Resilient Cultures: Creating a New Way to Work

This two-part session will bring together viewpoints from a top culture expert and industry leaders to discuss shifting workplace dynamics. The first part of the session will feature an in-depth conversation with a culture and organizational strategist, followed by a live "Blue Table Talk" with leaders about how they are adapting in the modern workplace.

PART ONE: Featuring insights from Laraine McKinnon

Monday, October 11 at 1:30 pm CT

Laraine McKinnon, Talent & Culture Strategist, LMC17 and Emtrain

 Laraine McKinnon is founder of LMC17, a strategic consulting firm that uses behavioral science, big data, and practical implementation to help companies unlock productivity, innovation, and profitability. She is also an Advisor and Talent & Culture Strategist for Emtrain, a revolutionary eLearning and analytics CultureTech platform that measures the impact of social dynamics in the workplace. She helps companies grow awareness, empathy, and behavior change to prevent harassment, discrimination, and bias, while measuring, scoring and benchmarking social indicators to create healthier workplace cultures. She is co-author of Emtrain’s Workplace Culture Reports and whitepaper on Social Capital and Social Indicators. Laraine is also a member of the faculty at the Conscious Inclusion Company.

Previously, Laraine was a Managing Director and retirement readiness strategist at BlackRock, the world's largest asset manager, where she worked with HR and Finance executives at Fortune 500 companies to optimize their 401(k) plans. She served as a client relationship officer for Fortune 500 firms and multinational corporations at predecessor organizations Barclays Global Investors, and Wells Fargo Nikko Investment Advisors. Laraine has worked with some of the largest employers globally, and her thought leadership includes sophisticated data analytics, employee engagement through financial wellness, workforce strategy, and removing behavioral roadblocks. Laraine is the author of “Known: How to Create a Great 401(k),” served as an Advisor to Betterment, a leading robo-advisor firm, and serves on the Diversity & Inclusion steering committee of the Defined Contribution Institutional Investment Association.

Laraine is Board Member and President of The CLUB Silicon Valley, a women’s leadership non-profit. She is the founder of the CLUB’s Incubator Program where she helps accelerate the careers of diverse talent from companies such as Apple, Blue Origin, Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, NASA, PayPal, PwC, Salesforce, Tesla, and Uber. She was named by the Silicon Valley Business Times as a “Women of Influence” in 2018.

Laraine earned a BA degree, cum laude, in political science and women's studies from Wellesley College, and holds a certificate in Diversity and Inclusion for HR from Cornell University.  

PART TWO: Blue Table Talk

Monday, October 11 at 2:15 pm CT

Lori Ames, T-Mobile

Lori Ames is the Vice President of National Development and Head of Operational Excellence at T-Mobile, responsible for network deployment strategic direction, vendor management, and continuous improvement. 

As a seasoned professional with over 25 years of experience leading organizations at major US telecoms, Lori is known for delivering transformational results through radical collaboration.   She most recently served as Vice-President of the Central Region for Sprint where she led all network deployment, engineering, and operations across the company’s largest geographic region.  Prior to that, Lori was Head of National Transport for Sprint where she spearheaded a network technology transformation while delivering annual operating expense reductions of $2.4B. 

Lori is a committed advocate for increasing Women in Technology, serving as T-Mobile’s Chair for STEM Program Development and Outreach.   

When not at work, Lori is chasing the leaderboard on her Peloton, checking out the newest KC restaurants, or cheering on her beloved Chiefs or Sporting KC.  

Gloria Nevarez, West Coast Conference

In April 2018, Gloria Nevarez was selected to serve as the fourth full-time Commissioner in the 66-year history of the West Coast Conference. Nevarez is one of ten female conference commissioners currently serving in Division I Athletics and is the first Latin American to ascend to the commissioner's chair in Division I. She is currently serving on the NCAA’s Men’s Basketball Oversight Committee, a group responsible for Division I men’s basketball policy, as well as the NCAA Transfer Working Group.

