Marshall Pierite is the founder and owner of The Pierite Group, a Louisiana-based company which provides business advisory services. He is also the co-founder and co-owner of Tribal Solutions Medical, a company dedicated to providing medical resources to rural and native communities. He is also a founding member of Tribal Communications, a company created to connect the digital divide through technology and innovation in Indian Country and rural America. A native Louisianan, Marshall began his career by serving in the United States Marine Corps with a military occupational specialty in administration. Following his military service, he worked for the Tunica-Biloxi Tribe of Louisiana as a medical clerk. After receiving progressive promotions within the Tunica-Biloxi Tribe of Louisiana’s Health Department, he was promoted to Director of the Tunica-Biloxi Social Services Department.
While serving in the Social Services Department, Marshall also became a member of the Tunica-Biloxi Tribal Council. For more than 25 years, he held several elected positions on the Council including Secretary-Treasurer, Vice-Chairman, and Chairman of the Tribe. Over the course of his time on the Council, he worked on government operations, budgeting, infrastructure development, economic development, community development and tax policy development. Marshall became well versed in government operations throughout Indian Country, federal regulations, government-to-government negotiations, and relationship building between governmental organizations and private entities. He currently and proudly serves as the Chairman of the Tunica-Biloxi Tribe. Through this position, he hopes to establish unity and purpose, create wealth and jobs, and provide accessibility and accountability to the members of the tribe.
Concurrent to Marshall’s service in Tribal government, he also excelled in several leadership positions in corporate governance. He served as the Chief Executive Officer of MobiLoans, a financial services corporation. Under Marshall’s leadership, MobiLoans grew from a small start-up company to a multi-million dollar national financial service institution. As Chief Executive Officer, he oversaw a multi-million dollar portfolio all while creating workforce development opportunities for the citizens of Louisiana. Due to his outstanding service, Marshall was named Chairman of the Board of Directors of MobiLoans, a position he currently holds.
Marshall has also served in key positions on a number of boards and committees with private, Tribal, and non-profit organizations. He has served as Chairman and co-chairman of the Board of Carcieri Task Force; Board Member of the United States Chamber of Commerce/NAEI; Board Member of the United South and Eastern Tribes; Board Member of the National Online Lending Alliance Board; Liaison Officer to Tunica-Biloxi Economic Development Corporation; Mentor to Tunica-Biloxi Youth Council and Committee Member of the United South and Eastern Tribes Social Services Program. He currently serves as the Chairman of the Inter-Tribal Council of Louisiana; Board Member of the Tunica-Biloxi Economic Development Authority; Board Member of the Family Justice Center of Louisiana; Board Member of United Way of Central Louisiana; Committee Member of Southern Partners Fund; and Founding Member of the Gulf States American Indian Chamber of Commerce.
Recently, Chairman Pierite was selected as the 2022 Tribal Leader of the Year by the Native American Finance Officers Association. He was also selected to serve on the first ever Tribal Intergovernmental Advisory Committee through the Housing Urban and Development federal agency which was created to strengthen the nation to nation relationship between HUD and Tribal Nations. He also serves on the Governor’s Task Force for Missing Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.
Michael LeJeune is a bestselling author and master coach with RSM Federal. Michael hosts the wildly popular podcast Game Changers for Government Contractors, manages the Federal Access Coaching and Training platform, and specializes in helping government contractors brand themselves as Subject Matter Experts in their niche.
RSM Federal has helped their GovCon clients win over $14.6 billion in government contracts, trained more than 23K contractors, and have written 4 Amazon #1 bestsellers on the subject of government contracting. Over 2,500 Government contractors trust their Federal Access coaching and training platform as their primary source of GovCon education, training, coaching, and practical strategies for winning government contracts.
