Gaurdie E. Banister Jr. 

Former President & CEO, Aera Energy LLC

Gaurdie Banister recently retired after serving eight years as president and CEO of Aera Energy LLC, an oil and gas exploration and production company jointly owned by Shell Oil Company and ExxonMobil, headquartered in California. Banister has 35 years of oil and gas experience, and prior to Aera served in executive level positions at Shell including technical vice president Upstream Asia Pacific and technical vice president Upstream Americas.

Banister joined Shell Oil in 1980 as an offshore facilities engineer in New Orleans, and throughout his career served in various production management assignments based in Louisiana, California, Texas and Asia. He became president USA and executive vice president of Shell Services EP Gas and Power in 1998. From 2001 to 2003 Banister served as vice president of Business Development and Technology. In 2003 he was named technical vice president, Upstream Americas and championed innovative capital cost approaches to major projects. From 2005 until 2007 Banister was technical vice president, Upstream Asia Pacific. In this role he oversaw drilling and development activities in Southeast Asia, Australia and New Zealand, and established milestones and processes to safely execute major projects both onshore and offshore.

In 2007 Banister became president and CEO of Aera Energy. Aera is one of California's largest producers delivering 25 percent of the state's oil and operating more than 14,000 wells.

Banister was named to the board of Tyson Foods, Inc. (NYSE: TSN) in 2011 and currently serves as the lead independent director.  

He also serves as trustee of the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology foundation. Banister previously served on the executive committee of the California Chamber of Commerce, the advisory board of the Chancellor of the California State University System and the board of the Western States Petroleum Association, and is a past chair of the board of the United Way of Kern County.

Banister holds a bachelor's degree in metallurgical engineering from the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology. He is a native of Casper, Wyoming.


Forrest Moore

Policy Fellow, Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago

Forrest Moore is a Policy Fellow at Chapin Hall. With over 20 years’ experience serving youth and their families, Dr. Moore provides strategic guidance on research and evidence use to youth-servicing agencies across a multitude of issues, including the overrepresentation of children and young people of color (and their families) in public systems like child welfare and justice. Dr. Moore specializes in designing and implementing feasible action plans to improve delivery of and outcomes associated with youth development programming, especially those focused on highly vulnerable subgroups of youth and young adults. Specific interests include disconnected (opportunity) youth, homeless youth, and youth transitioning from experiences within child welfare and juvenile justice systems. Dr. Moore has extensive expertise working with public and private decision makers, especially in community-based agencies. His approach emphasizes the use of evidence in decision making and the application of implementation science principles within systems, program and practice change efforts.

Prior to joining Chapin Hall, Dr. Moore most recently was an independent consultant focused on research, strategic planning, and project management for multiple youth serving organizations like Surge Institute, My Brother’s Keeper, SGA Chicago, Philanthropic Executive Alliance, and others. Dr. Moore has also served as the Executive VP for America’s Promise Alliance. There, he conceptualized and developed a new knowledge management department, which was focused on creating and managing technical systems that improve the ability to effectively deliver resources and services. He represented the organization as the Education liaison to the U.S. Department of Education, acting as a thought leader and advisor to the partnership on education-related issues. Dr. Moore also cocreated the Research and Practice Summit, a partnership between the Center for Promise and Stanford University, where he developed the agenda for the alliance, with the goal of enabling effective research and community practices.

Dr. Moore has a Ph.D. in Research Methodology from Loyola University in Chicago and a B.S. in Organizational Leadership from the Knoy School of Technology at Purdue University.


Sharon Orlopp

Chief Human Resources Officer, Core Scientific
Former Global Chief Diversity Office, Walmart

Sharon Orlopp, served as Global Chief Diversity Officer and Senior Vice President at Walmart, and was responsible for advancing a diverse workforce with 2.1 million associates worldwide. Her former responsibilities include overseeing and leveraging global diversity and inclusion efforts, associate relations, and HR policy for the world’s largest retailer.

Sharon joined Walmart in 2003 as Vice President, People. In 2004, she was promoted to Senior Vice President, People – Sam’s Club. Prior to joining the company, Sharon was Vice President of Human Resources for Gart Sports, where she was responsible for compensation, benefits, training, recruiting, public relations, and investor relations. Sharon also spent 17 years with Foot Locker, where she held various leadership positions in Operations and Human Resources.

