The Spirit of Women in Business Conference is an annual event hosted by the Kent State University College of Business Administration. The conference brings together women from diverse professional backgrounds. 

Last year, more than 250 business professionals, along with undergraduate and graduate students from Northeast Ohio and beyond, attended the event. The day-long conference includes a 60-minute keynote Q&A, as well as three breakout sessions, each with presentation options for attendees to choose from.


2017 Spirit of Women in Business Award Recipient

Renee DeLuca Dolan, 2017 SWIB Award Recipient


Renee DeLuca Dolan
Founder & President,
Contempo Communications


DeLuca Dolan leads a creative team in assisting brand and marketing executives with implementation of their initiatives. Contempo Communications specializes in sports/entertainment industries, professional services companies, non-profit event marketing companies and Fortune 500 firms looking for creative themes and branding for their corporate meetings and events.

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Breakout 1: Session 1 - Discussion with the Keynote

Rita McGrath, Keynote Speaker SWIB 2017


Rita McGrath, Ph.D.
Professor at Columbia Business School


McGrath is regarded as one of the world’s top experts on strategy and innovation with particular emphasis on developing sound strategy in uncertain and volatile environments. Her ideas are widely used by leading organizations throughout the world, who describe her thinking as often provocative, but unfailingly stimulating. She fosters a fresh approach to strategy amongst those with whom she works.

Read More About the Keynote 

Front cover of Rita McGrath's book, The End of Competitive Advantage

Dr. Rita will be hosting a book signing following the keynote address, featuring her book The End of Competitive Advantage.

The hardcover edition of the book will be available for purchase at the event.

Breakout 1: Session 2 - EMBA Panel

'Climbing the Ladder to Gender Equality: Four Action Steps'

The 2016 Women in the Workplace study, conducted jointly by LeanIn.Org and McKinsey & Company, provided supporting data on corporate actions which encourage gender diversity. In this panel discussion, Executive MBA graduates share their insights regarding best corporate practices for closing the gender leadership gap in the workplace.

- presented by -

Panel Moderator: Laurie Walker, EMBA Program Director, Kent State University
  • Laurie Walker, Panel Moderator, EMBA Program Director
  • Laurie Walker (Panel Moderator)
    EMBA Program Director, College of Business Administration
    Kent State University

    Laurie Walker has worked in engineering and/or marketing roles with British Petroleum, General Motors, and Nestle. In 2001, she launched a consulting practice that specialized in business plan development and marketing research. Her consulting involvement with the creation of the Kent State EMBA for Healthcare Professionals program led to an avid interest in education and lifelong learning. As Director of EMBA Programs, she focuses on facilitating a learning environment that prepares business professionals for advancement in leadership positions. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Civil Engineering from the University of Michigan and a Master’s in Business Administration degree from Harvard Business School.
Sally Day - Vice President, Corporate Purchasing, The J.M. Smucker Company
Sally Day, SWIB Speaker


Sally Day
Vice President, Corporate Purchasing,
The J.M. Smucker Company


Sally Day has spent the last 12 years at the J.M. Smucker Company in roles across the Supply Chain and Learning and Organization Development teams. She has a passion for developing people and designing new teams and solutions. 

Patricia Davis - Executive Director, Cleveland-based H.E.L.P Malawi
Patricia Davis, SWIB Speaker


Patricia Davis 
Executive Director,
Cleveland-based H.E.L.P Malawi


Davis serves as Executive Director of Cleveland based H.E.L.P. Malawi, a 501(c)3 and NGO in Malawi, Africa and is former Vice President of Administration/Interim Vice President for Marketing for a $600 million contract food service company in Northeast Ohio.      

Karen Kaminski - VP of Human Resources, TravelCenters of America
Karen Kaminski, 2017 SWIB Speaker


Karen Kaminski 
Vice President of Human Resources,
TravelCenters of America


In her role, Kaminski leads the HR function for more than 25,000 employees at 400+ locations in 43 states. Prior to TravelCenters, she worked at the Horseshoe Casino in downtown Cleveland and ThistleDown Racino in North Randall. She joined the Caesars organization in September 2011 and quickly hired a Human Resources team to staff and train more than 1,600 new team members at Ohio’s first casino. In her role, she has built strong working relationships with government officials, regulatory agencies (Ohio Casino Control Commission and Ohio Lottery Commission), labor leaders and community partners.      

Desiree Primm - Director of Quality Management, Kindred Hospital
Desiree Primm, SWIB 2017 Speaker


Desiree Primm 
Director of Quality Management,
Kindred Hospital


Desiree Mahone Primm is Director of Quality Management at Select Medical. Previously, she worked for hospitals including Kindred Hospital, Regency Hospital, Marymount Hospital and the Cleveland Clinic Foundation. Desiree founded and currently serves as Executive Director of Marvalas Heaven’s Playground, a non-profit organization promoting domestic violence awareness. Desiree earned her Bachelor of Business degree from Tiffin University and her Executive MBA from Kent State University.      

