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2017 Blueprint for Success Presenters

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Award winning Entrepreneur, International Speaker and Author Kevin Y. Brown brings his audience members high energy, authentic presentations that provide tangible takeaways to engage them in creating the results and life that they desire.

Born to a young drug addicted mother, Kevin entered the California Foster Care system at the age of one where he remained until emancipating at the age of 18. Despite his early encounters with adversity, he excelled academically and graduated from college debt-free, and with honors in both Fashion Design and Business Supply Chain Management.

Formerly a host for MTV Networks and a marketer in New York City’s high-paced fashion industry, today Kevin is the CEO of cutting edge empowerment company Legacy Thinking Labs and founder of DEBT- FREE College Academy, which was inspired by his book “10 Ways Anyone Can Graduate From College DEBT-FREE.”

Kevin has spoken on 3 different continents so far and has created an international following with hundreds of video testimonials from clients and audience members on his YouTube channel ( Kevin’s current projects include being a Startup Leadership Program Fellow and hosting his own weekly radio show & podcast entitled the Create Your Life Series, which is broadcasted weekly on 90.3 FM in New York City & facebook live. Through interviewing entrepreneurs and industry trailblazers, the Create Your Life Series provides strategic insights into mobilizing your resources, maximizing your potential and self-authoring your destiny.

Kevin has been highlighted in various media outlets including Ebony Magazine, Black Enterprise and Huffington Post. Most recently, he was the opening keynote speaker at the International Foster Care Organizations Conference in Sydney, Australia.

Kevin lives in New York City, is an active member of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc. and loves to salsa dance


Alfred E. Blake IV
Assistant Director of Undergraduate Entrepreneurship Programs, Rutgers Business School- Newark & New Brunswick

While we’d like to remain comfortable in our pursuit of success, there is something about being innovative that involves a certain amount of risk. In that risk, conventional ways are destroyed, and traditional methods are questioned. A necessary perspective that few are willing to embrace, Alfred created a platform for millennials that will allow them to take ownership of their responsibilities and impact their lives.

Alfred takes pride in the engaging nature of his seminars and acclaim from attendees. Alfred is the author of The Students Handbook To Breaking All The Rules, Assistant Director of Entrepreneurship Programs for Rutgers Business School, Editor At Large of Thrive Global(Arianna Huffington Publication), Huffington Post/Elite Daily Contributor and he has partnered with: California State University Chico, University of Florida, Global Consortium of Entrepreneurial Centers, Pharrell Williams K!dult Conference, Fast Company Magazine,, Rutgers University, Hofstra University, Newark Public Schools, The Children's Defense Fund Freedom Schools, Hartford Public Schools and has been featured in Motivated Magazine to name a few.


L. Michael Burke, JR., Ph.D. 

President, ASIR Materials & Hampton University Alumni

Dr. L. Michael Burke, Jr., was born and raised in Savannah, Georgia and received his Bachelor of Science degree, in Chemistry, from Hampton University in Hampton, VA.  Upon leaving Hampton, Dr. Burke accepted a position at Uniroyal Chemical Company in Middlebury, CT where he conducted temperature dependent Mooney viscosity studies on ROYALENE™ EPDM polymers.  Upon leaving the New England area, Dr. Burke returned to Georgia to pursue graduate studies.  He received Master of Science degrees from both the Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech) and Clark Atlanta University in Atlanta, GA.  He received his Ph.D. in Polymer Science from The University of Akron.

Following his Ph.D., Dr. Burke worked as an Advanced Scientist at Owens Corning in Granville, OH.  In 2007, he returned to New England as a Senior Research Associate for Fujifilm Electronic Materials, U.S.A.

Although Dr. Burke had a rewarding career working for Fortune 500 companies, his true passion was to make products which would revolutionize the lives of everyday people.  To that end, he entered his entrepreneurial journey by creating the ASIR Materials Corporation whose headquarters will soon be relocating to Pearl River, NY.  His company is primarily focused on making heat resistant materials which can be used in a variety of applications from cellphones, computers, flat screen televisions and lighting circuits.

