Business Leads Fellowship Program, September 2018

BL Fellowship Program Cohort 1The Fellowship Program consists of two separate, three-day intensive workshops that focus on the history, policy, and programming on topics spanning the education pipeline including early education, K-12, college and career readiness, postsecondary education, and workforce development. The workshops are taught by expert faculty as well as staff from state and local chambers who have put policy into practice to bring change and opportunity to their communities. 
This event, focusing on early education, K-12, and career readiness, is the first of those two workshops. The second workshop for this program will be held on January 16-18, 2019 in Phoenix, AZ and will complete the rest of the talent pipeline, including higher education, workforce development, and upskilling and reskilling. Participants must complete both sessions of the program. 

Cohort 1 Roster of Fellows

  • Andrea Anderson, Director of Marketing & Industry Relations, Ardmore Chamber of Commerce/Development Authority, Ardmore, OK
  • Jason Bearce, Vice President Education and Workforce Policy, Indiana Chamber, Indianapolis, IN
  • Jessica Belitz, Director of Partnership Programs & Events, Blount Partnership, Maryville, TN
  • Wendy Block, Vice President Business Advocacy, Michigan Chamber of Commerce, Lansing, MI
  • Melissa Bordelon, President and CEO, Greater Hammond Chamber, Hammond, LA
  • Bailey Bowthorpe, Policy Communication & Program Coordinator, Salt Lake Chamber, Salt Lake City, UT
  • Steve Clark, President and CEO, Fayetteville Chamber of Commerce, Fayetteville, AR
  • Barbara Den Herder, Executive Director, Sioux Center Chamber of Commerce, Sioux Center, IA
  • Angela Dixon, Vice President Talent and Inclusion, Capital Region Chamber, Albany, NY
  • Diane Dobson, Interim CEO, Renton Chamber of Commerce, Renton, WA
  • Tiffany Esposito, President and CEO, Bonita Springs Area Chamber of Commerce, Bonita Springs, FL
  • Pam Farris, Executive Director, Leadership West Virginia, Charleston, WV
  • Ryan Flynn, Director Affiliate Network Growth and Strategy, Massachusetts Business Alliance for Education (MBAE), Boston, MA
  • Ben Gilman, General Counsel and Senior Government Relations Specialist, Maine State Chamber of Commerce, Augusta, ME
  • Wade Goodsell, Executive Director, WMC Foundation (Wisconsin’s Chamber Foundation), Madison, WI
  • Joe Henning, President and CEO, Aurora Regional Chamber of Commerce, Aurora, IL
  • Karmen Gifford, President, Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce, Laconia, NH
  • Gary Laird, President, Hanover Area Chamber of Commerce, Hanover, PA
  • Kelly McCandless, Communication and Strategic Priorities Manager, Billings Chamber of Commerce, Billings, MT
  • Ben Melson, Manager of Education Policy, The Greater Houston Partnership, Houston, TX 
  • Kris Noble, Executive Director, Sauk Valley Area Chamber of Commerce, Sterling, IL
  • John Nyhan, President, Hampton Area Chamber of Commerce, Hampton, NH
  • Erin Olson, Research Strategist, RealTime Talent (Under the MN Chamber Foundation’s Center for Workforce Solutions), St. Paul, MN
  • Rick Pearce, President and CEO, The Chamber of Commerce Serving Middletown\Monroe\Trenton, Middletown, OH
  • Andrea Reay, President and CEO, Seattle Southside Chamber, Tukwila, WA
  • Pamela Riddler, President and CEO, Castle Rock Chamber of Commerce, Castle Rock, CO
  • Marilyn Roach, Director Business Development - Employ Buffalo Niagara, The Buffalo Niagara Partnership, Buffalo, NY
  • Carolyn Ryan, Senior Vice President Policy and Research, Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce, Boston, MA
  • Garrett Sheehan, President and CEO, Greater New Haven Chamber of Commerce, New Haven, CT
  • Shelley Short, Vice President Programs and Partnerships, Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce/Associated Industries of Arkansas, Little Rock, AR
  • Cally Smith, Vice President of Membership and Brand Strategy, Roanoke Regional Chamber of Commerce, Roanoke, VA
  • Megan Wehmeir, Director of Leadership and Workforce Development, Douglass-Coffee County Chamber of Commerce, Douglas, GA
  • Josh Williams, Talent Pipeline Project Manager, Kentucky Chamber Workforce Center, Frankfort, KY
  • April Wood, Director of Membership Services and Developmen, Garner Chamber of Commerce, Garner, NC

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)


  • How many participants were accepted? State and local chambers from across the country were invited to apply, and 35 individuals are participating.  
  • Is there a limit on the number of people that can apply from a single chamber/organization? There was no limit to how many people could apply from one organization.
  • What "level" is a Fellow? Participants range from President & CEO to Coordinator. The most important characteristic in the selection process has been an interest in learning about the education and workforce pipeline and a commitment to applying the principles learned during the program in the local community. 
  • Will there be another Business Leads Fellowship Program? Yes. Stay tuned for news about a cohort in Spring 2019.
  • Did you accept a specific number of participants from each state? No - we simply accept the best candidates for the openings available.
  • I work for an economic development organization. Am I eligible? Yes, though chambers of commerce and associations receive preference.


The formal agenda will be shared with participants directly. An outline of the program is as follows:

  • Wednesday, September 19 -- Early Education program runs from 12-6p
  • Thursday, September 20 -- K-12 program runs from 8a-6p
  • Friday, September 21 -- College and Career Readiness program runs from 8a-3p

What will the structure of the days look like? The Chamber Foundation will provide breakfast, lunch, beverages, and snacks throughout the program. The program will consist of interactive classes taught by expert faculty on a variety of education and workforce topics. The agenda will include plenary classes as well as breakout classes and is designed to provide grounding on the issues as well as practical tools that you can use to advance policies and programs in your communities.  


  • How do I book my flight? The Chamber Foundation will book your hotel and flights for you. We will not reimburse any travel that we do not book.
  • How do I book my hotel? The Chamber Foundation will book your hotel room once your flights are confirmed. 
  • What time does the fellowship program begin and end? The program will begin on Wednesday, September 19 at 12p and will conclude on Friday, September 21 no later than 3p. You will be able to fly in to New Orleans the day the program begins and can fly out the day it concludes.
  • I need to fly in a day early in order to be at the session on time. Will that night's hotel stay still be covered? Yes, depending on your travel options, we will cover the cost of your accommodation at Le Meridien for the night of Tuesday, September 18 should you need to arrive the day before. We cannot accommodate requests for other dates or additional days.
  • Can I bring a family member/friend with me to stay in New Orleans? Yes, but you must attend all sessions of the workshop. We will not reimburse you for any costs associated with the family member or friend (example: if you go to dinner together, we will only reimburse for your meal). The hotel rooms have a king bed or two double beds—we cannot accommodate requests for specific sleeping arrangements. 
  • What are the expense reimbursement guidelines? The Chamber Foundation will cover up to $400 in additional travel costs. Please read the full Expense Reimbursement Guidelines for detailed questions that have not been answered here. If you have any further questions, please contact Haley Ast (hast@uschamber.com).