Karen LaMarsh

Concurrent Sessions:  Best Practices in Program Development and Quality Matters!

Karen holds an engineering degree from Georgia Tech and a Masters and Doctorate in Adult Education from the University of Georgia. Her work experience includes eight years with the College of Continuing and Professional Education at Kennesaw State University. For two years, she was an internal auditor for the Board of Regents with the University System of Georgia. Her most recent position was the Executive Director of Clayton State University Continuing and Professional Education. She served as the Chair of the University System of Georgia Board of Regents Administrative Committee on Public Service and Continuing Education for three years. With the Georgia Adult Education Association, she has held the offices of Vice President for Programs, President, Past President, and Member-at-Large. As a staunch advocate for quality adult continuing and professional education, Karen is a commissioner with the International Association for Continuing Education and Training and served as the Chair of the Commission. She has facilitated national workshops to help applicants successfully establish solid policies and procedures to meet compliance standards. Her passion is creating excellent educational experiences for adults that help them achieve their professional goals!

To stay relevant on current workforce and economic development issues, she served on the Atlanta Regional Commission Workforce Development Board and chaired the ARC NextGen (Youth) Committee. She also participated on committees with the Metro Atlanta Chamber, MAX, HDCI, One Henry Workforce, and Clayton County Schools CTAE.She is now consulting with organizations, companies, universities, and colleges who want to ensure that they are offering quality continuing and professional education programs and have efficient operations

John Helton

Concurrent Session:  WorkSource Georgia Update

John Helton is the president and CEO of CobbWorks, Inc. and director of WorkSource Cobb. John has worked in human services and workforce development for 25 years.  After graduating from Kennesaw State University with a degree in public and social services, he worked in emergency shelter care with abused and neglected children before joining the Department of Family and Children Services (DFCS).  At DFCS, John served in several capacities through the years including general services coordinator for the PEACH program, emergency child protective services with the Cobb County police department, volunteer coordinator and supervisor of the community resource development and childcare units during the era of welfare reform.  In 1999 he was appointed deputy director of Cobb DFCS, an organization with 200 plus employees and responsibility for a variety of economic support and social services programs. 

John has served on the boards of directors of several organizations including Cobb/Marietta Communities in Schools, School to Work, the Cobb County Extension Service, Cobb Community Collaborative, Metro Atlanta Exchange (MAX) and CareerRise. He serves on the board of his neighborhood association and chairs the Stadium Neighborhood Communities Trust Fund. He was the 2011 recipient of the William “Bill” Hanson Collaboration Award.  John is a 2010 Leadership Cobb graduate and an Honorary Commander alumnus for the 94th Airlift Wing in Marietta.       

Melanie Baer

Concurrent Session:  Best Practices in Program Development

Melanie Baer has been involved in adult and continuing education for 25 years.  Her career began in college where she worked as a student worker tallying conference evaluations at the University of Georgia Center for Continuing Education.  After graduation, Melanie returned to the Georgia Center where she worked for 15 years in on-site event management, registration and event coordination.  After receiving a Master’s Degree in Adult Education, Melanie began work as a Program Coordinator at the College of Education.  In her current role, Melanie works with College of Education faculty to plan professional development conferences and workshops for K-12 teachers, administrators and school personnel.  She also works with the Dean’s Office to plan special events, meetings and activities for the College of Education.  Melanie has a wealth of knowledge in everything from registration to refreshment breaks.  If you ask Melanie what she likes best about her job, she will tell you “variety”, because in program development and event coordination, there are no two events exactly alike and every day brings forth new challenges and adventures.

When Melanie is not planning events, she spends time with her husband Kevin and their three teenage children: Clay, a high school senior and twins Addie and Laynie who are in the 9th grade.  Melanie also enjoys reading, shopping, regular exercise and of course Georgia Football.  Go Dawgs!


Kathleen Kosmoski

Concurrent Session:  Best Practices in Program Development

Kathleen Kosmoski is the Director for Continuing Education and Industry Training at Ogeechee Technical College. In this role, Ms. Kosmoski is responsible for all non-credit programs and training for the college including public classes as well as customized training with private entities. Over the past six years, she has worked with local businesses and industries to identify, develop, implement, and evaluate their training needs. Ms. Kosmoski has developed numerous partnerships throughout the region to maximize resources for developing the local workforce.
Ms Kosmoski has a bachelor’s degree and a Master’s of Science degree from Purdue University. She currently serves as the President for the Georgia Adult Education Association, which is tasked with promoting and developing adult and continuing education to create a more educated and trained workforce in Georgia.

