Meet the Event Garde Team
Our clients think of us as a strategic partner who doesn’t just work for them—but works with them, as an extension of their team.
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Our clients think of us as a strategic partner who doesn’t just work for them—but works with them, as an extension of their team.
Aaron Wolowiec is a learning strategist and meetings coach for leading trade associations and individual membership societies across the United States. Committed to the latest research and trends on learning, intentional networking environments and meaningful transfer exercises, he launched Event Garde, a professional development consultancy, in 2011.
Aaron earned a master’s degree in administration from Central Michigan University (CMU). He’s also a certified association executive (CAE), a certified meeting professional (CMP) and a certified tourism ambassador (CTA), as well as an Association for Talent Development (ATD) master instructional designer.
An active member of the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE), Aaron is past chairman of both the Professional Development Section Council (PDSC) and the Young Association Executives Committee (YAEC), as well as a 2009-2011 Diversity Executive Leadership Program (DELP) scholar.
Currently, he serves the Michigan Society of Association Executives (MSAE) as a top-rated Academy of Association Management faculty member on professional development and as the lead CMP Prep Course instructional designer/facilitator. Aaron is also a nationally recognized presenter on professional development, meetings and events-related topics.
His contributions to the meetings industry earned Aaron the Convention Industry Council’s (CIC) top #CMP30 Influencer Award in 2015. Likewise, he’s served on the Michigan Meetings + Events editorial advisory board and has written a regular column for the magazine called, “The Meetings Coach.”
In addition to maintaining the Event Garde blog, featured in both Alltop and Association Universe, Aaron has contributed to such national publications as Association Adviser, Associations Now, BizBash and Meetings & Conventions.
When he isn’t traveling, Aaron enjoys exploring the local food and drink scene, as well as transforming his 1912 Spanish Revival house into a tranquil home. He is currently co-writing a learner engagement e-book and pursuing certification as a Technology of Participation (ToP) facilitator with the Institute of Cultural Affairs.
Aaron lives in Kalamazoo, Michigan.
Jennifer Amin is a membership and client relations professional who works with associations and membership organizations to build and streamline their membership processes to ensure successful engagement, retention and member acquisition.
Jennifer began her career as an agent and publicist in the music industry where she managed media relations, as well as tour and album release publicity for several world-renowned musicians. She also negotiated crossover roles for musicians in television, Broadway and film.
Jennifer decided to leave the entertainment industry and transitioned her relationship management skills into
leading successful development, engagement and retention campaigns within membership organizations. She most notably led business development efforts for the ultra-high net worth, global membership organization, Institute for Private Investors. She is consistently recognized for her ability to identify current
and future needs within customer relations and member services, including growth strategies, member benefits and programs, and retention techniques.
Jennifer has studied at New York University and the Wharton School of Business.
Born and raised in the foothills of Colorado, she spent eight years living and working in New York City. In 2016, Jennifer relocated to the D.C. area with her husband and three pets, and is now enjoying the slower pace of suburban life. In her spare time, Jennifer enjoys painting, traveling, hiking and camping, and is also an avid scuba diver.
Jennifer enjoys learning via programs and webinars through ASAE, Associations Now magazine and blog, Membership Marketing Blog, Private Club Magazine, AMA, LinkedIn, seminars/panels and connecting with peers.
Jennifer primarily networks via ASAE’s Collaborate, local association meetup groups, women’s leadership groups, regional chambers and various networking events in the area.
Jennifer likes to continuously learn and tweak her methodologies, often by trial and error. She says, “You come across something new and determine if it would be applicable for a current project or challenge. I also like to learn from others in my field, observe their successes and how they got there, and then transfer it to my current work.”
East Lansing, MI
Lindsay is an experienced meeting facilitator with over a decade of experience working with multidisciplinary groups, assisting them with goal setting/action planning, and creating an engaging environment that allows for consensus building. She has worked with professionals from both the public and private sector to help them work towards gaining common vision and achieve their goals. Lindsay is known for working with challenging groups to conduct needs assessments, system’s analysis and work together to co-create actionable recommendations for improvement. Lindsay is also an experienced public speaker and trainer, presenting at national conferences on a variety of topics related to overall system change and how to engage with communities.
