Keynote: Dr. Karen Jacobson

High-Performance Strategist

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Israeli Military Commander. Doctor. Champion Ballroom Dancer. What these have in common isn’t the what, it’s the WHO. Dr. Karen Jacobson integrates her diverse background into her personal brand as a Keynote Speaker into corporate events, state and national conferences, including team training.

With more than 30 years of training experience, Dr. Karen mesmerizes audiences with her high-caliber presentation-style while relating her ground-breaking framework regarding communication in the face of adversity and arduous military training then later becoming an award-winning Ballroom dancer.

As an expert in communication, Dr. Karen Jacobson is the creator of the “High-Performance Triad” a trademark-pending effective strategy for creating YOUR highest edge. Your audience will leave energized and armed with an arsenal of new skill sets and tools to provide lasting transformation.


Speaker Bios

Martie Adler

Associate Director, Talent & Organizational Development, Indiana University

Martie Adler joined Indiana University, Organizational Development as an OD consultant in January 2011. Martie has spent over 35 years in higher education administration and academia, and has focused her professional career in the areas of organizational development, leadership, professional development, and change management. As the owner of her own consulting firm, Martie has also provided consulting services to clients globally for twenty years, and is a certified professional coach.


Jason Beard

President & CEO, Professional Development Group II, Inc.

Jason is President and CEO of Professional Development Group located in Bloomington, Indiana. Mr. Beard graduated from Indiana University in 1994 with a BS in Marketing from the Kelly Business School. He also graduated with a Minor in Spanish and still enjoys using his Spanish.

Mr. Beard started at PDG in 1996 as the General Manager. He managed all aspects of PDG’s largest annual events including: hotel contract negotiations, web site development, sales, brochure design and production, registration management, on-site logistical support, and event presentations and facilitation. Jason became the Vice President in 2000 and facilitated the development of the association and event management departments of PDG. In 2004, Jason purchased PDG and oversees all aspects of event management, staffing, sales, web production, literature production, event logistics, finances, and administration.


Laurie Beets

Bursar & Director of Debt Management/Student Loans, Oklahoma State University

Laurie Beets is currently the Bursar/Director of Student Loans & Debt Management at Oklahoma State University in Stillwater with 24+ years of experience in higher education. She is a CPA and has a Master's Degree in Educational Leadership Studies with a higher education emphasis. Laurie is also a Certified Fraud Examiner. She has served as a member of the Board of Directors for the Coalition of Higher Education Assistance Organization (COHEAO). Laurie is a graduate of the SACUBO College of Business Management Institute and is a recipient of the OSU Staff Advisory Distinguished Service Award. Prior to joining OSU in 1994, Laurie worked in the banking industry and with the Resolution Trust Corporation.


John Fees

Founder & Managing Director, GradGuard

John Fees is the Co-Founder and Managing Director of GradGuard™ - the leading student benefits and insurance solution specifically designed for the collegiate market.

Fees is recognized as an authority at designing and implementing student benefit programs that help schools to attract and retain students. He leads GradGuard on its mission to help students & families protect their investment in higher education.

As a result, more than 200 colleges and universities trust GradGuard to protect their students with our tuition and renters insurance programs.  Since 2008, GradGuard’s insurance programs have have helped more than 650,000 students protect their investment in a higher education.

Fees is a graduate of Arizona State University, where he received a bachelors of science degree in History and is also a graduate of Harvard Business School where he completed a Masters in Business Administration. John Fees lives in Phoenix, Arizona and is married to Melissa Soza Fees, Ph.D. and is the father of five children. He is the Treasurer for the Arizona College Scholarship Foundation, a Director of College Parents of America, past treasurer of the Foundation for Blind Children, a past Director of the Spitzer Center for Ethics. He is also an active member of University Risk Management and Insurance Association and the Professional Insurance Marketers Association. You can follow him @johntfees.


Todd L Gurstel, P.C.

CEO, Gurstel Law Firm P.C.

