WEOC 2022 Presenter Bios

Jill Ashton
Jill Ashton serves as the Northeast Regional Administrator for the U.S. Department of Labor, Women’s Bureau. Ms. Ashton is a leader and activist in the women’s advancement community and has served in leadership roles on the boards of the National Association of Commissions on Women and UMass Boston’s Center for Women in Politics and Public Policy. From 2009-2021, Ms. Ashton served as the executive director of the Massachusetts Commission on the Status of Women. In the 2015-2016 Massachusetts legislative session, Ashton led the coalition of organizations that successfully stewarded the passage of the Equal Pay Act, a piece of groundbreaking economic justice legislation that, among other provisions, prevents hiring managers from inquiring about salary history.

Laurel Butler
Laurel has years of professional business and education/teaching experience. For the past 10 years she’s loved working as a Business Advisor & Student/Educator Entrepreneurship Specialist for VtSBDC. Prior to this, she spent many years as a secondary business/entrepreneurship educator and as a general manager of multiple independent and franchise hotels. Additionally she operated her own small hospitality and consulting businesses. Laurel has a vivid imagination and in her free time loves expressing it through her mixed media and watercolor paintings.

Kathleen Burns Kingsbury
Wealth psychology coach Kathleen Burns Kingsbury is the host of the Breaking Money Silence® podcast and an internationally published author and speaker. Breaking Money Silence®: How to Shatter Money Taboos, Talk More Openly about Finances, and Live a Richer Life is Kathleen’s fifth book. Named one of nine amazing conference speakers by InvestmentNews, Kathleen is a sought-after keynote speaker, consultant, and coach on the topic of women and wealth and couples and money. Her mission is to empower women, couples, and families (and the advisors who serve them) to shatter money taboos and communicate more effectively about financial matters.

Sarah E. Carpenter
Sarah Carpenter is a native of Burlington, Vermont. She currently is a Burlington City Councilor serving on the Community Development and Neighborhood Revitalization Committee, the Charter Change Committee and Chair of the Human Resources Committee. From 1998-2018 Sarah served as the Executive Director of the Vermont Housing Finance Agency (VHFA); and from 1983-1998, she served as the Executive Director of Cathedral Square Corporation. Over the years Sarah has served on a variety of national, state and local boards and most recently as Chair of the Vermont Rental Housing Advisory Board. Sarah is a cum laude graduate of the University of Vermont and holds a Master’s in Public Administration from Harvard University. She has been the recipient of a number of awards including the VCRD Vermont Lifetime Leadership Award, the YWCA Susan B. Anthony Woman of the Year Award, the National Organization on Disability Outstanding Contribution Award, a NeighborWorks America Government Service Award, and a Senator Patrick Leahy Leadership Award.

Darcy Carter
Darcy Carter was appointed District Director of the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Vermont office July 7, 2008. As District Director, Carter is responsible for the delivery and management of the U. S. Small Business Administration’s financial and business development programs throughout the state of Vermont. Carter has worked for the Vermont District Office of SBA since 1991, where she most recently served as Deputy District Director since 1999. In that position, she provided leadership and oversight of SBA’s programs and services in an effort to improve the viability of startup businesses, the growth of existing businesses and the economic climate of Vermont. Carter began her public service career in 1979, serving the U.S. Department of Defense. Carter returned to the private sector in 1987 to complete her Master’s in Business Administration degree and served as a commercial banking officer to small and medium sized businesses in Orlando, Florida for SunTrust Bank until 1991. A 1978 magna cum laude graduate of Brown University in Providence, R.I., Carter earned an MBA with honors from Roy E. Crummer Graduate School of Business at Rollins College, Winter Park, Fla. in 1988. Carter is a native of Middlebury, Vermont.

Maura Collins
Maura Collins became the Executive Director of the Vermont Housing Finance Agency in January 2019. She joined VHFA in 2002, and through progressively increased responsibilities she worked in all but one department prior to becoming the Agency’s director. Collins has her Master’s in Public Administration from the University of Vermont and Bachelors from the University of Buffalo. She served on UVM’s faculty for a decade, teaching graduate-level housing policy courses. Collins currently serves on eight Boards and commissions.

Heather Desrosiers
Heather has been with Champlain Valley Weatherization since October 25th, 2010. She has worked on the crew weatherizing homes and also training new crew members. She has now moved on to a new position within Weatherization as the Production Coordinator, setting up jobs and leading our crew of 10 people.

