Led by Founder Gary Schoeniger and CEO Thom Ruhe, ELI has assembled a team of educators, entrepreneurs and strategic partners who are dedicated to achieving our mission.
Author and entrepreneur Gary Schoeniger has emerged as an internationally recognized thought leader in the field of entrepreneurial mindset education and training. Drawing from more than 15 years of research, Schoeniger has developed entrepreneurial education and training programs for academic, corporate, government, and non-government clients worldwide including the Cisco Entrepreneur Institute and the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation. Schoeniger led the design and development of the Ice House Entrepreneurship Program through a partnership with the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation.
Schoeniger, along with Pulitzer nominee Clifton Taulbert, is also the co-author of Who Owns The Ice House: Eight Life Lessons From An Unlikely Entrepreneur, an international bestseller described as “required reading for humanity.”
As Chief Executive Officer, Thom is leveraging over a decade of work in entrepreneurial education, policy and economic development. Capitalizing on the many programmatic accomplishments during his tenure at the Kauffman Foundation, Thom is now working with communities around the world to harness the benefits of democratizing entrepreneurship.
While at the Kauffman Foundation (7 years), he directed the Foundation’s programs addressing entrepreneurial education, mentoring, access to capital and fostering entrepreneurial ecosystems which included: The Ice House (Mindset) Entrepreneurship Program, 1Million Cups, Founders School, Investor IQ and Entrepreneurship.ORG. Thom also led Kauffman Labs for Enterprise Creation, a school dedicated to advancing community deployed experiential-based entrepreneurial education.
Ruhe served in a variety of board and advisory capacities including: The World Economic Forum Global Agenda Council for fostering Entrepreneurship, Board of Directors for the Helzberg Entrepreneurial Mentoring Program, Board of Advisers for The Kenan Institute of Free Enterprise at UNC, and is a founding trustee for Innovation Fund America.
Prior to joining the Kauffman Foundation, Thom was the founding chief marketing officer (CMO) for JumpStart, a nonprofit economic development organization and seed stage investment fund created to invest in and accelerate the growth of high-potential, early stage companies in Northeast Ohio. Before JumpStart, Ruhe served as president of Optiem LLC, where he led the growth of a nascent marketing practice to a nationally recognized interactive marketing, communications and public relations agency. Earlier experience spans founding several entrepreneurial endeavors.
Thom has been quoted and published in: NYTimes, WSJ, Forbes, Inc., and more. Thom has spoken and participated in a variety of functions all over the world including the United Nations, the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace (Vatican), the US PTO, NACCE, AACC, USASBE, and GEW.
As Chief Academic Officer, Michael drives the development, delivery, and curation of program curriculum and content for the Entrepreneurial Learning Initiative (ELI). Building upon more than seven years of facilitation and scholarship in the fields of psychology, education, and human development, Michael combines theory and praxis from multiple disciplines to ground ELI’s work in sound practice and research.
Prior to joining ELI, Michael served as the Assessment Coordinator for Kauffman Scholars, Inc., a college access and scholarship program supported by the Kauffman Foundation, where he led all organizational data activities, including planning, analyzing, and reporting, to promote increased and effective usage of research and data across all departments. While there, he co-created and co-facilitated StartupScholars, an innovative internship program that connected companies seeking resources and high-school and college students seeking work experience in a mutually-beneficial learning and employment opportunity.
Michael has extensive qualitative and quantitative research experience, having worked as a Research Assistant at the Center for Educational Testing and Evaluation at the University of Kansas, as the Project Coordinator for the United Way of Greater Kansas City Out-of-School Time Quality Matters Project in Kansas City, and as a Research Assistant at the Institute for the Study of Youth Sports at Michigan State University. His writing has been published in academic journals and edited books, and he has been an invited speaker, presenter, and facilitator at conferences and seminars.
Michael earned a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from the University of Michigan, a Master of Science in Sport Psychology from Michigan State University, and is currently a PhD Candidate in Educational Psychology at the University of Kansas. In his free time, he loves spending time with his wife, son, and dog. He also enjoys reading whatever he can get his hands on.
Annette Beck served for two years at the Kauffman Foundation as chief technology officer and senior director of the entrepreneurship team responsible for funding innovation initiatives through community colleges, development of ID8Nation.com, an online entrepreneurship ecosystem magazine, and a multitude of online resources for entrepreneurs. During her tenure at Kauffman, Beck worked with the World Economic Forum and Global Entrepreneurship Week to establish the GlobalResourceLibrary.org, and with the US Department Global Innovation of Science and Technology (GIST) on the international rollout of GistNetwork.org and Kauffman’s 1MillionCups program.