Blessy Thomas is Partner at Innovate Capital Growth Fund, a growth equity fund focused on investing in minority & women-owned lower middle market companies primarily in the Mid-Atlantic region. Blessy Thomas is a finance management professional with 17+ years of experience driving growth strategies and profitability initiatives. She has worked with large commercial teams and small businesses in diverse industries such as Biopharma, Manufacturing, Petrochemical, Food Products & Services, Consumer Products, and Healthcare. Blessy has been instrumental in developing, packaging, and executing company financial plans and strategies for groups with revenues in aggregate of $1B+. Since joining The Enterprise Center (TEC) in January 2019, Blessy has been instrumental in investing, expanding, and managing the portfolio of debt and equity investments, implementing procedures, and advising minority-owned enterprises on their strategic and financial options. Before joining TEC, Blessy was a strategic director at VWR International (Avantor Sciences) for 10+ years, a product and service supplier to the life science sector. While there, she spearheaded strategic and financial analysis and identified sales and profit-enhancing opportunities that resulted in significant revenue and profit growth.
Blessy received her Bachelor of Science in Business Administration with a focus in Finance and Marketing from Drexel University in Philadelphia.
Dr. Ramesh Kolluru serves as the Associate Provost and Vice President for Research, Innovation and Economic Development at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette (UL Lafayette). He is a nationally recognized leader in the areas of science and technology, public-impact research, economic and workforce development, as well as innovation and entrepreneurship.
In his role as Vice President, since 2013, he has established the overarching vision, provided tactical direction, and developed strategic priorities and partnerships working with the senior administration of UL Lafayette. His leadership efforts have galvanized the transition of the University into the prestigious Carnegie R1 Top-Tier University in 2021, for the first time in its 125-year history – a designation held only by the top 3% of US universities. UL Lafayette has significantly expanded its regional, national, and global impact through research, innovation, and economic development. Under his leadership, UL has increased its annual R&D expenditures from $62M in 2013 to $205M in 2022, a growth of 193%, while increasing its intellectual human capital (post-doctoral & research scholars) by 2645% and innovation outcomes (patents issued) by 1200%. He has served as UL’s point-person in helping recruit IT and biotech companies, helping create more than 2000 knowledge-economy jobs in the region. Under his leadership, UL is focused on discovery and dissemination, embodied in its motto of being commitment to “Research for a Reason.”
He is a tenured Professor in the School of Computing and Informatics, with expertise in computing, health innovation, homeland security and emergency management, public-private partnerships, and data science. As a researcher, he helped establish major R&D centers in health innovation and disaster management in addition to a data science center funded by the National Science Foundation. He has generated more than $110M in funds from various federal and state agencies as well as industry.
Given his national recognition as a leader in health innovation, he was appointed into the role of Chief Innovation Officer for the US Department of Health and Human Services in Washington, D.C, during 2019 and 2020. During his IPA assignment, he worked on expanding the role of data science, AI, and innovation in the delivery of health and human services to all Americans by HHS. He was instrumental in the development of a strategic roadmap for HHS to enhance open data and open innovation initiatives, in addition to expanding opportunities for upskilling data science know-how of federal government workers. More recently, he has led the Governor’s efforts to combat COVID-19 by vaccinating students and at-risk populations. He is leading legislative efforts in Louisiana to develop biomedical R&D and innovation corridor anchored in New Iberia.
Additionally, he has been reappointed by FEMA Administrator to the National Advisory Council to serve a 2nd consecutive term. He has chaired the FEMA Vision 2045 Committee and now chairs the FEMA Climate Adaptation Committee. He has served as a member of the Executive Committee of the APLU Council for Research, where he has been involved in advancing public impact of research, and safe and inclusive research environments. Governor Edwards appointed him as a Commissioner of the Louisiana Cybersecurity Commission, wherein he led the development of Louisiana’s Critical Infrastructure Cybersecurity Plan.
