In the early days, Ashley Anthony thought she would become an attorney so that she could make a difference in people's lives. However, after discovering design, Ashley needed to find a way to combine her creative passions with her desire to solve real world problems. After college Ashley attended a portfolio school, where she studied art direction and design. Working her way through school, Ashley was a case-manager helping individuals in need of mental health resources. Three years later, her portfolio polished, Ashley transitioned into a design role. Since then, she has freelanced at shopper marketing agencies and worked full-time in-house. However, it wasn’t until Ashley discovered a job posting for a non-profit product designer, that her journey came full circle. Today, Ashley is a designer committed to finding solutions that help people gain access to social services with dignity. When Ashley’s not working to change lives, she’s busy listening to podcasts and audio books, playing the sims, and, of course, creating art.
Chris Arning is a semiotician with over 20 years of international experience. Based in London, Chris founded Creative Semiotics in 2010. His mission is to make visible the meanings embedded in brand identities. Chris holds degrees in History, International Relations, and Strategic Marketing. As the son of a Caribbean born mother - who was part of the US Civil Rights movement - and an Anglo-Irish-German father, he was forced to think about his identity from an early age. He has developed a suite of materials on the semiotics of anti-racism. In his spare time, Chris writes and performs poetry, stand-up comedy, and is a member of #HipHopEd.
Jessica Decter was born on a cold winter’s day in Livingston, New Jersey – THIRTY NINE hours of labor she doesn’t remember, yet her mother will never let her forget. To repay her, Jessica attended a private art school and only asked that her mother co-sign for all her student loans. There, at the School of Visual Arts, she found her passion for advertising and design, spending well over THIRTY NINE hours perfecting her craft. This led to her first internship and eventual full-time hire at Grey New York. Soon thereafter, she traded fashionable Timberlands for functional Timberlands at the legendary CP+B Boulder. Two years later, she found herself at McCann New York which is where she worked until the pandemic threw her back into the market along with millions of others. When she’s not thinking up new ways to sell you things, she’s taking up different hobbies waiting for lockdown to end. Last month was Origami, this month is embroidery. She’s open to suggestions.
Sandra Dempsey is native of Mexico who has lived in the U.S. for over 17 years. Her background combines a unique blend of experience in marketing and selling media advertising. With a strong record of success working in top communication organizations, including ESPN
Deportes and Telemundo. Sandra is recognized for her out-of-the-box initiatives and her ability to see beyond words and ideas. Having an entrepreneurial attitude coupled with strong business acumen, Sandra co-founded Estamos Unidos US; a bilingual Spanish-English multi-platform production created to share activities and experiences in Milwaukee and surrounding areas. She is a tenacious Hispanic Market Consultant, Latinx Influencer and Visual Content Director expert; and she uses her expertise in the Hispanic market to connect communities and enrich people's lives. Her expertise and passion for her culture has made of her a key advisor for companies aiming to reach the Hispanic market. Sandra's latest project and venture is SourceTEN, a company specializing in consulting in content creation and marketing strategy.
Though Aida Fitzgerald never played sports, she’s always been a team player. Aida grew up the third-born of a single mom's four children. When she was 10 years old, her mom's elderly parents came to live with the family, and the kids helped take care of their grandmother, who had Alzheimer's. Aida has played in orchestras since she was 4 years old (violin until she was 9 then cello at 11). At a career fair in high school, Aida was drawn to a table of someone in advertising. She loved the idea of a profession that was more stable than my childhood dream of acting, but still gave her that creative outlet. A college fair led her to Marquette University and its advertising program. At Marquette, Aida minored in criminology and law studies because she was 18 and thought she might also want to be an FBI detective. Outside of class, Aida did community service. Serving others helped her see the fine line between those who were struggling and herself. From being a public defense social worker to a public defense attorney to a civil legal aid attorney, Aida is still a team player who uses her creativity for good and who has never lost sight of that fine line.
After 12 years leading CSR and branding efforts for Fortune 500 companies, Kirsten Helgeson left corporate and jumped into global relief and empowerment. This work has taken her to all corners of the world: from refugee camps to orphanages; hurricane zones to public health crises. Along the way, she’s learned a lot about people, community and building a better world for everyone. Armed with expertise and experience, Kirsten founded Just A Girl, a social enterprise using technology to foster inclusive mental health and womxn’s empowerment efforts globally. Initiatives include Girl Talk Radio (the first streaming service for podcasting and multimedia content created by womxn), Privilege Awakening (like the stages of grief, but for privilege), The Mental Health Barometer (tracking the evolving mental health of people globally) and SIYA (an app-based personal mental health buddy). Kirsten is a TEDx speaker, celebrated kintsugi artist and a finalist in the 2018 Institute for Evolutionary Leadership’s Future Challenge. In addition to her formal education many moons ago, she holds certifications in Psychological First Aid and Therapeutic Art Coaching to best support psycho-social healing efforts.
