Skip to page content
Office of Disability Employment Policy
Bookmark and Share

National Diversity Forum

Quick Links
National Diversity Forum Links

Speaker Bios

Fabricio E. Balcazar

Fabricio E. Balcazar, Ph.D., is a Professor in the Department of Disability and Human Development at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Dr. Balcazar's primary research interest is in developing effective strategies for enhancing consumer empowerment and personal effectiveness among individuals with disabilities. Dr. Balcazar has conducted research over the past 25 years on several disability-related areas, such as the development of systematic approaches for the effective involvement of people with disabilities in consumer advocacy organizations; the development of interventions to help minority students with disabilities transition into employment and career development; and the promotion of cultural competence in rehabilitation services, among others. Dr. Balcazar is currently the director of the Center on Capacity Building for Minorities with Disabilities Research and as such, he has lead the development of a cultural competence conceptual framework, training curriculum and assessment instrument, conducting multiple workshops on this topic and providing TA to multiple organizations. Dr. Balcazar has published over 60 peer-reviewed journal articles and recently co-edited a book entitled Race, culture and disability: Issues in Rehabilitation Research and Practice. Dr. Balcazar is a Fellow of the American Psychological Association.

Dara Baldwin

Dara Baldwin works as a policy analyst at The National Council on Independent Living a membership organization that advances independent living and the rights of people with disabilities through consumer — driven advocacy. She engages members by their involvement in advocacy work to make a change. She is responsible for the diversity and cultural competency outreach as well as working on coalitions to assist with better legislative outcomes for the community. Prior to this work Ms. Baldwin worked as a Child Advocate in NJ, Sr. Policy Analyst on multiple criminal justice issues such as the Second Chance Act and as an Advocacy Manager at TASH. L. Dara Baldwin has a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from Rutgers University, Newark, NJ and was a Pi Alpha Alpha honors Graduate with a Masters of Public Administration from Rutgers University the School of Public Affairs and Administration, Newark, NJ. She received a 2009 and 2010 Presidential Citation Award for her work in the American Society for Public Administration.

Susanne M. Bruyère

Susanne M. Bruyère, Ph.D., CRC, is currently Professor of Disability Studies, the Director of the Employment and Disability Institute, and Associate Dean of Outreach at the Cornell University ILR (Industrial and Labor Relations) School, Ithaca, N.Y. Susanne is currently Project Director and Co-Principal Investigator of numerous federally-sponsored research, dissemination, and technical assistance efforts focused on employment and disability policy and effective workplace practices for people with disabilities including: the USDOL Office of Disability and Employment Policy National Technical Assistance, Policy and Research Center for Employers on Employment of People with Disabilities; the Rehabilitation Research and Training Center on Employer Practice to Improve Employment Outcomes for Persons with Disabilities; and the ADA Center-Northeast. She is a past president of the American Rehabilitation Counseling Association, National Council on Rehabilitation Education, and Division of Rehabilitation Psychology (22) of the American Psychological Association. Susanne holds a doctoral degree in Rehabilitation Counseling Psychology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, is a Fellow of the American Psychological Association, a member of the National Academy of Social Insurance, and serves as an Executive Board Member of the Division of Rehabilitation Psychology of the American Psychological Association, past-chair of GLADNET (the Global Applied Disability Research and Information Network on Employment and Training), and past-chair of the CARF (Rehabilitation Accreditation) Board of Directors.

Ivonne Cunarro

Ivonne Cunarro serves as Senior Program Manager for the U.S. Department of Commerce's Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA). In this capacity, she is in charge of MBDA's strategic alliances and research programs as well as manages the U.S. Department of Commerce's National Advisory Council on Minority Business Enterprises. Most recently, Ms. Cunarro served as Chief Knowledge Officer at MBDA. In that position, she was responsible for developing MBDA's research and knowledge management programs. Under her leadership, MBDA produced two reports in-house entitled, "The State of Minority Business Enterprises" and "Characteristics of Minority Businesses and Entrepreneurs." She also spearheaded the production of five other papers on issues of importance to minority business enterprises including: "Disparities in Capital Access between Minority and non-Minority Businesses," "Increasing MBE Competitiveness through Strategic Alliances," "MBEs: Mastering the Supply Chain" and "The Sophisticated Innovator: Practical Insights from Provocative Stories of Innovation in Minority Business Enterprises." In addition, she led the development of the Agency's first Communities of Practice, Partnernet, to facilitate increased collaboration between federal employees and the MBDA's network of centers, as well as augment Agency's efficiencies.