Over the years, Dr. Burke’s outstanding proficiency in science and research has earned him both academic and professional acclaim.  As an undergraduate and graduate student, Hampton University and the Department of Chemistry recognized him as the most outstanding student pursuing chemistry in his cohort.  Moreover, he earned a National Institutes of Health Doctoral Fellowship while pursuing his Ph.D. He has also been inducted into the Beta Kappa Chi National Scientific Honor Society.  Dr. Burke is a member of the American Chemical Society, the American Institute of Chemists, the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE), the National Organization for the Professional Advancement of Black Chemists and Chemical Engineers (NOBCChE), and the National Technical Association.  He is most proud to be a member of the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc.

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Dr. Alexis Colander

 President & CEO, ARC Consulting & Associates

Dr. Alexis R. Colander is the President/CEO for ARC Consulting & Associates.  Her educational expertise includes extensive experiences in curriculum development, leadership coaching, organizational development, human relations, testing and assessments, whole school reform, parental involvement and student support services. The successful experiences as an elementary and middle school teacher for seventeen years set the foundation for her keen interest in curriculum development, leadership and organizational development, middle school adolescents, enhancing parental involvement and the urban school environment.

Dr. Colander served as a school administrator for a host of school districts throughout New Jersey and Virginia ranging in demographic composition, resources and need. Her passion and enthusiasm has afforded her to experience tremendous leadership opportunities in both urban and suburban school district in New Jersey. Dr. Colander’s previous positions include Burch Charter School Interim Principal, Director of Educational Support Services & Parent Relations for the East Orange School District, Director of Student Support Services for Paterson Public Schools, Director of Middle Schools for Newark Public Schools and Director of Curriculum for K-12 for Montclair Public Schools and Assistant Principal for Summit Middle School, Her expertise in counseling, curriculum development and the urban environment was further honed in a consulting capacity when she served as a Senior Associate for the National Center on Education and the Economy, America’s Choice Whole School Reform Program.

Dr. Colander received her B.S. in Elementary Education from Hampton University in Hampton Virginia; M.S. in Guidance and Counseling from Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia and Doctorate in Educational Administration from Teachers College at Columbia University.

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Ahmaad Dent

 Student, Morehouse College, Class of 2018

Ahmaad Dent is a graduating senior and a top ranked scholar at Morehouse College, majoring in business administration with a concentration in finance. He is an active student both on and off campus, and has dedicated his life to serving others.  Ahmaad truly hopes to make an impact in the lives of others just like many have done for him.

While managing a full course load, Ahmaad remains active in college life, using his spare time meaningfully in activities that improve his academic and professional endeavors, but also in service to others.  He serves in the prestigious role of a Presidential Ambassador at Morehouse; he’s participated Morehouse’s Career Leadership Institute; he has been a program fellow/participant at various professional development programs such as Management Leadership for Tomorrow and Sponsors for Educational Opportunity, which gives students exposure to fortune 500 corporations.  Ahmaad is currently the vice president of the Morehouse College Pre-Alumni Association, a student-organization that enables students to learn how to become an effective alumnus through various service initiatives; as well as the Alpha Rho chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc.

Ahmaad has aspirations of becoming a successful businessman and has remained steadfast in pursuit of his ambitions. He has interned at Deutsche Bank, Citigroup, and upon graduation he will be joining Deloitte Consulting.

Ahmaad continues to challenge himself by honing his skills and development through various trainings, symposiums and other career opportunities in the industry.  He believes that these practical work experiences in conjunction with his education at Morehouse will enable him to succeed upon graduation.

