PeopleConnect LIVE 2023 – Speakers

Special Guest Speakers

Cherrie Davis



Cherrie Davis knows human dynamics. She brings fresh perspective to her 2 areas of focus: the individual and the process. With this approach, she builds relationships, drives positive performance, and delivers winning solutions. She operates with integrity and is focused on client impact. Cherrie is a visionary leader with over 3 decades of experience in human resources, is a recognized coach, facilitator, and change management leader. She provides a fresh prospective to her clients by merging real world experience with proven knowledge of people.

Cherrie’s career landed her in key assignments world-wide to lead and influence change in Hungary, Bosnia, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), Afghanistan, Iraq, South Korea, the Pentagon, Our Lady of the Lake, GE Lighting and GE Capital. She culminated her military career at the Pentagon, by leading the Army Chief of Staff’s transitional strategy in three pivotal roles: Chief of Operations for Transition Strategic Outreach, Deputy Director for Transition Strategic Outreach and as the Employment Director for the Soldier for Life Program. After her military service, Cherrie served as the Human Resources Director for Our Lady of the Lake, Quality Trainer and Organizational Developer for GE Financial Services (Six Sigma Team), Marketing and Sales for GE Lighting. Her corporate culmination came as an executive for GE Capital, as the Senior Integration Leader.

She is the President at ShiftForward Consulting, based in Atlanta, GA. Cherrie received her B.A. in Communications from Black Hills State University, Spearfish, SD, where she was recognized as the Distinguished Military Graduate and by Who’s Who among Students in American Colleges and Universities. She earned a Master’s in Human Resources with an emphasis in International Management, from Webster University, St. Louis, MO. She holds professional certifications for Senior Professional Human Resources, Executive & Organizational Coaching and Quality Management.

Cherrie’s personal passions are her spouse, golf and riding her townie bike!

See Cherrie at the closing keynote, The Art of Change: Your New Investment

Niki Spears

Author, Expert Eduprenuer, and Chief Culture Cre8or

Niki Spears is an Author, Expert Eduprenuer, and Chief Culture Cre8or who is traveling the country helping educators embrace a healthy, vibrant, and inspirational mindset. She understands how one person's energy can impact an entire team and is leading the charge to help others become aware of how they are showing up at work and in life! Niki left her job in education in July 2016 and since then has empowered more than 100,000 students and educators across the country through her motivational books, talks, and seminars. Niki's book, The Beauty Underneath the Struggle ~ Creating Your B.U.S. Story, reinforces her message of seeing the opportunity in every challenge and encourages readers to take ownership of the pencil of life so that they can create their masterpiece. Thousands of educators and educational leaders have enjoyed the warmth, humor, and transformational power of Niki's self-development events.

See Niki at the opening keynote, Connecting People to Purpose: Creating a Healthy Culture by Embracing a Positive Mindset

Customer Speakers

Alicia F. Barthel

Director of Talent Acquisition

Texas State University

Alicia F. Barthel serves as the Director of Talent Acquisition at Texas State University. Her professional experience spans across all areas of human resources including talent acquisition, professional and organizational development, onboarding, DEIA, compliance, ADA accommodations, and employee relations for over 14 years. In her current role, Alicia leads the talent acquisition team, supports the strategic development of community partnerships, and assists in creating talent pipelines to secure a robust talent pool. She serves on the Professional Development Advisory Council, Staff Employee Recognition Committee, Compliance Partners Committee, and the Affirmative Action Work Group. Her leadership experience includes serving as the President of the Texas Higher Education Human Resources Association (THEHRA) in 2022. Alicia earned a Professional HR Certification in 2019, and will receive her master's degree in Organization, Workforce, and Leadership Studies from Texas State University in Fall 2023.