Prior to the Chief Knowledge Officer position, she served as Executive Director of the National Association of Hispanic Publications (NAHP), where she directed all efforts including, fundraising, congressional affairs, coalition building and convention management. Cunarro worked on Capitol Hill as Director of Communications for Congressman José E. Serrano for over four years. In addition, she served as Deputy Director of Communications for the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, and as Director of Communications for the Hispanic Association on Corporate Responsibility. She has served as a board member of NAHP, the Hispanic Association on Corporate Responsibility, and the National Hispanic Leadership Agenda. Cunarro holds a Master of Arts in Broadcast Journalism and a Bachelor of Science in Marketing, both from the University of Maryland.

Margot Dorfman

Margot Dorfman is dedicated to dramatically advancing the economic and leadership opportunities for women. As a founder and CEO of the U.S. Women's Chamber of Commerce, she lead the organization's dramatic growth to over 500,000 individual and business members including dozens of national and regional associations; championed opportunities to increase women's business, career and leadership advancement; and launched the USWCC-New Deal initiative to establish a broad new economic platform to support the growth and influence of women in the American economy. She is regularly called upon by Congress and the media to provide insights into the economic issues of women and America's small business owners including challenges related to business growth, securing credit and capital, government contracting, retirement planning, affordable healthcare, fair pay, family-friendly work policies, and women's political leadership.

She is regularly called upon by leading media outlets to provide unique insights into business, financial, and political issues including the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Los Angeles Times, GovExec, Washington Post, Inc. Magazine, BusinessWeek, and the Business Journals. She has recently been featured on CSPAN and PBS, and is featured frequently on business, financial and political radios. Dorfman holds a Master's of Education from Lesley University and a B.S. in Education from Northeastern University. Her corporate experience includes over ten years in executive positions with General Mills and other Fortune 500 firms.

Roberta Gassman

Roberta Gassman is the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Employment and Training in the U.S Department of Labor (DOL). Prior to the appointment, Roberta served in the Cabinet of Governor Jim Doyle as the Secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development from 2003 through 2010. As Wisconsin's longest serving labor secretary, she led over 1600 employees in strengthening Wisconsin's workforce; providing training, employment and dislocated worker services; working with employers to fill jobs; enforcing workers' rights; and administering Unemployment Insurance, Apprenticeship and Worker's Compensation. Under her leadership, Wisconsin received national recognition for targeting training resources to regional industry partnerships in areas such as advanced manufacturing, health care, clean energy and technology, as well as career pathways for low wage workers and numerous workforce innovations in skills certification, reemployment services and assistance to veterans and people with disabilities.

Roberta earned her BA, with honors, and MSSW from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Rhonda Griffin

Rhonda Griffin is the IPM Home Healthcare Educator for our Philadelphia School and Community IPM Partnership (PSCIP) Rhonda educates community residents on how to prevent and safely solve common household pest problems during personal home assessments. Through this community outreach program Rhonda provides residents with educational literature to inform them of the health risks associated with high pest populations and pesticide misuse. Rhonda owns a pest control company in Philadelphia and has been serving the residential and commercial community since 1989.

