Note: Biographies were compiled in July 2019. Listings are in alphabetical order.
For the past nineteen years, Adrian has worked for KB Home in San Antonio as a Project Manager in the Operations Department. Adrian holds a Bachelor of Business Administration in Real Estate Finance and Development from the University of Texas at San Antonio and is a member of the Real Estate Council of San Antonio, the Texas Association of Sports Officials, and the 501st Legion.
In his spare time, Adrian enjoys volunteering and mentoring students enrolled in the Career Action Program within the Business College at the University of Texas at San Antonio. When he is not at work or at UTSA, he enjoys being a Texas high school football referee and camping with his wife and three daughters.
“My hopes and goals for the HDO program as they relate to my professional life are to become a better leader, a more engaging motivator, and a visionary within my industry. During my career, I have learned all about the financial and business aspects of my profession, but I hope to learn more about the sociological and psychological components that help corporations and non-profits become trendsetters in their area of specialization. Finally, I hope to learn more about creating effective and positive change within a company that is resistant to change.”
Adrienne works directly with Austin ISD secondary science teachers to support rigorous and aligned science learning for all students through curriculum, assessments, professional development and coaching. Previously, she taught high school science at Reagan and LASA high schools in the AISD system.
In addition to her interest in science and education, she is also actively seeking to develop her skills as an advocate for equity.
“Public education is a highly complex and deeply human enterprise. The lofty mission of a high-quality education for all must weave its way through politics, egos, current events, bureaucracy, funding structures and personal biases. I look to HDO to give me the tools to better understand its journey and look for ways to protect it along its path.”
Amy C. Benedikt, MD
Amy is a practicing Pediatric Anesthesiologist in San Antonio, Texas whose main professional responsibility is caring for children in the operating room. She also serves as Medical Director of an outpatient surgical center, as Clinical Director of Pediatric Anesthesia services at Methodist Children’s Hospital, and as director of the Pediatric Division of her own anesthesia practice.
Amy’s educational background includes a BA from the University of Michigan, an MD degree from Wake Forest University School of Medicine, an internship in General Pediatrics, a residency in Anesthesiology and a fellowship in Pediatric Anesthesia.
Amy has also been actively involved with local, national, and international Jewish philanthropies and will serve as President of the largest synagogue in San Antonio in 2020. In her free time, she enjoys traveling with her husband and three grown children, exercising, and cooking.
“I hope to be a more effective leader in my professional and philanthropic roles by understanding how people function in making key decisions in an organization. The expertise of the distinguished faculty, and the professional experiences of my fellow students, will teach me how to become a strategic thinker and problem solver. The HDO program may provide me with the ability to become a medical consultant or take on a leadership position in the healthcare industry.”
Sherrill Roberts Callahan
As an Enterprise Customer Success leader at Marketo, an Adobe Company, Sherrill is passionate about developing her team, solving problems and helping her clients get the most value out of their partnership with her organization and platform. She graduated from the McComb’s School of Business at UT Austin with a BBA in Finance and is thrilled to continue her education as a Longhorn. Throughout her career, she has focused on everything from net-new client acquisition to strategic account growth and retention. Sherrill’s roles have always been customer-facing and much of her success is due to her relentless effort to create value-driven outcomes and mutual success plans.
“My goals with HDO are to gain new perspectives and learn new skills related to leadership, communication and change management. I’ve always viewed people / human capital as the most precious resource for any organization. I wholeheartedly believe the tools I learn in the program will be applicable throughout the rest of my career, as well as my personal life. I am also genuinely excited to make connections and learn from my fellow cohorts.”
Kevin M. Creighton
Kevin is an active member of the Texas Army National Guard and has just over 12 years in service. The majority of Kevin’s professional work has been in human resources, serving in various capacities.
Kevin enjoys traveling when time allows as well as spending time with his wife and two daughters.
“My goal with the HDO program is to expand my knowledge of an organization from different disciplines. By completing this program, I hope to offer the leadership in my current organization with differing views of personnel matters and how to best benefit the company.”