Since becoming Commissioner, Nevarez has shaped nearly every facet of the internal and external operations of the Conference. In the last two years, she has directed major overhauls to the conference’s branding, expanding the league’s national television contracts, adding a long-term title sponsor for the men’s and women’s basketball tournaments and launching groundbreaking social justice initiatives. She represents the Conference on national policy issues and advises WCC Presidents on current issues such as NCAA policy development on name, image and likeness, the evolving transfer rules and social justice initiatives.
 
When the COVID-19 pandemic struck, Nevarez guided the conference to a safe conclusion of the 2020 UCU WCC Basketball Tournaments working in conjunction with local and state health agencies. In the weeks and months following the subsequent shutdown of collegiate sports, Nevarez worked tirelessly with university presidents and athletic directors to ensure that the WCC is represented on the national, state and local levels in determining when and how competition can resume safely. In addition, Nevarez closed the in-person conference office and guided the WCC staff to a remote model emphasizing maximum flexibility and extensive collaboration.
 
Under Nevarez’ leadership, the WCC became the first Division I conference to adopt a diversity hiring initiative, the groundbreaking “Russell Rule” adopted in July of 2020. All WCC schools are required to include a member of a traditionally underrepresented community in the final candidate pool for every athletic director, senior administrator, head coach and full-time assistant coaching search. Named in honor of legendary Bill Russell – a two-time WCC and NCAA Champion, Olympic Gold Medalist and 11-time NBA Champion – the rule will be monitored by The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport (TIDES) founded by Dr. Richard Lapchick, which will produce an annual race and gender report card for the WCC and its member institutions.

Directed by Nevarez, the WCC embarked on a comprehensive rebranding initiative to bring consistency across all platforms. After an exhaustive and collaborative six-month review with WCC stakeholders, the brand, reflective of the mission and values of the WCC schools was refreshed with a new brand identity. 
 
In her second full year on the job, Nevarez renegotiated the media rights agreement for the Conference, resulting in unprecedented levels of national exposure for the league, including an updated eight year agreement with ESPN and the addition of two national television partners in CBS Sports and Stadium. The exposure of WCC’s men’s basketball has nearly doubled from coast-to-coast.
 
WCC Basketball has enjoyed a long history of success in Las Vegas and Nevarez strengthened those relationships, securing University Credit Union (UCU) as a long-term title sponsor for the 2019 WCC Championship events and signing a contract extension with the Orleans Arena, home for the WCC men’s and women’s basketball tournaments. Last season, the Conference significantly enhanced the fan experience and increased engagement initiatives in Las Vegas.
 
While the 2020 winter and springs seasons were largely overshadowed by the COVID-19 global pandemic, the WCC Presidents and Nevarez made significant positive changes to its governance structure with an emphasis on social justice initiatives, promoting the voices of student-athletes at the conference level and unveiling the Ethnic Diversity Initiative (EDI) with the groundbreaking “Russell Rule” at the forefront.

In June of 2019, student-athletes were added to the governance structure at conference-wide executive meetings. The WCC STARS are included in all WCC Council governance meetings to ensure that the voices of the student-athletes are heard during the decision-making process that impacts their campus experiences. The league also sent representatives from each member school to a mental health summit to collaborate on learnings and best practices.
 
In November of 2019, the WCC launched its first foray into the esports space with six institutions sponsoring teams competing in multiple tournaments capped by the 2020 College League of Legends Season.
 
Nevarez returned to the WCC following a successful stint as the Senior Associate Commissioner, Senior Woman Administrator at the Pac-12 Conference. In her role, Nevarez oversaw all conference sports and championships except football, while also serving as the conference liaison for men’s basketball and tournament director of the men’s basketball tournament in Las Vegas. Nevarez led all-star teams to China and Australia and brought conference teams to China for the first-ever NCAA regular season game. During her tenure at the Pac-12, Nevarez was instrumental in league expansion, the relocation and success of both the men’s and women’s basketball tournaments, the creation and operation of the Pac-12 Networks, the development of international initiatives and advanced the conference’s sustainability efforts. 

