Expect Challenge. Achieve Distinction.

The biographies of our 2023 distinguished speakers and guests appear below. We invite you to learn more about them.


Image of Keynote Speaker Marene N. AllisonMarene N. Allison, Vice President and Chief Information Security Officer for Johnson & Johnson is responsible for protecting the Information Technology (IT) systems and data worldwide through elimination and mitigation of cybersecurity risk. This includes ensuring that the J&J information security posture supports business growth objectives, protects public trust in the J&J brand, and meets legal/regulatory requirements. With 265 companies in 60+ countries, J&J is a leader in consumer health, pharmaceutical products, and medical devices worldwide.

Prior to 2010, Marene was Chief Security Officer and Vice President for Medco, where she oversaw all aspects of security and regulatory compliance. As head of Global Security at Avaya, Marene secured the World Cup network in Korea and Japan in 2002. She also worked as Vice President of Loss Prevention and Safety for the Great Atlantic and Pacific Tea Company. Before that, Marene was an FBI Special Agent, working on undercover drug operations, terrorist bombings, and a mock nuclear terrorism exercise.

Marene has a Bachelor of Science degree from The United States Military Academy at West Point in the first class to include women. She has served in the US Army in the Military Police, as well as on the Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Services and the Overseas Security Advisory Committee. Marene is a founding member of West Point Women and currently serves on their Board of Directors. She is also on the Board of Directors for H-ISAC (Health Information Sharing and Analysis Center) and ASIS International. Marene is married, has a son, a wonderful daughter-in-law and grandson, and lives in Bucks County, Pennsylvania.

Image of Oakland McCulloch Oakland McCulloch is a retired Lieutenant Colonel with 40 + years of leadership experience, including 23 years as a combat arms officer in the United States Army.

Oak highlights leadership principles that will benefit today's leaders and inspire the leaders of tomorrow.

There is NO discussion of theory in this presentation. We will discuss what every leader can do every day to improve their leadership skills and abilities. His presentation is based on his leadership experiences.

McCulloch will examine with the audience what it takes to become the leader you were meant to be – a Servant Leader. 

His "Your Leadership Legacy: Becoming the Leader You Were Meant to Be" presentation will take place from 3 p.m. until 3:50 p.m. on Monday, April 10.

Image of Keynote Speaker Gillian WardGillian Ward, is a native of Queens, New York, and has worked as a professional in the health & fitness industry for the past 28 years. She has worked with professional athletes, children, adults, seniors, military members, and first responders throughout her career as a personal trainer, cardiac rehabilitation specialist, strength & conditioning coach, nutritionist, gym manager and owner, seminar and workshop developer, writer, and lecturer.

She is a graduate from Hofstra University, where she earned a Bachelor of Science in Exercise Science.

Gillian’s mission is to improve the quality of life of others through exercise, education, and community development.

Gillian finds her inspiration in the words of the Greek philosopher, Socrates - “No man has the right to be an amateur in the matter of physical training. It is a shame for a man to grow old without seeing the beauty and strength of which his body is capable.” Gillian teaches people the skills to take control of their physical functionality and overall health by combining the education of mind and body.

Gillian has spent her life exploring the limits of physical human potential in her own athletic pursuits. A childhood gymnast and track and field athlete, Gillian went on to compete at the national and international level in CrossFit, powerlifting, weightlifting, strongman, and professional bodybuilding.

Gillian currently lives in Northfield Vermont with her husband, Col Scott Conway, USMC, and their dogs Hank & Lucy.

To learn more about Gillian click here and follow her on IG @gillianwardathlete

Image of Damon YoungDamon Young, serves as Chief Business Officer at the Kansas Leadership Center. His primary duties include leading the operations, finance, and business development teams. Additionally, Damon collaborates with senior team members in key areas of strategy and mission. Leadership is the necessary means to the end of personal and community transformation for Damon and he continually seeks to empower others to see themselves as instruments of change for the common good.

