VCLA’s Board of Directors
Chair of the Board
Mark Seferian, Boulder, Colorado– CEO Golden Compass Ventures
Mark Seferian is the CEO of Golden Compass Ventures, which focuses on seed stage capital, early stage business strategy, and founder entrepreneurship and technical advising. Mark’s core competencies are as an entrepreneur, seed stage investor/advisor, micro-business strategist, marketing and brand visionary and highly accomplished C-suite level senior technical sales professional skilled at creating, developing and establishing new brands in the North American and global markets. Mark’s hobbies include talking, thinking and discussing blue ocean business strategy, seeking out the path-less-traveled in all aspects of life, adventuring, embracing the outdoors through all forms of mobility, being an all-in dad, and cooking.
Kimberly Drinkwine Churches – Washington, DC, CEO at AAUW
Kimberly presently serves as CEO of the American Association of University Women (AAUW). Previously, she worked for the Brookings Institution, where she strategically guided the public policy organization, providing vision and problem-solving skills, expansive partnerships and external relations, and fundraising as the managing director. Before joining Brookings, Kimberly was an associate vice chancellor at the University of Denver, a director of development at the University of North Florida, and a division director at the American Heart Association. She has extensive experience working collaboratively on education (K–12 and higher education) as well as capacity building among grassroots groups and national and international nonprofits. Churches earned her BA at Florida State University in English Education and the Certified Fund Raising Executive affiliation in 2002.
Vice Chair and Co-Founder
David Greenspan, New York, NY – Founder and President, Slate Path Capital, New York
VCLA’s Advisory Board
Justen Ahren, Poet Laureate, Martha’s Vineyard
Justen Ahren is Martha’s Vineyard Poet Laureate and founder of the Italy Writing Retreat. In 2007, after returning from a residency in Costa Rica, he founded and directed the Martha’s Vineyard Writers’ Residency which became Noepe Center for Literary Arts in 2013. Mr. Ahren is the author of two collections of poetry. His work is currently on exhibit at Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art.
Christopher Ballard, Principal, McWilliams|Ballard
Chris Ballard, co-founder and principal of McWilliams|Ballard, began his career in residential development sales and marketing 28 years ago working for Washington, D.C. developers such as Hazel/Peterson and Charles E. Smith. Chris and his business partner Ross McWilliams founded the firm in 1996. McWilliams|Ballard’s primary focus is collaborating with developers in the conceptualization, design, marketing and sales of new condominium and townhome communities. McWilliams|Ballard is consistently ranked among the top 10 national firms with a focus on project development sales and marketing.
Chris is an active member in his community of Alexandria, Virginia and currently serves as a Commissioner for the Alexandria Redevelopment and Housing Authority. He has participated as an expert witness in multiple real estate related trials and arbitrations. Chris holds a BA in Economics from George Mason University, and an MS in Real Estate from Johns Hopkins University.
Horace Blackman, VP, Cognizant, George Mason University Board Member
Horace Blackman is Vice President of Healthcare at Cognizant, a Fortune 200 global Information and Technology Services company. In this role he is responsible for the strategy development and delivery of digital business, digital operations and digital systems and technology to commercial healthcare payers, government and public health programs.
Prior to joining Cognizant in April 2018, Mr. Blackman served as the Senior Vice President of Leidos Veterans Health Line of Business subsequent to the merger of Lockheed Martin’s Information System and Global Solution business with Leidos. At Lockheed Martin, Mr. Blackman served as the Vice President of the Health & Life Sciences (H&LS) organization within Lockheed Martin’s Information Systems & Global Solutions Civil business. He led a team of 2,500 employees who engineer solutions that enable federal healthcare agencies to be more secure and efficient.
Federal Computer Week named Mr. Blackman a 2014 Federal 100 Award winner, which honors government, industry and academic leaders in information technology for the federal government. Other recognitions include ComputerWorld magazine’s 100 IT leaders in 2013, the Project Management Award for Green IT from the Association for Federal Information Resources Management and the Project Management Award for Green IT from the Government Information Technology Executive Council (GITEC). Mr. Blackman earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from George Mason University, double majoring in American studies and English. He earned a Master of Business Administration in management from the Darden Graduate School of Business Administration at the University of Virginia.
