Event Garde Top

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.

Aaron Wolowiec

Chief Executive Officer

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Location: Kalamazoo, MI (Eastern Time Zone)


Credentials:

Aaron’s obsession with learning traces back to preschool, where a knitted purple people eater taught him important life lessons (like cleaning up after yourself). All these years later, Aaron’s honed his craft and now designs engaging, multisensory learning experiences for association learners, resulting in the acquisition of new knowledge and skills, the forging of new relationships, and the application of new ideas and perspectives in the workplace. A serial learner and entrepreneur himself (with an alphabet soup of letters trailing his name), Aaron is nationally recognized for his professional development work with boards, learners, staff and volunteers. Having launched four successful brands – Event Garde (coincidentally reprising his early fascination with purple), Healthy by Association, Review My Speaker and FacilitateMI – Aaron’s equal parts practitioner and theorist. While the hours are long, Aaron ensures there is no shortage of fun amidst the Slack notifications, email pings and video chats – from the personal connections he shares with each client, partner and colleague to the precious moments of free time spent stalking the latest episodes of his favorite true crime podcasts.

Alina Cooper

Director, Project Management

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Location: Jacksonville, FL (Eastern Time Zone)


Credentials:

Alina has 18 years in association management experience and is skilled in project management and client relations. Drawing from her extensive experience in the certification and assessment industry, she has assisted certification and licensure programs in their mission to positively impact, serve, and measure applicant competency thru verified assessment practices, delivery, and support services. Prior to entering the testing arena, she served the non-profit sector, enriching customer service experience, educational and professional development programs with her knowledge and enthusiasm. Throughout her various tenured positions and personal life, Alina believes that passion is magic and people are fascinating.

When she’s not cheering on her team members and managing client projects, she’s playing ‘ringmaster’ to her own circus which features two energetic teenagers, her mother, fiancée and devoted pet, Paddy


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Lindsay Gross

Director, Facilitation Services

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Location: East Lansing, MI (Eastern Time Zone)


Credentials:

Lindsay is an experienced meeting facilitator with over a decade of experienced 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 relating 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. Aside from her job, Lindsay loves exercising and embracing a healthy lifestyle in mind and body. It is her stress reliever and where she finds strengths to take on the challenges of everyday life. Lindsay is currently completing her nutrition coaching certification and is particularly focused on helping others develop a healthy relationship with food, removing traditional food “rules” and restrictive thinking, and embracing an abundance mindset around health.


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Tracy Koenig-Poches

Director, Instructional Design

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Location: Portage, WI (Central Time Zone)


Credentials

  • Certificate of Instructional Design, University of Wisconsin - Stout
  • Certified Learning Environment Architect (CLEA)

Tracy is an experienced, dedicated education leader who creates dynamic, engaging learning experiences. She brings a cheerful energy and a positive attitude to the team. She has spent the majority of her career in the high school and college classrooms where she taught English, technology, and French courses. She has also designed and taught English courses for Madison College and the University of Wisconsin—Whitewater. Today she works primarily with associations to provide learning solutions that will move the organization forward and enhance member’s educational experiences. Tracy is also a health enthusiast, personal trainer, and CrossFit trainer.


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Sara Krueger

Director, Communications & Engagement

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Location: Chicago, IL (Central Time Zone)


Credentials

Sara 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 more than $30M for innovative programming in the mental health, arts and culture, tourism, and environmental sectors. Now as a consultant, Sara helps clients to refine program metrics, strengthen marketing and communications efforts, streamline operations, better engage and support staff, and adopt a wellness-focused workplace. She also leads yoga practices, guided meditations, and arts-based experiences for companies and individuals wishing to explore a particular problem and foster a fresh perspective.

