In Order of Appearance

José A. Medina & Arelis Rivera

Jose A. Medina has a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration with a concentration in Accounting and a Masters’s Degree in Business Administration with a concentration in Management and Finances, both acquired at Universidad Metropolitana in Cupey, Puerto Rico. He graduated with honors in both degrees. He is currently completing his Doctoral Degree in the Business and Entrepreneurship School at the Ana G. Méndez University located in Gurabo, Puerto Rico. His thesis will concentrate on the personal finances field to contribute with an operational and educational model based on the cooperatives movement. The main objective of his work is to provide each individual with strategies and solutions to reach sound financial goals.

He is President and Owner of “Finanzas Al Máximo”, a corporation where he and his work team offer conferences and seminars to the public sector, private enterprise, nonprofit organizations, churches, schools, universities, small business and credit unions. The topics of the conferences are mainly related to Personal Financial Planning. The main targets of this organization are Business Men and Women, Single Mothers, Marriages, Families and Individuals offering help and alternatives for each particular economical situation. One of the principal programs of the organization, Financial Counseling Program for the Employee, is directed towards the employees in a corporation and tools are given to them to be able to plan adequately their retirement, to deal with a financial crisis, or to deal with employment termination. And create the system financial 5-3-11 : “Transform Your Finance in 5 Steps”.

Arelis Rivera has a master’s degree in finance from the Ana G. Mendez University of Puerto Rico and is a Certified Personal Finance Coach from the Personal Finance Institute of Puerto Rico. Arelis has been part of the management team of “Finanzas Al Máximo” since 2013, collaborating to share educational strategies to build a new financial well-being for each person.

Her testimony is an inspiration for women seeking to build a new financial and personal destiny. Arelis is our bilingual resource and translator at our conferences in the United States.

Cara Macksoud

Cara Macksoud, FBS® is the CEO of Money Habitudes. She completed the Financial Therapy Graduate Certificate at Kansas State University and holds a BS in Finance from NYU Stern School of Business.

She is a Certified Financial Behavior Specialist® and a member of the Financial Therapy Association where she serves on their membership committee. She is also a member of the Association of Financial Counseling and Planning Education (AFCPE) and is an AFC candidate.

Sydney Meimann

Sydney Meimann is a higher education professional with more than a decade of experience and a passion for helping students and organizations to achieve their goals. She currently serves as the Financial Literacy Program Director at University of Cincinnati. Her responsibilities include coordinating financial literacy program and efforts to UC’s 50,000 student population.

With a background in Public Relations and Organizational Leadership, she prides herself on her ability to work collaboratively and effectively to bring this incredibly important content and knowledge to University of Cincinnati students.

Karsten Walker

Karsten Walker, a seasoned financial educator and strategist, with over two decades of experience in teaching, developing and implementing financial literacy programs for various audiences. Karsten has helped with Utah’s Financial Literacy program starting in the 2004-2005 school year.

Karsten has a passion for Financial Education and has presented or been on panels about Financial Education at various conference including NAST -National Association of State Treasurers, NEFE-National Endowment for Financial Education, and the GFLEC – Global Financial Literacy Excellence Center, Cherry Tree Institute. Karsten has an amazing passion for empowering individuals through financial knowledge.

Claire Loup

As an Outreach Senior Advisor at the New Orleans Branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, Claire conducts outreach, develops curriculum, writes articles and partners with a variety of educational organizations and teacher preparation programs to provide professional development opportunities for teachers and pre-service teachers on economics and personal finance topics. She also has responsibility for the Branch’s Museum of Trade, Finance, and the Fed.

Claire is a partner and current board member of the Louisiana JumpStart Coalition for Personal Finance. She is a co-creator and instructor for the Mississippi Master Teacher of Personal Finance program of the Mississippi Council on Economic Education.

A New Orleans native, Claire earned a Bachelor of Science in Business Education and a Master of Business Administration from the University of New Orleans.

Jackie Morgan

Outreach Senior Adviser at the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta – Nashville Branch, Jackie Morgan is an established communicator and proven leader in economic and financial education strategy, policy, development, and training.

A sought-after professional for her financial education expertise, Morgan trains educators, develops curriculum, writes articles, serves on advisory boards, and conducts outreach programs.

