2019 Ignite Co-Chairs
Dr. Josh Carter
University of Alabama at Birmingham
Josh Carter, a native of Lawton, Oklahoma, joined UAB in 2002 as an adjunct Spanish instructor in the Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures and later served for ten years as the Director of the UAB Study Abroad from 2003-2013. From May of 2013 to October of 2014 he served as Projects Analyst for the UAB Office of the Provost before joining the UAB Office of the President where he currently serves as Administrative Director.
The importance of service to his community was instilled at an early age for Dr. Carter. While in high school he served as a member of the United Way of Southwest Oklahoma’s Youth Leadership Lawton program and volunteered for numerous organizations. Since then, he has presented nationally and internationally on various topics related to international education and study abroad and has served in various leadership roles in campus committees and in Birmingham community organizations such as UAB’s Benevolent Fund Council, UAB’s Fulbright committee, UAB’s Manos Juntas Hispanic/Latino student mentoring program, UAB’s Global Citizenship Steering Committee, the Japan America Society of Alabama, the Birmingham International Center, the Magic City Wellness Center, Birmingham Aids Outreach, and the Hispanic Interest Coalition of Alabama. He has also served as the Alabama state representative to NAFSA: Association of International Educators for Region VII, Chair of the Alabama Association of International Educators, and President of the Alabama Council for International Programs. In his roles as an educational administrator, he enjoys watching UAB’s students, faculty, and staff give back to the Birmingham community in so many meaningful ways.
Dr. Carter was a member of the 2012 class of UAB’s BLAZE Leadership Academy. He was also the recipient of the 2012 UAB President’s Diversity Award. In 2008, he was recognized as the recipient of the NAFSA: Association of International Educators Region VII International Excellence Award for service to the Southeastern region.
Dr. Carter attended the University of Oklahoma where he earned his B.A. in Spanish Language in 1999 and his M.A. in Spanish Literature in 2001. He completed his Ph.D. in Educational Leadership at the University of Alabama at Birmingham in 2015.
Hailing from Demopolis, AL, Joy Craddock received her B.S. in Chemical Engineering from Tuskegee University and her Law Degree from the University of Alabama School of Law. While at Tuskegee, Joy was active in the SGA, became a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., and was elected Miss Tuskegee University 2006-2007. Currently, she is a Governmental & Corporate Affairs Manager at Alabama Power Company in Birmingham, AL. As active as ever, Joy is a member of Alabama/Mississippi United Negro College Fund Young Professional Board, the Pre-School Partners Junior Board, the United Way Hands On Leadership Cabinet, and has most recently joined the Board for the Blackbelt Community Foundation. She is married to Douglas Craddock, Jr. and enjoys traveling, reading, cooking, and spending time with family.
Ignite Host Committee Co-Chairs
Teresa Zuniga Odom enjoyed a 37 year career with Alabama Power Company before retiring in July 2017. Her work ranged from accounting, public relations, customer value research, strategic issues research, multicultural markets and energy expert marketing training. She is a graduate of the University of Alabama at Birmingham with a BS degree in Business/HR Management.
Teresa is most proud of her work with multicultural communities, in particular the Latino community. She has been active in the Hispanic community for over 20 years. She has served on numerous boards as a Hispanic community representative including HICA – Hispanic Interest Coalition of Alabama (board chair), Hispanic Business Council of the Birmingham Chamber of Commerce (board chair), UAB Foreign Language Advisory Committee (chair), Childcare Resources, Oasis Counseling for Women and Children (board and advisory council), YWCA of Central Alabama, and the United Way Community Initiatives Committee.
She currently serves on the boards of Children’s Aid Society, Girl Scouts of North Central Alabama (Board Development Committee), American Heart Association and, as Vice President and Co-Founder of Fiesta, Alabama’s largest celebration of Hispanic culture and heritage, now entering its 17th year. Under her leadership, Fiesta has awarded approximately $80K in scholarships to Hispanic students. She is a member of The Women’s Network (TWN) and served on the Public Relations committee for 5 years.
Teresa is an avid photographer who lends her skills to numerous nonprofit organizations around the region. Her photographs are also featured on her Hispanic lifestyle blog – Southern Senora – where she writes about the good work happening in the Hispanic community in Alabama. She is also a contributor to a la Carte Alabama, a digital media venture that celebrates the people, places and trends that make Alabama food and drink great.
