College of Business > About > Centers & Institutes > Coleman Entrepreneurship Center > Women in Entrepreneurship Institute > Committee Members

Women in Entrepreneurship Institute Committee Members

Composed of leading entrepreneurs, business leaders and influencers, the committee supports the Women in Entrepreneurship Institute through funding, strategic planning, and advancing the institute's academic, research, start-up incubation and public policy initiatives.

  •  JinJa Birkenbeuel

    JinJa Birkenbeuel
    CEO, Birk Creative

    "The institute is important to me because my ongoing and successful career has been platformed by the hands of women who speak up, speak out and speak loud not only by their words but also by their deeds. And if if weren't for the hands of a woman that lifted me, it was the hands of a man pushed forward by a determined woman."

     

Biography

JinJa Birkenbeuel is the CEO of Birk Creative, a strategy agency founded in 1997 that creates enterprise-level branding, online and digital strategies for large enterprises and enterprise-thinking businesses. Birkenbeuel is a serial entrepreneur.

She is an Apple iBook Publisher for her digital book publishing company Birk Digital, an Amazon.com seller for Utah Carol, an Americana pop-country band she founded with her husband in 1995 and also helped design the Digital Coaching Program for Google, Inc., created to train underrepresented American businesses, which include all women, to succeed online.

Driven by her desire to innovate and be creative, Birkenbeuel has positioned her company to be a highly trusted advising, brand consulting and professional training and development agency partner to customers like Google Inc., True Value, Tesla/SolarCity, AECOM, NextLevel Health, Chicago Transit Authority, Oakland Unified School District and smart entrepreneurs like American author Touré.

Birkenbeuel serves on Mayor Rahm Emanuel's Chicago Business Council and is on the Board of Directors for the Jewish-Black Business Alliance, which is a business-focused nonprofit founded on the legacy of the American Jew and their advocacy of the human and civil rights of black Americans suffering under Jim Crow in the 1950s. She is also a publisher and songwriting member of both American Society of Composers, Artists and Publishers and the Harry Fox Agency. Her current inspiration work is helping Chicago's newest cultural experience institution, Threewalls, reimagine and recreate their impact and significance in the communities.

  • Terri Brax

    Terri Brax
    Founder & CEO, TeacherCare, Inc. and Women Tech Founders

    "I believe the research-based approach the Women in Entrepreneurship Institute is leading will make an impactful difference for female business owners. I'm honored to be a part of this dynamic board."

     

Biography

Terri Brax is an impact entrepreneur who connects people, organizations and ideas. She builds platforms that marry technology with neuroscience and education to equalize imbalances of power and help others develop their potential. Brax created and leads both TeacherCare and Women Tech Founders (WTF). TeacherCare is a nation-wide agency that helps private families and organizations find highly qualified teachers for childcare and educational services. TeacherCare has been recognized as the leader in personalized educational childcare.

WTF is a platform that inspires, advances and connects women in tech, from startup founders to Fortune 500 leaders, and all those who aspire to join them. WTF also tells the stories of visionary women in tech to empower those who are underrepresented to overcome the status quo, reach their dreams, advance business and change the world. WTF hosts the annual Midwest Women in Tech Conference, Women in Tech Awards and numerous local events.

In addition to entrepreneurial roles, Brax speaks at leadership conferences, leads children’s charities and is a board member on impactful community-driven organizations. She has been awarded leadership recognition through prominent organizations, including TechWeek, the Chicago Tribune and Chicago Inno, and has been published and featured by various media outlets including Forbes, Crain's Chicago Business, WGN and Chicago Woman.


  • Dima Elissa

    Dima Elissa
    CEO & founder, VisMed3D | co-founder, Symptomatic.io

    "It is incumbent on each of us, as women of innovation, to inspire and ignite. We do this by sharing our authentic journey. By showing that we can overcome adversity with grace and confidence. We can then pave the walkway of opportunity such that our legacy may shine upon future female leaders in our wake."

     

Biography

Dima Elissa was selected by Chicago magazine as one of the Top Women in Tech, Chicago Innov’s 50 on Fire and by Chicago Tribune’s BlueSky Vault as one of the Top 100 Entrepreneurs in Chicago. Her current ventures, VisMed-3D, a 3D biomedical design and consulting firm, sustains her thirst for new technology and innovation. Elissa is also co-founder of Symptomatic.io, a blockchain healthcare platform enabling interoperable big data to flow. Alongside these novel start-ups, she is pursuing her passion — devoting time, energy and guidance to women founders and entrepreneurs. Elissa exemplifies her committment to giving back and paying it forward by teaching entrepreneurship as an adjunct professor at DePaul's Driehaus College of Business.

