2013 Conference Speakers

Michelle Baumhover
Director of Consumer Marketing, Iowa Beef Industry Council
What's Your Secret? Case Study Panelist - Thursday, 9 a.m.

As Director of Consumer Marketing for the Iowa Beef Industry Council, Michelle works with grocery retailers, food service professionals and consumer advertising on beef promotional activities and partnerships. Michelle has coordinated Iowa's Best Burger contest for the past three years. Each year the contest has grown in nominations received and the total number of restaurants receiving nominations is nearing 600 establishments. Restaurants competitively contend to reach the Top Ten as finalists consistently realize a 25% or more increase in business.


Jessie Brown
Communications Specialist, Iowa Department of Natural Resources
Sixty on Social - Pinterest Expert, Thursday 10:45 a.m. and 1:45 p.m.

Jessie is communications specialist for the Iowa DNR in Des Moines where she works with social media, writes and provides communications guidance for agency programs and initiatives. Jessie joined the DNR in 2003 and also serves as a writer and copy editor for Iowa Outdoors magazine. Originally from Cedar Falls, Jessie holds degrees in Journalism and Mass Communication and Communication Studies from the University of Iowa.


Kim Burger Manning
Manager, City of Cedar Falls Tourism and Visitors Bureau
Tourism Award Winners Best Practices Panel, Friday 9:45 a.m.

Kim Burger began her career with the Cedar Falls Tourism and Visitors Bureau in 1998. In 2001, the Bureau became of a division of the City of Cedar Falls. Cedar Falls has been named Iowa Tourism Community of the Year on two occasions and in 2006, the city brought home both the Event and Attraction of the Year awards. In 2010, the city gained national recognition as one of a Dozen Distinctive Destinations. In 2011, the Cedar Falls and Waterloo Visitors Bureaus were honored with the Iowa Tourism Office's first Outstanding Cooperative Partnership award and in 2012 received recognition for the Outstanding Tourism Publication and Outstanding Tourism Attraction, the Cedar Valley Trails. Kim is a past president of the Eastern Iowa Tourism Association and Travel Federation of Iowa. She is also a past recipient of the Iowa Tourism Leadership Award and the Upper Midwest Convention and Visitors Bureau Leadership Award.


Liz Conklin
Content Coordinator at University Relations, University of Northern Iowa
Sixty on Social - Facebook Expert, Thursday 10:45 a.m. and 1:45 p.m.

Liz Conklin is a content coordinator in University Relations at the University of Northern Iowa. She has more than 17 years of experience in public relations. Prior to working at UNI, she was the executive director of the Waterloo Downtown Council. Liz's social media duties include handling the day-to-day operations of the university's main Facebook page (49,000 fans) and two Twitter accounts. Conklin, a lifelong Iowa resident, earned her B.A. from the University of Iowa.


Freda Damman
Director, Manning Hausbarn-Heritage Park
Tourism Award Winners Best Practices Panel, Friday 9:45 a.m.

A graduate of the University of Northern Iowa (State College of Iowa), Freda taught high school English and Speech, then was a stay-at-home mom for two daughters. Substitute teaching took her to every possible classroom in the Manning school district. She and LeRoy owned their own businesses, a 911 map business and a flower shop. Eventually she worked as a customer service tech for Internet Service Providers. During all that time, she and LeRoy volunteered in the Manning community, helping to bring the Hausbarn to Manning as well as the Main Street program. Together they started the annual Weihnactsfest, or Christmas festival, in Manning and the celebration has continued for 26 years. She has been director of the Manning Hausbarn-Heritage Park for four years. She and LeRoy are the proud parents of two daughers and two sons-in-law who have given them the joys of their lives in the six grandchildren that they get to see regularly. Freda has been involved in the Western Iowa Tourism Region as a Board member and officer, in state tourism projects as a District Leader and both of them represented Iowa at the Sesquicentennial on the Mall in Washington, D.C. Freda is also on the Board of Iowa Group Travel.


Debi Durham
Director, Iowa Economic Development Authority
Keynote Presentation, Thursday 11:45 a.m.