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Robert A Giles, MD CPC FACEP

Dr Robert Giles, a native of Detroit graduated from The University of Michigan (Ann Arbor) with a BS in Biology in 1990. After attending 1 year in a Masters of Public Health Program at the University of Michigan, he matriculated to Wayne State School of Medicine, receiving a Medical Doctorate in 1995.  Graduate medical training consisted of 3 years of training in Emergency Medicine at Henry Ford Hospital, a nationally recognized Emergency Medicine Residency.  Having completed training in 1998, Dr Giles joined Emergency Medical Associates of New Jersey. 

Dr Giles continues to enjoy a successful career with Emergency Medical Associates with numerous appointments and positions including: Emergency Medicine Attending- Clara Maass Medical Center; Fellow American College of Emergency Physicians;  Full Partner Emergency Medical Associates; Clinical and Education Coordinator; Associate Medical Director Emergency Dept. Clara Maass Medical Center; Bravo Documentation and Coding Physician Advisor & Trainer; EMX Board of Directors- Board of Directors for EMA & Affiliates;  Co-Chair Edims Clinical Advisor Team; and EmCare Coding Committee.

Dr Giles and his wife Tisa Gonzales-Giles (also a Detroit native) reside in Montclair with their two sons, Kevin Gonzales and Malik Giles.

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Melissa S. Jackson

 Managing Director Entrepreneurship, Rutgers Business School

Melissa S. Jackson is a digital strategist and certified project manager who has worked with startups, non-profits and for-profit institutions alike to build digital products and experiences for over a decade. As the Managing Director for Rutgers Advanced Institute for the Study of Entrepreneurship and Development, she oversees the programmatic thrust of multiple centers related to tech commercialization and urban revitalization with an emphasis on how entrepreneurs are able to achieve more with less.

Her most notable work includes the Black and Latino Tech Initiative, a pre-accelerator whose mission is to connect early stage startups to venture capital. She is also the host of a podcast called ‘VC Cheat Sheet’ a collection of one on one conversations with investors and entrepreneurs cracking the code on how to raise venture capital.

Melissa’s debut into tech was through Lean Startup Machine Newark where she helped startups validate business ideas and incubate companies at a very early stage. She produced several experiences through Brick City Tech including a live podcast series featuring entrepreneurs and investors – particularly highlighting people of color. Melissa is also the owner\operator of Normel Solutions, a web development company that supports non-technical entrepreneurs by building web presence with WordPress and other tools.

Melissa’s mission is to demystify how entrepreneurs under resources constraints engage with technology and continues to do so gracefully with her platform. 

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Laseanda McLellan

 Laseanda McLellan Ford, Ready-To-Wear Buyer, Hudson Group, LLC & Texas Southern University Alumni

Laseanda McLellan Ford is a ready-to-wear buyer for the Hudson Group, the leader in travel retail, where she is responsible for fashion buying, product development and curation of product assortments.  She has over 19 years of experience in specialty retail from store launches to inventory management. She prides herself on being a creative strategist who can take projects from imagination to realization.

She received her Executive Master of Business Administration from the Jesse H. Jones School of Business at Texas Southern University, where she received the honor of membership to Beta Gamma Sigma International Business Honor Society. She attended Howard University, but later completed a Bachelor of Arts in Communications at Seton Hall University.

Laseanda is the volunteer buyer and consultant for the bookstore of her church, and volunteers for several community programs and organizations in the Newark area. She is also a proud member of the North Jersey Chapter of The Links, Incorporated.

Beverly McQueary Smith

 Professor Emeritus of Advocacy, Touro Law School

Professor Emerita Beverly McQueary Smith hails from Touro College: Jacob D. Fuchsberg Law Center in Central Islip, New York.   Prior to her retirement from full-time law teaching, Professor McQueary Smith taught contracts, torts, environmental law, consumer law, race and American law, land use planning and zoning, appellate advocacy, professional responsibility and legislation. She has a Bachelor of Arts from Jersey City State College, a Master of Arts from Rutgers--The State University of New Jersey, a Juris Doctor from New York University School of Law and a Master of Laws degree from Harvard Law School. 