Curtis Halton 

Concurrent Session:  

Mr. Halton has worked as a Sales & Marketing Executive for RadioWorks Media Group, a Senior Director for the YMCA of Rock River Valley, a Program Director for Goodwill Industries of North Georgia and Director of the Atlanta Technical College Institute for Males. He is currently the Director of Continuing Education for Atlanta Technical College. 
Mr. Halton holds a Bachelors Degree of Art in Mass Communications from Southern Illinois University-Carbondale, a Graduate Certificate of Public Management from Northern Illinois University and a Master’s Degree in Public Administration & Non-Profit Leadership from Georgia State University. He is a member of The Learning Resources Network (LERN) and Leadership Clayton Class of 2018. Mr. Halton is also a member of the Georgia Adult Education Association (GAEA) and serves on the GAEA Board of Directors.

Chase Highley

Concurrent Session(s):  ​Developing A Strategic Marketing Plan and Digital Marketing for Continued Education

Chase Highley is a North Carolina native proud to call Asheville home. Chase works directly with clients to deliver premium products for their business needs. This includes innovative marketing and tech solutions, state-of-the-art websites and SEO marketing strategies. Chase enjoys meeting with new clients, carefully listening to their businesses needs and goals, and championing their vision. Since 2014, Chase has helped over a 100 businesses meet and surpass their web marketing goals, and redefine their social media and SEO initiatives. When he's not crushing it for his clients, he enjoys hiking with his wife, and golfing with his buddies. Chase attended Warner University under a Dean and Golf Scholarship and received a Business in Finance Degree.

Cher Brister

​​Concurrent Session:  Take 10 - Utilizing Internal Partnerships to Revitalize the Workforce

Cher Brister is the Director of Green Technologies at Gwinnett Technical College. She has been at Gwinnett Tech since 2006 and has worked as an Instructor, Program Coordinator and Program Director. She not only manages the Building Operator Certification Program for the state of Georgia, but she is also responsible for Continuing Education and Business and Industry training in the North Fulton service area. In addition to her role on the Board of Directors for GAEA, she serves on the board for Amana Academy in Alpharetta and Atlanta Recycles.

Jessica Thompson

Concurrent Session:  Providing Value With LinkedIn

Hailing from Statesboro, Georgia, Jessica is the Director of Marketing at Greenstone Media in Asheville, North Carolina. She received a Bachelor's degree in Business Management & Marketing from Georgia Southern University and has experienced many avenues of the Marketing Industry along her career path so far, from multimedia marketing and account management to consulting. In her free time, you can find her and her husband checking out Asheville's amazing culinary offerings, art galleries downtown, and the beautiful outdoors of Western North Carolina.

Nick Timmons

Concurrent Session(s):  Providing Value With LinkedIn and Using the User Journey Map to Create Effective Landing Pages

Having grown up in the Flint Hills of Kansas, Nick often finds himself in awe of the mountains. Nick combines his passion for anthropology, experience design, and communication to help Greenstone clients take projects from conception to reality. In the off hours, you can often find him reading sci fi, playing board games, catching mountain views, or strumming a few chords on his guitar.

Keynote Speaker

Kevin Gecowets

​​Keynote addressCreating Learning Spaces

Kevin is a master educator, facilitator, and coach with expertise in leadership, organizational change, and conflict management. He has developed leaders and organizations for over 25 years in education, government, and private industry. He also brings experience in public speaking, strategic planning, process improvement, and operations management.

Kevin is the Director of the Center for University Learning at Kennesaw State University where he leads professional and organizational development for faculty and staff, and for the University System of Georgia’s Professional Development Consortium. He serves on the KSU Staff Senate, and as a USG Service Excellence Ambassador. He advises on conflict management coaching and training as a Senior Associate with Care Full Conflict, LLC.

Previously, he led statewide organizational change, training, and employee engagement efforts for the Georgia Governor’s Office of Customer Service. He also led training and organization development for Colony Homes, the Georgia-Pacific Corporation and as an independent consultant for a variety of private and public service organizations.