Debi Durham was named director of the Iowa Economic Development Authority by Governor Terry Branstad and assumed her duties in January 2011. Prior to her appointment, she served as the president of the Siouxland Chamber of Commerce, the Siouxland Initiative and the Siouxland Chamber Foundation. In 2007 and 2008, Durham’s leadership contributed to the Siouxland metro’s recognition as the top economic development community in the United States by Site Selection Magazine. Durham is a 2003 Junior Achievement Hall of Fame honoree and holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration, marketing and business management from Missouri Southern State University.


Kathy Fiscus
Director of Market Development, Council Bluffs Convention and Visitors Bureau
Tourism Award Winners Best Practices Panel, Friday, 9:45 a.m.

After graduating from Abraham Lincoln High School and Iowa State University, Council Bluffs native Kathy Fiscus worked in broadcasting and advertising in Iowa, Wisconsin and Nebraska. Having retired from over 27 years at KETV in Omaha, Kathy is enjoying a second career at the Council Bluffs Convention and Visitors Bureau. As Director of Market Development for the CVB, Kathy works extensively with market research, media outlets, collaborative partners, grant providers and events and attractions in Council Bluffs and Pottawattamie County.


Oksana Grybovych, Ed. D.
Assistant Professor, University of Northern Iowa
Economic Impacts of Tourism and How to Measure the Impacts, Thursday 9 a.m.

Oksana Grybovych, Ed.D., is an Assistant Professor at the University of Northern Iowa. She holds a Master of Science degree in Leisure and Environments from the University of Wageningen (the Netherlands), and a BA degree in Economics/ Management from the Institute of Economics and Law (Ukraine). She teaches principles of tourism, eco-tourism and rural tourism.


Craig Johnson
Executive Director, Heartland Acres
Grant Writing, Thursday 9 a.m.

Craig holds a BA degree in Industry from the University of Northern Iowa. As executive director for Heartland Acres, his time is spent managing the 16 acre campus with over 45,000 square feet of exhibit and event rental space. He also serves as a Vision Iowa Board Member.



Beth Keeney
Marketing and Communications, Waterloo Convention & Visitors Bureau
Tourism Award Winners Best Practices Panel, Friday 9:45 a.m.

Beth oversees the marketing and communications for the Waterloo Convention & Visitors Bureau, along with managing their social media efforts. Born and raised in Iowa, Beth received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Communication Arts from Wartburg College. She and her husband, Zac, live in Waterloo and enjoy traveling, spending time with family and friends and cheering on the Iowa Hawkeyes.



Beth Kohler
Author, Design Your Dwelling lifestyle blog
Sixty on Social - Blogging Expert, Thursday 10:45 a.m. and 1:45 p.m.

Beth Kohler is the author of the interior design and lifestyle blog, Design Your Dwelling. She is also working toward fulfilling her goal of owning an interior design and home staging business.  To support her blogging and interior design hobbies, Beth works for Iowa-based DuPont Pioneer as a product training coordinator. Beth lives in western Iowa on a cattle farm where she and her husband raise club calves.



Jill Lankford
Director and Research Coordinator of STEP, University of Northern Iowa
Economic Impacts of Tourism and How to Measure the Impacts, Thursday 9 a.m.

Jill Lankford, Director and Research Coordinator of STEP at UNI has a Master of Urban and Regional Planning (MUP) degree and a Master of Landscape Architecture (MLA) from the University of Oregon. Jill also earned a BA in Recreation and Park Administration from CSU-Chico. She has conducted numerous studies for recreation and tourism organizations. She has taught areas and facilities, recreation programming, community recreation planning at the University of Hawaii and University of Northern Iowa.


Sam Lankford
Ph.D. in Parks, Recreation and Tourism, University of Northern Iowa
Economic Impacts of Tourism and How to Measure the Impacts, Thursday 9 a.m.

Sam Lankford has a Ph.D. in Parks, Recreation and Tourism, and a Master of Urban and Regional Planning degree from the University of Oregon. He holds a MA in Recreation and Park Planning, and a BA in community planning from CSU-Chico. Sam Lankford has been a practicing planner in both staff and consulting roles in California, Oregon, and Hawaii. He has conducted numerous studies in those states and other countries. He specializes in recreation and tourism planning.