Christine DiBlasio, Ph.D., PLC
Christine was inspired to study martial arts by her children, over 15 years ago. She currently holds the rank of 5th degree Black Belt in Kempo-JuJitsu. She continues to train on a regular basis and enjoys learning and being challenged through the martial arts. Christine is also a licensed psychologist and the director of an outpatient, private mental health practice, Stone House Associates. In this capacity, Christine has had the honor of working with many women who are survivors of violence and sexual assault. This in part has motivated her to offer these self-defense classes for women. Also, her experience as a woman and a mother of two daughters makes the mission of women’s safety, well-being and empowerment one that is close to her heart. She continues to update The Safety Team’s curriculum on a regular basis, and her self-defense approach blends both her background in martial arts and psychology to provide simple, yet effective, mental and physical self-defense strategies for women. Her sense of humor, professional approach, and her respect for the sensitive nature of this material help her connect with course participants.

Tamie-Jo Dickinson
Tamie-Jo is a National Board Certified Business Teacher and teaches business and entrepreneur classes at CVU, Champlain College, CCV, VTC, and through the Governor's Institute of Vermont. She has decades of teaching under her belt and is skilled at making complex topics seem easy and attainable. Her passion is teaching entrepreneurship and business social responsibility to her high school students, college students, and in teacher trainings around the state. When not in the classroom, you can find Tamie-Jo teaching Jazzercise, and brainstorming business ideas to start with her dog, Hank.

Julia DiFerdinando
Julia DiFerdinando is an actor, comedian and writer from Burlington, Vermont. She spent seven years in Chicago, first as a student of The Second City, iO and The Annoyance, then as an employee of/performer for The Second City. Julia wrote and toured the U.S. extensively for the corporate division of the company, and performed on a Norwegian Cruise Line voyage for nearly a year. In 2018, she won Best Actress at the London Short Series festival for The Coat Room web series she wrote/starred in. Since 2018, Julia has been Creative Director of Vermont Comedy Club.

Debra Geraw
Debra has been with Champlain Valley Weatherization since August 3, 2009. She has worked on the crew weatherizing homes and also training new crew members. She has now moved on to a new position within Weatherization as the Outreach Assistant qualifying the applications for homes to be weatherized.

Genevieve Henry, CD, ICCE, CMT
Genevieve took our Level 1, 2 & 3 workshops years ago with her 14-year-old daughter. Wanting more, they both joined the Safety Team dojo to further their martial arts training. Her daughter became a regular volunteer and when she left for college, Genevieve took over her role as a volunteer and is now a black belt in Kempo. She lives in Burlington but is originally from Quebec. She is a massage therapist, a regular volunteer at The Family Room, and the co-owner of Birth Journeys, a childbirth education company whose goal is to support and empower families through pregnancy, labor, birth, and the postpartum period. She is also one of the founders and instructors for the UVM Volunteer Doula Program. Through her work, Genevieve wishes to empower women and promote equality. She has three grown kids, a middle schooler, and two rescue dogs.

Barry Hulce
Barry is the Executive Director of the Vermont Manufacturing Collaborative, a public-private non-profit partnership, founded on the campus of Vermont Technical College, to help accelerate business adoption of Advanced Manufacturing technologies and to develop a highly capable workforce within Vermont, the NE region, and the U.S.
Barry is a life-long enthusiast of technology and loves to share that excitement with others, especially students. He comes to the Vermont Manufacturing Collaborative with 25+ years of experience in the manufacturing industry, including the areas of Industry 4.0, advanced manufacturing, technology innovation, and product development with industries spanning aero, semi-conductor, energy, adaptive technology, and education.

Ellen Kahler
Ellen Kahler has been the Executive Director of the Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund (VSJF) since 2005. VSJF nurtures the economic prosperity, ecological health, and social connectivity of people, businesses, organizations and communities in Vermont for the benefit and well-being of all who live here. Prior to joining the VSJF, Ellen was the Executive Director of the Peace & Justice Center in Burlington (1990 to 2002) where her work focused on peace, human right, racial equity, and economic justice (basic family needs, livable wages, and under-employment). Ellen has received numerous leadership awards including: The Con Hogan Award for Creative, Entrepreneurial & Community Leadership from the VT Community Foundation (2015), the Arthur Gibb Award for Individual Leadership from the VT Natural Resources Council (2015) and the Jan Eastman Excellence in Leadership Award from the Snelling Center for Government (2010). Ellen currently serves on the Boards of the Working Lands Enterprise Fund, the Vermont Workforce Development Board, and Energy Action Network and serves on the Governor’s Commission on the Future of Vermont Agriculture.