Mr. Gurstel is the founding partner of Gurstel Chargo, PA, a full service business law firm with offices in Minnesota, Arizona, Iowa, Nebraska, Utah, and Wisconsin. The firm is highly regarded for its creditors rights practice, the area in which Todd directs and is passionate about. Since 1987, Todd has focused his practice in credit collection, is a recognized leader within the creditors’ rights industry, and is known for regularly setting and sharing best practice standards. Todd frequently speaks on compliance issues related to the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, and is a known trade advocate. Todd has been giving the distinction of being a Minnesota Super Lawyer in the area of Creditors Rights. This honor is given to no more than five percent of the attorneys in Minnesota. In addition to Minnesota, Todd is also licensed in Arizona.


Lori Hartung

Regional Sales Manager, Todd, Bremer & Lawson, Inc.

Lori S. Hartung is the Regional Manager for Todd, Bremer & Lawson, Inc. a collection firm that specializes in assisting colleges and universities with the recovery of accounts receivable and student loans. Her responsibilities include vending the firm's services to the Midwest region and training educational institutions on the campus based loan programs. In addition to her core responsibilities at Todd, Bremer & Lawson, Inc. Lori is the Firm's primary representative to the Coalition of Higher Education Assistance Organizations (COHEAO). COHEAO is a partnership of education and commercial members with a shared interest in fostering access to post-secondary education. Lori has been elected as the Vice President on the Board of Directors of COHEAO. This organization maintains a sharp focus on legislative and regulatory advocacy, educational access, and interactive communication for all federally funded student loan programs. In addition to her position on the Board of Directors she is also the a member of the Perkins Loan Task Force, Agenda, and Commercial Committees. COHEAO awarded Lori the 2012 Commercial Member of the Year. Lori is a member of several regional organizations such as the, Michigan Association of Student Financial Services Administrators (MASFSA), Wisconsin Association of Student Business Office Personnel and Administrators (WASBOPA), and the Minnesota Collections Network. She currently serves on the Board of all three organizations. Ms. Hartung has been involved in the student Loan industry in various capacities since 1991. Prior to joining Todd, Bremer & Lawson, Inc. she was the Senior Manager of Government and Industry Relations for University Accounting Service (UAS). Lori is a 1989 graduate of the University of Wisconsin with a Bachelor degree in Political Science. She lives in Dousman, Wisconsin with her husband and three (3) children, two (2) dogs, two (2) cats, and 40,000 honey bees.


Jan Hnilica

Student Financial Services Manager, Wheaton College (IL)

Jan Hnilica graduated in 1997 from Calvin College with a B.S in Psychology. She has worked at Wheaton College since 2000 in various roles; Librarian, Financial Aid Counselor, Financial Services Manager, and currently Student Financial Services Manager. Jan manages all billing and collections for the Student Financial Services office. Notably she served on the COHEAO Board of Directors from 2013-2017 and remains as an active member on Perkins grassroots committee. Jan has spoken at several conferences on a variety of topics: COHEAO, PDG, and Minnesota Collections Network. Jan has been married for 12 years and has 2 kids, Caleb 7 and Kaylee 6.


James D. Jones

Executive VP of Sales & Marketing, Reliant Capital Solutions, LLC

After nearly 20 years in the hospitality industry, including owning a Bed & Breakfast, James began his career in the collections industry with Higher Education more than 30 years ago.  Currently he is the Executive VP of Sales & Marketing for Reliant Capital Solutions where he has successfully partnered with nearly 200 institutions.  James co-founded HEARO more than 10 years ago, as well as co-founding ECHEAO just over 2 years ago (both of which he is still an active committee member of). He is the creator of the Perkins Forum, partnering with ECSI, in presenting a couple of dozen workshops across the country discussing Perkins from birth to grave.  He also served on the PacWest SFS steering committee for 2 terms and is now one of the first commercial partners to serve on the Massachusetts Bursar Association steering committee. James also enjoys being married, his 4 adult children and 4 grandchildren, and running mountain trails and on the beach.


Susan Kolls

Associate Director of Student Accounts Services, Northeastern University

Bio coming soon.


Paige Lee

Director Tuition Insurance Sales, Allianz Global Assistance

Bio coming soon.


Maria Livolsi

President of COHEAO and Director of SUNY Student Loan Service Center

Maria Livolsi has been with the State University of New York for 28 years, serving as the Director of the Student Loan Service Center for the past 22 years. Prior to joining SUNY, Maria worked as an accountant in both public and private industry. Maria has a Bachelor of Science degree in accounting from Siena College and a Master of Science degree in accounting from the State University of New York at Albany.