He serves as Chairman of Lafayette Economic Development Authority, Trustee of the Lafayette Public Innovation Alliance, Executive committee member of OneAcadiana to advance local and regional economic development and serves on the Board of Directors for Ochsner Lafayette General. He represents the University as counselor of the Oak Ridge Associated Universities, trustee of the Southern Universities Research Alliance, and member of the Louisiana RESTORE Act Center of Excellence.
Born and raised in India, Dr. Kolluru has lived in Lafayette for over 25 years. Recipient of the Governor’s Technology Leader of the Year award in 2008, he is prouder of the title “Honorary Cajun” bestowed on him by Parish-President Mayor Joey Durel. His proudest titles, however, are husband, dad, friend, and dishwasher!
Ms. Cheryl Thornton-Cameron is the Executive Director (SES) for the Office of Acquisition/SCRM Operations. She previously served as Acting Deputy Assistant Commissioner of Acquisition in the Information Technology Category of Federal Acquisition Service (FAS). Ms. Thornton-Cameron oversees a contract portfolio of GSA’s premier IT contract vehicles through which federal, state, local, tribal and territorial agencies spend over $30 Billion annually. The contract portfolio includes the IT Multiple Award Schedules (MAS), Governmentwide Acquisition Contracts (GWACs), and Telecommunications program initiatives to include the Enterprise Infrastructure Solutions contract (EIS). In addition, she
oversees an acquisition workforce of over 300 professionals across 6 regional offices who focus on key functions, such as contract award/administration, supply chain risk management as well as acquisition policy and governance.
Ms. Thornton-Cameron is a Acquisition professional with over 30 years of combined government service spanning GSA and the Department of Defense and holds a Bachelor's degree from the University of Maryland, a Master’s certificate in Program Management from George Washington University and a CyberSecurity for Managers Certificate from MIT, as well as FAC-Professional and FAC-PPM Level III certifications. She also holds an unlimited Warrant.
Ms. Thornton-Cameron is a graduate of the 2018 ACT-IAC Partners Program designed to support knowledge sharing between government and industry leaders. She is a 2022, FED 100 Award Winner For Exceptional Contributions To Federal IT. Ms. Thornton-Cameron is the Primary Designated Representative for the White House Equity Initiative on Black Americans.
Yolanda Ferguson is the wife of Christopher Ferguson. The mother of 3 children, David (27), Blake (23), and Da’von (22). She also has a beautiful 2-year-old Granddaughter, Janiyah.
Yolanda Ferguson is a FAC-C Level III Sr. Contracting Officer with over twenty (20) years Contracting Experience. Prior to joining General Services Administration (GSA) in July 2014, Yolanda worked for the Department of Defense (Air Force). To be more specific, she worked for the Air Force Material Command (AFMC). Yolanda started her career as a Student Career Experience Program (SCEP) at Maxwell-Gunter Air Force Base, Montgomery, AL., while in college at Troy University.
Upon graduation, Yolanda was accepted onto the Copper Cap Program with the Air Force. She then moved to Crestview, FL., with her family where she worked on Eglin Air Force Base. While working with the Air Force on both programs, Yolanda performed a variety of extensive acquisitions from being a buyer on the Quarterly Enterprise Buying Team (QEB), establishing BPA’s, as well as procuring IT equipment for the Air Force. Yolanda also worked in the Special Program Operation (SPO) Offices buying major weapon systems, and all components for the systems, as well as any services needed to maintain systems.
As previously stated, in July 2014, Yolanda joined the GSA, Public Building Services (PBS), where she worked as a Contracting Officer awarding Construction Acquisitions from SAT to $1 Million dollars. In 2016, Yolanda moved on to Federal Acquisition Service (FAS) to work for the Information Technology Category (ITC) where she would become a Team Lead for the FAStLane Branch. Currently, Yolanda serves as a Sr. Contracting Officer/Subject Matter Expert in the Innovation Division where she provides training to vendors on how to obtain a GSA Schedule, as well as providing training to agencies on how to buy services or products off a GSA Schedule.