Prior to joining the Pac-10 staff, Nevarez served as Senior Associate Athletic Director at the University of Oklahoma. Her responsibilities were wide-ranging, including sport administration duties and overseeing the department’s strength and conditioning, marketing and human resources units. She also served as the sport administrator for men's and women's basketball, men's and women's cross country, soccer, men's and women's track and field, softball and women's rowing. Nevarez served Oklahoma as the senior woman administrator and oversaw the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, the department's Staff Council, Title IX compliance and worked with the fundraising group, the Sooner Stilettos.

Before her time at Oklahoma, Nevarez spent five years working in compliance at the West Coast Conference, joining the conference in January of 2002. During her first stint at the WCC, her primary emphasis was to direct the conference's compliance efforts. In that role, she was involved in education efforts at all member institutions as well as in the league office. She assisted the schools with their individual certification efforts, violations, waivers and rule interpretations. 

Prior to the WCC, Nevarez was at the University of California where she served in multiple roles. She was the lone compliance officer and served as an executive officer for the department and its 29 intercollegiate athletics teams. She conducted NCAA and Pac-10 rules education workshops for student-athletes, coaches and department staff on an annual basis. Nevarez was also involved with legal matters that involved the department, including lawsuits, serving as the department's campus liaison in those matters. She was responsible for processing all departmental contracts, including game contracts, and served as the department's campus contact for all athletic related contracts. Her efforts at Cal went beyond the legal realm as she served as co-coordinator of the team that conceived and ran the first Cy-Bear auction, the first time a collegiate entity had partnered with an online group – Yahoo! – to host an online auction, raising more than $180,000.

Nevarez began her athletics administrative career at San Jose State University where she was the first full-time Director of Compliance in school history and developed and implemented an NCAA compliance program
 
A graduate of the NCAA Fellows Program and the NACWAA Executive Institute, Nevarez completed five years as an adjunct faculty member at the University of San Francisco’s Sport Management Master's program, teaching sport law.

Nevarez received her Juris Doctorate from the University of California. While a student, she served on the La Raza Law Journal and was a co-founder of the Boalt Hall Sport and Entertainment Law Society. A four-year scholarship athlete and letter-winner in basketball at the University of Massachusetts, she graduated cum laude from UMass. She served on the board of advisors for the UMass sports management department, a division of the Isenberg School of Business.

A native of Santa Clara, Calif., Nevarez is married to fellow Berkeley Law graduate, Richard Young. 

Desiree Reed-Francois, University of Missouri

University of Missouri President Mun Choi announced on August 8, 2021, that Desiree Reed-Francois has been named as Director of Intercollegiate Athletics for the university. Reed-Francois was selected following a search led by UM Curator Jeff Layman and assisted by Parker Executive Search.

“This is a transformational day for Mizzou Athletics,” Choi said. “Desiree Reed-Francois brings an unsurpassed passion for student-athletes and bold, visionary skills that will propel a championship culture at MU. As a proud member of the SEC, we are energized to go into the next era of Mizzou athletics with Desiree Reed-Francois at the helm.”

Reed-Francois has more than 25 years of experience in intercollegiate athletics and was the first Hispanic female and woman of color athletics director at the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) level. She has served as athletic director at UNLV since 2017. At Missouri, she will be the first female athletic director in MU history and the first female athletic director in a public institution in the SEC.

“It is truly an honor to join Missouri’s flagship institution, and I am extremely grateful to search committee Chair Layman and members of the search advisory committee for this incredible opportunity,” said Reed-Francois. “The University of Missouri is a world-class academic institution with a strong commitment to athletics, and a resolve to further enhance its athletics programs to achieve elite national status is all of our endeavors. We have a proud and storied tradition; we compete in the premier athletic conference in the country; and, perhaps most importantly, we have a collective desire to be great. My family and I are excited to join the Mizzou Family, and I cannot wait to get started. Go Tigers!”     

