Panelists

Priya Ramanathan

Per Scholas

Economic Opportunity

Priya Ramanathan

Priya Ramanathan

Senior Director, National Expansion - Per Scholas

Priya is the Senior Director of National Expansion at Per Scholas, a national organization in 14 cities nationally that has been advancing economic mobility for 25 years. Through rigorous training, professional development and robust employer connections, Per Scholas prepares individuals traditionally underrepresented in technology for high-growth careers in the industry. In her role, Priya is focused on expanding the work of Per Scholas nationally, identifying and launching sites in future cities to help grow the number of people who are making huge changes in their careers every year. Priya has more than a decade of experience in workforce development, working in both government and non-profit. Priya received her BA at the George Washington University in Washington, DC and her Master of Science in Public Policy and Management from Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, PA.

 

 

Preston James

Div Inc.

Economic Opportunity

Preston James

Preston James

Co-Founder and CEO - DivInc

Landi Spearman

Organized SHIFT™

Economic Opportunity

Landi Spearman

Landi Spearman

Chief Change Officer, Founder - Organized SHIFT™

Landi Spearman is a Chief Change Officer, helping leaders to change the way they approach growth, disruption, and innovation. From an entrepreneurial upbringing in Chicago’s roughest communities to cultural immersion studying Spanish abroad, she has managed disruptive change from senior corporate leadership roles to manufacturing team turnarounds. Landi created Organized SHIFT™ to help leaders move beyond fear, mind chatter and denial, to adapt and pivot faster. Her unique method integrates Data for decision making; Agile for collaborating and adapting faster; and Lean Six Sigma for doing more with less time, fewer people, and reduced resources. Leveraging 20+ years in high-powered environments, she and her team have developed 1,000+ leaders across industries. Organized SHIFT™ provides Change Management, Leadership Development, Executive Coaching and Technology-enabled solutions by inclusive design. Author of The 48 Laws of SHIFT, Landi has an affinity for having honest conversations about generational gaps, organizational agility, and cultural blindspots.

Warren Broadnax

She’s Happy Foundation

Economic Opportunity

Warren Broadnax

Warren Broadnax

CEO & Founder - She’s Happy Foundation

CEO & Founder Warren Broadnax grew up in poverty and didn’t want any child to start the school year without the supplies they needed to be successful.  After providing the youth with supplies Broadnax decided to start going into the schools to share his story with the inner city youth about how he began his life in poverty, but with hard work, dedication and motivation he now has an extremely successful career. Warren Broadnax has made it his goal to provide on-going support and opportunities to inner-city youth and their families who are at-risk of being a statistic.

Gordon taylor

40 Capital and Guzo

Economic Opportunity

Gordon Taylor

Gordon Taylor

Co-Founder and CEO - Guzo

Gordon Taylor is Co-Founder and CEO at Guzo, which is a community-based platform. Prior to founding Guzo, Gordon worked in private equity and management consulting. Gordon holds an MBA from the University of Chicago, Booth School of Business, and a BBA with high honors in finance from Texas State University, where he played college basketball. Gordon is a native Houstonian and returned after business school to bring consumer tech to Houston.

 

 

Sheroo Mukhtiar

SER Houston

Economic Opportunity

Sheroo Mukhtiar

Sheroo Mukhtiar

Executive Director & CEO - SER Houston

Sheroo Mukhtiar, MSW, began as the Executive Director and CEO for SERJobs for Progress in 2018. With over 26 years of experience in non-profit management, Sheroo offers a wealth of knowledge and skills, including extensive work with youth and young adults, program implementation, and fundraising. Sheroo’s professional career began at Boys Town, a national organization providing treatment to severely abused and neglected children across the United States. Subsequently, Sheroo has served as the Executive Director in several nonprofit agencies across the United States including: Almost Home, Inc., Springboard, an affiliate of Young Audiences, HITS Theatre, and  Playworks. Sheroo earned a MSW from Washington University, BS of Social Work from Nirmala Niketan, and most recently, a graduate of the American Leadership Forum, class XLVIII. Sheroo and her family live in Houston and love traveling, camping, theater and sports. She especially enjoys spending time with her two daughters and their many pets.

