause branded jewelry and accessory company, founded on her passion for female-led philanthropy, historic preservation, and exquisite design. Her new venture, The Lockkeepers Collection, is inspired by the restoration of the oldest building on the National Mall, the lockkeeper’s house, and features a handcrafted lock and key design. Fifty percent of each sale from the collection is donated to The Trust for the National Mall for the continued preservation of the country’s national monuments. Sherrie serves on the Trust’s National Advisory Council. “This is not only a timeless, collectible piece,” Sherrie says, “but one infused with history and purpose that will make a lasting impact.” (www.lockkeeperscollection.com)

At Liljenquist & Beckstead, Sherrie led the company’s brand and marketing strategies, and served as team lead on its first company-wide website and social platform development. Sherrie partners directly with the global leaders of 25 luxury brands, including Rolex, Cartier, Chopard, David Yurman and Mikimoto. Sherrie’s passion to inspire excellence in leadership, promote corporate and community development, and encourage continued education guide both her business and philanthropic goals.

Sherrie is a member of The Tysons Partnership Board of Directors. She is also the Public Relations Co-Chair and Executive Committee Member for Women & Wine at Georgetown Lombardi Breast Cancer Center in Washington, DC.  She is an emeritus 3-term board member of Atlantic General Hospital, St. Mary’s School Board of Directors in Annapolis, MD and President of Historic St. Martin’s Foundation.

Sherrie is married to her partner in business and in life Sidney, they have 3 children, and to two pups.

Sally Roberts
Former Elite Wrestler, Army Soldier & Founder
Wrestle Like a Girl

Sally Roberts is a former elite wrestler, Army soldier, & founder of Wrestle Like A Girl®, a nonprofit organization.

Sally was a resident at the Colorado Springs Olympic Training Center for eight years during which she was a 3-time national champion, 2003 World Cup Champion, 2003 & 2005 World Bronze Medalist, and a 2008 Olympic Alternate.

She served 6 years in the Army serving as a Special Operations soldier where she volunteered for deployment in Afghanistan and was also a member of the Army’s prestigious World Class Athlete Program. She represented both the U.S. Army and Team USA in elite athletic competitions.

She earned a B.A. in Psychology from University of Colorado – Colorado Springs and a Master of Arts degree in Sport and Performance Psychology from University of the Rockies.

In 2016, Sally founded the nonprofit organization Wrestle Like A Girl® on the premise that girls can do anything and that through sport can realize their full potential.

Sally received the 2016 Women in Sport Award on behalf of United World Wrestling and the International Olympic Committee. Sally spoke at the United Nations ‘Global Good’ summit and participated in the Global Goals World Cup activist soccer tournament on Team Sports Equality Enforcers promoting the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals. Sally and Wrestle Like A Girl was featured on Megyn Kelly’s Today show. In 2019 Sally was named USA Wrestling ‘Women of the Year’ and recognized with the IOC ‘Women In Sport’ achievement diploma.

Yuri Brown-Cruzat
Co-Founder
Learning Forgiveness, Inc.

Yuri Brown-Cruzat is Co-Founder of Learning Forgiveness, Inc., a non-profit organization that teaches the Just BREATHE Practice, from her book she co-authored with her husband “7 Days of Forgiveness: A Journey to Healing” a spiritually based, empowering methodology coupled with movement, modalities,meditation and nutrition to help people release past hurts, build emotional intelligence, manage conflict and reduce stress.

In her professional career, Yuri was a Human Capital, Diversity & Inclusion and Business Executive with a 25-year track record of designing D&I performance metrics, strategies, processes and systems for Fortune 50, 100 and 500 global corporations. She has served as an internal Chief Diversity Officer for Fannie Mae and The Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago and as an external Principle consultant for her own firm, EPIC Associates for 10 years.  

Her expertise ranges from research driven analysis, workforce enterprise strategies and leadership/BOD coaching to baselining inclusion and implementing sustainable culture change.  Yuri is a thought leader on improving employee engagement, identifying bias within performance management and succession planning processes, building a leadership competency for inclusion and creating a high performing work environment through inclusion.  

Her presence on several non-profit boards allows her to leverage her human capital and business networks in order to build capacity and improve outreach efforts for various non-profits. She is on the board of Black Tech Mecca, a Google inspired initiative to make Chicago a tech hub for African American tech professionals; an advisory board member for National Association of Professional Women (NAPW) and recently departed after 7 years of service, Ambassador Council Board Member for YWCA Metro Chicago servicing over 200,000 women and girls.  