Maria oversees several federal financial aid programs for 31 SUNY campuses with annual expenditures in excess of $325 million. The majority of the services provided by the Student Loan Service Center pertain to the $170 million revolving loan funds for the Federal Perkins, Health Professions and Nursing student loan programs, which currently contain more than 75,000 active borrower loans.

Maria is serving her sixth year as president of COHEAO, the Coalition for Higher Education Assistance Organizations, a national association promoting the Federal campus-based loan programs and addressing the most pressing issues in student financial services today.


Darrnell Long

Assistant Director, Student Loans, Collections & Outreach, Georgia State University

Darrnell Long is the Assistant Director responsible for Student Loans, Collections, and Outreach at Georgia State University. A native of Atlanta, Darrnell is joined GSU in 2014 after spending seven years in the banking sector. Darrnell works daily to offer a soft approach to collections in an already difficult time for students and parents. Darrnell holds a Bachelor's degree from Morehouse College and a Masters of Accounting and Financial Management degree from Keller Graduate School. Currently Darrnell is completing his seminary degree, Master of Divinity at Mercer University. Darrnell shares his life with his wife Shaleece and their new addition to the family baby Serenity.


Jim McCarthy

Chief Risk Officer, ConServe

As a nationally recognized expert on BCFP (formerly CFPB) regulation, Jim is a leader in navigating the consumer financial risk environment. In fact, he was the key architect in establishing the BCFP's complaint process via their company portal. While consulting with ConServe over the past year, Jim was so impressed with the company's commitment to compliance and regulation adherence that it was a natural progression for him to join the organization on a more permanent basis. In his new role as Chief Risk Officer, he brings proficiency and knowledge of the intelligent business application of complex consumer financial rules and regulations and has broad experience in Research, Markets and Regulations (RMR).

As the previous owner of his own consulting consumer financial company, Jim has profound understanding of compliance management systems. He has extensive professional experience in the consumer financial environment, is a graduate of Minnesota State University and has earned professional certifications from George Washington University and the Wisconsin Bankers Association Graduate Banking School. As a devoted father of 3, he currently divides his time between his home in California and his new opportunity in New York.


Jenna Petefish

Tax Manager, University Tax Compliance, Ball State University

Jenna Petefish is the Tax Manager, University Tax Compliance for Ball State University. A role she began in 2012. Prior to her time at Ball State, Jenna worked in public accounting with both PricewaterhouseCoopers and Deloitte Tax focusing on numerous higher education institutions’ tax compliance needs. Jenna has a Masters of Taxation from the University of Denver and loves all things having to do with taxation. In her role at Ball State she works closely with their fantastic Bursar and other University offices including Financial Aid, Payroll and Accounts Payable. She acts as the “one-stop shop” for all things related to taxes for the university, a role she loves.


Jamie Prudhomme

Compliance Manager, Flywire

Bio coming soon.


Jessica Sabourin

Manager of Student & Loan Receivables, Harvard University

Jessica Sabourin joined Harvard University in May of 2016 as the Manager of Student Loan Operations. In July 2017, she was promoted to Manager of Student & Loan Receivables. Presently she provides daily operational management, leadership and strategic planning for a team of 12 staff comprised of the Student Loan Department and the Student Account Customer Service Team under the umbrella of Student Financial Services. Jessica has over thirteen years of experience between higher education administration and corporate financial services - ten years specifically in higher education including nine years of progressive management experience. Ten years of sales experience within the real estate industry. Prior to her arrival at Harvard University, Jessica was most recently with Babson College overseeing their gift processing and data management operations in the advancement services department within the fundraising group of the College. She also spent a combined eight years at two Central Massachusetts institutions in the student financial services departments. Jessica holds her bachelors of science from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst as well as her Master's in Business Administration and Certificate in Advanced Graduate study (Non-Profit Management) from Anna Maria College and Clark University respectively. She is also involved in the Massachusetts Bursar Association Steering Committee, MASFAA Financial Wellness Committee and is the treasurer of House Corporation for the Theta Mu Chapter of Chi Omega Sorority at Worcester Polytechnic Institute.