She serves as board member and past president of the Tennessee Jump$tart Coalition for Personal Financial Literacy, which was recognized by National Jump$tart as the State Coalition of the Year under her leadership. Additionally, Morgan was appointed to the Tennessee Financial Literacy Commission, Champions Board of the Tennessee Girls Collaborative Project,  Nashville Economic Inclusion Advisory Committee, and Middle Tennessee State University Jones College of Business Dean’s Executive Advisory Council.

Morgan was recognized with MTSU’s Citation of Distinction – Achievement in Education and the Atlanta Fed President’s Award for Excellence.

Harry Hakuei Kosato

LSE and Oxford educated, he launched Virgin and Dyson in Japan as Head of Marketing, but he started out as a qualified international tax expert in the United Kingdom at a firm which is now known as Accenture.

Now he wears many hats and runs projects as diverse as Sushi and More (India’s first and largest multi-city chain of affordable sushi outlets) to Dr Smart Money (a social impact project seed funded by Oxford Innovation) in London. He also runs Kikkoman in India – Japan’s No 1 soy sauce brand with a history spanning over 350 years – as Director and India Representative.

A Guinness Book of World Records holder, awarded a Good Design Award, but can’t drive a car. Still studying at the SBS Swiss Business School in Zurich for a doctorate after finishing his second Master’s in Applied Business at SBS. Loves simple food, books, and yoga. Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, Maître Restaurateur of Chaîne des Rôtisseurs.

Lives in Mumbai & Singapore. India’s first Japanese TEDx speaker. Interviewed Investor Jim Rogers and contributed to Amazon No1 Bestsellers in Japan. Harry-san just published his first Japanese book “Oxford Success Principles: 10 Principles for Driving Success in Life” which has become a bestseller.

In December 2022, the Japanese government appointed Harry-san as Japanese Cuisine Goodwill Ambassador.

Harry-san is a member of the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ). A columnist, attending events such as G20, he contributes regularly to publications like Conde Naste, The Economic Times, Svasa Life, and ET Hospitality.

Phil Susmann

Phil founded NUARI in 2002 with the support of Senator Patrick Leahy. In 2005 he assumed the position of President. Phil has led the NUARI effort to develop tactics, tools, and processes for critical infrastructure and organizations to prepare, respond and recover from Cyber events.

NUARI developed the DECIDE cyber wargaming platform and exercise management tool, in cooperation with Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology and the Finance Industry, creating the Quantum Dawn exercises. DECIDE is now engaging with Energy and Transportation organizations and supported the Jack Voltaic 3 Cyber and Critical Infrastructure exercises and forums. During his time at NUARI, Phil has been a part of the development of the Vermont Army National Guard Information Operations Schoolhouse and the Vermont Air National Guard 229th Cyber Operations Squadron. He has also been involved in the development of Cyber Exercise tools, training developments in mobile and virtual laboratories, and more recently the Security Situation Center: a cyber threat hunting and security program and platform that trains through engagement with a live data security center. NUARI currently provides a virtual exercise platform that enables decentralized interaction across all levels of government, industry, academia, and private entities.

Phil and the NUARI team are also engaged in energy resilience with the development of training with US Army Engineering Research Development Center, Construction Engineering Research Lab for Installation personnel and Senior Leaders and exploring cold regions microgrid architecture. NUARI provides program management and independent verification and validation in visual augmentation systems to the Department of Defense.

Phil began his tenure at Norwich as a faculty member in the Business School in 1987, Department Chair of Computer Information Systems in 1990, Chief Information Officer in 1994, Vice President of Technology and Strategic Partnerships in 1998, and Vice President of Strategic Partnerships and President of NUARI in 2005. Education: Bachelor of Science from Norwich University in 1981 and MBA from Clarkson University in 1983.