Leslie Teague Diamond
Leslie’s core belief that all people have intrinsic value informs her passion for creating opportunity for the disenfranchised. She is a Development Coordinator at the nonprofit Texas Alliance for Minorities in Engineering, which works to diversify the STEM workforce in Texas. While at TAME she has created a new program: an innovative, interdisciplinary workshop for educators and corporations addressing STEM stereotyping and the need for soft skill development in STEM students and professionals.
With twenty years of experience in nonprofits, she has designed and led hundreds of experiential learning opportunities facilitating inquiry to help people understand systems and themselves. Leslie has also built her own business, Excavate Creative Explorations, which uses the creative process to examine diverse themes. The perspective gained in these explorations empowers people to navigate their workplace and their personal lives.
Leslie graduated cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts in Communications (RTF), and a concentration in Marketing, from Baylor University. She loves to spend her free time with her hilarious family and friends, creating art, exploring nature, and checking things off her bucket list.
“The Human Dimensions of Organizations Master’s program will be a rich environment to dissect systems and expand my understanding of how and why they work. Or don’t. Its interdisciplinary approach creates an expansive culture with diversity of thought, perspective, and experience. I anticipate uncovering new, broader applications for the knowledge I gain as I grow through the program. I want to utilize this knowledge to influence leaders away from outdated systems, using interactive workshops and conferences to chip away at unquestioned beliefs and thought processes to create healthier, more productive work environments.”
Since moving to the US from the UK in 2014, Suzie has been immersed in the world of transportation infrastructure management. Working across rail and highway sectors, in both Texas and New York, she has learned a lot about what it takes to own, operate and maintain the nation’s critical infrastructure.
Suzie is an advocate for collaboration across functional silos, and connecting the strategic vision of an organization to the work that gets done “on the ground”. She particularly enjoys using skills gained through an English Literature degree to make engineers, IT and maintenance people talk to each other!
“I would like to use the HDO program to gain new frameworks for assessing and solving people-related challenges in my industry, both within my company and on behalf of our public sector customers. At a time of significant change, I want to learn scientifically-proven methodologies for prioritizing people when delivering projects, that I can apply personally and share with others. With the HDO Masters, I will be an informed and effective agent for responsible, ethical transformation, capable of balancing the potential of new technologies with the needs of the individuals whose lives it is intended to improve.”
Raksha Joshi is an educator who has experience teaching elementary and middle school in multiple settings. She is a proud alumna of The University of Texas at Austin and has spent a year in India as an Indicorps Fellow coaching Ultimate Frisbee as a sport for social development.
Raksha currently teaches in Austin ISD and focuses on ways to integrate arts-based creative teaching strategies through the Creative Learning Initiative (CLI). She most recently completed the inaugural two-year Social Emotional Learning Leadership Pathway in AISD. Raksha also works with MINDPOP, a collective impact organization that serves as the backbone of the Creative Teaching Initiative in AISD.
She is often looking for cozy reading nooks, spending time with friends and family, and singing along to music in the car.
“I am interested in learning how to help engender a creative, productive, and adaptive environment with happy and healthy employees. I would also like to understand how to make these practices scalable.”
Logan is an experienced consultant with a demonstrated history of working in both the military and security industries. He is skilled in psychological assessment, operational planning, organizational leadership, and foreign relations. He describes himself as an innovative consulting professional with a drive for success.
Logan holds a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from the University of Missouri. In his free time, he enjoys traveling to different countries, being outdoors, and doing things around Austin, TX.
“It is my hope that, through the HDO program, I can gain new perspectives and skills that will allow me to become a more valuable part of any organization I step into. By taking a unique approach to the study of psychological consulting within businesses and industries, I hope to trek into unknown territories and develop new ways of thinking about the relationship between employer and employee, as well as the relationship between businesses and their clients.”
Jacquelyn is a native of Fort Worth, Texas who received an undergraduate degree at The University of Texas at Austin in Art. She has owned and operated Assisted Living Facilities in South Florida, which she renovated, licensed, and ran as profitable entities until 2006 when the business was sold.
Jacquelyn’s passion for art led her to serve as Vice-President of the Board of MoCA Miami for 12 years. After relocating to Santa Barbara, California in 2008, she has served as the Chair of the Museum of Contemporary Art and as a trustee of the Board of the Santa Barbara Museum of Art.