Tracy Harris
Chief Operating Officer
Skyscraper Farm

Tracy Harris is a seasoned finance and operational leader with 20+ years of progressive corporate and business unit experience across multiple industries, including financial services, not-for-profit and government. She provides financial, operational, and strategic support to help organizations build value by guiding them through periods of growth, restructuring and change. Most recently, Tracy served as CFthe Bondfactor Company, where she developed and scaled the financial platform, crafted the risk management strategy, and stabilized operating environment.  She currently serves as Chief Operating Officer of Skyscraper Farm, a start-up vertical farming and real estate development company. 

Tracy is a NACD Fellow and an active supporter of cultural and educational endeavors.  She serves as Treasurer for National Arts Strategies, an international organization that provides executive education to cultural leaders around the world.  Tracy was appointed to the Rutgers Business School Advisory Board Ms. Harris is a founding member of the Washington Chapter of the CFO Leadership Council.  She serves as a member of the American Geophysical Union’s Finance Committee.  Additionally, she was recently appointed to the board of directors of Social Theory, Politics, and the Arts Journal (STP&A).  

Ms. Harris earned the Ralph and Janice James Fellowship to complete Harvard Business School’s General Management Program. She has an MBA in Finance from St. Louis University’s, John Cook School of Business, a Master’s degree in Government Administration from the University of Pennsylvania’s, Fels School of Government and a Bachelor’s degree in Marketing from Fontbonne University. 

Smruti Patel
Leadership Coach
Nexus Vision, LLC

Smruti Patel works with organizations and leaders driven to achieving exceptional business and professional goals.  

Smruti is a leadership coach and executive educator with an international client list and a career spanning corporate consulting and law. She brings a unique combination of discretion, intellectual rigor, keen business acumen and practical experience to each client engagement. Smruti specializes in leadership coaching, executive workshops, facilitation and cross-cultural training. 

With an international background and education (U.S.A., U.K. and Kenya) Smruti partners with top-level executives and CEOs. Her services have been delivered across the globe, to a breadth of industries. 

Smruti’s diverse client list of leaders she coaches individually includes CEOs, executives, lawyers, entrepreneurs and commanding officers in the U.S. armed forces. She is on the roster of select coaches at organizations such as Airbus, Deloitte and Georgetown University for their Executive Leadership programs.

Smruti practiced as an attorney at law firms in the U.K. such as Hogan Lovells and specialized in litigation and private wealth management. 

In the business world, through her experience with CEB (now Gartner), Smruti has partnered extensively with Fortune 500 companies and Global 1000 organizations resulting in an advanced knowledge of international HR best practices particularly in high-potential development and succession management.

Smruti holds a double bachelors in Liberal Arts and Law. Her graduate degree is in International Law from Georgetown University Law Center and she is a certified leadership coach from Georgetown’s Institute of transformational Leadership. She has over 600 hours of leadership coaching hours and is at the second highest PCC level of the International Coaching Federation. 

In 2009, Smruti launched her leadership development practice, Nexus Vision, with a mission dedicated to “enabling leadership potential worldwide.”   

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/modestythe-undoing-women-smruti-patel 

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/influencingthe-master-skill-smruti-patel 

Kristin Bodenstedt
VP
Government Relations

Kristin Bodenstedt brings over twenty-five years of government-related experience in diverse legislative and private sector roles to her position directing government relations for Bacardi North America. She oversees the Washington office for the largest privately-owned spirits company handling issues before international, federal and state governments. She joined Bacardi in December 2002.

Prior to Bacardi, Ms. Bodenstedt represented corporate, trade association and non-profit clients in positions at the MWW Group, Burson-Marsteller, Arent Fox, the National Association of Manufacturers and the Cato Institute. She employed her federal and state legislative and regulatory experience to craft creative solutions to clients’ issues.

Ms. Bodenstedt served in several legislative governmental positions including as
legislative counsel to Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA) in the United States Senate. She advised the Senator on a broad range of business issues including tax, trade, banking, commerce and judiciary issues. Beginning her career with the state legislature in Austin, Texas, Ms. Bodenstedt served as legislative assistant to Texas State Representative David Counts and later to Texas State Representative Keith Oakley.

Ms. Bodenstedt holds a law degree from the University of Texas Law School and a B.A. in government with high honors from the University of Texas at Austin. She is a member of the Texas and DC Bar.

Lee McElroy
Regional Financial Services Leader
Allstate

Lee began her career in financial services over 30 years ago and has developed experience in diverse aspects of the business.  From institutional fixed income with Kidder Peabody to online trading platforms with E*TRADE, she has taken on additional responsibility with each role. Through her journey, she obtained her securities licenses Series 7 and 63, then her Principal licenses 24, 4 and 53 and insurance licensing.  Continuing to build her skills, she recently earned her FSCP designation. 

