Syracuse Deputy Mayor Sharon Owens

In her current position of deputy mayor, Sharon Owens oversees city programs and services that address quality of life in our community, including Neighborhood and Business Development and Parks, Recreation, and Youth Programs, as well as the Police and Fire Departments.

Owens also serves as chief of staff to the mayor. Owens served as the third CEO of Syracuse Model Neighborhood Facility, Inc. and previously worked for the City of Syracuse as Deputy Commissioner of Neighborhood and Business Development from 2010 to 2013 during the Miner Administration.

She currently serves on the Executive Committee of the Greater Syracuse HOPE Initiative, the Consensus Commission on Local Government Modernization, and the I-81 Community Stakeholder Committee. In 2015 Owens received “The Kathy” Award from the Gifford Foundation, which recognized her commitment to establishing community-impacting advocacy. She is a graduate of Syracuse University and is most proud of her role as wife to Shaun Owens and mother to Simone and Isaac.

SUNY ESF Interim President David C. Amberg

Dr. David C. Amberg became interim president of the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry in July 2018.

Before joining ESF, he spent most of his career with the State University of New York Upstate Medical University. He joined the faculty there in 1996 as an assistant professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology.

He was promoted to full professor in 2008, named assistant vice president of research integrity in 2011 and appointed vice president for research in 2014. In his role as vice president for research, Dr. Amberg was responsible for the clinical, translational and basic research portfolios of the university. During his tenure, SUNY Upstate enjoyed three consecutive years of growth in research expenditures and a significant increase in clinical trial expenditures.

Yusuf Abdul-Qadir

Yusuf Abdul-Qadir is the Central New York Chapter Director at New York Civil Liberties Union. He is a passionate and engaged professional active in corporate sustainability and citizenship. Originally from the inner city borough of the Bronx, he is a well-traveled commentator and emerging leader concerned with the impacts of human behavior on the natural environment and communities (urban, suburban, and rural) in developing and more developed countries. An entrepreneur, he has designed and managed various projects that aid stakeholders, be they governments and municipalities, corporations, communities, universities, and students, or the average consumer in reducing tradeoffs to sustainable development while identifying opportunities to reinvest in natural and human capital.

Yusuf is a son, an uncle, community activist and dedicated professional that isn’t afraid of getting his hands dirty, fully engaging himself in the work he is committed to and loves doing. While only a snapshot into his world, you can learn more about Yusuf and his journeys in sustainability by following him on Twitter.

Pam Brunet

Pam Brunet is an enthusiastic community advocate who has a proven ability to build collaboration among a variety of stakeholders. She has worked in the Syracuse area for more than 25 years and is currently the executive director of Leadership Greater Syracuse, known as LGS.

Prior to Leadership Greater Syracuse she worked as a development officer for the Foundation for Upstate Medical University. Most of her professional experience was with Bristol-Myers Squibb as their community relations manager at their Syracuse facility. During her 17 years there, Pam was responsible for all internal and external communications including creating a strategic philanthropy program, serving as a government affairs liaison, and was also the company spokesperson with neighbors, trade organizations and the media.

Pam received a bachelor’s degree in journalism and public relations from Utica College and an associate’s degree in journalism from SUNY Morrisville.

She is the recipient of the “40 Under 40” award and the “Woman in Business” Award and serves as the NYS Ambassador for the Association of Leadership Programs.

Pam and her husband, Andy, live in LaFayette where they enjoy a rural lifestyle. They tap maple trees each year, snowmobile in the winter, and enjoy their cabin near Alexandria Bay as much as possible in the summer. They have two adult sons and two beloved dogs, a Beagle named Riley and a Brittany named Daisy.

Dr. Malika Carter

Prior to serving at SUNY ESF and SUNY Upstate Medical University, Dr. Malika Carter was the CDO for the City of Worcester, Massachusetts. Dr. Carter has more than 15 years’ experience developing policies and initiatives that address Inclusion, Diversity, and Equity.