Nancy Keller, M.Ed., C.A.S.
Nancy has been a student of the martial arts since 2002 and a valued member of The Safety Team since 2004. She holds the rank of 4th degree Black Belt in Kempo-JuJitsu, 2nd Degree Purple Belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, and 3rd Degree Brown Belt in Bushintai-Do, a martial art created especially for practice in public schools. Nancy is also a national board certified science and mathematics educator with over 25 years of experience teaching both young adolescents and adults. Having integrated Bushintai-Do into her classroom, Nancy has witnessed first-hand the positive influence learning a martial art can have on the lives of students. While students learn and practice the physical skills of self-defense, they also make academic and social/emotional gains. Nancy is known as a warm, patient and encouraging instructor who combines her classroom expertise and martial arts training to help her students grow in self-confidence and independence.

Laurie Anne Kozar
Laurie Kozar is a Financial & Energy Coach for Green Saving Smart initiative at Capstone Community Action assisting Vermonters with building their credit, and savings, and navigating energy efficiency incentives and rebates. Laurie is also a consultant – providing planning, grant writing, development and communications services to businesses and non-profit organizations.

Heidi Krantz
Heidi’s career as a VtSBDC Business advisor began in 2010 at the Vermont Food Venture Center assisting specialty food producers. As a certified advisor working with clients across Vermont, Heidi also draws on her experience as a founding owner of Umiak Outfitters, background in experiential education, corporate training and public service to offer support and technical assistance to small business owners.

Mikaela Lefrak
Mikaela Lefrak is the co-host and senior producer of Vermont Edition, Vermont Public's daily call-in news show. Prior to joining Vermont Public, Mikaela was a reporter and host at WAMU, the NPR member station for the greater Washington, D.C. region. A seasoned local reporter, Mikaela's stories have aired nationally on Morning Edition, All Things Considered, Weekend Edition, Marketplace, The World and Here & Now, and she has won two regional Edward R. Murrow awards and a Public Media Journalists Association award for her work. Mikaela received her bachelor’s degree from Middlebury College and her master’s degree in broadcast journalism from Boston University. She lives with her husband and daughter in Burlington.

Missy Mackin
Missy has been with Vermont Works for Women (VWW) since 2017. She has developed and managed all aspects of the Trailblazers program, from recruitment to job placement and support for female identifying individuals interested in careers in the trades. In addition, Missy draws on her long experience as a teacher and facilitator in co-presenting VWW’s Gender Equity workshops for employers.

Leslie McCrorey Wells
Leslie McCrorey Wells is the co-owner of Burlington restaurants Pizzeria Verità, Trattoria Delia and Sotto Enoteca. After graduating from the University of Vermont, she split her time between New Haven, CT, where she worked in Adult Education and Distance Learning, and Vermont, where she completed a Master of Arts in History at UVM. Ms. Wells currently serves on the boards of Burlington Intervale Center, the Fleming Museum, the Flynn Center for the Performing Arts, and Clemmons Family Farm. She also serves on the Governor’s Commission on the Future of Vermont Agriculture and on the Leadership Council of Vermont Independent Restaurants. She, and her partner Rick, operate a micro-farm in Grand Isle.

Natalie Miller
Natalie Miller is a performer, educator, producer, and the co-founder and co-owner of Vermont Comedy Club (VCC), a world class standup, improv and sketch comedy theater in Burlington, Vermont which opened in 2015. She is a founding member of VCC’s mainstage improv team “the Unmentionables” which has been featured on festivals from Montreal to New York to California. She studied extensively with instructors at Upright Citizens Brigade, The Second City, and iO.

Colleen Montague
Colleen joined the Civil Rights and Labor Compliance team at the Vermont Agency of Transportation (AOT) in April 1998 and has served in a variety of roles to administer or support programs designed to assist women and BIPOC individuals succeed and advance in the highway construction industry. Currently serving as the Deputy Director of the Civil Rights Unit as well as the Agency’s EEO Officer. Colleen spearheads the Agency’s talent acquisition pipeline initiatives, including robust programs for outreach, recruitment, interviewing, hiring, and onboarding. During her career at the Agency of Transportation Colleen also spent 5 years heading up the Learning and Development Branch of the Agency’s training center. She was instrumental in the development of the Agency’s Transportation Leadership Institute, mentoring and pre-supervisory programs. She is passionate about developing others and helping them advance their careers.