Professor McQueary Smith is a member of the bar of the District of Columbia, and the States of West Virginia, Texas and New Jersey. After graduating from NYU Law School, she embarked on a seven-year career with the federal government. During that time, she worked for U.S. Senator Jacob K. Javits (R-NY); clerked for a federal district court judge; served as the Program Advisor for Mail Order Rule Enforcement at the Federal Trade Commission and as an Attorney-Advisor in the Office of the Solicitor of the United States Department of the Interior where she drafted a federal regulation dealing with surface coal mining on Indian lands.

She served as Chair of the Section of Women in Legal Education of the Association of American Law Schools, as President of the North Jersey Chapter of the Links, Inc., from 2010-2012, and as President of the National Bar Association from1998-1999.

Professor Beverly McQueary Smith was known professionally for many years as Beverly M.M. Charles, she now prefers to be identified as Beverly McQueary Smith.


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Blake Newby

 Beauty Editor, Glamour Magazine & Howard University Alumni

Blake Newby, a Houston native, and a recent graduate of Howard University, received her bachelor’s degree in Media, Journalism, & Film in the spring of 2017. Blake has always been passionate about the communications industry, and her internships with Essence Magazine, Fox News, and NBC for the Rio Olympics, lead to her first full-time job in New York City with CBS News. However, her strong love for beauty and lifestyle content shifted her path, and she recently became the Beauty Assistant for Glamour Magazine. Ultimately, Blake hopes to one day be the beauty editor of a major, digital publication, creating content that is inclusive of women of all races and ethnicities. She credits her parents for instilling in her a strong work ethic, and the belief that one should always pay it forward.  

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Emily Nichols- Mitchell

 CEO, Accelerations Group & Spelman College Alumni

Emily Nichols-Mitchell is the CEO of Accelerations Group, an executive coaching and talent management consulting firm. Emily specializes in helping minorities, women executives and emerging leaders discover, fine tune and position themselves to lead more courageously, confidently and boldly.

Emily delivers strategies that maximize business profitability and lead to the promotion of C-Suite bound executives. Emily has more than 20 years of experience in a wide range of line and executive positions for small businesses and Fortune 500 companies such as Eli Lilly, PSEG, Suez, and S&P Global.  Emily’s unique perspective on elevating strong women leaders is the result of her rigorous academic training and corporate successes in human resources, branding, marketing, and strategic planning.

Emily has coached nearly 800 high potential leaders and senior executives across the globe. Her clients include an assortment of high-growth startups, small businesses, global Fortune 500 companies and Columbia Business School Leadership Program for Executive Women. She is a sought-after speaker, delivering high-energy, interactive, and transformational workshops, keynotes, and seminars that empower audiences to accelerate their job search, professional growth and leadership capabilities.

Passionate about community and civic engagement, Emily has been active on numerous committees, and non-profit association boards, including the New Jersey Chapter of the Spelman College Alumnae Association, the East Orange District School Board, and the East Orange General Hospital Board of Trustees.

She is certified by the Center for Credentialing and Education and the International Coaching Federation. Emily is also a certified 360Reach Personal Brand Analyst. She earned a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Spelman College, and a MBA in Marketing from University of Phoenix. 

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Marjorie Perry

 President and CEO, MZM Construction & Management Company, Inc.

Marjorie Perry is the president and CEO of MZM Construction & Management Company, Inc. She is also an innovator, public speaker, writer and role model for women and minorities in business.  Using her extraordinary path to success and twenty-­‐six years of experience, Perry’s calling is to motivate nascent entrepreneurs to develop and pursue their dreams. Trained as an educator with a B.A. from Kean College, Perry’s path in teaching was diverted after she was caught in a series of layoffs with the Newark Public School system. She later tried her luck in sales and marketing working for corporate giants 3M, Johnson & Johnson and United Airlines. She ultimately realized her vision of becoming a self‐made entrepreneur. 

