Ron Green is a former editor and editorial manager with Hallmark Cards. He founded and led Hallmark’s Creative University program where he was responsible for training over 1400 talented professionals from a wide range of creative occupations. Ron retired from Hallmark in August of 2012. He now works as a consultant for Mizzou Advantage’s Media of the Future program and serves as the Executive Director of the Digital Storytelling Center of Kansas City. He is currently working to establish a center for digital storytelling that will advance the digital media industry in our region, provide training and development for industry professionals and those desiring a career in digital storytelling including underprivileged kids in the urban core. He is working with others to locate this center in the Laugh-O-Gram building at 31st & Forest where Walt Disney launched his animation business.LinkedIn Profile
Dan Viets is an attorney in private practice in Columbia, MO. He is a former president of the Missouri Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, former chair of the board of the Mid-Missouri ACLU, former president of the University of Missouri student body and former chair of the City of Columbia Human Rights Commission.
Mr. Viets was the recipient of the 1993 Martin Luther King Association’s “Keeping the Dream Alive” award and the 1995 Mid-Missouri “Civil Libertarian of the Year.” He received the 2005 Atticus Finch Outstanding Criminal Defense Lawyer award from the Missouri Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. In January, 2006, he received the Trailblazer award from the Mid-Missouri NAACP.
Dan is a movie and animation buff as well as a Walt Disney historian. He is co-author of the book, “Walt Disney’s Missouri: The Roots of a Creative Genius” published by the KC Star, and he is the author of several articles about Disney. Dan lectured for many years about Walt Disney’s life and work for the Missouri Humanities Council. He has made presentations to Disney employees at both Disneyland in California and Walt Disney World in Florida. He also currently serves as President of Thank You Walt Disney, a Kansas City non-profit organization that rescued the crumbling Laugh-O-Gram building near 31st & Troost–Walt Disney’s first professional film studio.
An electrical engineer turned creative, Louis Byrd runs the day-to-day operations at Mellie Blue, a Kansas City blended branding agency. He leads the creative and strategic direction of the team on various projects that involve the development of brand strategy and supplemental brand identity components. He loves to tell great stories through cinematography and various forms of design.
His background enables him to utilize his analytical and advanced problem solving skills to formulate solutions for branding. Byrd’s goal is to defy the conventional way of brand development and management.
Zena Weist is an integrated media strategist with over 20 years of B2C and B2B leadership in business planning, change management and marketing on the brand, interactive agency and vendor sides. Zena has provided brand management and digital strategic counsel across a portfolio of Fortune 500 companies including Disney, Sprint, Hallmark and H&R Block. In 2011, Zena was named one of the 25 Women Who Rock Social Media from TopRank.
Zena has led award-winning teams in online brand management, integrated marketing communications, social media strategy, and project management. She recently accepted her dream NPO role leading integrated marketing for Catholic Charities of Northeast Kansas.
Her digital strategy work has been featured in seven business books and The Harvard Business Review. She was a founding member of the Kansas City Social Media Club. She received her undergraduate degree in Journalism with an emphasis in Advertising from University of Kansas (#RCJH) and her MBA in Direct Marketing from UMKC.
Gregory L. Vermillion is vice president of accounting analysis for AMC Entertainment Inc. (AMC), where he oversees AMC’s accounting analysis and reconciliation functions.
Vermillion began his AMC career in 1988 as an accountant in the financial reporting group. In 1995 he became controller of AMC’s west division operations and then was advanced to director of theatre accounting in 2001. In August 2006 he was promoted to his current position of vice president.
During his tenure, Vermillion has been involved in numerous financial initiatives, including acquisitions of the General Cinemas and Loews and Kerasotes theatre chains, and has served on the Diversity Council and Workplace Quality Task Force committees at AMC.
Prior to joining AMC, Vermillion worked in public accounting and private industry, focusing primarily on the airline and retail industries.
Vermillion holds a Bachelor of Science degree in accounting from Kansas State University. He currently serves as a mentor in the K-State Business Executive Mentor Program.