Dr. Carter has her Ph.D. in Institutional Analysis from North Dakota State University, a Masters in Higher Education and Student Affairs Administration from the University of Vermont a BS in Middle Childhood Education from Cleveland State University, and an Associate in Stenography from Cuyahoga Community College.

Dr. Carter’s newest scholarly contribution is nestled in the book “Black Women and Social Justice Education: Legacies and Lessons” (release date February 2019). http://www.sunypress.edu/p-6675-black-women-and-social-justice-.aspx

Lanessa Chaplin

Lanessa L. Chaplin, Esq. is currently Project Counsel for the New York Civil Liberties Union. Immediately prior to joining NYCLU she was lead attorney for the Volunteer Lawyers Project, where she defended formerly incarnated individuals from employment discrimination. She began her legal career in 2012 at Hiscock Legal Aide’s Appellate division where she drafted appeals on behalf of inmates to right the wrongs of the lower courts. Her work with the incarcerated population sparked her interest in public policies. Lanessa served as Legal Counsel to Assembly member Sam Roberts and went on to serve as the Deputy Secretary to the Speaker of the New York State Assembly, working closely on anti-poverty initiatives, and criminal justice reform. Most notably, she is the Founder and Executive Director of the William Herbert Johnson Bar Association of Central New York, the only minority bar association in the region. Lanessa is a native of Syracuse NY and a proud Henninger Black Knight.

Deka Dancil

Deka Dancil is a community activist and advocate, focusing efforts on her hometown of Syracuse, NY. She is a Syracuse University alum and currently works for Syracuse University as Manager of Bias Response and Education. Prior to this role, Deka was the Director of Teen Programming for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Syracuse. She serves as the President of the Urban Jobs Task Force, a local 501(c)4 that advocates for equal access to employment opportunities for city residents, especially minorities. She is a founding member and Core Trainer for RiseUp for Social Action which provides training, education, and consultation to activists, organizers, institutions, and organizations to incite social change. Deka also is a recipient of this year’s YWCA of Syracuse & Onondaga County Champions of Diversity Award, a TEDx Speaker, and in this year’s class of Leadership Greater Syracuse. This year Deka was honored with a proclamation by New York State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli for her service to the Syracuse community. Her personal mission is to use her experience growing up in extreme poverty to empower others living the experience now to overcome. She is most proud to be a mother.

Dr. Damien L. Duchamp

Damien L. Duchamp was born in Paris, France then grew up in Woodstock, NY. He holds degrees from SUNY New Paltz, Clemson University, and a doctorate from Gwynedd Mercy University. After spending thirteen years as a college administrator, he became a brand ambassador for Evian Water. In this role he visited nearly 100 venues each week, leading him to consult with various venues and brands.

In the fall of 2010, Damien began teaching as an adjunct professor. Six years later he became a full time faculty member and head of the Department of Hospitality and Tourism at St. Joseph’s College in Brooklyn. As the Executive Director of ‘Hospitalented,’ Damien produces programs locally and abroad, including Not So Scary Foods, Art in a Bottle and the Airline Expo. “ProfD” travels to Ghana 3-4 times a year, where he is helping to develop a tourism ecosystem. @ProfDuchamp www.hospitalented.org

Carol Eaton

Carol Eaton has served in progressive roles with Visit Syracuse, most recently as Senior Vice President, leading a team of marketing professionals responsible for identifying market opportunities and developing short and long-term strategies with the objective of attracting overnight business to the Greater Syracuse area. Together with her team, Eaton manages and directs tourism partnership programs on local, regional and statewide levels, working to instill a sense of collective energy within the tourism industry, building a spirit of ambassadorship not only from local tourism professionals, but from community residents as well. A graduate of LeMoyne College, Eaton holds a BA in English Communications. She previously chaired, and continues to serve on the board of directors of the Finger Lakes Regional Tourism Council, and was named Tourism Executive of the Year by the New York State Hospitality & Tourism Association.