“She is a tough, dynamic, innovative leader who can help build upon Mizzou’s successes and position us to regularly compete for championships in the SEC and beyond. The SEC is the toughest conference in the nation, and we are poised for continued success with Desiree as our leader,” said Layman, who was chair of the search committee. “I’m indebted to members of the search committee for their tremendous effort. We had an exceptionally strong pool of candidates that demonstrates the bright future of Mizzou Athletics.”

“We’ve taken an incredible step forward,” said Darryl Chatman, chair of the UM Board of Curators. “I’d like to extend my welcome and congratulations to Desiree Reed-Francois and Mizzou. This is a fantastic hire, and I’m excited about the future. Our student-athletes compete in the nation’s toughest conference and always have a national championship in their sights. I’m excited for our student-athletes, our university, our fans, our supporters and our state. We are building great things here at Mizzou.”

“Desiree brings a variety of quality experiences to student-athletes as a leader on many campuses and in many conferences,” said Greg Sankey, commissioner of the SEC. “As she continues to build the University of Missouri athletics program, I look forward to working with her in her new role as we continue the progress of the SEC – the strongest conference in the country.”

While at UNLV, Reed-Francois has hired head coaches in men’s and women’s basketball, football, women’s soccer, softball, volleyball, and women’s track and field, with three of them already earning Conference Coach of the Year honors. The UNLV head coaching roster is the most diverse in its conference and among the most diverse in the FBS.

Reed-Francois oversaw the opening of a new, $35 million football complex and successfully negotiated a joint use agreement with the NFL’s Oakland Raiders for UNLV’s use of the new $2 billion Allegiant Stadium. During her time at UNLV, she has completed or implemented more than $70 million in facility upgrades.

She also has proven fundraising skills, with UNLV Athletics raising more than $60 million, including an $8 million estate gift, the largest estate gift in the school’s history. During her time at UNLV, football season ticket sales and premium revenue has jumped by 50% and 70% respectively, and Reed-Francois introduced a new apparel agreement with Nike, all with a focus on creating a strong fiscal foundation for the business operations of UNLV Athletics.

Prior to UNLV, Reed-Francois served as the deputy athletics director at Virginia Tech and as a senior associate athletics director at the University of Cincinnati, in addition to stints at the University of Tennessee, where she was the first woman to oversee men’s basketball in the SEC, California State University-Fresno, Santa Clara University, San Jose State University, the University of California Berkeley, and the University of San Francisco.   

Reed-Francois earned a bachelor’s degree from UCLA and a juris doctorate from the University of Arizona College of Law. She is a member of the State Bar of California and taught law classes at the University of Tennessee and at Santa Clara University. Prior to her work in college athletics, Reed-Francois worked as a legal associate for the Oakland Raiders and the NFL’s Management Council.

She also has participated in the Division I Athletics Directors Leadership Institute and Fellows Program, the Women Leaders in College Sports’ Executive Institute, and she currently serves as vice chair of the NCAA Baseball Selection Committee and formerly was a member of the College Football Playoff Committee’s operations committee. In addition, Reed-Francois is a board member of the National Coalition of Minority Football Coaches. She is a member of the National Association of Collegiate Marketing Administrators and National Association of College Directors of Athletics and has been a presenter at NACDA, NACMA, Women Leaders, and Sports Business Journal’s annual conventions. 

She and her husband, Joshua, have a son, Jackson, who will be attending MU in Fall 2022 to study journalism.  

Meg Stevens, Averett University

Helping Student-Athletes Be Successful
Serving as the Averett University Director of Athletics since July 2013 and promoted to the Vice President and Director of Athletics and Campus Operations in September 2020, Meg Stevens has transformed the culture of Averett athletics. Stevens has collaborated with faculty, student-athletes and staff to develop and strengthen a “3-2-1” philosophy that has pushed Averett toward the top of the USA South Conference. Under her direction, all teams strive to achieve a 3.0 grade point average, finish in the top two in the conference, and the entire athletics department works together as “one team.”