Sharon is an experienced human resource professional with a passion for diversity and for people. She has made it her mission to advance diversity initiatives, sponsor immersive learning trips and lead by example.

A lifelong advocate for inclusion, education and opportunity, Sharon considers it a privilege to serve as a member of the National Advisory Board with Students in Free Enterprise (SIFE), as a member of the Board of Women's Foodservice Forum and as a member of the Advisory Council for the Center for Entrepreneurship at Fayetteville State University in Fayetteville, North Carolina.

Sharon holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Denver, where she graduated magna cum laude.  She served as Director of Women's Foodservice Forum, Inc. Ms. Orlopp served as the Advisory Board for the Center for Business Women's Research, known as the leading authority on women business owners and their enterprises worldwide. She is also a Board Member for Northwest Arkansas Radiation Therapy Institute, NARTI, and Future Business Leaders of America, FBLA.


Jorge Reina Schement

Vice Chancellor of the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, Rutgers University

Jorge is Vice Chancellor of the Office of Diversity and Inclusion in the New Brunswick Chancellor's Office. He is also a Distinguished Professor of Communication Policy, and of Latino Studies, and chair of the Executive Committee for Rutgers’ 250th Anniversary Commemoration. Schement is author of over 250 books, papers, and articles. Previously, Schement served as Dean of the School of Communication and Information at Rutgers after teaching as a distinguished professor at Penn State University, where he cofounded the Institute for Information Policy. He joined the faculty at Penn State after serving as a communication professor at Rutgers, UCLA, the University of Southern California, and the University of Texas-Austin. Schement holds a Ph.D from Stanford University in Communication, an M.S. in marketing from the University of Illinois, and a B.A. from Southern Methodist University.

A Latino from South Texas, his research focuses on the social and policy implications of the production and consumption of information, especially as they relate to ethnic minorities. He conducted the first study of the impact of minority ownership in broadcasting, and conducted the original research that led to recognition of the Digital Divide. He introduced the idea of Universal Service as an evolving concept, a view adopted in the Telecommunications Act of 1996. His studies of minority ownership contributed to the Supreme Court’s decision in Metro Broadcasting, Inc. v. F.C.C. et al.

He authored the telecommunications policy agenda for the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, and advised the FCC Transition Team for the Obama administration. He is a founding member of the FCC Federal Advisory Committee on Diversity in the Digital Age. The movement to integrate community museums, libraries, and public broadcasting as Partners in Public Service began in a project he codirected. He has served on editorial boards of 18 academic journals, guest edited the Annual Review of Technology for the Aspen Institute, and is editor-in-chief of the Encyclopedia of Communication and Information.

Schement has served on advisory boards for the National Academy of Sciences, National Research Council, National Science Foundation, National Endowment for the Humanities, President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, Office of Technology Assessment, United States Commission on Civil Rights, Centers for Disease Control, Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey, Governor of California, Media Access Project, Libraries for the Future, Tomás Rivera Policy Institute, Center for Media Education, Internet Policy Institute, American Library Association, Minority Media Telecommunications Council, New Millennium Research Council, Open Society Institute, Advertising Council, Benton Foundation, Aspen Institute, MCI, Verizon, and Pew Project on Internet and American Life. He chaired the board of directors of TPRC Inc.

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Beverly Schwartz

Vice President of Global Marketing, Ashoka

Beverly Schwartz currently works at Ashoka, the world’s largest community of social entrepreneurs. She has been Vice President of Global Marketing for the past eight years and is the author of Rippling; How Social Entrepreneurs Spread Innovation Throughout the World, Wiley Jossey-Bass, April 2012.

By discipline, she is an “entrepreneurial” behavioral scientist and has made her career in the field of social change marketing. With the exception of a few non- social sector jobs in advertising and communications, she has devoted her career to working on some of the world’s most challenging social issues as diverse as drugs, children’s health, gender equity, girl’s education in developing countries, environmental reform, HIV/AID, and smoking prevention, including managing the non- advertising portion of the Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign for the Executive Office of the White House in the late 90s, and the “America Responds to AIDS” campaign for the US Centers for Disease Control in the mid 80s. In her early career, she helped write and pass the first statewide non- smoking in public places law in the US in the mid- 1970s. (Minnesota)

She is a regular contributor at Forbes.com under their entrepreneurship column and beInkandescent.com a popular e-zine for entrepreneurs. Beverly is a dynamic speaker and workshop facilitator and will be the opening plenary speaker for the Society of Scholarly Publications meeting this September. Last year she was the closing session speaker for the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention national conference on Health Communications and Marketing. She is also on the Board of Trustees of the National Hospice Foundation.


