GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOTV)- Can you believe that WOTV 4 Women and MassMutual MidMichigan’s virtual lunch and learn series, Connect H.E.R. (helping. empower. relationships) wrapped up over one month ago? Neither can we! We’re still feeling inspired and empowered by each of our 17 panelists who dedicated their time and transparency for each insightful discussion.
We’d also like to thank all attendees for participating and invite you all to connect with our lovely panelists. Learn all about these exceptional women and find their contact information below!
Missed a Connect H.E.R. event? In need of an extra burst of positivity? Enjoy full recaps of each panel here:
Week 1: “Balancing Act”
Week 2: “Navigating Change”
Week 3: “Finding Opportunity”
Week 4: “Collaborating Like a Pro”
CONNECT H.E.R. Moderator
Melissa Keating is the WOTV 4 Women ambassador focusing on Financial Services. Melissa is the Director of Marketing and Field Development at MassMutual MidMichigan where she works with financial advisors across Michigan helping individuals, families, and businesses connect values and vision to financial assets through awareness and education, local resources, and community engagement.
“For most, the heart of the American Dream is financial security. We work within our local communities, listening to a client’s specific needs, goals and aspirations, then designing customized solutions, together. Life has a way of handing you little surprises along the way – we are there to help you though them.”
As a mom to five kids (and one chunky French Bulldog), Melissa identifies closely with families seeking balance in saving for children’s college educations, planning for retirement and caring for loved ones. Together, they live in Grand Rapids with her husband, Mark, a local business owner.
“When you start any journey, you need to map out how you will get from where you are now to where you want to be. Planning isn’t about crunching numbers – it’s about those moments when it all pays off. The more you can plan for life’s greatest moments, the more you can relax and enjoy them.”
Active in industry and community associations, she is a member of Women in Financial Services (WIFS), National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors (NAIFA), MassMutual Women’s Pro-Growth Advisory Board, and American Marketing Association.
Local firms are sales offices of Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual), and are not subsidiaries of MassMutual or its affiliated companies. Securities and investment advisory services offered through registered representatives of MML Investors Services, LLC.
Public Education Advocate, Connector/fundraiser
Born and raised in West Michigan, Cara Jones is a passionate and collaborative leader
with more than 15 years of fundraising experience.
Most recently Jones served as the Director of the Great Sports, Great Kids Program, a program of the Grand Rapids Public Schools Foundation (GRPSF), where she was responsible for raising more than $500,000 annually to support K-8 athletics for the
Grand Rapids Public Schools (GRPS). During her five and a half years with Great Sports, Great Kids, Jones championed the formation of the GR8 Girls Committee and the Battle of the Brackets Competition, thereby creating sustainable revenue streams
for the program.
In addition to her work with Great Sports, Great Kids, Jones has also served as Interim Executive Director of the GRPSF and volunteered as the track and field coach at Mulick Park Elementary. As a product of and an advocate for public education, Jones believes that it is imperative for West Michigan to create strong public schools for the future
the health of our children and our community.
Jones earned her MBA from Western Michigan University and her BSE from the
University of Michigan. In 2017, Jones was awarded the Young Nonprofit Professionals
Good to Great Award for her work at Great Sports, Great Kids. Jones is also a
graduate of the Leadership Grand Rapids 2008 Class.
Contact Cara via LinkedIn
Christy Buck is an Executive Director for the Mental Health Foundation of West Michigan.
Dr. Marguerite Atkin
Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeon specializing in Aesthetic Surgery
Dr. Marguerite Aitken was the first female partner at Plastic Surgery Associates and has been there since 2004. She brings her talents from the art world, completing two degrees in art from the University of Michigan and working as a medical illustrator in Chicago for 10 years.
She completed medical school at Northwestern University in Chicago and residency in the Grand Rapids/Michigan State University Plastic Surgery program. Her warmth, compassion and dedication to the female spirit is a true asset.
The focus of her practice is cosmetic surgery, including facial aesthetics, body contouring and both
reconstructive and cosmetic procedures of the breast. She has been the recipient of awards for her
clinical research in the field of body contouring and has spoken internationally on the topics of facial aesthetic surgery and breast reconstruction. Her talents and her passion for this field have enabled her to both author and illustrate multiple textbooks and journals. Dr. Aitken is an eager and
celebrated teacher working closely with the medical students and residents in training as an
Assistant Clinical Professor at Michigan State University.
Despite the everyday balance of home life and work, Dr. Aitken takes the time to get to know her
patients and understand their goals. Her experience and knowledge in combination with her artistic gifts guide her personalized care for each and every patient through all stages of life.
