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Keynote Speakers

Chester EltonChester Elton, #1 Bestselling Business Author, Organizational Culture, Employee Engagement and Leadership Expert

One of today’s most influential voices in workplace trends, Chester Elton has spent two decades helping clients engage their employees to execute on strategy, vision, and values. In his provocative, inspiring and always entertaining talks, #1 bestselling leadership author Chester Elton provides real solutions to leaders looking to manage change, drive innovation, and lead a multi-generational workforce. Elton’s work is supported by research with more than 850,000 working adults, revealing the proven secrets behind high-performance cultures and teams.

He has been called the “apostle of appreciation” by Canada’s Globe and Mail, “creative and refreshing‚” by the New York Times, and a “must read for modern managers” by CNN   Elton is co-author of the New York Times and #1 USA Today and Wall Street Journal bestselling leadership books, All In, The Carrot Principle and The Best Team Wins. His books have been translated in more than 30 languages and have sold more than 1.5 million copies worldwide.

Elton is often quoted in publications such as the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Fast Company and the New York Times. He has appeared on NBC’s Today, CNN, ABC, MSNBC, National Public Radio and CBS’s 60 Minutes. In 2017 Global Gurus research organization ranked him as #15 in the world’s top leadership experts and #10 in the world’s top organizational culture experts. 

Elton is the co-founder of The Culture Works, a global training company and is a board member of Camp Corral, a non-profit for the children of wounded and fallen military heroes. He serves as a leadership consultant to firms such as American Express, AT&T, Avis Budget Group and Procter & Gamble. He is most proud, however, to be the father of four exceptional children-more exceptional now they’ve grown up and left home.

David SturtDavid Sturt, Author of New York Times bestseller Great Work: How to Make a Difference People Love, and Executive Vice President of O.C. Tanner Company

David Sturt is an Executive Vice President of O.C. Tanner, a $500 million global recognition and culture company. He is also a New York Times bestselling author of Great Work: How to Make a Difference People Love and the newly released companion book, Appreciate.

His work and interviews have been published in the Wall Street Journal, Harvard Business Review, Fast Company, and Inc.; and he co-authors a weekly leadership column for

David has spoken at TEDx, and to thousands of business leaders at conferences around the world, and at companies including Bank of America, Dow Chemical, Nationwide, Tata, Home Depot, and MGM.

David has a bachelor’s degree in Training and Development and an MBA, and has two decades of experience in research, innovation, and leadership. He was born in England, raised in South Africa, and educated in the US and Asia.

David is driven by making a difference in the world. For a more extensive bio for David, go to

Bekah PauliBekah Pauli, Cracker Barrel Old Country Store, Inc. Company

Bekah Pauli is a native to Middle Tennessee and grew up eating at every Cracker Barrel along the interstate. She studied Political Science and Communications in undergrad until she discovered her passion for Pancakes and Pleasing People. She went on to get her MBA from Tennessee Tech and now focuses her passion on constantly improving the experience of the 75,000+ employees who make Cracker Barrel a home-away-from-home for so many. When not working, Bekah spends time with her dog and family, in that order.

Kimberly HuffmanKimberly Huffman, Dollar General

Kimberly Huffman joined Dollar General in 2012; she has held multiple roles increasing in responsibility. Kimberly is currently the Director of Organizational Development at Dollar General Corporation, where she and her team are focused on creating and implementing impactful talent management strategies focused on employee development, engagement, and driving other vital business priorities. Kimberly graduated Summa Cum Laude from Minot State University with Bachelor degrees in Business Management & Marketing, Minor in Accounting, and Concentration in Statistics. Prior to Dollar General, Kimberly worked for the government at the Community Center on Minot Air Force Base, in the non-profit sector with a student organization Enactus. Through her work there she was recruited by Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., where she held positions in their headquarter office. When Kimberly has free time, she enjoys spending it with her husband and 3 young children.

