DES Presenter Biographies

This page contains an alpha-ordered listing of the 2023 Deaf Employment Summit presenters and their biographies. Consult the schedule for dates and times of their presentations.

Gary Behm

Headshot of Gary BehmGary W. Behm is Associate Vice President for NTID Academic Affairs, and Director of RIT/NTID Center on Access Technology Innovation Laboratory, National Technical Institute for the Deaf, Rochester Institute of Technology.

Gary Behm attests that NTID is centered around student and faculty/staff success from enrollment through degree/certificate completion and for job placement after graduation. Academic Affairs is a collaborative organization that includes academic departments, an academic advising department, NTID Co-op and Career Center, and the division of Communication Assessment. He leads a leadership team of 10 chairpersons, three associate deans, and two assistant deans to oversee over 245 faculty and staff.

Gary Behm has been teaching and directing the Center on Access Technology Innovation Laboratory at NTID for twelve years. He is a deaf engineer who retired from IBM after serving for 30 years. He is a development engineering and manufacturing content expert. He has developed and taught all related engineering courses. His responsibilities as a director of the Center on Access Technology Innovation Laboratory include the planning, implementation, and dissemination of research projects that are related to the need for accessibility. In addition to his responsibilities, he manages RIT projects and is a subcontractor for the IRIS’s vision, an equivalent access venue for Deaf, hard of hearing, and Deaf-blind individuals. He received his BS from RIT and an MS from Lehigh University. His last assignment with IBM was as an Advanced Process Control project manager. He managed team members in delivering the next-generation Advanced Process Control solution which replaced the legacy APC system in the 300 mm semiconductor fabricator. Gary Behm holds sixteen US patents and three international patents. He has presented over 50 scientific and technical papers at various professional conferences worldwide.

Dr. Carrie Lou Bloom

Headshot of Carrie Lou BloomCarrie Lou Bloom, PhD, is an Assistant Professor of Practice in the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy at the University of Texas at Austin. She co-directs the National Deaf Center on Postsecondary Outcomes and is the principal investigator for the federally funded grant. Dr. Bloom holds masters' degrees in Deaf Studies and Deaf Education, and Program Evaluation, and her PhD in Educational Psychology was completed at the University of Texas at Austin. Her research focuses on the psychological factors involved with transition, and strategies for mitigating systemic disparities that impact deaf communities. Dr. Bloom has led the development of many peer-reviewed publications, data reports, technical reports, and research translations from English to ASL. Her work seeks to counter commonly held narratives about deaf people that are built on a deficit perspective. Dr. Bloom advocates for examining the deficits within systems, then changing the systems — not the people.

Taja Brown

Headshot of Taja BrownTaja Brown has a rich background in human resources and talent acquisition. She spent the first five years of her professional career working in the human resources department of Northrop Grumman, a global aerospace, defense, and security company and then stepped into her role as HR Manager at Gallaudet University before joining CSD as the Director of Human Resources and Employment Services. As a leader, Taja is committed to fostering a positive and inclusive work environment that values diversity and promotes equal opportunity for all employees. She has experience in designing and delivering training programs to support employee development and build a culture of continuous learning. Taja holds a Bachelor's degree in Business Management and another in Psychology. She is also a member of the Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM). In her downtime, Taja is a self-proclaimed taco connoisseur who enjoys painting, writing, and spending time with her family, friends, and dogs.

Dr. Gerard Buckley

Headshot of Gerard BuckleyDr. Gerard Buckley has more than 30 years of experience in higher education, including more than 20 years serving in a variety of capacities at NTID. From 1990 to 1993, Buckley served as chairperson and assistant professor of the Department of Educational Outreach at NTID, followed by five years as director of NTID's Center for Outreach and assistant professor on the RIT/NTID Social Work Support Team. From 1998 to 2003, he served as NTID associate dean for student services, and held the position of NTID assistant vice president for college advancement with responsibility for the admissions, placement, marketing, and outreach operations of the college from 2004 until beginning his role as President of NTID and Vice President of RIT on January 1, 2011.

