Everyday challenges make us question who we are. The stories of struggle, diligence, and perseverance get us through. What is your story?

 

2016 Speakers and Peformers

Brian Slawin

A former radio host, instructor pilot, airshow performer, ski bum, software developer, college professor and entrepreneur, Brian Slawin's life is characterized by the phrase; "Let's try that!".  So, when Brian was invited to come to Erie, he couldn’t wait to start his next great adventure.  A native of St. Louis, Brian is a Portfolio Manager and the Regional Director for the Ben Franklin Technology PArtners, always on the lookout for great companies in which to invest.  After exiting his final startup in 2015, the opportunity to combine his three greatest passions presented itself but, along the way, he was continuously asked one question unique to the people of his new hometown.  That question forms the basis of his TEDxErie talk and is the launch point for how we view ourselves and the limits we place on our community. An international speaker and presenter, broadly described as engaging, supportive and committed, Brian brings a fresh perspective on the diamond, hidden amidst our challenges, and how "Let's Try That!" can move an entire community forward. A passionate advocate for entrepreneurs, Brian is inspired by big ideas and shares his thoughts @BenFrankBrian

Sean Fedorko

Sean Fedorko is a founding member of Radius CoWork, a community of startups, freelancers, and remote employees in a professional coworking space. As point person for a coworking community, Sean advocates for cooperative work environments, where diverse people and professions can connect, assist, and enjoy one another. Prior to his role at Radius CoWork, Sean had worked for the NWPA Tech Council and conducted telecommunications policy research in Washington, DC. On any given day you can find Sean kayaking, introducing people to one another, drinking whiskey, and tweeting relentlessly. Sean holds a Bachelor’s degree in political science and philosophy from Mercyhurst University and a Master’s in public policy and political theory from Indiana University, Bloomington.

 

Dr. Maurice “Reese” Flurie

After 25 years as a traditional public school educator and administrator throughout central Pennsylvania, Dr. Maurice “Reese” Flurie serves Commonwealth Charter Academy families by combining the best elements of traditional public education with the flexibility inherent in public virtual education. Dr. Flurie came to CCA as assistant CEO in 2009 and was named CEO of Commonwealth Charter Academy in 2011. In this role, he leads a team of public educators and support staff that includes 500 professionals, who serve more than 8,000 students in grades K-12 across Pennsylvania. Dr. Flurie previously served as assistant to the superintendent at Lower Dauphin School District and as a building-level administrator and teacher at secondary schools throughout the central Pennsylvania region. Dr. Flurie also shares his expertise as an adjunct instructor at Wilkes University, teaching graduate courses in educational law, current issues in education, school finance and educational psychology. Dr. Flurie is a trustee and member of the leadership council for Pennsylvania Coalition of Public Charter Schools. Dr. Flurie received a bachelor's degree from Lock Haven University and a master’s degree from Tennessee Technological University. He received a master’s degree and superintendent letter of eligibility from Shippensburg University. He also received a doctoral degree from Duquesne University.

Rebecca Styn

Rebecca is an Erie native currently working towards her Ph.D. in Organizational Leadership at Gannon University. Throughout her career, Rebecca has dedicated her energy to advancing community-oriented organizations, including the Clinical Practices of LECOM, the Erie Art Museum, SafeNet and Safe Harbor Behavioral Health. She has run for local political office, helped many other candidates get elected and served as contributing editor and writer for the Erie Reader, penning bi-monthly columns focusing on the issues that affect our city.  Through this, she has demonstrated a resolve to servicing entities that serve the community. Currently, Rebecca serves as Foundation Director for the Regional Cancer Center. She is a board member the Public Relations Society of NWPA, and until recently served on the Erie Metropolitan Transit Authority. She has also previously served in executive board roles for the Erie Art Museum, the Flagship Niagara League, and several other local non-profit organizations. Rebecca holds a master’s degree in Public Administration from Gannon, and bachelor of music in piano performance from Mercyhurst University. www.smahrtgroup.com

