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Cost: $20 ($15 VMFA members); ticket includes a boxed lunch

Ascend and Lead: A Women’s Empowerment Forum

Sat, Oct 19 | 10 am–3:30 pm, Doors open 9:30 am

Leslie Cheek Theater

The Honorable Jennifer McClellan, has served as a Virginia State Senator since 2017. She chairs the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Commission, and serves on the Virginia Indian Commemorative Commission and the Task Force on the Preservation of the History of Former Enslaved African Americans.
Paula Saylor-Robinson joined the VMFA in 2015 as Director of Audience Development and Community Engagement and worked at Ipsos market research firm as Director of Qualitative Research and Client Services before VMFA. Recent recipient of The 2019 Governor's Honor Awards for Diversity, Inclusion and Outreach
Michael Taylor is the Chief Curator and Deputy Director for Art and Education for VMFA and a highly regarded museum administrator, curator, author, and expert on modern and contemporary art.
Dr. Sesha Joi Moon is a Senior Human Capital Strategist with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office where she serves as the agency’s Research Fellow with The Engagement Institute’s Diversity and Inclusion Council and Employee Engagement and Experience Council.
Jan Hatchette joined VMFA in 2017 as the Deputy Director for Communications. Prior to that, Hatchette was at the University of Richmond as the Senior Director of Marketing Strategy and Services.
The Honorable Nancy Rodrigues is the Deputy Director of the 2019 Commemoration and former Virginia Secretary of Administration under Governor Terry McAuliffe. She was appointed to this position by Governor McAuliffe in December 2013, after nearly 30 years in public service and government.
Karla Redditte is the anchor for NBC12 News and also an award-winning reporter, receiving the Virginia Associated Press Award for Best Light Feature.
Clovia Lawrence, Media Personality and Community Advocate, Project Give Back Foundation. Radio One personality who is known as "Miss Community" for her passion and commitment to community
The Honorable Atif Quarni, Secretary of Education for the Commonwealth of Virginia, taught civics, economics, mathematics and U.S. History at Beville Middle School in Prince William County prior to his appointment by Gov. Ralph Northam.
Ting Xu founded Evergreen Enterprises in 1993 and currently serves as Chairman of the Board. From a small decorative flag line, Evergreen has grown to be one of the leading gift, garden, and home decor companies in North America, with over 1,400 employees.
Valerie Cassel Oliver is the Sydney and Frances Lewis Family Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art, VMFA. Cassel's work is often focused on representation, inclusivity and highlighting artists of different social and cultural backgrounds.
Dr. Lauranett Lee, Visiting Lecturer, Jepson School of Leadership Studies at the University of Richmond,  is a public historian specializing in teaching, advocating, and collaborating with diverse community and academic audiences.
Kristen Cavallo is the Chief Executive Officer of The Martin Agency since 2018 and has been working to eradicate the gender wage gap, tackle invisibility with diversity, and create impactful ideas for clients like GEICO, CarMax, UPS and Buffalo Wild Wings.
Michelle Collins-Robinson, Founder of MMCR Consult, has brought her unique combination of communication skills, speech writing, and political acumen to clients facing a wide array of challenges attempting to reach a diverse constituency.
Caprice Bragg joined the VMFA in 2018 as Vice President for Board Relations and Strategic Planning. More than 20 years of experience in the nonprofit sector including senior leadership roles in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and the Cleveland Foundation.
Lynette Allston is the Chief and Chair of the Tribal Council of the Nottoway Indian Tribe of Virginia, one of the 11 Tribes officially recognized by the Commonwealth.
Claire Guthrie Gastañaga is the Executive Director of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Virginia. Gastañaga joined the ACLU in June 2012 bringing with her decades of legal, government relations, and non-profit management experience.
Celeste Fetta is the Director of Education for the VMFA and was named the Virginia Museum Art Educator of the Year for 2018 by the Virginia Art Education Association (VAEA).
Jean Boone, is the Publisher of the Richmond Free Press, a position she has held since 2014 after the death of her husband, Raymond, its founder, publisher and editor. Prior to becoming Publisher, Mrs. Boone served as the Advertising Director for the paper.
Dr. Yewande Austin, Founder/President, Global Institute for Diversity and Change, award-winning lecturer and honorary U. S. Cultural Ambassador.
Betty Neal Crutcher, Presidential Spouse at the University of Richmond and Cross-Cultural Mentoring Consultant, has led in pioneering roles for more than 35+ years in health care and higher education to connect people for greater understanding of commonalities.
Kelli Lemon is a “Social Entrepreneur/Consultant” that is passionate about changing how people “live” Richmond, Virginia. Lemon owns two businesses, Like The Fruit, LLC to socially connect people through food, sports, arts and education and a cafe, Urban Hang Suite, in historic Jackson Ward.
Adele Johnson is the Executive Director of the Black History Museum & Cultural Center of Virginia and has worked for the Richmond Public Schools Education Foundation, Capital One, and the Virginia Minority Supplier Development Council.
Melody Barnes is Co-Director of the Democracy Initiative at the University of Virginia and was Assistant to the President and Director of the White House Domestic Policy Council from 2009 until January 2012.
Marquette Folley is the Content Director at the Smithsonian Traveling Exhibition Service. Folley has been with the Smithsonian Institution since 1983 and is a social and cultural historian.
Gail Letts is President of Letts Consult, LLC, focusing on programs and projects to support the advancement and growth of women in business. Letts has more than 35 years of leadership and strategic planning experience, spending the majority of this time in the banking industry.
Finis Solomon Cook, Executive Technical Lead, IBM Cloud Platform, Financial Services Markets, is a Thought Leader IT Architect with 32 years of diverse experience in cloud, AI, SOA and IT transformational solutions across several industry sectors.
Dr. Jennifer Lawless is the Commonwealth Professor of Politics at the University of Virginia, where she is also a Faculty Senior Fellow at the Miller Center. Dr.Lawless' research focuses on political ambition, campaigns and elections, and media and politics.
Dr. Linda T. Hines, the Chief Executive Officer for Virginia Premier Health Plan, has worked for over 20 years in the field of managed care.
Adrienne Whitaker is the senior business development executive at SOAR365. She is the co-founder of the L2L Leadership Institute, founding co-chairperson of the LIVE2LEAD-Richmond Conference and recently accepted into the Sorensen Institute for Political Leadership Program at UVA.
Conversation and storytelling have informed and empowered women of color for generations. These same forms of communication are at the heart of a thought-provoking and inspiring leadership forum featuring panel discussions, reflections, and talks.