Esther Silver-Parker

President and CEO, The SilverParker Group

Esther Silver-Parker is President and CEO of The SilverParker Group, a consultancy specializing in diversity, corporate social responsibility, reputation, strategic philanthropy, stakeholder relationships and leadership development.

Before opening her firm in 2010, Silver-Parker served as Senior Vice President of Corporate Affairs at Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., where she was charged with the strategic planning and execution of the company’s corporate responsibility, reputation, and relationships among key national and international stakeholders. She also focused on issues that impact emerging markets and small businesses. Prior to this position, she served as Senior Vice President of Diversity Relations for Wal-Mart and was responsible for the strategic planning and execution of the company’s diversity strategy. She was a leader in establishing Wal-Mart’s Office of Diversity. She developed the company’s first diversity and inclusion strategy, grew supplier diversity procurement by $3 billion dollars, established a corporate external advisory council, developed Wal-Mart’s first stakeholder summit and developed a focus on the multicultural customer. She is recognized for her work in transforming Wal-Mart’s reputation. She received Wal-Mart’s Trailblazer Award. Upon her retirement, Wal-Mart established a scholarship in her name at Wake Forest University School of Business to support multicultural business students.

Prior to joining Wal-Mart, Silver-Parker served 28 years in various public relations functions for AT&T, including Vice President of Corporate Affairs and President of the AT&T Foundation. She also directed AT&T’s National Constituency Relations and Issues Management Departments and led the company’s award-winning Corporate Social Responsibility programs, including programs that grew the number of women and diverse people in such disciplines as engineering, business, arts production and small business development. Silver-Parker led AT&T’s public relations field offices in the Northeast, the Mid-Atlantic and the Southeast. She designed and implemented the plan to increase AT&T’s presence in local communities in the U.S., and developed the design for AT&T’s field public relations organizations worldwide. She established AT&T’s first corporate affairs operation in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, developed the company’s first stakeholder relations organization and consumer panel. Other functions she led at AT&T include regional media relations, employee communications, consumer affairs, and executive communications to associates. She also worked for New York Telephone, where she implemented a strategy to cut customer complaints by 85 percent. She was the recipient of the Catherine Cleary Award, the highest leadership honor AT&T gives to an employee.

Silver-Parker also worked as an assistant and associate editor for Essence Magazine and served as managing editor of the Review of Black Political Economy.

A corporate leader of noted impact, she has served in leadership and volunteer positions for over 50 national and international nonprofit organizations. She developed a next generation women’s leadership organization in South Africa and has directly supported programs to assist women of color in completing their college education. She developed and secured funding for a national leadership program for women and minorities called America’s Leaders of Change, which is managed by the National Urban Fellows organization. She currently serves on the boards of the Bentonville Film Festival, Champions for Kids, Spelman College, The NAACP Special Contributions Committee, The United States Tennis Association Diversity Board and the Southern Tennis Association Diversity and Inclusion Committee, the Leadership Institute at Bennett College and the International Women’s Forum Foundation. She also serves as the global ambassador for the International Women’s Forum. She served for two years as president of the International Women’s Forum, a global women’s leadership organization with 6,000 members and chapters in 30 countries and led the organization into a new era of global expansion. She grew the organization’s presence in Europe and North Africa. Additionally, she grew IWF’s Executive Development Roundtable Series across four continents, in North America, Latin America, Asia and Africa. She also raised the single most individually-driven funding support for the organization in its 28 year history.

As president of the National AIDS Fund, she successfully led the organization out of bankruptcy to sustainability; and, she wrote the first diversity and inclusion strategy for the United States Tennis Association.

She also serves on the Women’s External Advisory Council for Deloitte, The Diversity Council for AARP, The Advisory Council for Honda North America and Deloitte. She previously served on the Wal-Mart,Inc. Advisory Council. Her past boards include the High Museum, The Global Foodbanking Network, Theatre in the Square and Theatrical Outfit in Atlanta. She also served as the Chair of the Georgia Council for the Arts. She was instrumental in helping establish the National Black Arts Festival and the Atlanta Business Council for the Arts. She has also served on the boards of the Dance Theater of Harlem and the Education Committee of the Museum of Modern Art in New York. She speaks on arts as a convener of diverse perspectives and arts as an economic lever.