Caroline Dennis

Caroline Dennis is an example of leadership driven by purpose. As the Founder/President/CEO of the Chayil Financial Group and the Founder/Executive Director of NuJourney Foundation, she has devoted herself to creating organizations that embody purpose, passion, and intentional effort. At the helm of the Chayil Financial Group, a minority-owned holding company, Caroline strives to merge business development and investment opportunities. By leveraging her expertise, she has launched Chayil Consulting, LLC, Coaching with Caroline, and Caroline’s Coaching Academy under the Chayil brand. These ventures provide invaluable financial, business, and leadership coaching, empowering individuals and organizations to reframe success.
However, Caroline’s impactful work extends beyond her corporate endeavors. As the leader of the NuJourney Foundation, a non-profit organization, she focuses on promoting financial literacy and entrepreneurship in underserved communities. Through her efforts, Caroline empowers individuals and families to achieve financial independence and create a promising future for themselves and their communities. Her mission is to create financially healthy individuals who in turn create financially families with financially healthy businesses in thriving communities.
Caroline’s educational background includes an undergraduate degree in Corporate Finance and a graduate degree in Project Management. Her dedication to personal and professional growth is evident through her completion of the Yale School of Management Executive Leadership Program. Furthermore, Caroline holds impressive certifications, including being a Certified Financial Education Instructor, a Certified Practitioner of the Entrepreneurial Mindset Profile through Eckerd College’s Leadership Development Institute, and a Master Trainer Financial Coach with Dave Ramsey.
Adding to her list of accomplishments, Caroline recently published her book, “Take the Journey: The Powerful Steps to Owning Your Story.” This book serves as a testament to her expertise and provides readers with practical guidance on embracing their own journey to success.
Outside of her entrepreneurial pursuits, Caroline actively contributes to her community. She serves as a Program Advisor for the MUMA School of Business, Design Thinking Program at the University of South Florida and as the Chairperson for the Apopka Area Chamber of Commerce’s Young Entrepreneurial Committee. Her unwavering commitment to leadership excellence and community service has been recognized through various honors, with her most recent being an inductee into the 2023 Marquis Who’s Who.
Caroline Dennis exemplifies a leader who leads with purpose, dedication, and commitment to empowering others. In all her endeavors, she strives to uplift individuals, organizations, and communities.

Shawna Martin

Shawna Martin has been a global technology leader for over 20 years. Her extensive experience in guiding and growing successful teams and their leaders is where her passion for coaching and mentoring began. And now, Seedling Coach is where that same passion continues to expand as a career and money coach. Shawna has developed a sustainable, nourishing, and yet fierce method of taking her clients’ careers and personal goals to the next level. Shawna prides herself on deep listening and expanding everyone’s vision to see broader perspectives, possibilities of innovation, and opportunities for elevating excellence.

For most people, our financial income is directly impacted by our career path so it makes sense to talk about the alignment of those goals together. For all who have felt like they’re not quite where they want to be in their career or aren’t sure what the next financial step is, Shawna helps you feel ready to move in a more fulfilling and aligned direction.

Meghan Lustig

Meghan Lustig is the Director of Operations and Development for Education Finance Council. In this role, she implements strategic initiatives that carry out EFC’s mission and assure the association’s long-term growth and sustainability. She also manages daily operations, accounting, human resources and employee benefits, conference and event planning, and corporate governance policies.

Ms. Lustig previously served as EFC’s Director of Policy and Communications, managing EFC’s state and federal policy strategies, and developing member services, including annual publications, partnerships, and events. Ms. Lustig came to EFC from Communities In Schools, where she managed a comprehensive federal and state government relations strategy and worked to elevate the profile of the organization as a national leader on key issues. Prior to joining CIS, she was Office Manager at Rock Creek Global Advisors, where she was responsible for finance, schedule coordination, and operations.

Ms. Lustig has a M.A. in Education Policy from George Washington University and a B.A. in History from the State University of New York at Albany. She is a native of New York and currently resides in Silver Spring, Maryland.

William Lindsey

William Lindsey is Interim Senior Vice President of Federal Relations & Outreach. He oversees the Agency’s Higher Education Access Partners, promoting PHEAA’s mission, programs, products, and services to educational institutions, legislative and civic groups, customers, clients, and constituents across Pennsylvania.

Mr. Lindsey joined the Agency in 2003, serving in the Education Services Group and then in the National Business Development Group. He continued working in the student loan industry for Urban Trust Bank and Campus Door before rejoining the Agency in 2010 as the Proprietary Sector Representative for the now defunct FedLoan Servicing. Mr. Lindsey became the Manager of PA School Services in 2015, transitioning to his current role in 2023.

Tanya Dreon

Tanya L. Dreon, M.Ed. is a Nationally Certified School Counselor who has worked for the last 27 years at Lower Dauphin High School in Pennsylvania.