Cathy Healy

Cathy Healy, CEO of the Parent Educational Advocacy Training Center, brings a wealth of expertise to this role. She became involved in grass roots advocacy in the mid-1980s with the birth of her fourth child, a son, who was born with Down syndrome. Serving on numerous boards and councils locally, Healy was recruited by PEATC in 1997. She remained with PEATC through 2001 developing model trainings for IDEA and the Virginia Comprehensive Services Act. As the project coordinator for the Caring Communities in Foster Care project she co-authored the Foster Care Maze series. In 2002 Cathy was distinguished with a Joseph P. Kennedy Public Policy Fellowship. Assigned to the Office of Disability Employment Policy at the U.S. Department of Labor she investigated opportunities for employment for transition age youth with intellectual disabilities, the issues of segregated vs. competitive employment, self-employment, and the emerging concept of college programs for non-traditional students with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Upon completion of her yearlong fellowship Healy was recruited by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Center for Workforce Preparation (CWP) specializing in the employment of persons with disabilities. While at the Chamber Cathy served as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce representative establishing the U.S. Business Leadership Network. Upon her return to PEATC in 2007 Healy directed the award winning NEXT STEPS Transition program funded by the U.S. Department of Education Rehabilitative Services Administration.

Jill Houghton

Jill Houghton, Executive Director of USBLN, brings over 19 years of work experience at the federal, state and local levels her position to advance the employment and economic self-sufficiency of all people with disabilities. Her undergraduate degree in Social Work is from the University of Kansas. Most recently, Jill served as the Executive Director of the Ticket to Work and Work Incentives Advisory Panel from February 2005 until its legislative sunset in January, 2008.

Cheryl L. Keenan

Cheryl L. Keenan is the Director of the U.S. Department of Education's Division of Adult Education and Literacy in the Office of Vocational and Adult Education. In her role as the national director, she oversees the office which funds almost $600 million in state and local grant programs to enable adults to become literate and complete high school so they can succeed as workers, parents, and citizens. She is responsible for overseeing the Office of Corrections Education and the Adult Education National Programs Account, including resources to assist further development of the field of adult education/literacy.

Prior to her appointment to the U.S. Department of Education in June of 2002, she served as the Pennsylvania's State Director of Adult Education and Literacy where she developed Pennsylvania's first state-funded family literacy program supporting literacy of parents and their young children. During her tenure in Pennsylvania she also held positions in the Bureau of Special Education. Ms. Keenan holds undergraduate and graduate degrees in the field of education, has performed fieldwork in the area of early childhood special education, and served on numerous committees to advance the education of children and adults.

Kathleen Martinez

Kathleen Martinez, was nominated by President Barack Obama to be the third Assistant Secretary for the Office of Disability Employment Policy and was confirmed by the U.S. Senate on June 25, 2009. As head of the U.S. Department of Labor's Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP), Ms. Martinez advises the Secretary of Labor and works with all DOL agencies to lead a comprehensive and coordinated national policy regarding the employment of people with disabilities.

Blind since birth, Ms. Martinez comes to ODEP with a background as an internationally recognized disability rights leader specializing in employment, asset building, independent living, international development, diversity and gender issues.

She was appointed Executive Director of the World Institute on Disability (WID), based in Oakland, California, in 2005. Ms. Martinez directed Proyecto Visión, WID's National Technical Assistance Center to increase employment opportunities for Latinos with disabilities in the United States, and Access to Assets, an asset-building project to help reduce poverty among people with disabilities. At WID, she also led the team that produced the acclaimed international webzine DisabilityWorld in English and Spanish.

Terence McMenamin

Terence McMenamin is an economist at the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. He led the effort to design and place questions into the CPS to identify persons with disabilities. Currently he is helping to establish a set of supplementary questions to enhance the data collected within the CPS for persons with disabilities. Terence has also published research on worker absences and the use of flexitime and shiftwork. He received his B.S. in economics from The Pennsylvania State University, and his M.A. in economics from American University

Catharine McNally

Catharine McNally is the Founder and President of Keen Guides, a company that she started in response to the lack of accessibility in museums for people with disabilities. Her product, video tours on location-based mobile applications, is used to supplement audio tours which are popular ways that museum visitors learn about works of art. The video tours come available with closed captions and when available, in American Sign Language. Since starting Keen Guides, McNally has become a specialist in mobile accessibility and accessible design. She travels around the country speaking about the need for greater, more inclusive products and services for everyone, regardless of ability. She is recipient of the 2011 American Association of People with Disabilities Paul G. Hearne Leadership Award, and was recently named as "People to Watch" in the Washingtonian Magazine's "Tech Titans" list.