Dr. Buckley has maintained an active teaching portfolio over the past 20 years. He was awarded tenure in 1998. He has twice been awarded the NTID Faculty/Staff Humanitarian Award by the NTID Student Congress, and was named Distinguished Alumnus for NTID in 1985 and for RIT's College of Liberal Arts in 1996.

>He has served as President of the Board of the American Deafness and Rehabilitation Association and as President of the Lexington School for the Deaf Board of Trustees in New York City. He also has served on the National Advisory Board of NIH's Institute on Deafness at the recommendation of Senator Robert Dole (retired).

Buckley holds a Social Work from RIT/NTID, an M.S.W. from University of Missouri and an Ed.D. in Special Education from the University of Kansas.

He is a native of St. Louis, MO. He and his wife, Judy, live outside of Rochester, N.Y. They have three adult children and six grandchildren.

Brianne Burger

Headshot of Brianne BurgerBrianne Burger’s first federal position was with the Administration for Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (AIDD) at the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), where she supported the administration of the National Network of University Centers for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities Education, Research, and Service (UCEDD); the National Training Initiative on the Consortium to Enhance Postsecondary Education for Individuals with Developmental Disabilities; and the Protection & Advocacy services for people with disabilities. Before joining federal service, Brianne coordinated several federal grants for Gallaudet University to create new accommodations, education methods, and trainings for people with a variety of disabilities through the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR), National Science Foundation (NSF), and the Department of Education.

Brianne has more than 25 years of experience in vocational services on employment and educational development for people with disabilities. Her in-depth knowledge of public policy with disabilities led to her appointment as the Americans with Disabilities Act Access Coordinator for the 2004 Democratic National Convention, the 2010 VSA International Arts and Disability Festival, and as Vice Chair of the WMATA Accessibility Advisory Council. Brianne is a member of the 2013 Class of the New Leaders Council’s Washington DC Chapter.

Brianne has a bachelor's degree in Communication Studies from California State University, Northridge, a master's degree in Administration and Supervision from Gallaudet University, and a master's certificate in Media Management from Emerson College. When Brianne is not travelling, she resides in Washington, DC, with her family.

The Honorable Malik Evans

Headshot of Malik EvansMalik D. Evans is the 71st Mayor of Rochester. As the leader of the City’s executive branch, Mayor Evans is committed to promoting positive, systemic and structural change by providing transparent and collaborative leadership, offering equitable access to essential municipal services, enabling productive intergovernmental, private, and non-profit partnerships, and promoting increased quality of life through investments that create vibrant neighborhoods and employment opportunities, making Rochester a hope-filled city with an exciting future. He was inaugurated on Jan. 1, 2022.

Mayor Evans was born and raised in the city and graduated from Wilson Magnet High School before going on to earn his Bachelor’s degree from the University of Rochester and his Master’s degree from Nazareth College. The son of parents who were committed to civic activism, Mayor Evans’ dual callings in elected office and the banking industry share the complementary ambitions to help others and share prosperity. Mayor Evans’ interest in public service can be traced back to his days as a high school student, when he launched a City-County Youth Council to help young people develop an interest in community advocacy.

Mayor Evans’ career in elected office began at the age of 23, when he became the youngest person ever elected to the Rochester Board of Education. He served in that role until 2017, including as President of the Board from 2008 to 2013. It was at the School Board that he adopted a mantra that would guide all future decisions in elected office: “We can find solutions to our most pressing challenges by focusing on finding common ground.” In 2017 he was elected to an at-large seat on the Rochester City Council and held the position through 2021, serving as chair of the Finance Committee.

Prior to becoming Mayor, Mayor Evans worked as an officer in the banking industry for more than 20 years, holding various leadership positions at M&T Bank Corporation and ESL Federal Credit Union. He developed a focus to ensure the financial sector responded to the needs of all customers with equity and fairness by ensuring all individuals and businesses have access to the knowledge, tools and information that will help them build a stronger financial future. His community involvement included various boards and commissions such as Rochester Area Community Foundation Board of Directors and a founding board member of the Commissary Downtown Kitchen Incubator for foodservice entrepreneurs in Upstate New York. Mayor Evans also served on the Board of Trustees at the Rochester Museum and Science Center, Path Stone Enterprise Center, RIT’s Center for Urban Entrepreneurship Advisory, and the Wilmot Cancer Institute.