An active member of the civic and business communities in Kansas, Damon is the 2022 Chair of the Wichita Regional Chamber of Commerce. His degree is in Organizational Management and Leadership from Friends University where he serves on the President’s Advisory Council. He also sits on the Board of Directors for Lead Wichita and is an active member of Downtown Rotary.

Damon has been happily married for more than 20 years and has five children ranging in age from college to elementary school. He enjoys reading, sports, and long walks.

To learn more about Damon’s commitment to inspire greater civic leadership by building civic trust in Kansas click here.

Image of Mark D. YoungMark D. Young, is a leading authority on national security, intelligence, and advanced technology, having played a critical role in the oversight and development of the nation’s intelligence and cybersecurity policies, plans, and operations. Mr. Young is the senior advisor to the ConsenSys Software Inc. Chief Executive Officer and leadership team on international, U.S. federal, and state financial technology regulation. He is also the founder and Chief Executive Officer of Credibility, LLC – an advanced artificial intelligence firm that evaluates the reliability of source material for the mass media, information, and financial business sectors.

With more than 25 years national security experience, Mr. Young held several leadership positions within the public and private sectors. He received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Norwich University in 1992. In 2002, he received a Master of Science in Strategic Intelligence from the Joint Military Intelligence College. He received his Juris Doctor from the University of Maryland School of Law in 2006. Mr. Young is a member of the Maryland Bar and has published in the Journal of National Security Law and Policy and the Stanford Law and Policy Review. He is a lecturer at the University of Maryland’s School of Public Policy, a consultant for Johns Hopkins’ Center for Advanced Governmental Studies, a Senior Fellow at George Washington University’s Center for Cyber and Homeland Security, and Board Chairman of Kallion, an organization that elevates leadership through the humanities. He is also a Life Member of the Council on Foreign Relations.

To read more from Mr. Young's professional biography click here.


Image of Lieutenant (LT) Ed GailorLieutenant (LT) Ed Gailor graduated from the United States Coast Guard Academy in 2013 with a Bachelor of Science in Government. His first assignment was onboard the USCGC RUSH (WHEC-723) in Honolulu, Hawaii where he served as the ship’s Combat Information Center Officer, Communications Officer, and as an underway Officer of the Deck.

In 2015, LT Gailor reported to the Ceremonial Honor Guard in Alexandria, Virginia where he served in both the Supply and Operations Officer roles. In 2017, he reported to Sector Puget Sound, where he served for two years in the Emergency Management and Force Readiness Department as an Emergency Management Specialist, and one year in the Command Center as a Command Duty Officer.

Prior to reporting to the Management Department as a rotating military instructor in 2022, LT Gailor completed his graduate school education at the Wisconsin School of Business at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, graduating with a Master of Business Administration, with a specialization in Strategic Human Resource Management.

LT Gailor also holds a Master of Science in Organizational Leadership from Johns Hopkins University and is a Society for Human Resource Management Senior Certified Professional. He currently teaches Organizational Behavior and Negotiations at the United States Coast Guard Academy.

Image of Dr. Karen GainesDr. Karen Gaines has served as the Provost and Dean of the Faculty at Norwich University since 2022, where she oversees academic affairs and the internal operations thereof.

Prior to her appointment, she served as the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences (COAS) at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University (ERAU) Daytona Beach campus where she started the Aerospace Physiology Program within the Department of Human Factors and Behavioral Neurobiology. While overseeing academic programs for the College, Dr. Gaines also was the academic liaison for the Air Force, Space Force, Naval Sciences and Army ROTC units.

Dr. Gaines worked as a research scientist at the US Department of Energy’s (USDOE) Savannah River Site, served as the Department Chair of Biological Sciences at Eastern Illinois University and was founding Director of the Geographic Information Science Center at this same institution.

Dr. Gaines’ PhD is in Environmental Toxicology from the University of South Carolina’s Arnold School of Public Health, where she worked with USDOE’s Consortium for Risk Evaluation with Stakeholder Participation (CRESP) to quantify exposure pathways and develop spatially explicit risk models for vulnerable populations living near nuclear waste sites using multiple endpoints. Her work in radiation epidemiology, exposure, risk assessment and radionuclide fate and transport earned her the doctoral achievement award for her contributions.