Teresa is the recipient of several awards and honors including Girl Scouts Women of Distinction, Mildred Bell Johnson Lifetime Achievement Award from Girl Scouts of North Central Alabama (2012) and, Positive Maturity’s Top 50 Over 50 (2016). She was also a finalist for the inaugural Ignite Volunteer Awards in the Corporate Volunteer Category. Teresa and her husband Eddie Odom have been married for 33 years and are members of Prince of Peace Catholic Church in Hoover, AL. Together they have three children – Charlie, Anna Marie and Emily Ruth.
Mauri Robinson is the Logistics Specialist for CRST International Inc. He is a native of Birmingham, Alabama and a graduate of Shades Valley High School. He received a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Marketing and graduated Cum Laude from Morehouse College in 2008.
Mauri is on the Board of Governors for the National Association of Nonprofit Organizations & Executives, United Way Hands On Leadership Cabinet and U.N.C.F Young Professionals Leadership Council. In the past, he served as Executive Board Treasurer for the Jackie Robinson National Alumni Association Foundation and past member of Rotaract Club of Birmingham. In addition, he is a member of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc. He was recognized as the “2016 Top Young Philanthropist” by Birmingham Metro Magazine.
Active in the local community, Mauri serves as a certified referee for Lacrosse, Basketball and Football. His hobbies include competing in tough mudders and obstacle races, listening to jazz music, cigars and traveling.
Ignite Host Committee
Faith Chapel Christian Center
Minister Debra Blaylock serves as the Executive Liaison to the Community and Life Groups Pastor for Faith Chapel Christian Center (FCCC) under the leadership of its founder and pastor Dr. Michael D. Moore. In 1981 … with four people and a Bible … Dr. Moore started Faith Chapel Christian Center in the den of his home. Today, the ministry has a congregation of thousands and is one of the largest and fastest growing churches in Birmingham, Alabama.
After an exceptional career in the U.S. Treasury Department, Minister Blaylock dedicated her life to Kingdom service. She has served the vision of Faith Chapel for most of its 32 year history and has been a member of FCCC’s full-time staff for more than 19 years. She has served in many key leadership positions during her time at Faith Chapel. Her diligent study and knowledge of the Word of God in addition to her vast knowledge of church administration and church development (in the areas of finance, operations, strategic planning, etc.), has made her a highly respected and much sought after speaker and community leader.
Minister Blaylock says she believes it is the grace of God coupled with her love for people and her love of teaching that allows God’s anointing to flow. With a plain and simple style, revelation knowledge and understanding abound as she ministers the gospel.
J.W. Carpenter, JD
Birmingham Education Foundation
J.W. Carpenter has served as Executive Director of the Birmingham Education Foundation (BEF) since September 2013. Before coming to BEF, Carpenter served as the founding Executive Director for Teach For America Alabama-a branch of the nationally-recognized organization committed to providing and advocating for high quality education for students in low-income communities.
Prior to his role with Teach For America, Carpenter was a litigator for the Birmingham law firm of Walston, Wells, and Birchall, LLP. Carpenter earned a B.A. in Political Science from Boston College and J.D. from the Georgetown University Law Center. He serves on the boards of A+ Education Partnership, Hispanic Interest Coalition of Alabama, Operation Hope-Alabama, and k12 Lean Labs, and is also a member of the Kiwanis Club of Greater Birmingham, the PARCA Roundtable, and the GEAR UP-Birmingham Advisory Board. He was named Top 40 under 40 in Birmingham in 2010, and is an alumnus of Leadership Birmingham, Leadership Alabama, and Leadership UAB. In 2016, Carpenter was selected for a weeklong fellowship in Strategic Nonprofit Management at Harvard by the Alabama Association of Nonprofits and the Birmingham alumni chapter of Harvard Business School.
Krystal Drummond is the Director of Employee and Community Engagement at Drummond Company, Inc., a local family owned private company with global operations involved in the mining and processing of coal and coal products, as well as oil, gas, and real estate ventures. Krystal joined the company’s legal department as a lawyer in 2011, and transitioned to her current role in 2017 with the establishment of Drummond’s Corporate Social Responsibility Department. Krystal manages Drummond Company’s CSR activities in the United States through coordinating programs, initiatives, and events to benefit the community and engage stakeholders. She also directs Drummond Company’s annual United Way Campaign.
Krystal graduated from Loyola University New Orleans with a business degree in Marketing, and completed various studies in Spain at the University of Salamanca and Complutense University in Madrid. She obtained her juris doctorate from Samford University’s Cumberland School of Law, where she served as President of the Cumberland Community Service Organization. Krystal is licensed to practice law in Florida and Alabama, and holds an underground mining certification.