April Leonard, better known as “April Dion,” is a professional model who has lent her likeness to projects for companies such as: E A Bridal, MTV, Hallmark, the Kansas City Star, and many local designers around Kansas City, MO. She now services the fashion community as a Model Coach and a Strategic Communications expert.
April studied under the Pre-Law program at the University of Central Missouri, receiving a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science, and a Master of Arts degree in Communications. As a frequent dean’s list student, April was initiated into the highly selective McNair Scholars research program, while simultaneously developing her professional experience through participation in multiple internships. During college, April served as a frequent freelance Public Relations Assistant for Black Entertainment Television (BET) red carpet events. She also worked at a celebrity entertainment public relations firm.
Motivating others energizes April; she had the opportunity to accomplish this goal through women’s retreats and workshops she organized through her company Driven To Inspire U, LLC. Most notably, April delivered a speech at the Missouri State Capitol where she was able to encourage a diverse crowd that included public officials from the Missouri Lieutenant Governor’s office, media, and local citizens.
Previously, April interned for two NBC Universal Companies: the Style Network, where she eagerly served the communications department as the Public Relations Intern, and Broadway Video, where she operated as the Production Intern. April’s ambition earned her the opportunity to be selected for the 2012 NBCU “Intern Pilot Pitch program.” During this project, her peers elected her as the Associate Producer. April also served as the Public Relations Assistant for Rose by Vanessa Jean, a clothing line by celebrity designer Vanessa Simmons. One of the most notable projects she contributed to while working for Rose by Vanessa Jean was working public relations on-site for the brand’s premier at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Miami.
Currently, April serves as the Social Media Manager for a nonprofit organization called Rightfully Sewn, where she merges her passion for serving the community, fashion, and education.
Carrie Coogan is the Deputy Director at the Kansas City Public Library. She fosters the involvement of the Kansas City Public Library as a vital part of Kansas City, providing free access to information and resources for every member of the community, encouraging literacy, supporting lifelong learning through an array of public programs, bridging the digital divide by providing free access to the Internet, using innovative solutions to enhance services and resources to the community and serving as a gracious space for community gatherings. She has been a part of a number of successful innovative initiatives for the library including the development of a gigabit solution called the Software Lending Library, an award winning digital encyclopedia, and the Community of Readers Initiative. Currently she is working with others in the community to develop a comprehensive and collaborative solution to bridge the digital divide in Kansas City and leading efforts in the library investigating ways to take advantage of the gigabit connectivity to provide enhanced resources and services to the community such as Hotspot Lending Programs, Connect Home and Connect Ed programming, Career Online High School, gigabit laboratories, an online academy using local content, and digital storytelling.
Prior to this she served as the Executive Director of Literacy Kansas City. In addition to her leadership work for non-profits, Carrie has an extensive background in television and radio. She spent 13 years as an on-air reporter for Fox4 News, WDAF-TV, and she spent six years as a co-host of a local morning radio show. Carrie is a founding member of the Kansas City Digital Inclusion Coalition and the National Digital Inclusion Alliance and is also a member of Schools, Health, Libraries and Broadband Coalition. In her spare time Carrie is an avid reader, runner, and favorite aunt of 18 nieces and nephews.
Dr. Cynthia Garrety is a former early childhood teacher and serves the Hickman Mills C-1 School District as an Instructional Technology Facilitator. Dr. Garrety taught for much of her early childhood teaching career without technology but in her tenth year the district decided to place a computer and software in her classroom. Since she was not afraid to troubleshoot the device she soon became the technology coordinator and her room was the first in the district to have internet access. She took advantage of an opportunity to learn more about technology when she joined the Early Childhood Papert Partnership and worked with Dr. Seymour Papert, involving her students in Mindstorm Robotics using adapted Duplos and iBooks with LOGO. Her love of using technology tools to support learning lead her to graduate school where she earned her MS and PhD in Curriculum and Instruction with an emphasis in Instructional Technology and Digital Storytelling. She taught for several years at the college level before moving to Kansas City, MO to join the Hickman Mills C-1 School District. Dr. Garrety has presented at conferences both internationally and nationally and enjoys sharing her experiences with both teachers and students. One of Dr. Garrety’s favorite quotes is by Jason Ohler and speaks to her passion for encouraging students to produce work with an audience in mind, “To be fully literate we must be able to write well whatever we read, and we must be able to produce whatever we consume. This means being able to write new media.”Linked-In Profile
Jaime Sanchez is a founding partner and consultant for Blue Swivel Consulting, providing work process enhancements to accelerate capabilities and grow revenue for creative work groups. He also owns Southside Fitness Gym in Raymore, Mo.