Patricia Moulton
Patricia Moulton was appointed Executive Director of newly created Workforce Development Office of the Vermont State Colleges on July 1, 2022. Prior to this position, Pat served as the first woman President of 154-year-old Vermont Technical College from 2016 through 2022. Prior to joining the College, Ms. Moulton served as Secretary of the Agency of Commerce and Community Development (ACCD) for Governor Peter Shumlin. Immediately prior to serving as Secretary, Pat was Executive Director of the Brattleboro Development Credit Corporation (BDCC). Pat started with BDCC as Director of Workforce Development. Pat served as Deputy Secretary and Director of Economic Development for ACCD under Governor Shumlin. Prior to that appointment, Pat served for a short time as the Vice President of Public Affairs at the Vermont Chamber of Commerce. Pat was appointed Commissioner of the Vermont Department of Labor by Governor James Douglas in 2006. Prior to her position as Commissioner, Governor Douglas appointed Ms. Moulton to serve as the full-time Chair of the Vermont Natural Resources Board and its predecessor, the Vermont Environmental Board. Before her environmental regulation and policy work, Pat spent 22 years in the practice of economic development on the local, regional, and state levels in Vermont working as Executive Director of four different regional development corporations and leading a local economic development office in St. Johnsbury and Lyndon. In 1990, she was appointed Deputy Commissioner of the Vermont Department of Economic Development by Governor Richard Snelling, and subsequently was appointed Commissioner of Economic Development by Governor Howard Dean. Pat also ran her own economic development consulting company for several years. Pat is a graduate of the University of Vermont with a degree in Political Science.

Morgan Nichols
Morgan Nichols is the New England Regional Manager of Main Street Alliance and comes to this work with a deep passion for Vermont and its vital and vibrant small business economy. Working with Main Street Alliance, she organizes small businesses to fight for policies that will further support our workforce, our families and our communities so that they are stronger and more resilient. These policies include paid family and medical leave, child care, health care, and equitable access to capital, among others. Morgan was raised in Vermont, has a background in education and leadership development and served on her local Select Board.

Brenda Plastridge
Brenda came to the Vermont Procurement Technical Assistance (VT PTAC) in 2009 after 36 years with the federal government in the areas of grants management, contracting and certification programs. This knowledge allows her to skillfully assist her clients with applications for certification programs, as well as federal, state and municipal contracting opportunities.

Gwen Pokalo
Gwen Pokalo is the Director of the Vermont Women’s Business Center and leads the Vermont office of the Center for Women and Enterprise. Gwen has worked in local economic development in a variety of capacities and environments. She holds an MS in Community Development & Economic Development from the University of Vermont, where she developed a microbusiness incubator to assist emerging Vermont value-added-food and artisan entrepreneurs through a retail store and academic technical assistance model. She owns a small business consulting firm offering business plan and pitch writing, finance and operation strategy support, and delivering marketing presentations. Most recently, Gwen worked as Director of the Women’s Small Business Program. While there, she further developed the 25-year-old organization to expand offerings in business planning, personal finance, and networking. She held a contract with Vermont Small Business Development providing one-on-one technical assistance to nascent and early-growth stage entrepreneurs. She has taught entrepreneurship and business skills at a variety of institutions, including the University of Vermont, Green Mountain College, the Community College of Vermont, and the Governor’s Institute of Vermont. Gwen has also worked in rural development research, human services, and brief stints in Honduras and Costa Rica.

Peg Rieley, MBA
Peg began her martial arts journey in the early 1990’s. As a former college athlete, she was looking for a physically and mentally challenging outlet and martial arts was a natural fit. She holds a purple belt in Shaolin Kempo Karate and has also trained in Taekwondo. Peg was introduced to the Safety Team when she and her eldest daughter participated in a workshop. The program’s mission and curriculum struck a chord, promoting many of the tenets that Peg holds dear; strength, community, safety and well-being, women’s empowerment, positive change. Peg and her husband own and operate a commercial and residential real estate development business.

Paige Ruffner
Paige Ruffner (she/her) is the Program Manager for Employment and Career Services at Vermont Works for Women. She provides free one-on-one career coaching and services to women and gender expansive individuals (aged 16 +) across Vermont – no matter what stage they are in their career/job journey. She draws on over 20 years of experience leading workforces through the process of understanding and embracing change; providing development support and training to executives and their teams, and coaching individuals through transitions to achieve their personal and professional goals.

