Speakers + Performers
Chief Operating Officer, West Acres Development, LLP
Alissa Adams serves as the Chief Operating Officer at West Acres Development in Fargo, ND, where she has been instrumental in driving the organization's continued success and vibrancy. Her belief in the transformative power of creativity is at the heart of everything she does. She is passionate about incorporating art, imagination, and beautiful aesthetics into all aspects of her work to create engaging and inspiring spaces that bring people together and spark joy.
In addition to her role at West Acres, Alissa is also the Chief Strategy Officer at the Center for Plastic Surgery, where she works alongside her husband, Nick. She finds personal fulfillment in creative expression through cooking, floral arrangement, outdoor activities, yoga, playing with her two daughters, and engaging with her community.
Alissa draws inspiration from her experiences living out of state and traveling. She is dedicated to bringing fresh and innovative ideas back to her community while celebrating its unique and vibrant creative culture. Through her work and personal pursuits, Alissa is constantly seeking to make a positive impact on the world and inspire others to do the same.
Founder & CEO, Totem
Amber Buker is the Founder and CEO of Totem, the only digital built by and for Indigenous people. A recovering attorney, Amber spent recent years advising bank leaders on technology. She has interviewed hundreds of leaders in banking, fintech, and government, and regularly speaks, writes, and podcasts for national audiences about what she’s learned from their work. In 2022, she became the second indigenous woman in America to raise a multi-million dollar venture funding round.
CEO, Ryan Companies US, Inc.
Brian Murray is the Chief Executive Officer of Ryan Companies US, Inc., a national commercial real estate services company with expertise in designing, developing, constructing, financing, and managing commercial real estate properties. Before Ryan Companies he held financial roles at UnitedHealth Group and Arthur Andersen & Co.
He is a current board member of the PrairieCare Fund, a nonprofit that provides grants for mental health awareness in schools, and a current board member of Lakewood Cemetery, a 150 years old and on 250 acres in the heart of Minneapolis. He was the first board chair of Cristo Rey Jesuit High School in Minneapolis, that provides a college preparatory education for economically disadvantaged youth, mostly BIPOC, who also gain a professional work experience while in school.
He has personally battled depression in his life. Sadly, he has friends and extended family members who have tried or been successful in ending their struggle with mental illness through suicide. He is a champion of ending the stigma of mental illness, particularly among men, and willingly shares his own personal depression story with the goal of creating hope for others. He is a proponent of creating greater awareness in corporations of the signs of depression and anxiety, and strongly advocates that mental illness is real, common, and treatable. He and his wife, Shelly, live in Minneapolis and have three adult children. He is a graduate of the the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minn.
Director & Strategic Advisor
A seasoned professional with more than thirty years’ experience at executive levels in both public and private companies, as well as multiple company directorships. Christie presently serves as Chairman of the Board of Hatchbeauty Brands, the first company to offer both beauty and wellness incubation, changing the landscape of brand innovation. From product conception and development to creative and strategic services, turnkey product and custom packaging, bringing brands to life with superior speed and precision. She also serves on several other boards and is a strategic advisor to CEOs.
Previously, Christie served in a variety of executive positions with Playboy Enterprises, a NYSE listed company, culminating in 20 years as Chairman and CEO. She was widely credited with developing and leading the execution of strategies that repositioned the company from its legacy domestic magazine business to a global multi-media and lifestyle company and building its institutional shareholder base.
Senior Program Officer, Walton Personal Philanthropy Group
Gary Vernon is a Senior Program Officer for the Walton Family Foundation supporting Steuart and Tom Walton’s work creating a world class destination for mountain biking and all types of cycling in the State of Arkansas. Gary is an avid mountain biker and off-road motorcyclist and an expert in competition motorcycle trials. His passion for cycling spans nearly 50 years and he is excited to support the All Kids Ride program by rolling out the program in over 30 schools in the state so far.
Founder of Designed By Hannah & Scribble Lady
Hannah Stelter is a 24-year-old artist and entrepreneur. Starting her social media journey in 2020, she quickly gained a large following for her relatable art content. Her fine art focuses on body positive portraits, with a goal to help people embrace themselves and celebrate everyone’s uniqueness. She started an art supply company in 2022 that makes art more approachable for beginners, to spread the message of embracing imperfection past oneself and into ones art.
CEO & Co-founder, Bushel
Jake Joraanstad is the CEO of Bushel, an independently owned and operated software company headquartered in Fargo, N.D. Bushel is focused on bringing innovative software products and solutions to the agriculture value chain. Since launching in 2017, Bushel’s software has powered 2,200+ grain facilities and reaches over 100,000 farmers across the U.S. and Canada with real-time business information for their producers. Jake is heavily involved in the entrepreneurial community and enjoys helping with local startup events.
