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Panelists

Kristen Smitherman-Voltaire: Community and Citizenship Manager at Turner Construction. Kristen manages the company’s community outreach and economic inclusion efforts. In her role, she applies her unique combination of community engagement, equity and inclusion, and project management experience to cultivate sustainable economic impact for underrepresented businesses and inspire the next generation of go-getters to imagine themselves in a fulfilling career in the construction industry. She also co-founded and co-leads Turner’s Ohio Inclusion Action Team, the first regional model at Turner designed to enact an anti-racism strategy. She earned a dual bachelor’s degree in Spanish and International Studies from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor and a master of science in Executive Leadership and Organizational Change from Northern Kentucky University. She is also a certified project manager, proud alumna of Leadership Northern Kentucky 2015, Outstanding Women of Northern Kentucky Emerging Leader recipient, and graduate of the YWCA Rising Stars Leadership Program. Kristen is in her element when she contributes her time to supporting and advocating for improved health and well-being of those who are most vulnerable, underrepresented, and often forgotten. To align her community work with her personal passions, she proudly serves on the City of Cincinnati Human Services Advisory Council, the St. Elizabeth Healthcare Strategic Planning Committee, the Northern Kentucky Chamber Board of Directors, the Northern Kentucky GROW NKY Initiative Diversity and Inclusion Sub-Committee, and the Northern Kentucky Chamber Gateways for Growth Immigrant Integration Taskforce.

 

Karen Cheser, Ed.D., is Superintendent of nationally-recognized Fort Thomas Independent Schools and was formerly Deputy Superintendent/ CAO of Boone County Schools. Prior to working in education as a teacher, coach, literacy and math specialist, principal, Distinguished Educator and district administrator, Karen worked for Procter & Gamble Inc. in sales management. Karen has been instrumental in bringing innovation, student agency, and a focus on future workforce to Northern KY through such projects as the NKY MakerSpace, Ignite Institute, Launch@20 Grand, LEGO League Robotics and the NKY Entrepreneurship Council. Karen is national Vice-Chair of EdLeader21, a member of the CoSN National Superintendents’ Panel, Chair of the Leadership NKY Council, GROW NKY Pillar 2 Lead, and serves on the NKY Chamber of Commerce Executive Committee, Greater Cincinnati STEM Collaborative Advisory Council, Greater Cincinnati Service Learning Executive Committee, NKU’s Community Engagement Board and has been the co-chair of NKY Education Council’s College and Career Readiness Coalition for 10 years. Karen is a 2019 Ruth A. Eger Leader of Distinction, was the 2016 Toyota/ Storer Business Collaboration Award winner, a 2015 AASA National Woman Administrator of the Year Award finalist, Vision 2015 Champion of Education, a 2015 Outstanding Woman of NKY, KY District Administrator of the Year (2013), and A.D. Albright Outstanding Administrator (NKY Chamber of Commerce, 2009). Karen earned an Ed.D. (Educational Leadership and Business Informatics) from NKU, (with B.A., M.Ed. degrees, and other coursework from WKU, NKU, and UK) and has presented at numerous conferences, on topics such as designing innovation, strategic planning, process improvement, student empowerment, global competency, 21st century skills, dispositional hiring and leading higher academic standards. Karen is mom to two teenage sons, wife to a digital designer/teacher, loves to travel, and coaches robotics in her spare time.

 

Michael Hall is currently the Cards Collections Director for Citi located in Florence, KY supporting various Citi Retail Services portfolios. He has over 30 years of financial services experience and began his career with Citi 22 years ago with Citi’s acquisition of the Sears Credit Card portfolio. He then joined the Chief of Staff Office supporting Collections North America Operations and Technology. In 2012, Michael moved to Florence, KY as the SVP of Citi Mortgage Collections until accepting his current role in March 2016 supporting Citi Retail Services Cards Collections.

Michael obtained a Bachelor of Science Degree in Accounting from Kent State University and is a graduate of American Bankers Association School of Bank Card Management. He is on the Board of Directors of Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, as well as, a member of GROW NKY (Growing Regional Outcomes through Workforce) and Business Action Committee for Tri-Ed. In addition, he previously served on the TRI-ED/TRI-EF Board of Directors and a graduate of Leadership NKY “Best Class Ever – 2016”. Michael and his wife Mary are also a part of the Ryle High School Marching Band Boosters. Michael is an Honorary Kentucky Colonel, the highest title of honor bestowed by the Commonwealth of Kentucky.

During his free time, Michael enjoys golfing, camping, gaming and spending time with his wife Mary and daughter Meredith (16). He currently resides in Union, Kentucky.

 

Tara Johnson-Noem is Associate Director of Workforce for the Northern Kentucky Area Development District (NKADD) and Director of the Northern Kentucky Workforce Investment Board (NKWIB). Tara has worked for organizations including Tri-ED, Vision 2015, Catalytic Fund and United Way of Greater Cincinnati in roles blending community engagement, economic development, and government relations since earning her Masters of Community Planning degree from University of Cincinnati in 2004. Prior to that time, Johnson-Noem worked in communications and government affairs in the private sector. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in International Relations and Spanish from Centre College. Tara is an active volunteer with Cub Scout Pack 367 and the Dan Beard Council Trailblazer District. She is also a member of the Board of Trustees for Behringer-Crawford Museum, where she has begun to host weekly interviews with local experts for NKY History Hour. She lives with her husband and three children in Fort Mitchell.