Kent Barnett

Founder (Retired)
Corporate Executive Board

Co-founder and former president of Productivity Point International (PPI), Kent helped grow PPI to over $100 million before it was acquired by Knowledge Universe. Kent has 15 years of training leadership and 9 years of ROI analysis experience. Kent has an MBA from The Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University.

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Listen to Don




Don Beeman

Director of Global Learning @ Grant Thornton International
Grant Thornton LLP

Under Don’s leadership, Grant Thornton launched its Partner Candidate Development Program for senior managers who were being groomed for partnership.

You can view a seven-minute video-clip to learn about the critical success factors and continuous innovation that were keys to the successful transition to the new Senior Manager Development Program on YouTube from ASTD 2008 Learn from the BEST (Oct 2008):

For more info, please visit (Presenters: Don Beeman, Richard Rykhus, & Michelle Johnson).

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Elaine J. Blair, Ph.D.

Director, Career Development Center


View Elaine’s Personal Online Profile to connect with his or her network of learning professionals.





Jill Denman

Assistant Vice President, Learning & Organizational Development

Jill Denman is the former Director of Talent Development at US Foods and in the retail division at Sears Holding Corporation. She is responsible for the development of all retail leaders at every stage of the development lifecycle, from onboarding to the needs of high potential associates. She has nearly fifteen years of experience in learning and leadership development and has been recognized as an accomplished Human Resources Business Leader for her work. She holds an M.S. in Instructional and Performance Technology from Boise State University and is certified by The Center for Effective Performance as an Instructional Technologist. She speaks on topics such as Leadership Systems, Servant Leadership and the Evolution of the Workplace and sits on the board of RightStart4Kids, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping children get a good start in life across the globe.

View Jill’s Personal Online Profile to connect with his or her network of learning professionals.





Don Duquette

Senior Vice President
GP Strategies

Don has over 25 years of learning and development experience. His consulting experience includes the full spectrum of training delivery such as web-based, blended learning, and synchronous training. In addition Don provides consulting services in the area of learning strategy, Learning Management System/Learning Content Management System selection and implementation. He sits on the Board of Directors for GP Malaysia and has participated in the acquisition of several companies for GP. As a recognized authority on corporate learning and development strategies, Don is a frequent presenter at industry conferences and has been selected numerous times as a Brandon Hall Excellence in Learning judge.

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Listen to Jane




Jane A. Ehrenstrom

Vice President, Professional Services
The CARA Group, Inc.

Jane Ehrenstrom is one of the founders of the CARA Group, Inc., a consulting firm that develops customized learning and performance solutions for Fortune 500 clients. Jane serves as Vice President of Professional Services. In this role, Jane is responsible for developing talent recruitment strategies, and creating awareness of the CARA brand as well as the firm’s PURE service approach to consulting.

Jane Ehrenstrom has been in the learning business for more than 20 years as both client and vendor. She is a member of the International Society for Performance Improvement (ISPI), the American Society of Training and Development (ASTD), and the National Association of Female Executives (NAFE). Jane also represents CARA to non-profit advocacy organizations like Chicago-based Women Employed.

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Listen to Kevin




Kevin Himmel

Managing Director
The Regis Company

Kevin Himmel is Managing Director of The Regis Company, a top leadership development consulting firm specializing in customized, immersive simulations for Fortune 500 clients and government agencies. With over 15 years of experience in transforming learning organizations, Kevin has led over one hundred projects for clients including Ernst & Young, McDonald’s and Hyatt Corporation.

He began his career at eCollege focusing on educational technology and moving into software product development. He continued to consult with corporate universities in the telecommunication industry at Logic Bay Corp., a corporate training firm providing eLearning design and product development.

Kevin earned a master’s degree in instructional technology from Northern Illinois University and a bachelor’s degree in management and entrepreneurship from Northern Illinois University.

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Listen to Barbara




Barbara Keating

Director of Clinical Learning and Innovations
Lurie Children’s

Barbara is the Director of Clinical Learning and Innovations at Children’s Memorial Hospital since 2007. Children’s Memorial Hospital is Illinois’ only freestanding hospital exclusively for children. CMH, a teaching hospital, is ranked number one in almost every major pediatric specialty.