Owner, Sego Promos
Jon Absey is in a class all his own. Dating back to his first season in Utah, he performed at over 900 NBA games, has donated 16,000-plus hours of assistance in the community for more than 300 community organizations, and raised more than one million dollars for charity in the process. Jon has taken home more than 40 community and national awards, including eight mascot leadership awards, keys to two cities, been honored by three individual governors with his very own “Day in Utah”, been named Mascot of the Year in the NBA five times and Best Mascot out of all sports nationwide twice and, just recently was given an award for the best video by a mascot out of all sports nationwide. He has been inducted into the YMCA Hall of Fame, the Utah Summer Games Hall of Fame, and the Mascot Hall of Fame in 2006. “The reason the character grew to be such a big part of the community was because of the help I had from everyone around me. Without the help from people who cared, it wouldn’t have been as successful.” Jon is so ever grateful for the understanding of his wife and children and the fact that they let him build this character even though it took him away from home way too much. Behind the suit, has always been a supportive and proud family. Without them he would have just been an ordinary bear.
Executive Director, StrengthenND
Megan Langley is the Founder and Executive Director of Strengthen ND. Ms. Megan is a 2014 Bush Foundation Fellow, 2020 graduate of the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for Social Impact Strategy, and an alumnus of the Harvard-Kennedy School of Government’s Leadership in the 21st Century Program and the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy at Indiana State University. Ms. Laudenschlager currently holds several state-based and national positions related to rural placemaking and development, including positions on the North Dakota Council on the Arts Board of Directors, North Dakota Economic Development Foundation Board of Directors, North Dakota Rural Development Council, and the National Endowment for the Arts’ Steering Committee, which provides guidance to the Citizens’ Institute on Rural Design (CIRD).
Michelle Berg has over 20 years of experience and leadership in the biotechnology sector. Most recently she served as President, GMP Nucleic Acids for Aldevron. Before that she served as Vice President of Patient Affairs and Community Engagement for Abeona Therapeutics, a company focused on developing novel gene and cell therapy approaches for treatment of people affected by rare diseases including Epidermolysis Bullosa, Sanfilippo syndrome, and Batten disease. Prior to that, Berg held a variety of roles with increasing reach and responsibility at Aldevron for 16 years, seeing it through several pivotal growth and expansion cycles.
Founder, Upside Down Dreams
Michelle Curran has led an impressive career as a Fighter Pilot during her 13 years in the United States Air Force. From 2019-2021, she flew as the only female pilot for the Air Force Thunderbirds and performed for millions across the country and internationally. Michelle was also named the Distinguished Alumna of the Year by the University of St. Thomas in 2021, and has been featured on The Kelly Clarkson Show and CBS Evening News.
Before joining the Thunderbirds, Michelle was a combat proven fighter pilot completing missions around the world. Her passion for pushing limits, inspiring others, and changing lives led to the creation of her company, Upside Down Dreams. Through this platform, she is committed to empowering men and women of all ages to overcome obstacles, face the fear of failure, and excel at whatever they are passionate about.
Evangelist - President, Pulse
Nick Hall is the visionary of TOGETHER, author of the book Reset, and the President of Pulse. As an evangelistic voice to this generation, Nick Hall has shared the Gospel at hundreds of events to more than five million people and is regularly featured as a speaker for pastors gatherings, student conferences, training events, and festivals around the world. Nick is also the President and CEO of The Table Coalition and sits on the board of the National Association of Evangelicals. He has been featured on major media outlets including the Huffington Post, USA Today, Fox News, US News & World Report, Washington Post, Christianity Today, Moody Radio, Christian Broadcasting Network, Trinity Broadcast Network, and The Christian Post. Nick is married to his best friend, Tiffany, and they are proud parents of Truett, Ruby, and Jude. They live in Minneapolis, MN. Nick has a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from NDSU and a master’s in Leadership and Christian Thought from Bethel Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota.
Student, Harvard University
Having graduated high school in June 2022, Penelope was accepted early to Harvard University. She is currently taking a gap year to work on mental health and prepare for college.
