Mildred J. Franco is the Project Manager for Arkansas Blue Cross Blue Shield's Federal Employees Program. She previously served as the Executive Director of The Generator, an innovation hub powered by Go Forward Pine Bluff (GFPB).

Ms. Franco holds a bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering with a Minor in Management from McGill University. After graduation, she worked in the oil industry in the areas of oil production and international marketing in Venezuela, and oil trading in New York City. When Ms. Franco relocated to Arkansas, she cofounded CHI Computers + Solutions, LLC, later known as, an internet retail provider of computer products and services to educational institutions across the U.S., serving as the CEO.

Ms. Franco is continually active in the non-profit space in organizations that support entrepreneurship, ecosystem building, innovation, women, and the arts. In Arkansas, Ms. Franco currently serves on the boards of the EAST Initiative, Women’s Foundation of Arkansas, the Pine Bluff Regional Chamber of Commerce - ex-officio.

With some hard work and determination, Jason Everett has experienced years of success with Liberty National Life Insurance Company. After working in sales support for a telecommunications company, Jason was looking for a new opportunity. “I wanted the ability to set my own schedule and determine my own income,” he says, and Liberty National was the place that allowed him to do just that.

Joining Liberty National has paid off – Jason’s Agency was the number one Agency in the Company for premium growth for the calendar years 2009, 2010, 2011, and 2016. Even with such accomplishments, Jason says what has been most rewarding during his time with LNL is “the ability to hire people that are making average income, and see them truly change their family for generations to come.”

In addition to helping recruits, Jason values the help the Company offers its customers. “Our products are there to help people in many ways – from something as small as an accident to something as life changing as cancer and what we provide the family at the time of death.”

When he’s not working, Jason enjoys spending time with his family, fishing, hunting, golfing, and being active in his church.

Jason and his wife Sarah have been married for 15 years and have 7 boys.

When asked what advice he would offer to someone considering a position with Liberty National, Jason says, “It is hard work, but the reward is truly worth it.”

Melanie Bradford is a leader in the Arkansas Department of Education’s IT Division.

She has been with the Department for over thirty years and has provided leadership in various technology and curriculum initiatives. Ms. Bradford is responsible for developing grant application procedures, overseeing the implementation and data collection for most of the significant technology grant programs in Arkansas. She has extensive experience in both federal and state programs and pioneered the Arkansas state technology improvement grants. As project leader, she oversaw a watershed three year experimental and quasi-experimental designed, scientific-based research project on EAST.

Ms. Bradford has supervisory and leadership responsibility for several state and national technology initiatives including Arkansas TICAL (Technology Information Center for Administrative Leadership) cadre, and EAST. Ms. Bradford has held national office in curriculum areas and has served as a presenter at numerous national meetings and is an active participant in the State Education Technology Directors Association (SETDA).


John Riggs, IV, is Chairman and Dealer Principle of J. A. Riggs Tractor Company located in Little Rock, Arkansas. Riggs Tractor Company, established in 1928, is an industrial and construction equipment distribution company serving customers in and around Arkansas. John is the fourth generation of the Riggs family to be a leader in this business.

Sarah Daigle's twitter bio captures her well: “Canadian. An educated woman. A mother of boys. Step-mom to teen girls. Someone who thinks the software is sexy."" Currently leading a team through Cognizant for J.B. Hunt to modernize part of their transportation management system.

Her specialties include team development; technical training; product management; social networking strategies and being elegantly goofy. She is a strong advocate for exposing female and male children to all kinds of nerdy fun. Sarah earned her B.A. degree at Bishop’s University and her Masters in IT Education at Dalhousie University (Canada) and has worked and lived in Arkansas since 2003.

Ms. Victoria Washington is the founder and CEO/President of Vision Information Technology Consultants (Vision IT) LLC. Ms. Washington has led this organization to become certified as a SBA 8(a), HUB Zone, Minority and Woman Owned Small Business in Little Rock, AR. Vision IT’s mission is to provide professional technology services and solutions to analyze, manage, maintain, integrate, and engineer information systems to collaboratively advance our customer’s mission; to provide a rewarding environment for its employees; and to serve the community. Since 2003, she has led her organization to win and sustain over 10 Department of Defense contracts with the U.S. Navy, U.S. Army, and Intelligence Agency while also maintaining a pipeline of 12 new business opportunities to pursue.