Stevens’ “3-2-1” philosophy has paid dividends. In her first eight years as Director of Athletics, Averett has won 12 conference championships and produced 214 all-conference selections, including 16 players of the year, 11 rookies of the year and five coaches of the year. Moreover, her impact has been felt on both a regional and national level as her student-athletes have achieved 56 all-region selections and 25 All-America achievements. On Sept. 1, 2020, Stevens was named the Nike Division III Administrator of the Year by the Women Leaders in College Sports, and on March 10, 2021, Stevens was named among NACDA's 2020-21 Athletics Directors of the Year.

Academically, Stevens’ influence has helped produce 681 academic all-conference selections, 23 CoSIDA Academic All-District achievements and 10 CoSIDA Academic All-America accomplishments that include the 2017-18 CoSIDA Academic All-America of the Year Samm Chandler. 

Furthermore, Stevens pushes her student-athletes to produce not only in the classroom and in the arena of athletics competition, but also in the community as well through various community service and professional development projects. Averett has won a record five consecutive USA South “Cans Across the Conference” competitions and a record four USA South “Pennies for a Purpose” campaigns. In addition, Averett has produced three Don Scalf Award winners and two Rita Wiggs Woman of the Year Award recipients while under Stevens’ direction.

Under Stevens leadership, Averett’s Special Olympics initiatives have gained national recognition as the university’s Department of Athletics has taken home several national awards from National Association of Division III Athletic Administrators and Jostens, including the “Array of Projects” award in 2016 for the 2014-15 academic year, the “One-Time Activity or Project” Award of Merit for the 2016-17 academic year as well third place in 2020 for “outstanding efforts” with Averett’s annual Special Olympics Fall Fun Day. Additionally, Averett athletics has won three NCAA Division III Special Olympics spotlight polls to earn money for future Special Olympics events.

Stevens also takes great pride in her leadership within Averett having coordinated a partnership with Nike and BSN Sports to equip all student-athletes with Nike gear along with helping to strengthen Averett's branding and reach within the Danville community.

Growing and Leading Averett Athletics
Stevens’ open lines of communication and open door policy have made her a trustworthy role model for Averett student-athletes and graduate assistants, and her caring and compassionate approach has energized and stabilized her department into one of the top in all of Division III athletics.

She oversees 17 intercollegiate athletics programs and three club varsity sports. She supervises more than 60 individuals that make up the Department of Athletics staff, including administrators, coaches, facility and sports performance staff as well as sports medicine and sports communications staffers. She also serves on the university’s President’s Council and other university committees, as well as supervises Averett athletics’ Circle of Champions and Team Averett.

Since her arrival, Stevens has added four NCAA-sponsored sports including men’s and women’s lacrosse, men’s wrestling and women's golf, as well as two club varsity sports, esports and dance. The growth of Averett's athletics footprint during Stevens' tenure led to the Cougars' invitation to join the prestigious Old Dominion Athletic Conference, beginning in the 2022-23 academic year. Additionally, she has assisted with several facility constructions, expansions and upgrades around Averett, including the development of Frank R. Campbell Stadium, the addition of an indoor batting facility and the renovation of Carrington Gymnasium. During her time, she has been influential in renovations and facility upgrades to the Grant Center, Owen-Fulton Field and other athletics facilities.

Mentoring Future Leaders
Stevens’ devotion to the professional development of coaches, graduate assistants, support staff and student-athletes can be felt within her department through various captains and leadership programs to professional development opportunities through the NCAA and other organizations. She has helped send several student-athletes and coaches to various conventions and conferences since her arrival, including the NCAA Division III Immersion Program at the national convention and NCAA Career in Sports Forum.

Stevens is well respected by her colleagues and peers having been asked to be the keynote speaker at the NCAA Emerging Leadership Symposium for six straight years and has been a presenter at the Women Leaders Convention on several occasions as well as the NCAA Career in Sports Forum and many other NCAA conferences.