Prior to Kauffman, Beck served as President of ASK Consulting Inc providing a variety of leadership, project management and support services to clients. Annette held the office of President and CEO of Protection One, the 2nd largest commercial and residential security services firm in the US and Canada with $2 billion asset base and $400 million revenues and 3,500 employees.
Annette served in several roles at Western Resources, a $7 billion utility conglomerate created by merger of KGE and KPL, including Chairman/President KGE, VP customer service and director corporate strategy. Achievements include cost saving initiatives, corporate partnerships, consolidation of systems and platforms, and participating in several acquisitions, e.g., Westinghouse and Multimedia Security, that took customer base from zero to 1.5 million.
Pilar Gaitán Carrizosa
VP Strategic Partnerships – Latin America
Pilar brings her background in education psychology and passion for empowering others to her role as Director of Partnership Development in Latin America. She also supports pedagogy & curriculum development as well. With more than 15 years of experience in the educational field, she has worked in schools and higher education institutions with students, teachers and parents, both private and public sector and also at policy design level positions.
Prior to working with ELI, Pilar worked at the Colombian Ministry of Education and was in charge of high school improvement policies and entrepreneurship culture promotion in educational environments. During that time, Pilar and her team designed the entrepreneurship education guidelines for schools in Colombia.
At the Colombian Ministry of Education, Pilar was the Manager of the National Fund for High School Improvement and as the Quality Director for the Department of Chocó where she was in charge of teachers’ development and pedagogic improvement of schools in the region.
Pilar has also worked at the National University of Colombia and Pedagogic University of Colombia, closely working with the Education Faculty Dean and as Director for the Student Academic Orientation and Development Center.
Pilar is passionate about education, when she is not working you might find her enjoying sunsets in the company of family and/or friends, reading, travelling, making new friends and learning about new cultures and ways to see and understand the magic gift of life.
VP Strategic Partnerships – U.S. and Canada
As the Vice President of Strategic Partnerships, Bree Langemo will lead the national strategy for partnership development. With more than a decade of experience in higher education, Bree’s work has focused on improving student persistence to goal completion, strengthening instructional training and support, and building community partnerships to better align curriculum to meet current and future workforce needs.
In her tenure at Sinclair Community College, one of the nation’s leading community colleges, Bree oversaw instruction, student services and high school/university linkages. In her role, she helped secure and coordinate the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s “Completion by Design” grant to double student completion rates. As Dean of Business, Public Service & Social Sciences at Pikes Peak Community College (PPCC), Colorado’s second largest community college, Bree oversaw hundreds of faculty and staff and worked to develop skills gap data with strategic partners to identify curriculum needed to meet workforce demand. Notably, Bree helped coordinate the implementation of the Entrepreneurial Learning Initiative’s Ice House Entrepreneurship Program curriculum as a required first year experience student success course for interdisciplinary students. PPCC was the first community college in the nation to offer the curriculum in this format, which is now being recognized as a national model.
Bree also helped secure an innovative grant from the Kauffman Foundation for a community-wide rollout of Ice House as well as other Kauffman-related programs, making PPCC a leading partner in entrepreneurship programming in the community. Bree also played a key role in coordinating the first-ever Innovate Colorado Springs Week, a catalyst for innovation and entrepreneurship programming and education in the Pikes Peak Region. Bree’s work in higher education led to a natural progression into her role for the Entrepreneurial Learning Initiative. Believing an entrepreneurial mindset can improve student persistence to goal completion in higher education and beyond, Bree looks forward to expanding the impact of an entrepreneurial mindset to the lives of students on a national and global level.
Bree earned her Bachelor’s degree in Accounting from the University of Minnesota-Moorhead and worked as a bank accountant following graduation. In May 2003, she earned her Juris Doctorate from Ohio Northern University’s Claude W. Pettit College of Law. After passing the State of Ohio bar examination, Bree spent several years working as a staff attorney before transitioning to higher education. Bree has authored multiple publications and has spoken at numerous regional, national and global conferences and educational events, most recently the American Association of Community Colleges’ Annual Conference, the National Association for Community College Entrepreneurship Annual Conference and the Viborg International School – Mercantec (Viborg, Denmark) Graduation Keynote Address.
VP Sales & Marketing
As VP of Sales & Marketing, Jason focuses on understanding and supporting customers for the Entrepreneurial Learning Initiative (ELI). With a broad background ranging from field research & programming to solve complex social problems, to logistics management for educational & community service travel, he brings a unique approach to how ELI creates value for higher education.