SUNY Potsdam President Kristin Esterberg

Dr. Kristin Esterberg serves as SUNY Potsdam’s 16th president, a position she has held since 2014. The first woman to lead the College in its more than 200-year tradition, Dr. Esterberg has led the campus through a strategic planning process that highlights campus efforts on applied learning and providing transformational experiences to all students. Under her leadership, SUNY Potsdam has developed and is implementing its first strategic plan on diversity, equity and inclusion, and the campus recently received an historic $5.25 million gift in support of faculty efforts in applied learning—the largest in campus history.

Dr. Esterberg is an active member of the community, serving on the board of the Associated Colleges of St. Lawrence Valley and the Regional Economic Development Council. Within the SUNY System, Dr. Esterberg is a member of the SUNY Diversity Advisory Board. She has served on the SUNY Sexual Violence Prevention Task Force and on the Chancellor Search Committee.

Nationally, Dr. Esterberg is chair of the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU) International Affairs Committee and served as a member of the AASCU Presidential Search Committee. Dr. Esterberg serves on the Millennium Leadership Institute Executive Steering Committee and also serves as a mentor for future leaders. She is an active member of LGBTQ Presidents in Higher Education.

She is the author of three books and numerous publications on qualitative research methodology, gender and sexuality and higher education.

Dr. Esterberg and her spouse, Dr. Sue Bergmeier, are the proud parents of Katie, a graduate of St. Lawrence University, and Qiong Qiong, a student at SUNY Potsdam.

Paul Hai

Paul Hai is the Associate Director of the Adirondack Ecological Center and leads the Northern Forest Institute for Conservation Education and Leadership Training (NFI) at SUNY ESF, Newcomb Campus. Hai is also the co-founder of Children in Nature, New York, and serve on the Grassroots Leadership Team of the national Children and Nature Network. Hai also co-founded, in partnership with NYS DEC, the Hudson River Environmental Opportunities Network and is also a founding member of the Adirondack Diversity Initiative.

Kim Irland

Kim Irland is the Dean of Student Life and College Diversity Officer at North Country Community College with campus locations in Saranac Lake, Malone, and Ticonderoga, NY. Additionally, Kim serves as the current president of the NY Association of Community College Chief Student Affairs Officers. Her career in higher education includes a diverse spectrum of experiences in residence life, student conduct, recruitment, campus activities, leadership development, diversity education, career development, policy, and adjunct instruction in federal prison. Kim is an alumna of SUNY Oswego and Binghamton University.

She can be reached at [email protected].

Jourdyn-Evonne Lee

Jourdyn-Evonne Lee is the Chair of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion for the SUNY Student Assembly, the overarching student government that represents all 64 SUNY campuses and over 1 million students. She is focused on advocating on the behalf of underrepresented students within the SUNY system, ensuring that all voices and identities are heard and respected. She is passionate about increasing the representation of people of color in higher education, making funding for students more accessible, and creating support networks for student leaders across New York. Jourdyn-Evonne is currently an undergraduate junior at the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry where she is studying Environmental Resources Engineering with a minor in Water Resources.

Danny Liedka

President and CEO, Danny Liedka, is wrapping up his second year at the helm of Visit Syracuse, Onondaga County’s official tourism promotion agency. Under his leadership Visit Syracuse has worked closely with elected officials and community leaders to ensure resource development, overall strategic direction and quality programming to the region.

Danny Liedka has several years of experience in a variety of tourism and hospitality roles, including Senior Sales Executive at Marriott International and Sales Manager at the Double Tree Hotel Syracuse. He holds several awards recognizing him for sports, sales and marketing efforts.

Liedka is also a former Onondaga County Legislator – District 7 (2012 – 2017) having served as Chairman of the Health Committee, Budget Task Force and Vehicle Use Review Board. In addition, he is the former mayor of the Village of East Syracuse (2007 – 2013). The Visit Syracuse president was also an on-air television commentator at Time Warner Cable Sports, Big East Network and ESPN U, as well as a game radio host for Syracuse University Basketball on Clear Channel Radio.