The exciting lineup of leaders in the arts, education and policy, and business includes Kristen Cavallo, CEO, The Martin Agency; Linda Hines, CEO, Virginia Premier; Melody Barnes, Co-Director, University of Virginia’s Democracy Initiative; and many others. In addition, Valerie Cassel Oliver, VMFA’s Sydney and Francis Lewis Family Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art, will have a conversation with Mary Margaret Pettway. Pettway is a third-generation quilter, a member of the Gee’s Bend Quilters Collective, and the Chair of the Board of the Souls Grown Deep Foundation. As curator and artist, they will speak to various aspects of art, culture, and business. VMFA’s forum follows American Evolution 2019 Women’s Achieve Summit, October 14-15, at the Richmond Convention Center.

VMFA’s day-long forum, Ascend & Lead: A Women’s Empowerment Forum, takes place October 19. The cost is $20 ($15 VMFA members) and includes a box lunch.


Please note that the schedule is subject to change.

9:30 am
Doors Open


10 am–noon

10–10:05 am
Opening Remarks

Paula Saylor-Robinson, Director of Audience Development and Community Engagement, VMFA

10:05–10:15 am
VMFA’s 3-D Vision: Our Visitors, Art, and the People We Employ

Dr. Michael Taylor, Chief Curator and Deputy Director for Art and Education, VMFA, and Caprice Bragg, Vice President for Board Relations and Strategic Planning, VMFA

10:15–10:40 am
Quilting: From Pieces to a Whole

Mary Margaret Pettway, Chair of the Souls Grown Deep Foundation in conversation with Valerie Cassel Oliver, Sydney and Frances Lewis Family Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art, VMFA

10:40–10:50 am
The Struggle Is Real

Dr. Sesha Joi Moon, Senior Human Capital Strategist, US Patent & Trademark Office

10:50–11:10 am
For Such a Time as This: Museum Leaders for the 21st Century

Jan Hatchette, Deputy Director for Communications, VMFA; Marquette Folley, Content Director, Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service; and Adele Johnson, Executive Director, Black History Museum and Cultural Center of Virginia

11:10–11:20 am
Stories Beyond Black and White

The Honorable Nancy Rodrigues, Deputy Director, 2019 Commemoration American Evolution

11:20–11:40 am
In the Black: The Business of Media

Karla Redditte, WWBT NBC12 News Anchor/Reporter; Kelli Lemon, Social Entrepreneur/Consultant, and Jean Boone, Publisher of Richmond Free Press

11:40 am–noon
Session Wrap-up

Lunch Information, Museum Wayfinding, and Reflections
Paula Saylor-Robinson, Director of Audience Development and Community Engagement, VMFA

Noon–1 pm


1-3:30 pm

1:05-1:10 pm
Welcome Back

Clovia Lawrence, Media Personality and Community Advocate, Project Give Back Foundation

1:10-1:20 pm
Profile: Evergreen; Ever Dream

Ting Xu, Founder and Chairman of the Board, Evergreen Enterprises

1:20-1:40 pm
It All Starts with Education

The Honorable Atif Qarni, Secretary of Education, Commonwealth of Virginia; Dr. Betty Crutcher, Educator and Consultant; and Celeste Fetta, Director of Education, VMFA

1:40–2:05 pm
Enacting Change

Dr. Lauranett Lee, Visiting Lecturer, Jepson School of Leadership Studies, University of Richmond; Melody Barnes, Co-Director, The Democracy Initiative, The University of Virginia; Dr. Jennifer Lawless, Commonwealth Professor of Politics, University of Virginia; and Claire Guthrie Gastañaga, Executive Director, ACLU of Virginia

2:05-2:15 pm
Profile: Rising Tide of Women in Politics

The Honorable Jennifer McClellan, Virginia State Senator

2:15–2:25 pm
Now Upon a Time: Empowering Future Leaders

Kristen Cavallo, Chief Executive Officer, The Martin Agency

2:25-2:50 pm
Challenging Stereotypes, Setting a New Standard

Michelle Collins-Robinson, Founder, MMCR Consult; Finis Solomon Cook, Executive Technical Lead, IBM Cloud Platform, Financial Services Markets; Dr. Linda Hines, Chief Executive Office, VA Premier Health Plan; Gail Letts, President, Letts Consult; and Adrienne Whitaker, Director of Business Development, SOAR365

2:50–3 pm
Profile: Indigenous Peoples and What It Means to Be First

Lynette Allston, Chief and Chair of the Tribal Council of the Nottoway Tribe of Virginia

3–3:15 pm
Closing Remarks

Paula Saylor-Robinson, Director of Audience Development and Community Engagement, VMFA featuring an inspirational story and reading by Dr. Yewande Austin, Founder/President, Global Institute for Diversity and Change

Image: Five women hired by VMFA since 2015 for top-level leadership positions; Credit L: Sandra Sellars/Richmond Free Press