WOTV Crew Member “Empowerment”, Engagement & Relationships Manager at Amplify GR
LateshaLipscomb is a Grand Rapids native who has a passion for working hard to better the lives of the underprivileged in a city’s urban core. Currently, she is serving the community as the Engagement & Relationships Manager for Amplify GR. She is also WOTV 4 Women’s expert in “Empowerment”. Prior to these roles, Latesha served as a Community Engagement Project Manager facilitating the Heartside Quality of Life Study for the City of Grand Rapids Planning Department.
Her goals in this work are derived out of the desire to lift-up resident voice, build leadership capacity in the neighborhood and to empower the community to recognize that they are the change they have been waiting for.
In her work with such organizations such as the Grand Rapids African American Health Institute and the Inner City Christian Federation, Latesha has become an advocate for those with quieter or muted voices in the city’s most vulnerable communities.
CEO, GROW (Grand Rapids Opportunities for Women)
Bonnie ran a successful business for over 20 years, and she also spent six years in the area of non-profit fund development. Bonnie has been with GROW since September 2010. As CEO, Bonnie is responsible for overseeing all GROW operations including community involvement and outreach, business coaching and consulting, programming, funding for microlending and other financial programs, and much more.
Bonnie is also a board member of the Association of Women Business Centers (AWBC). GROW is one of just over 100 Women’s Business Centers in the country, and one of only three in Michigan. She represents GROW throughout the West Michigan community and beyond.
(Bio courtesy of GROW)
Associate State Director, AARP Michigan
Jennifer Feuerstein is a community organizer, activist, public speaker, and writer on issues related to older adults and the encore years. She currently is Associate State Director for AARP Michigan.
She is a journalist for various publications including Faith Grand Rapids and West Michigan Woman magazines on topics related to the encore population.
She received her certificate in aging and is currently writing her first book (a witty look at growing old). She is a life-long Grand Rapids resident, mother of 3 kids and travels across the state on behalf of the 1.4 million AARP members in Michigan.
Luxe Artisan Preserves
Dr. Kimberly Slaikeu, a serial entrepreneur, makes her way to Grand Rapids, Michigan by way of her hometown Milwaukee, Wisconsin and knows a bit about navigating change both personally and professionally.
She has held a successful career in healthcare for over 25 years as a published author, former university professor, nurse executive and clinician receiving awards at both state and national levels. She holds a PhD in Nursing and Urban Studies and in 2011 became certified as a professional life coach through the Applied Neuroscience Institute. In her doctoral work, she examined resilience in women who had undergone traumatic life events.
Dr. Slaikeu has always been a creative at heart, so her most recent venture should not come as a surprise. In the Fall of 2019, she “officially” launched Luxe Artisan Preserves which offers a collection of small-batch, hand-crafted preserves infused with herbs and alcohol using high-quality, locally sourced ingredients. Luxe’s bright and interesting flavor profiles turn classic ingredients “inside-out” to provide a unique twist on the traditional construct of customers’ favorite dishes, whether Luxe is used as an ingredient, pairing or an “accessory”. Luxe customers—which Kimberly affectionately describes as “family”—are currently spread across 17 states and the District of Columbia. Often described by customers as “love in a jar”, Luxe is set to be on the shelves of several West Michigan grocers in early October.
According to Dr. Slaikeu, her biggest accomplishment is being the mother of her 7-year old daughter Reaghan.
Executive Leadership Coach
Suzann’s passion is helping leaders create robust cultures and guide their teams to achieve business results.
Her signature approach is compassionately blunt – a combination of direct honesty and nurturing warmth. Suzann builds relationships on a foundation of trust and professional integrity. Through her guidance, clients gain
strength and confidence to develop new skills & overcome the barriers standing between themselves their goals. And she holds them accountable for their desired results.
Over the past 20 years, Suzann has successfully coached a range of leaders and teams. Her focus is working with C-Suite executives & their leadership teams. Suzann Foerster Leadership Coaching has a team of 6 coaches, serving
all levels of leadership. They offer 1-1 coaching, team coaching, strategic
planning and many leadership development training programs.