 

Archie Blanson

Lone Star College – North Harris

Economic Opportunity

Archie Blanson

Archie Blanson

Interim - President of Lone Star College-North Harris

Dr. Archie L. Blanson became interim president of Lone Star College-North Harris in January 2020. He previously served as Vice Chancellor of Student Services for Lone Star College overseeing admissions, registration, dual credit, disabilities, enrollment management, and numerous student services activities and partnerships. Prior to joining Lone Star College, Dr. Blanson devoted 39 years in education to Aldine ISD, finishing his career as Deputy Superintendent. The success Dr. Blanson enjoyed at Aldine ISD is evident through his accomplishments and recognitions. He was named the district’s 2003 Boss of the Year, and in 2018, Aldine ISD honored Dr. Blanson by naming its newest facility the Dr. Archie L. Blanson Career and Technical Education High School in his honor. Dr. Blanson graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from Southern University, a Master of Arts in Education Administration from Texas Southern University and a Ph.D. from Texas A&M University. Dr. Blanson will serve as interim president of LSC-North Harris until the search for a permanent president is completed later this year.

Josh Sanders

TXRX | Joshua Sanders, LLC

Economic Opportunity

Josh Sanders

Josh Sanders

Owner of Joshua Sanders, LLC

Joshua Sanders is the owner of Joshua Sanders, LLC. He is a lobbyist focused on providing government relations and policy advocacy for clients facing regulatory and procurement issues. Josh has formed and developed nonprofits, political action committees, and advocacy campaigns to shape many legislative changes in Houston and the Texas Legislature.

Josh helped secure a funding package and government approval totaling $37 million dollars for the development and construction of the East End Maker Hub. The East End Maker Hub will be Houston’s high-tech hub for education, manufacturing, and job training while providing support and a collaborative environment for small urban manufactures.  The funding package combined HUD Section 108 loan, New Market Tax Credits, and grants funding from the Economic Development Administration of the US Department of Commerce grants and the International Economic Development Council. 

Josh currently serves on the boards of Sketch City, a technology based non-profit and TXRX Labs, a non-profit maker space providing support for small urban manufactures and workforce development training. Josh serves in various stakeholder capacities at the City of Houston including but not limited to the General Plan Steering Committee, Walkable Places Planning Commission Subcommittee, and the Redevelopment and Drainage Task Force. 

Josh received his BA in Political Science from Texas State University.

Neighborhood Development Center

St. Paul

Economic Opportunity

Laurie Vignaud

Unity National Bank

Housing Affordability

Laurie Vignaud

Laurie Vignaud

President and CEO of Unity National Bank

Laurie Vignaud is president and CEO of Unity National Bank, leading a team of 35 associates in Houston and Atlanta. With 30-plus years in banking and community development leadership, Vignaud has demonstrated success initiating and leading change, driving results, and innovating amid an evolving banking landscape. Her financial and business acumen, integrity, passion for community banking, and commitment to strong talent management are integral to the value she brings to her work. 

Previously, Vignaud was president of Capital One Bank’s Community Development Corporation and senior vice president of community development banking for its south-central region. She directed community development programs and Community Reinvestment Act initiatives in Louisiana and Texas, developed creative affordable housing and small business initiatives, and secured millions of dollars in grants to support them.

Vignaud serves on numerous boards, including the NAACP, Texas Southern University Business School, Houston Area Urban League, the Houston Land Bank, among others. 