Mayor Evans and his wife Shawanda are the proud parents of two sons. Evans enjoys spending time with his family, attending concerts, and traveling to new places.

Amy Gomme

Headshot of Amy GommeAmy Gomme is a native Latinx Deaf New Mexican who was born and raised in the rural region of Northern New Mexico. She also is a first-generation Mexican-American on her mother’s side, coming from a family that immigrated from Mexico. She descendents from a family of numerous Deaf members who have resided in the New Mexico and Arizona area for generations. Amy is a graduate of New Mexico School for the Deaf before continuing on and graduating from the Rochester Institute of Technology with a Bachelor of Science. Prior to working for the Deaf Counseling Advocacy and Referral Agency (DCARA), Amy worked for the Community Outreach Program for the Deaf in New Mexico, starting out as a Job Developer and working her way up to Program Director. Amy currently works as the Executive Director at the Deaf Counseling Advocacy and Referral Agency (DCARA) where she was previously the Deputy Director. Amy also served on the board for the National Association of the Deaf (NAD), first elected in 2018 as the Region IV Board member and then as Vice President in 2020. During her term, Amy was involved with the Internal Transformative Committee and the Dismantling Racism committee. Amy is incredibly passionate about giving back to the community, especially the one she grew up in. With this passion for her community, she took on multiple roles through the years in her local community as she grew into a leader, these included three local community organizations the New Mexico Association of the Deaf as president, Raíces del Rio Grande (a Latinx Deaf organization) as Vice President, and the New Mexico School for the Deaf Alumni Association, starting with being a secretary and then President. Amy is an avid sports fan, with a goal of touching every sports stadium in the U.S. She has already been to 12 ballparks in the U.S.! Amy is also a passionate geek with a love for Star Wars, Star Trek, Lord of the Rings, and more! She even has a cute doggie named BB-8!

Pronouns: She/Her/Hers

Claudia Gordon

Headshot of Claudia GordonClaudia Gordon is a dedicated advocate for people with disabilities with nearly 30 years of versatile professional expertise, with a personal mission to level the playing field and ensure the same opportunities are provided for all. She currently serves as the Senior Accessibility Strategist with T-Mobile US, Inc. In this role, she drives strategies for a disability inclusive culture and an accessible plus equitable work environment. Gordon has held senior leadership positions with Sprint Corporation, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the National Council on Disability, and the National Association of the Deaf Law and Advocacy Center. During the Obama-Biden Administration, Gordon served as the Chief of Staff for the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs and the Associate Director of Public Engagement for the White House Office of Public Engagement.

Adding to Gordon’s professional expertise is her lived experience as an immigrant at the intersections of race, disability, and gender, which is the foundation for the strong emphasis on disabled individuals with multiple marginalized identities that she brings to her work. For her unrelenting commitment to advocacy, compliance, civic engagement, and mentoring, Gordon has been recognized by the American Association of People with Disabilities, Google, AT&T Humanity of Connection, National Disability Mentoring Coalition, National Association of the Deaf, National Black Deaf Advocates, and The Root 100.

Gordon is a native of Jamaica and a graduate of Howard University plus the American University’s Washington College of Law. A member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., she finds joy in empowering women and girls with disabilities to own and stand confidently in their otherness. In addition to a penchant for fashion, Gordon enjoys creating memorable experiences through hosting gatherings, traveling, and exploring the great outdoors.

The Honorable Tom Harkin

Headshot of Tom HarkinSenator Tom Harkin (retired). In 1974, Tom Harkin was elected to Congress from Iowa's Fifth Congressional District. His energetic, person-to-person campaign carried the day against an incumbent in a long- standing Republican district. In 1984, after serving 10 years in the U.S. House of Representatives, Senator Harkin challenged an incumbent senator and won. Iowans returned him to the Senate in 1990, 1996, 2002, and 2008. Senator Harkin made history by becoming the first Iowa Democrat to win a consecutive second term in the U.S. Senate, and to date is the longest serving elected Democrat in Congress in Iowa history. He retired from the United States Senate in January 2015.