Perry launched a consulting company focused on helping entrepreneurs succeed in the marketplace. She and two partners founded MZM Construction & Management. Soon after, she became sole principal of the company, which has sustained a multi-million-dollar bottom line for the past 24 years.   Perry is a coveted inspirational speaker and writer, and has spoken throughout the United States on Women in Business and at Small Business Conferences. Locally, she has spoken at the NJ Governor's Conference for Women, Sobel & Co.  Executive Women Breakfast Series, the National Association of Women Business Owners, and on MSNBC, CBS, ABC, UPN 9, News 12, and NJN’s NJ Caucus with Steve Adubato.

Perry has received numerous awards and recognitions, including her induction into New Jersey's premier business publications: NJBIZ 2011 Business of the Year, NJ Business of Hall of Fame, 2012 SBA Business of the Year, 2012 Best 50 Women in Business, and Top 25 Entrepreneurs in New Jersey. In 2015, Perry was selected by Goldman Sacks and Bloomberg as one of the Top 15 Businesses in the Country to Watch.  She is also a graduate of Goldman Sacks 10,000 Small Business Initiative 

Perry is the Co-chair of the Board of Overseers and the Advancement Committee at NJIT. She is Chair of the Real Estate and Acquisition Committee for Kean University Foundation Board. She is also a board member of the Newark Regional Business Partnership.

Perry received her MBA in finance from NJIT with additional coursework at Rutgers, Stevens, NYU and NJIT. She completed Leadership for the 21st Century at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College.  Completing a finance certification program 2016.

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Dr. Corey Phillips

 Laboratory Team LeaD,
Bayway Refinery 

Dr. Cory Phillips, a Detroit native, graduated from The University of Michigan (Ann Arbor) with a BSE in Chemical Engineering. He received a Ph.D. from the University of Iowa in Chemical and Biochemical Engineering.  He later returned to University of Michigan for post-doctoral work with his long time mentor and friend Professor Levi Thompson.  After his post-doc, Cory worked as a research engineer with Honda R&D on the development of fuel-cell powered vehicles. Later, his career path took him to the ConocoPhillips’ Detroit office where he worked in surface tribology/tribo-chemistry and coordinated the commercialization of several automotive gear and transmission fluids. In this role, he also developed a technical interest in the area of process quality control modeling and also became a member of the Society of Tribologists and Lubrication Engineers (STLE). He eventually joined the R&D organization of Phillips 66 for several years working as a senior engineer in the Advanced Hydrocarbon Fuels group, and was also an Engineering Supervisor for the pilot-scale process design/development team, and later Team Lead for the FCC Research group.

Currently, Dr. Phillips works for Phillips 66 serving as the Laboratory Team Lead at the Bayway Refinery in Linden, NJ certifying clean fuel and polypropylene products. He and his wife Erika, a Long Island, NY native, have been married for 20 years and have two children Taryn (17) and Cory Asher (14). They now live in Fanwood/Scotch Plains, NJ


Paul Ramseur

 Senior Vice President, Group Portfolio Management Commercial Banking, SunTrust Bank & Howard University Alumni  

Mr. Ramseur is an Attorney and Senior Corporate Finance executive.  He is currently a Senior Vice President and Head of Portfolio Management at SunTrust Bank.  Prior to joining SunTrust, Mr. Ramseur served as Chief Risk Officer at Ally Bank, where he partnered with the CEO to launch a start-up Equipment Finance platform.  He also served as the Global Chief Risk Officer at Siemens Financial Services where he focused on Global Project Finance and Structured and Leverage Finance transactions.

Mr. Ramseur graduated from Howard University in 1992 with a double major in Communications and Business.  After graduation, he attended law school at Syracuse University (JD 1995) and has a MBA from Rutgers University.

Mr. Ramseur currently lives in New Jersey with his wife Nicole and two children, Natalie (17) and Paul III (14). 