Yolanda has an Associate Degree in Applied Science of Transportation from the Community College of the Air Force. She also has a Bachelor’s Degree in Research and Technology Management from Troy University, and a Master’s Degree in Contract Management from American Graduate University.
Tina White is a university graduate with a B.S. degree in print journalism from Historical Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) Florida A & M University (FAMU), which she entered at the tender age of sixteen (16). Additionally, she is also a graduate of Tuck School of Business Dartmouth- Growing An Established Diverse Business.
Her professional career started at age twenty-one (21) with Xerox Corporation, who was committed to diversifying their workforce with women and minorities. Her hard work garnered her Xerox’s “Rookie Salesperson of the Year” coveted award for outstanding high volume sales. White founded TINA’S TIRES in 2018 and became the first and only Black woman certified WOSB, HUBZONE, DBE and ACDBE, who is a Michelin aviation, truck and forklift tires dealer.
In 2020 White founded TINA’S Green Energy Solutions that provides infrastructure and installation of level 2 and level 3 services to large Fortune 500 companies and government agencies; and is the foremost authority on the implementation of the Justice40 Initiative for all State DOTs NEVI Projects.
White is the only Black woman to sell tires to Disney, MARTA and host of corporate and government agencies. And is the only Black woman with an executed contract to install electric vehicles charging stations for Amazon. Additionally in 2020, White founded Black Girls Rolling Tires a 501-C non-profit foundation that mentors and educates females residing in underserved communities, starting at the age of 12 through college graduation. The foundation's sole purpose is to create entrance pipelines for the collective $400 B tires and electrification industries; ensuring that other women reap the rewards of pursuing careers and business ownerships in the tires and electrification’s lucrative industries.
White’s greatest rewards come from serving her community; and especially senior citizens in the low income and under-educated in the predominantly Black City of Riviera Beach, where she was born, raised, educated, resides and operates her businesses. She strongly believes that her intellect is a gift from God, mandated to be shared with her community by giving of her time and knowledge; without need for any recognition and compensation. White is a proud member of MBDA Federal Procurement Center, AABE, NABWIC, COMTO, BOSS and AMAC; and she sits on the advisory board of Equity in Infrastructure Projects (EIP).
Scott E. Thorpe joined Skill Demand Energy (SDE) as CEO, in 2020. SDE, an energy efficiency company, is headquartered in Carmel, IN with satellite locations throughout the United States and India. Scott is responsible for the vision, strategic growth and ongoing expansion efforts in North America, Canada and other International markets. Scott oversees operations and drives innovation throughout the divisions of SDE that include demand side management and electrification, talent acquisition and workforce development.
Prior to joining Skill Demand Energy as CEO, Scott E. Thorpe was the President and CEO of Thorpe Services where his leadership was instrumental in growing Thorpe Services into one of the first prominent minority owned energy efficiency companies partnering with utilities and program administrators on a national level.
In addition to his 30 years of entrepreneurial experience, Scott E. Thorpe has a passion for giving back to the communities that he serves. Scott volunteers for local charities and sits on the boards of Community Reach and The Ken Thorpe Foundation.
Sarah is a 2x entrepreneur who successfully exited her most recent business in 2022. Throughout her career, her mission has been to empower others. She was able to do that through case management, advocacy, and roles in sales/business development. As the Director of Partnerships for Cultivate Advisors, she now has the ability to empower small business owners, entrepreneurs, and business leaders to grow and thrive. Her strengths are sales strategies, B2B partnerships, market validation, KPIs, and business development strategies. Her last company grew 5X in 3 years. She is an insufferable lover of Boxer dogs. She currently resides in Raleigh, NC where she enjoys volunteering for various accelerators and incubators such as The Wright Village, RevTech Labs, and NC State University's Andrews Accelerator Entrepreneurship Clinic.
