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NHLI  2009 Executive Leadership Training Conference & Mujer Awards

Speakers/Presenters- Thursday


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María Mercedes Olivieri

Mercedes Olivieri has been in public service for several decades, including over 20 years with the Federal government. She has expertise in the planning and delivery of activities and training to help organizations obtain, retain, and leverage their workforce diversity. As the Assistant Director for Diversity at the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), Mercedes led a national program to identify the need for, obtain, manage, and report on, the diversity in the entire Federal workforce. She led the drafting of a Diversity Guide for Federal departments and agencies and the reporting of government-wide diversity activities to the Office of the President and to the U.S. Congress. She also managed Hispanic Employment Programs for two Federal agencies. Her first Federal career was as an Evaluator/Analyst with the Government Accounting Office (GAO).

Because of her professional accomplishments, Mercedes was selected as one of “Elite Hispanic Women of 2002,” by Hispanic Business Magazine. She has received numerous awards from Federal agencies and non-profit organizations. At present, she is a diversity consultant, trainer, and speaker. She has been a keynote speaker and presenter on diversity and Hispanic issues before several Federal agencies and national conferences.

Mercedes is an alumna of NHLI’s Executive Leadership Program Class of 2000. She obtained her B.A. in Education from the University of Puerto Rico (UPR), and has done graduate work in Journalism at UPR and in Public Administration at George Mason University. She is a graduate of the Federal Executive Institute. In addition, she is certified as a Birth/Labor Doula (coach) and is trained as a Massage Therapist and Childbirth Educator.


Bernadette T. Vadurro

Enthusiastic, dynamic, and highly motivational are words used by audiences to describe Bernadette T. Vadurro. A seasoned professional speaker and trainer, Bernadette provides participants with tools, strategies, tips, and techniques to improve their professional and personal effectiveness. She specializes in fully customized productions using industry specific examples, timely information, relevant case studies, and interesting stories guaranteed to inspire and motivate. She is a veteran speaking professional who wins the highest praise for her ability to connect and interact with diverse audiences. Bernadette is the president of Speakers Live Inc. and Leading Edge Training Technologies.

Bernadette has presented to organizations such as the Chrysler Corporation, American Express, Central Intelligence Agency, Columbia Hospital Corporation, American Eagle, Department of the Interior, Houlihan, Lokey, Howard & Zukin, Pittsburgh Housing Authority, Business Professional Women, United States Public Health Services, Los Alamos National Laboratory, Dillon Stores, Bank of Santa Fe, Farm Credit Services and many more. Her seminars in Presentation Skills for Professionals, Customer Service, Leadership, Communication Skills, Teambuilding, Diversity, and Stress Management have been warmly received and greatly appreciated by her participants. Bernadette is the co-author of two books, The Service Path and Motivational Leaders. She is also the author of America’s Conscience: Facing Threats to Democracy, the Middle Class and Our World. This book was named the Freedom Fighter Bronze Award by Independent Publishing in 2008.

Bernadette is a magna cum laude graduate from the College of Santa Fe with a degree in Business Management. She is the past president and CEO of Medical Office Inc. Bernadette held a variety of management positions within New Mexico State Government and was a lobbyist for several health care groups in New Mexico. She has been a self-employed professional speaker for nearly 20 years. Bernadette is an ATM-B Toastmaster and the Past President of Capitol City Toastmasters. She is the 2009 President of the National Speakers Association New Mexico Chapter. Bernadette was voted the Minority Business Supplier of the Year in 1999, by the Rio Grande Minority Purchasing Council. She was named one of the top Hispanic entrepreneurs in the nation by Latina Style Magazine in 2007. Bernadette lives in the foothills of Santa Fe, New Mexico with her husband, architect, Robert Vadurro. She is the mother of two daughters, Christy and Katie and the grandmother of Summer Elizabeth Brown.


Maria C. Mari, CPA, CMA, CFrA

Maria Mari received her B.A. in Economics, Bachelors in Business Administration with specialization in Accounting, and Master’s of Science in Taxation from Florida International University. She has also completed doctoral work in Economics at the University of Florida and New York University. Maria has earned a Certified Public Accountant, Certified Management Accountant and Certified Fraud Accountant designations. Recently, she obtained a Homeland Security Certification. Maria began her professional experience with the Internal Revenue Service where she worked as a Revenue Agent on Specialized Audits. After years with the service, she was hired by Coastal Fuels to work in their tax research division.