Erik Lehmann

Erik grew up on Long Island, and graduated with a B.S. in Human Development and Family Studies from Cornell University.  In his graduate work at Cornell University, he studied Program Evaluation and Planning.  Since then, Erik has opened a restaurant that served French Bread Pizza, raised money for several organizations including Cornell University, fathered three amazing children, run three marathons, and served as a pharmaceutical representative. Erik plans to spend the rest of his life in "Pay It Forward" mode!  The Game Changer Movement and co-authoring a book called "Conscious Disruption" occupy most of Erik's professional time.  The mission of the Game Changer Movement is to inspire at least one million youth to change their game by trading in violent video games and redirecting their time towards the making of mosaic art and the creation of a new gaming platform that will crowdsource solutions to the real-world challenges facing humanity.   The gaming platform that the Game Changer Movement is co-creating will introduce gamers to a Game Changing material known as Graphene.  When Graphene meets the wonders of the gaming world and the gaming world meets graphene, the possibilities and the applications are limitless.  There are Billions of hours available for redirection from violence to proactive solutions, and more information can be found at www.gamechangermovement.com!

Emily Smith

Emily Smith is a native of Scranton, Pennsylvania. She now resides in Fairfax, Virginia, where she is a sophomore in George Mason University’s undergraduate psychology program. She is also minoring in photography, her lifelong passion. When not studying, she is an advocate for mental health and disability rights because of the firsthand experience she has with both subjects. She has participated in many lobbying events on Capitol Hill for complex rehab technology and other disability issues. In addition to this, she is a writer for The Odyssey, a university wide publication, where she writes about her experiences and life lessons she has learned from growing up with an estranged mother who was ridden with a drug addiction. Her volunteer work includes the Muscular Dystrophy Association as well as mentoring children with disabilities and working with literacy foundations to offer children the gift of reading and education. Her future plans include going to graduate school and becoming a drug and alcohol addictions counselor.

Jeff Bloodworth

Jeff is an associate professor of history and chair of the department of history & archaeology at Gannon University (Erie, PA). He holds a Ph.D. in modern United States history from Ohio University’s Contemporary History Institute and a certificate in contemporary history from the University of Copenhagen. He specializes in twentieth century political history. His book, Losing the Center: The Decline of American Liberalism 1968-1992 (University of Kentucky Press) was nominated for the Ellis W. Hawley and Frederick Jackson Turner awards. In addition, he has published articles and op-eds in Political Science & Politics, Wisconsin Magazine of History, The Historian, Pacific Northwest Quarterly, Just Security, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Wichita Eagle, and additional journals and newspapers. Bloodworth has received and earned grants and fellowships from presidential libraries, research repositories, and educational institutes throughout the United States as well as Germany, Israel, and Poland.

 

Kemi Sorinmade

An Engineer turned speaker, trainer and coach, Kemi Sorinmade works with organizations and individuals to help them raise their leadership awareness so that they can perform at their best and achieve their goals. While an engineer, her passion for entrepreneurship, teaching and writing was always at the forefront of her mind; as a result, she always had a side venture going while working professionally. She soon discovered that true success and fulfillment came from purpose and passion. She eventually started the Growth studio, a performance improvement and leadership development firm based in Massachusetts. She has spoken at various conferences and events and often infuses the concept of the collision of passion and purpose into her presentations. Learn more about Kemi and the Growth Studio at www.thegrowth-studio.com

 

Heather Cole

Heather Cole, a northwestern Pennsylvania native, is a Lecturer of Digital Arts at Penn State University, The Behrend College. She graduated from Edinboro University with a Bachelors of Fine Arts in Applied Media Arts. From there, she attained a Master of Fine Arts in Interdisciplinary Arts at Goddard College in Vermont while simultaneously working towards a K-12 certification in the Arts at Edinboro University.  During all of that, she also managed to bring two wonderful (and devilishly spunky) children into the world. The jury is still out as to whether they'll help inspire progress or doom us for all eternity. As one of the leading faculty members of the Digital Media, Arts, and Technology major at Penn State Behrend she tries her best to share her energy for innovation and excitement of the field with students and the public. She does this through the coordination of free public events on campus such as Art Shows and Festivals as well as multiple collaborations across disciplines.  Her current research inquiries include game development, augmented reality, and generative art.  www.heathercole.net

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