Breakout 1: Session 3

'Women and Investing Throughout Your Career'

Financial wellness is a critical part of managing a women’s “balance” in life. This session will focus on the different investment stages women go through during their career. How does your risk tolerance change and how can you determine if you will have enough to retire? Where does philanthropy fit into your financial planning? Will you make an impact in your community? These questions and others will be addressed in this information session.

Download Rosanne's SWIB Presentation (.pptx)

Download Rosanne's Women in Finance Handout (PDF)

- presented by -

Rosanne Potter - SVP and CFO, The Cleveland Foundation
Roseanne Potter, SWIB 2017 Speaker


Rosanne Potter 
Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer,
The Cleveland Foundation


In her current role as SVP & CFO, Potter manages the finance function for the Cleveland Foundation and their $2.1B endowment. The Cleveland Foundation is the oldest community foundation in the United States. Prior to joining the Cleveland Foundation in April 2016, she was responsible for managing $10 billion of global retirement assets for Eaton Corporation in Cleveland. Rosanne has been Treasurer for five major companies including the Lubrizol Corporation in Wickliffe, OH.       

Breakout 2

Breakout 2: Session 4

'Diversity and Inclusion Panel'

Hear the personal stories and strategies for success as women in business while acknowledging the intersectionality of multiple identities of our panelists. Learn about initiatives that they have implemented to encourage diversity and mentorship at current or past organizations and its impact on the business.

- presented by -

PANEL MODERATOR: Alfreda Brown, Vice President of Division of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, Kent State University
Alfreda Brown, Diversity and Inclusion Panel Moderator


Alfreda Brown (Panel Moderator)
Vice President, Division of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion
Kent State University


In the fall of 2009, Dr. Alfreda Brown was appointed as the first vice president for the division of diversity, equity and inclusion at Kent State University.  The new division was created as an integral part of the excellence agenda at Kent.  Its mission is to promote diversity, equity and inclusion across all eight Kent State campuses.  Dr. Brown joined Kent State after serving 21 years in various positions at Rochester Institute of Technology including Chair of the Commission for Promoting Pluralism, Assistant Dean and Interim Chief Diversity Officer.  She served as a senior staff member to the institution’s president to implement and coordinate efforts that led toward a multicultural and inclusive campus.

Alfreda’s experience ranges from grassroots mentoring of individuals and underrepresented groups to teaching classes abroad, and leading university and community-wide diversity initiatives. She is a strong advocate for strategic planning and results-oriented assessments to facilitate fact-based decision-making and the continuous improvement of diversity initiatives. Alfreda currently serves on the National Association for Diversity Officers in Higher Education Board of Directors, The Board of Directors for the State of Ohio League of Women Voters (Columbus, OH), The Board of Directors for Portage Medical Center Foundation (Kent, Ohio), Kent Social Services Board and the Board of Directors for League of Women Voters in Kent, Ohio.

Alfreda has responsibility for the executive leadership and management of Kent State University’s diversity and inclusion matters, leading strategic diversity planning for the university and ensuring successful implementation of related policies, programs, and projects.  Dr. Brown holds a bachelor’s degree from Roberts Wesleyan College, a master’s degree from Rochester Institute of Technology and a doctorate degree from Nova Southeastern University.

Kellie Rubense, Senior Council, Progressive Group of Insurance Companies
Kellie Rubense


Kellie Rubense 
Senior Council,
Progressive Group of Insurance Companies


Rubesne is Senior Counsel for Progressive Insurance, where she has practiced for 16+ years. She has a diverse legal practice, including advertising compliance, contracts, copyright and trademark and software licensing. She was a Board member of Progressive’s LGBT+ Employee Resource Group from 2010-2015, where she served as Board Chair for 3 years.      

Robyn Gordon - Director, Center Operations, NASA Glenn Research Center
Robyn Gordon, SWIB Speaker


Robyn Gordon 
Director, Center Operations,
NASA Glenn Research Center


Gordon serves as Director of the Center Operations Directorate at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) John H. Glenn Research Center at Lewis Field in Cleveland, Ohio. In this capacity, she manages organizational objectives, direction, resource allocation and institutional functions. Gordon also coordinates and integrates activities of the institution, which cross directorate organizations.     