In 1989, she began a full-time teaching career at Miami Dade College. She is responsible for teaching Accounting, Economics and Business Statistics. Maria is a founding member of the Honors College where she teaches Leadership. Her teaching ability has gained her recognition at Miami Dade College where she was awarded three Endowed Teaching Chairs. In 2006, Maria Mari was awarded the Professor of the Year Award–Two Year Colleges from the American Accounting Association.

In 2002, Maria graduated from NHLI’s Executive Leadership Program. In addition to her teaching responsibilities, she is a member of the Board of the Better Way of Miami, president of the College Hispanic Council, vice chair of the FICPA’s Relations with Accounting Educators Committee, Treasurer of the United Faculty of Miami-Dade College, and advisor for both the Phi Beta Lambda Business Organization and Phi Theta Kappa International Honor Society. She has also established a private accounting practice specializing in tax and fraud accounting.


Sandra S. Alcaparras, ACSW

Sandra Alcaparras has extensive experience in designing and facilitating personal growth processes for individuals and groups. She is a graduate of Colorado Women’s College and the University of Denver Graduate School of Social Work. She has spent ten years as an internal consultant in US West Communications, nine years as a faculty member of the Department of Psychiatry University of Nebraska Medical School, and 15 years as an independent contract diversity trainer working toward creating healthy, effective work relationships and environments. She is co-editor of a college textbook entitled, Applied Techniques in Behavioral Medicine. Sandra is listed in Who’s Who Among Human Services Professionals and was the first recipient of Northwestern Bell Telephone Company’s first “We Succeed Through People” President’s Award for outstanding achievement in support of the corporate affirmative action vision. Sandra has provided a variety of services including leadership development, mentoring workshops, team building, stress reduction, cultural competency, training the trainers, and individual executive coaching. Her clients include: the Cultural Competency Training Academy of Greater Columbus, Ohio; Chicago Family Health, Illinois; General Electric, Colorado; Center for Creative Leadership, California; First Data Resources, Nebraska; United Way, Arizona; US West Communications, Colorado; Tennessee Valley Authority, Tennessee; Colorado Housing and Finance Authority, Colorado; Western Management Center, Colorado; Rocky Mountain Mutual Housing Association, Colorado; A Private Estate Staff, Aspen, Colorado; Boston Scientific, Massachusetts; University of Arizona, Arizona; Northrup Grumman Corporation, Maryland; Holcim (US) Inc., Colorado; and Philip Morris, USA, New York.

Her current and long term passion is studying and practicing energy medicine techniques such as EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) and Applied Kinesiology. She is a graduate of the first NHLI Executive Leadership Program of 1988.


Ysabel Duron

Ysabel Duron is a cancer survivor and founded Latinas Contra Cancer in 2003 to address the void in servicies for Latinos around issues of cancer including support services, and education, particularly in the low-income, Spanish speaking community. Ysabel, a television journalist for over 34 years, was honored in 2003 for her meritorious work as a journalist and as an advocate for Latinas with breast cancer, with the Janet Gray Hayes Award that was named after the 1st woman mayor of San Jose. In October, 2003 she received the prestigious Juliette Gordon Low Award from the Santa Clara County Girl Scouts for her community leadership. The Low Award, named after the Founder of the Girl Scouts, is the highest honor given by the agency.

Ysabel is a founding member emeritus of the National Hispanic/Latina Advisory Council of the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, Dallas, Texas. She sits on the local grants committee of the SF Komen Affiliate. She is also a board member of the Valley Medical Foundation in San Jose, Californiam, and a member of the Roche Pharmaceutical Latino Cancer Advisory Council. She graduated with a B.A. in Journalism from San Jose State University, California. Ysabel is an NHLI alumna of the Executive Leadership Program Class of 1990.