Additionally, Stevens is known for her commitment to hiring, mentoring and developing young head coaches. In fact, 27 of her 28 head coach hires have been first-time head coaches, and she has promoted nearly a half dozen former Averett graduate assistant coaches into head coaching roles. Many of Averett’s graduate assistant coaches and staff have gone on to become head coaches or full-time assistant coaches in all levels of athletics.

Stevens has also served on the board of directors for Women Leaders in College Sports as well as the Boys and Girls Club of Danville while also being a strong advocate for both women and minority leaders in sports.

Offering More than 20 Years of Experience in Administration, Coaching and Service
Prior to coming to Averett, Stevens served as Buffalo State’s assistant director of athletics from 2009-13 and spent 11 years as the women’s lacrosse head coach, director of the CHAMPS/Life Skills Program and as the advisor for the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC). She also served as Buffalo State's senior woman administrator for two years.

As assistant director of athletics at Buffalo State, Stevens helped elevate student-athlete prominence on campus and in the community through increased community service efforts. She also served as an advisor for several major athletics facilities projects and executed an extensive fundraising initiative for the lacrosse program.

In addition to her administrative duties at Buffalo State, Stevens achieved success on the field, building her lacrosse program into a perennial contender. In 11 seasons at Buffalo State, she accumulated an overall record of 109-65 (.626) and led the Bengals to the State University of New York Athletic Conference postseason six of her last eight years. In 2012, her team finished ranked in the top 20 and made its first NCAA Tournament appearance. She is a two-time SUNYAC Coach of the Year and was the U.S. Lacrosse Regional Coach of the Year in 2004.

Prior to her time at Buffalo State, Stevens interned as a special events coordinator with the Women’s Sports Foundation and with the Eastern College Athletic Association. Additionally, she served as a chair for the NCAA's Student-Athlete Advisory Committee and was a member of the NCAA Committee on Women’s Athletics, the NCAA Division III Task Force and the Cortland Intercollegiate Athletics Board. As a player at Cortland, she helped the Red Dragons to three consecutive SUNYAC championships as well as three straight trips to the NCAA Tournament.

A native of Delmar, N.Y., Stevens received her bachelor's degree in recreation and leisure management with a minor in sports management from SUNY Cortland and earned her master's degree in student personnel administration from Buffalo State.  

Jacqie McWilliams, CIAA 

Jacqie McWilliams is in her 9th season of serving as the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association (CIAA) Commissioner. First female to serve as Commissioner for the CIAA and first appointed African American Commissioner representing NCAA Division I, II and III.

Ms. McWilliams spent nine years at the NCAA managing NCAA championships to include both the men’s and women’s Division I Basketball tournaments. She started her career in coaching, compliance and administration at Virginia Union University with career growth opportunities at the CIAA, Norfolk State University and Morgan State University prior to the NCAA.

Ms. McWilliams earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology from Hampton University, a Master of Arts in Sports Management and Administration from Temple University. She was two sport athlete at Hampton and was a member of the Hampton University 1988 NCAA Division II Women’s Basketball Championship team and Freshmen player of the year in 1988 and Player of the year for CIAA Volleyball in 1990. She was selected as a member of the 2013 class for Women in Sports Business Journal Game Changer. She was inducted into Hampton University Hall of Fame, Temple University’s Gallery of Success, and the Sierra High School Hall of Fame.

She is the past President for Women Leaders in College Sports (2019-2020) and current member of the board. She serves on the board of directors for the John B. McLendon Scholarship Foundation Board, Samaritans feet International and the NCAA Gender Equity Task Force. Additionally, she served as the chair of NCAA DII Management Council, a member of the NCAA Board of Governors and NCAA Cultural Diversity Committee. She has received numerous awards for her leadership and contributions to the community.

Ms. McWilliams is a woman of faith, motivational speaker, an active member of the Charlotte Crown Jewels Links Chapter of Charlotte and Sixth Mount Zion Baptist Temple (VA). Ms. McWilliams is the proud mother of Samone, age 15.