Cole Hines is a native Milwaukeean. Born, raised, and still presiding in the 53210 zip-code. To many people, those five digits denote a lack of education, low socioeconomic status, and the absence of physical safety. Like someone in prison, many tried to identify him by a number. However, from a young age, his perspective was different than most. His mom is a lawyer born out of wedlock to a 14-year-old girl, and his dad, former Common Council President, and 15th district Alderman, also grew up in this neighborhood. Cole identifies as a Black, heterosexual, cisgender man. He’s a second-generation senior at Marquette University, majoring in Advertising with double minors in Marketing and Public Relations. Reflecting on his life experiences, Cole said, “my skin color and life experiences taught me to look beyond the surface, to listen, learn from and value individuals’ stories and to see assets, and opportunities in my community.”
Keith Jamerson is a biracial male advertising professional currently working as an executive producer at Arts & Letters Creative Company. Keith has always had an innate interest in people: why they do the things they do, what motivates them. He’s had a similar fascination with storytelling and its power to connect people across groups and cultures. These interests led him to pursue a double major in advertising and psychology at Marquette University. Upon graduation, he joined the production department at Leo Burnett. Since then, he’s led major campaigns with some of the industry’s best brands including: Kellogg’s, Samsung, Esurance, Capital One, Mars and Molson-Coors. In his current, role Keith manages a team of producers creating industry leading work for ESPN and Google. Keith believes the path to meaningful progress eliminating discrimination and creating responsible media portrayals begins with honest and uncomfortable conversations. To that end, Keith proud to support GROW’s TruthTellers platform and hopes his perspective will be beneficial to those striving to create meaningful change within the industry. We’re all in this together.
Jen Janviere is a native Midwesterner with a background in the creative arts. While pursuing an MFA degree at the Savannah College of Art and Design, she began a career as a multimedia designer that would eventually include working with a diverse variety of employers and clients across corporate, non-profit, and academic sectors. After nearly 20 years as a creative professional, seeing few women in creative management, and inspired by a volunteer experience with Habitat for Humanity Jen decided to change her professional direction. She moved from building websites to building construction. In early 2020, she began a new career as a union carpenter apprentice. Through her work with Sisters in the Brotherhood, a group dedicated to recruitment and retention for women in construction, Jen is working to help increase the visibility of women in the building trades and bring more sister in the brotherhood.
Joanna L. Jenkins, PhD was born and raised in the art, culture and activism of Philadelphia. Her passion was sparked by a commemorative march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge. She refined that passion at Howard University, Pratt and in the advertising industry. Joanna brings nearly 20 years of experience, and has worked as an art director, strategist, scholar and administrator. Her research explores visual culture and representation, creating inclusive systems for marginalized populations. Her publications include The Convergence Crisis and numerous articles. Joanna is an Associate Dean and Assistant Professor at Moore College. In her spare time loves to bake and help entrepreneurs launch restaurants.
Nkenge Kirton is a sharp-witted digital marketing professional with social media know-how, a love for problem-solving and a knack for driving results. She was born in Grenada and raised in Barbados. Her life changed direction when she was offered a full ride to attend a university in Baltimore, Maryland. She had never visited the US before. Not one to shy away from an opportunity or a challenge. She accepted. It was there that she was bit by the social media marketing bug--she started a blog and successfully used social media to drive traffic and build community. She then leveraged that experience to gain internships and eventually her first job out of grad school as the Website and Social Media Specialist at a national nonprofit. Seven years later, Nkenge is the Social Media Manager of an award-winning organic food brand. Nkenge dabbles in photography, loves trying new recipes and enjoys reading an expertly crafted Twitter thread.
At 16, Jeff Lopez founded what is now known as West Theory (formerly Gloob Marketing.) A definite leader in a burgeoning class of innovative young marketing professionals, Lopez has executed marketing and publicity campaigns for over a decade for brands spanning from a consumer and entertainment portfolio in music, theatrical, home entertainment and television such as: Sony Pictures, THX Cinema, Dolby Cinema, YouTube Originals, 20th Century FOX, Orion Pictures (an MGM Company), AMC Networks, BET Networks, Lucasfilm, PBS, Nickelodeon, and Warner Bros. Television. Most recently, he was named to the 2018 Forbes 30 Under 30 Marketing & Advertising list. He has also been recognized by Entrepreneur Magazine as “The Next Generation of Entrepreneurs.”