Elissa also manages and operates new products and execution of business initiatives through a variety of markets and industries. In 2016, she was named technology and innovation lead for AMWA’s (American Medical Women’s Association) Diversity & Inclusion initiative.

A hard-driving, metrics-based leader able to deliver concrete results through influence and collaboration enhanced by her global perspective, Elissa has emerged as an in-demand speaker in her industry. Her distinct insight and outlook have been sharpened by serving as a board member for domestic and international community-based organizations and non-governmental organizations. Elissa also serves as DePaul Coleman Entrepreneurial Center advisory board member, board member for mHUB, board secretary for iGIANT, executive advisory board member for Ms Tech, and past president and board member for Women in Bio, Chicago.

Elissa holds a bachelor's degree in chemistry from Hanover College and has earned her MBA from Texas A&M's Mays School of Business with a concentration in finance. She is also a member of the board of trustees at Hanover College.



  • Laura Gale

    Laura Gale
    President, Crossmedia451, Inc.

    "I have long been interested in seeing women build businesses and become leaders. This began early on with Girl Scouts and continued through my business career, especially because I worked in industries that typically had few women leaders. My experience taught me that the best thing a woman can do is become her own boss, and own or start a business. "

     

Biography

Laura Gale is president of Crossmedia451, Inc., a privately held Chicago-based digital marketing and business development firm that works with local businesses to raise their brand awareness, increase customer engagement and lift sales. Her work with graphic arts companies includes training sales teams in consultative selling, creating service offerings, and working with and coaching owners and executives to create business plans and value propositions beyond basic commodity selling. She also has expertise in e-commerce, social media, and publishing across multiple media platforms. Gale also serves as an executive coach for Right Management, a global career management company, where her work with senior leaders guides them to find their next career steps.

Gale also held senior management roles at United Stationers, a Fortune 500 business products wholesaler. The roles she held included Vice President of Marketing, Vice President of Enterprise Content Management, and Chair of the Company’s Diversity & Inclusion Council.

Before joining United Stationers, Gale held a number of senior roles in publishing and graphic arts companies. She was an owner and founding partner for Prinexus, a company offering print, online and digital marketing services that was built through a series of acquisitions.

Prior to that, Gale was vice president of production technology in the global production and manufacturing group of International Thomson Publishing, a division of what is now Thomson Reuters. Prior to Thomson, Gale held executive positions with publishers Rand McNally and U.S.News & World Report, as well as printing giant R.R. Donnelley.

Gale was named one of the Top 100 Under 50 Diverse Corporate Executives by Diversity MBA magazine, and is a recipient of the prestigious Luminaire Award from Women in Production in New York. She is a member of the Ben Franklin Honor Society and the Production Executive’s Hall of Fame. She also received the Graphic Arts Technical Foundation’s Naomi Berber Award, which is given to a woman who has made a major contribution to the development of the graphic communications industries.

Gale co-authored a two-book series on Cross-Media Publishing. She also chairs the board of directors of the Gift Theatre in Chicago.

Gale earned her bachelor of science and master of arts degrees in journalism from the University of Illinois, and is proud to be a lifetime member of the Girl Scouts of America. She regularly speaks to business groups about the value of customer engagement, how businesses can leverage social media, and what it takes for women executives to succeed in industries in which they are the minority.

  • Jill Hebert

    Jill Hebert
    Founder & CEO, Matrex Exhibits, Inc

    "Women have an effective leadership style creating healthier business environments and better returns. Women generally exercise caution and need to fully understand their position and have confidence before stepping forward. Women need mentorship and role models more so than men and we at the Women in Entrepreneurship Institute are here to provide it."

     

Biography

Jill Hebert is founder and CEO of Matrex Exhibits, Inc. Matrex brings brands to life thorough events, trade shows, permanent product installations, multimedia presentations and interactive engagement products. With an international reach she employs more than 70 people nationwide and is the largest woman-owned, WBENC- certified Exhibit Company in the U.S.

As the executive director of Heartland Angels, Hebert has taken a leadership position to become a catalyst in promoting innovation in a variety of markets by creating forums where intellectual and financial capital join to help businesses launch.

A champion of entrepreneurship, Hebert has been a guest speaker on several university panels; is an active member of The Committee of 200, an invitation-only network of women entrepreneurs and C-level global leaders; a member of Independent Women's Forum and serves on the board of directors at Deborah’s Place, assisting more than 300 women each year who have experienced homelessness.