Affiliations

Sara is currently a volunteer/member at the following organizations:

  • Rape Victim Advocates
  • National Runaway Safeline
  • Erasing the Distance
  • Member of the Yoga Alliance and Yoga International

Sara’s past organizations have included:

  • Member, Association of Donor Relations Professionals
  • Member, Association of Fundraising Professionals
  • Board Member, Public Relations Committee, Chicago Literary Alliance
  • Board Member, Steering Committee, Emerging Arts Leaders Network
  • Member, Young Nonprofit Professionals Network

Hometown

Dearborn, MI

Learn

Sara stays abreast of the latest research and trends on learning through internet research, conferences/workshops, TED talks, local networking events, books, and articles.

Network

Currently, Sara participates in the following networks/organizations:

  • Yoga International and Yoga Alliance
  • Yoga-to-Transform-Trauma - Alumni Network
  • Nonprofit Storytelling Conference Alumni - Closed Group
  • Chicago Writers Association
  • Chicago Literary Alliance
  • Association of Writers and Writer’s Programs

Transfer

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.

Hobbies

Sara’s hobbies include:

  • Walking the shores of Lake Michigan
  • Yoga and mediation, long bike rides, and hula-hooping
  • Reading
  • Making elaborate meals and music mixes for friends
  • Hunting for her next piece of taxidermy jewelry
  • Fiction, poetry, film, live lit performances, puppet theater
  • Travel
  • Discovering new craft breweries to try and experimenting with home brewing

Family

  • Spouse: Garrett Krueger (age 34, finishing his masters in computer science, works in tech support for a small software company). We met at Columbia College Chicago in film school and eventually started dating after graduation. In February 2018, we celebrated 11 years of marriage! Garrett is also a former Michigander (Livonia).
  • No. of children: No children. We plan to foster to adopt in our 40s.

Pets​

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.

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Kara Nacarato

Director, Fund Development & Special Initiatives

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​Location: Livonia, MI (Eastern Time Zone)


Credentials:

Kara has a passion for helping organizations identify creative ways to work with corporate partners and individual donors. With more than 15 years of non-profit and association leadership experience, Kara has refined skills in working with board members, corporate partners, and individual donor audiences. Kara’s unique consultative approach to selling helps her uncover her clients’ needs and identify custom solutions to reach their goals. She has a diverse background in marketing, sales, sponsorship management, and fund development along with a knack for relationship building. Kara holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in communications from the University of Detroit Mercy with an emphasis in Public Relations, Marketing and Organizational Development. She has received specialized training in facilitation skills and in sponsorship development/management from IEG – a known leader in partnership strategy, development and fulfillment. In her free time Kara and her husband Steve keep busy with their three daughters Emily, Jenna and Avery. When they get a break from car pools and sports activities they enjoy spending time relaxing at the pool or the lake with friends and family during the few warm months in Michigan.

Kate Pojeta

Kate Pojeta, CMP

Director, Meetings & Technology

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Location: Detroit Area, MI (Eastern Time Zone)


Credentials:

Kate has almost 20 years of association experience combined with extensive technology work. She prides herself on being able to help clients find more efficient and effective ways to manage their meetings, information, data and communications. Her background in leadership and experiential learning led to her involvement with our Facilitation team. When she’s not working, she’s enjoying time with her family. Between her husband and their four kids, someone usually has something happening somewhere related to school, scouts, track, gymnastics, dance, volunteering, friends, or medical appointments!





Lisa Aukward

Lisa Aukward

Manager, Vendor Relations

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Location: Washington DC Area (Eastern Time Zone)


Lisa is a focused leader with a strong background in communications, marketing, and member relations. She is an experienced professional with a wide-range of experience leading programs that enhance engagement and generate revenue at the six-figure level. She brings her clients expert insight in the areas of strategic communications, marketing, program management, and membership retention/engagement.

Affiliations

  • American Society of Association Executives
  • Public Relations Society of America
  • Women in Sports and Events

Learn

Lisa reads CEO Update and ASAE Articles to stay abreast of latest research and trends.

Network

Lisa routinely take advantage of any networking opportunity provided by ASAE. She also has found value in networking at Chamber of Commerce events.

Transfer

Lisa develops a personal strategic operating plan to transfer skills.