Breakout Session Speakers

Cori Champagne

Cori Champagne, MIT

Cori Champagne joined MIT in 2011 as Administrator for MIT’s Recognition program, serving the community of over 12,000+ employees at the Institute. Cori’s responsibilities include ongoing development and sustainability of the Institute-wide Recognition program, managing resources, and advising on program use and best practices. In 2016, the Recognition program joined the Strategic Talent Management team, and was also a recipient of RPI’s Best Overall Practice Award. Cori has a background in arts administration and teaching, and before joining MIT, led educational programming at several non-profit organizations.

Chris Dornfeld

Chris Dornfeld, Maritz Motivation Solutions

For 20 years, Chris has applied his talents in strategy, technology and performance management to solve complex problems and build high performing organizations. With a background spanning start-up companies, global corporations, higher education and government as the CIO for the City of St. Louis- Chris has a unique vantage point on engagement, culture, technology and our changing work experience. Chris frequently contributes to industry publications and speaks around the country on employee engagement, people analytics and building entrepreneurial organizations.

Jeffrey Fina

Jeffrey Fina, HALO Recognition

As Senior Vice President of Business Development, Jeffrey is responsible for all customer-facing departments at HALO Recognition and is dedicated to providing a one-of-a-kind experience for all of our partners. He oversees our Customer Experience, Marketing, Product Development, and Business Development teams, ensuring that your interactions with HALO Recognition are efficient and easy. Under his leadership, HALO Recognition has developed innovative recognition solutions and strategies to help both prospective and existing customers celebrate the success of their employees and sustain those relationships over the long term. Jeffrey is active in several industry organizations, including the Society of Human Resource Management, Incentive Marketing Association, and Recognition Professionals International. He is a frequent guest lecturer at the Warrington College of Business at the University of Florida, his alma mater.

Karen Gray

Karen Gray, O.C. Tanner Company

Karen brings 22 years of recognition industry experience in sales, consulting and project management to her current position at O.C. Tanner overseeing the implementation of global recognition solutions and their supporting strategies. In 2014, she engaged in the development and roll-out of the company’s new implementation methodology. Leveraging her background as advisor to top organizations on recognition best practices designed to inspire and deliver impact, Karen applied her knowledge of appreciation and engagement strategies to construct a framework for implementation that maximizes value within a streamlined approach. A results-oriented professional with a passion for coaching, developing and motivating high-performing teams, she thrives on fostering a culture of engagement and empowerment through servant management and appreciation. Karen has lived in Arizona, Michigan, Alaska and Texas – and now calls Florida home. She virtually manages her coast to coast team from a home office in Jacksonville. When she’s not working, Karen is an enthusiast of running, strength training and practicing yoga. More relaxing past-times include cooking, reading or planning for her next travel destination

Dee Hansford

Dee Hansford, CRP, Dee Hansford Consulting

As a former manager of Walt Disney World's Cast Communications and Cast Recognition departments, she understands the leader's perspective. As an internal coach, consultant and facilitator, she led the design and implementation of Walt Disney World's first global recognition program, Partners in Excellence. The task involved coaching over 6,000 leaders in recognition/communication skills. Participation in the program increased 76% in one year while cast satisfaction ratings of local day-to-day recognition increased 15%. Shortly after forming Dee Hansford Consulting, Dee was hired to help California Public Employees Retirement System (CalPERS) create a recognition-based culture to support their strategic business objectives. CalPERS' employee and customer satisfaction scores have risen dramatically, productivity and teamwork have been enhanced and CalPERS is considered a "destination" employer, receiving the Recognition Professional International’s Best Program Award for 2002. California State Teachers’ Retirement System (CalSTRS) employed Dee as a consultant to design their recognition infrastructure which received the RPI “Best Overall Program” Award in 2012. Dee openly shares her recognition know-how by contributing to the continued evolution of CRP and Recognition Fundamentals (RF) curriculum. She is a founding RPI board member and co-chairs the Learning Action Team.

Theresa Harkins

Theresa Harkins, CRP, Inspirus, LLC

Theresa is a visionary, strategic leader as indicated by the achievement of such esteemed certifications as the Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR) and Certified Compensation Professional (CCP). She was an early innovator in the deployment of global enterprise employee recognition strategies by using her training and facilitation skills and knowledge to assist in the implemention of these initiatives. As a chartered professional in the recognition industry, Theresa eliminated the splintered recognition approach in her organization by creating an aggregated program structure to provide a sense of unity and consistency in the company. With this desire, Theresa led the development of the award-winning best practice recognition programs at Delta Air Lines. Theresa currently leads the Solutions division at Inspirus, where she consults with clients as a respected expert in the industry to design recognition programs that align with the organization's cultural goals and needs.