After a stint at David & Goliath, Ruben Marin changed directions. He is now real estate broker where than 80% of his clientele coming from the LatinX community. His commitment to equity means he focuses on underserved communities, helping to develop thriving communities for those who are often overlooked. As a first-generation college student, Ruben experienced a lot of pressure and often felt lost. It wasn't until he became involved with Educational Opportunity Program (EOP), that he began to find stability. Paying it forward he hopes to educate first-generation students about how to begin building wealth through real estate because EOP changed his life. When Ruben is not roaming the streets trying to sell houses, he’s learning about financial literacy, blockchain technology, and cryptocurrency – and building his dream of starting a recreational basketball league to create safe and uplifting environments in low-socioeconomic communities.
Briana Mercado is a second generation Mexican-American. She was raised by her single mother and grandmother. They distilled lots of life lessons like resilience, strength, teamwork, and curiosity. She was born with creativity in her bones. As a child she played dress up, painted and drew pictures of places she wanted to go as an adult. Her professional work includes video production, social media strategy and content creation. Throughout her career she has worked in the event marketing industry, news production, beauty industry and hospitality. Moving across different sectors has been a source of inspiration for her work and she’s likely not to stop. When Briana is not working, she loves biking and you can always find one of her many painting in progress.
Marta Mensa, PhD is a Latina and global gender scholar. Born in Catalonia she has lived and worked in Spain, Peru, Mexico and Chile. Maybe there will be a fifth country, who knows. Marta has two undergraduate degrees, in journalism and humanities, because one was not enough! And, she earned a PhD in advertising, Along the way she worked as a copywriter at Leo Burnett/Peru. Marta believes that advertising can play a larger role in creating a society with human values focused on respect, diversity, equity, and inclusion. An inquisitive person, Marta has won numerous awards. She was recently named a fellow for the Emerging Women Leaders Fellows Program at the London School of Economics. She also was awarded a Santander Post-Doctoral Fellowship to study gender and digital media in Mexico, the only woman among nine men. When Marta is not studying gender in advertising or pursuing another fellowship, she can be found practicing surf in Huanchaco (Peru) or diving with sharks in Isla Mujeres (Mexico).
Olivia Menzia is a graphic designer and creative expressionist based in Milwaukee. From painting murals on driveways, to yarn bombing around town, to illustrating just about anything - it's safe to say Olivia is comfortable working is every medium. She often finds herself in the digital space creating graphics for local businesses throughout Milwaukee. And, Olivia is GROW’s resident sketch-noter, bringing TruthTelling conversations vividly to life. When she’s not designing Olivia is probably making ice cream for her company Liv a Little Vegan Ice Cream!
Lorenzo Muñoz studied advertising and psychology in college and saw himself as a writer. After his 2016 graduation, he began working as a junior copywriter at FCB, Chicago on a brand portfolio that included Alpha Romero, Radio Flyer, and Clorox among others. Around this same time the United States had just severed countless strategic and climate commitments throughout the world. These actions revealed to Lorenzo that it was time for a career change. He began pursuing a graduate degree in environmental studies, pivoting his career toward a purpose-driven direction, one that focused on serious corporate social responsibility in addition to revenue—something that he couldn’t find in the ad world. While Lorenzo finishes graduate school at the University of Colorado Boulder, he’s works at the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics as the marketing specialist—and feeling a whole lot more… well, ethical.
Kristopher Riley is a creative problem solver and servant-leader; born and raised on the East Coast, educated in the Midwest, now living and working in the Bay Area. In college, working in hospitality, he learned two very powerful lessons: patience and integrity. He was also bitten by the entrepreneurial bug and co-founded his first company, called Hype Dance. Today, Hype is at four different schools. It’s the longest running hip hop dance team in the Midwest. He was bitten a second time after attending his first Techstars Startup Weekend in Philadelphia. He was amazed by the support system he saw at Techstars Startup Weekend and asked myself, “How do I solve this problem for other young founders?” Over the next six years Kris not only became a Techstars Startup Weekend Facilitator—the next level of responsibility up from Organizer—he grew tremendously. Kris is now Head of Business Development for PayStand, a fast-growing startup in the South Bay. The startup community gave him the confidence to start the founder journey again, and now he’s working with a handful of friends and bootstrapping two ideas: a mobile-first, automotive CPQ system that helps mechanics to drive business and manage customer engagements, called Oxivi; and a voice-first service allowing consumers to call a ride hailing service without the need of a smartphone, called Rotary Rider. Kris thrives on the excitement of startups, but always holds community and doing right by it, closest to his heart.