Hobbies

  • Crochet
  • Photography
  • Continues to work to find new hobbies

Family

  • Lisa has two daughters

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Tim Berghuis

Tim Berghuis

Manager, Finance

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Location: Grand Rapids, MI (Eastern Time Zone)


Credentials

  • Bachelor of Arts (BA), Calvin College
  • Master of Business Administration (MBA), Grand Valley State University
  • QuickBooks ProAdvisor

Tim’s accounting career spans 35 years and includes employment at large and small non-profits in his home town of Grand Rapids. He earned his undergrad business administration and accounting degrees at Calvin College in the 1980s and completed his graduate studies at Grand Valley State University where he earned his Masters in Business Administration in 2007. In 2014 Tim left his job to become his own boss at Tim Berghuis, Accountant LLC and has had no regrets whatsoever! He enjoys traveling with his spouse Jill and looks forward to 2020 when they celebrate their 25th anniversary with their two daughters and four grandchildren.

Affiliations

  • QuickBooks Certified ProAdvisor
  • Registered Tax Return Preparer

Learn

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.

Network

I enjoy leveraging both Facebook and LinkedIn to network.

Transfer

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).

Hobbies

  • Morning walks with my wife, Jill
  • Golf with anyone who scores in the 60s for a round of nine holes
  • Cycling

Hometown

Born in Grand Rapids and raised in South Windsor, Connecticut. Returned to the nest to attend college and never left.

Family

  • Wife, Jill
  • Daughters: Jessi and Juli
  • Grandchildren: Jon, Ella and James

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Jenny Hill

Jenny Hill

Manager, Social Communications

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Location: Lansing, MI (Eastern Time Zone)


Credentials:

Jenny manages Event Garde’s social media presence by regularly posting to Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. She also serves as the Manager of Membership and Administration for the Association of Outdoor Recreation and Education (AORE). When not supporting Event Garde clients, Jenny spoils her dogs, Mylee and Lillie.


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Ashley Uhl

Ashley Uhl

Meeting Planner

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Location: Vienna, VA (Eastern Time Zone)


Credentials

Ashley Uhl, CAE brings solid association management and event planning skills, as well as experience with exhibits & sponsorships, market research, and membership to Event Garde. Ashley is a strong believer that an association’s main value to members is top-notch experiences, including all aspects of in-person events, from educational content to networking to “Instagrammable” moments. Ashley is an active member of the American Society of Association Executives; and is Vice Chair of the Membership Section Council for the 2019-2020 year. When not working, Ashley enjoys running and training for races. Her favorites are 200ish mile relay races that take 24-36 hours to complete.

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Brian Vigna

Brian Vigna

Instructional Designer

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Location: Cary, NC (Eastern Time Zone)


Credentials

Brian is an Instructional Designer in the Professional Learning and Instructional Design unit for NC State Industry Expansion Solutions (IES). Brian has worked as an Adult Educator, Trainer, and Instructional Designer for more than 7 years. Brian has taught a variety of certification and professional development courses at the collegiate level as well as in collaboration with the United States government. Outside of work Brian enjoys hiking, sports, and spending time with his family.

KarelWagner

Karel Wagner

Instructional Designer

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Location: Fort Worth, TX (Central Time Zone)


Credentials

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.​

Affiliations

  • Association for Talent Development (ATD)
  • Anthem Strong Families

Awards

Through Prime Therapeutic’s ‘Star Recognition’ program, Karel won the Quasar and the organization’s highest award, Galileo.

Hometown

Karel was born in Anchorage, Alaska, but grew up in Milwaukee, WI; Fort Worth, TX; and Houma, LA.

Learn

Karel attends certificate programs to enhance her skills a few times a year, reads blogs and participates in eLearning communities, such as Storyline.

Network

Karel spends a majority of her networking time engaging with members of the Association for Talent Development (ATD).

Transfer

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.

Hobbies

Karel’s hobbies include swimming, as well as anything adventurous (i.e., riding motorcycles, sky diving and bungee jumping).

Family

  • Spouse: Dan
  • 4 Children: Danny, Damion, Dezmonique and Danielle

Pets

  • Cat named Haze

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