As a young senator, Tom was tapped by Senator Ted Kennedy to craft legislation to protect the civil rights of millions of Americans with physical and mental disabilities. He knew firsthand about the challenges facing people with disabilities from his late brother, Frank, who was deaf from an early age. What emerged from that process would later become his signature legislative achievement — The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

The ADA has become known as the "Emancipation Proclamation for people with disabilities." The legislation changed the landscape of America by requiring buildings and transportation to be wheelchair accessible, and to provide workplace accommodations for people with disabilities. To preserve the intent of the ADA after several court rulings weakened its standards, Senator Harkin and Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) introduced the ADA Amendments bill to ensure continuing protections from discrimination for all Americans with disabilities. It was signed into law in September 2008. For his ongoing and dedicated work to people with disabilities around the world, Senator Harkin was twice nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.

In September 2009, Senator Harkin became chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee. As chairman, he played a critical role in the passage of the Affordable Care Act. In 2015, Senator Harkin and Ruth Harkin established The Harkin Institute for Public Policy & Citizen Engagement at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, to inform citizens, inspire creative cooperation, and catalyze change on issues of social justice, fairness, and opportunity. The Institute works to improve the lives of all Americans by giving policymakers access to high quality information and engaging citizens as active participants in the formation of public policy.

Tom Harkin was born in Cumming, Iowa (pop. 150) on November 19, 1939, the son of an Iowa coal miner father and a Slovenian immigrant mother. To this day, he still lives in the house in Cumming where he was born. In 1968, Tom married Ruth Raduenz, the daughter of a farmer and a school teacher from Minnesota. Tom and Ruth have two daughters, Amy and Jenny, and four grandchildren.

Andy Imparato

Headshot of Andy ImparatoAndy Imparato is a disability rights lawyer and policy professional who has been working inside and outside government to advance policies and practices to improve employment outcomes for people with disabilities for over 30 years. His perspective is informed by his lived experience with bipolar disorder. He is the executive director of Disability Rights California, a $44 million legal services and policy advocacy organization based in Sacramento with 26 offices across California. Since 2016, he has led the planning for four international summits on disability employment that have attracted participation from over 40 countries. He has been an advisor on disability inclusion and accessibility to a number of large employers, including Walmart, Verizon, AT&T, Microsoft, IBM, Walgreens, and SAP.

Leah Katz-Hernandez

Headshot of Leah Katz-HernandezCurrently Senior Manager, CEO Platform & Communities at Microsoft, Leah Katz-Hernandez previously held the position of Senior Operations Coordinator, or West Wing Receptionist, for President Barack Obama. The first ever Deaf person to hold the position, she was appointed to the West Wing after serving in First Lady Michelle Obama’s communications office. Throughout her career in the tech industry and in the public sector, Katz-Hernandez has consistently used her specialty knowledge to urge equal access for the deaf, disability, and Latinx-Hispanic communities.

Leah earned her Professional M.A. in Strategic Communication from American University and a B.A. in Government from Gallaudet University. In 2018, Leah contributed a chapter to the book "WEST WINGERS: Stories From The Dream Chasers, Change Makers, and Hope Creators Inside The Obama White House," edited by Gautam Raghavan and published by Penguin Random House.

Dr. Denise Kavin

Headshot of Denise KavinDenise Kavin serves as Assistant Dean for Admissions and STEM Outreach at RIT/NTID which includes oversight for Admissions, Pre-College Outreach, Project Fast Forward, and the NTID Regional STEM Center (NRSC).

Denise is also an instructional faculty member with NTID’s Department of Liberal Studies, teaching in their new LEAD (Inclusive Leadership and Community Development) program. During her twenty years at NTID, previous positions that Denise has held include Special Assistant to the NTID President for Strategic Decisions 2020 and Study Abroad Programming; Associate Director, Postsecondary Education Programs Network- Northeast; Senior Project Associate, Postsecondary Education Network-International; and Employment Advisor, Center on Employment. She also served for nearly ten years as Coordinator of Deaf/hard of hearing services at Harper College in Palatine, Illinois.

