Conference Speakers

Adriana Porter

Porter earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Civil Engineering, emphasis in Structural Engineering in 2011 from Purdue University. Adriana lives in Overland Park, KS with her husband, Joshua. She enjoys running, traveling, and spending time with friends and family.

Alexandria Palomarez

Lexa started as an intern with Turner five years ago while she was pursuing her BS in Architectural Engineering from the University of Kansas. After two years of internships, she joined the company full time after graduation in their Special Projects Division. She has worked on jobs for KU, Overland Park Convention Center, the City of Olathe, and is currently the Project Engineer at the JOCO Lenexa City Center Library.

Andrea Garcia

Andrea serves as the Chief Mind Officer and client lead for Mind + Matter. Andrea supports client digital strategy, business operations, and managing Drew.

Andrea graduated from Northwest Missouri State University in 2007 with a B.S. in Industrial Psychology and in 2008 with a Master’s in Business Administration. Following a ten year tenure at Cerner in marketing, sales, and client management she moved to an account focused role in Associated Wholesale Grocers’ in-house agency. Andrea enjoys creating meaningful partnerships to help her clients express and achieve their goals.

When not at M+M Andrea can be found watching soccer, taking or teaching a yoga class, playing with her little beige puppy, or Instagramming her latest meal.

Andrea’s philosophy is to find your true north, she strives to help others find and follow their driving purpose.

Carlanda McKinney

Carlanda is an experienced technical specifications writer and has worked in the Health IT and Services industries. She received her MBA focused in Entrepreneurship and Marketing from the University of Missouri-Kansas City and her undergraduate Business Management degree from the University of Missouri-Columbia. Carlanda has been a Sr. Solution Designer with Cerner Corporation for 6 years, and is currently working as founder and CEO of her Lingerie Startup, Raaxo.

Experienced technical specifications writer with a history of working in the information technology and services industries. Skilled in Sales, Entrepreneurship, Team Building, and Public Speaking. Strong leadership capabilities with an MBA focused in Entrepreneurship and Marketing from the University of Missouri-Kansas City and an undergraduate Business Management degree from the University of Missouri at Columbia

Christal Watson

Over the past 25 years, Christal has provided leadership in management roles with companies such as Sprint, United Way, Kansas City, Kansas Public Schools, and Truman Medical Centers. Most recently, she was appointed to serve as Deputy Chief of Staff for Neighborhood/Small Business Development by the Office of the Mayor/CEO David Alvey, Unified Government of Wyandotte County, Kansas City, Kansas.
Holding a Bachelor and Master of Arts in Organizational Management from Ashford University, and a graduate certificate in Project Management from George Washington University, Christal attributes her educational foundation as one of the many stepping stones to reaching her lifelong goals. A native of Kansas City, Kansas and actively involved in the community, she is a former elected official, having served for the Board of Education - Kansas City, Kansas Public Schools, USD 500 and proudly serves on a host of other boards centered around business, community, youth and healthcare.

Diana Acevedo

Diana S. Acevedo is a second-year student pursuing a Ph.D. in Pathology and Laboratory Medicine at the University of Kansas Medical Center. Diana is a scientist in training doing breast cancer research. She is also a 2017 – 2021 Self Graduate Fellow, which is a highly competitive and prestigious fellowship that is awarded to doctoral students who demonstrate leadership, initiative and passion for achievement.
This Bogotá, Colombia native, received a Bachelor of Science (2010) in Biology from Truman State University, Kirksville, Missouri, and a Master’s in science (2012) in Microbial and Cellular Biology from Emporia State University. Her current research interests include understanding the molecular mechanisms by which ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS), a type of pre-invasive breast cancer becomes invasive and malignant. On August 2016, she was awarded an NIH administrative Diversity Supplement which is the foundation of her Ph.D. dissertation.
On November 2016, she was featured on the front page of Dos Mundos bilingual newspaper in an article entitled; “Acevedo reaping rewards of resilience” which relates the story about how she overcame academic and personal obstacles to reach her goals. The objective of this story was to motivate young Latino students to not drop out of college but to keep pressing on and achieve their goals.
Diana is uniquely characterized by her involvement with the Latino community with her efforts to participate in (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math and Medicine) STEMM outreach activities that encourage other women and minorities in science by action and example. She provides mentoring and research opportunities to highly motivated students that are interested in biomedical research.
Upon finishing her Ph.D. Diana hopes to identify key factors that play a role in the transition from DCIS to invasive disease to potentially develop a molecular based approach that could predict the risk of IDC and a more personalized approach to treat DCIS.
Mentor: Nikki Cheng, Associate Professor, Pathology & Laboratory Medicine.
University of Kansas Medical Center