Jason holds a B.A. in International Relations from San Francisco State University, though after nearly a decade of working around the world, he recognizes that foreign policy begins at home. As a result, he leverages his knowledge and experience to solve problems at the nexus of education and economic development.
Passionate and caring, Samuel Schoeniger, is the primary account manager for the Entrepreneurial Learning Initiate (ELI). In this capacity, Samuel manages class creation, order fulfillment, company finances and partnership development.
Being the son of an entrepreneur, Schoeniger expresses much gratitude for being exposed to entrepreneurial thinking and behavior from a young age. Prior to joining the ELI team he worked for himself buying and selling audio equipment on eBay. In doing so, Samuel learned much about testing assumption, obtaining and retaining customers, market research and an overall understanding of business ethics.
Schoeniger attributes his capacity for empathy and helping others to his Montessori Education. He attended Montessori schools from Kindergarten until the 8th grade, including two years at the world-renowned Hershey Montessori Farm School in Huntsburg, Ohio. If he is not working, Samuel is almost always hiking and searching for waterfalls to photograph with his four-legged friend, Cooper.
Training & Services Manager
Entrepreneur and recent graduate, Joanie Weber, is currently serving as the Training & Services Manager for the Entrepreneurial Learning Initiative (ELI). She works on coordination and logistics for Ice House Entrepreneurship Program facilitator trainings, partnership development, and customer service.
Prior to joining ELI, Weber was a research intern for the Burton D. Morgan Foundation in Hudson, Ohio. She worked to gain a deeper understanding of the general landscape of business plan competitions, identify best practices, and review outcomes and impact through an in-depth review of objectives, processes, and structures.
Weber earned her Bachelor’s of Business Administration in Entrepreneurship and Marketing from Kent State University. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with her fur babies, Hayden and Maizie, traveling, and being outdoors.
Mike Sutyak co-founded the Entrepreneurial Learning Initiative (ELI) along with Gary Schoeniger in 2007, and acted as the Director of Technology until 2013. In addition to collaboration on strategic vision, he was responsible for content development, the production and management of online courseware, as well as overseeing systems implementation and technology integration.
Prior to starting ELI, he founded Sutyak Marketing and Design, a web development firm dedicated to providing digital marketing strategy for small to medium businesses, across a variety of industries. He has over 10 years experience managing projects from ideation to implementation, as well as directing teams to incorporate development strategies. This also includes reviewing new media trends and strategically aligning them with client objectives.
Sutyak holds a Bachelor of Science degree in marine biology from Bowling Green State University. He has extensive field experience, including project management on research studies conducted in the Caribbean and North Atlantic. He also worked at SeaWorld Cleveland as head aquarist of their shark exhibit.
Freada Kapor Klein
Freada Kapor Klein Freada Kapor Klein, Ph.D. is the founder of the Level Playing Field Institute, which promotes innovative approaches to fairness in higher education and workplaces. The Institute’s Summer Math and Science Honors Academy (SMASH), a three-summer high school program serving under-represented students of color, is in the process of scaling nationally. The Academy works to ensure racial equity within the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.
The Institute’s workplace programs have conducted landmark research, including the 2011 study, The Tilted Playing Field: Hidden Bias in IT Workplaces. Freada’s book Giving Notice: Why the Best and the Brightest Leave the Workplace and How You Can Help Them Stay (Jossey-Bass 2007) combines quantitative research on who leaves corporate America and why, with stories of day-to-day experiences detailing the human and financial cost.
As a Venture Partner at Kapor Capital (www.kaporcapital.com), Freada invests in women entrepreneurs and entrepreneurs of color whose IT start-ups aspire to generate economic value and positive social impact. Kapor Capital’s investment sectors include, but are not limited to, education, health, and consumer finance. Freada is also a Co-Chair of the Kapor Center for Social Impact, a Trustee of the UC Berkeley Foundation, and a member of the Board of Governors of the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies.
Mitch Kapor is the Co-Chair of the Kapor Center for Social Impact in Oakland, California, which is relentlessly pursuing creative strategies to leverage tech for positive, progressive change. Through the Kapor Capital Impact Fund, Mitch is an active investor in double bottom line seed stage tech companies.
He is a Director of the Level Playing Field Institute, which works to increase fairness in education and the workplace by closing the opportunity gap and removing barriers to success. LPFI operates the Summer Math and Science Honors Academy (SMASH), which prepares students from under-represented communities to be competitive in science, technology, engineering, and math-related studies at top universities.