Born in Trinidad but raised in Florida, Daynah Singh is a Copywriter with a passion for social justice and equality. After (accidentally) discovering advertising and realizing its influence on culture and society, Daynah has made it her mission to push our industry forward in a way that actively promotes and supports diversity, equity, and inclusion. From serving on her agency's D&I Council to advocating for marginalized voices, Daynah hopes to help pave the way for other people of color in the industry and to create work that reflects people from all backgrounds. Most recently, she was recognized in Adweek’s 2022 AAPI Creative Spotlight and was a member of the 2021 ADCOLOR FUTURES cohort. Outside of work, you can find her watching the Wheel of Fortune, reading too many books at once, or struggling to figure out if she’s a Millennial or Gen Z.
Derek Smith is a former D1 athlete who took a different route. He was born in a place that many people don’t get a chance to leave, Evergreen, Alabama. You may need a magnifying glass to find it on the map. Back then, at the University of Memphis, Derek was the only football player to study Advertising. He knew it could all be taken away on any given play. But disaster builds character and he chose to turn obstacles into fuel that would push him even further. Derek the ex-collegiate footballer is now an ad man. He’s found that the ad game is much the same: colors bleed, pencils break and even pages tear. Derek started at Publicis Seattle. Currently, he’s an award-winning Art Director at the Martin Agency. He influences brands like DoorDash, Buffalo Wild Wings and Donate Life America. Outside of making ads, he runs his own clothing brand, Kool Kruex. Derek's story is important, because there are young people out there facing some of the obstacles he faced - and they are the next generation of ad men and women.
Jen Stopka is a creative director, writer, plant hoarder, and crossword nerd. She doesn’t have an internal monologue. Jen has spent time in New York and Chicago at places like McCann, Publicis, Code & Theory, and FCB. She’s an award-winning, integrated creative whose career spans a wide range of media and brands, like Porsche, Miller Lite, Coors Light, Citibank, GE, Boeing, and Chicago Tourism, to name a few. Outside of advertising, you can find Jen improvising on stage at The Second City or The Annoyance. She is also known to direct a musical (or two). In 2020, Jen joined OLIVER, a network that builds custom in-house agencies for clients. Since April, she’s helped build and lead the team at Molson Coors. Yes, during the pandemic. No, she’s never met any of her coworkers IRL.
Bryan Stromer is passionate about telling the stories of brands that make our world a better place. He studied Human and Organizational Development at Vanderbilt University, where is realized the vital role advertising and marketing plays in shaping culture and society. He is currently a Product Marketing Manager at Microsoft, where he focuses on re-imagining the value proposition for Microsoft’s global e-commerce business. Born with Cerebral Palsy, Bryan is a passionate advocate for the disability community and is the founder and co-lead of Microsoft’s Disability in Marketing group, which works to ensure and drive authentic representation of individuals with disabilities in Microsoft’s advertising and marketing. He’s been featured in the Washington Post, NY Times, and on NPR and the Today Show as well as others. He currently serves on ADCOLOR’s advisory board, The Seattle Transit Advisory Board, and helps community organizations with design challenges as a participant in AIGA Seattle's Changemaker Series. Bryan has been recognized as a 2019 ADCOLOR FUTURE leader and was a 2020 Forbes 30 Under 30 member.
Scott Tillema had a fairly unremarkable suburban childhood. Attending college, he was introduced to very diverse set of peers and a whole lot of new perspectives. Fascinated, he studied behavioral science and sociology. For fun, he was a drummer in the Wisconsin Marching Band. In choosing his career path, Scott was inspired by his father and was drawn to serve others, and chose to become a police officer. Nineteen years later he’s still an active officer, specializing in hostage and crisis negotiation. Along the way Scott earned a Master’s degree in psychology and trained in FBI-led hostage negotiation at Harvard. A believer in the power of verbal influence and persuasion, Scott’s work now focuses on how de-escalate life-threatening situations. He designed Northwestern University’s Center for Public Safety hostage negotiation curricular model. Scott has presented “The Secrets of Hostage Negotiators” at TEDx and has spoken internationally. His youthful dream of joining the FBI has been turned on its head, as he now trains with them. Scott lives in suburban Chicago with his wife, three children, two dogs, and two cats–and a giant drum-set, which his children think is theirs. He continues to believe in our communal ability to find connections and common bonds, which can help us of all work together to achieve lasting positive change.