Jaime is a former Design Director for Hallmark Cards, retiring in July of 2012. He provided key leadership initiatives in various creative departments for Hallmark Cards, Inc. for over 30 years. Jaime led teams that established the Hallmark brand through creative marketing solutions, he was critical to developing the digital infrastructure for creative product design and he led Hallmark.com teams for online presence of digital consumer products. Jaime created Hallmark's first multimedia studio, developing roles and hiring talent to support new media innovative ventures for story telling. His background as an artist and designer and his passion to motivate and lead are key to embracing unique challenges.
Kathy Mustoe’s unique and diverse background includes more than 20 years of experience working as a public relations and marketing communications strategist for programs with national reach. Over the years she has built on that extensive experience by developing and executing communication strategies for Fortune 500 companies, start-ups, established and public companies in a variety of industries including telecom, healthcare, B-to-B, entertainment, and charitable foundations. A results-focused, award-winning senior communications professional with extensive experience of integrated marketing. Mustoe understands the value of strategic communications to help enterprises build and protect brand value through management of customer relations and brand loyalty.
Kathy has served as Vice-President of ComForcare Health care, and as Manager of Corporate Community Relations at Cox Communications. She has demonstrated expertise improving business processes and best practices. She excels in fast-paced, high growth enterprises.
Kathy loves history and is the author of new book on Charlemagne.
Lisa Qualls is a high-energy inspirational thinker and business management leader specializing in change management and technology integration. She has entrepreneurial, executive and non-profit board experience. Her work has been recognized by many world-class organizations such as IBM, Yahoo, Forbes, Kauffman Foundation and March of Dimes. She is currently helping clients save costs and increase revenues as a Sr. Account Executive at Proactive Solutions.
Lisa is a professional speaker and has been showcased on Fox Business, CBS, NBC, & ABC affiliates and Time Warner Cable's "Newsmakers" series. Guest lecturer at University of Central Missouri, University of Kansas-Edwards, Northwest Missouri State University and Kauffman Foundation FastTrac programs. Elected and served as inaugural President and Chairman of the Board of the renowned Social Media Club of Kansas City and currently serves on the digiSTORY Board of Directors and Unbound social advisory board.
Employs a diverse background that includes working with Fortune 500, start-up and everything in between. Welcomes the opportunity to help others adopt and embrace innovative solutions. A naturally curious person who loves people, sports & laughter.
Sandra Kruse-Smith, Ph.D., is a former faculty member and executive coach for the Henry W. Bloch School of Management’s Executive Education and Executive MBA programs. As the first full-time EMBA executive coach in the U.S., she pioneered a comprehensive coaching program, helping current and emerging leaders identify leadership strengths and challenges, develop executive presence, define their personal brand, strengthen their team proficiencies, and develop the art of legacy thinking. As a faculty member, she taught a legacy-building course in the EMBA program, as well as facilitating workshops and coaching executive teams and CEOs for Kansas City area businesses. Premier clients included Garmin, AMC, H&R Block, Children’s Mercy Hospital, and Commerce Bank. Prior to her UMKC appointment, Sandra ran her own communications and consulting firm for more than 25 years, delivering communication and coaching solutions to corporate clients throughout the U.S. and Canada.
Since her retirement in 2016, Sandra has been exploring ways to utilize her experience, talents and passions to give back to the Kansas City community. She found herself especially interested in the vision and mission of digiSTORY, and its emphasis on helping inner city youth develop digital skills that help them find employment. She looks forward to developing courses that will help teens learn to digitally showcase their talents for prospective employers and colleges, and is excited to contribute to digiSTORY’s outreach and growth.