Ghadeer Garcia

Ghadeer M. Garcia is the Executive Director of The BrandLab, whose mission is to change the
face and voice of the marketing industry by introducing, guiding and preparing students for careers in marketing and advertising. Ghadeer, or Gigi as she’s affectionately referred to by her
loved ones, believes in deliberate and purposeful action to create necessary change. Ghadeer’s
strengths lie in making connections across communities and networks to create solutions. Not
only is she a serious networker, she’s also a fun-loving theme party thrower and mom to 13 year
old Joshua and 11 year old Gabriella. Ghadeer holds a Literature degree from the University of
Missouri-Kansas City.

Hidy Aguilar

Hidy Aguilar serves as Vice President and Branch Manager of the Prescott Plaza branch. Her main duties included community outreach through educational classes on banking, customer service, day-to-day bank operations and staff management. Aguilar also explores partnership opportunities within the Hispanic community as well as partnerships with local Kansas City, Kansas businesses to expand the bank’s mortgage, business banking and consumer banking services.
Aguilar has more than 25 years of banking experience. She started her career as a receptionist in a bank and since then has held positions such as a teller, safety deposit box manager, business developer and branch manager.
Aguilar serves as a board member for the Bethel Neighborhood Center and frequently gives home ownership classes at the Family Conservancy and Community Housing of Wyandotte County.

Ina Montgomery

Career Professional who has had range of experience in working on innovative training projects. My training career began at Booz, Allen & Hamilton in McLean,Va after graduate school from the University of Virginia. At Booz, I had the chance to develop interactive CBT (computer-based training) products for various government agencies and AT&T. I was onsite at EPA as a instructional designer to convert paper-based training to CBT products. I also had a chance to travel to various cities to facilitate leadership training. I have also worked as a Contractor on a BPR -business process re-engineering project with Sprint. I have served as a School Technology Director for the national charter company,Edison Schools, in Washington, DC and Kansas City. My education company, Urban Training Systems, has also provided teacher professional development in working with schools on how to effectively educate urban learners through a inter-disciplinary approach. I have also developed a youth development program named Aspirations! that teaches life and personal skills to urban and suburban girls.

Specialties: Instructional Technologist, Instructional Designer, Curriculum Designer, Business Systems Improvement, Training Development and Educator

Kellyann Jones PHD

Kellyann Jones-Jamtgaard, Ph.D. is the career academy liaison at PREP-KC, an education nonprofit that focuses on college and career preparation for urban school districts. Dr. Jones-Jamtgaard was a 2017 Christine Mirzayan Science and Technology Policy fellow assigned to the Committee on Women in Science, Engineering, and Medicine at the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. Appointed by Mayor Sly James, Dr. Jones-Jamtgaard currently serves as a commissioner on the Kansas City Health Commission, a group tasked with improving public health in Kansas City, Missouri, and co-chairs the Commission’s Birth Outcomes subcommittee. Dr. Jones-Jamtgaard holds a B.S. in Biology and Spanish from Duke University and a Ph.D. in microbiology from the University of Kansas Medical Center (KUMC). Her doctoral research focused on alterations in cellular trafficking during Hepatitis C virus infection. Dr. Jones-Jamtgaard is committed to improving science education and being an advocate for women in science and medicine. She was recently recognized with the naming of the Kellyann Jones-Jamtgaard Student Diversity Award at KUMC in her honor.