Cathy Santamarina, MBA

Director of Student Loans, Mercer University

Cathy Santamarina has served as the Director of Student Loans at Mercer University since 2006. She drafted Mercer University’s Red Flag Identity Theft Policy and is responsible for the implementation of the Student Statement of Financial Responsibility. She has an in depth knowledge of student loans and expertise in managing student loan collectors. She earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Accounting from MGSC in 2006 and her MBA from Mercer University in 2011. She is a Bibb County foster parent and enjoys spending time with her husband and 4 children.


Paul Schaaf

Cyber Task Force Coordinator, Pheonix FBI

Special Agent Paul Schaaf is a Cyber Agent assigned to the FBI Phoenix Division. SA Schaaf has a Masters Degree in Computer Information Systems and Bachelors Degree in Finance. SA Schaaf worked in computer systems in the financial sector before joining the FBI in 2003. SA Schaaf has worked Cyber, White Collar Fraud, Civil Rights, Extortion, Intellectual Property and Innocent Images cases in his career. SA Schaaf is the FBI Cyber Task Force Coordinator for the Phoenix Division and Co-Coordinator to the Infragard program focusing on Cyber matters. SA Schaaf has the unique distinction of having the first Spam Case go to trial which involved an international spam operation that operated out of 4 countries.


Robert Schuerger

President, Schuerger Law Firm

Mr. Schuerger is the founder and lead attorney for the Law Offices of Robert A. Schuerger Co., LPA, one of Ohio’s top performing Collections Law Firms that has a nationwide presence. His 9 plus years of experience in debt collection includes working for government and private clients, including public and private universities, U.S. Departments of Education and Justice and the State of Ohio. His collection experience includes handling a variety of matters in addition to student debt including tax, medical and general receivables. Robert Schuerger is invested in ensuring the success of his staff and the firm through an emphasis on customer service, performance and accountability.

In addition to his collection and litigation experience, he has spent extensive time in International Business, Government Relations and Business Development. He graduated from The Ohio State University and received his law degree from Capital University.


Vincent A. Simonelli

Director of Student Loans and Collections, Boston University

Vincent Simonelli is the Director of Student Loans and Collections at Boston University and as such is required to establish departmental goals and create and implement all collection and compliance procedures for both departments. He has been there, “on a temporary basis” for the last 38 years, serving in a variety of roles, all involved in some form of Receivables management. He continues to work while waiting for that big break as he writes the next great American novel.


Torri Williams

Director of Student Accounts, Georgia State University

Torri Williams has worked in higher education for sixteen years. Her experience ranges from Admissions, Registration, and Orientation at Georgia Southern University where she also earned her Bachelor’s degree in Accounting. In 2009, Torri joined the Student Accounts team at Georgia State University. She is currently the Director of Student Accounts where she oversees daily operations. She has successfully worked with her team to implement several projects and policy improvements related to Fee Assessment, Sponsored Billing, Refunds, Payment Plans and most recently Outreach and Collections. Torri currently serves on several committees at Georgia State to include the Technology Roadmap team, Quality Assurance, and the Risk Assessment taskforce. She believes in leveraging technology to deal with the continuous demands of higher education in order to assist students and parents in managing their finances. Terri's motto is simple, Have HEART: Hear the Student, Earn their trust, Analyze the situation, Relate to the Student, and Thrive to resolve their concern. She believes this can be accomplished by creating processes that will promote Student Success.


Rob Yarmo

Executive Vice President, Harvest Strategy Group

Rob is a 37 year veteran of the Accounts Receivable Management Industry. Prior to joining Harvest Strategy Group in 2011, Rob worked in an executive and senior capacity for a number of national and international collection agencies and call centers in the US, Canada and India. While he started his career in sales, Rob has extensive experience managing operations, marketing and client services.

Since forming a consulting company 8 years ago, Rob and his associates have also provided a wide range of consulting services for Harvest Strategy Group and a number of prominent collection agencies and technology companies in Canada and the United States.

In his full time capacity for Harvest Strategy Group as an Executive Vice President, Rob oversees marketing and sales and is a core member of the leadership group, having lead the strategic direction and growth strategy of the company. Rob has established and manages the majority of client partnerships. He has attended the Professional Development Group’s Student Loan and Bursar’s Conferences and is well versed in the student loan and campus based collections industry.

Rob is a married father of 5 kids, with ages ranging from 28 to 37 and astonishingly despite all kids either married or in long term committed relationships, sadly, has no grandchildren.