Renita Jefferson - Director of Talent Acquisitions, Leadership Development and Diversity & Inclusion, American Greetings
Renita Jefferson, SWIB 2017 Speaker


Renita Jefferson
Director of Talent Acquisitions, 
Leadership Development and Diversity & Inclusion,
American Greetings


Jefferson has a 19-year history with the American Greetings Corporation. During her tenure, she has held leadership roles in the Information Services Division and Human Resources, culminating in her current role as the Director of Leadership Development, Talent Acquisition and Diversity & Inclusion.    Jefferson is a sought after keynote speaker, executive coach, panelist and expert practioner in the areas of Diversity & Inclusion, Employee Engagement, Culture and Organizational Development.        

Breakout 2: Session 5

'Effective Communication Through Your Professional Appearance'

Deborah will reveal proven and practical communication tools that you can begin using right now that are critical for success in whatever career you aspire to have. Confidently presenting yourself is essential to obtaining, succeeding and advancing in your position. In addition, being aware of all aspects of how you speak, dress and act to ensure you are communicating exactly what you are intending. You will feel empowered and motivated to take charge of your professional presence.

- presented by -

Debbie Okey, Associate General Council, Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company
Debbie Okey, SWIB Speaker


Debbie Okey 
Associate General Council, Retired
The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company


Okey was the first woman to serve as Associate General Counsel for The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company since its founding in 1898, and she has held three such roles in her 20-year career at the company. She started at Goodyear as a litigation attorney and then became the first woman to hold the position of Associate General Counsel for Litigation. In 2010, she became the first woman to serve on the leadership team of the largest strategic business unit of Goodyear – North America. Deborah joined with the leadership team in achieving the impressive turnaround of the North America business from a $300 million loss in 2009 to nearly $1 billion in segment operating income in 2014.  After this success, Deborah advanced into her current corporate role.         

Breakout 2: Session 6

'How Does the Great Recession Affect Entrepreneurial Women?'

The goal of my project is to investigate the effect of the Great Recession and subsequent recovery on female entrepreneurship. Specifically, I want to investigate whether the detrimental economic conditions during the Great Recession affected male and female entrepreneurship in different ways both during and after the recession. The literature has shown that in general women are more risk averse relative to men and therefore, the uncertain economic times during the Great Recession could have affected women differently. For instance, risk-averse female entrepreneurs may have had more balanced risk strategies prior to the Great Recession allowing them to weather the economic downturn better. Conversely, risk-averse women may be less likely to start a new venture during the Great Recession and may instead wait until the economy has rebounded. 

- presented by -

Nadia Greenhalgh-Stanley - Associate Professor of Economics, Kent State University
Nadia Greenhalgh-Stanley, SWIB 2017 Speaker


Nadia Greenhalgh-Stanley 
Associate Professor of Economics,
Kent State University


Greenhalgh-Stanley conducts research in the fields of urban economics and public finance.  Her work has been published in journals such as Journal of Urban Economics, Journal of Law and Economics and Real Estate Economics. Her work has been funded by the MacArthur Foundation, United States Department of Agriculture and the Social Security Administration.      

Breakout 3

Breakout 3: Session 7 - Women in Entrepreneurship Panel

'Resources "4" Results'

Join an impressive lineup of successful female entrepreneurs as they share personal stories and strategies for success.  You’ll walk away with at least 4 powerful tools, resources and ideas that will inspire your own actions in the entrepreneurial community and will help you build upon and strengthen relationships that ultimately will lay out the groundwork and a planning map towards your success, involvement and impact as a woman in this action-driven environment. 

Join the LinkedIn Group for strategies and programs discussed in the session and continue to connect.

Join LinkedIn Group

- presented by -

Panel Moderator: Angie Kilgore, Entrepreneurial Talent, Manager of Recruiting and Community Involvement, Jump Start Inc.
Angie Kilgore


Angie Kilgore (Panel Moderator)
Entrepreneurial Talent, Manager of Recruiting and Community Involvement,
JumpStart, Inc.


JumpStart’s talent services help entrepreneurial-minded companies and organizations identify, attract and retain the right talent to help them grow. As Manager of Recruiting and Community Engagement, Angie helps the organization deliver this assistance.

Angie joined JumpStart in March 2014, and she’s lending the extra hand in the hiring hunt for top talent.

Prior to joining JumpStart, Angie was a Recruiting Manager at Robert Half Finance & Accounting, where she divided her time between business development and recruiting functions. In this position, Angie introduced the company’s services to prospective clients and built upon existing client relationships, as well as recruited and placed accounting and finance professionals. Previously, she was a Campus Recruiter for Deloitte in Cleveland—where she coordinated and implemented the interview process for both interns and entry-level candidates—and the Recruiter and Internship Program Director for Cohen & Company. After having two internships under her belt at Cohen & Company in Accounting and HR, she transitioned as their corporate recruiter for the Ohio office locations as well as the southwest Florida-affiliated office and coordinated and supervised the Accounting and the Information Technology internship programs.

Angie holds a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from Youngstown State University.