Lindsay is a graduate of Michigan State University with both her bachelors and masters in Social Work. She is licensed by the State of Michigan in both clinical and macro level social work. Lindsay was recently elected Treasurer of the Technology of Participation Network Board.
Avid reader who is continually engaging in continuing education opportunities to grow and expand her skill set.
Lindsay attends professional conferences and has recently co-launched a facilitation Community of Practice to enhance networking and connection for facilitators in Michigan.
Lindsay attends trainings and industry conferences regularly to stay connected to the leaders in the field as well as the latest research. Lindsay also has extensive experience presenting her work of translating data into action and working with multidisciplinary groups at national conferences and symposiums.
Lindsay enjoys reading, spending time with her three children, husband and friends. She also enjoys her escape from reality, her Pure Barre classes.
St. Clair Shores, MI
Early in her career, Kate served as association coordinator for the Michigan Association of Secondary School Principals, where she managed two associations and focused on developing leadership students and advisers. Coordinating about 40 conferences, meetings and camps annually gave her extensive experiences in event and information management. On top of the conferences, boards, marketing, membership and other duties that came with the job, Kate was also responsible for the association’s in-house technology projects and websites. Then she had kids! “To make a long story short, I exited the world of long hours, overnights and weekends at an association and traded it for world of longer hours, nights and weekends working for myself - but with kids underfoot.” During early motherhood, Kate focused on consulting for clients from both business and association worlds on technology tools, as well as computer tech support, website development, and database management. Now she works with Event Garde clients on their conventions, exhibitions, technology projects and more!
One of the things I looked forward to after completing my bachelor’s degree was having time to read for fun – for myself. I mostly enjoy reading books that focus on professional development and self-improvement. Reading time is hard to come by so I try to follow resourceful people and topics across the different media platforms. On Flipboard, I love reading articles about education, productivity, motivation, happiness, decision-making, teaching, and mindfulness. On Twitter, I recommend following @EventGeek, @CharlieCurve, @coolmomtech, @FastCoLead, @FastCompany, and, of course, @EventGardeLLC.
When I’m not working, my “spare” hours are often loaded with family events and things that revolve around my children. And given everything people have going on these days, interesting discussions usually still arise about workflow, processes or other frustrations. I enjoy helping people become more efficient and effective. I love seeing productivity and organization in action. I try to infuse that into all of my relationships and conversations.
When I come across something that truly strikes me, something that I want to wrap up into how I work and what I do, I want to be reminded of it every time I sit down at my desk. I will post things on my whiteboard as reminders. I have to experience it and incorporate it with consistency. I learn by diving in, and I transfer by doing.
I have four children. I don’t need pets. Unless someone finds me a dog that won’t shed, will clean up all dropped crumbs, will train itself, is kid-friendly and doesn’t bark incessantly.
Grand Rapids, MI
B.A., Calvin College
M.B.A., Grand Valley State University
I’ve worked in accounting for more than 30 years, starting at Calvin College, my Alma Mater, in 1983. After spending 18 years there, I changed jobs to work at Stepping Stones Montessori School and began my master’s studies at Grand Valley State University. Shortly after earning my degree in 2007 I started working for Grand Rapids Public Schools in their human resources office. I started my own accounting company – Tim Berghuis, Accountant – as a part-time venture while I changed jobs to work at the West Michigan Environmental Action Council (WMEAC). In 2014 I finally realized my dream to become completely self-employed. My wife, Jill, and I also run an AirBNB operation from our home in the lively Eastown neighborhood of Grand Rapids, Michigan.
I preach best practices when it comes to QuickBooks and accounting work, so it’s important to me to stay informed on the latest in regulations and technology. I’ve always been interested in researching my clients’ questions and I am drawn (Go Math Club!) to the numbers side of business operations.
I enjoy leveraging both Facebook and LinkedIn to network.
With QuickBooks tutoring, I show people how to accomplish the tasks necessary to run their operations. So my ability to support client transfer is usually face-to-face and one-on-one. I move from the general (e.g., always balance your business checkbook because that is the key task to running a business) to the specific (e.g., here are the 10 steps from start to finish on how you should balance your checkbook).
Born in Grand Rapids and raised in South Windsor, Connecticut. Returned to the nest to attend college and never left.