Ms. Washington started her distinguished career in 1998 with the Central Intelligence Agency as a Requirements Engineer. She moved on to Creative Technologies, Inc. (CTI) in 2001 as a Government Contractor. Her experiences with CTI gave her the necessary tools to start Vision IT in 2003 in Northern Virginia

Ms. Washington received her B.S. from Grambling State University in Computer Science with a minor in Mathematics in 2000. In 2003, she received her M.S. from George Mason University (GMU) in Systems Engineering and obtained a certification in Command, Control, Communication and Intelligence (C3I). Ms. Washington is also a graduate of the 2016 Emerging Leader Class of Arkansas.

She firmly believes that it is imperative to give time and financial support to the educational development of the youth and the community. From this belief, and since 2010, she has led her team to be ongoing supporters of:

  • Girls of Promise (The Women’s Foundation of Arkansas)
  • Junior Achievement of Arkansas
  • Cell Phones for Soldiers
  • Arkansas Sheriff’s Youth Ranch
  • Dirt Diamonds Softball Team
  • Special Olympics Arkansas
  • Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure
  • STEM Coalition
  • Million Women Mentors Programs

In 2017, Ms. Washington was named Small Business of Year for Arkansas by the Small Business Administration. She has participated on several panels to discuss Women in STEM. Ms. Washington serves as the President on the Board of Directors for Little Rock Juniors Volleyball Club and is very active in her church, Indian Springs Baptist Church where she serves as a Small Group Leader. Ms. Washington has membership in the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Incorporated, Project Management Institute (PMI), Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association (AFCEA), and the Association of the U.S. Army (AUSA). Ms. Washington currently resides with her husband, Paul, and their daughter and son, Lylah and Jacob.

Phoebe Bailey is the Southwest Arkansas Education Cooperative Director in Hope Arkansas. She has been with the cooperative since 1999. During her time at SWAEC, she has served as math specialist, Teacher Center Coordinator and Assistant Director before becoming Director in 2012. Before coming to the cooperative, she worked as an elementary teacher and math coach for the Stamps School District. She supports nine school districts with a focus on meeting the needs of administrators, teachers, school boards and district personnel to help improve leadership skills, instructional skills, and content skills in order to increase student achievement. Phoebe also works in collaboration with the Division of Elementary and Secondary Education to support state initiatives.

Chad Brown is an information technology and sales professional with nearly 10 years of experience in Cyber Security for large enterprises and educational institutions. Chad currently is an Account Manager for Palo Alto Networks, largest cyber security only company in the world. Chad is a graduate of Texas Tech with a degree in Management Information Systems.

John Chamberlin has worked in the entrepreneurial community for over 50 years. He founded Arkansas Systems, now Euronet Worldwide, a global financial technology firm, and has been chair, board member or mentor to dozens of other startups. He has been an instructor in the Innovation Fund program, run by Winrock International, for the past 5 years. His education includes a BS in Agricultural Engineering from Michigan State, an SM in Operations Research from MIT, and lots of UA Little Rock courses for fun.

John’s family roots in education go back to a great grandmother who taught before the Civil War, with teachers in all intervening generations, including a daughter who is a computer science certified media specialist in LRSD today. John was Vice-Chair of Impac Learning Systems, which introduced computers into Arkansas classrooms, Founding Education Chair of the Southern Technology Council, Chair of the Arkansas STEM Coalition, President of the Arkansas Academy of Computing and Chair of the Arkansas Coordinating Commission on Educational Efforts.

Brad Chilcote is a designer and project manager who specializes in academic building design. He has more than three decades of experience, including leading an internationally-acclaimed architectural lighting design firm before joining WD&D Architects in 1996. Mr. Chilcote is a LEED Accredited Professional by the U.S. Green Building Council; member of the American Institute of Architects; Accredited Learning Environment Planner; and member of the International Association of Lighting Designers, Tau Sigma Delta and Alpha Rho Chi. Active in the Central Arkansas community, Mr. Chilcote is a graduate of Leadership Greater Little Rock and Leadership Arkansas, and Eagle Scout and Scoutmaster, and a member of the local school PTA board. He is a graduate of the University of Arkansas.