Denise Kavin holds an Ed.D. in Leadership and Educational Policy Studies from Northern Illinois University, a M.S. in Education and Social Policy from Northwestern University, a M.S. in Secondary education of the Deaf, from NTID/RIT, and a B.A. in Communication Arts and Psychology from Gallaudet University. She also holds certification from the Training Program on Administration of Programs serving Deaf, Hard of Hearing, and Late Deafened Adults at San Diego State University.

Holly Ketchum

Headshot of Holly KetchumHolly Ketchum, a native of Little Rock, obtained her undergraduate degree in Psychology from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock (UALR) and her Master’s degree in Rehabilitation Counseling from the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville. Since 2001, she has worked as a Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor and Services for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Coordinator at Arkansas Rehabilitation Services. In addition to her work, she serves on the Advisory Council for the Telecommunication Access Program (TAP). She had served on the Advisory board for Interpreters between Hearing individuals and Individuals who are deaf and Hard of Hearing for 4 years. She had served as an officer and board member with the Arkansas Association of the Deaf (AAD) for more than 25 years, and, she had served as a board member for the National Association of the Deaf for almost six years. She has taught ASL courses for the Interpreter Education Program at the UALR since 2001.

John Macko

Headshot of John MackoJohn R. Macko is director of the Co-op and Career Center at Rochester Institute of Technology’s (RIT) National Technical Institute for the Deaf (NTID).

In this capacity, he is responsible for developing and enhancing employment opportunities for deaf and hard-of-hearing students and graduates of RIT. Mr. Macko is responsible for a staff of nine employees and with that team works with students and employers to prepare students to find co-ops and full-time jobs and to assist employers in feeling comfortable working with deaf and hard-of-hearing employees.

As part of this effort, Mr. Macko has presented hundreds of workshops to federal agencies, large and small companies, and non-profit organizations. The workshop entitled “Working Together: Deaf and Hearing People” gives employers the experience of being deaf and hard-of-hearing and the opportunity to learn various communication strategies they can apply in the workplace.

During his 29-year career at RIT, he has taught job search classes, been an employment advisor for students seeking co-ops and permanent jobs, and appeared as an expert guest on radio, TV, and Webinar programs.

Mr. Macko, who is a member of the National Association of Colleges and Employers, holds a bachelor’s degree in Finance and a master’s degree in Human Resources, both from Rochester Institute of Technology. After working in finance at The Prudential Financial Asset Management Company, Mr. Macko returned to RIT for a graduate degree in human resources which fulfilled his desire to contribute to the career and life success of young deaf and hard-of-hearing people.

The Honorable Joseph Morelle

Headshot of Joe MorelleCongressman Joe Morelle is proud to represent New York’s 25th Congressional District, which includes almost the entirety of Monroe County. A lifelong resident of Upstate New York, Congressman Morelle is a former small business owner and previously served as the Majority Leader of the New York State Assembly before being elected to Congress in 2018.

Throughout his career, Congressman Morelle has worked diligently to improve and expand access to healthcare for all people, grow our economy, and create opportunity for Monroe County families. He continues that work through his service on the Committee on Appropriations and as Ranking Member of the Committee on House Administration.

Dr. Khadijat Rashid

Headshot of Khadijat RashidKhadijat Rashid is currently Dean of the Faculty at Gallaudet University. In the course of her career at Gallaudet, she has served as Chair of the Department of Business, Chair of the University Faculty and the Faculty Senate, and Dean of the School of Education, Business and Human Services before assuming her present role in Spring 2020. In 2010, President Obama appointed her as a White House Fellow, where she worked closely with senior government officials. She also was appointed by the Maryland governor to serve on the board for the Maryland School for the Deaf from 2008-2014. Dr. Rashid has published scholarly articles and book chapters and is the co-author of Citizenship, Politics, Difference: Perspectives from Sub-Saharan African Communities (2015). She has presented widely, including at the World Bank, the United Nations, the State Department, the US Agency for International Development, the World Federation of the Deaf, and the White House. She has a PhD in International Relations with specializations in economic policy and development from American University and an MBA from the University of Maryland. Dr. Rashid is a proud alumna of Gallaudet University, Class of 1990.