Alina is a Certified Association Executive (CAE) with extensive experience in the credentialing industry. Most recently, she served as business development director for a test vendor where she assisted certification and licensure programs in their missions to positively impact, serve and measure applicant competency through verified assessment practices, innovative delivery solutions and support services. Prior to entering the testing arena, Alina served the not-for-profit sector, enriching customer service, educational programs and professional development programs with her knowledge and enthusiasm.
As director of certification for the American Culinary Federation (ACF), Alina was responsible for the day-to-day operations of the certification department for more than 12,000 certificants. She oversaw certification products, delivery operations, candidate compliance, exam development, accreditation activities, vendor contracts/relationships and reporting.
Alina also managed the Business Law and Workers Compensation Sections of The Florida Bar. She was responsible for meeting planning, budgets, continuing legal education programs, certification and various membership development functions. During her tenure at The Florida Bar, she gained valuable knowledge in program planning, development, marketing and communication, and developed a deep appreciation for volunteer boards.
Alina is a proud graduate of Florida State University with a B.S. in Communication.
As a Navy Brat, hometowns change frequently. So Alina likes to call Tallahassee, FL her hometown since it was there that she grew up (both personally and professionally).
As a self-proclaimed “life-long learner,” Alina gleans information from numerous blogs, whitepapers, newsletters and magazines, as well as from personal, hands-on, active learning experiences. Alina is also an avid Audible listener and reader, often devouring several books at any given time. Likewise, she enjoys attending webinars, conferences and meetings/discussions on various topics of interest.
For Alina, networking is vital. She’s harnessed networking via social platforms and enjoys participating in ASAE, FSAE and IABC programs, as well as connecting locally via the Clay County and Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce.
Alina enjoys taking a new skill or knowledge area and putting it to work immediately. It could be as simple as utilizing “the word of the day” in her vocabulary. Transferring the newly acquired skill into daily practice helps hone understanding and harnesses her ongoing growth and development.
Jenny manages Event Garde’s social media presence by regularly posting to Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. Additionally, she maintains thousands of contacts in the firm’s database. Jenny earned a Bachelor of Science degree from Central Michigan University (CMU) and is a Certified Tourism Ambassador (CTA) for Greater Lansing. When not supporting Event Garde clients, Jenny spoils her dogs, Mylee and Lillie.
I scour the Internet daily for articles and blogs on learning trends and research to pass on through our various social media platforms.
I attend Lansing CTA functions at least once a month and enjoy the opportunity to network with planners, suppliers and other community members during those functions.
Any new takeaways I learn about social media I like to implement right away. I then evaluate on an ongoing basis whether or not the change has impacted engagement.
I enjoy reading – usually human interest or suspense. I also enjoy relaxing and spending time with family and friends.
Two small mutts: Mylee & Lillie
Tracy is a graduate of the University of South Dakota and holds a master’s degree in English. She has spent the majority of her career in the high school classroom where she taught English and French courses. She has also designed and taught English courses for Madison College and the University of Wisconsin—Whitewater. Tracy is a self-proclaimed techie and has trained teachers K-12 on how to effectively integrate technology into the classroom. She is also a Level 1 certified CrossFit trainer and enjoys coaching others on lifting and mobility techniques.
Tracy was born and raised in Fairfax, South Dakota. Her family moved to Wisconsin in 2000, where they fell in love with everything Wisconsin.
Tracy reads professional articles and blogs daily. Her favorite is “the eLearning Coach,” but she also loves “Big Dog & Little Dog’s Performance Juxtaposition.” Tracy is an avid user of LinkedIn Learning, a member of Adobe and Articulate’s learning communities, and participates in webinars offered by the Adobe and Articulate communities.
On LinkedIn, Tracy is a member of the Freelance in Instructional Design and E-Learning Group. On Twitter, she follows some of the leading instructional designers in the field, including @tomkuhlmann,
@sladetim, @poojajaisingh and @amdchiasson.
Whenever she learns a new skill, the first question Tracy asks herself is, “How can I use this to enhance or create an engaging, effective learning experience?” She experiments with it and then asks learners about their experience. Most importantly, Tracy evaluates the integration to see if it helped the learners meet the objectives of that particular learning experience.
