Advisory Board Members
Wahab Almuhtadi, P.Eng. is a professor and coordinator of the Algonquin College – Carleton University Joint Degree Program “Bachelor of Information Technology – Photonics and Laser Technology – BIT-PLT” in the School of Advanced Technology, at Algonquin College.
Dr. Almuhtadi is also the R&D Coordinator at the Algonquin College Faculty of Technology and Trades. He provides academic leadership in applied research and manages 36 active and now 54 proposed projects with a totaling $10.5MM funded by various agencies such as: NSERC, OCE, IC, CIDA, NCIT, ORDCF, PRECARN. These research projects are distributed among faculty and students of various departments within the Faculty of Technology and Trades. He has and continues to establish very good relations with the industry, provincial and federal funding agencies, academia and engineering and technology organizations.
Dr. Almuhtadi is an author of several technical papers and co-author of books. Dr. Almuhtadi is the founder and designer of a complete Leading-Edge Optophotonics Lab, with SONET/SDH (Nortel/Algonquin College $2.5M project) and recently with Optical Transport Network-OTN 10-100 Gb/s (Ciena 6500 Optical Packet Platform $1M project). He played an important role in the Faculty Development and Upgrading Project for Yemen supported by the Canadian College Partnership Program. Through it, Algonquin College and Confederation College have offered help to the Ministry of Vocational and Training and the Vocational, Industrial Institute in Taiz, Yemen.
John Buckley has worked in the medical meetings industry since 1997, starting with the American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery Foundation (AAO-HNSF). There he spent 7 ½ years as a Meetings and Exhibits Manager. In 2004, John moved to the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA) where he continues to serve as Director of Meeting Services. In this position, John is responsible for all logistical aspects of a 7,000 person conference called IDWeek. This includes exhibits sales, corporate support, vendor contracting, housing, and registration. John has held a CMP designation since 2002, and is also a member of PCMA, speaking twice at their annual meetings.
Prior to his employment in the association market, John has had many experiences. In 1990, he graduated from the Catholic University of America. Afterwards he was an archeologist in Hawaii, worked for a political campaign in Minnesota, was a comic at Club Med, a concierge in Washington, DC, and had several other adventures. He resides in Vienna, VA with his two girls. When he is not being a “Dad,” John likes biking, running, movies, the Washington Nationals, traveling, skiing and any beach. He tries to take advantage of every experience life throws his way and in the end have a good story to share.
A seasoned professional and CMP since 2002, Adonia has over 15 years of comprehensive experience. She started her professional career working at the American Psychological Association where she worked in testing and assessment and then moved on to manage a summer educational program to engage college students in the science of psychology. She then transitioned into government contracting where she managed multiple high-level contracts with a number of institutes within the National Institutes of Health. After a brief stint at the Association for Community College Trustees working in education and outreach, she landed at the ATA. Passionate about thyroid disease, Adonia takes pride in contributing to the mission, goals and initiatives at the ATA. During her career, Adonia has been a member of a number of professional societies. She holds current memberships at the American Society for Association Executives (ASAE), Professional Convention Management Association (PCMA), American Association of Medical Society Executives (AAMSE) and the Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM). She is a former member of Meeting Professionals International (MPI) and the Society of Government Meeting Professionals (SGMP).
Andre Cholewinski is a dedicated and highly motivated meeting professional with a successful track record in the global meetings industry with over 13 years of domestic and international meeting experience. He is a true Meeting Architect who delivers real and measurable value of events to clients. Andre is known for his strong interpersonal communication skills and the ability to develop win-win solutions with all stakeholders. From incentive meeting companies in Lisbon, Portugal to event planning companies in Washington, D.C., Andre has a broad range of meetings management experience. A native of Brazil, Andre earned his Post Graduate Diploma in Business Administration from Bristol Business School, University of West England. Having lived in many parts of the world, he speaks English, Portuguese, Swedish and Polish fluently, and can also communicate in Spanish, Russian, Danish and Norwegian. Andre has managed all aspects of site selection and full-service meeting planning for corporate and association clients whose programs range from 20 – 6,000 attendees domestically and internationally. Key responsibilities have included but not limited to, client consultation, lead generation, contract negotiation, and budget preparation, all aspects of meeting logistics, marketing and sales. He identifies and develops strategic relationships with clients and industry contacts, has extensive knowledge in registration and technology solutions arenas and has been responsible for marketing and external communications strategies for domestic and international meetings.