Leland Kurfess is a Line of Business Executive within the Large Financial Institutions Group at FIS. Leland has over 34 years of experience in the Financial Industry focused primarily on banking technology. Leland currently has responsibility for the Systematics Division at FIS that provides core banking software and services to many of the largest banks in the United States. He has also spent a large portion of his career in the Latin America region managing sales and delivery for the core banking line of business.

In addition to his time at FIS (Alltel Information Services and Systematics), Leland held positions within the Financial Services Industry with Edgewater Technologies and Bank of America. Leland holds an MBA / MIM from the Thunderbird International School of Management as well as a Bachelor of Science from the University of Redlands.

With nearly 25 years’ experience in the marketing communications sector, Julie is an award-winning agency executive and team leader at MHP. She manages clients’ budgets and account teams, initiates research and discovery, facilitates strategic planning, crafts actionable marketing plans, and oversees the implementation of marketing tactics for client projects. She’s also a member of the agency’s management team.

During her nearly 17 years with MHP, Julie has worked on client projects ranging from rebranding to grand opening to website development to digital media and everything in between. Her marketing expertise has been lent to private companies and corporations, nonprofit organizations, government agencies and professional associations in the agriculture, banking and finance, telecommunications, disabilities, accounting, medical, heritage, tourism and law enforcement sectors. Some of her most memorable client projects have included the grand opening of the Mosaic Templars Cultural Center, the 25th anniversary celebration of Keep Arkansas Beautiful, the development of a statewide opioid-education campaign with a coalition of partners, the renaming of the old TCBY Tower, and several rebranding efforts, including EAST’s.

Prior to joining MHP in 2003, Julie managed a digital pre-press department at Master Printing Co. in Jonesboro, edited the McGehee-Dermott Times News weekly newspaper, and was the director of communications and development at Arkansas Advocates for Children & Families. She has volunteered her time, talents and treasures to organizations focused on the arts, children’s services, urban forestry, Alzheimer’s disease, and diversity and inclusion.

A graduate of Arkansas State University in Jonesboro with a bachelor’s of science degree in journalism, Julie has spoken to student groups and classes from A-State, Ouachita Baptist University, University of Central Arkansas and UofA Little Rock about marketing communications and public relations; presented about the Freedom of Information Act to the Arkansas Cooperative Extension’s LeadAR program; and presented at conferences hosted by the Arkansas Festival Association, Arkansas Arts Council, EAST and the National Association of Councils on Developmental Disabilities. She’s also a graduate of the City of Little Rock’s Healing Racism Institute, Just Communities of Arkansas’s Ourtown Institute for Inclusive Leadership, Keep America Beautiful’s Executive Director Training Program and Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce’s Leadership Greater Little Rock (Class XXVIII).

Bio coming soon

Charlotte Lewellen Williams DrPH, MPH is Associate Professor of Public Health and Director of the Center on Community Philanthropy at the University Of Arkansas Clinton School Of Public Service. Williams is responsible for directing the Center in its core work areas of Leadership, Scholarship/Research and Convening. Williams earned her Doctoral Degree in Public Health and her Master’s degree in Public Health from the UAMS College of Public Health. She completed her undergraduate degree at Howard University, Washington, D.C. In 2016 Williams released her book "Passing the Torch, Preparing for the Next Generation of Leaders in Public Service"


The EAST Initiative is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization chartered in 2001 and based in Little Rock, Arkansas.

Greenbrier High School first offered EAST in 1996; EAST now has programs in more than 250 schools across three states. Through EAST, students are encouraged to think critically and innovate to create positive change in their communities with the technology EAST provides for their classrooms. EAST offers year-round training to students; professional development for EAST educators; and professional development for all classroom teachers through Education Unleashed. To learn more about EAST, visit