Ben is a graduate of Illinois State University and holds a master’s degree in communication. During his graduate work, Ben completed Illinois State’s instructor training program and conducted original research on athletes in crisis, family businesses and small group communication. In addition to his work with Event Garde, Ben is an instructor for the University of Wisconsin where he teaches courses to traditional and adult degree learners in communication, management and information technology. Ben is also a staff member for the Health Information, Management and Technology joint venture program between the University of Wisconsin System and Bellin College of nursing where he helps prepare the next generation of healthcare leaders. Ben enjoys producing educational and small business promotional videos and can often be found looking through the viewfinder of a video camera or cutting together the latest shots in the editing bay. Ben and his wife, Annie, are avid travelers. After visiting all seven continents, they are on to their next goal of kayaking in all of the world’s oceans.
I stay connected through webinars and research conducted by ASAE, ATD and NCA. I also participate in monthly faculty development through the University of Wisconsin.
I attend monthly and quarterly meetings of NCA and also attend ASAE events when I am able.
I am always testing new ideas and technologies in my work to identify unintended consequences, both good and bad, before implementing the latest and greatest for clients. I love testing and tweaking to find the perfect solution.
B.A. in Film/Video Production
Sara Krueger is a storyteller and activist with a knack for inspiring people of all backgrounds to join forces and create positive change in the world. In just 15 years, her bold leadership, strategic communications, and penchant for relationship-building have generated nearly $30M for innovative nonprofit programming in the mental health, art, and environmental sectors. Sara’s past organizations include: The Nature Conservancy, the City of Chicago’s Department of Cultural Affairs, Trilogy Behavioral Healthcare, and the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research.
Now as a consultant, Sara continues to help clients refine program metrics, streamline their operations, improve internal and external communications, and grow new business. She is passionate about incorporating health and wellness into the office environment as well, recognizing the powerful impact it can have on increasing employee productivity and retention. To this end, Sara completed her 200-hour Yoga & Meditation Training and will soon receive an additional certification in body-positivity and trauma-informed yoga. She plans to partner with companies on adopting more holistic approaches to the workplace that offer employees opportunities to make meaningful connections with their colleagues and learn about stress management and mindfulness practices.
Sara is currently pursuing a Master of Social Work degree from Loyola University to deepen her involvement in social justice work and expand access to care for those who need it most. This journey has already led to more than 100 hours of crisis intervention and advocacy training and nearly 150 hours of providing direct support to at-risk and homeless youth as well as survivors of sexual assault and adults with severe mental illness.
Sara spent her early years in Michigan farm country sneaking tractor rides and cozying up with books by a potbelly stove. She owes much of her artistic sensibilities to her late uncle, who introduced her impressionable six-year-old mind to David Lynch, Dr. Demento, German Expressionism, and 70’s science fiction. When Sara isn’t writing, working, or volunteering, she enjoys walking the shores of Lake Michigan, making elaborate meals and music mixes for friends, and hunting for her next piece of taxidermy jewelry. She lives in Chicago’s Rogers Park neighborhood with her husband Garrett and her two shelter rescues: a 17-year-old cat named Lando and a dachshund/beagle dog named Luna.
Sara is currently a volunteer/member at the following organizations:
Sara’s past organizations have included:
Sara stays abreast of the latest research and trends on learning through internet research, conferences/workshops, TED talks, local networking events, books, and articles.
Currently, Sara participates in the following networks/organizations:
Sara approaches everything she does from a holistic point of view, seeking to identify natural connections between each of her passions and then leveraging those talents collectively for bigger impacts. Sara enjoys strategizing, but also gains deep satisfaction from successfully implementing those big ideas on the ground. Sara’s professional experience has allowed her to easily shift between macro- and micro-level perspectives, helping to bridge gaps that might exist for others. Perhaps Sara’s most valuable skill is her ability to practice active listening and then to adapt in real-time to ask the right questions and get the job done.
Sara’s hobbies include:
Sara has two pets: LandoCalrissian (17 year old female tabby cat named after Billy D. Williams; blame my husband) and Luna Lovegood (5 year old dachshund/beagle mix named after a Harry Potter character). Both pets are adopted from a shelter.