Throughout her 29 year career at CMH, Barbara has had numerous roles within the Nursing Department, including Coordinator for the Nursing Orientation Program. As coordinator, she assisted with the development and implementation of the RN Internship program. This program is a specialized orientation program for new graduate nurses, which transitions the new graduate from student nurse to R.N. in an environment that promotes learning and professional growth.

Barbara was an instructor in the nursing program at William Rainey Harper College and at the University of Illinois College of Nursing. Barbara holds a Bachelor of Science degree in nursing from DePaul University and a Master’s degree in science from Northwestern University. Barbara has numerous publications and has presented at several conferences. She was the recipient of the Exemplar Nurse Researcher Award at Children’s Memorial Hospital and has been awarded several research grants.


Listen to Karen




Karen Kocher

General Manager, 21st Century Jobs, Skills and Employability

Karen Kocher is a Senior C-Suite Executive recognized for her business savvy, and innovative approach, with a distinguished career using foresight, design thinking and insights within global multi-national organizations. She has in-depth expertise in general management, P&L leadership, human resources, healthcare and sales with extensive experience in insurance, information technology, consulting, and business outsourcing across the US, Europe, and Asia Pacific. Demonstrated adeptness at transforming organizations and maximizing results through talent in both simple and complex circumstances.

As a skilled executive Karen is a proven change leader, and engaged business partner, focused on identifying, initiating, and implementing emerging next practices, innovation, and process efficiency and effectiveness, through challenging of paradigms, managing polarities and influencing leaders to embrace new approaches. She is a disruption attuned leader who recognizes when risks need to be taken to move in new and emerging directions, and is savvy at influencing and helping others connect to and embrace the need for change.

Karen has been honored with numerous awards such as: Human Resources Super Achiever Award, Mumbai, India, 2016; Chief Learning Officer Magazine Cover story, Jan 2014, and the Brandon Hall Strategy Award to name a few.

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Listen to Rich



Rich Lalley

President, 2009/10
Operation Warm

Vice President Development, Operation Warm, Inc., a national 501(c)(3) charitable organization focused on providing new winter coats to children from low income families across the U.S. so they can attend school with pride on even the coldest winter days.

Rich is an award winning consumer marketing and advertising executive now focused on giving back. He has extensive experience in developing effective marketing and communications plans to achieve business and/or program goals for large and small organizations. He’s committed to service through professional and volunteer positions. Rich is a Board member for, Past President of the Rotary Club of Winnetka-Northfield and serves in leadership roles with Rotary International District 6440.

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Jeffrey Malehorn

President & C.E.O.
World Business Chicago

Currently President & CEO of World Business Chicago (WBC) – WBC is a non-profit organization and the public / private economic development arm for the city. Direct report to Mayor Rahm Emanuel (WBC Chairman) and Michael Sacks (WBC Vice Chairman).

Areas of focus include business development, economic development, international trade and relations.

Former GE Company Officer 2001 – 2012. CEO / Senior Executive with broad, global leadership experience leading growth and turnaround situations. Known internationally throughout numerous industries for his close work with business clients, authentic leadership, passion for developing diverse talent and experience in running profitable operations in today’s complex global economy.





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Judy Meikle

Board Member

On July 20, 2009, Judy was the recipient of a miracle. It’s the only word she can use to describe the gift of a heart, transplanted from an Army Ranger, who died after fighting to save his comrades in Afghanistan. “He saved people when he was wounded and saved even more people when he died; how many people can say that?”, Judy said sitting in her Winnetka home where she grew up. Since receiving the heart of Cpl. Benjamin Kopp; Judy has made it her mission to spread the word about the importance of organ donation. It’s what Ben would have wanted, Judy believes, and is the least she can do to carry on his spirit. “If just one person decides to be an organ donor, they’ll be honoring Ben”. Not a day goes by that Judy doesn’t think about Ben, his gift and the incredible circumstances that led up to her heart transplant. She is very excited & pleased with the heart surgeries made possible by RightStart4Kids.

Judy was the 2014 keynote speaker to honor veterans at Winnetka, IL 87th Memorial Day observance.