Tod Maffin
President, engageQ digital
Keynote Presentation, Wednesday 12 p.m.

Tod is one of North America’s leading digital marketing experts, specializing in viral and ROI-based campaigns for sectors from human resources to real estate to education. Maffin, president of engageQ digital, is one of the country’s go-to commentators on the impact of accelerated technological change and innovation on the business and economic environment and can speak to every aspect of technology and resulting implications for the world in which we live.



Sheila Mahony
Director of Brand Development, Midwest Living and Meredith Travel Marketing
Travel Marketing Research - The New Journey, Thursday 1:45 p.m.

Sheila Mahony is the Director of Brand Development for Midwest Living and Meredith Travel Marketing. Sheila joined Meredith Corporation in 2009 and is responsible for all integrated marketing programs, brand extensions, proprietary research and market strategy for these business units.



Mary Lee Malmberg, CSEE
Director of Sports Tourism, Cedar Rapids Area Convention & Visitors Bureau
Growing Your Tourism Opportunities, Thursday 10:45 a.m.

Mary Lee joined the Cedar Rapids Area Convention & Visitors Bureau in 1989. The bureau’s Sports Tourism Department was established in 2000 and Mary Lee has served as the Director of Sports Tourism since that time. The Sports Tourism Department has helped bring a number of state, regional and national competitions to the Cedar Rapids area including the Iowa Girls’ High School State Volleyball Tournament, American Legion World Series, National Horseshoe Pitchers Association World Tournament and NCAA Division II and III National Wrestling Championships. Mary Lee is an active member of the National Association of Sports Commissions. She just completed two terms on their Board of Directors, serves on their Member Mentoring Committee, and has received her Certified Sports Event Executive (CSEE) certification. Mary Lee is a past chair of the Iowa Convention & Visitors Bureau Association and Team Iowa Sports. She currently serves on the Prospect Meadows Ball Park Board of Directors and the Cedar Rapids Parks & Recreation Commission.


Jean McFaddin
Marketing & Events Consultant, Former Sr. Vice President Public Relations and Events, Macy*s East
Keynote Presentation, Thursday 11:45 a.m.

For twenty-five years, Jean McFaddin was responsible for creating Macy’s major events to maximize its sales and brand success.  She resigned from her full time Macy’s role in spring, 2001, to pursue broader opportunities in the new Millennium, while continuing to serve Macy’s in an advisory capacity in 2001 for the 75th Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.  To recognizing her important contribution to its history and success, Jean McFaddin was celebrated as she rode on a float created in her honor in the Macy’s 85th Thanksgiving Day parade, November 2011.


Lindsey Newcomb
Digital Marketing & Entertainment Manager, Isle Casino Hotel in Waterloo
Sixty on Social - Twitter Expert, Thursday 10:45 a.m. and 1:45 p.m.

Lindsey Newcomb is the Digital Marketing & Entertainment Manager at Isle Casino Hotel Waterloo. She has been a frequent social media user since she attended the University of Northern Iowa in 2005. Lindsey enjoys kayaking, climbing mountains, jumping out of airplanes and about anything else that might make for a good story or “tweet.” Besides social media, Lindsey is also responsible for the Isle’s website, email campaigns, search engine marketing and live entertainment.



Mary Neubauer
Vice President of External Relations, Iowa Lottery
Professional Development - Digital/Social Media Expert, Wednesday 2 p.m.

Mary Neubauer is the vice president of external relations at the Iowa Lottery, where she oversees its public and media relations efforts and serves as the lottery’s legislative liaison. You’ll often see Mary on TV or hear her on the radio, speaking on behalf of the lottery. She also has been the chief engineer of the Lottery’s social media projects, which now include a YouTube channel, blog, pages on Twitter and Facebook and a new foray into livestreaming of lottery events so you can watch them as they happen on uStream.


Hillery Oberle
PreAward Administrator, Office of Research and Sponsored Programs, University of Northern Iowa
Grant Writing Panelist, Thursday 9 a.m.

