women IMPACT virginia - SUMMIT 2022 empowering women in the workplace - Brought to you by Virginia Tech's Outreach and International Affairs - Virginia Tech LOGO
women IMPACT virginia - SUMMIT 2022 empowering women in the workplace - Brought to you by Virginia Tech's Outreach and International Affairs - Virginia Tech LOGO

Previous Sessions

Previous Sessions

2021 Women Impact Virginia virtual series

Women Impact Virginia launched as a virtual series in 2021 and included four quarterly webinars covering topics in sectors including Health Care, Hospitality & Tourism, Nonprofit Organizations, and the Entrepreneurial Mindset. The success of this virtual series led to the creation of a hybrid, annual Summit with the goal of connecting and inspiring women across the Commonwealth. View the information below to learn about past sessions and speakers.

November 17, 2021 - The Entrepreneurial Mindset

November Speakers

Opening Keynote

Kimberly Wimbish, KMK Productions
Kimberly Wimbish is known as a People Connector. She can take any brand, person, place, cause, or mission to create the vision you want with the resources needed to succeed. Kimberly is a mother, entrepreneur, businesswoman, a graduate of Norfolk State University. Most recently, she is a 2020 recipient of Inside Business Forty Under 40 for outstanding young business professionals in Hampton Roads. While moving and shaking the community, she uses her marketing savvy skills and innovative approach to do the back-end work for many nonprofit organizations, small businesses, college universities, celebrity clients, sports management marketing, political campaigns, corporate industry branding, and always giving back to the less fortunate.

Kimberly’s work has appeared on dozens of national television, publications and radio programming just to name a few including Fox News, CNN, BET, Essence, Ebony, Jet, CBN, Washington Post, Vibe, Source, New York Times, Guardian and others. Her connections are endless, and she has the local media market news, radio, podcasts and newspaper on her extensive rolodex too. Kimberly has dedicated her life to paving a way for others, being a mentor and servant to those in need. Her passion is to use her ties to make a better place for all. Kimberly’s work has only begun and she looks forward to seeing what the future holds for her and the lives she will touch.

Fast Track Session: Startup Stories

Abbey & Hayley Hester - The VB Picnic Co.
Abbey and Hayley Hester are 24-year-old twin sisters, best friends, and business partners from Virginia Beach, VIrginia. The sisters graduated from Virginia Tech in 2018 with a Bachelor of Science in Business Information Technology and a concentration in Operations and Supply Chain Management. They went on to work in Big 4 Accounting for 2.5 years with roles as Information Systems Auditors in the Risk Assurance practice. With a passion for entrepreneurship and an online community of over 55,000 women, the duo launched two businesses in September 2020: The VB Picnic Co., a luxury bohemian pop-up picnic company, and Rebel and Wren, an online women’s clothing boutique. Within one month of launching, the 23-year-old sisters resigned from their corporate careers to become full time entrepreneurs. The VB Picnic Co. has been featured in major publications such as Coastal Virginia Bride, The Virginian Pilot, Southern Living Magazine, and Brides Magazine to be recognized as leaders in the boutique event design and micro event industry. The duo opened a brick-and-mortar storefront with their business partner Katie of Long Board Charcuterie in August of 2021. It features luxury beach and picnic retail as well as grab-and-go charcuterie and artisanal food selections.

Courtney Buzzell Riley - Proximo Marketing
Courtney B. Riley is the CEO and visionary behind Proximo Marketing Strategies, an international marketing firm headquartered in the Hampton Roads region of Virginia. Driven by passion and a calling to serve, Courtney leverages her talent for innovative thinking with a genuine enthusiasm for seeing others succeed, to help her clients find and pursue their true purpose while also providing them with the necessary tools to successfully position their brands in the marketplace. With a decade of success behind her, Courtney now focuses her efforts on helping other entrepreneurs, CEOs and visionaries employ the principles of the Love-Centric Business Model to not only achieve success and fulfillment for themselves, their employees, and their customers, but to do it all on their own terms.