Founder, Possibility HQRS
Regina Louise is the founder of Possibility HQRS: a boutique coaching agency. Regina’s newest work, Permission Granted: Kick-Ass Strategies to Bootstrap Your Way to Unconditional Self-Love (New World Library, June 2021) is her first-ever personal growth offering. Her bestselling memoirs Somebody’s Someone and I Am Somebody’s Child: The Regina Louise Story, were nominated for numerous awards including a 2020 NAACP Image Award for Best Director, and a Christopher Award, which it won for “upholding the highest essence of triumph of the human spirit,” for a television film. A summa cum laud graduate of University of California Riverside with a Master of Fine Arts (terminal degree). Regina is a Hoffman Process teacher, a workshop facilitator and motivational speaker who resides in the San Francisco bay Area. Her story has been featured in media outlets such as Good Morning America, NPR’s All Things Considered, Lee Harris Podcast, San Francisco Chronicle, Essence Magazine, CNN, HLN and many more.
Dr. Rupak Gandhi
Superintendant, Fargo Public Schools
A California native, Dr. Rupak Gandhi completed his undergraduate studies in Political Science at Texas A&M University. He holds a master’s degree in special education from Grand Canyon University in Phoenix, AZ, and holds his doctorate in educational leadership from Northwest Nazarene University in Nampa, Idaho. Dr. Gandhi began his career in education in the Houston Independent School District. After serving as a Special Education resource teacher through Teach For America, he served as a high school assistant principal, an elementary principal for a campus of 750 students, and lastly, the principal of a comprehensive 6A high school serving nearly 3,000 students. Dr. Gandhi then served as the Research, Data, and Accountability Officer (Assistant Superintendent) for Harrison School District Two in Colorado Springs, CO where he provided leadership and strategic direction for accountability planning, implementation of performance measurements, and reporting of practices for the District. In March 2018, the Board of Education of the City of Fargo hired Dr. Gandhi as the Superintendent of Schools. He officially assumed the position in July 2018. Dr. Gandhi and his family reside in Fargo.
CEO, RCGD Global | Red Carpet Green Dress at Oscars®
A dynamic and driven sustainability advocate and CEO. Samata is an early adopter of the sustainability conversation, and has been steering Red Carpet Green Dress since 2011, joining the company initially as Campaign Director, progressing to Vice President, before being named CEO in 2019.
Samata's vision for Red Carpet Green Dress focuses on the longstanding exclusive partnership with The Academy, ongoing eco-collaborations creating accessible sustainable products for the global earth community with impact brands, sustainable retail, education with a focus on youth, the creation of educational and entertaining digital content, alongside the expansion of RCGD's global presence with a focus on emerging markets and manufacturing.
Within and outside of her work with RCGD, Samata is passionate about creating accessible sustainable design tools for the everyday citizen, to connect the dots between personal impact and the cultural lens.
Former Financial Executive
Sam Wai has been in the FM area since the early 1970s. He was a financial executive and retired 7 years ago. Sam has been a wine educator for over 35 years. He has a wine cellar of about 2,500 bottles and grew wine grapes for 20 years. He also take guests to Greece for wine/food and history tours.
Artist & Founder, Thomas Dambo Art Aps
Thomas Dambo's journey is a real-life fairytale about how he roamed his home city of Copenhagen on a cargo bike dumpster diving materials for his first small installations to gaining international recognition as the world's leading recycling artist.
He now has over twenty full-time employees, has built over one hundred sculptures in seventeen countries, and his art is still made with the same philosophy of sustainability and recycling, truly highlighting how one man's trash is another man's treasure.
Will Greenfield was born and raised just outside of Louisville, Kentucky. Growing up in a small town had its own unique challenges, however, Greenfield always managed to stay on his path of becoming a filmmaker. This can-do attitude has been evident throughout Greenfield’s career, beginning with becoming the first in his family to receive a college education.
After graduating, Greenfield took the first step in materializing his dream of becoming a filmmaker. His first position, as a production assistant, brought him to New York, Louisiana, and eventually Georgia. Greenfield steadily climbed the ranks from production assistant to his current position as executive producer. Over the past 7 years, Greenfield has amassed 16 feature film credits; including titles directed by the likes of Frank Darabont, Jon Favreau, Quentin Tarantino, Jeff Nichols, Spike Lee, Yorgos Lanthimos, Lena Dunham and Sam Levinson.
Greenfield recently completed the second season of HBO’s Emmy nominated series, Euphoria; created by Sam Levinson and stars Emmy winner Zendaya, Hunter Schafer, Jacob Elordi, Sydney Sweeney, Eric Dane and Storm Reid. Euphoria has broken multiple records, including a viewership of over 16.3 million per episode, along with becoming the most tweeted about show in over a decade. Greenfield is currently in pre-production and post production on several upcoming independent feature films. In his spare time, Greenfield is passionate about mentoring and helping guide the next generation of filmmakers. Greenfield resides in Atlanta, Georgia, with his beautiful wife and daughter.