Judy graduated from Washington University in St.Louis and Graduate School @ Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Business. Her professional career was in the Finance Industry.

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Tom Nguyen


After completing medical school, Tom has chosen to focus his life-long passion helping others.

He is a co-founder of, which is a non-profit organization with projects helping local and international kids start life out right from the womb. Tom is the heart and sole of RightStart4Kids germinated from Tom’s humble childhood where he grew up in the Mekong Delta during difficult times.



Ellen Poffenberger

Independent Human Resources Professional

Ellen an experienced, compassionate HR professional, providing solutions to improve work environments. Having dedicated nearly 25 years in the field of Human Resources, I enthusiastically seek to continue my contributions, offering large, medium or small employers, corporate or non-profit, an opportunity to increase meaningful employee engagement and productivity. I can provide tools and techniques to assess workplace climate concerns and offer recommendations to improve employee and employer satisfaction. I relate well with individuals and provide cost-effective consultation. I offer a positive, collaborative approach, and rich HR expertise.

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Ed Prentice

Chicagoland Learning Leader

Edward Prentice III is the Founder and President of Centrax Corporation, ( which is a custom E-Learning solutions company. Ed Prentice founded Centrax Corporation in 1985 originally as a video production company and in 1995 transitioned to the Internet for program delivery. Early on, Ed recognized that the true value (ROI) of e-learning would only be achieved if the e-learning engaged, intrigued, and captured the attention of learners.

Centrax boasts a who’s who list of clients including Ameriprise, Baxter, Navistar, Abbott, Harley Davidson, ABN AMRO, Bank of America, Fifth Third Bank, Siemens, Kraft, Allstate, Grainger, Laidlaw, Wrigley, BNSF, and the American Medical Association to name a few.

Ed Prentice gives his heart and sole to his team and his community. He is on the Boards of, James Jordan Boys and Girls Club, , and the When asked what his long term goals are – he replies quite simply – “to have the means to give back to the community in all ways possible”. Ed donates time and equipment to local area churches to enlighten youth on the power of the Internet and to address the “Digital Divide”.

Listen to Jane




Jane M Shlaes

Director, Learning & Organizational Development
College of American Pathologists

Jane Shlaes is the Director of Learning & Organizational Development at the College of American Pathologists. She has over twenty five years of experience in the field of learning and development in different sides of the healthcare industry. She’s worked for the corporate university of a Fortune 500 corporation, in consulting, spent 14 years as the Chief Learning Officer of NorthShore University HealthSystem and now is leading learning and organizational development for a not for profit organization dedicated to improvement in Pathology and laboratory medicine. Jane brings a Masters degree in Education from Northwestern University and is a certified physician coach.

In 2015, the College of American Pathologists was recognized under Jane’s leadership by with a Leadership Excellence magazine award for their management development program “Accelerating CAP Performance.” In 2009 Jane was the CLO of NorthShore when they received the Workforce Chicago Award for “Exemplary practice in employee learning and development.” Jane received the 2006 HR Rising Star Award from HR Executive Magazine and in 2004 she received the Chief Learning Officer magazine Bronze Award for Leading Business Change for her role in leading a large-scale training initiative to transition over 8,000 healthcare providers to a new electronic health record.

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Dr. Jade Stanley, EDd, MSW, LCSW

Chair, Social Work Program
College of American Pathologists

Jamaica Connects Program: A collaborative project between classrooms in Jamaica, West Indies and Chicago, Illinois, area Schools.

Professors Jade Stanley, Elizabeth Landerholm, and Joann Karr both from The College of Ed took a group of students to Jamaica as part of an outreach program with Primary and Junior High Schools.

Jamaica Connects Program is designed to increase collaboration and communication between the teachers of elementary and teachers of younger children, within each respective country, with joint activities to promote literacy. And together, they have connections with international partner schools. Communication and idea sharing will be enhanced through the joint ownership of the Global Exploration and Multicultural Adventures web site. There will be a webmaster for technical support and to develop templates for teacher easy use.

Use of technology in literacy projects will be cost effective, and a convenient mode of communication between teachers, students, and parents,separated by distance, but united in goals for literacy achievement for all.