See Alicia at the Panel Discussion: How to Win Top Talent in a Competitive Market with Recruitment Marketing

Robin Borough

Director of Talent Acquisition

Chapman University

Robin Borough has been the Director of Talent Acquisition at Chapman University since July 2019. This being her first foray into higher education, she is a seasoned executive from the corporate space, author and speaker with over 30 years of professional experience in Management, Training, Design Thinking, Marketing and Talent Acquisition. As a corporate counselor Robin is well known for her ability to help companies develop winning teams. Robin authored Competing for Your Future, and is an active board member and advisor for multiple entities including and

Ms. Borough is educated at California State University of Northridge, and Universite Laval, Quebec; is married for 36 years and has three adult children and three grandchildren (so far). A consummate and curious learner, Robin became a nano-farmer during the pandemic and is currently studying quantum physics and conversational Spanish.

See Robin at the Panel Discussion: How to Win Top Talent in a Competitive Market with Recruitment Marketing

Sarah Gasparini

Talent Manager

St. Catherine University

Sarah Gasparini leads Talent Management at St. Catherine University in St. Paul, Minnesota. Sarah has more than twenty years of experience in talent acquisition and onboarding within academia, mental health services and the medical device industry. She builds collaborative teams that partner with leaders to find solutions that attract and retain great employees.

Sarah holds the SHRM Senior Certified Professional certification as well as the Senior Professional in Human Resources from HRCI. She has volunteered extensively within city and state Human Resources volunteer member organizations, leading a metropolitan group with more than a thousand members. She currently volunteers on the board of a local theater and enjoys spending time traveling with her family.

See Sarah at Panel Discussion: How to Win Top Talent in a Competitive Market with Recruitment Marketing

Denise Lundberg

Director of Recruitment, Hiring & Onboarding

Des Moines Area Community College

Denise is the Director of Recruitment, Hiring, and Onboarding at Des Moines Area Community College (DMACC). Her responsibilities include directing the hiring process for all DMACC positions including job description development, recruitment, applicant screening, salary offers and onboarding/orientation. She also serves on the College’s Accreditation Taskforce. Denise graduated from the University of Iowa and has a Master’s Degree from Drake University. Prior to becoming the Director of Recruitment, Hiring, and Onboarding, Denise managed recruitment and hiring efforts within the private sector and held various other roles in DMACC’s HR department.

See Denise at Leveraging PeopleAdmin's CRM to Attract Top Talent in a Competitive Market

Carla Major

Chief Human Resource Officer

Delgado Community College

Carla Major is the Chief Human Resource Officer at Delgado Community College. She has over 25 years of Human Resources experience from a variety of industries including; telecommunications, hospitality, non-profits, healthcare, casinos as well as higher education. She is a certified professional in Human Resources that has led Human Resources for as many as 2400 employees. Carla has experience in every facet of Human Resources; talent acquisition, retention, employee relations, benefits/retirement, organization strategic planning, coaching, and training/professional development. Carla serves on a number of community boards impacting education and economic development. She embraces the culture of New Orleans and models Black and Gold attire thru out the entire New Orleans Saints season. She has two grandchildren, Kyle and Chloe Major that keep her on the move.

See Carla at the Panel Discussion: How to Win Top Talent in a Competitive Market with Recruitment Marketing

Vanessa Ortiz

Human Resources Analyst

Mt. San Antonio College

Vanessa attended Loyola Marymount University and achieved a degree in Business Administration: Human Resources Management. Her expertise is in employment services and HRIS. She has utilized all modules of PeopleAdmin over the past 7 years and is currently a Human Resources Analyst at Mt. San Antonio College.

See Vanessa at Best Practices for Managing Your EEO Data

Lynn Thibodeau

HRIS Analyst

University of Hartford

With over 25 years of experience in higher education as faculty, staff, and as a training and technology consultant, Lynn Thibodeau has a unique perspective on all facets of university employment and onboarding. In her current role as the HRIS Analyst at the University of Hartford, Lynn collaborates closely on HR technology initiatives with many different departments across campus, including Information Technology Services, the Provost's Office, and the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Community Engagement. She also serves on the President's Commission on the Status of Women. Lynn lives in Connecticut with her teenager in a house filled with dogs, cats, music, and books.