Marcella de la Torre

Marcella de la Torre was born and raised in Barcelona, Spain and came to the U.S. in January of 1988 where she pursued and earned her B.A. in International Relations and French in 1992 and her M.A. in Nonprofit Management at Hamline University in 2007. Having earned a reputation as a highly-respected educator and presenter, she has managed the Inlingua School and personally trained many clients on language and intercultural issues. As an Adjunct Faculty Member of Macalester College and the University of St. Thomas, she has also taught undergraduate intermediate Spanish language, culture, and business classes. Offering 17 years of multi-cultural training experience and eight years in the health care industry, she has held several leadership positions in the medical arena. In recent years, Marcella has earned a Certificate of Executive Management from Harvard University and served as Lead Project Manager & Lead Practitioner at the Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota. Presently as Manager of Performance Improvement of Graduate Medical Education at the Health Partners Institute for Medical Education, she trains medical residents, senior executives, and program directors on lean project management and performance improvement, and the wisdom of creating high-performing diverse teams.

Marcella has been privileged to serve on a number of Hamline University Taskforces and Committees. Presently a Board of Directors Member of the Laura Jeffrey Academy, and fellow of the James P. Shannon Leadership Institute, she has also shared her leadership talent with the Board of El Fondo de Nuestra Comunidad, The St. Paul Foundation, and served as Advisor to the emergent Association of Latina women of Minnesota.

Deeply committed to advancing multi-cultural understanding, Marcella speaks four languages including Spanish, French, English, and Catalan, and brings a rich perspective to academic, community, and business groups. Having prepared and delivered numerous educational presentations featuring the competitive advantages of diversity, she has delighted professionals with her insights and perspectives on leveraging diversity-rich leadership to create and deliver the highest level of leadership excellence. She has also played a significant role in developing and presenting compelling performance improvement and quality management programs. Marcella is a graduate of NHLI’s Class of 2005 Executive Leadership Program. A devoted wife and mother, she lives in Roseville, Minnesota with her husband Jim, and son Peter, and continues to enrich others with her multi-cultural appreciation and perspectives and commitment to the pursuit of personal and professional excellence.


Barbara DesMarteau

Barbara J. DesMarteau served as the Director of the Adams County Community & Economic Opportunity Department that included the Workforce & Business Center, Community Development, and Head Start. Adams County is located in the Denver, Colorado metro area and includes a population of over 420,000 residents. The Community & Economic Opportunity Department was one of eight cabinet level departments until it was consolidated under the Human Services Department. Barbara was an appointed official by the Board of County Commissioners and served for over 11 years in Adams County. Through her department, Barbara also oversaw the Adams County-wide boards that are appointed by the County Commissioners and they include the Workforce Investment Board, Head Start Policy Council, and Community Development Advisory Board. Before joining Adams County, Barbara served as the Executive Director of the Mi Casa Resource Center for Women, a non-profit community based organization with several locations in Colorado. Additionally, Barbara managed human services programs for the Arizona Department of Economic Security, Community Services Administration in Phoenix, Arizona.

Barbara attended graduate school at the University of Kansas, and has a B.A. in Sociology from Fort Hays State University in Hays, Kansas. She completed the Senior Executive Program for State and Local officials at Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government. She has completed the International Career Advancement Program at the University of Denver and the Aspen Institute and the Johnson & Johnson Fellows Program at the Anderson School of Management at UCLA. She is an alumna of NHLI’s Executive Leadership Program Class of 1994. Barbara currently serves on NHLI’s Board of Directors, Jefferson County Cultural Council and Circle of Latina Leadership Board of Directors. Barbara was recently honored by KWGN-TV Channel 2 News with the Unsung Hero Award and by the Aurora Chamber of Commerce with the Corporate Finalist Award for Women Making a Difference.