Assata Richards

Sankofa Research Institute (SRI)

Housing Affordability

Assata Richards

Assata Richards

Founding Director -Sankofa Research Institute (SRI)

Assata is the founding director of the Sankofa Research Institute (SRI), which is a nonprofit with a  mission to “create knowledge to build community.” SRI employs Community-Based Participatory  Research to work collaboratively with academic researchers, community organizations, and funders  

to generate empirical evidence to inform social change. Some of SRI’s current and past project  partners include Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy, Southeast Houston  Transformation Alliance of the Local Initiatives Support Corporation, Dance Source Houston, Project  Row Houses, St. Anne Catholic Church, and CHRISTUS Health Foundation. She received a  bachelor’s degree from the University of Houston and went on to earn a master’s and a doctoral  degree from Pennsylvania State University. She has extensive training in quantitative and qualitative  research methods and analyses. After serving on the faculty of the University of Pittsburgh, she  returned to Houston, Texas, to work in the communities that nurtured and sustained her. She is an  adjunct professor at the University of Houston and an active public sociologist. Assata serves as the  Board President of the newly formed Houston Community Land Trust, the Third Ward  Cooperative Community Builders, and the Emancipation Economic Development Council, a  people-focus and place-based effort to revitalize, preserve, and protect a historic African-American  community in Houston, Texas. Most recently, she was elected the founding board president of the  Community Care Cooperative, which is Houston’s first home care agency owned by certified nurse  assistants and committed to serving aging residents living in the historic communities of Third Ward  and Fifth Ward. 

Kyle Shelton

Rice University’s Kinder Institute for Urban Research

Housing Affordability

Kyle Shelton

Kyle Shelton

Deputy Director at Rice University's Kinder Institute for Urban Research

Kyle Shelton is the deputy director at Rice University’s Kinder Institute for Urban Research, where he leads research on urban development, transportation and placemaking, as well as on urban and metropolitan governance. Shelton has a Ph.D. in american history from The University of Texas at Austin. His research focuses on how the intersections of transportation, urban development and policy shape the built and natural environments of cities in the past and today. He is the author of Power Moves: Transportation, Politics and Development in Houston

 

Mary Lawler

Avenue CDC

Housing Affordability

Mary Lawler

Mary Lawler

Executive Director - Avenue

Mary Lawler has served as Avenue’s Executive Director since 1996, leading Avenue’s growth in impact, programming, funding, and staffing. Mary is well-known for her expertise in affordable housing and community development and was featured in the Houston Chronicle’s 2019 “Houston Gives” publication for her leadership of Avenue’s successful programs. Mary was recognized as a 2019 “Most Admired CEO” by the Houston Business Journal” and as a “Hometown Hero” by Wells Fargo. She currently serves as Chair of the Executive Advisory Board for Bauer College of Business Real Estate Program at University of Houston, as Co-Chair of the Real Estate Advisory Committee for NeighborWorks America, on the Steering Committee for Kinder Institute’s Houston Community Data Connections and as a member of the Board of the Greater Northside Management District. She has a Master’s in Public Policy from Harvard University’s Kennedy School and a B.A. in Economics from Duke University.

Pastor Rudy Rasmus

St. John’s Church

Housing Affordability

Rudy Rasmus

Rudy Rasmus

Lead Pastor & Founder - St. John's Church

Rudy Rasmus is a pastor, author, and a humanitarian with a passion for outreach to the world’s most challenged communities. Rudy co-pastors St. John’s Church in Downtown Houston with his wife Juanita. They also founded the Bread of Life, Inc. (a not for profit corporation) with Juanita in December of 1992 and began serving 500 meals per day to the homeless in the sanctuary at St. John’s. He attributes the success of the church to a compassionate group of people who have embraced the vision of tearing down the walls of classism, sexism, and racism and building bridges of unconditional love, universal recovery, and unprecedented hope.