Angie has also dedicated her time to other popular Cleveland focused organizations such as The Cleveland Professional 20/30 Club (Membership Director, 2009-2010) and (i)Cleveland. Most recently she’s been a very active participant in BvBCLE the Blondes vs. Brunettes Flag Football sensation that has raised millions nationally and is played in more than 40 cities nationwide to help fight Alzheimer’s disease.

Ruth Coleman - CEO, Health Design Plus
Ruth Coleman, SWIB 2017 Speaker


Ruth Coleman 
Health Design Plus



Renee DeLuca Dolan - President, Contempo Communications
Renee DuLuca Dolan, SWIB 2017 Speaker


Renee DeLuca Dolan 
Contempo Communications


2017 Spirit of Women in Business Award Recipient

DeLuca Dolan earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in telecommunications from Kent State University. She is a member of the Kent State College of Business Administration Advisory Board and serves as co-presenting sponsor of the Home-plate Celebration event for Northeast Ohio Adoption Services. In addition, she is on the board of the Warrensville Heights Chamber of Commerce. Prior to founding Contempo Communications in 1996, DeLuca Dolan worked as a visual designer for North Coast Cable and American Greetings.

Contempo Communications provides creative/marketing services, publishing and event marketing services in northeast Ohio. DeLuca Dolan leads a creative team in assisting brand and marketing executives with implementation of their initiatives. Contempo Communications specializes in sports/entertainment industries, professional services companies, non-profit event marketing companies and Fortune 500 firms looking for creative themes and branding for their corporate meetings and events.



Deborah Hoover - President & CEO, Burton D. Morgan Foundation
Deborah Hoover, SWIB Speaker


Deborah Hoover
President & CEO,
Burton D. Morgan Foundation


Since 2007, Deborah Hoover has served as President and CEO of Burton D. Morgan Foundation, a private foundation in Hudson, Ohio, with a mission to champion the entrepreneurial spirit.  Ms. Hoover established the Foundation’s Northeast Ohio Collegiate Entrepreneurship Program, a Kauffman CampusesSM Initiative; and NEOLaunchNET, formerly the Blackstone LaunchPad Program.

Ms. Hoover received the Northeast Ohio EY Entrepreneur of the Year Award in 2014 in the Educational Services & Nonprofit category. category and received the 2015 Foundation Leadership Award from the Association of Fundraising Professionals Greater Cleveland Chapter. She also received the 2016 Deshpande Award for Outstanding Contributions to Advancing Innovation and Entrepreneurship in Higher Education.

She served from 2013-2015 as Chair of the Fund for Our Economic Future. She is Chair of the Advisory Council for the Foundation Center, Midwest and serves on the national Board of The Foundation Center. Ms. Hoover earned her B. A. from Williams College and her J.D. from George Washington University. She is currently pursuing a Ph.D in History at Kent State University. 

Breakout 3: Session 8

'Fill the Confidence Map: Leading Among Men"

How do women lead in a male-dominated environment?  Can the confidence gap for women be overcome?  In this session, you will learn about the various fundamentals of leadership, including tips and lessons the presenter has learned along her career journey.

- presented by -

Diana Strongosky - Senior Vice President, Research and Development, Sherwin Williams
Diana Strongosky


Diana Strongosky 
Senior Vice President, Research and Development,
Sherwin Williams


Diana Strongosky holds a BS degree in chemistry from Kent State University with a specialization in coatings science. After college, she began her career at Sherwin-Williams as a formulation chemist. She has formulated architectural products ranging from house paint, to faux finishes to stains. For the past 28 years, she has held various technical positions at Sherwin-Williams, including manufacturing technical representative, lab group leader and lab manager. Recently, she was the VP of Research and Development for the Diversified Brands Division of Sherwin-Williams, where her responsibilities included research and development of aerosols, caulks and adhesives, applicators, roof coatings and wood stains. For the past six years, she has assumed the role of VP of Research and Development for the Global Supply Chain, where she leads the efforts in developing new products and technologies in support of architectural and light industrial coatings and materials.

Early in her career she was active in the Cleveland Society for Coatings Technology, where she has stayed active in the industry as a previous board member of the Consumer Specialty Products Association. Currently, she is Chairperson for the Science & Technology Committee for the American Coatings Association, is on the Great Lakes Science Center Executive Board of directors, Engineering Visiting Committee for CWRU and is the President of the Board for Brecksville Theatre on the Square. She received a Sherwin-Williams Women of Professional Excellence Award in 2004 and a SW Diversified Brands Division Excellence Achievement Award in 2008.

Location & Directions

  • The 2018 Spirit of Women in Business Conference takes place in the Kent State University Student Center Ballroom, located on the 2nd level of the building.
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Contact Us

Erin Nunn, Career Services Office Director

SWIB Coordinator, Director
Career Services Office
College of Business Administration