Amy J. Hurley

Amy J. Hurley, LSW, CRP, Ohio State University – Wexner Medical Center

Amy J. Hurley, LSW, CRP, is the Program Director for Faculty and Staff Recognition at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center in Columbus, Ohio. She and her team provide encouraging recognition tools to the 25,000+ faculty and staff and take pride in finding innovative solutions for encouraging their diverse population to use the tools regularly. She is on the Board of Directors for Recognition Professionals International. A big Buckeye fan, Amy has been known to have buckeye treats with her at most presentations... Hope to see you at our breakout session!

Alicia Jenkins

Alicia Jenkins, WorldatWork

Alicia Jenkins is a Program Manager of Survey Research at WorldatWork, focusing on leveraging data to develop digestible, insightful reports that help the association’s audiences make key decisions for their organizations. An experienced research professional with experience in conducting quantitative research on a wide variety of topics, Jenkins has a bachelor’s degree from Arizona State University, and a master’s degree from Wake Forest University.

Iryna Leonova

Iryna Leonova, CRP, The University of Calgary

Iryna Leonova is passionate about utilizing scientific methods in HR work to identify reliable metrics, measure progress, and predict future trends. Iryna holds a B.Sc. (Hons) in genetics and cytology and a Ph.D. in biochemistry from V. Karazin Kharkiv National University in Ukraine. After switching her career focus to Human Resources, Iryna has worked in both private and public sector. She graduated from the Human Resources Management Certificate program offered by the University of Calgary and earned the Certified Recognition Professional (CRP) designation from Recognition Professionals International.

Susie Lyons

Susie Lyons, Vanderbilt Medical Center

Susie Lyons is a Team Consultant for Organizational Effectiveness at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, TN. Susie has worked at Vanderbilt in the areas of Engagement and Recognition for more than 10 years and is a CRP graduate and former RPI Board Member.

Tim Miller, Augeo Marketing, Inc.

Tim Miller has 20 years of employee benefits and engagement experience. He is currently President of Augeo's employee engagement programs, which include multiple enterprise-wide recognition program for Fortune 500 companies.

Melissa Minkow

Melissa Minkow, St. Joseph's Healthcare System

Melissa Minkow is the Manager of Patient Experience at St. Joseph’s Healthcare System in the greater New York City area. She believes that happy employees make for happy patients and that is reflected in her passion for rewards and recognition.

Bob Nelson

Dr. Bob Nelson, Nelson Motivation, Inc.

Dr. Bob Nelson is the leading advocate for employee recognition worldwide and the only person who has done a Ph.D. dissertation on the topic. He has presented on six continents and consulted for 80% of the Fortune 500 on the topic. His classic book, 1501 Ways to Reward Employees, is in its 63rd printing and has sold over 2 million copies; his latest book is Recognizing & Engaging Employees for Dummies.

Gail Rawlinson, CRP, Alberta Health Services

Gail has been an HR Advisor in Recognition Services at Alberta Health Services for 10 years. She was certified as a Recognition Professional in 2015. Gail develops and implements recognition programs and practices to approximately 130,000 staff, physicians and volunteers.

Elena Rhodes

Elena Rhodes, The University of Calgary

Elena Rhodes holds a B.Sc. (Hons) in Actuarial Science from the University of Calgary and the professional actuarial designation of a Fellow of the Canadian Institute of Actuaries. She spent over 15 years in pension actuarial consulting before shifting her career to the HR field at her alma mater in 2013. There she manages the various retirement programs offered to the university’s 6,000+ employees. She also developed and provided numerous pension & retirement education events to large and small employee audiences. To this, she has added the management of the employee recognition function and implementation of the university’s recognition strategy. Elena completed the University of Calgary’s HR Management Certificate program in 2016 and is a CPHR Candidate.