Jacquelyn enjoys hiking with her dogs, barre class, cooking and spending time with her three boys.
“I hope to further my leadership skills within non-profit arts organizations and be an advocate for change. Presently, museums and other arts organizations are largely inaccessible to a broad segment of the population. Through the HDO Program, one of my goals is to help alter the museum culture by engaging and inspiring a diverse range of audiences, especially underserved populations. I also want to expand my ability to understand and initiate change within arts organizations by addressing their educational, political, and financial policies and practices.”
Conners Ladner, PLA
Conners Ladner is a professional Landscape Architect with Design Workshop in Austin, Texas. He is an Associate and serves as Office Director. Conners is an honors graduate in landscape architecture from Louisiana State University, where he was selected as the student commencement speaker for the College of Art and Design graduation ceremony. Conners is a local and national award recipient for his creativity and innovation in open space design.
Conners believes that our community’s health and happiness are greatly strengthened by spending time in the natural world. Through research, analysis, iteration, and innovation, he strives to formulate a creative design response to parallel the inherent beauty of nature in urban environments.
Conners is a loving husband and proud father of two. He loves sports, music, food, movies, books, and everything else!
“In the Architecture and Engineering (A&E) field, the most important aspect for success is a firm’s ability to attract, develop, and retain top talent in order to meet the needs of the company. The development of the right office culture has been recognized as a major contributing factor to long term company health and sustainability. Through the HDO program, my objective is to explore the challenge of long-term sustainability at A&E and Design firms. My goal will be to study and compare the differences between traditional top-down approach organizations verse a horizontal approach that values all employee feedback. It will be important to understand the benefits and challenges of each organization model.”
Adriana Merlo was born in San Antonio, Texas but has called Mexico City, Boston, Geneva, Austin, and Hong Kong home. She is fluent in Spanish, French, and Italian. She is a graduate of the University of Texas at Austin where she had the opportunity to intern at top advertising firms such as Bromley Communications and Edelman.
She is the founding member of Pure Fashion group, an organization that promotes modest and fashionable clothing, as well as “Her Campus” magazine in Austin, Texas the top global online community for college women. She also paid her dues copyediting for “The Daily Texan” and writing features for “The Horn” magazine.
Following her heart before reentering the corporate world, she completed a two-year assignment with Teach for America. Her first year she was assigned to be a high school social studies special educator, while her second year she was an 11th grade U.S. History teacher. During her time as an 11th grade high school teacher, she helped increase her students’ state assessment scores from a 38% passing rate to a 90% passing rate. Five years ago, she founded her company Educo, which develops online courses for international universities and companies.
“My main goal for the HDO program is to develop a hyper-critical conscience of what it takes to make humans in organizations work to the maximum potential. I hope that I will leave the program inspired by practical strategies that will allow me to gauge what motivates people. Furthermore, I hope that I can develop a profound network of allies in trying to understand people at work.”
Brandy grew up as an “Army Brat,” but has made Texas her home since graduating from The University of Texas at Austin with a Bachelor’s degree in Advertising in 1999. Brandy is currently the Sales Team leader for Herman Miller for South Central Texas, and firmly believes in the power of space to impact worker productivity and business outcomes.
Brandy’s family is in the process of relocating to Austin from a short stint in Dallas (3 years) and a longer residence in Houston (17 years). She feels that they have so much to learn and re-learn about this amazing town and the business community in South Central Texas. She’s looking forward to introducing her husband and sons to all the “Weird” Austin has to offer, as well as the amazing live music scene, beautiful hiking, and great food.
“Herman Miller’s leadership ethos respects that the autonomy of individual leaders in balance with organizational goals and culture will be critical in catalyzing our success into the future. Studying the “why” and “how” to strengthen that balance in pursuit of a Master’s in Human Dimensions of Organizations will be my contribution to that bright and profitable future.”
After graduating from the University of Texas at Austin, Kerri began a lengthy career in the retail sector. For over 20 years she held various leadership roles including 10 years as Regional Director for Talbots. There she was responsible for the sales, operations and profitability of 120 stores across the south-central US. This role allowed her to experience and influence all areas of the business including field management, corporate vision and product merchandising and direction.