See Lynn at Discover the Possibilities for Customizing Your Forms, Workflows, and Permissions

Janice Ward

Director of Faculty Affairs

University of Alabama at Birmingham

Janice currently serves as the Director of Faculty Affairs, Office of the Provost, at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, Birmingham, Alabama.

Ms. Ward has an abundance of higher education administration leadership experience; including her Faculty Affairs leadership roles; work on numerous committees and working groups, including athletics related committees. She also serves as adjunct professor in the UAB Collat School of Business; and she holds an adjunct instructor appointment in the College of Arts & Sciences.

Janice has established a long-term career at UAB after working in the corporate and non-profit sectors. She is an experienced professional development leader and trainer. Her professional background includes extensive experience as a presenter, facilitator, and speaker—including presentations that she has made PeopleConnect in 2017 and 2018. Janice has hosted numerous webinars and online training sessions.

She holds a master’s degree in Communication Management from UAB, and she is graduate of the university’s business school.

Janice’s has extensive leadership experience; including serving on the Board of Director for the UAB National Alumni Society; serving as the organization’s President in 2012, and she participated in the university’s Blaze Leadership Academy.

Janice’s community involvement and service includes, creating a shoes donation initiative under the umbrella—a national non-profit organization that provides new athletic shoes to kids in K-12. Her service extends to numerous university related service opportunities, including Blazer Kitchen, assisting with alumni scholarship fund raising and working with the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Alabama.

See Janice at Best Practices for Faculty Recruitment and Retention

Christian Zimmerman

Career Specialist and HIRE Coordinator

Fort Myers Technical College

Christian Lin Zimmerman is the coordinator for the How I Reach Employment (HIRE) program in Lee County. Prior to coordinating the HIRE Program, Christian was a high school English teacher and coach. He has implemented the Building Assets Reducing Risks (BARR) Program at a Title I high school and has seen first-hand how building relationships can lead to higher academic achievement and decreased absenteeism. Taking what he learned in the high school setting, Christian has worked with corporations to teach executives how to build relationships with their employees to increase productivity and decrease turnover. Christian has a B.A. in English from the University of South Florida, a M.Ed. in Educational Leadership from the American College of Education, a MFA in British Literature from Middlebury College, and most recently a MLitt in 16th Century Literature from Exeter College, Oxford. Aside from working and collecting degrees like some collect coupons, Christian enjoys editing texts for Corwin-Sage Publishing and traveling the globe in search of his next course of study.

See Christian during Breakout Sessions

PeopleAdmin and HigherEd Experts

Rishi Rana

General Manager and Executive Vice President


Rishi Rana is GM (CEO) of the Higher-Ed business in the edtech sector for PowerSchool Group LLC, leading strategy, growth, and with direct ownership of Product, R&D, Services, Customer Success, Sales, and Marketing.

See Rishi during Keynotes and Innovation Sessions

Jacquelyn Witchko

Director, Product Management


Jackie Witchko leads the PeopleAdmin product team, managing product roadmap and innovations. Jackie has 8+ years in the EdTech space combined with experiences in the financial services industry managing multi-product portfolios.

See Jackie during Keynotes, Innovation Sessions, and Breakout Sessions

Joe Mullen

Senior Director, Sales


Joe is a senior-level sales executive with more than 25 years of sales and sales management experience in the higher education technology space. Joe has extensive experience helping institutions of higher education leverage technology to benefit students, faculty, and staff. He lives in Denver with his wife and three kids, where they enjoy many of the great outdoor activities Colorado has to offer.

See Joe at Growing a Comprehensive Integrated Solution with Ellucian

Courtney Prato

Senior Director, Solution Marketing


As Senior Director, Solution Marketing, Courtney leads the marketing, go-to-market strategy, messaging, communications, partnerships and integrations, and events for PeopleAdmin.

Courtney brings a wealth of experience in marketing strategy and communications to fuel organizational growth. Prior to joining the PeopleAdmin team, she led the marketing department for a national health research program at the Scripps Research Institute, as a senior marketing leader owning digital marketing, event management, and sales funnel optimization at Vistage International, and has worked in B2B, B2C, agency-side, and across a range of industries including biotech, executive leadership development, retail, wireless, and more.