Dr. Gaines is internationally recognized for her expertise on the fate and transport of toxicants in extreme environments for both environmental and human risk assessment, specifically as it pertains to health physics, radiobiology, radiochemistry, metals and organics. Dr. Gaines is an appointed member of both the Health Physics Society and the International Union of Radioecology. She also has active roles within the Aerospace Medical Society, and American Public Health Association.

Image of Jon HellerJon Heller has been developing leaders of character at the United States Coast Guard Academy as both an active-duty officer and later as a federal civil servant for over 25 years in the academic classroom, the military barracks, and the service-wide reaching leadership training command. 

Now, as the Director of the Admiral James M. Loy Institute for Leadership, Heller is responsible for systemically integrating the leadership development efforts across the academic, military, and athletic programs.

Presently, the United States Coast Guard Academy is one of nine pilot institutions for the Carnegie Foundation’s Elective Classification for Leadership for Public Purpose.

Image of Elvine KatangaElvine Katanga is currently a senior here at Norwich University. She has spent her years here in the Corps of Cadets, leading Provisional Battalion as the Command Sergeant Major her junior year and now as the Commander her senior year. As a member of the AFROTC program, Katanga spent this past summer training the Air Force’s future officer as a Cadet Training Assistant at Maxwell Air Force Base. She is majoring in Nursing, with interests including reading, traveling, antiquing.

Image of Sarah KazmierczakSarah Kazmierczak graduated from Norwich University in 2020 with a Bachelor of Arts in English. During her time at Norwich, she held a number of leadership roles as an athlete, Marketing Officer for the Student Veterans Council, editor for The Chameleon, Title IX rep, Resident Coordinator, and the civilian representative on the Presidential Search Committee for President Mark Anarumo. She is currently pursuing a Certificate in Nutrition and a Masters in Educational Studies at Tufts University.

Today, Sarah serves as a Residential Life Coordinator at Tufts University in the Office of Residential Life and Learning. She is also a girls’ club volleyball coach. In her work, she carries with her the passions she discovered during her time at Norwich—advocacy, growth, and leadership—developing a competency-based leadership certification course and two successful student mentorship programs. Her everyday work consists of holistically developing young leaders who feel prepared to take on the challenges they will face in a rapidly changing world.

Image of Dr. Pelin KohnDr. Pelin Kohn is a professor and the program chair of Leadership at Norwich University. She is also the director of the Center for Leadership. Dr. Kohn is a passionate leadership educator who has worked with corporate leaders and future leaders for twenty years.

Before moving to teach at Norwich, Dr. Kohn worked as an executive coach. She designed and implemented corporate workshops on leadership development and advancement. Dr. Kohn worked with global CEOs, middle management, and novice managers to improve their leadership.

Having both business (practical) and theoretical knowledge of leadership development allows her to bring real-life experiences to her class and integrate practical and theoretical knowledge during her teachings. Dr. Kohn, a leadership expert, had been named a New Leaders Council Fellowship recipient for 2022. Dr. Kohn is currently working as a Leadership Program Chair and Founding Director of the Leadership Center. Her academic background includes a BA in International Relations, a master's in Education (as a Fulbright Scholar), and a Ph.D. in Leadership.

A leadership educator and expert, Dr. Kohn envisions Norwich students being able to take on future leadership challenges and opportunities through more futurist-based leadership programs.

Image of Dr. Theresa McBrideDr. Theresa McBride graduated from the University of Baltimore with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration and Finance. She worked as an Auditor after receiving her undergraduate degree and then transitioned to Wells Fargo and became a Manager in Residential Mortgage-Backed Securities (RMBS).

Dr. McBride then became a Franchisee of three 7-Eleven convenience stores/gas stations in Fort Collins, Colorado, where she earned her Master of Business Administration from Colorado University.

