National experts to speak at second annual leadership conference

Contact: Michelle Shember
Photo of the DESIGNEDtoLEAD conference


KALAMAZOO, Mich.—Western Michigan University students looking to enhance their leadership skills and learn advanced strategies will hear from proven experts in leadership and innovation at the second annual DESIGNEDtoLEAD conference Friday, Nov. 14, at WMU’s Fetzer Center


The conference, a 'by students, for students' event, includes presentations by a variety of keynote and breakout speakers who will educate and inspire attendees. The event is complimentary for all WMU students and is sponsored by the Haworth College of Business. Speakers will represent a diverse range of fields and perspectives.

"This year’s DESIGNEDtoLEAD conference will be packed with great speakers, leadership strategies and discussion," says Dr. Kay Palan, dean of the Haworth College of Business. "It is very gratifying to see students shape a program in leadership for their fellow students, and we are fortunate to bring this caliber of program to WMU students, due in large part to the strong desire of our alumni and community business leaders to give back to oday’s students."

"DESIGNEDtoLEAD inspires passion and instills the energy necessary for students to travel the extra mile to achieve extraordinary success through leadership in their careers, communities and personal lives," says student organizer Autumn Gammon.

Featured speakers

  • Brian Thomas (canceled), chief executive officer of OtterBox. Chief visionary of OtterBox, Thomas is responsible for global expansion and innovative technology efforts for the premium protective case company.
  • Christine Cortez, retired senior vice president of Chrysler. With a 32-year career at Chrysler, Cortez has been honored with numerous awards and continues to make a positive impact on her community.
  • Joy Nicholas, principal of JN Retail Connection. Nicholas has more than 30 years of experience and a unique perspective of the retail industry. 
  • Joe Gerstandt, professional speaker. With experience in Fortune 500 companies and small non-profits, Gerstandt is recognized as an expert in the field of workplace diversity and inclusion, offering workshops that offer greater clarity and new perspectives.
  • Dan Jefferies, founder of Newmind Group. An entrepreneur and mentor, Jefferies has served as an advisor to several organizations as well as technology startups. His company was recently named one of the fastest growing private companies in the U.S. by Inc. Magazine.
  • Improv Effects, a Kalamazoo-based management consulting firm. A corporate coaching firm that encourages interactive group workshops and facilitates improvisation in the workplace, Improv Effects helps create a supportive and enthusiastic work environment.

For more information, visit or contact Cyntia Reeves at (269) 387-5069 or

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