Mitch is a pioneer of the personal computing industry. He is the founder of Lotus Development Corporation and the designer of the Lotus 1-2-3 spreadsheet, the “killer app” which made the PC ubiquitous in business in the 1980s. He is the co-founder of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which protects freedom and privacy on the Internet and founding Chair of the Mozilla Foundation, maker of the open source web browser Firefox. Mitch’s investments include UUNET, Real Networks, Linden Lab, Uber, Twilio, and Asana.
Bill Recker was Chairman of the Board of Gretag Imaging Holding AG from 1998 to 2000 and was President and CEO of Gretag Imaging Group, Inc., a publicly traded Swiss company serving the photofinishing and imaging industry, from 1990 to 1998. He also served on the Board of Amazys Holding AG, a Swiss public company producing products for color control and confirmation in the graphic arts, textile and coatings industry. Mr. Recker currently serves on various boards of small, private high technology start-ups. He has recently been named as a member of the RAND Center for Middle East Public Policy (CMEPP) Advisory Board.
Prior to joining Gretag Imaging, Mr. Recker served as Chairman and President of Mettler/Toledo USA from 1989 until 1990. He also founded Science Group International, a general management, strategic planning and product development consulting firm, serving as President and CEO from 1988 until 1989. Mr. Recker served in various positions with Fisher Scientific Company from 1968 through 1987 and was appointed President and CEO in 1986.
Mr. Recker earned his B.S. in Chemistry from Duquesne University in 1965. In addition, he completed graduate studies and research in virology from University of Pittsburgh Children’s Hospital and completed the Advanced Management Program, business studies, from Harvard University in 1985.
David Galbenski is an entrepreneur, lawyer, author and public speaker with global reach. His entrepreneurial achievements include being recognized as an Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award Winner and a two-time recipient of the Inc. 500 award which celebrates the 500 fastest growing, private companies in the USA. David is a passionate supporter of building the next generation of entrepreneurs to innovate and create products and services that help to solve some of the world’s biggest issues. As the Global Chairman of The Entrepreneurs’ Organization in 2008/09 he helped fuel the entrepreneurial spirit in over 40 countries around the globe. David graduated with distinction from the University of Michigan Business School in 1990 and cum laude from Wayne State University Law School in 1993. He currently resides in Grosse Pointe Shores, Michigan, USA with his wife, Lynn and daughter, Sarah.
Sam Gerace is currently the CEO of Veritix, a state-of-the-art digital ticketing, event marketing, and relationship management solutions provider for the sports and live entertainment industries. A successful three-time entrepreneur, Gerace was the founder of Be Free (Nasdaq:BFRE), a comprehensive Internet marketing information services company processing over $2 billion in annual commerce transactions for leading retail and consumer businesses. He founded the company in 1996, and was CEO, CTO and a Director, heading the company’s Operations, Development and Product Strategy. In 2002 the company merged with ValueClick, Inc. (Nasdaq:VCLK), an advertising and marketing information service company for leading retail and consumer businesses, where he served as Executive Vice President, CTO and on the Board of Directors.
Prior to Be Free, Gerace founded PCX Consulting, Inc., which offered marketing information systems for industry and retail business, and PCX Information Systems, Inc., which offered direct marketing software for the public-utility industry.
Gerace served as Entrepreneur in Residence with Jumpstart, Inc., an Ohio corporation whose mission is to accelerate the growth of early stage businesses and ideas into venture-ready companies. In that capacity he worked with a portfolio of early-stage companies, assisting them through the seed and growth stages. Gerace earned a B.A. in Biochemistry from Harvard University, and an MBA in Executive Management from the Weatherhead School of Management at Case Western Reserve University.
Donna Duffey joined the faculty at Johnson County Community College (Overland Park, Kansas) in 1987 bringing with her 17 years of executive experience in retail management. At JCCC, she is a full time Professor and Department Chair for the Entrepreneurship Associate of Applied Science Degree program and its related certificate programs. She has received both the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Faculty Achievement Award and the Distinguished Service Award during her tenure at JCCC.
External to JCCC, Ms Duffey has been actively involved in the National Association of Community College Entrepreneurship (NACCE) since the 1st conference in 2003. Donna was NACCE’s Faculty of the Year Award Winner in 2009. Additionally, she has been actively involved in the Association of Collegiate Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP) since 1995 and served as the President of the Board of Directors during the 2001-2002 academic year.
Ms. Duffey has published numerous articles on entrepreneurship programming at the community college level and has developed and presented over thirty regional and national conference presentations in the last several years. She has provided assistance to countless community colleges across the country in the development of their entrepreneurship programming initiatives. Ms. Duffey holds a BS in Fashion Merchandising from Wisconsin State University-Stout and a MBA from Baker University.