Lee has called Allstate home for the past 16 years. She joined the company as an Exclusive Financial Specialist in Atlanta, then quickly was asked to serve in the Southeast Regional office where in 2008, she was promoted to Financial Services Consultant. In 2011, Lee was promoted to Regional Financial Services Leader (RFSL) and moved to the Capital Region. She was the first woman to obtain the RFSL role at Allstate and she also earned the prestigious Spirit of the Eagle award for best in company.   

Allstate asked Lee to move once more to take on additional responsibility in 2015.  She returned to her home state of California as the RFSL where she earned Circle of Champions in 2016 and 2017.  In her current RFSL role, Lee is a member of the Allstate Council of Life Leaders, RFSL Advisory Board and plays a vital role on the California MOC.  Lee has juggled her career as she has raised four children and now enjoys six grandchildren with her husband James 

Machelle D. Williams 
Sr. Director, Diversity & Corporate Social Responsibility
Volkswagen Group of America

Machelle Williams has 24 years of experience in the Volkswagen Group of America.  

OFFERING A BLEND OF STRATEGIC AND OPERATIONAL STRENGTHS, MACHELLE HAS WORKED TO ALIGN THE COMPANY’S DIVERSITY AND CORPORATE GIVING STRATEGIES WITH OVERALL CORPORATE OBJECTIVES. DURING HER TENURE SHE HAS IMPLEMENTED INITIATIVES THAT IMPACT EMPLOYEE ENGAGEMENT AND REPRESENT VWGOA’S COMMITMENT TO SERVE THE COMMUNITIES WHERE THEY OPERATE. 

UNDER HER LEADERSHIP VWGOA HAS BEEN RECOGNIZED BY DIVERSITYINC AS A TOP 25 NOTEWORTHY COMPANY AND AS A BEST PLACE TO WORK BY THE HUMAN RIGHTS CAMPAIGN ACHIEVING A 100% SCORE ON THE CORPORATE EQUALITY INDEX.  

In 2017 she was recognized by the Washington Business Journal as one of the 25 Women Who Mean Business in D.C ; and by Network Journal as one of the 25 influential black women in Business.   In 2014, The Rainbow Push Coalition honored her as an “Emerging Leader,” and in 2012 she was recognized as “Woman of the Year” by the National Association of Minority Automobile Dealers. She was also named by Savoy Magazine as one of the most influential women in corporate America.  She currently serves as the Chair of the INROADS Mid Atlantic Regional Board, and is on the Board of the Urban League of Greater Chattanooga. 

Machelle received her B.A. from Drake University, where she majored in Magazine Journalism She is the founder of Machelle’sVoice, an audio book narration business, and is the proud pet parent of two Boston Terriers Daphne and Lilah. 

Danny Vargas
Founder
Varcom Solutions

Raul “Danny” Vargas is an award-winning noted business and
community leader, accomplished media commentator, and
marketing/public relations professional. A product of the mean streets
of New York City, he has created opportunities, overcome challenges
and beaten the odds all his life. He has made a mark not only in
business but in the community as well. Danny is a proud US Air Force
intelligence veteran, serving seven years on active duty.

Danny is the Founder/President of VARCom Solutions, a nationally recognized, marketing, public relations and professional services firm.
And he is the Chairman of the Friends of the National Museum of the
American Latino, advancing its creation within the Smithsonian.

Vargas is a regular media commentator in both English and Spanish,
appearing on CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, Univision, Telemundo, and
more and has penned op-eds for Wall Street Journal, NBC, etc.

A successful businessman, Danny was an executive at AOL, France
Telecom, Global One and Raytheon. Virginia’s Governor appointed him
Chairman of the Virginia Board of Workforce Development to ensure
the future economic vitality of the commonwealth. He served as
Chairman of the Dulles Regional Chamber of Commerce (the first
Latino to chair a mainstream chamber in Virginia history) and spent
several years on the board of the Northern Virginia Chamber.

Active in politics and the community, he was a candidate for the
Virginia House of Delegates, was one of the top races in 2015 and was
endorsed by the Washington Post where they called him “one of the
region’s more impressive first-time candidates for the House of
Delegates in recent memory.”

The Speaker of the Virginia House appointed him to the Northern
Virginia Transportation Commission and a commission promoting
economic opportunity for the underserved. He is on the Northern
Virginia Regional Council for the “GO Virginia” initiative and the board
of Virginia FREE and has served on boards of various nonprofits.

Danny has advocated for commonsense solutions for a variety of
causes—workforce development, veterans support, economic
development, health IT, immigration reform, transportation and more.
A sought-after public speaker, Mr. Vargas is committed to keeping his
community and our nation vibrant, thriving and strong.