Jean-Paul de Lavison is a visionary who without hesitation dismissed the bleak advice of those who insisted that it wasn’t the right timing for redefining the concept of event and congress planning! More than thirty years later, JPdL is a thriving and vibrant company that has proven to be a true success story. With five offices in five cities Jean-Paul has assembled a team of over 70 professionals with extensive industry experience. He has been involved in the events industry and a member of various Industry associations on the board level including PCMA, MPI and Tourism Montreal as well as the 2012 winner for Industry Innovator in the M&IT Hall of Fame.
Petra, a proud South Londoner who was born in Blackheath close to Greenwich, now calls Belgium home where she leads Education International’s Administration Unit as an Executive Officer.
She considers herself extremely lucky to have begun her career with British Petroleum (BP) at their head offices in London. After working as a Commercial Teacher in their Training Department and then a two year assignment within the Office Management Department, Petra was posted to Dubai in what she remembers as a fantastic assignment. Apart from the daily office management duties, she was also an integral member of the project team setting up new offices in the Emirates gas fields.
The secondment to the Emirates General Petroleum Company as Superintendent Office Services was for a three year period after which Petra moved to Xerox Emirates as the Administration and Copy Centre Manager, setting up their offices and commercial units. Following a very enjoyable and enriching experience in the UAE it was time to return to London where she took up the position of Administration and Property Manager for Janson Green Limited, Underwriting Agency at Lloyd’s of London. Through heading a team of 14 staff, managing not only the City office, but also 16 other properties in the UK, the position offered a great variety of opportunity. Her final project at the end of 13 very happy years at Janson Green was the merger and relocation of 600 staff to a bespoke office in the City of London, a major, but rewarding undertaking.
After marrying her Belgian husband, Wim, Petra relocated to the outskirts of Brussels to take a career break to be at home with her baby boy, Sam! In 2003, and after the birth of her daughter, Fleur, an opportunity arose at the head office of Education International, where she currently works. Within the scope of her duties are office management, governance matters, organization of EI conferences around the globe and leading logistics for the EI World Congresses. The next EI Congress is to be held in Ottawa and will be the fourth world congress Petra and her team have organized, following Porto Alegrae (Brazil), Berlin (Germany) and Cape Town (RSA).
Meeting Encore is celebrating it’s 25th Anniversary in 2015. Jenn’s hospitality career also spans 25 years having worked for Starwood, Marriott, Delta and Kimpton Hotels prior to joining Meeting Encore. Jenn also gives back to the industry through her volunteer role on the SITE Canada Board and has previous board experience with MPI. Jenn also works with her husband David Drover and their two dogs- Shiraz and Whiskey help supervise.
My name is Ronda Vaughn and I was born and raised on a dairy farm in Southern Illinois. After high school, I attended some college at Southeast Missouri State and return to my home town area and enrolled at the local community college, Southwestern Illinois College.
While attending the community college I worked at the local Kmart starting out as a door greeter and worked my way up to assistant buyer for the automotive and sporting goods departments. I decided I wanted a more serious job with more room to grow and looked to an employment placement company. The first job I interviewed for and landed was with a trade show decorating company, United Exposition Services/GES for whom I worked with as a customer service representative and then manager from 1986 until 1992. The company planned downsized to just a sales office within that final year, my job was being eliminated and I was offered a job at one of their other branches in Atlanta, GA to be a project coordinator. I respectfully declined their offer and looked for another job and was hired as the Exhibits Manager and Small Meetings Coordinator for American Optometric Association where I was promoted to Meetings Manager.
Before leaving the decorating company and starting at AOA, I met the man of my dreams and began planning our future together. Once we decided to have a child it became apparent to me I need to downsize my job and found the job at Optimist International where I am currently employed. My husband was married before we met and had two wonderful children Meghan now 35 and Logan now 33 whom both have since given us three beautiful grandchildren Caittlyn 12; Liam 3 and Noah 2. We also have a son together, Tanner who is now 18 years old (19 April 1, 2015), going to school at the same local community college I went to and will soon be moving on to continue his studies in nursing.