Jim Boyer, Doctor of Oncology and Hematology, Martha Jefferson Hospital
Born and raised in Virginia, Jim completed his undergraduate studies at George Mason University before earning his medical degree at the University of Virginia. He furthered his training in residency at the University of Rochester, followed by a fellowship in Hematology/Oncology at George Washington University. Dr. Boyer is board certified in Hematology and Oncology and primarily takes care of cancer patients and their families.
Dr. Boyer has lived and worked in his community for over a decade. Upon completing his training, he sought an opportunity to return his family to Charlottesville. He was first in private practice with HOPE, spearheading clinical trial accrual for his group, later serving on faculty at the University of Virginia. He is interested in furthering the development of clinical trials for patients to advance treatments for cancer. He most recently joined the team at Martha Jefferson Hospital, a place he has always served and enjoyed. Jim has two daughters, Claire (14) and Katie (12). When not caring for patients, he enjoys running, playing pool and spending time with his children, whether helping them with their homework or cheering for them in sports.
Geoffrey Gray, NYT best-selling author, True Magazine
Geoffrey Gray is an author, documentary producer and journalist. Gray is a contributing editor at New York Magazine, and his work has appeared in the New York Times Magazine, Sports Illustrated ESPN: The Magazine, and Departures. He has also been a featured as an expert on Good Morning America, NBC Today, and CNN.
In 2011, Gray published his first book, Skyjack: The Hunt for D.B Cooper, based on the infamous D. B. Cooper case and based on thousands of confidential case files. The book made The New York Times Best Seller list after the first week of publication. Gray is also the founder of True.Ink, an interactive magazine devoted to adventure, expertise, and scheduled to launch in the spring of 2015.
Norman Happ, SVP Sales, Evernote
Norman Happ is the Senior Vice President of Growth at Evernote responsible for building the go-to-market strategy that is now delivering 80% year-over-year new business growth. Previously, Norm spent 8 years in go-to-market executive roles within Intuit’s Small Business Group where he grew the business to over $2.6 billion of annual revenue. During his time at Intuit, Norm developed and designed a series of breakthrough customer-targeting data mining algorithms. Prior to Intuit, he spent five years at H&R Block in diverse leadership roles, where he was responsible for building and scaling the company’s first inside sales organization.
Early on in his career, Norm founded two technology companies and worked extensively throughout Europe. He credits his career beginnings as a technologist for setting the foundation for his tools-driven, analytical, yet customer-oriented approach towards revenue growth.
A.J. Hernandez, President and CEO, SkyPostal, Inc.
A.J. grew up in the courier industry beginning as a package sorter during his summers off from school in 1986. After two years of playing professional baseball for the California Angels he joined SkyNet Worldwide Couriers in 1993. While at SkyNet A.J. developed a new service called SkyBox and later spun it off into a separate entity. SkyBox gave consumers in Latin America a physical US address wherein they could receive mail and merchandise as if they lived in Miami without assuming the delivery or customs clearance challenges.
After successfully selling SkyBox to LanChile Airlines, A.J. along with his father, Albert, started SkyPostal to serve the great need for reliable mail and parcel delivery in Latin America. His experience allowed him to infuse SkyPostal with a courier, time defined, service mentality for the mail and B2C parcel industry. Today SkyPostal is a leading B2C delivery network in Latin America. A.J. is regarded as an industry expert in cross-border e-commerce package delivery into the region especially in the very complex Brazilian market. He has a BA from the University of North Florida and an MBA from Florida International University.