See Courtney at PeopleConnect Live Roadmap sessions

Erik Lords

Managing Director

Erik Lords is recognized as a leading expert on recruitment advertising, higher education, and information technology. He has more than 20 years of advertising experience and is Managing Director of, academia's leading recruitment ad agency. JobAdvertising uses proprietary Smart Technology and skilled Ad Experts to advise institutions on the best ways to recruit faculty and administrators. The company is trusted by more than 1,800 institutions worldwide, including Harvard University, Yale University, Johns Hopkins University, and leading community colleges.During an award-winning journalism career, Erik appeared on national television, and worked as a Writer and Editor for The Chronicle of Higher Education. Educated at the University of Maryland and Duke University, Erik was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and remains a loyal fan of all Philly professional sports teams.He currently lives in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida and enjoys cycling along the Atlantic Ocean, staying physically fit, playing chess, and spending quality time with his family and friends.

See Erik at Lunch and Learn: How SMART is Your Recruiting

Inez Cranor

Customer Success Manager


Inez Cranor brings her four years of experience with HigherEd edtech to PeopleAdmin's Customer Success teams. She has been thrilled to develop closer relationships with our customers and work with them to optimize their systems and ensure their success. Inez enjoys problem solving and collaborating with customers, and is looking forward to the chance to share her expertise at PeopleConnect!

See Inez during Birds of a Feather: Peer to Peer Best Practice Sharing

Melissa Davis

Training Consultant


Melissa Davis, PeopleAdmin Training Consultant, conducts trainings for our Certified Administrator program and has expert knowledge of PeopleAdmin tools and best practices.

See Melissa at How-Tos and Hands-on Training sessions

Lucas Delpriore

Product Manager


Lucas studied educational leadership at Yale Graduate School, taught in K12 schools, founded a K12 college guidance platform, and sold into Higher Ed as an account executive. He recently moved from Philly to Chicago where his wife is an MBA candidate at University of Chicago Booth. He has a pug named Boromir.

See Lucas during the Faculty Keynote and Breakout Sessions

Nick Gonzalez

Customer Success Manager


Nick Gonzalez brings seven years of experience in the software industry and two years of HigherEd knowledge to his role a Customer Success Manager for at PeopleAdmin. After transitioning to Customer Success a year ago, Nick has found his niche as an advocate and consultant who deeply values the relationships he has built with customers. Nick currently lives in Houston, TX.

See Nick during Birds of a Feather: Peer to Peer Best Practice Sharing

Ricardo McKinnie

Customer Success Manager


As the Customer Success Manager, Ricardo is responsible for ensuring HigherEd partners are meeting their strategic initiatives from a partner perspective. From providing strategic guidance to assisting with the annual renewal process, Ricardo is a main point of contact for all partner institutions within the Southeast Region. He has been with PeopleAdmin for 2 years and currently lives in Austin, TX with his wife and two children.

See Ricardo during Birds of a Feather: Peer to Peer Best Practice Sharing

Kendell Middlebrook

Solution Engineer


Kendell has been working in the HigherEd talent technology space partnering with Human Resources departments at colleges and universities to provide solutions that can accommodate the unique needs of HigherEd. She works with institutions to digitize hiring, onboarding, positions management, professional development, and retention focusing on interoperability, efficiency, and innovation. Recently, she has entered the faculty and academic affairs space to find innovative solutions to remove the weight of administrative burden so faculty can focus on what really matters.

See Kendell at Breakout Sessions and Product Innovation Sessions

Ircka West

Solution Engineer


Ircka West is a Solution Engineer with the Higher Ed division of PowerSchool. She has held a variety of positions in Human Resources, User Experience, Higher Education, Sales, and Customer Advocacy. Her experience in Higher Ed has been in teaching various Communication courses, including Public Speaking and Business Communication for several different colleges and universities as an Adjunct Professor. Ircka graduated from Texas A&M University with a degree in Communication and enjoys good bourbon, BBQ, and Marvel movies.

See Ircka during Keynotes and Breakout Sessions