Krystal is involved with multiple charitable and civic organizations and has a passion for serving the community. She is a member of the Rotaract Club of Birmingham, Newcomen Society of Alabama, a Florida Bar Foundation Fellow, and a graduate of Class 13 of the Alabama State Bar Leadership Forum. Krystal currently serves on the board of Better Basics, United Way of Central Alabama, the Associate board of Alabama Policy Institute, the Young Executive Board of The Club, the Birmingham Zoo Junior Board, and a member of the Executive Leadership Team for March for Babies. Krystal is originally from Tampa, Florida but her family’s roots are in Walker County, Alabama. She and her husband, Chris Williams, enjoy traveling, spending time outdoors and in the community, and gathering with friends and family.
Shirley, a native of Birmingham, attended the University of Alabama majoring in Marketing through the College of Commerce and Business Administration. Upon graduation, she began her career at O’Neal Steel in sales, and later marketing. In 2009 as a result of many acquisitions, O’Neal Steel formed a parent company – O’Neal Industries, and Shirley was named Strategic Communications Manager reporting to Chairman and CEO Craft O’Neal. She was promoted to Director of Communications for O’Neal Industries in 2012.
Shirley’s non-profit service started as many women in Birmingham, on the Junior Board of the YWCA where she served as its president. She has served on numerous non-profit boards including the Trussville City Schools Foundation as president, Eastern Junior Women’s Committee of 50 as president, Pathways, and on the Community Impact Committee of the United Way of Central Alabama. She served on the United Way Campaign Cabinet in 2015 and 2016. She is the immediate past Board president of Better Basics.
Shirley was named by the Cahaba Girl Scout Council as a Woman of Distinction in 2014. Shirley is a member of The Women’s Network and served as its president in 2008. She and her husband Barry, who is a home builder, have three children.
Findley Enterprises, LLC
Jessica Findley is the managing director of Findley Enterprises, LLC, a consulting firm specializing international business development and the commercialization of new technologies, particularly in the waste-to-energy sector.
Jessica also serves as executive vice president of Masada Resource Group, LLC, a multinational waste-to-energy company that develops projects to convert municipal solid waste into ethanol and diesel fuel. In her role as EVP, Jessica manages 19 international partnerships covering waste-to-energy market development activities in 47 countries.
In 2012, Ms. Findley was awarded the International Deal of the Year Award at the Alabama International Business Awards. In April 2014, the Birmingham International Center named her one of Birmingham, Alabama’s Top Ten Motivating Women. Later that year, the Birmingham Business Alliance named her Young Professional of the Year at the Small Business Awards. She was also the driving force behind Masada receiving the Governor’s Trade Excellence Award in 2015.
Jessica graduated summa cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts degree in political science from Miles College in Birmingham, Alabama, and holds a Master of Business Administration in International Business from Hult International Business School in London.
Jessica maintains a strong commitment to her community, serving on boards for United Way Hands On, Ruffner Mountain Nature Preserve, the Krulak Detachment of the Marine Corps League, and the Birmingham Sister Cities Commission. She is also an avid trail runner and enjoys doing yoga and playing golf.
America’s First Federal Credit Union
Alex Lawley has been involved with United Way Hands On since 2010 serving as junior board president and project coordinator. He is currently serving on the cabinet.
Alex works for America’s First Federal Credit Union. There he is active with the Credit Union’s community outreach efforts and the League of Southern Credit Unions young professionals’ group. Alex is a graduate of the University of Alabama at Birmingham. He and his growing family are members of Grace Life Baptist Church in McCalla.
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama
Koko Mackin joined Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama in 1981 and has held a variety of positions including Performance Review Analyst, Manager of Corporate Planning, and Vice President and Corporate Secretary. Responsibilities have covered industrial engineering, strategic planning, product development and board relations and governance.
Currently Mackin serves as Vice President, Corporate Communications and Community Relations, and as Blue Cross’ spokesperson. She is also responsible for Corporate Giving and The Caring Foundation, Blue Cross’ charitable foundation, promoting health and education initiatives statewide.
Mackin currently serves as immediate past board chair of The Eyesight Foundation of Alabama; on the Strategic Communications Advisory Network of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association; and as a member of the Business Education Alliance Advisory Council, the Kiwanis Club of Birmingham, The Women’s Network, Junior League of Birmingham Community Advisory Board and the Newcomen Society.