Thanks to generous support from a collaboration of government agencies and a significant donation from Tina Knowles-Lawson, Beyoncé, and Solange Knowles the St. John’s Downtown campus includes the Knowles-Temenos Apartments, a 43-unit Single Room Occupancy development designed to provide permanent living accommodations for formerly homeless women and men. The Temenos Community Development Corporation’s portfolio also includes an 80-unit Temenos II Apartment community and the 15-unit Temenos III Apartment project for the most vulnerable homeless individuals in the Houston community. Eighteen years ago Kelly Rowland teamed up with Beyoncé and Tina Knowles to build the Knowles-Rowland Center for Youth. The facility will soon become the dormitory for The St. John’s Academy- an urban boarding school for young men who are aging out of foster care.

Jason Hyman

Housing Affordability

Durham Housing Fund

Self Help Credit Union

Housing Affordability

Carol Guess

Greater Houston Black Chamber of Commerce

Hiring and Contracting

Carol Guess

Carol Guess

Chair of the Greater Houston Black Chamber of Commerce

Carol Guess is a Houston attorney specializing in real estate, probate and tax law. As general counsel for The Guess Group, a commercial real estate firm, she executes real estate and financial documents and is involved in consulting, property management, sales/leasing, and tenant representation. She is also principal attorney for The Guess Firm, Attorneys and Counselors at Law, advising clients on wills, probate, and estate planning.  

Guess is the position 3 board member of the Houston Tax Increment Reinvestment  Zone #9 (South Post Oak); chair of the board of the Greater Houston Black Chamber; inaugural member of the Thurgood Marshall School of  Law National Alumni Board; and a graduate of United Way’s Project Blueprint, which prepares  minorities for nonprofit leadership roles.

Admitted to the State Bar of Texas and the Southern District of Texas, Guess holds a JD from the Thurgood Marshall School of Law at Texas Southern University.

Tony Council

TLC Engineering

Hiring and Contracting

Tony Council

Tony Council

President - TLC Engineering

Tony L. Council, president of TLC Engineering Inc., has 40 years’ experience in engineering and construction, supervising multi-disciplined office and field personnel and completing projects on time and within budget. The City of Houston engaged TLC Engineering to complete a geospatial analysis of 1,800 miles of open ditches within the city’s boundaries. This date will be used by ReBuild Houston, a sweeping initiative to rebuild the city’s drainage and street infrastructure.  

Councils has published articles in respected, widely read  industry publications such as the Oil and Gas Journal and Pipeline and Gas Journal.

A graduate of North Carolina A&T State University with a BS in mechanical engineering, Council is a registered professional engineer in Texas. He serves on the boards of the Greater Houston Partnership and the Coastal Water Authority, and co-chairs the Greater Houston Black Chamber CITTEE Committee. 

 

Paula Mendoza

Possible Missions Inc.

Hiring and Contracting

Paula Mendoza

Paula Mendoza

President of Possible Missions Inc.

Paula M. Mendoza

President & Chief Executive Officer

Possible Missions, Inc

Native Houstonian, Paula Mendoza is an entrepreneur, innovator, advocate, barrier-breaker, and tireless volunteer recognized not only for the quality of her work, but for the passion she brings to every endeavor. Under her leadership, Possible Missions, Inc. (PM), a company she established in 2001, specializing in Procurement Solutions has experienced exponential growth. Beginning with $100 in the bank to achieving over $60 Million in Revenues. The business has achieved significant accolades including Houston Minority Business Council’s Supplier of the Year Award and a Minority Business Enterprise (MBE) Accountability Award for its expenditures with fellow MBEs. The U.S. Small Business Administrator’s Award of Excellence and most recently the UT Alliance HUB Contractor of the year. Paula’s humility, discernment and sense of fair play are evidenced by her service as the first Latina to serve as Chairman of the State of Texas Ethics Commission, the first Latina to be appointed to the University of Houston System Board of Regents.

Abdul Haleem Muhammad

NTE Planning & Consultants  |  Accepting Challenges

Hiring and Contracting

Abdul Haleem Muhammad

Abdul Haleem Muhammad

Ph.D.