Kelli Lemon, Melody Short and Rasheeda Creighton - Jackson Ward Collective

Rasheeda Creighton: During her 15+ year corporate career at a Fortune 100 company, Rasheeda leveraged her law degree to move from negotiating technology contracts to overseeing significant business relationships with large corporations and small businesses alike. Through this work, she learned and honed her expertise in understanding the impact space design can have on operations, and further developed a passion for using her skills to support community focused organizations and entrepreneurs. In 2020, inspired by a sense of purpose leading her down a new path, Rasheeda harnessed her skills and passions into a convergence of business ventures that all work towards a singular path: creating and holding spaces that connect people, particularly Black and Brown people, to opportunities for growth and wealth building, ultimately leading to a path of financial freedom. Finally, Rasheeda is co-founder of The Jackson Ward Collective, a business designed to Learn, Grow and Own in the Black community, by creating a hub for Black business owners of all stages to connect to one another and with partners, service providers and financial resources to grow their businesses. Rasheeda earned her Bachelor’s Degree in English from Spelman College and holds a Juris Doctor from the University of Michigan Law School.. Of the many hats Rasheeda wears, her favorite is being mom to her daughter, Zoe.

Kelli Lemon: Kelli Lemon is a “Social Entrepreneur/Consultant” that is passionate about changing how people “LIVE” Richmond, Virginia. Through Like The Fruit LLC, Kelli socially connects people through food, sports, arts and education. Late 2018 she made her dream a reality and opened her social cafe , Urban Hang Suite , at 304 East Broad Street in historic Jackson Ward. She is also the host of Richmond popular podcast “Coffee with Strangers”. On the weekends, Kelli is making Virginia residents a little richer while supporting public schools K-12 as the day time Draw Show Host for the Virginia Lottery. And most recently, Kelli is also helping Black owned businesses learn, grow and own as a co-founder of the Jackson Ward Collective, LLC. Kelli also hosts various social events including The Richmond Jazz Festival, After Hours at The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Family Day at Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens and Controversy History at The Valentine Museum. She’s also assisted in creating unique urban events in RVA including, HeART & Soul Brew Fest, Virginia (Richmond) Black Restaurant Experience, Ready 2 Give Charity Events, The Art of Noise and Made By RVA Creative Market. Kelli got her Bachelor of Science degree from UVA and Master’s in Education from VCU.

Melody Short: Melody Short is a graduate of Morgan State University’s Earl Graves School of Business and a marketing executive, focused on business development and brand development for minority owned businesses. Melody jump-started her career in the Urban Marketing Department of Sony Music Distribution. Her career in the music industry afforded her the opportunity to establish relationships with small business owners in the Mid-Atlantic, Northeast and Southwest markets. This proved pivotal to Melody’s career, because it’s where she developed a passion for supporting small business owners. As an entrepreneur and co-founder of the Richmond Night Market, she supports small business owners and independent artists in areas to include public relations, marketing and business development. Melody is the former Director of Marketing and Business Development for the largest collection of Black-owned Inns in the United States, Akwaaba Bed & Breakfast Inns and was featured as part of the cast of their television show, on the OWN Network, Checked Inn. Melody currently serves the small business community of Richmond, Virginia with a focus on minority and women owned businesses as the Director of Marketing & Communications at the Metropolitan Business League, and as the Co-founder of The Jackson Ward Collective, an incubator for Black business owners and selected partners to share resources, experiences and expertise to build and grow strong, sustainable Black owned businesses in Richmond, VA. In addition, Melody serves on the board of the Afrikana Independent Film Festival, ChamberRVA, The Valentine Museum, CultureWorks, Minority Business Enterprise and Emerging Small Business Advisory Board for the City of Richmond and most recently, the Venture Richmond Economic Opportunity Committee. All this while managing her most important role of all—mother to 13-year old Nia Abiose.

Kat Pascal - FarmBurguesa
Kat Pascal, Coowner of Spotless America (commercial cleaning company) Co Owner of Farmburguesa and CoFounder of Nuestro Comercio Latino & Latinas Network

Breakout Sessions:


Jess Edwards - Dan River Region Entrepreneur Ecosystem
Jess Edwards is a project-based Ecosystem Builder. She currently serves as the Principal of the Dan River Region Entrepreneur Ecosystem (DRREE) in Southern Virginia. With a robust experience in ecosystem building, Edwards was previously the director of outreach and engagement for the Alaska Ocean Cluster Initiative, where her work focused on cultivating strategic partnerships, developing innovative programming and creating a statewide leadership summit, all in an effort to accelerate Alaska’s ocean (blue) economy development.