Currently, Kerri owns a small business specializing in high-end home design and organization. She works one on one with clients to create organizational solutions for all areas of their home and business. Kerri also has 2 children, a son Jackson and a daughter Carys. She enjoys running and yoga and being outdoors as much as possible.
“The decision to pursue a master’s in HDO from the University of Texas comes from my desire to continually learn and grow. I am interested in building on my leadership experience and adding depth by exploring elements and current challenges of the workforce and workplace. I plan to use this knowledge to contribute to an organization or groups of organizations in the future.”
Justin P. Naylor
Justin is an experienced member of the law enforcement community with a demonstrated history of working in the criminal investigations field. Specifically, he is skilled in intelligence analysis, government, emergency management, law enforcement, and intelligence.
Justin received a BA in Criminal Justice from American Military University while also serving 20 years in the United States Air Force. Outside of the office, Justin is a certified running coach who loves to help people realize their running goals.
“As a consultant and career investigator, a better understanding of how and why people make the decisions they do will allow me to better serve my clients. The coursework in the HDO program will arm me with the knowledge and tools to better evaluate the complex world of personal motivation as well as decision making.”
Johnny Palmer is an experienced Talent Acquisition professional with primary accountability for leading BP’s US Resourcing team, providing strategic direction and operational leadership.
Through international travel, Johnny provides a deep level of business understanding coupled with the building of strong relationships across all portfolios, driving creative and diverse sourcing solutions and ensuring operational excellence of the team’s delivery of the full recruitment life cycle.
Johnny is a former UT Austin Mechanical Engineering undergraduate and he earned his BA in Interdisciplinary Studies from Belhaven University.
Residing in Houston, Johnny enjoys spending time with his wife Yolanda and their two children, Bryn and Jay.
“Earning a master’s degree in HDO will prepare me as a leader in the field of HR. I look forward to being challenged by my professors and engaging in healthy debate with my cohort. I had the opportunity to sit in on Dr. Bonevac’s Organizational Ethics class and was impressed by the cohort’s interaction with the professor and amongst one another. I am confident that the ideas generated and shared during the 15-month program will result in my personal and professional growth.”
Emily graduated from The University of Texas at Austin in 2002 with a Bachelor of Business Administration in Management Information Systems. Since graduation, she has been working at a software company in Houston serving the energy industry. Over the years, she’s worked in a variety of roles including development and client implementations; currently, she is a Product Director in the midstream and transportation market segment.
Emily loves to travel, take photos, read (and sometimes re-read) good books.
“People can be the best (and worst) part of any job. I hope to use the HDO program to work on dissecting reasoning and motivations in the workplace. Not only is the curriculum fascinating to me on a personal level, but I’m also eager to apply knowledge gained in the program to my current role and contribute to my professional growth.”
Matt Sicking has worked as a consulting actuary for over thirty years in insurance organizations, Big 4 accounting firms, and HR consulting firms. In addition to his technical roles, he has also managed consulting groups and been responsible for staff hiring and development. In his current role, Matt’s responsibilities involve business development and helping the firm’s consultants apply intellectual capital and research strategically for clients.
Matt has a BA and MBA from the University of Texas at Austin, he is a credentialed actuary, and he enjoys his frequent public speaking in both professional and civic roles. In whatever free time he might have on a given day Matt would prefer to be cycling or cooking.
“Rapid change in organizations, such as in how jobs are performed, structured, and assessed require a lot of rapid decisions and changes that can affect people very deeply. Some of these effects on people are often unintended consequences, and they could be both good or bad for the organization. Organizations and parts of organizations have official and unofficial cultures, and one or both may persist despite whatever structural changes are happening. I hope the insights provided by my participation in HDO allow me to better see the “background” human effects in organizational change and anticipate the individual and group dynamics that result from them.”
Laura L. Simon
Laura’s professional career began in aviation designing custom interiors for wide-bodied aircraft owned by corporations and Heads of State. While at Raytheon, Laura was awarded an MBA Scholarship to Baylor University where she was able to engage with a 25-peer cohort for the two-year program.
Currently, Laura is the General Manager for V&L Management Company – the Managing General Partner of two manufacturing plants – Waco Boom and Waco Composites.