Michael Pearson

Michael Pearson is the President and majority shareholder of Union Packaging, LLC (UP). UP is the maker of folding cartons in Food Service and Quick Service Restaurant industries. Food is served around the nation in clamshell, drink carrier, folded, and nested cartons made by UP. Mike served in the United States military as combat duty Army Officer in the Persian Gulf War, where he received the Bronze Star. He is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania.

In 2010, Mike was the recipient of the Philadelphia Business Journal's Minority Business Leader Award and was honored by Richard E. Marriott, Chairman of the Marriott Foundation for hiring young adults with disabilities. Burger King Corporation selected Union Packaging 2006 Supplier of the Year for outstanding performance in their procurement system. In 2005, the U.S. Small Business Administration's Philadelphia District Office selected Mike as Eastern Pennsylvania Small Business Person of the Year. In 2007 the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce honored Mike and Union Packaging as Manufacturer of the Year at its small business awards ceremony. On July 23, 2007 the U.S. Department of Commerce's Minority Business Development Agency selected Union Packaging the Minority Manufacturer of the Year.

Eric Peterson

Eric Peterson, is the Manager of Diversity and Inclusion Initiatives at SHRM and works directly with the Director of Diversity and Inclusion Initiatives to position SHRM as a leader in the diversity management and inclusion field. He acts as a thought leader, champion, and project lead in the design and implementation of innovative diversity strategies. Additionally, Eric will work with SHRM Staff to effectively respond to member inquiries regarding the SHRM Diversity Initiative; manage selected partnerships and alliances established by SHRM; and represent SHRM in interactions with external diversity-related organizations.

Eric has 10 years of experience in Diversity Climate & Culture Programming, Diversity Education, Learning Strategies, and Organization Development. He has worked extensively as a Diversity Educator and Practitioner. He holds a Bachelor's Degree in Theatre Arts from Gonzaga University and a Master's Degree in Organization Development from American University.

Alexa Posny

Alexa Posny was confirmed as Assistant Secretary for Special Education and Rehabilitative Services at the Department of Education by the U.S. Senate on Oct. 5, 2009. In this position, she plays a pivotal role in policy and management issues affecting special education and rehabilitative services. She directs, coordinates and recommends policy for programs designed to assist state and local education agencies with improving the achievement of students with disabilities ages birth through 21, as well as adults transitioning from secondary school to higher education, employment or both. She helps ensure equal access to services leading to such improvement for all children, particularly children with disabilities. She fosters educational improvement at the state and local levels, and overseas the distribution of financial assistance to local education agencies whose local revenues are affected by federal activities. She also serves as the principal adviser to the U.S. secretary of education on all matters related to special education for individuals in pre-K, elementary, secondary and postsecondary schools.

Prior to arriving at the Department, Posny served as the commissioner of education for the Kansas State Department of Education since 2007. From 2006 to 2007, Posny served as the director of the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP). From 2001 to 2006, Posny served as deputy commissioner of education at the Kansas State Department of Education, where she was responsible for the overall operation of the Division of Learning Services. From 1999 to 2001, she served as the state director of special education at the Kansas State Department of Education. And from 1997 to 1999, she served as the director of special education for the Shawnee Mission School District in Shawnee Mission, Kan. In years prior she served on the board of directors for the Chief State School Officers and the National Council for Learning Disabilities, and chaired the National Assessment Governing Board's Special Education Task Force. Posny has also been a teacher at the elementary, middle, high school and university levels.