Romey Louangvilay

Romey Louangvilay is the Communications Director at ELMNTL (Elemental), where he leverages more than a decade of experience in social media strategy and PR to establish relationships with brands and their target audiences. His primary role is ensuring that there is a seamless integration of all marketing disciplines within campaigns, as well as provide overall strategic guidance and account management for the agency’s marquee accounts, such as Tourism Authority of Thailand, Guana Island in the British Virgin Islands, and ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations). His accomplished earned him a spot as a finalist in Forbes’ 2016 Top 30 Under 30 in Marketing & Advertising.

Romey has also previously spoken at PR News Digital PR Conference in 2011 about social media and he continues to serve as a marketing industry expert for LuxuryDaily.com.

Romey’s client experience includes Bentley Motors, LG Mobile,  Ferragamo, TJ Maxx and Marshalls, and more.

Larry Luttinger

Larry Luttinger is an arts administrator, music educator and musician in Syracuse, NY. He is the founder and Executive Director of the Central New York Jazz Arts Foundation, Inc., a not-for-profit performing organization that presents jazz in concert, cabaret, scholastic and festival settings across the region, to an annual audience of over 50,000 in public and in schools. He has served as Chairman of the S.U. Music Industry Department and Director of S.U. Jazz Ensembles, and has taught at Hamilton College, Colgate and Onondaga Community College for many years. He has chaired the Music Departments of the Summerfame High School for the Performing Arts and the Metropolitan School for the Arts, and was Executive Treasurer of the International Association for Jazz Education-NYS Chapter for 30 years. He is a trained Lincoln Center teaching artist and former teaching artist for the CRC Institute for Aesthetic Education. He is a recipient of the 2008 Updowntowner Award for Excellence, the 2010 Civic Morning Musicals Ruth Edson Award, the 2010 Cazenovia College Jazz ‘N’ Caz award, the 2014 M&T Bank Nonprofit Impact Award, the Syracuse Sounds of Music Association 2014 Ovation Award for outstanding commitment to the music community, and is a member of the SAMMYS Hall of Fame and Liverpool Fine Arts Hall of Fame. In 2008, he was appointed to the transition team of County Executive Joanne Mahoney as ombudsman for the visual and performing arts for the region. As leader of CNY Jazz, he has led many planning and production efforts resulting in vibrant community-wide arts celebrations including Syracuse Artsweek, Healthy Buildings ’09, Downtown Living Tours, Northeast Jazz & Wine Festival, Stage of Nations Blue Rain ECOfest, Jazz in the City, and others.

As a performing artist, he is a 25-year member of the former Syracuse Symphony Orchestra and a current core member of Symphoria. He plays drum set for the CNY Jazz Orchestra. He recorded and toured extensively for the award-winning Society for New Music during his fourteen-year tenure as their percussionist. He has performed with many well known jazz artists, including Rob McConnell, Clark Terry, Grady Tate, Frank Foster, Benny Golson, Jimmy Heath, Slide Hampton, Buddy DeFranco, Phil Woods and Antonio Hart, among many others. He has more than fifty touring show credits including Sugar Babies, Grand Hotel, City of Angels, Will Rogers Follies, The Producers, Frank Sinatra Jr, Aretha Franklin, Ben Vereen, Suzanne Somers and Johnny Mathis. He has toured or performed with dozens of rock personalities, including Chuck Berry, Del Shannon, Chubby Checker, Petula Clark, and the Moody Blues.

He lives in Liverpool, NY with his wife Margaret, an organizational performance consultant, and their sons Jake and Max.

Dr. Jack Manno

Dr. Jack Manno, is emeritus professor of Environmental Studies at the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry. Manno works and writes extensively about Indigenous values and environmental decisions. In 1993, he assisted the Onondaga when an underground gasoline storage tank operated by an illegal gas station was found to be leaking, contaminating the ground water. From working on this and other environmental issues, he developed a deep commitment to learn from and work with the Onondaga Nation. Manno was also a key organizer of the Onondaga Land Rights and Our Common Future educational series held at Syracuse Stage. He is a member of the educational collaborative at the Ska-nohn, Great Law of Peace Center and helped to found the Center for Native People and the Environment at ESF.