“I found the HDO Masters Program intriguing in that it addresses the human dimension in organizations and leads students in thought-provoking studies of culture, organizational behavior, organizational communication and leadership and their impacts on the human side. In this increasingly competitive corporate environment, where employee retention is critical to company success, I felt an even greater urgency in exploring new and innovative ways our organizational culture could evolve to support employee longevity in the near and long term. I am hopeful the HDO program can enhance my understanding of inter-company culture and relational dynamics so that through my leadership role I can effectively lead positive change and improve upon both.”
Trent Sisemore is the former Mayor of Amarillo, Texas. He served two terms as Mayor and three terms as a City Council member. He has been involved in the RV business for 40 years as a dealer and manufacturer. Trent has served on the Happy State bank board since 2006. Happy was named the number three bank in Texas in 2018 by Forbes magazine.
Trent is also rated in and flys multiple different jet airplanes, as well as the choir and orchestra director at Quail Creek Church for the past 25 years. His hobbies include playing lead guitar in a worship band and karate (he is a third-degree black belt in Kenpo Karate). He is married to Sharla and they have two daughters, both of whom (as well as their husbands) are UT Austin grads.
“I look forward with great enthusiasm to my involvement in the HDO program. It seems that many of the greatest challenges in my career have not been financial but relational. How does one motivate and inspire good people to be great? I hope to better understand the human dimensions of organizations so that I can be a better mentor.”
Jonathan Thompson is a managing partner of Sunsational Solutions in Austin, TX. During his 12-year tenure, he has grown to become a board member for the International Window Film Association and has spoken at many industry events including the upcoming Window Film Conference in September 2019.
He and his wife reside in Austin with their dogs, Agnes and Royal, spending time outdoors, camping and bicycling.
“Leadership is a highly sought-after skill that requires a clear purpose and strength while being persistent and objective. Implementing the research and leadership skills I gain in the HDO program will allow me to influence the IWFA and work with other dealers, distributors, and industry partners to lead a new generation of business owners that work towards a common goal and a healthy industry.”
Mandy graduated with an undergraduate degree in Business Administration from Texas Woman’s University and began her career working for a large roofing company in office management. She has 15 years of experience working in the construction industry and is currently the Marketing Operations Manager at the largest Caterpillar Dealership in North America.
When not at work, Mandy can usually be found volunteering in her community, traveling or just hanging out with her family.
“My education taught me the value of the human capital but not much about how to encourage, develop and motivate people based on their individual needs. My job experience has brought to light the incredible importance of learning these things in order to build a successful and HAPPY workforce. I hope to be able to take the knowledge gained during my time at Texas and apply it back into my daily life in a successful and meaningful way. I hope that I am able to learn from my fellow students and teachers in the HDO Program skills needed to be a great leader. I am excited to learn from real-life examples and draw from the collective experiences from my peers in the program.”
Joyce is the Programs & Operations Manager at Bai Xian Asia Institute (BXAI). Prior to joining BXAI, Joyce was a leadership fellow of the Asia Pacific Leadership Program at the East-West Center in Honolulu, Hawaii. There, she joined a diverse community of professionals and participated in an immersive program designed to cultivate emerging leaders who are capable of creating a positive impact in the Asia-Pacific region.
Joyce began her career as a program officer at the United Nations Development Programme’s Shanghai office, where she managed relationships with partners in developing countries, government entities in Asia and Africa, and international organizations. She then worked as a program manager and implemented development programs in Mali, West Africa. She has also spent time in rural Yunnan working as a program manager for World Vision China.
Joyce holds a bachelor’s degree in politics and public administration from the University of Hong Kong and was selected to take part in a scholarship exchange program at the University of Salzburg during her university years. She has also completed short-term courses on development studies at Sciences Po in Paris.
“In a world which is full of volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity (VUCA), the ever-changing competition environment shortens the lifespan of good ideas and market positions. It is very important for leaders to create and maintain an organizational culture and a team that is adaptive to the constantly shifting landscape. I believe the multi-disciplinary curriculum of HDO could equip me with the necessary knowledge and skills to better lead a team to navigate this always altering environment. Furthermore, my passion is to support others to unlock their potentials and be the best of who they are. There is no doubt that HDO will furnish me with the skills.”