Suzann began her career as a corporate trainer but soon realized her
entrepreneurial spirit needed an outlet. Building on her passion and desire to
help others succeed she established her leadership coaching business in
She holds a Professional Coach Certification (PCC), is accredited with the
International Coaches Federation (ICF),carries a bachelor’s degree in business
and threw in an associate’s degree in Culinary Arts just for kicks. She’s an
instructor for Corporate Coach University, an international coach-training
organization; and is a Certified Behavioral Analyst (CPBA) and a Certified
Values Analyst (CPVA). Suzann is also a certified trainer and facilitator of The
Change Cycle & holds a Coaching certification from Human Systems Dynamics
Kristen Hartnagel is a founding team member and Personal Brand Strategist with Brand Builders Group. She’s a keynote speaker, professional singer, and spiritual breakthrough coach and her favorite way to deliver her message is with keynote concerts.
Having been part of 4 startups, she’s worked with NYT bestselling authors, award-winning talent management agents and celebrities as well as 7-figure influencers.
How we show up to share our gifts and talents really is a spiritual endeavor and Kristen is the master at drawing out your best; helping you shape, build, and scale a business from your personal brand.
Sheriff Michelle LaJoye-Young
Michelle LaJoye-Young has served Kent County for over 30 years. She has worked for the Sheriff’s Office since 1989 in various roles within Corrections, Patrol, Communications, Support Services and as the Chief Deputy, Undersheriff, and now the Sheriff.
Michelle has focused on developing a Strategic plan with an eye for ensuring peoples’ needs are being met where and when they have them. A key component to this is a focus on community outreach, transparency and planning services around the changing needs of our community.
Michelle’s involvement and outreach extends beyond the Sheriff’s Office. She serves on many boards at the local, state and federal level including The Children’s Advocacy Center, the YWCA, the Boys and Girls Club, Grand Rapids Community College and Grand Valley Police Academy Advisory Boards. She has been appointed to boards by 3 different Governors and has served to advise on 5 separate FBI committees and task forces.
Her dedication, innovation, and community engagement led her to being recognized as one of Grand Rapids Business Journal’s 2020 Top 50 Influential Women in Business Leaders and Top 200 Business Leaders in West Michigan. She has been inducted to the Michigan State University Criminal Justice Wall of Fame and in 2018, she was recognized statewide as the Interoperability Person of the Year by the Michigan Governor for her communication involvement and innovation.
Michelle also served in the Army Reserves from 1985 through 1998 where she left as a Captain. She obtained her Bachelors in Criminal Justice from Michigan State University, a Masters in Public Administration from Western Michigan University, MCOLES certification from Grand Rapids Community College, and graduated from Northwestern University School of Police Staff and Command.
Michelle LaJoye-Young is a compassionate, driven woman who strives to be a guardian to every person in our community. She is blessed to be the mother of two wonderful young men and works to lead a balanced, purpose-driven life.
Morgan A. Poole is an upbeat Digital Reporter serving the West Michigan community at WOTV 4 Women and WOODTV8!
Although it’s only been 9 months since she’s made the big move to West Michigan from her hometown of Niagara Falls, N.Y., Morgan has already made her mark around town and the office by managing wotv4women.com and its social media platforms successfully, creating engaging original content, and building strong relationships with current and former WOTV Crew members.
Morgan’s passion for the media and entertainment industry began at the age of 7. In 2016, this passion inspired her to create a YouTube channel that surpassed 1 million views and 10,000 subscribers in only one year. She continues to use her channel and other social platforms to inspire digital creators to be fearless in expressing themselves!
In 2019, Morgan graduated from Delaware State University, located in Dover, DE. In addition to receiving a Bachelor’s Degree in Mass Communications, she also received the President’s Academic Award for maintaining a 4.0 GPA for 4 consecutive years.
Although keeping up with her grades, participating in various on-campus organizations, and working three on-campus jobs were far from easy, wearing multiple hats has helped Morgan establish a solid work ethic!
Before working at WOTV 4 Women and WOODTV8, Morgan was a digital media intern for CBS Interactive and Entertainment Tonight in Los Angeles, CA. With developed specialties in production, audience acquisition, social media, content management, reporting, writing, and editing, her collaboration with various top-tier media entities have resulted in 10,000,000 media impressions, views, and engagements from audiences around the world collectively. She’s grateful for the opportunity to now contribute her skills to West Michigan!
Morgan’s greatest piece of advice to anyone looking to find an opportunity is to let go of fear!
“Great things never come from comfort zones, so don’t be afraid to put yourself and your dreams out there. Be confident, be persistent, and when it doubt…faith it out! Eventually, you’ll end up right where you’re supposed to be as long as your willing to go for it!“
Jenna Arcidiacono’s first job at 14 (in 1988) was slinging chili dogs and root beer floats at Cook’s Drive-In in Kentwood, Michigan. Slowly she began realizing that cooking was more than just a way to pay for her stirrup pants, music cassettes and perms.