A graduate of the State University of New York at Buffalo, Edwards holds a bachelor’s degree in political science. She is a WNY BETA finalist for “Best Buffalo Community Tech Contribution of the Year” and a recipient of “Buffalo 30 Under 30” award. She has served as a panelist or guest speaker at events all over the world, including the Nigeria Social Media Summit, the Dubai Lynx – International Festival of Creativity and MaRS Toronto. Jess’s work focuses on strategically implementing innovative concepts to advance entrepreneurial ecosystems.


Dr. Mary Miller, Regional Accelerator and Mentoring Program
Prior to becoming Director of RAMP, Dr. Mary Guy Miller was president and founder of Interactive Design and Development, Inc., an award-winning IT firm in Blacksburg, Virginia. Under her leadership, IDD served a wide range of organizations, including Fortune 500 companies, for more than 27 years. Additionally, Mary has provided IT solutions for the Defense Intelligence Agency, the Smithsonian Institution, and the Library of Congress. Mary was a founding member and former president of the RBTC and has served on many boards and advisory committees, including Virginia Tech’s College of Engineering Committee of 100. Mary received her master’s of information science , as well as her doctorate in instructional design from Virginia Tech. When she’s not working, Mary enjoys traveling with her husband and spending time with her grandchildren.

Social Impact

Nicole McGrew - Threadleaf
Nicole McGrew is the founder and owner of Threadleaf, a women’s lifestyle boutique focused on responsibly-made, fashion-forward clothing and accessories. Located in Old Town, Alexandria since 2018, the shop has been recognized by several media outlets, including Southern Living, Northern Virginia Magazine, the Washingtonian, the Alexandria Times and NBC News, and has become a destination shop for women looking for the best in ethical fashion. A graduate of Georgetown University Law Center,

Nicole practiced law in the area of criminal law and policy for 12 years prior to opening Threadleaf — as an associate at Morrison & Foerster, an Assistant General Counsel at the U.S. Department of Justice Office of Justice Programs, and as Deputy General Counsel at the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy during the Obama Administration. In addition to running Threadleaf, Nicole currently serves on the board of the Alexandria Chamber of Commerce and is a member of the board’s Governance Sub-Committee. She is also on the Visit Alexandria Board of Governors and the board of the Arcadia Center for Sustainable Food and Agriculture. Nicole is also a 2021 graduate of the Goldman Sach’s 10,000 Small Businesses Program and is the recipient of the Alexandria Chamber of Commerce 2019 Best in Business: Rising Star Award.


Christie Funk - NASA
Christie Funk is NASA’s Technology Transfer Expansion (T2X) program manager. She has been at NASA since 2008 and her career has spanned across disciplines ranging from aerospace engineering to space technology and now to entrepreneurship and economic impact initiatives. In her current role, she focuses on NASA tech-based startup generation and developing pipelines for successful entrepreneurship. Highlighting her work in Virginia, Christie works in partnership with the Tech Center Research Park’s Accelerator Network Program and in collaboration with Virginia Tech’s EMBA program to reach within academia, advance technology, and accelerate business creation. Christie holds a B.S. in Business Management, a Master of Aeronautical Science, and an M.S. in Aerospace Engineering.

Hokie Highlight

Sarah Wray - Virginia Tech Reynolds Homestead & College Access Collaborative
Sarah Wray serves as the Assistant Program Coordinator at the Reynolds Homestead and as the Regional Outreach Coordinator for Virginia Tech’s College Access Collaborative. She holds an undergraduate degree from James Madison University where she studied Early Childhood Education and is currently actively pursuing a Masters degree in Urban and Regional Planning from Virginia Tech. Sarah has spent the last decade working in formal and informal educational spheres and has a passion for engaging with students to help them reach their full potential. She is active in the local community and continues to pursue programs, initiatives and opportunities to support the needs of the region. She is a low ropes challenge course and AIR Institute facilitator and enjoys working with students, adults and organizations to develop leadership skills and build productive teams. Sarah co-founded a nonprofit organization, One Family Productions, with her husband in 2013 which works to support community enrichment and growth through the creation of meaningful partnerships and accessible events. She has owned and operated her own business, served as president of the Patrick County Chamber of Commerce, led the initiative to create the Patrick County Young Professionals, and continues to find new ways in which to serve the community.