Chiuho Sampson
Chiuho Sampson is the owner of a restaurant in Burlington, A Single Pebble. After she received her Bachelor’s degree in Journalism in Fu Jen University, and having worked with several TV stations making documentaries in Taipei, Chiuho realized cooking is her true calling and enrolled in Vermont New England Culinary Institute AP program in 2001. Ever since then, Chiuho has made herself home in the Green Mountain State and actively takes part in community efforts. She provides support and contributions to numerous programs and services and constantly strives to provide the best for her fellow Vermonters and staff. While the general public may not instantaneously see all of her undeniable compassion and charity done over the years, she will consistently be notably known through her staple Chinese cuisine. “Gather, Discover, Connect” is the main objective of her restaurant and translates perfectly into her personal and community life as a gateway to meet her.

Krystal Sanchez-Williams
Krystal Sanchez-Williams (she/her) is the Project Manager at the Vermont Professionals of Color Network. She is an educator at heart who is committed to creating positive social change. Her interests are influenced by her identities as a queer, Puerto Rican, first generation student, and non-black Womyn of Color. Krystal uses her expertise in curriculum development and cultural competency to dismantle systemic inequities facing BIPOC individuals in Vermont. Learn more about her work at www.vtpoc.net or @vtpoc_network on social media platforms.

Liz Scharf
Liz Scharf is an AFCPE® Accredited Financial Counselor and the Director of Community Economic Development at Capstone Community Action, overseeing programs that help Vermonters achieve economic self-sufficiency. She and her team of Financial Coaches provide free workshops and one on one coaching to help Vermonters save money, reduce debt, build credit and become more financially secure. Liz is a regular contributor to Vermont Public’s Vermont Edition where she speaks about personal finance.

Rebecca Schrader
Becca Schrader is a Community Programs Specialist with USDA Rural Development, covering central and northern Vermont. Becca has over ten years of experience working with individuals, families, businesses, and non-profits, coaching them on how to maximize income, manage debt and credit, build assets, and save for the future. She has specialized experience in working with military service members and families, veterans, people with disabilities, the aging, and entrepreneurs.

Lori Valburn
Since 1997, Lori Valburn has managed the Office of Civil Rights and Labor Compliance at the Vermont Agency of Transportation (AOT), which works to ensure equal opportunity and access for all AOT employees, job applicants, contractors, and the public. Her mission is to promote an agency-wide culture of respect and to build positive, inclusive, and enduring relationships with all internal and external stakeholders through outstanding customer service, innovative programs, and strategic partnerships. Lori’s team at AOT administer several business certification and development programs, including AOT’s Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) Program and Small Business Program, which promote equal opportunity on federal and state contracts.

Weiwei Wang
Weiwei Wang is a Co-Founder and the Director of Operations and Development of the Vermont Professionals of Color Network (VT PoC). Founded in 2019, VT PoC is dedicated to advancing the prosperity of all professionals of color throughout Vermont by "building from within". In both her personal and professional life, Weiwei brings a passion for community connection and development, and redefining accessibility for historically excluded communities, through changing systems of oppression. Learn more about her work at www.vtpoc.net or @vtpoc_network on social media platforms.

Claire Wheeler
Claire Wheeler (she/her) is the Director of Inclusive Entrepreneurship at Mercy Connections, where she designs and teaches business and self-employment classes to folks traditionally locked out of the business world. Before this role, Claire owned and operated RE:WORK LLC, a small business offering strategic design, facilitation, and consulting services for nonprofits and community-based businesses in the Abenaki land called Vermont. Claire holds an MBA in Managing for Sustainability from Marlboro College and a BA in Government from Smith College. She is a proud board member of the Haymarket People’s Fund, core member of Central Vermont Showing Up for Racial Justice, and volunteers with the Montpelier Community Justice Center as well as the Hunger Mountain Cooperative Community Fund. Claire resides in Montpelier, Vermont with her partner Petra, dog Rutabaga, and cat Xiu Xiu. She enjoys adventuring of all kinds – on mountains, in rivers, into the mind, and through make believe every Tuesday with her Dungeons & Dragons crew.

Laurie Wood
Laurie Wood, Founder & Financial Wellness Coach at Evolution Financial Coaching, is on a mission to help women evolve their relationship with money, help them build a solid foundation, better understand their company benefits including health insurance and retirement plans, and create realistic spending plans that give them the freedom and confidence to create their own version of financial wellness.