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Francis J. (Chuck) Theusch


Chuck professionally worked as a Trial Lawyer in Chicago for 10 years, now running a Title Abstracting business in Milwaukee. A Vietnam War Combat Veteran (US Army, American Division, 11th Brigade 4/3 Infantry central Highlands 1969-1970). He is the Founder/CEO of the Library of Vietnam*Laos*Cambodia in 1999 and more recently its newly created umbrella Foundation, Children’s Library International. He received his BA (Psychology, History, English) from University Wisconsin-Stout, JD (Law) IIT Kent-Chicago Law School and MA (Russian/German History) Northeastern Illinois University. He has been a member of the Board of Trustees of People to People International since 2006 and with PTPI sponsorship has led construction and library support projects and programs across Southeast Asia. His outside interests include sports, particularly the introduction of baseball to the people of Vietnam. Also, he was the National Manager of the Coalition to Salute America’s heroes specially adapted Home Program designing and building houses in six states for severely wounded Veterans of the War in Terror. Chuck is the proud father of 2 children adopted in Vietnam, Le Ngoc Diem My, 19 and Le Ngoc Duc, 24.

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Dirk Tussing

I share insights to help executives, and their people, learn and grow
Executive Learning Exchange

Dirk Tussing is the concept creator and curator of Continuous Learning: Delivering CONSISTENT Business Results, a collection of lessons learned essays by some of the most talented learning and talent development thoughts leaders, published for the 11th Annual Chicagoland Learning Leaders Conference at McDonald’s Hamburger University.

Dirk is the Executive Director and founder of the Executive Learning Exchange, headquartered in Chicago, Illinois, USA. He promotes local, national, and international thought leaders by creating a highly visible knowledge sharing environment that facilitates greater success and recognition for their contributions through high-impact peer collaboration including networking and the sharing of best practices. Dirk is the primary author and instructor of a 17-week Chicagoland Learning Leaders CPE Certificate Program designed to provide knowledge, practice, and confidence for learning professionals and business leaders with learning and development responsibilities.

Earning his M.A., Higher Education Leadership at Northeastern Illinois University, Dirk is a PASSIONATE COLLABORATOR with an extensive business and charity network that makes things happen, he is a co-founder of, Advisory Board Member at e-Learning for Kids Foundation, previous board member of Rotary Winnetka-Northfield, and proactively seeks opportunities to give back around the globe.

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Nick van Dam, PhD

McKinsey partner, Global Chief Learning Officer & Client Advisor. Founder & Chairman the e-Learning

If ever there was a man to take to heart the phrase “you learn something new every day,”it’s Nick van Dam. As the global chief learning officer for Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu, and advisor to the Deloitte Consulting LLP Human Capital practice, Nick has a passion for learning and talent development. He is an idea generator, a visionary, a consultant and a thought leader.

As an internationally recognized consultant and thought leader in learning and human resources development, Nick has written articles and has been quoted by Bizz magazine, BusinessWeek, The Financial Times, FORTUNE, The India Times, Learning & Training Innovations magazine, Management Consulting and T+D magazine, among others. He is a columnist for CLO magazine (United States) and Intellectueel Kapitaal magazine (The Netherlands). He has authored and coauthored a number of books, including Organisation & Management (1991–2007); Business Simulations-Topsim Series (1995); Change Compass (2001); The e-Learning Fieldbook, (2004 and 2006), The Business Impact of e-Learning (2005); and 25 Best Practices in Learning & Talent Development (2007).

He is founder and chairperson of e-Learning for Kids Foundation, which is a global nonprofit foundation that provides schools and children around the world with free Internet-based courseware.

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Listen to Don



Don Vanthournout

formerly Chief Learning Officer

In his former role, Don is in charge of the capability development needs, including learning and knowledge management, of the company’s more than 250,000 employees located in more than 120 countries. After graduating from Bradley University in 1981 with a BS in mathematics and secondary education, with a business minor, he joined Accenture and spent 15 years working with external clients, before moving into a series of director-level roles in the company’s learning organization. In 2001, he became head of Accenture’s Capability Development organization and subsequently named Chief Learning Officer.