Olivia V. Meza

Olivia V. Meza was appointed by Arizona former Governor Janet Napolitano to the Board of Executive Clemency in February 2004. The Tempe resident has 30 years experience with the criminal justice system as a senior federal court executive, a specialist in Indian Country and sex offenses, a pretrial services officer, and a probation officer in Arizona, Maryland and California. Olivia served as Chief of Pretrial Services for the U.S. District Court in Arizona, one of the largest and fastest growing offices nationally. She administered a multimillion dollar budget and managed 60 supervisors and officers statewide, working directly with federal judges, U.S. Attorney, victims and families, and defendants. She introduced cutting-edge software for supervision of federal defendants charged with computer-based sex offenses, and leadership training programs and professional staff development. The Yuma native served as a juvenile probation officer in Maricopa and Yuma Counties, and taught at Arizona Western College. She has volunteered with Maricopa County Justice Courts as a mediator, assisted at the Chrysalis Shelter for Victims of Domestic Violence, at St. Vincent de Paul, and the Salvation Army. She formerly served on the Ninth Circuit Judicial Committee on Employee Diversity. Olivia is a member of the Arizona Dispute Resolution Association, nd attended leadership and executive development academies at the Center for Creative Leadership, the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, and the Gallup Institute. She earned a M.S. in Family Life and Child Development, and a B.S. in Sociology, from Arizona State University. She is a 1994 alumna of NHLI’s Executive Leadership Program.


Vanessa Cárdenas

Vanessa Cárdenas is the Director for Ethnic Media at the Center for American Progress in Washington, D.C. Prior to American Progress, she worked as a Policy/Communications Associate and Outreach Coordinator at the National Immigration Forum where she helped bridge the policy, communications and grassroots advocacy world to disseminate the Forum’s message and work. Prior to the Forum, she managed and administered public education and outreach programs serving diverse communities on a range of issues such as education, civic participation and immigration. Vanessa was profiled as one of the “100 People to Watch in the Next Century” by Washingtonian Magazine. Cárdenas regularly appears in CNN en Español, Telemundo, Univision, BBC among others, and has been widely quoted in various print publications such as the US News and World Report, The Washington Post and La Opinion. Vanessa holds a B.A. in Government and Politics and a Master’s in Public Administration both from George Mason University and is a graduate of the Sorensen Institute for Political Leadership at the University of Virginia. She was born in Brooklyn, New York, grew up in Bolivia and currently lives in Arlington, Virginia.


Belinda Garza

Belinda Garza joined Wal-Mart in 2003, where she currently serves as a Senior Manager of Federal Government Relations. In this capacity she manages policies that affect how Wal-Mart offers benefits to its 1.4 million employees and their dependents, and how Wal-Mart offers products and services to customers so that they can lead healthier lives through venues such as pharmacies, vision centers and clinics. Belinda also works with Hispanic special interest groups that focus on public policy issues at the federal level, as well as with Hispanic Members of Congress.

Prior to joining Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., Belinda worked in the office of Congressman Ciro D. Rodriguez of Texas from 2002 until 2003 where she served as scheduler for the chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. Belinda is a board member of the Hispanic Lobbyists, and is in her first term serving on the board of the Congressional Hispanic Leadership Institute. She has also served on boards and volunteered with local non-profits in the greater Washington, DC metropolitan area. Belinda is a graduate of the University of Texas at San Antonio, where she received a Bachelor of Business Administration in Management, concentrating in International Business.


Awilda Borres

Awilda is currently a Director, SAP Training & Development for Europe/Middle East/Africa/Canada with Merck & Company. She has over 15 years of experiencing as a change architect designing and leading large-scale change projects in numerous industries and Fortune 100 companies. Since 2006, Awilda has served as change lead on Merck’s global initiatives, from coaching change managers to creating global change networks across divisions and countries. Prior to joining Merck, she worked at Tyco International, leading talent management programs for the largest division in North America. Awilda also worked the British Oxygen Company, implementing global change initiatives, including a merger with a French competitor in Japan, and the global restructure of their sales organizations.

Throughout her career, Awilda has helped organizations, employees, and leaders at all levels to establish new partnerships and introduce changes such as new business models, restructure organizations, and self-directed teams. She holds a M.S. in Labor and Industrial Relations from the University of Rhode Island and is currently working on a M.B.A. She has written a number of articles on self-directed teams, self-designing organizations, and collaboration. She has also been a featured presenter at conferences on the topic of employee engagement, and the use of social media to accelerate change in corporations.

Her certifications include Senior Professional Human Resource (SPHR) and change management from Conner Partners and the Gestalt Institute, Cleveland respectively. Awilda is also the co-president of the Merck Hispanic Organization, a member of the National Hispanic Leadership Institute and National Society for Hispanic MBAs, respectively.


