Presenter Bios

Mary Abbajay Mary Abbajay is an acclaimed and sought after public speaker, organizational consultant,facilitator, trainer, and author. She is the president and founder of Careerstone Group, LLC, a woman-owned professional development consultancy that delivers leading-edge talent and organizational development solutions.

As a consultant, speaker, facilitator and trainer, Mary helps clients develop the strategies, skills, and sensibilities needed for success in the 21st century. Her expertise lies in helping clients create dynamic and productive workplaces that foster professional and personal excellence and growth. In short, she is committed to creating workplaces where both the organization and the individual can flourish.

Mary Abbajay brings 20 years of experience in leadership positions, a Master’s Degree in Organizational Management, and post-graduate certificates from Georgetown University and the Coaches Training Institute. In addition to being an entrepreneur and consultant, Mary has served as adjunct faculty at George Mason University’s School of Management and has taught at both Montgomery College and the Georgetown University Center for Professional Development.


John Lord is currently a consultant in private practice. In November of 2004, he left his position at the University of Virginia to form Lord/Thompson Associates (LTA), a training and consulting group specializing in leadership and organizational development. LTA targets its programs and services to managers and supervisors in federal, state and local governments. For the past eight years, John has supported the efforts of the Office of Personnel Management by providing leadership training at its management development centers as well as the Federal Executive Institute. He has also maintained a relationship with the University of Virginia, providing both consulting and training services to internal departments as well as external clients through the University’s Center for Executive Development.

For the last five years of his tenure at the University, John served as the Director of the Leadership Development Center, a resource dedicated to helping University administrators, managers and supervisors succeed in their leadership roles. For the previous fifteen years, he served as the Director of Organizational Development and Training, an enterprise designed to meet the professional development needs of the University’s 13,000 faculty and staff members. He has extensive experience as a training manager, facilitator, and consultant focusing on leadership and organizational development.

A 1972 graduate of the University of Virginia, he also received his Master’s Degree in Public Administration from the University of Connecticut. He has been an active member and officer in various professional organizations, including the American Society for Training and Development and Literacy Volunteers of America.

Vanessa PhippsVanessa Phipps is the founder and principal of The Future Force Group, LLC, a leadership development company that supports her belief that a strong workforce must be built “from the inside up.” Her clients include for-profit corporations and not-for-profit educational, government, and community-based organizations. She is excited by the twenty-first century learners who are poised to become our twenty-first century’s leaders, and believes organizations currently governed through control will soon be powered by influence.

With over eighteen years of successful executive and management development training, combined with a strong background in compliance and global diversity and inclusion consulting, she designed a development process for her former employer that supported high performing individual contributors, many of whose approach to work and definitions of success were not always in concert with those of their respective organizations. Her new curriculum resulted in a 68% increase in organizational movement by those who graduated from the program (through promotions or lateral/cross-functional transition).

Vanessa is also the Board President of the New Jersey Chapter of the National Association of African Americans in Human Resources (NAAAHR New Jersey), an organization that provides ongoing skill-building and networking opportunities for the Association’s HR and business members, local entrepreneurs, and sponsoring corporations in the State of New Jersey.


Pete Ronayne, Ph. D., is a Senior Faculty member at the Center for Creative Leadership (CCL). His multidisciplinary background and experience serves CCL in his program design and delivery responsibilities for open enrollment and custom programs. He works with the full range of CCL’s client organizations -- from the Fortune 500 and the world’s largest public sector organizations to NGOs and educational institutions. A skilled presenter and facilitator, Pete speaks widely on issues of leading change, neuroleadership, resilience, innovation, engagement & motivation, and navigating generational differences. Before joining CCL, Pete spent 15 years as a dean and senior faculty member at the Federal Executive Institute (FEI) in Charlottesville, Virginia. While at the Institute, he directed the flagship Leadership for a Democratic Society program, launched FEI’s Center for Global Leadership, and co-founded the institute’s “NeuroFed” program on neuroscience and leadership.

Pete is an adjunct professor at both the University of Virginia and the American Public University System where he offers a wide range of graduate and undergraduate level online courses in leadership and organizational development as well as in international relations and foreign policy. He holds a Ph.D. from the University of Virginia, did post-graduate work with the NeuroLeadership Institute, and did his undergraduate work at Georgetown University.


John Whitlow, Ph.D., has more than 25 years of experience serving in senior management and executive roles. He has provided consulting and leadership training for organizations in both the public and private sectors throughout the country. Currently John serves as President for JHW Consulting Services, an organizational consulting and training firm. From 1992-2003, John served as Vice President and on the senior executive staff of Plow & Hearth, a national consumer catalog company. John also formerly served as Director of Employee Assistance for BellSouth Corporation and Executive Director of H.R.D. Services, a training and consulting firm.

Throughout his career John has been active in the field of training and leadership development. He completed a Ph.D. in Organizational Development in 2001 from Fielding Graduate University and currently and has served as faculty at several of the nation’s most prestigious leadership training centers, including The Center for Creative Leadership in Greensboro, North Carolina and The Federal Executive Institute in Charlottesville, VA. He also serves as adjunct faculty with the University of Virginia’s Center for Executive Development.