Chiny Driscoll - MetiStream & Virginia Tech Apex Center for Entrepreneurs
Chiny Driscoll is MetiStream’s founder and CEO. She has more than 24 years of management and executive leadership experience in the technology industry, having served in a variety of roles with Fortune 500 tech companies. Prior to founding MetiStream, Chiny was the Worldwide Executive Leader of Big Data Services for IBM’s Information Management division. There, she led all of the professional services which implemented and supported IBM’s Big Data products and solutions across industries such as financial services, communications and retail. Key solutions included streaming, Hadoop, and appliance related solutions. Before IBM, Chiny was the VP and GM of Netezza (a leader in Big Data warehouse appliances and advanced analytics) and a Practice Director with TIBCO Software (a leader in integration and event processing solutions).

Kelli Jones - Tech Center Research Park
Kelli is the Administrative and Events Coordinator at Tech Center Research Park. In this role, Kelli leads all administrative duties and coordinates events for the research park. With a firm belief in innovation, Kelli supports the park Director, Jeff Johnson, in growing businesses that matter.

Kelli has a diverse background center around media, human services, and hospitality. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Mass Communications, Media Production, from Shaw University, and a Master of Business Administration from Saint Leo University.

Kelli is a native of Newport News, VA and enjoys giving back to her community. She is a dedicated member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., and a devoted fitness enthusiast. Kelli enjoys reading, researching, and caring for her English Bulldog ,Nelly.

Closing Keynote

Chandra Briggman - Activation Capital
Chandra Briggman is President and CEO of Activation Capital, a leading innovation ecosystem development organization providing social, knowledge, and financial capital to tech clusters across the Commonwealth of Virginia.

Before being named the CEO in May 2020, Chandra was Director of Venture Café Foundation located in Cambridge, MA, and was responsible for the strategy and operations of the global network’s flagship Venture Café Cambridge innovation hub. Before her work in ecosystem development in Massachusetts, she held innovation roles with the United States Postal Service in Washington, DC, culminating with her work as the Director of Digital Platforms and the Innovation Lab. Her prior experience comprised leadership roles with multiple startups, including Founder as a serial entrepreneur.

Chandra earned her Bachelor’s degree in the Humanities from Columbia International University, a Master’s in Marketing from Johns Hopkins University, and an MBA from Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

August 25, 2021

The audience was welcomed by Dr. Susan Short, Associate Vice President for Engagement, Virginia Tech, who recognized the leadership from women across the Commonwealth in the nonprofit industry, along with the work being done by the university to further their land grant mission.

The session was opened by Abby Hamilton, President and CEO of United Way of Roanoke Valley. Abby shared her life’s work which has had a special emphasis on collective impact, specifically building and growing collaborations among multiple organizations to achieve community wide outcomes on key issues; and empowering communities to be part of that grassroots effort.. Participants experienced three fast-track, each with a different topic and three speakers. Speakers provided a dynamic overview of their business/organization and how they are addressing the given topic in their work.

Board and Membership Management

  • Blair Durham, Black BRAND
  • Charm Bullard, Virginia Center for Inclusive Communities
  • Kristie Helmick Proctor, Center for Rural Virginia & Council for Rural Virginia

Volunteerism and Stakeholder Engagement

  • Trinity Villanueva, Public Art Reston
  • Joanie Petty, Boys & Girls Club of Blue Ridge
  • Hope Sinclair, Ph.D., Communities in Schools of Hampton Roads

Financial Management and Fundraising

  • Sharhonda Woods, ForKids
  • Candra Parker, CultureWorks
  • Tiffany Haworth, Dan River Basin Association

A Hokie Highlight showcased Virginia Tech partnerships and initiatives in Hospitality & Tourism that are extending the Ut Prosim (That I May Serve) motto and land grant mission. A panel of Hokies shared their experiences:

  • Julie Walters-Steele, Virginia Tech Reynolds Homestead
  • Tonya Price, Ph.D., Virginia Tech Cooperative Extension
  • Sara Steinert Borella, Ph.D., Virginia Tech Steger Center for International Scholarship

The day was wrapped up with knowledge and experience shared by Jennifer Thomas, Executive Director - Virginia Association of Museums. She shared her crooked road to leadership and 12 lessons that have helped her become the successful person she is today.