In addition to supporting student’s social/emotional growth and career planning, Tanya also serves as the K-12 School Counseling Department Coordinator for her district. 

She has worked as a financial aid counselor in the community college setting and has been a representative on the Pennsylvania State Grant Advisory Committee since 2011.  Drawing on her diverse background and expertise, Tanya regularly offers parental programs on post-secondary planning and financial aid.

Keith Ritchie

Keith Ritchie is the Assistant Director of Outreach Services for Kentucky Higher Education Assistance Authority (KHEAA). For over ten years, Keith has worked in college access and financial aid. Previously, Keith has served as the Northern Kentucky KHEAA Outreach counselor, Program Manager for the KHEAA Kentucky College Coaches, Education Programs Supervisor for Hamilton County Job and Family Services, and Financial Aid Counselor for Miami University.

Keith graduated from Eastern Kentucky University in 2010, and received his master’s degree from Wright State University in 2012. He resides in Cincinnati with his wife, Ashley, and two daughters, Harper and Addison.

Steven Held

Steven Held is a Senior Outreach Counselor at Kentucky Higher Education Assistance Authority (KHEAA). He covers the west end of the Louisville Metro territory along with Bullitt and Spencer Counties in KY.

Steven has worked at KHEAA for 9 years and been in higher education for 13 years. He graduated from Eastern Kentucky University with a Bachelor’s in Economics and a Bachelor’s in Business Management.

Aleta Sue Rhodes

Aleta Sue Rhodes, the visionary CEO of My Journey View, LLC, is transforming the landscape of financial education for junior and senior high school students. With a profound commitment to empowering the next generation, Aleta’s pioneering “Journey View Learn To Earn” Program equips administrators and superintendents with a comprehensive toolkit to effortlessly teach money management and financial skills to students.

Drawing upon her extensive experience as a seasoned corporate trainer spanning over three decades, Aleta has honed her expertise in developing, implementing, and overseeing transformative training programs for global corporations.

Now, Aleta is on a mission to empower 25,000 junior high and high school students with the essential money skills they need to thrive in their own lives as well as their communities by 2028.

Melissa Olson

Melissa has served as the wealth education coordinator for Johnson Financial Group for the past four years. As a licensed financial consultant with over 17 years of financial industry experience in consumer wealth and banking, she has created financial literacy curriculum and presented throughout the nation on various topics tied to financial wellness.

Utilizing her outgoing nature and ability to collaborate with others, she coaches individuals to take ownership of their financial journey. Melissa believes that people come first. This is why she approaches each interaction with patience and the intent to understand each individual’s needs, guiding them to the right solutions for a sound financial future. It is imperative to the consumer that financial wellness and education become part of core benefit packages offered in classrooms and by employers.

Theresa Popp Braun

Dr. Theresa Popp Braun is the National Director, AccessLex Institute Center for Education and Financial Capability (CFEFC), where she leads the national team of CFEFC Regional Directors in executing member school engagement and education services across the U.S. Her
responsibilities also include directing education services and financial wellness programming in American Bar Association (ABA)-member law schools and partner schools in Indiana, Michigan, and Ohio.

Her credentials include an earned Doctor of Education Leadership Studies, Master of Arts College Student Personnel, and Bachelor of Science Education, all from Bowling Green State University. She is a Certified Educator in Personal Finance (CEPF®) – Institute for Financial Literacy and an Accredited Financial Counselor (AFC®) – Association of Financial Counseling and Professional Education.

Dr. Braun’s research to practice interests include student loan debt, higher education affordability and cost transparency, financial wellness, and financial capability. Her publications include the Journal of College Student Personnel, and she has been recognized by the Ohio College Personnel Association for innovative wellness programming. As a first-generation college graduate and former student loan borrower who successfully repaid her student loans, she is passionate about empowering individuals with the knowledge and tools they need to strategically apply repayment strategies, become student loan debt free and reach their financial goals.

Jeannette Bennett

Jeannette Bennett is a Senior Economic Education Specialist for the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis and is based in Memphis. She is a national award winner for the teaching of economics and was designated as a Master Economics Teacher.

With experience in many levels of education, she has served as a teacher, school administrator, adjunct professor, and curriculum consultant and designer. She has written curriculum for various organizations before beginning her career at the Federal Reserve in 2004. As Senior Economic Education Specialist, she continues to write, design, develop and present economic and personal finance curriculum and resources in workshops and conferences throughout the region and across the nation.