Abdul Haleem Muhammad Ph.D. is a banking, finance, urban planning expert, researcher, and published author. He founded both NTE Planning Consultants and Accepting Challenges to Improve Our Nation Community Development Corporation. As a consultant to the Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County in the areas of stakeholder relations, government affairs, transportation, and land use, he developed Communities in Motion, a community-oriented gentrification mitigation transit development program.  

Brother Abdul Haleem is a past board member of the Gulf Coast Rail District; Houston Southeast Management District; City of Houston Complete Communities Advisory Committee; MacArthur Safety and Justice Challenge Implementation Committee for Harris County; Houston Coalition for Equitable Recovery after Hurricane Harvey; and numerous other organizations.  

Brother Abdul Haleem earned a master’s (2005) and a doctorate (2016) in the field of urban planning and environmental policy at the Texas Southern University’s Barbara Jordan-Mickey Leland School of Public Affairs.

 

Angelique Bartholomew, JD

Mpact Strategic Consulting LLC

Hiring and Contracting

Angelique Bartholomew, JD

Angelique Bartholomew, JD

Vice President Business Development of Mpact Strategic Consulting LLC

 Angelique Bartholomew JD is vice president of business development and engagement lead at MPACT Strategic Consulting. As such, she leads the firm’s enterprise creation and  public relations activities, and supports the executive leadership team in identifying, evaluating, and driving strategic growth through new market initiatives.  

An attorney with a career focus in the areas of compliance, infrastructure, workforce development, transportation and mobility, Bartholomew is recognized locally and nationally as a strategic thinker and community leader. Over a 20-year career, she has developed keen political skills, and garnered respect and influence among public officials and c-suite executives across a spectrum of industries. 

Bartholomew has contributed significantly to developing and growing MPACT’s service lines in the private and public  sectors. She helps create and implement the company’s strategic marketing plan, oversees a national budget, and builds the MPACT brand across all service lines, including disaster recovery, compliance, transportation/mobility, and construction management.

 

Director Marsha Murray

Office of Business Opportunity

Hiring and Contracting

Marsha Murray

Marsha Murray

Director - City of Houston's Office of Business Opportunity

 Marsha E. Murray, Esq., was appointed by Mayor Sylvester Turner and confirmed by City Council  to serve as the Director of the City of Houston’s Office of Business Opportunity (OBO) in April  2020, after having served as OBO’s Interim Director and Deputy Director. As Director, Ms. Murray  is responsible for leading the City’s supplier diversity, workforce development, and inclusion  efforts, with a focus on administering programs and initiatives that increase access to economic  opportunity for historically underutilized businesses and disenfranchised individuals. Ms.  Murray’s commitment to public service spans almost two decades. Prior to joining the City of  Houston, she served as legal counsel to New York City’s government for 10 years.  

Ms. Murray has a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Political Science and Spanish from Colgate University  and a Law Degree from Villanova University School of Law.

Janelle Turner

Washington University

Hiring and Contracting

Janelle Turner

Janelle Turner

Director of Supplier Diversity - Washington University

Janelle Turner is the Director of Supplier Diversity at Washington University in St. Louis (WashU), a position she has held since January 2020. In this role, Janelle leads the University’s efforts to expand opportunities for minority and women-owned business enterprises (M/WBE’s) across and beyond the campus walls. Mrs. Turner develops, manages, and reports on all aspects of Supplier Diversity. This includes setting and monitoring performance metrics, identifying qualified M/WBEs, building relationships and communicating with local/regional agencies working in this space, and providing internal education on the value of Supplier Diversity.

Prior to joining WashU, Janelle worked at The Boeing Company for 19 years. Janelle was responsible for managing the strategy for small and diverse business utilization, ensuring compliance against small business requirements in Government proposals, approving Individual Small Business Plans to the U.S. government; and growing Boeing’s small/medium & diverse supplier base globally.

Janelle earned a Bachelor of Business Administration (BA) from Wichita State University in Wichita, KS, and a Masters of Business Administration (MBA) from Saint Louis University in St. Louis, MO.