May 26, 2021

Women Impact Virginia hosted its second session on Hospitality & Tourism on May 26, 2021.

The audience was welcomed by Dr. Susan Short, Associate Vice President for Engagement, Virginia Tech, who recognized the leadership from women across the Commonwealth in the hospitality and tourism industries, along with the work being done by the university to further their land grant mission.

The session was opened by Rita McClenny, president and CEO of Virginia Tourism Corporation. Rita shared her experiences working for the state agency charged with marketing the Commonwealth as a premier travel destination and film location.

Participants experienced three fast-track, each with a different topic and three speakers. Speakers provided a dynamic overview of their business/organization and how they are addressing the given topic in their work.

  • Diversity & Inclusion:
    • Eola L. Dance, Fort Monroe National Monument
    • Alex Conner, Starr Hill Roanoke Pilot Brewery & Side Stage
    • Katy Brown, Barter Theatre
  • Sustainability:
    • Beth Brummel, Wolf Trap
    • Idalina Walker, Friends of Southwest Virginia
    • Bridgette Bywater, Kings Dominion at Cedar Fair Entertainment Company
  • Innovative COVID Pivots:
    • Julee Midden, Primland Resort
    • Lisa Pacheco, JEMS Hospitality Group
    • Kisha Moore, Hummingbird Macarons & Desserts

After participants enjoyed a facilitated networking session, a Hokie Highlight showcased Virginia Tech partnerships and initiatives in Hospitality & Tourism that are extending the Ut Prosim (That I May Serve) motto and land grant mission. A panel of Hokies shared their experiences:

  • Laurie Bond, The Inn at Virginia Tech and Skelton Conference Center
  • Elizabeth Sandoz, The Hotel Roanoke & Conference Center
  • Dr. Kristin Lamoureux, Virginia Tech’s Howard Fieretag Department of Hospitality & Tourism Management

The day was wrapped up with knowledge and experience shared by Dr. Melissa Baker, director of Virginia State Parks. She oversees the operation of the 40 state park system with an estimated visitation of 7.8 million visitors per year. She is the eighth director in the Virginia State Parks’ 85-year history and the first woman to serve in that role.

January 27, 2021

Women Impact Virginia kicked off its first session focusing on Healthcare on Jan. 27, 2021.

This half day session was stacked with successful and experienced women eager to share their stories, advice and tips for successful leadership.

Opening Keynote, Dr. Angela Reddix, is the CEO of ARDX, a multi-million-dollar award-winning healthcare management and IT consulting firm with approximately 100 employees dedicated to improving the lives of our nation’s most vulnerable populations. Angela is an entrepreneur, philanthropist, author, TEDx speaker, professor, wife and mother.

An engaging and interactive networking session was facilitated by Elizabeth Duncan-Hawker of Red Hawk Strategic Solutions, providing all participants an opportunity to build their professional network by connecting with women leaders across the Commonwealth.

Dr. Natalie Cook, Public Health professor at Virginia Tech moderated the panel discussion that featured stories of struggle and success in healthcare, showcasing these leaders:

  • Nancy Bell, Population Health Manager for Virginia’s Department of Health’s West Piedmont Health District
  • Linday Talley Vice President and Chief Nursing Officer at Children’s National Medical Center in Washington DC
  • Dr. Maria Almond, rural Psychiatrist with the Centra medical Group in Farmville, Virginia

Closing Keynote, Amy Taloma, serves as Coordinator for Healthcare Programs at Community College Workforce Alliance where she develops healthcare certification programs for adult learners.

Sign up for our mailing list!

Share this site.

Virginia Tech - Invent the Future   Continuing & Professional Education @ Virginia Tech