Posny has been recognized frequently for her educational leadership. In 2005, she received the Kansas High School Activities Association Governor's Award, an honor accorded to one individual in recognition of outstanding contributions in the field of secondary education in the state of Kansas. In 2004, she was named Administrator of the Year by the Kansas Association of Educational Office Professionals and, in 2001, she received the Outstanding Contributor Award for the state of Kansas from the Council for Exceptional Children.

Posny earned her Ph.D. in educational administration from the University of Wisconsin at Madison, where she also minored in special education. She earned a master's degree in behavioral disabilities from the University of Wisconsin at Madison and a bachelor's degree in sociology and psychology from the University of Wisconsin at Stevens Point.

Margaret Price

Margaret Price, Ph.D., is an associate professor of English at Spelman College, where she teaches rhetoric, composition, and creative nonfiction. Her areas of specialization include disability studies, writing pedagogy, and digital composition. Her book Mad at School: Rhetorics of Mental Disability and Academic Life was published in 2011 by the University of Michigan Press. Other writing appears in Ms. magazine, Bitch: Feminist Response to Pop Culture, Inside Higher Education, Creative Nonfiction, College Composition and Communication, Profession, and Disability Studies Quarterly. Ms. Price holds a PhD in rhetoric/composition from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, an MFA in fiction writing from the University of Michigan, and a BA (summa cum laude) from Amherst College.

James Rodriguez

James Rodriguez is the Director of Warrior Integration Services for BAE Systems, Inc. responsible for the enterprise management of the Warrior Integration Program and Veterans outreach designed to facilitate the employment of wounded warriors of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom as well as veterans of the armed forces.

In his current position, James serves as the relations director with our sector cohorts, our industry/program partners, and our military and government stakeholders. He is directly responsible for the development, coordination and implementation of strategic program services designed to build the warrior and veteran integration pipeline within BAE Systems. He is also responsible for branding strategies and operational outreach within targeted military programs, facilities and military recruitment initiatives focused on Wounded Warriors and veterans transitioning into the civilian workforce. Additionally, James is responsible for building relationships at the executive level internally and with senior ranking military and government officials externally. James works in tandem with business sector stakeholders to share best practices, align program efforts and maintain operational consistency throughout the enterprise with our strategic vision. In addition to his primary duties, James serves as the company spokes person for the Warrior Integration Program with internal and external interested parties, to include the presentation of informational speeches.

James holds a bachelor's degree in Political Science from the University of Maryland, University College.

Gary E. Shaheen

Gary E. Shaheen, M.P.A., is the Director of Start-UP NY, and is a nationally recognized expert in the field of mental health rehabilitation, homelessness and systems change. For over 26 years in both the public and private sector he has been instrumental in shaping policy and programs at both the state and federal levels that help people with mental illnesses, co-occurring substance abuse disorders and those who are homeless fully integrate into their communities. He has worked with HUD, SAMHSA, U.S. Department of Labor and other federal agencies on increasing employment for these populations throughout the United States and its Territories.

He has provided his expertise as a trainer and technical assistance resource to state mental health authorities throughout the country seeking to transform their mental health systems through policy and program development and a workforce trained in recovery and rehabilitation principles and practices. As a principal staff to the joint USDOL/HUD Ending Chronic Homelessness initiative and to the NYS Department of Labor as one of their Workforce Development Consultants, he has helped facilitate systems integration as a necessary component for employing people with serious disabilities.

Ben Seigel

Ben Seigel is Deputy Director of the Center for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships at the Department of Labor, where he facilitates partnerships between community organizations and DOL primarily in the areas of job training and employment. Mr. Seigel's background is in program development and nonprofit management. From 2002 to 2010 he worked for Seedco, a national nonprofit intermediary headquartered in New York City that creates economic opportunities for low-wage workers by implementing workforce development, asset building, and community development programs in partnership with faith-based and community organizations. While at Seedco, he served as Senior Vice President for External Affairs. Mr. Seigel holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science from Swarthmore College and a Master of Public Administration from the Robert F. Wagner School at New York University.