I am also an active member and current President of the Optimist Club of O’Fallon Illinois, member of the Heartland Chapter of Professional Convention Management Association from 2001 – 2014 and served on their board of directors for a few years during that time. I stepped down from the board the year before becoming president to spend time getting my son prepared for life after high school. I was also a member of the St. Louis Missouri Chapter of Meeting Planners International from 1992 – 2001. The most recent change in my life was last November when Optimist International presented me with a great opportunity and the honor of being promoted to Senior Director of Marketing and Communications.
- Responsible for $600k budget, staff, volunteers, and annual plan for ACCE’s professional development and convention programming
- 8+ years executing annual 4-day convention for 1100+ attendees, responsible for all event aspects; keynotes, 40+ breakouts, plenaries, forums, awards, banquet, hotel, food and beverage, contracts, generating over 33% of the association’s annual
- Built the infrastructure for ongoing webinar and peer-to-peer programming, featuring industry experts and member volunteers; generating a cost savings of over $50k by changing platform providers.
- Developed annual 2-day sales seminar series, featuring keynotes and 15+ breakout sessions, generating over $30,000 in revenue.
- Created process improvement plan for bringing professional development programming to market faster; increasing webinar topics by 50% within 3 months.
Dana Neill is a motivated, personable meetings professional with a successful 16-year track record planning and managing a variety of small to large meetings within diverse professional and academic societies. She is a diplomatic and tactful professional working with staff and volunteers at all levels. Dana has demonstrated a unique ability of working with organizations in transition using her organizational and relationship skills. She remains flexible and versatile, able to maintain a sense of humor under pressure and demonstrated ability to easily transcend all situations. Dana joined the National Association of College and University Business Officers (NACUBO) in 2012 as the Senior Meeting Planner. She has managed the planning, budget, and logistics of the Eastern Association of College and University Business Officers (EACUBO) annual meeting and workshop along with three additional NACUBO conferences. She also manages the Southern Association of College and University Business Officers (SACUBO) annual meeting and workshop. Key responsibilities include contract negotiation, budget development and management, logistics, site selection, relationship building and reporting.
Karen holds the role of Manager of Events for the Coaching Association of Canada. Karen is responsible for the planning and execution of the Petro-Canada Sport Leadership sportif Conference and Partner’s Day. Karen’s formal education includes a degree in Political Science and Sociology from Queen’s University, a post graduate certificate in Event Management from Algonquin College and her Certified Meeting Professional designation (CMP) from the Convention Industry Council. Karen is a member of Meeting Professionals International (MPI) and Professional Convention Management Association (PCMA). She currently sits on the Board of Directors for the Ottawa Chapter of MPI as the Director of Member Care and is a member of the Communications Committee for the Canada East Chapter of PCMA. Karen brings with her 10 years of program coordination experience from various industry sectors including the not for profit and private sectors and the federal government.
Brenda Sanderson is an association executive and designer living and working in Montréal. She is also Executive Director of IxDA, the global network dedicated to the professional practice of Interaction Design and was previously Managing Director of Icograda. Through her responsibilities at Icograda and her current position, she has worked in more than 25 countries—bridging cultures, language and timezones to use design for progressive change since 2005.
From 1994 – 2005, Brenda held successively more responsible creative positions in the publishing and advertising sectors. Her work for Nova Scotia Tourism was twice awarded the Canadian Advertising Campaign of the Year and she received the Kenneth R Wilson award from the Canadian Business Press. A highlight was designing Canada’s identity for Expo 2000.
Brenda currently serves on the National Council of the Graphic Designers of Canada (GDC), is an Ambassador for INDIGO, the International Indigenous Design Network, and is a member of the Mandela Poster Project Collective (MPP).
Brenda is a CGD certified member of the Graphic Designers of Canada (GDC).
April Taylor has worked in the hospitality industry since 1975 in a variety of management positions. Her varied hotel sales and marketing experience, coupled with her position as the Convention Manager of Canada’s Capital Visitors and Convention Bureau (now known as Ottawa Tourism), provided her with a thorough understanding of meeting and event management from the volunteer and staff perspectives, and the organizational needs and goals of the association/not-forprofit sector.