Kristen joined Event Garde in June 2013 as digital content manager and is responsible for Event Garde’s various communication platforms, including the blog and newsletter. She also works for Michigan State University’s public relations office. Kristen is experienced in several key communication disciplines, including publications, print media, media relations, and issues communications. She is the former editor of an international trade publication and the former communications director for a nonprofit health care association. Kristen is a 2000 graduate of MSU’s journalism program.
I subscribe to dozens of e-newsletters and blogs that cover a gamut of topics relevant to the meetings and events industry. I also read leading industry magazines (usually online), and maintain Google alerts for various topics.
I am an active participant of CMPRSA and regularly attend its events. At the same time, I am a member of the PRSA CHE programming committee, a responsibility for which I regularly network, whether in person at meetings and events, or via social media.
For me, my biggest knowledge transfer happens through written communication. After learning something new and absorbing its content, I write about it, often inserting my two cents. And after every post, I use Twitter to transfer that knowledge to my followers.
East Lansing, MI
Fish—hundreds of them (over the years)!
Adrienne is a graduate of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Institute for Organization Management (IOM) program based in Athens, GA. She’s also a recipient of the Institute for Credentialing Excellence (ICE) credentialing specialist certificate. In addition to her work with Event Garde, Adrienne and her husband, Keith, own a boutique association management company (AMC) specializing in the development and maintenance of certification programs. Based in Littleton, CO, Adrienne serves as its chief operating officer and chairman. Previously, she served as the director of credentialing and operations for the National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting (NBSTSA), as well as chief staff executive to multiple national association certification programs via Partners in Association Management. Adrienne has extensive experience in exam development, ANSI ISO 17024 accreditation, NCCA accreditation, education audits and credential marketing.
Association Trends 2016 Young and Aspiring Association Professional
To keep on top of the latest trends within the education/credentialing space, I am constantly reading the latest white papers, books and articles. Likewise, I frequent many webinars on the latest and greatest research and subscribe to many blogs on topics critical to the professional development community.
As a member of CSAE, FSAE, ASAE and ICE, I enjoy leveraging these opportunities – both formal and informal – to network with my association, education and credentialing colleagues.
I enjoy the opportunity to leverage my newfound knowledge and connections in my day-to-day work and find that I’m more successful the more quickly I’m able to apply these new ideas and fresh takeaways to real work situations.
Miniature Schnauzer named Jessie James
Fort Worth, TX
B.A., Dallas Baptist University
Karel is an instructional designer/trainer with more than 20 years of experience working in industries such as healthcare and credit union insurance. Her passion is developing instructional material, both eLearning and instructor-led. She has earned several ATD certificates, including Master Instructional Designer, Learning Transfer, Advanced eLearning Instructional Design and Designing Virtual Training, as well as advance training in Storyline and Captivate.
When she isn’t building curriculum, Karel facilitates family wellness programs, primarily pre-marriage seminars for Anthem Strong Families, a nonprofit organization.
Karel and her husband Dan have been together for more than 30 years. They have four children and eight grandchildren.
Through Prime Therapeutic’s ‘Star Recognition’ program, Karel won the Quasar and the organization’s highest award, Galileo.
Karel was born in Anchorage, Alaska, but grew up in Milwaukee, WI; Fort Worth, TX; and Houma, LA.
Karel attends certificate programs to enhance her skills a few times a year, reads blogs and participates in eLearning communities, such as Storyline.
Karel spends a majority of her networking time engaging with members of the Association for Talent Development (ATD).
When learning something new, Karel immediately incorporates the takeaways into a project and transfers the knowledge to peers. She feels like the sooner she can teach the information to someone else, the more it’s reinforced for her.
Karel’s hobbies include swimming, as well as anything adventurous (i.e., riding motorcycles, sky diving and bungee jumping).