Howard Rosenblum

Headshot of Howard RosenblumHoward A. Rosenblum is the Chief Executive Officer of the National Association of the Deaf (NAD). He also serves as the Legal Director, and works closely with the NAD lawyers on policy advocacy and litigation work. Mr. Rosenblum has been a lawyer for over thirty years, including: twelve years at the NAD; nine years as a Senior Attorney at Equip for Equality, a nonprofit organization in Illinois; and ten years with a private law firm. He currently serves as the legal advisor to the World Federation of the Deaf. In 2010 and again in 2014, he was appointed by President Obama to serve on the U.S. Access Board. Mr. Rosenblum received his law degree from IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law (1992), and his Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Engineering from the University of Arizona (1988).

Dr. Julie Tibbitt

Headshot of Julie TibbittDr. Julie Tibbitt is currently the inaugural Director of Gallaudet University's Office for Career Success. She has worked in a variety of teaching and administrative positions across the K-12 and higher education fields. She holds a special interest in empowering lifelong learners through accessibility, administration, agency and assessment.

Scott Van Nice

Headshot of Scott Van NiceScott Van Nice is an IT Director at Procter & Gamble. He has a background in cybersecurity where he manages a global group of forensic analysts and serves as Procter & Gamble’s electronic discovery subject matter expert. Scott is also licensed to practice law in the state of Ohio.

Outside of Procter & Gamble, Scott teaches as an adjunct professor which includes digital forensics, electronic discovery law, and cybersecurity law. He resides in Ohio and is married with two young boys.

Assistant Secretary Taryn Williams

Headshot of Taryn WilliamsTaryn Mackenzie Williams is the Assistant Secretary of Labor for Disability Employment Policy. In this position, she advises the Secretary of Labor on how the Department’s policies and programs impact the employment of people with disabilities and leads the Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP), which works with employers and all levels of government to promote evidence-based policy that improves employment opportunities and outcomes for people with disabilities.

Previously, Williams was the managing director for the Poverty to Prosperity Program at American Progress, which works on progressive policies focused on a broad range of anti-poverty strategies. Before joining American Progress, she worked at ODEP on a variety of issues related to education, workforce policy, Social Security, Medicaid and civil rights. In her role as director of youth policy, Williams led agency efforts to coordinate education and employment policy in support of improved labor force outcomes for disabled youth. From 2014 through 2016, Williams served as ODEP’s chief of staff. She also undertook detail assignments as associate director for public engagement and liaison to the disability community at the White House from 2014 through 2015 and as a policy adviser on the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions from 2012 through 2013.

Prior to joining the federal government, Williams worked as the research coordinator for leadership programs at the Institute for Educational Leadership and as the director of programs at the National Association of Urban Debate Leagues headquartered in Chicago. She holds a bachelor’s degree in public policy from Brown University and a master’s degree in education with a concentration in administration, planning, and social policy from Harvard University. She resides in Washington, DC.

Melissa Yingst

Headshot of Melissa YingstAll communities have hidden narratives, and Melissa Elmira Yingst is all about finding and bringing awareness to them, especially when they celebrate women and muxeristas.

As a child in Southern California, she sought for deep connections with other people. As she grew, she realized she wanted to do something more. She ventured off to Gallaudet University to earn her Bachelor’s in Psychology, and to Arizona State University for her Master’s in Social Work.Since then, she held different positions as a social worker and school counselor in New York City and Phoenix. She currently teaches at CSUN and works at Convo as an Outreach Strategist. She recently completed her terms as a board member for Council de Manos and Deaf Women United, where she worked on numerous projects to dismantle white supremacy practices. She also is the co-founder of Alma de Muxeristas, an organization for muxeristas who are Deaf, DeafBlind, Deaf Disabled, Late-Deafened, or Hard of Hearing.

Now back home in Los Angeles with her signature red lipstick (which gives her powers) and her brown Chicana self, she is ready to take on the world with Melmira, her new show!