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Gavin Taylor 

Manager, Financial Empowerment Center, United Way of Essex and West Hudson

Currently serving as the Manager for the Financial Opportunity Center, Gavin Taylor joined the United Way of Essex and West Hudson in July of 2014.  Prior to becoming the Manager of the FOC, Mr. Taylor worked with the Financial Empowerment Center at Newark Now as the Program Manager for the Financial Aid University (FAU) Program and the Assistant Manager of the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) Program.  He also served as a Financial and Credit Counselor for the organization. 

Mr. Taylor has worked in the financial services industry for more than 15 years. He began his career working in Corporate America at the Prudential Insurance Company of America.  After 13 years of service, he left the industry to pursue working with non-profits and philanthropic entities.  He began using his financial education and knowledge to assist middle to low income families manage their finances and overcome financial obstacles.  

As a Financial and Credit Counselor, Mr. Taylor provides financial services and solutions for middle to low income families.  His goal is to assist families in fulfilling their dream of becoming debt free, properly protected, and financially independent.  He fully believes that families that don’t have a financial plan (for their future) will ultimately fail in their pursuit of obtaining financial independence.  With that in mind, he strives to provide the benefits of his financial knowledge to families that are in need of it.


Gavin Taylor currently holds his life insurance producers license in the state of NJ.  He also holds a Series 6, which enables him to open Roth IRA’s, 401k's, 529 Plans, Coverdell’s, and other investment options.  He is also certified at the advanced level for income tax preparation with the IRS and is a Certified Credit Counselor with the National Association of Certified Credit Counselors.

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Mary Williams

Director, Outreach & Recruitment, The United Negro College Fund (UNCF)  

Mary Williams currently serves as the Director of Outreach & Recruitment for United Negro College Fund (UNCF). In this role, she has responsibility for providing leadership and strategic recruitment direction for over 400 scholarships, internships and fellowships totaling over $85 million annually. Prior to this assignment, she spent ten years as the Director of Communications and Administration for the Gates Millennium Scholars Program (GMS) which is administered by the UNCF and funded by a $1.6 billion-dollar grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. A native of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Ms. Williams graduated from Bucknell University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology and Sociology.

Ms. Williams was awarded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) Scholar in Education Legacy Award in 2013 and in that same year she and her son, Kenneth Williams- a 2012 graduate of Morehouse College, were featured in an article focused on college readiness in the April 2013 issue of Essence magazine.  She was also presented the Educational Professional of the year in 2014 at the Women of God Reign Award Show and in 2017 she received the President’s Volunteer Service Award’s Lifetime Achievement Award, the last of these awards provided under President Obama's administration.  Ms. Williams is committed to giving back to the community and has served on several boards and community organizations. A distinguished leader and speaker on the national education landscape, Mary’s work has paved the way for students, colleagues and peers to build on her tireless efforts to positively impact the lives of many.

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Actress, Dancer, Singer

Valencia Yearwood is an actress, dancer and singer, and she is a former company member of the Dance Theatre of Harlem, where she rose to the rank of soloist. Valencia’s Broadway credits include Once Upon a Mattress and The Lion King. Her television and film appearances include The Guiding Light, Clockers, Malcolm X, The Cosby Mysteries, and Law and Order. She has also appeared in numerous national and regional commercials, including Liberty Mutual, Capital One, Colonial Penn, Footlocker, Santander Bank, Advair,, Verizon, FedEx, BJ’s Warehouse, Publix, New York Lotto, and Partnership for a Drug Free America.

Valencia Yearwood is a graduate of Syracuse University, where she earned her Bachelor of Science in Biology.

Valencia currently serves on the Dance Advisory Committee for the New Jersey Performing Arts Center in Newark, NJ. She has also served as Chair of the Board of Directors of 651 Arts in Brooklyn, New York, and on the Programming and Educational Advisory Committees of the South Orange Performing Arts Center located in South Orange, New Jersey. Valencia is a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., and currently serves as the Eastern Region Chair of the Arts & Letters Committee. She is also a member of The Links, Inc. Valencia resides in South Orange, New Jersey with her husband, Marvin K. Pettus, Esq.