Raphael Okutoro

Raphael Okutoro was born in Lagos, Nigeria. He lived in Liberia for ten years, moving to the United States in 1998 to to reunite with his family.

He received his undergraduate degree in Environmental Science from University of Vermont. While still a student, inspired to pursue a career in admissions by terrific mentors, he began working in the Office of Admissions at UVM.

As Castleton University’s Assistant Director for Transfer Recruitment, he has served on the President’s Steering Committee on Inclusiveness and the subcommittee for Diversity Recruitment and Retention Initiatives. 

Along with his wife, he is the proud parent of a beautiful little girl.

Michael Popovic

Michael was born to a German mother and Croatian father in Munich, Germany, and learned very early on about the advantages and challenges living at the intersection of two cultures. His family’s experiences in the context of the war during the dissolution of Yugoslavia shaped his path in life and informed his dedication to intercultural communication and dialog across perceived differences. During his undergraduate studies at the University of Tübingen, Germany, and especially in graduate school at Washington University in St. Louis, Michael focused on interactions between states, peoples, cultures, and identities when studying migration and diaspora politics in connection to investment. Today, in his work as a teacher, researcher, administrator, and activist Michael focuses on increasing understanding across difference via dialog and direct engagement. At SUNY Potsdam, a small state college in the North Country of New York State with a large percentage of often previously under-served first- generation college students, Michael strives to create opportunities for interaction and dialog across difference on campus and with the rest of the world. As the Coordinator of the International Studies Program, Michael has ensured that all majors participate in the virtual cross-cultural dialog Soliya Connect Program since the fall of 2014 where students get the opportunity to constructively engage with others from Europe and pre-dominantly Muslim countries. As the Coordinator for Days of Reflection, Michael leads a group of faculty and administrators who organize a biannual event series that provides education on and dialog opportunities about intersectional aspects of race, ethnicity, and culture to help sustain and grow learning and conversation in our society, which tends to neglect racial literacy and intercultural competence. As the Co-Coordinator for Gender and Sexuality, he tries to increase understanding and inclusion of the LGBTQ+ community on campus and provides support to students, faculty, and staff who face bias incidents in our hetero- and cis-normative world.

Jennifer Reddy

Jennifer Reddy has been with Le Moyne College’s Center for Continuing Education since 2013. She works with all manner of “non-traditional” students, including military veterans, returning students, non- matriculated students, and more, although the greatest portion of her time is spent assisting and advising student veterans. She finished her degree in Philosophy as a returning student and is keenly aware of the challenges they face. Before taking her current position, she worked in Academic Support and Disability Services at Le Moyne, where, although she attended to multiple responsibilities, she most enjoyed tutoring students with disabilities and returning students.

Dr. Amy Roache-Fedchenko

Dr. Amy Roache-Fedchenko is the Partnership Program Assistant for the Northeast Region of the National Park Service. Over the past ten years she has held several roles with the NPS, including working as a Curator, Museum Specialist, Chief of Interpretation, and Park Ranger within numerous parks including Fort Stanwix National Monument, Theodore Roosevelt Birth Place National Historic Site, Sagamore Hill National Historic Park, Women’s Rights National Historical Park, and Harriet Tubman National Historical Park. As a Partnership Program Assistant she is involved with helping parks navigate the process to develop partnerships in order to accomplish goals related to education and conservation of park natural and cultural resources.

William J. Simmons

William J. Simmons is a native of Bronx, NY and has lived in Syracuse since 1975. He has always been involved with his community, and has spent his life working hard to make a difference and improve many areas of it. For eight years (1986 – 1994) Mr. Simmons was the Director of Airport Services at Syracuse Hancock International Airport, and for eight years (1992 – 2000) he served on the Syracuse City School Board as Commissioner of Education, empowering others to make a difference in our school system. He also served as a 5th District Common Councilor for eight years from 2000 to 2008, in addition to working full-time in a production/supervisory position at New Process Gear. During those years, he attended and graduated from Syracuse University and received his Juris Doctor in 2004. His determination and hard work paid off in September 2006, when he was admitted to the practice of law in New York State. He is currently a member of the New York State Bar Association and has been since 2006.