Career Academies Liaison with PREP-KC and Health Commissioner with the Kansas City, MO Health Commission

Margery Sendze

Margery is a technology leader with more than 18 years of delivering business value by enabling high-performing teams. Ms. Sendze currently serves as a Technology Manager at the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City. She joined the Bank in 2013 and has had responsibilities managing various technology functions. Prior to joining the Bank, her experience included several roles, such as web developer, project manager and IT leadership. Margery is committed to the growth and development of current and future technologists. She recently extended her scope of experience and interests to include growth and development of technology talent. Margery is a very active member of the Kansas City technology community and an advocate for women in STEM. She holds a B.A and an M.A. in communications and is currently working toward a Ph.D. in organizational psychology with an emphasis in organizational development. Margery also serves on the Workforce Advisory Board at the University of Kansas, Edwards Campus.

Neelima Paraskar

Influential leader with ability to think strategically in high stress situations, take calculated risks, engage and stabilize challenging situations and transform under-performing units into consistent top performers. Neelima has 15 plus years in IT with Managing and Leading global teams that perform enterprise transformations implementing cutting edge technology and proven industry standards.

Neelima launched SnapIT Solutions, a technology solutions company in 2016 with a goal to make a positive impact on under-served and under-privileged communities that promote STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Math) fields and Digital Inclusion. SnapIT Solutions provides technology solutions that brings hope to bridge the digital divide that not only is a problem in developing countries but also troubling the 20% plus population of United States of America.

Ruby Montoya

Ruby studied fine art and journalism before getting her degree in Latin American Studies from the University of Kansas with a concentration in labor, trade and economics. Her senior thesis explored the meaning of Corporate Social Responsibility in Latin America. She’s always loved media, marketing and design and has worked in various industries and roles, giving her a multidimensional view of how different fields coincide and how to solve complex problems with innovation and creativity.

Stephanie Carreon

Stephanie was born and raised in Kansas City, KS. She's always loved Math and Science, so after shadowing a Civil Engineer in high school she knew engineering would be a good fit for her. She attended the University of Kansas for her Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Civil Engineering. She currently works at Burns & McDonnell as a Structural Engineer. This summer she is coming up on her seven-year work anniversary. Outside of work, she enjoys traveling, playing soccer, and spending time with family.

Brandy Palacios

Brandy Palacios is the current Mrs. Missouri America 2018, she was crowned June 23, 2018. Here platform is entitled STEMsational Kids, empowering children through the powers of Science Technology Engineering and Math.  She attended Tuskegee University, majoring in biology, with hopes of becoming a medical doctor. However, in her senior year, she hit burn-out and discovered the field of physical therapy at a college career fair. She then attended KCKCC receiving an Associate of Applied Science in Physical Therapy Assistant. In 2015 she receive her doctorate degree in physical therapy from the University of St. Mary’s in Lansing, KS. Brandy is married to Robert Palacios a firefighter with the Kansas City Missouri Fire Department.

Dominique Thompson

Dominique Thompson is a civil engineer with three years of engineering experience on transportation, residential, and sanitary sewer projects. She has gained most of her experience in site design and layout, site grading, and ADA ramp design. Dominique recently served as the project engineer for KCATA’s highly anticipated Prospect MAX Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) route which is a $54 million-dollar and is Kansas City’s first BRT project that incorporates innovative technology such as Wi-Fi, smart kiosks, and ticket vending machines. Prospect MAX consists of 48 MAX stations along Prospect Avenue to 75th Street and two mobility hubs. The project includes real time arrival signage, improvements to transit connections, sidewalks, and local stop improvements. Dominique was responsibile for retaining wall design, site layout, site grading, and ADA ramp design. Prospect MAX is currently under construction and is anticipated to be fully operational during the Fall season of 2019.
Dominique graduated with her Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering from the University of Missouri- Kansas City and recently received her Engineer-in-Training certification. She is a member of the National Society of Black Engineers and is eager to go back to school to obtain her master’s degree. When Dominique isn’t being a super-engineer, she’s being a supermom! As a strong wife and mother of five, Dominique’s defines her purpose in life by simply showing her four young divas and highly energetic son that anything is possible with hard-work and determination. As a young, Black woman in this male dominated industry she prides herself in knowing that she too can run with the big dogs with focus, drive and unwavering work ethic.