In 2013, she was awarded a 600th Anniversary Scholarship by the University of St. Andrews in Scotland, where she earned a Doctor of Philosophy in Management degree in 2017. She has since worked as a consultant, and in higher education as an Assistant Professor of Management at Hawaii Pacific University and Lake Superior State University. Dr. McBride is currently a Lecturer at the US Coast Guard Academy.

Image of Alphonsus McConnellAlphonsus McConnell is from North Dallas, Texas, and is majoring in Management. He is the current Executive Officer of the Drill Company within the Corps of Cadets, and is involved in the Investment Club, along with co-leading the Norwich University Regimental Drill Team, "The Shock Platoon."

Image of Jamie McGrath CAPT Jamie McGrath (RET) retired from the US Navy after 29 years as a nuclear-trained surface warfare officer. He now serves as Director of the Major General W. Thomas Rice Center for Leader Development at Virginia Tech and as an adjunct professor in the US Naval War College's College of Distance Education.

While in the Navy, he served in a variety of ship types and operational staff positions and commanded Maritime Expeditionary Security Squadron Seven in Agana, Guam.

He is the author of numerous articles on naval history, naval operations, and student-officer education, including “Educating 21st Century Thinkers: A Case for Renewed Emphasis on Liberal Arts and Humanities in Officer Education,” published in the Journal of Peace and War Studies.

Image of Renytzabelle Ortega-CottoRenytzabelle Ortega-Cotto is a Junior at Norwich University studying Health Science with a minor in Leadership. She is currently the vice-president of the National Society of Leadership and Success and the secretary of the Rotaract Club. She spends most of the time participating in clubs such as the health science club, tri-beta, and enjoys volunteering on her free time.

Reny hopes to share her leadership knowledge with others and apply it to her future career.

Image of Dr. David J. UlbrichDr. David J. Ulbrich has served as associate professor and academic director of Norwich University’s online graduate programs in history and military history since 2017. He was promoted to associate dean in 2022.

Dr. Ulbrich previously worked as a civilian historian at the U.S. Army Engineer School from 2009 to 2013.

He has published several books, including Preparing for Victory: Thomas Holcomb and the Making of the Modern Marine Corps, 1936-1943. This book analyzes Holcomb’s effective leadership as Commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps during the latter years of the Great Depression and the first two years of World War II. The Marine Corps Heritage Foundation honored Ulbrich’s biography with the “2012 General Wallace Greene Book Award.”

More recently, Ulbrich co-authored Ways of War: American Military History from the Colonial Era to the 21st Century, and co-edited From Far East to Asia Pacific: Great Powers and Grand Strategy, 1900-1954.

Image of Camryn Vela Camryn Vela a Computer Security and Information Assurance undergraduate major with a concentration in Digital Forensics. She is currently the Campus Activities Board Student Leader, and a Resident Advisor (Resident Coordinator AY 23-24). She have served on the Junior Ring committee for the Class of 2024.  Camryn intends to bring her knowledge from these leadership positions into the work force after graduation.

Image of Abigail Williams Abigail Williams is a senior studying Criminal Justice at Norwich University. Since 2020, Abigail has been involved with Residential Life as a Residential Advisor and ending as Residential Coordinator, and with the Center for Civic Engagement as a Civic Scholar and the Outreach Coordinator. Abigail's goal is to empower others through leadership and strives to create an environment where everyone can thrive and reach their full potential.

Image of Gabriel Williams Gabriel Williams is a Norwich senior from Suffolk, Virginia. He attended Hampton Roads Academy where he was captain of the track and field team. Discovering early on that he thoroughly enjoyed the field of government and politics, Gabriel chose to attend Norwich University as a Political Science major, planning to work in the government sector or Intelligence community upon graduation.

At Norwich Gabriel co-founded the Norwich University Boxing Program and made history this past year as the he was a part of the first Norwich boxing team to ever compete in the National Collegiate Boxing Association.

As a member of the Corps of Cadets Gabriel thoroughly enjoys working with the rook class as he was cadre staff his junior year and is an officer in a cadet training company this year. Outside of Norwich Gabriel has had internship and contracting experiences in the Department of State and Department of Defense(DoD) and will be working in the DoD upon graduation.

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