James Robinson-Long, Biltmore

James has worked in Human Resources for over 30 years. He has practiced in every HR arena including staffing, affirmative action, classification and compensation, benefits, training, HRIS design and implementation, employee relations and administration. Past employment has included private and public sector, universities, non-profits and for-profit companies in Indiana, Colorado and North Carolina.

Jeff Ross

Jeff Ross, CPA, CRP, C.A. Short Company

Jeff Ross is a certified public accountant. He joined the C.A. Short Company as its controller in June 1993 and was promoted to Chief Financial Officer in November 1996. In January 2010, he was promoted to President and Chief Financial Officer. In November 2017, he became CEO and CFO. Jeff is a Certified Recognition Professional as designated by Recognition Professionals International. Jeff was employed as an accountant by Hausser + Taylor, a large public accounting and consulting firm from September 1989 until June 1993. Jeff serves on the Board of Directors of 2XSalt Ministries, Charlotte, NC and is a member of North Carolina Association of Certified Public Accountants, The Ohio Society of Certified Public Accountants and American Institute of Certified Public Accountants. He graduated from The Ohio State University with Bachelor of Science and Bachelor of Arts degrees in 1989. He is currently employee relations manager with Biltmore in Asheville, North Carolina, coordinating employee recognition events, engagement activities and resolving employee relations issues.

Barbara Ruddy, CRP, Arizona Department of Economic Security

Barbara brings to RPI more than 20 years of experience in the field of employee recognition. As a long-time employee with the State of Arizona, Department of Economic Security, an organization of almost 10,000 employees, Barbara was responsible for the design, implementation and ongoing management of an employee recognition system that has served as a model for many other organizations. In these roles, Barbara helped others realize that recognition isn't just a nice thing to do; it’s a smart business strategy for success. As an active supporter of RPI since 1998, Barbara chairs the “Pamela Sabin Recognition Champion Award Program” committee. In addition to being a CRP and RF facilitator, Barbara is a member of the RPI Community Action Team, striving to strengthen the engagement of current members and build membership to share best practices in the field of employee recognition for all organizations, large and small.

Roy Saunderson

Roy Saunderson, MA, CRP, Vistance Institute at Rideau, Inc.

Roy is Chief Learning Officer at Rideau Recognition Solutions providing recognition consulting, education and thought leadership. He has been a subject matter expert in helping companies give real recognition the right way, wherever they work, for the past 20 years. He serves on RPI’s Education Committee and has been a judge on the Best Practices Awards Committee for the past 10 years. Roy is the author of Giving the Real Recognition Way and is a popular columnist in Incentive Magazine and Training Magazine.

Dan Stern

Dan Stern, BAE System

Lindsay Strack

Lindsay Strack, WorldatWork

Lindsay Strack is a Program Manager of Survey Research at WorldatWork, delivering timely, practical and relevant results on key total rewards issues. Her experience includes conducting quantitative research in human resources, total rewards, public health and health care. Strack holds a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree from Northern Illinois University.

Paul White

Dr. Paul White, Appreciation at Work

Dr. Paul White is a psychologist whose passion is to help organizations build healthy work relationships and positive work cultures. Co-author of the best selling The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace, and author of The Vibrant Workplace, Dr. White assists leaders and organizations in learning how to communicate authentic appreciation across all types of workplace relationships. Energetic, humorous and thought-provoking, Dr. White is a widely sought-after speaker and trainer both nationally and internationally.

Chris Winkelspecht

Chris Winkelspecht, Maritz Motivation Solutions

Chris Winkelspecht, Ph.D., is the Strategic Services Director, CultureNext for Maritz Motivation Solutions. He has vast experience developing recognition and engagement strategies for companies, proving along the way these programs can accelerate the achievement of business goals while positively affecting the employee experience. In his current role, Chris connects, consults and collaborates with clients to optimize their recognition and engagement systems’ ability to drive performance and culture. His goals are to provide clients the most robust set of resources to support engagement strategy in the industry — guided by academic standards and delivered with practical consideration.

Thank You, Business Partners

2018 Recognition Professionals International

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