Jason Herskowitz, Group Product Manager, Spotify
Alicia Cahalane Lewis, Author, Marion Park Lewis Foundation for the Arts
Alicia Cahalane Lewis is a poet, novelist, and Master of Masters Reiki practitioner. In 2013 she graduated from Naropa University with an MFA in Creative Writing, and while there her work appeared in Not Enough Night. Her chapbook nebulous beginnings and strings, published October 2017, and the coffee table book of the same name featuring the full-length poem, nebulous beginnings and strings, and paintings by local artist Winslow McCagg was published August 2017 by Tea and Tattered Pages. The Fish Turned the Waters Over So the Birds Would Have a Sky, a meditation on evolution was published by The Lune Chapbook Series Summer 2017.
Her forthcoming book of poems entitled Math Mind and Mediocrity, an exploration of math, formation, and relationship will be published Spring 2019 by Tea and Tattered Press. Find her at aliciacahalanelewis.com.
Ben Mayrides, Chief Information Security Officer, Cvent
Ben Mayrides is Vice President and Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) at Cvent, a global events and hospitality technology company headquartered in Tysons Corner, VA. Ben’s information security career spans over 20 years across a number of industry sectors. He’s served U.S. federal agencies like the Department of Energy and Federal Bureau of Investigation and held security leadership positions with three global media and entertainment companies (RealNetworks, AOL/Time Warner, and Sony). Prior to Cvent, he served as CISO at Ellucian, a global technology company serving 2,400 education institutions and over 18 million students in 40 countries around the world.
Outside of work, Ben likes to spend time with family and find ways to give back to the community. In addition to VCLA, he also serves on the Advisory Board of the LAYC Career Academy, a Washington, D.C. public charter school for opportunity youth.
Jeremy Neuner, Google
Jeremy Neuner builds strong communities. From flying helicopters in the U.S. Navy, to working in local economic development, to founding the company NextSpace, Jeremy creates great teams and imagines collaborative environments where they can thrive. He is currently the Global Lead for Space + Community at Launchpad, Google’s startup accelerator.
Jeremy is the co-author of The Rise of the Naked Economy: How to Benefit from the Changing Workplace (U.S. edition published 2013; Chinese edition published 2016). He is also a frequent speaker on the future of work and the workplace. He has spoken at The Aspen Institute (where he is a fellow of the Business and Society Program), UCLA’s Anderson School of Business, University of Wisconsin’s Institute for Discovery, the Agile Workplace Conference (keynote), the Next Generation Workplace Conference (keynote), the Future of Work Conference (keynote), and many other industry events. Jeremy was honored to give the TEDx Talk “The Office is Obsolete” in 2016. Jeremy holds degrees from Georgetown University and Harvard University, but he’s learned the most by playing LEGO’s with his kids.
Robin Olsen, VCLA Chief Communications Officer
Robin Olsen is a killer communications and public relations guru with over two decades experience in a variety of industries. She is the President & Founder of Honey Communications, a public relations and communications firm based in Colorado. Along with running the firm, she serves as Chief Communications Officer for the Virginia Center for Literary Arts (VCLA). Most recently, she served as Head of Communications for Thinkful after leading internal and external strategy as the Director of Public Relations & Communications at Galvanize. Robin is known for her adventures with her husband and two children in Vail, CO where she loves to ski, hike, read good books, and generally be outdoors. Robin looks forward to the day when she has a chance to finish her book.
Bethanne Patrick, Author, Critic, Creator of #FridayReads
Bethanne Kelly Patrick is a writer, critic, and author whose career has focused on books, publishing, and authors–not necessarily in that order! One of Flavorwire’s “35 Writers Who Run the Literary Internet,” she tweets @TheBookMaven. In 2009, Patrick created the #FridayReads hashtag that is now used on a variety of social-media platform for weekly booktalk and sharing by thousands of readers around the world. She launched the AOL Books Channel and Shelf Awareness for Readers. From 2007-2011, Patrick hosted an author interview show called “The Book Studio” for WETA-PBS, and she continues to interview authors as often as possible for publications that include Poets & Writers magazine and Publishers Weekly.