Demetria is the Vice President of Innovation Ecosystems at VentureWell, and leads the organization's engagement with higher education institutions and regional ecosystem building. She has led across multiple sectors including federal government, STEM, entrepreneurship, and innovation. Notably, she co-founded the Jamii Group, leading cross-sector business development, innovation, and social impact; she also served as an White House Political Appointee in the Administration of former President Barack Obama. In this role, she designed, and scaled up a revolutionary program that connected STEM-oriented businesses and student innovators to the nation's 300+ federal labs to advance tech transfer education and commercialization at minority-serving institutions. Demetria holds a B.A. in Sociology from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a Master’s in Sustainable Urban Planning from George Washington University.
Andrew joins USDA RD with nearly three decades of experience as a political leader and elected official. He was the Mayor of Chattanooga, Tennessee from 2013 to 2021 where he served more than 180,000 residents and improved the efficiency and day-to-day operations of local government. Under Andrew’s leadership, Chattanooga operated its own wastewater system and received national recognition for improving access to high-speed internet for underserved communities. Andrew was also a member of the Tennessee State Senate from 2007 to 2012. In that role, he worked with electric cooperatives and was a member of the Transportation and Education Senate Committees. Before joining RD, Andrew was a Special Representative for Broadband at the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) at the U.S. Department of Commerce. He holds a Juris Doctorate from the University of Chicago Law School and a Bachelor of Science from Stanford University.
Andrew was named Municipal Leader of the Year by American City and County magazine in 2015 and City Executive of the Year by State Scoop in 2020. He was also named Digital Inclusion Trailblazer by the National Digital Inclusion Alliance in 2020.
Ray Addison II is a sales and marketing executive focused on sustainability, electrification, and the future of mobility.
He has spent more than a decade in a variety of marketing disciplines including product strategy and marketing communications for billion-dollar automotive brands. Ray led product marketing and development activities for Mercedes-Benz USA. During his tenure he managed the exclusive brands of SLR and Mercedes Benz AMG and led several product launches.
Ray transitioned to Daimler Trucks North America (DTNA) – Freightliner and Western Star after several years at Mercedes-Benz. At DTNA, he led communications efforts for the aftermarket business unit. He was responsible for motorsports marketing, events, marketing communications, training, and dealer programs. In addition, he worked directly with the Daimler AG board of management to transform corporate culture for the global enterprise. The result was a corporate strategy that prepared the organization for the next era of mobility.
Ray is currently the Vice President of Sales and Marketing for Go-Station. Go-Station is deploying electric vehicle charging solutions across the United States for public use and organizations that are transitioning to electrification.
In this role he is responsible for:
- Marketing strategy
- Sales and business development
- Site selection
- Digital innovation including mobile app and software development
- Environmental Justice initiatives
Ray also serves on the Digital Marketing Advisory Council for George Washington University. He is also a member of Leadership Charlotte and serves on the Board of Directors for Sustain Charlotte.
Executive Director of the Energy Institute of Louisiana
Director of the Louisiana C1 Extension Service
BORSF Endowed Chair in Bioprocessing in the Department of Chemical Engineering
University of Louisiana at Lafayette
Dr. Zappi has over 30 years working with energy technologies and pollution management systems ranging from basic research to optimization of full-scale systems. Dr. Zappi serves as the Executive Director of the Energy Institute of Louisiana at UL, Director of the UL Center for Environmental Protection, and the Director of the UL’s Louisiana C1 Extension Service (the nation’s first extension service dedicated to the management of the C1-greenhouse gases and moving Louisiana toward a greener future). He is a noted international expert on energy systems with particular expertise with process design and energy systems optimization. He holds a BS in Civil Engineering from the University of Louisiana and a MS and PhD in Chemical Engineering from Mississippi State University. Dr. Zappi has over 200 technical publications, given over 300 technical presentations, holds six patents, and is a professional engineer with the State of Louisiana. He has secured over $100M in R&D funding and has managed numerous multi-million, multi-partner R&D projects as lead researcher. He is also an expert in energy and biochemical systems commercialization and related business development.