She moved to East Lansing to finish her degree in art and continued to work in restaurants as a part-time job. She managed a vegetarian restaurant until the owner decided to close and tried to pay the staff with hummus. At that point, she should have known what she was in for by working in this unique business. Her next job was at a Korean-Chinese restaurant where she became passionate about the diverse styles of Asian cuisines. She spent time learning from the cooks after hours and ate what they would make for family meals–which are always quite different from what’s on the menu.
After recieving her Bachelor of Fine Arts at Michigan State University, Jenna decided to make a big move– to San Francisco. She wanted to live in a big city and soak in as many styles of cooking as she could. Besides getting into plenty of trouble, she got a job at a 10 table restaurant in North Beach called “L’Osteria del’Forno.” It was run by two Italian women and is still going strong in 2014. Jenna was not educated in true Italian cuisine and was often screamed at in Italian, “How is it possible that you don’t know what bresaola is!!!?” One day a stranger, named Maurizio, stopped in for an espresso. He was visiting from Milan with his friend and ended up staying a few extra days in San Francisco. Soon after, Maurizio took Jenna on her first trip to Italy and she fell in love with the food and relaxed culture (and of course with Maurizio). She spoke no Italian–but in the kitchen with her future mother-in-law pointing and giggling sufficed. Soon after, Jenna and Maurizio were married and she lived in northern Italy for three years. Her favorite days were spent at the outdoor markets purchasing local produce, cheese and honey and in the kitchen with Vittoria, her mother-in-law, who taught her how to make gnocchi, bechamel and bread from scratch.
After having two daughters, and working in corporations, Jenna felt it was time to go for the dream of opening her own trattoria. She wanted to serve homemade locally sourced authentic Italian comfort food. Amore Trattoria Italiana opened in July of 2010 and has been her biggest project to date.
Amore has won Best New Restaurant 2011, Grand Rapids Magazine; Restaurant of the Year 2012, Grand Rapids American Culinary Federation; Best European 2012, Grand Rapids Magazine and Chef of the Year 2013, The Grand Rapids Press.
Favorite chef Revue Magazine 5 years in a row 2015-2020. Blessed with many local awards. Featured on Guys Grocery Games on the Food Network in 2017 and Returning the Favor with Mike Rowe in 2020.
Dawn Baker enjoys being able to manage three (3) Grand Rapids consumer shows (the Grand Rapids Intl. Wine, Beer & Food Festival, the Michigan International Auto Show, and the Cottage & Lakefront Living Show – Grand Rapids) as well as the Cottage & Lakefront Living Show – Detroit. Her background includes a journey with community organizations and non-profits, even some time in the desert.
All roads have led right back to Michigan, specifically, Grand Rapids where Dawn is now pursuing her passion in building relationships to help local businesses, the community she loves, and a state that is HOME!
Maranda is the WOTV 4 Women kids and family expert. She hosts a daily segment, “Where You Live” which features a combination of information, inspiration and insights for West Michigan parents. It’s taped around West Michigan and is about real family life.
“I love the new challenges everyday and connecting people with services they want and need,” said Maranda.
Maranda joined WOOD TV8, WOTV4 and WXSP-TV in January of 2001 as Children and Family Services Manager, but has served the community as an advocate for kids and families for more than 25 years. Maranda oversees the development of station projects on-air, online and in our community that target kids and families.
Besides finding Maranda on-air and online, she is on the radio too. She is the co-author of Maranda’s Guide to Family Fun in West Michigan, a book for parents and children. Maranda also offers weekly family fun updates on STAR 105.7 and Daybreak on WOOD TV8.
Maranda serves on several community advisory boards. These include the John Ball Zoological Society Board of Directors, Cornerstone University Board of Trustees, Wedgewood Christian Services Board of Directors, Equest Center for Therapeutic Riding Board of Directors, Careforce International Advisory Board and is the spokesperson for CampFire Boys and Girls Club Incredible Kid Day.
Maranda is the recipient of three Gracie Allen Awards, a Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Women in Radio and Television West Michigan Chapter, an Emmy nomination, the Hope College Distinguished Alumni Award, a 2011 YWCA Tribute! Award, the 2014 Van Andel Institute Angel of Excellence Award, and 2019 Education Advocacy Award from Kent Intermediate Association of School Boards.