Rusty Denning

Concurrent Session:  Building a Successful Contract Training Program

Panel Session:  Partnerships in Continuing Education

Rusty Denning began working at Piedmont Technical College on August 9, 2010 as Associate Vice President of Economic Development & Continuing Education. Since coming on board at Piedmont Tech, he has implemented several new programs in Continuing Education and expanded course offerings in the seven county service delivery area. His unique approach in the business and industry field has led to an increased awareness of business needs and opened the doors to innovative customized programs. Rusty took both his Bachelors and Masters Coursework at Georgia Southern University in Business Administration and Public Administration respectively. He also has a Masters in Leadership and Management from Western Governors University.

 Before coming to Piedmont Technical College, he served as Director of Business and Industry services at Ogeechee Technical College in Statesboro, Georgia. He has over 14 years of robust experience in the Technical College System of Georgia in the areas of continuing education, economic development, and customized business and industry training programs. In addition to his experience at Ogeechee Technical College, Rusty has served as a training coordinator for the Georgia Quick Start program—one of Georgia’s key assets for supporting new and expanding industries. He has in-depth experience in conducting project studies, coordinating instructional design, and developing training programs. He has worked closely with businesses as they’ve retooled their product lines to remain viable in a changing economy. Some of the companies Rusty had worked with in the past include: Gulfstream Aerospace, Briggs & Stratton, Samsung, FujiFilm, ZF Transmissions, Georgia Pacific, Eaton Corporation and Viracon to name just a few

Stephanie Rooks is from the Midwest but has lived in metro-Atlanta for almost 20 years. Since 2001, she has worked in Gwinnett Tech’s Adult Education Department first as an instructor, then Lead Instructor of Adult Basic Education and in 2012, became Dean of Adult Education for Gwinnett Technical College. She is responsible for the 17 English as a Second Language (ESL) and GED preparation locations in Gwinnett and North Fulton counties, which serves 4,500 students.

 Stephanie initially studied at the University of Illinois and eventually earned a Bachelor of Liberal Arts and Sciences from Oglethorpe University. She also holds an M.S. in Organizational Leadership from Brenau University. Stephanie is the mother of three cool children and one Labrador Retriever. She also loves to cook and is a huge football fan!

Stephanie Rooks

Concurrent Session:  Take 10 - Utilizing Internal Partnerships to Revitalize the Workforce

Melissa Terbrueggen

Panel Session:  Partnerships in Continuing Education

Melissa Terbrueggen is the Regional Director for Economic Development and Business Services for CareerSource Northeast Florida, where she has been employed since 1977.  She completed the Georgia Institute of Technology Economic Development Course in 2005 and works closely with economic development organizations, providing labor market information and support to companies considering locating or expanding in the area. 

Leading Adults Toward a Better Tomorrow

Concurrent Session Presenters

Deborah Champion

Concurrent Session:  Best Practices in Program Development

Deborah is retired Continuing Education professional  She has 32+ years of experience in Continuing Education and Online Learning.  She has developed and coordinated conferences, training programs, camps, personal development and professional developoment classes and more.  She has experience in all aspects of program development and management as well as marketing data development and management.  She also served as inaugural director for the Center for Online Learning while at Georgia Southern. 

Deborah holds a BBA in General Business (emphasis in Management, Marketing and Economics) and another in Management Information Systems as well as Maters in Public Administration.

Closing Session Speaker 

Larry Weaver

​​Closing Session:  Find Success By Seeing Things Differently

Larry Weaver is a nationally-touring motivational speaker and clean comedian with over 25 years of professional experience. His easy-going demeanor,  Southern charm, and quick wit have won the hearts of audiences across America.

Larry grew up in the rural village of Saxapahaw, NC and started performing at a young age. After majoring in accounting at the University of North Carolina,  Larry left his CPA dreams behind to pursue a career in stand-up comedy. You can hear him daily on Sirius XM radio’s “Laugh USA” and “Blue Collar Radio.”

A true veteran of the stage, Larry has delivered thousands of keynotes at   corporate events, conventions, annual meetings, and conferences across the United States.  Be prepared to laugh, learn and leave feeling refreshed!