Silver-Parker has traveled in Europe, Asia, Africa and South America to study, write and speak about the health conditions and quality of life of women and children. She is a frequent speaker on issues pertaining to women, education, empowerment, diversity and inclusion, corporate social responsibility, strategic philanthropy and public relations operations. She has been featured in books on leadership, including “Yes, I Can Do That”, “Do Your Giving While Living,” and “Organizational Champions.”

Silver-Parker received a Masters in Journalism from Columbia University School of Journalism and a Bachelors of Arts, Magna Cum Laude, in Political Science from North Carolina Central University. She is a graduate of Pennsylvania State University’s Executive Management Program and holds an Honorary Doctor’s in Humane Letters from Benedict College.

Silver-Parker has received more than 80 awards for community service and leadership, including Ebony Magazine’ Outstanding Women in Corporate Marketing, The Congressional Black Caucus Unsung Hero Award, The Georgia DECA Award for Outstanding Businesswoman, The Harlem YMCA Black Achievers in Industry Award, New York City Gus D’Amato Community Service Award, The Atlanta Business League’s Outstanding Corporate Person Award, The100 Black Men of America Corporate Excellence Award, The 100 Black Men Lifetime Achievement Award, The National AIDS Fund’s Leadership Award, The Asian Pacific Islanders Women’s Leadership Starfish Award, The Latino Community Development Award, two Native American Blankets, Alpha Kappa Alpha President’s Spirit of Business Award, Just Communities Humanitarian of the Year Award, The Links Spirit Award, The National Coalition of 100 Black Women Torchbearer Award, The Diversity Advocate of the Year Award, The Martin Luther King Lifetime Achievement Award, The National Action Network Corporate Excellence Award, the National Urban League Gammon Award for Corporate Citizen, Women In Entertainment Corporate Citizen Award, and the International Women’s Forum Leading Light Award.

She is married to Attorney Ronald I. Parker and they have one son, Jamal O. Parker. She is a member of Saint James Missionary Baptist Church in Fayetteville, Arkansas.


Vikki N. Spruill

President & CEO, New England Aquarium

Throughout her career, Vikki N. Spruill has worked to strengthen ocean conservation. As president and CEO of the New England Aquarium and its research and conservation institute, the Anderson Cabot Center for Ocean Life at the New England Aquarium, Ms. Spruill seeks to combine the convening power of the Aquarium’s 1.4 million annual visitors with cutting- edge scientific research and education to advocate for vital and vibrant oceans. She previously served as  president and CEO of the Council on Foundations, the largest association of philanthropic grant-making organizations, and Ocean Conservancy, one of the nation’s foremost science-based advocacy organizations dedicated to the oceans. Ms. Spruill founded the Trash Free Seas Alliance, an industry collaborative that has produced seminal research on the impacts of plastic in the ocean, and helped found and currently serves on the board of COMPASS, which works to empower scientists to better engage in the public discourse on environmental issues. She was also the founding director of SeaWeb, an innovative initiative that worked at the intersection of policy, science, and communications in support of ocean conservation. Her research and leadership helped catalyze the sustainable seafood movement.

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Suzanne Walsh

President, Bennett College

Suzanne Walsh is President of Bennett College, a historically Black college for women in Greensboro, North Carolina. She was most recently Deputy Director on the Postsecondary Success Team at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation where she leads the Foundation’s institutional transformation strategy. Before joining Gates, Suzanne worked at two other foundations: Lumina Foundation in Indianapolis where she managed the Making Opportunity Affordable initiative, which was aimed at increasing college productivity by bringing about fundamental change in the way higher education does business; and, The Heinz Endowments in Pittsburgh where her diverse portfolio included community colleges, universities, workforce development, tech commercialization and transfer, city/county consolidation, immigration and regional economic development.

She got her start in community college work at Cuyahoga Community College. And she began her professional career as an attorney at Oklahoma Indian Legal Services. Suzanne has her juris doctorate and masters in social work from Case Western Reserve University, a bachelor’s of science from Cornell University, an associate’s degree in applied science from Hudson Valley Community College; and an honorary doctorate from Johnson C. Smith University. She is a member of a number of international, national and local organizations: Carnegie Mellon University’s Global Learning Council, the boards of Seattle CityClub, Carey Institute for Global Good and the advisory boards for Roadtrip Nation and Zoo Labs. She is also a proud judge for Dance Your PhD.