Her book reviews appear frequently in The Washington Post and on NPR Books, among others, and she is a contributing editor to Lit Hub, where she writes the monthly column on “Overlooked Books.” Patrick’s books include An Uncommon History of Common Things (with John Thompson), An Uncommon History of Common Courtesy, and The Books That Changed My Life: Reflections from 100 Authors, Artists, Musicians, and Other Remarkable People. She is currently working on a memoir for The Counterpoint Press. Patrick is on the board of The National Book Critics Circle. An alumna of Smith College, she received her MA in English literature from The University of Virginia.
Christine A. Patrick, Owner/Manager, Winchester Book Gallery
Christine A. Patrick is an independent bookseller in Winchester, Virginia providing opportunities for thought provoking reflection and humor every day. As the owner/manager of the 46 year-old Winchester Book Gallery and bookkeeper for Skyline Indie Film Fest, Christine works hard to deliver the Shenandoah Valley with opportunities for literacy, education, art, discovery and entertainment.
Christine is a member of the Old Town Winchester Business Association and was president for two years. She has been a member of the Kiwanis Club of Old Town for ten years and served as a co-secretary for nine of those years providing administrative assistance to the club. She completed a bachelor’s degree in Religious Studies at DePaul University and worked toward a master’s degree at Arizona State University. She and her husband, Brian Patrick, have two children and have lived in Winchester for 18 years working with the business community to provide educational and cultural opportunities for this area.
Mike Shields, Partner, Convergence Media
CNN Political Commentator Mike Shields boasts more than 20 years of strategic experience at the highest levels of campaigns, Capitol Hill and influential outside groups. Shields served as Chief of Staff to the Republican National Committee in 2013-2014. Prior to these posts Shields served as the Political Director and Independent Expenditure Director of the National Republican Congressional Committee. The American Association of Political Consultants recognized Shields’ expertise by naming him the 2012 election’s “Most Valuable Player” for his leadership in creating a messaging program to defend House Republicans.
Born in the United States on a U.S. Air Force Base to an American father and British mother, Clyde and Wendy, Shields moved with his family to Great Britain as a child where he lived for 10 years. Understanding—and translating—the British political scene and the consequences of Brexit is a passion for Shields, as is helping to decode American politics for his British colleagues. Shields lives in Alexandria, Virginia, and is blessed with a son, Aidan.
Rob Simms, Partner, Convergence Media
Simms is a veteran political operative with more than 20 years of experience in campaigns, politics and public affairs. He has advised campaigns for U.S. Senate and Governor, as well as state and local offices from Georgia to Alaska. He has been a partner at a public affairs firm and held senior level positions in Congress and state government, including Chief of Staff to Congressman Bill Shuster and Deputy Secretary of State under Georgia Secretary of State Karen Handel. In that capacity, Rob oversaw the 2008 presidential elections and later testified before the U.S. Senate on matters concerning voter fraud and Photo ID.
A graduate of George Mason University, he is currently an Adjunct Professor at his alma mater teaching classes on political parties and campaigns. A native of Northern Virginia, Rob is a long-suffering Redskins fan, soccer enthusiast and Nationals season ticket holder with his wife Cindy. They reside in Alexandria, Virginia.
Jesse Waters, Director, Bowers Writers House, Elizabethtown College
A winner of the River Styx International Poetry Contest, runner-up for the Iowa Review Fiction Prize and Finalist in The Starcherone Prize, the DIAGRAM Innovative Fiction Prize and the Paul Bowles Fiction Award, Jesse Waters is a recipient of a NC Artist’s Grant to attend the Vermont Studio Center, and is currently Director of both the Bowers Writers House at Elizabethtown College and the West Chester University Poetry Center.
Jesse’s fiction, poetry and non-fiction work has been nominated for multiple Pushcart Prizes, and has appeared nationally and internationally in such journals as The Adirondack Review, Coal Hill Review, The Cortland Review, Cimarron Review, Iowa Review, River Styx, Slide, Story Quarterly, Southeast Review, Sycamore Review and others. His first collection of poems, Human Resources, was published by Inkbrush Press in 2011; his first collection of short fiction So Let Me Get This Straight was released by Paycock Press in February of 2018.