Kevin Thomas, PhD is a qualitative data scientist at Meta. Prior to joining Meta, he was an educator and activist scholar, specializing in using policy-relevant and community participatory action research methods to critically examine the relationship between marketing, consumption practices, and notions of self and community. His research focused on how identity markers such as, race, gender, class, and sexuality are represented in marketing and experienced in the marketplace. Kevin’s work has been featured in Journal of Public Policy & Marketing, Journal of Advertising, Consumption Markets & Culture, among others. He is co-editor of the award-winning Race in the Marketplace: Crossing Critical Boundaries (Palgrave Macmillan 2019). Kevin is also co-founder of Food for Black Thought, the Black Media Council, and the Race in the Marketplace Research Network. He attempts to remain centered and grounded through his daily mindfulness meditation practice.
Ed Timke is a Midwest-based scholar and activist who studies the cultural, social, and political implications of advertising and media in society. In particular, he focuses on the persuasive techniques and technologies that the advertising, marketing, and media industries use to represent and shape various identities and communities. He was born without ear canals in an economically disadvantaged working-class family living in rural Wisconsin. Despite facing bullying and ridicule growing up, he came to accept and become proud of his identity as a disabled gay man, which has propelled his work as an educator and researcher focused on increasing diversity, inclusion, and fairness in advertising, marketing, and media. Ed is the Associate Editor of the academic journal
Advertising & Society Quarterly. He earned his Ph.D. in media and communication from the University of Michigan. When not training for his next marathon, spoiling three cats, spending too much time in antique and junk shops, or sprucing up his 130-year-old home, he enjoys "just one more coffee," delicious food with friends, and the ultimate vice known as The Golden Girls.
Ellen Wagner was born and raised in St. Louis. She moved to Atlanta shortly after her high school graduation to attend Clark Atlanta University (HBCU) and majored in Fashion Design and Merchandising and then went on to study Art Direction at the Creative Circus with predominantly white students. Right away Ellen was exposed to both sides of the racial and cultural divide. She likes to say, “it prepared me for my career path.” Ellen started her design career in the fashion industry as a visual merchandiser. The skills she learned in fashion helped shape her into the creative she is today. Her “super power,” as she like to think of it, is getting what needs to be done by any means necessary. With the additional skills she acquired in the fashion world she’s been able to do just that. Ellen has over 15 years of experience working in advertising as a designer, art director and creative director. Before moving to Milwaukee, Ellen lived and worked in New York, California, and Germany crafting creative for iconic brands such as Foot Locker Inc., Nike, Adidas, Healthy Choice, Dove Chocolate, Twix, and Kraft.
GROW Truths Tellers come from a wide array of cultural and professional backgrounds.
They share their wisdom as Strategic Collaborators, who work directly with Jean
and the client building DEI strategy, or as Group Story Tellers in one-hour Zoom
sessions where they share unvarnished DEI truths. No matter how you meet
GROW’s Truths Tellers, they always provide culturally resonant
insights that amplify sustainable DEI.
Tashina Williams is a member of the Stockbridge-Munsee Band of Mohicans, a Native American tribe based in northcentral Wisconsin. Born to a single 17-year-old, Tashina never met her father who died before she was born. Raised by her grandmother, who role-modeled perseverance and strength, Tashina learned the power of resilience. Along the way Tashina has faced-down poverty, depression and domestic violence – and while being single mother, she beat alcoholism. As a young adult, she pursued both undergraduate and graduate degrees at Marquette University. After graduating with her bachelor's degree, Tashina was uninterested in the predominantly white, male, "who-you-know" culture of advertising that she found in Milwaukee. Luckily, Tashina's true calling came naturally and casino marketing became her safe space to flourish. Her first internship in 2012 quickly propelled her career forward. Seeing women and people of color in leadership roles within the tribal gaming industry was the spark to light. That spark shot her to new heights and eventually to Director of Marketing at a tribally owned gaming facility in Wyoming by the age of 30.
Damaris Zita is a Caribbean Afro-Latina who has a passion for art, design, and people. From a little girl doodling on a notebook, to becoming President of her school's National Art Honors Society, to finally pursuing her lifelong passion at Marquette University, art and design have always been a part of her life. Damaris believes that the key to figuring out the present is taking a deep and analytical view of the past. Whether it’s getting lost in a hidden 3-hour documentary about tribal life in the jungle of Papua New Guinea or somehow getting on a “Getting Dressed in 1665 Delft” video on YouTube, Damaris loves to explore other cultures, customs, and traditions to expand her own world view. Even though entering the rabbit hole that is YouTube is helpful in learning about the world, Damaris still believes that first-hand experience can’t be beat, she spends every free second and every free penny making sure she gets to see as much of the world as she can. As someone who’s identity has been the brunt of confusion, disdain and ignorance, Damaris prioritizes educating herself and others on the complexity of culture and the diversity of humanity.