In 2006, Mr. Simmons served for one year as the Assistant Director of Syracuse Housing, and in 2007 became its Executive Director. In his role today, as the Executive Director, Mr. Simmons is responsible for overseeing 2,440 public housing units, 184 tax credit units, 97 units of affordable housing, and the administration of contracts for approximately 3,600 rental units as part of the Authority’s Housing Choice Voucher Program (Section 8). As Executive Director of Syracuse Housing Authority, his mission in our community is to provide quality, safe and affordable housing those in need.

Mr. Simmons serves as the President of the New York State Public Housing Authority Directors Association (NYSPHADA). By promoting public good through programs designed to support health, safety and welfare, NYSPHADA is able to help provide relief to the poor, distressed and underprivileged in our society. As always, Mr. Simmons strives to empower those in our community to create an environment wherein everyone wants to live, work and build communities.

Dr. Christopher Torres

Dr. Torres is a former amateur athlete and current United States Weightlifting Master Athlete and Sports Performance Coach. In addition, Dr. Torres is highly involved with the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) as a Strength and Conditioning Coach with Distinction, NSCA Personal Trainer with Distinction, NSCA Tactical Strength and Conditioning Facilitator with Distinction, former State/Provincial Director and Regional Advisory Board member, and current member of the Diversity and the CSCS Exam Development committee. Dr. Torres primarily investigates physical activity and sedentary activity factors that may moderate or confound public health efforts in health promotion and disease prevention, in addition to social justice issues influencing equity in higher education.


Dr. Sally Roesch Wagner

Awarded one of the first doctorates in the country for work in women’s studies (UC Santa Cruz) and a founder of one the first college-level women’s studies programs in the United States (CSU Sacramento), Dr. Sally Roesch Wagner has taught women’s studies courses for 50 years. She edited the intersectional anthology, The Women’s Suffrage Movement (Penguin Classics, 2019) and currently serves as an adjunct faculty member in The Renée Crown University Honors Program, Syracuse University and the St. John Fisher Executive Leadership Program.

She wrote the faculty guide for Not for Ourselves Alone, Ken Burns’ documentary on Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, and has appeared in that film and numerous history films and radio programs. Dr. Wagner was selected as one of “21 Leaders for the 21 st Century” by Women’s E-News in 2015. She serves on the New York Suffrage Centennial Commission.

Founder and Executive Director of the Matilda Joslyn Gage Center for Social Justice Dialogue in Fayetteville, New York, she received the Katherine Coffey Award for outstanding service to museology from the Mid-Atlantic Association of Museums in 2012.

Roni Weiss

Roni Weiss is the Executive Director of Travel Unity, a 501(c)(3) focused on increasing diversity in the world of travel.

On the for-profit side, Roni’s company, RW Social, provides event management and social media/marketing management/consulting services, including management of the New York Travel Festival, which will complete its 7th annual event in 2019.

He lives in Westchester County, NY with his partner, Lauren, and their four children.

Markly Wilson

Markly Wilson, Director of International Marketing for New York State’s Division of Tourism, is responsible for generating increased international travel to the state. He manages I LOVE NY offices in England, Germany, Australia and China, and oversees the state’s tourism promotion efforts in Canada.

He previously served as President of The Wilson Company, a consultancy specializing in empowering communities to assess, plan and market their tourism resources. This company generated strategic plans and results-oriented regional tourism promotional programs. Clients included the Lakota Sioux Reservation in South Dakota, Harlem, the government of Belize, Clinton and Warren Counties in Upstate New York, and a 14-city region of Massachusetts.

Wilson was Director of Marketing for the 29-country Caribbean Tourism Organization after serving as United States Manager for the Tourist Board of Barbados.

He has also managed the New York Watchable Wildlife Program, a collaborative project between federal and state agencies, not-for-profit organizations and businesses. This group published the first Wildlife Viewing Guide of New York State. Wilson is a graduate of St. Claire College in Windsor, Ontario and Adelphi University in Long Island. He also served on the faculty of New York University for six years where he lectured on ecotourism.