Deputy Director and Senior Advisor, Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization
Brian T. Gladney is the FAStlane Branch Chief of the Office of Acquisition Operations within GSA’s Office of Information Technology Category (ITC) of the Federal Acquisition Service (FAS). As an Unlimited Warranted Contracting Officer, Mr. Gladney oversees an acquisition workforce of 13 contracting officers and contract specialists, whose mission is to identify, vet and on-board high quality IT vendors into the MAS program. As an organization within FAS, ITC provides access to a wide range of commercial IT products, services, and solutions from office supplies to information technology and telecommunications products and services for federal, state, local, tribal and territorial agencies to meet their missions.
With almost 15 years of Federal Procurement experience, Mr. Gladney has served on numerous initiatives and highly visible projects. These contributions include but are not limited to the White House HBCU Initiative, White House COVID- 19 Hotline Initiative, BPA Onboarding initiatives for the Department of Defense, and the Department of Justice. Additionally, Mr. Gladney has served as Primary Subject Matter Expert (SME) for majority of FAStlane related inquiries for vendor and customer outreach for GSA’s Small Business Administration Office (SBA), Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization (OSDBU), GSA’s Innovation Division, amongst many more agencies and state and local governments.
Donald R. Andrews has served as dean of the College of Business at Southern University in Baton Rouge since 1998. As an economist, Andrews is the George Leon Netterville/Kellogg Professor and was selected a Nissan Fellow to study entrepreneurship as well as participated in the Carnegie Mellon Fellows - Program Scholar Project University of Michigan, Master Teacher project at Georgia State University, the Multi-City Study of Urban Inequality at the University of Michigan, the Personnel Economics Program at Stanford University, the Price-Babson Entrepreneurship program at the University of California Berkeley, and the HBCU Entrepreneurship Tech program at MIT. He has also worked on international grant projects in Ghana, Uganda, Armenia, Liberia, South Africa, and Brazil.
Andrews serves as principal investigator on the University Center for Economic and Entrepreneurial Development grant, funded by the Economic Development Administration, and the Academic Partnership Exchange Project in Ghana, funded by the U.S. Department of Education, Business and International Education. Andrews has degrees from Southern University and A&M College (BS), the University of Florida (MS), and Texas A&M University (PhD).
Charletta (Charlie) Fortson serves as a licensed small business attorney in both Georgia and Louisiana. Prior to her tenure at Southern University Law Center (SULC), Attorney Fortson operated as a sole practitioner at A Fortson Law Firm, LLC. In this capacity, she provided comprehensive assistance to small businesses, including aiding in entity formation, fostering business growth, crafting and evaluating contracts, and advocating for small enterprises embroiled in contractual conflicts.
Within SULC, she currently holds the position of Executive Director at the Louisiana Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) Business Center. In this pivotal role, her responsibilities encompass cultivating affiliations with local municipalities, state and federal agencies, as well as private sector entities focused on supplier diversity. The primary objective is to pinpoint procurement prospects tailored for minority business enterprises (MBEs). Moreover, she plays an instrumental role in establishing partnerships within the financial sector, with the aim of amplifying MBEs' access to capital.
Simultaneously, Charlie Fortson fulfills the role of Assistant Professor at Southern University Law Center. Her instructional portfolio encompasses a spectrum of subjects including contracts, sales and leases, property, and obligations. Leveraging her almost two decades of learning and development experience in program management and curriculum design, she transitioned seamlessly from the corporate sphere to academia.
Throughout her career trajectory, education has remained a steadfast motif. Whether in the realm of private enterprise, representing clients in matters pertaining to small businesses, imparting knowledge in higher education, or liaising with clients associated with the Louisiana MBDA Business Center, Charletta Fortson consistently champions the significance of education.
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