Shonna Dorsey

Shonna Dorsey is Senior IT Consultant for Mutual of Omaha Insurance, a Fortune 400 organization. Shonna is an Omaha Nebraska native, a graduate of Omaha North High School and an alumnus of the University of Nebraska-Omaha (UNO). Her career includes business leadership, business development, training facilitation and project management.

Shonna is a community builder who serves on boards for several organizations dedicated to supporting workforce and community development initiatives throughout Nebraska including Heartland Workforce Solutions, Omaha Girls Rock, RISE, Heartland Family Service. Shonna is a Commissioner for the Nebraska Information Technology Commission. She is dedicated to efforts to provide access to career advancement and professional development opportunities. 

As a panelist or sole speaker on the topics of opportunities in tech, women in tech, empowerment and leadership, Shonna enjoys candidly sharing her experiences including successes, failures, and lessons learned along the way to hopefully inspire listeners to reach beyond any self- or otherwise imposed limitations.

Chayanne Sandoval-Williams

Chayanne Sandoval-Williams is an 18 year old out of Grandview, MO. She aspires to make waves in the world of STEM. Years after being in the field and creating innovations of her own, she wants to come back and train the next group of creators by becoming a teacher!

Nicholas Segura

Nicholas Segura is a proud Kansas City, Kansas native. He is a veteran entrepreneur, working as an advocate for diversity and inclusion in the advertising and creative industry. He is the cofounder of, Segura Marketing and Media Solutions and Segura Talent Agency, companies that are all based in diversity marketing. As  STEM brands shared their challenges of marketing to diverse recruit, he created to promote education programs, scholarships, and jobs to minority populations, focusing on women of color.

Deanna Munoz

Deanna Munoz is the CEO/ Founder of the Latino Arts Foundation. The Latino Arts Foundation is a nonprofit organization created to bring forth the fiercely authentic voice of the underrepresented artists through their diverse stories, cultures and beliefs creating an artist based space OF their community FOR their community. The Latino Arts Foundation encompasses the Latino Arts Festival, the Latino Arts Festival Scholarship and a no cost art mentorship program for the youth in the Kansas City and Kansas City Kansas metro area.

Lydia Johnson

Dr. Mejia-Johnson is an established, credentialed, and certified professional in the healthcare industry for over 20 years. She is an Experienced Specialist with a demonstrated history of working in the hospital/academia health care industry. Skilled in Academic/Clinical Research, Nursing Education, Oncology, Strategic Planning, Business Financial Management/Planning, and her most recent endeavor as the Host/Executive producer of the healthcare show Hardcore Healthcare (HC 2 ). She is a strong healthcare professional with a Doctor of Nursing Practice focused in Nursing Organizational Leadership from the University of Kansas Medical Center.

Amanda Graor

Amanda Graor is the Chief Innovation Officer at the Mid-America Regional Council in Kansas City. She has been with MARC for more than a decade, with work areas focusing on air quality, workforce transportation, energy policy and climate strategy. In her role as CIO, she is responsible for increasing MARC’s capacity to advance regional goals and collaborative initiatives through innovation in public policy and operating practices and through the strategic deployment of data and technology. She holds a bachelor's degree in Earth System Science and Engineering from the University of Michigan and a master's degree in Public Administration from the University of Kansas.