Marlene Simon-Burroughs

Marlene Simon-Burroughs, Ph.D., is an Associate Division Director responsible for secondary education, transition, and postsecondary projects in the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP). In this position, Dr. Simon-Burroughs provides leadership to the team in the Research to Practice Division that administers OSEP's investments in national education research, model demonstration, technical assistance, personnel training, technology, and evaluation relating to secondary education, transition and postsecondary outcomes for youth with disabilities. She also helps to guide OSEP's collaboration in this area with other federal partners such as the Rehabilitation Services Administration, the Department of Labor, the Department of Health and Human Services, and the Social Security Administration as well as a host of external partners. Prior to joining OSEP, she worked as a Project Coordinator with the National Transition Network where she focused on providing technical assistance in implementing community-based vocational programs. She also worked for San Francisco State University as a Research Associate conducting studies on community-based instructional programs and inclusion and as a Field Supervisor/Teacher Trainer in the Learning Handicapped Teacher Credential Program. Marlene Simon-Burroughs holds a Ph.D. in special education from the University of California at Berkeley with emphasis in secondary education, special education policy and family involvement.

Secretary Hilda L. Solis

Secretary Hilda L. Solis was confirmed as Secretary of Labor on February 24, 2009. Prior to confirmation as Secretary of Labor, Secretary Solis represented the 32nd Congressional District in California, a position she held from 2001 — 2009.

In the Congress, Solis' priorities included expanding access to affordable health care, protecting the environment, and improving the lives of working families. A recognized leader on clean energy jobs, she authored the Green Jobs Act which provided funding for "green" collar job training for veterans, displaced workers, at risk youth, and individuals in families under 200 percent of the federal poverty line.

In 2007, Solis was appointed to the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (the Helsinki Commission), as well as the Mexico — United States Interparliamentary Group. In June 2007, Solis was elected Vice Chair of the Helsinki Commission's General Committee on Democracy, Human Rights and Humanitarian Questions. She was the only U.S. elected official to serve on this Committee.

A nationally recognized leader on the environment, Solis became the first woman to receive the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award in 2000 for her pioneering work on environmental justice issues. Her California environmental justice legislation, enacted in 1999, was the first of its kind in the nation to become law.

Solis was first elected to public office in 1985 as a member of the Rio Hondo Community College Board of Trustees. She served in the California State Assembly from 1992 to 1994, and in 1994 made history by becoming the first Latina elected to the California State Senate. As the chairwoman of the California Senate Industrial Relations Committee, she led the battle to increase the state's minimum wage from $4.25 to $5.75 an hour in 1996. She also authored a record seventeen state laws aimed at combating domestic violence.

Solis graduated from California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, and earned a Master of Public Administration from the University of Southern California. A former federal employee, she worked in the Carter White House Office of Hispanic Affairs and was later appointed as a management analyst with the Office of Management and Budget in the Civil Rights Division.

She was nominated by President Barack Obama to serve as Secretary of Labor on January 20, 2009.

Ginny Thornburgh

Ginny Thornburgh has spent the past 40 years as an advocate for people with disabilities. She presently serves at the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD) as Director of the AAPD Interfaith Initiative, the mission of which is to support people with disabilities and their families as they seek spiritual and religious access.

Previously she served for 19 years as Director of the Religion and Disability Program of the National Organization on Disability. She co-authored and edited the award-winning publication, That All May Worship, now in its seventh printing, and From Barriers to Bridges, a guide to community action, as well as editing Loving Justice: The ADA and the Religious Community.

Ms. Thornburgh is a member of the Board of Trustees of Princeton Theological Seminary and a former member of the American Bar Association Commission on Mental and Physical Disability Law. She majored in Philosophy and Religion at Wheaton College in Norton, Massachusetts where she received a four-year scholarship from the Alcoa Foundation. She earned a Masters Degree in Education from Harvard University, after which she taught third grade in Lincoln, Massachusetts. She has also been granted 11 honorary degrees.