She has authored and co-authored numerous curricula and was presented a national award in 2022 by the National Association of Economic Education for her service in education. Bennett has degrees in education, educational leadership, curriculum, and administration.

Jack Towarnicky

Jack has over 40 years of human resources/benefits experience – including HR/Benefits leadership positions at four different Fortune 500 companies. Jack recently completed a three year term on the Department of Labor’s Advisory Council. He has held board of director/trustee positions at World at Work, Council on Employee Benefits, American Benefits Council, and International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans.

Jack, his team, and his employer have been nationally recognized as innovators in the employee benefits and wellness marketplace. Finally, Jack has served as an instructor at The Ohio State University, Franklin University, Capital University (the Certified Employee Benefits Specialist designation program), The Certified Plan Sponsor Professional designation program, and Marion and Lima Technical Colleges.

Maria T. Smith

Maria Smith is the Director of Financial Education for the New York State Comptroller’s Office. In this role she spearheads Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli’s initiative to increase awareness of personal finance issues for New York State residents. During the pandemic, Ms. Smith was the point person to residents struggling with late or non-existent unemployment benefits. She counseled countless people on how to obtain benefits, often referring residents to nonprofits that could assist in helping ease financial hardship.

Ms. Smith has been working to advance Comptroller DiNapoli’s goal of having a personal finance requirement in order to graduate high school. Discussion with state educators and elected officials on this matter has been ongoing. In addition, Ms. Smith is working with the in-house Intergovernmental Unit to develop a basic financial tutorial to be taken “on the road,” to venues such as union meetings, senior centers and events sponsored by elected officials. Prior to joining the Comptroller’s office, Ms. Smith worked in a variety of editorial and media relations roles. She was press secretary for both the Departments of City Planning and Transportation during Mayor Giuliani’s administration.

On a personal note, Ms. Smith is long-time Lower Manhattan resident and has served on her community board and building board of managers for 20 years. She recently obtained a MS degree in Emergency Management from John Jay College of Criminal Justice.

Bill Mills

Bill Mills is a dynamic and visionary leader deeply committed to transforming communities through innovative financial empowerment. Bill’s journey includes ten years of experience in the retail sector, followed by a decade in banking and then thirteen years in the nonprofit world.

He seamlessly blends his extensive background with his entrepreneurial spirit and creative storytelling prowess. In his previous position at a membership organization, he grew the partnership 2000% and increased funding three-fold.

Bill is renowned worldwide for his expertise in “Financial Edutainment”, reaching viewers across six continents and all fifty states. He initiated a nationally renowned think-tank involving high school interns, producing innovative solutions and policy recommendations for personal financial capability. His influence extends beyond borders; playing a pivotal role in consulting with a South Korean delegation to establish a financial empowerment movement for their entire country!

Bill’s career is defined by his unique ability to bridge innovation with community engagement, inspiring prosperity for all and leaving an enduring legacy. He loves to be referred to as the Chief Prosperity Officer!

Mary Handiboe

After a long history in theatre and academia, Mary Handiboe is having the time of her life spreading the good news of financial empowerment to the incredible individuals in the Kentucky Bluegrass.

As the Financial Education Supervisor with Commonwealth Credit Union, Mary enjoys working with several school and community partners to provide quality, engaging programming to encourage participants to thrive in their financial journeys. She leads the charge to capitalize on dynamic online financial education, allowing a more significant financial wellness impact among schools and organizations across the state.

When not working, Mary can be found doing puzzles, playing games with family, introducing her 15-year-old to must-see movies from the ’80s and ’90s, and procrastinating on housework.

Michelle Robinson

Michelle Robinson has a heart for helping others thrive. After spending 13 years investing in the growth of preschoolers as an early childhood educator and director, she joined the team at Commonwealth Credit Union, where she now serves as a Financial Education Specialist.

Michelle spends her days helping to develop dynamic relationships and programming for various education partners, with expertise in elementary-age youth. She is a valuable ambassador for the credit union’s online financial education platforms and works closely with school and community partnerships.

Outside of serving others in her financial education role, Michelle can be found helping friends, family, and her church community. She might also be found helping herself with some exercise or relaxing time on the beach.