Certified Tourism Ambassador (CTA)
Kristina Kauffman, CTA is an 11‐year veteran of the Greater Lansing Convention and Visitors Bureau (GLCVB) and has held numerous key roles within the organization. Starting as receptionist, Kauffman has worked her way through several service‐focused positions to become the current events and CTA program manager. In this role, Kauffman is responsible for the planning and execution of internal and community events for the Bureau and the Team Lansing Foundation. Kauffman also facilitates the well‐received Greater Lansing Certified Tourism Ambassador Program. She is focused on promoting the program and its events and opportunities to regional members and potential members alike. One of the most successful CTA programs in the country, the Lansing CTA program now boasts more than 500 members and one of the highest renewal rates in the country. When not busy directly with the GLCVB, Kauffman is a loyal volunteer with the Old Town Commercial Association and serves as director of communications with the Michigan Chapter of Meeting Professionals International. In her free time Kristina enjoys spending time with family and being outdoors – both in the winter and in the summer. She loves cooking, photography and staying in shape by swimming and cross-country skiing.
Kristina stays abreast of the latest research and trends on learning via the Internet and reading fitness magazines.
Kristina routinely participates in the following networking opportunities: CTA events, MPI Michigan and the Old Town Commercial Association Committee.
Kristina transfers new skills, knowledge and abilities to her work by identifying and quickly applying key takeaways and new information from various learning and networking experiences.
Allen Park, MI
After spending nearly 20 years in the hospitality and meetings industry, Angela Pelc has transitioned into the health and fitness world.
After having success on the Weight Watchers (WW) program, Angela now services and supports others on their journey as a Coach and Teammate for WW in the metro Detroit area and is currently leading her own meetings. Angela has lost 70 pounds on the program and is diligently working on maintaining it.
Angela has been on board with HBA since its inception and works with the moderator team to make this a useful and inspirational community to support busy professionals who have health and fitness goals.
Angela believes in daily activity and has completed several Beachbody workout programs. She also loves running and yoga.
Angela stays abreast of the latest research and trends on learning via Google alerts (among other strategies).
Angela appreciates the opportunity to participate in Facebook discussions and live broadcasts with the Healthy by Association community.
Angela loves taking informal polls among friends about trends or fads, especially regarding fitness and nutrition, and then applying them, as appropriate, to her everyday life.
Angela’s hobbies include choral and solo singing, soccer- (or basketball- or track-) momming, improvisational cooking, gardening, sometimes running and playing Pokémon Go with her family.
Jim Thompson, IOM, CAE, is vice president of association management and strategic development with CHMS, an association management company based in Raleigh, NC. In his role, Thompson serves as the executive director for the National Association of 4-H Agents and the Association of Technology, Management and Applied Engineering, oversees the staff that manage CHMS’s 18 other clients and is responsible for business development.
Previously, Thompson was the executive director of the Association Executives of North Carolina, where he had been since September 2005. While at AENC, Thompson helped the organization grow its membership by more than 50%, saw retention increase to nearly 98% and worked to increase the recognition of the organization with the media, members and government officials. Before working at AENC, Thompson served as the director of business development for the NC Association of REALTORS® in Greensboro, a position he helped establish after his first year of employment with NCAR. He worked at NCAR for more than five years to substantially increase revenue for the association and to streamline the sponsor development program.
Thompson was born in Goldsboro, NC and moved to Raleigh in 1986. He would go on to graduate from Millbrook High School in 1990. He is a 1994 graduate of UNC-Greensboro and has a degree in English and political science, with a concentration in journalism.
Thompson is married to Hollyn, who is the art specialist at Jones Dairy Elementary. He and Hollyn have a son and daughter, and are very involved in the NC Football Club (NCFC).
Since moving back to the Triangle in 2005, Thompson has been extremely involved in the community. He has served as chair of the town of Wake Forest’s Recreation Advisory Board and was elected in 2013 as a Wake Forest Town Commissioner, serving for two years as Mayor Pro-tem. He and his family attend Wakefield United Methodist Church and are charter members.
Jim was born in Goldsboro, NC, but raised in Raleigh,NC.
Jim reads a lot of online articles, whitepapers, blogs and the like. He also networks with numerous association professionals throughout the U.S. at events and retains those resources for future use.
Jim routinelyparticipates in the following networking environments: ASAE events, AMCI annual meeting and numerous AENC events.
Jim is constantly faced with new ideas – through the resources he reads and the events he attends. However, he cites trial and error – and a little dumb luck – as the foundation of his success. Jim says that his job as an association professional is to then take those ideas and determine what to incorporate, based on the needs of the association. Jim knows his ideas have been effectively transferred when he sees an organization accomplishing its objectives.