Speaker Bios

2016 Regional Conference Speakers

Key Note Speaker:  MariBen Ramsey, J.D. BBA

MariBen received both her BBA in Accounting and her law degree from the University of Texas at Austin.  She was a shareholder of the law firm of Graves, Dougherty, Hearon & Moody before joining the Austin Community Foundation.  She served as the foundation’s Chief Philanthropy Officer and General Counsel and was responsible for its grantmaking program.  During her 20-year tenure, the Foundation grew from $10 million to $160 million in assets and distributed over $200 million in grants. MariBen has served on more than 20 boards of non-profit organizations at the local, state, national and international level. She brings not only her legal expertise to these organizations but also her abilities to problem solve, build partnerships and lead others to creative solutions. MariBen advises non-profit organizations in governance, board development, legal issues, planning and organizational strategies as well as philanthropic planning for individuals and families.

Session Speaker Bios

Tamika Alford-Stephens, MBA, M.Ed., is the Executive Director of Finance for the Aldine ISD.  Before becoming the Executive Director of Finance, Tamika worked as the Director of Grant Accounting, Director of Federal Programs, and Director of Special Initiatives where she acquired extensive experience in grant management and compliance.   Tamika holds an MBA from the University of St. Thomas, and a M.Ed. from Prairie View A & M.  She is currently pursuing her Doctoral degree at Sam Houston State University.

Katy Atkiss, MPH, is an independent contractor with Aurora Grants & Consulting serving community health through capacity and collaboration building, education and action. She brings over 14 years of professional experience to organizational, program and fund development, focusing on community-driven solutions.

Stephanie Blair, MA, is the Philanthropic Services Manager at the Greater Houston Community Foundation where she is responsible for the research, design, development, implementation, and management of philanthropic strategies for corporate donors and clients.  Stephanie has an extensive background in social services including her years in management with the Harris County Juvenile Probation Department where she collaborated with a national foundation and Houston area nonprofits to provide enhanced services to juveniles.  Stephanie serves as adjunct faculty for a private university and she holds a Masters of Sociology from the University of Houston.

Shellie Casey-Hoffman, MPA, works as a consultant providing grant development & writing online content for Community Cooperative, a mid-size non-profit agency fighting hunger and homelessness. Responsibilities include research, writing, management, and contributing to and managing online content including social media.  She also consults with other non-profits on grant topics and helps them become grant ready.

Chonya Davis-Johnson, MPP, America’s 5 Minute Advocate, Government Affairs Consultant, Author & International Speaker.  She has trained thousands all over the United States to effectively influence Congress, state, and local governments. She worked for over a decade in the United States Congress & US Census Bureau.   Chonya develops interactive advocacy training seminars for citizens and organizations to prepare them to effectively advocate for their issues. Chonya holds a Masters Degree in Political Science from University of Northern Iowa.

Will Landon, MS, PhD, is Evaluation Manager at Neighborhood Centers and earned his MS and PhD in Cognitive Psychology from the University of Oklahoma with minors in Quantitative Methods and Statistics and Industrial/Organizational Psychology. His research includes theory development in memory and learning and the influence of cognitive factors and processes in education, training, and licensure. Will taught briefly at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville before pursuing applied behavioral research and evaluation at Neighborhood Centers.

Holly Lang, Senior Consultant marks her 10th year with Dini Spheris where she has had the honor of partnering with clients from all sectors to achieve transformational fundraising goals. A native of Atlanta, Georgia, Holly came to Houston in 1999 to attend Rice University where she graduated with a BA in biology.

Jan Mitchell Johnson, M.Ed., is the energetic founder and President of Grantsformation, Inc., a highly successful education fundraising consulting firm located in Houston, Texas. With 20 years of grant-related experience and 26 years in public education, Jan has won more than $200 million in competitive grant funding for clients all over the United States. Jan holds a Professional Certificate in Strategic Foresight, an M. Ed. in Educational Administration, a B. S. in Elementary Education, and two lifetime Texas teacher certifications.

Patricia K. Moser Stilley is Executive Director of Sterling-Turner Foundation and Isla Carroll Turner Friendship Trust, with responsibility for; charity relations, office management, bookkeeping, site visits, primary board relations, developing information for the websites,  reporting to the boards, and anything else that needs to be done.

Amy Mundy is the Executive Director of the Victoria College Foundation. With over 10 experience in grant writing and working with nonprofits both professionally and through volunteer efforts, she has emerged as a strong advocate for collaborative efforts through grant writing, fundraising and program development.

Michelle Salazar-Martinez, MPA,  is the Director of Program Planning and Grant Development at Neighborhood Centers. She joined the agency in October 2014 with a background in consulting for nonprofits to provide grant writing and related services, with an emphasis on community health and federal grants. Michelle works with program and support staff to design programs based on evidence-based research, secure public/private funding, and maintain  strategic community partnerships. Michelle has a Master’s in Public Administration from Texas Tech University and Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Harvard University.

Melissa Simon, MSW, CFRE, is the Director of Development at Boys and Girls Country of Houston, Inc.  Fourteen of her 25 years of experience in nonprofits have been focused in resource development, which began with contract proposal writing. She enjoys writing and sharing her experiences with others.

Suzanne Vaughan, PhD, is  Strategic Research and Partnerships Advisor for Neighborhood Centers and coordinates research and evaluation projects to develop and demonstrate organizational impact across the three strategic goals, with a specific focus on connection. Suzanne has a PhD in the sociology of medical education from the University of Manchester, UK, and has previously worked in the UK National Health Service focusing on workforce development; in Fastbleep Schools, a nonprofit widening access program; and in health research.

Rebecca Vermillion Shawver, MPA, GPC, is the Director of Grants at Brazosport College. She is an active member of the Council for Resource Development, National Grant Management Association, and Grant Professionals Association.  She is also editor/contributing author of CharityChannel’s Grants & Foundation Review blog, as well as a contributing author/editor for the GPA’s newsletter.

Mary Claire Walther is Consulting Projects Manager for Dini Spheris and has a background in annual fund development and special event fundraising, Mary Claire joined Dini Spheris in 2014. A native Houstonian, Mary Claire lived for several years in Chicago and received her BA from the University of Chicago.

Carolyn Watson, MPA, MS, is a Vice President of Corporate Responsibility at JPMorgan Chase.   She directs the JPMorgan Chase Foundation’s philanthropic investments for Houston, San Antonio and El Paso, which collectively employ more than 12,000 people.  The approach of each high-impact investment is to leverage the company’s strength and the dedication of its talented employees to tackle pressing social and economic challenges.

Jennifer Yancey is the Vice President of College Advancement & External Affairs for Victoria College. She entered higher education fundraising after 12 years in banking. She oversees all resource development efforts, workforce training, marketing and the recently completed conference center. She is a strong advocate for collaborative efforts between the college, business & industry, governmental and non-profit organizations to improve the quality of life for the region.