Dr. Jaime Torres

Jaime R. Torres, DPM, MS is founder and president of Latinos for National Health Insurance, a national coalition of Latino leaders from various fields, advocating equality in healthcare and for a national health insurance program where every person would be covered from the time they are born, regardless of immigration status. He is co-author of Ten Excellent Reasons for National Health Care (2008).

In 1983, Dr. Torres received his Doctorate of Podiatric Medicine from the New York College of Podiatric Medicine and earned his Masters of Science in Community Health from Long Island University in 2000. During that same year, he was selected to the Advisory Board of the National Hispanic Medical Association (NHMA) where he served until 2006. He is currently the NHMA’s representative for the National Diabetes Education Program (NDEP), which is sponsored by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). He was vice-chair of the Hispanic/Latino Work Group for NDEP, and has been instrumental in creating bilingual health campaigns for people with diabetes. In 2006 he was asked by the American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA) to become their spokesperson for their campaign “Descubras sus pies” which teaches Latinos how to prevent foot ailments that come as a result of diabetes. He has been interviewed in TV and radio nationally as part of the campaign. Hispanic Business Magazine selected him as one of the “100 Most Influential Hispanics of 2009.”

Dr. Torres is also an Associate at the not-for-profit Aesthetic Realism Foundation in New York City, where the education founded by the philosopher, poet and historian Eli Siegel is taught. He is co-author of Aesthetic Realism and the Answer to Racism (2004) and a frequent speaker on topics including racism, the uninsured, and ethics in healthcare issues. Additionally, he has authored articles which have been printed across the United States in both Spanish and English, concerning ethics and the healthcare system. He lives in New York City with his wife, educator and lecturer, Donita Ellison.


Michelle Lujan Grisham

Michelle Lujan Grisham has been a leader in public policy and innovation since she was appointed in 1991 to direct the New Mexico State Agency on Aging. She took a small program and turned it into a groundbreaking agency that became known nationwide for such innovative practices such as undercover evaluations of nursing homes, the use of volunteers to support key services and the development of a collaborative strategy among statewide senior programs that has led to generous support of programs by the state Legislature and investments in community program development and sustainability. To that end Michelle encouraged energy conservation efforts in building and program design to lower costs and to respond to limitations in available resources. Senior Centers worked to incorporate alternative energy initiatives such as the use of bio fuels for backup generators to lower utility costs and to recycle kitchen waste. Michelle’s groundbreaking efforts led her to be selected in 2002 to serve as Secretary of the newly created Aging and Long-Term Services Department. She oversaw the reorganization of state government programs for seniors and people with disabilities to work toward a system of services that is seamless, efficient and easily accessible.

In August 2004, Governor Richardson named her as secretary of the New Mexico Department of Health, a 4,000-staff department that oversees or provides comprehensive health services, epidemiology and environmental health. Michelle has applied the same vigorous leadership to push forward efforts to improve access to health services and to minimize poor health outcomes related to environmental conditions. She assured LEED building design for the new State Laboratory on the University of New Mexico Campus, implemented “Precautionary Principles” to proactively respond to potential environmental hazards in public buildings and services, and continued to support the states efforts at alternative energy design, innovation and implementation.

Michelle resigned her position as Secretary of Health to run for the United States House of Representatives for New Mexico’s 1st Congressional District to continue her work to improve the quality of life for New Mexicans. During her campaign she committed to alternative energy reform and hosted forums to discuss wind farming, solar energy, bio-fuels and the use “Smart Technology.” Michelle was a speaker at the National Interop Conference in Albuquerque where she discussed the opportunity for energy reform and the role of “Smart” Technology to reduce consumption and the importance of consumer education to successfully move to alternative energy systems and to secure a meaningful shift to bio-fuels. Before joining state government, Michelle worked with Westinghouse Advanced Energy Systems on the WIPP, Waste Isolation Pilot Project, and conducted research on the effects on uranium mill tailings. She is currently a principal in the newly formed Delta Consulting Group and continues to work toward energy independence.

Michelle received both an undergraduate degree and Juris Doctorate from the University of New Mexico. She is a 12th generation native New Mexican, resides in Albuquerque and has two adult children.