Using her extensive experience in the hospitality industry, with focus predominately toward the association market, April established Taylor & Associates, a full service conference management company, in 1989. Her ability to act as a management consultant over our 25 years of offering conference management services remains one of the integral components to our success and the basis on which our understanding of the development and achievement of policies, goals and objectives for our clients is based.
April was the recipient of the prestigious John Griner Award presented by the Canadian Society of Association Executives recognizing the significant contribution of business members to CSAE and the profession of association management, and Taylor & Associates received the Supplier of the Year Award, presented by the Ottawa – Gatineau Chapter of the Canadian Society of Association Executives. She has also contributed to several industry articles, has been a speaker at several events and conferences, and has been a member of a number of industry strategic planning committees.
In 2005 Emma Jane, set up Dot-The-Eye Ltd. The company specializes in society management, event management and web site development, predominately in the Defence and Aerospace sectors. In the last nine years they have helped organize events all over the UK and as far afield as Sydney, Copenhagen, Washington D.C. and Vienna. This year, the company is the lead organizer for an International Data Links Conference in Ottawa.
Emma Jane is also a director of the International Data Links Society, which is a nonprofit, independent society for individuals and organizations involved in research, development, implementation and use of Data Links, both civil and military. She is also the Company Secretary for the UK Chapter of the International Council on System Engineering (INCOSE).
Emma Jane joined Aerosystems International (AeI) in 1993 in a technical role on the Merlin Mission Systems programme. As the company expanded Emma took on the role of Office Facilities Manager, responsible for the day to day running on the Offices, and establishing new facilities in Yeovil, Farnborough and Malvern.
In 1999 Emma Jane created the Communications Department at AeI. She was responsible for the development and management of internal and external communications with media, customers including UK and overseas governments.
In 2003 Emma Jane took up the post of Ministry of Defence (MoD) Account Manager for AeI. As a result, Emma became closely involved with the equipment capability areas and a number of Integration Project Teams at the MoD.
Emma Jane is the President of the Old Monktonians club and has held the position for the last 5 years.
Emma Jane has been with the Ilminster Forum for 10 years and in this time has helped in numerous community project teams, and the running of the forums website www. ilminsterforum.co.uk, she is currently the Treasurer and a Director.
Emma Jane is the proud mother of Jessica aged 17. Interests include, travel, theatre, reading, and swimming.
Sandra has been a meeting planner for over 20 years, most recently she was Annual Meeting Manager for the Canadian Medical Association (13 years) an event that hosted 500-700 attendees consisting of physicians and other medical stakeholders. The meeting ran more than 100 business meetings/ events during the conference and in 2014 it was held in Ottawa, Ontario and proved to be one of the most successful annual meetings for CMA in recent past. This was a result of many changes to the design and delivery of the conference program, along with the layout and overall fit of the meeting within the Shaw Conference Centre Ottawa, the Westin Ottawa and the Fairmont Chateau Laurier.
CMA was able to achieve a high level of environmental sustainability as a result of holding this meeting in Ottawa. This helped to support the Westin Ottawa receiving an environmental award from the Hotel Association of Canada which included the establishment of a food recovery system at the Westin Ottawa to ensure leftover prepared, nutritious food from events is redirected to a local shelter.
Sandra is a member of PCMA, is a Certified Meeting Professional (CMP) (since 2004), has taught, presented and written numerous articles on various industry topics, in particular, environmentally sustainable events and meeting industry food waste. She has been an active member of GMIC (Green Meeting Industry Council) since 2006 sitting on various committees including serving a 2 year Board term.
In 2014, Sandra was awarded the Surgeon General’s Medal for Service Excellence for her work with the medical military at the CMA annual meeting as well as the Ontario Medical Association Community Service Award for the significant contribution to the health and welfare of the people of a local community as defined by involvement in community health and public welfare. MeetingFocus Magazine identified Sandra as an industry trendsetter in 2014.
Sandra believes that successful meetings are a culmination of vibrant, healthy community engagement at every level including attendees to the meeting, the host organization and the host city.