Judy Hoberman is President of Judy Hoberman and Associates, a company focused on empowering professional women. She is an international speaker, trainer, executive coach, author, radio show host and mentor. Her 30 years in business has given her both knowledge and a sense of humor about how men and women lead, sell, manage and recruit differently. She will enlighten you and help you learn how both genders can support each other’s successes in a more productive way. Her experience in sales and leadership has helped her clients realize the importance of building relationships, standing out and being the authority in their market.
Her experience includes over 2 decades in life and health insurance beginning as an agent with no experience and progressing to leading 3 agencies across 3 states with over 100 agents. She still holds her license and co-facilitates Medicare educational seminars. Judy also works with companies supporting their diversity and women’s initiatives in the areas of leadership, recruiting, training, coaching, mentoring and retention. In her role as an executive coach and trainer, she is often described as “transformational.”
She engages her audiences, from 10 to 10,000, with memorable stories and ideas that are easily implemented that same day. In 2016 she was a TEDx speaker talking about pre-judging people. She is the author of two books, “Selling in a Skirt” and “Walking on the Glass Floor.” She offers a training program that concentrates on women in leadership and the men who champion them, with emphasis on redefining culture.
Judy has completed certifications from Cornell University’s College of Business in Women in Leadership and Women in Entrepreneurship, adding that to her previous degree from Queens College, New York. She was named as a “Woman to Watch” for International Women’s Day 2019 from Thrive Global. She was awarded the Character and Integrity Award for her distinct and significant contribution to sales producers’ success. Judy was a finalist for the “Women of Visionary Influence Mentor of the Year” and was named one of the “Top 10 Women of Influence in Dallas” for her involvement in the community and entrepreneurship. She is Executive Director of the Walking on the Glass Floor Foundation.
Judy is the host of a weekly radio show on The C-Suite Network called “Selling in a Skirt” and has been “The Gender Expert” on Fox News Radio. She has appeared on CNN Headlines, ABC, CBS, CW33 and Good Morning Texas, contributes articles to multiple publications and journals, and appeared on the cover of Exceptional People Magazine.
Judy’s mission…to help one woman a day by following an important philosophy- “Women Want To Be Treated Equally…Not Identically”™
Elizza LeJeune is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in the state of Michigan. Elizza earned a Bachelor’s degree in Social Work from Central Michigan University and continued on to receive a Master’s degree in Social Work with a Certificate in Disaster Mental Health from Tulane University in New Orleans, LA.
She currently works at Pine Rest Christian Mental Health Services, as an outpatient therapist at their North West Clinic. Her areas of interest include working with adolescents and adults with depression, anxiety, spiritual concerns, family and women’s issues. Elizza’s focus is to assist clients in meeting their desired goals for their lives through individual, family and couple’s counseling.
Recently, she has begun the process to launch her LLC. Her goals for this work are to act as a wellness gardener nurturing women and families to bloom into their best selves. She plans to cultivate others through public speaking and the creation of various self-help tools. One way in which she gave back during the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, was by creating an Instagram page dedicated to low-cost time-saving recipes for families. Elizza believes in furthering oneself through a holistic lens of care. She’s also an avid gardener.
Connie Thacker, a shareholder at Thacker Sleight, is a tenacious litigator and an accomplished mediator. Having gained much of her 25 years of legal experience at large firms, Connie, along with her law partner Allison Sleight, started her firm to provide better service and results, without the bureaucracy and cost inherent in large firms.
Connie is a Fellow in the prestigious American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (AAML). Only 1,600 Attorneys across the entire country are members of this prestigious organization. To become a member, Ms. Thacker completed the intensive interview, anonymous peer review both by judges and other attorneys. She completed a four-hour exam, related entirely to family law. She has received formal training and certification from the AAML Matrimonial Arbitration Training Institute and is only one of few Attorneys in Western Michigan certified by the AALM as an arbitrator.
Ms. Thacker is the only Attorney in Western Michigan who is designated as a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst (CDFA) by the Institute for Divorce Financial Analysts (IDFA). To obtain the designation, Ms. Thacker was required to complete a series of exams testing her understand and proficiency in complex financial, tax, and business valuation issues related to Divorce. The IDFA is the most established and recognized organization in the country associated with the financial aspects of the divorce process.
Connie was named “Lawyer of the Year” by Best Lawyer in Grand Rapids for Family Law in 2011, 2015, and 2017. She was named Collaborative Divorce Practice “Lawyer of the Year” in 2016 and named “The Best Lawyers in America” for family law, collaborative practice, and family law mediation in Grand Rapids.