Kristan Chamberlain

Kristan Chamberlain was born and raised in San Diego, CA. Her love for the environment was cultivated at a young age through family backpacking trips and spending her summer days surfing, sailing and scuba diving in the Pacific Ocean. Upon moving to Kansas City, Kristan united her 17+ years in art marketing and business management with her desire to implement change in the local social and environmental landscapes. She joined forces with Kansas City Rescue Mission to design an innovative enterprise that would reduce both recidivism rates and greenhouse gas production in Kansas City. Kristan is currently the Executive Director of KC Can Compost. She lives in Kansas City with her husband and son.

Heather Nevarez

Heather Nevarez joined KC Can Compost in November 2018 and serves as the Director of Operations. Her professional focus has been on communication strategies and social justice. Prior to joining KC Can Compost, she practiced immigration law, advocating for clients in court and before Citizenship and Immigration Services. Heather has collaborated with executive teams and marketing professionals in both for-profit and non-profit organizations to develop strategies, improve communications, and deliver services to those in need. She joined KC Can Compost because of the organization’s commitment to social and environmental justice for all in our community.

Cass Butler

Cass Butler is a content creator and influencer. She helps up-and-coming creators and bloggers with brand-building and monetizing their online and social media platforms. Cass creates social media content under the name Luxestyles. Her company is called The Digi Domain.

Marissa Starke

Marissa Starke - Kansas City Artist Coalition Executive Director
Marissa joined the KCAC staff in 2010 previously she worked as Art Director at Artichokes, Leawood, Kansas.
During her time here at KCAC she has played an integral role in the development of many new programs and artist opportunities. For the past four years she has curated the Underground Gallery exhibition space.

 In 2015 she developed and managed the KCAC Artist Takeover program on the KCAC Instagram account, which continues to connect artists with their audience in this micro residency program.

 In 2016, Ms. Starke created Coffee Talk, a monthly networking event free and open to the public for artists to connect with one another to discuss timely artful issues. 2016 was also the 40th anniversary for KCAC and Ms. Starke managed and coordinated the Block Party celebration for the community to celebrate the impact that KCAC has and continues to have on the community.

 In the fall of 2017, Ms. Starke launched and continues to curate the experimental gallery, Snap Space, for artists 18 – 35 years of age. This gives emerging artists an opportunity to continue artistic growth outside of their studio walls and connects them with the KC community.

 Marissa serves on the River Market Community Association Board of Directors, in 2017 she was the Head of the Marketing Committee. She also is on the Alumni Board of Directors of Notre Dame de Sion. She has also served on the TruFriends of Truman Medical Centers Board (2015-2016), the Art in the Loop Art in City Market Park Selection Panel (2017), and as the Notre Dame de Sion Student Exhibition Juror (2016).


She studied art history at Cornell College, Iowa and the University of Kansas.

Tracey Anderson

Tracey Anderson has proudly carried many titles over her professional life working in higher education, to her current role advising on construction of commercial buildings. At any given time she is a Mother, Leader, Student, Teacher, Cheerleader, Voter, Volunteer, Mover and Doer. The greatest of which is being Weston's Mom.  
Breaking stereotypical barriers for where and how she grew up, Tracey graduated as a first-generation college student with honors in both her undergraduate program at Washburn University - Topeka, Kansas, and her Master's program at Stony Brook University - New York.   
Fundamental to her is the motivation to be educated, healthy and giving.  Tracey continues to see to it that others have access to those rights through her work in multiple not-for-profit organizations and in an independent advisement program she runs to encourage women from communities more inhibited to consider opportunities in non-traditional fields.  She believes the only thing that makes you richer in life is to invest in experiences and travel to countries outside of where you reside.  She has spent time in over 20 major cities outside of the U.S., including completing a cultural immersion study of the Education system in China. Buildings school buildings to be safer for all students is the core focus in her current consultation role with ASSA ABLOY - Door Security Solutions.