As the PreAward Administrator in the Office of Research and Sponsored Programs at the University of Northern Iowa, Hillery Oberle submits approximately 200 grants a year to public and private sponsors requesting support for the university’s research, scholarship, teaching and outreach activities. Hillery works with faculty and staff to find the most appropriate grant opportunities, plan projects, write grant proposals, develop grant budgets and prepare the application packages. Hillery also provides grant writing training for UNI faculty, staff and students and serves as an adjunct instructor. Prior to joining UNI in 2008, Hillery worked in higher education in Arizona and Missouri. She holds degrees in Journalism and Geography from the University of Missouri.


Keith Rahe
President & CEO, Dubuque Area Convention & Visitors Bureau
Growing Your Tourism Opportunities Panel, Thursday 10:45 a.m.

Keith Rahe is President & CEO of the Dubuque Area Convention & Visitors Bureau. His responsibilities include the program implementation of the CVB’s adopted business plan. Rahe and his staff market Dubuque and the surrounding area as a destination for families, individuals, meeting planners, group tour operators, event attendees, sports competitors and many other visitors. Rahe is a graduate of Iowa State University and has a tremendous amount of experience in the tourism field. He has been involved with the Field of Dreams, it’s world famous ambassadors the Ghost Players and the National Farm Toy Museum in Dyersville and the many events that these two attractions have hosted over the last 24 years. Rahe has extensive experience with event coordination in the United States and across the world. Some of these would include 17 years of Ghost Players tours, the Dubuque Grand Excursion, America’s River Festival and RAGBRAI in 2007 and 2010 to name a few.   


Laura Sauser
President, Iowa Council of Foundations
Grant Writing Panelist, Thursday 9 a.m.

Laura Sauser is the President of the Iowa Council of Foundations, a nonprofit membership association for Iowa grantmakers. In keeping with the organization’s mission of supporting philanthropy in Iowa, her duties include strategic planning; program development, marketing, and member recruitment and retention. Ms. Sauser is a graduate of Drake University with a B.A. in Journalism and Mass Communications. She also earned a certificate in advanced proposal analysis from The Grantmaking School in the Johnson Center for Philanthropy at Grand Valley State University. Prior to joining the Iowa Council of Foundations, Ms. Sauser’s career in philanthropy includes serving as Director of Corporate and Foundation Relations for her alma mater, Drake University, where she worked to secure funding support for various projects and programs. As Community Investment Consultant for the Principal Financial Group, Ms. Sauser oversaw the annual distribution of approximately $5 million in cash grants to nonprofit organizations in Des Moines and targeted communities across the nation and internationally. Ms. Sauser also has extensive experience in corporate communications.


John Sutter
Director of Sales & Marketing, National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium
What's Your Secret? Case Study Panelist, Thursday 9 a.m.

John Sutter directs all marketing, public relations, adult and youth group sales, box office, 3D/4D theater, public events, and retail functions for all Dubuque County Historical Society properties, including their signature property, the National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium. Sutter has 16 years experience in business-to-business marketing; business-to-consumer communications; attraction marketing; and retail sales and marketing. He holds a B.A. in Public Relations from the University of Northern Iowa.


Dr. Bill Withers
Professor and Assistant Director of the Institute for Leadership Education, Wartburg College
Professional Development - CEO/Leadership Expert, Wednesday 2 p.m.

Dr. Bill Withers is a full professor and serves as the assistant director of the Institute for Leadership Education at Wartburg College. He has served many governing boards over the years and currently sits on the board of directors for Iowa Public Television. Bill has over two decades of management and leadership experience in both business and education, and his research has been presented multiple times at the International Conference on Business in Honolulu. He has both studied and served organizations such as Proctor & Gamble, Ritz-Carlton, Disney, Four Seasons, and Starbucks. He has also been a contributing writer to three books in the areas of leadership and customer service. Closer to home, Dr. Withers has won both teacher and advisor of the year awards, and he continues to specialize in the areas of public relations, quality customer service, organizational change, and leadership.