  • Jody Navta

    Jodi Navta
    Founder, Varsity Time

    "Being part of the Women in Entrepreneurship Institute is important to me because I want to empower students and women of all ages to be entrepreneurs. Education, support and leadership are all part of that process. It is my duty to share my experiences and mentor those who want to live up to their fullest entrepreneurial potential.

     

Biography

Jodi Navta is passionate about family, entrepreneurial spirit, moral citizenship, fostering creativity and teamwork, disruptive marketing, and the University of Michigan. Navta swam for the Wolverines while she was an undergrad, earned Academic All-American and NCAA finalist status four years in a row, and represented the U.S. at the World University Games in Fukuoka City, Japan.

After graduating from the University of Michigan and retiring from her 16-year swimming career, Navta started her content career in media at Sports Illustrated magazine in New York City, then moved to Chicago to attend Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism, where she earned a Master of Science in journalism.

She spent the last six years in-house at Coyote Logistics where she built the marketing and communications function from the ground up using an integrated marketing and communication approach. She was at the helm of global brand reputation, internal communications and culture, lead generation, business strategy, executive communications and sales enablement. Navta rapidly built a "disruptive" marketing organization at Coyote that drove innovation and significant revenue growth in a short period of time.

Before joining Coyote, Navta held a number of operations, marketing and communications, and strategy positions as a four-time entrepreneur from 2000 to 2011. Her experience includes content marketing and product development during industry-shifting times for major brands as Discovery, National Geographic, Pearson, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, and also marketing and communications strategy for a variety of startups in the tech and mobile fields. Navta is on the board of DePaul University's Coleman Entrepreneurship Center.


  • Robin Ross

    Robin Ross
    Executive Director, Doctoroff Business Leadership Program | University of Chicago Law School

    “I believe the institute's multi-pronged and integrative approach provides much-needed research, resources and training and will empower women to tap into the capital and confidence they need to build remarkable and sustainable businesses.”

     

Biography

Robin Ross is the executive director for the University of Chicago Law School Doctoroff Business Leadership Program and a certified executive and leadership coach. In both of these roles, Ross helps the next generation of resilient and remarkable leaders thrive in today’s increasingly complex and rapidly changing business environment. Ross's mindfulness-based coaching leverages the latest research in the fields of social and cognitive neuroscience to help clients “lead with the brain in mind” and empower them to make better decisions, lead with agility, optimize personal and team performance, and foster innovation and collaboration. She has coached founders, executives and high-potentials at organizations of all shapes and sizes — from Fortune 100 companies to social enterprise start-ups in Africa.

Ross brings more than 30 years of experience as a senior executive in the financial services industry to her coaching practice. From 2005 through 2011, she served as managing director of Interest Rate Products for CME Group, with P&L responsibility for the world’s largest and most diverse interest rate derivatives franchise. Prior to joining CME Group, Ross recruited, developed and led sales teams for Cantor Fitzgerald & Company, JP Morgan and Credit Suisse First Boston. In 2007, Ross was named one of 25 Women to Watch by Crain’s Chicago Business and Distinguished Woman Investment Professional of the Year by Women Investment Professionals.

In her spare time, Ross is passionate about supporting organizations and endeavors that help women flourish, both personally and professionally. She is past president of the Board of Directors for Deborah’s Place, the largest provider of supportive housing for women in Chicago and serves as a strategic advisor to Global Mamas, a nonprofit that helps African women create sustainable incomes through fair trade. Ross is also a member of The Committee of 200, an invitation-only women's business leadership organization that sponsors outreach and networking programs that support women in business.

Ross holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. She has received certification as a Professional Certified Coach by the International Coach Federation, in the use of Hogan Development Assessments, and in the Foundations of NeuroLeadership. She is currently a teacher in training for the Search Inside Yourself Leadership Institute, the mindfulness-based emotional intelligence training developed at Google.


  • Alyssa Westring

    Alyssa Westring
    Associate Professor of Management & Entrepreneurship | Driehaus College of Business

    "For over a decade, I have been researching, coaching and consulting on women’s careers. By bridging research and education, I hope to help the institute develop and implement innovative, evidence-based approaches that amplify the impact of women in entrepreneurship."

     

Biography

Alyssa Westring, Ph.D., is an organizational psychologist and associate professor of management at DePaul University. She teaches in both the MBA and undergraduate programs and received DePaul’s 2017 Excellence in Teaching Award. Her research, coaching  and consulting are focused on gender equity and work-life balance. She regularly writes and speaks to a wide variety of academic and professional audiences about creating organizational cultures conducive to women’s careers and work-life balance, combining cutting-edge research with a practical approach to initiating change. She is also director of research at Total Leadership.