In the community, Mackin has served as board chair for Voices for Alabama’s Children, Childcare Resources, and Camp Fire Alabama. She has also served as 2013 Events Chair for the Railroad Park Capital Campaign; 2011 Birmingham Chair for the American Heart Association Go Red for Women Luncheon; 2011 Chair of Blue Cross’ United Way Campaign; and 2010 Birmingham Corporate Chair for The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s Light The Night Walk.
Mackin is a graduate of the 2004 Class of Leadership Birmingham and the 2003 Class of Momentum Women’s Executive Leadership Program. The Cahaba Girl Scout Council honored her as one of the “2002 Women of Distinction,” and in 2007, The Birmingham Business Journal honored her as a “Top Birmingham Woman.”
A native of Meridian, Mississippi, Mackin is a Summa Cum Laude and Phi Beta Kappa graduate of The University of Alabama with a BA in Mathematics and an MBA in Finance. She is married to Stan Mackin, Jr., and they have three sons.
Alabama Power Company
Born and raised in Birmingham, Alex McCrary is the Director of Federal Governmental and Corporate Affairs at Alabama Power Company. In his current role, Alex manages relationships with elected officials and external stakeholders throughout the state to assist the company in meeting its strategic goals. Prior to this position, Alex served in various roles with Alabama Power Company as well as Southern Power Company. He also has several years of experience in the financial services field.
In addition to serving on the operating board of United Way Hands On, Alex also serves on the Sloss Furnaces Landmark Board and junior board of Horizons School. Having spent the majority of his life in Birmingham, Alex is passionate about making the city and state a better place to live, work and play.
Alex holds a BSBA in finance from Auburn University and MBA from Owen Graduate School of Management at Vanderbilt University. In his free time, he enjoys playing golf and spending time with his wife, Sara Kathryn, and two daughters, Margot (3) and Ann Brantley (1).
United Way of Central Alabama
Maggie McDonald has served as Vice President, Legacy Gifts at United Way of Central Alabama since 2018. In her role, Maggie manages planned giving and endowment giving, including the largest Tocqueville Legacy Circle in the world. Prior to joining the team at United Way, Maggie served as Chief Development Officer at YWCA Central Alabama and in various capacities on the institutional advancement and administrative team at Birmingham-Southern College. Maggie is a member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals and serves on the National Philanthropy Day Luncheon Committee. Maggie is a Certified Fund Raising Executive (CFRE), and has earned her Credential in Fund Raising Management (CFRM) from the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy at Indiana University. Maggie served as a board member of Church of the Reconciler and was a founding member of the Railroad Park Junior Board.
Samuetta Primus Nesbitt
United Way of Central Alabama
Samuetta Primus Nesbitt is Senior VP Public Relations / Government and Community Affairs for United Way of Central Alabama and has over 19 years nonprofit experience. In this position she creates, manages and implements PR campaigns and strategies with the goal of enhancing United Way’s image and position in the community. She also maintains strong relationships with community media organizations and manages all media relations.
In addition, she develops relationships and partnerships with local and regional governments in order to find areas of alignment, partnership and support for United Way’s programs and its strategic community planning work.
She holds a B.A. Degree from The University of Alabama in Communications and an M.S. Degree from The University of Alabama at Birmingham in Education Leadership. Samuetta worked as a broadcast journalist in the mid ’70’s and transitioned into the field of Public Relations for Compass Bank and Birmingham Public Schools in the 1980’s and 1990s.
Samuetta is the recipient of several honors and awards including Positive Maturity’s Top 50 Over 50 (2016); The Cahaba Girl Scout Council’s Woman of Distinction Award (2009) and The Birmingham Business Journal’s Top Business Women of 2003.
She has served on the Board of Trustees for Grandview Medical Center (formally Baptist Montclair Hospital and Trinity Hospitals) since 2002 and is also a board member of the Birmingham Holocaust Education Center.
Her professional and civic memberships include: The Women’s Network; The Kiwanis Club of Birmingham; The Public Relations Society of Alabama; Leadership Birmingham (1992) and Leadership Shelby County (2014); The Links Inc. and Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority. She is a member of Sixth Avenue Baptist Church. Samuetta is the mother of three adult children; Sara Nesbitt; Kari Nesbitt Hudson and Matthew Nesbitt and Sebastian Hudson’s GiGi.
Kaori Scherer is a driven and dynamic strategic leader with experience in accomplishing outcomes in the supply chain and operation arenas. Her current engagement also extends to economic and community development, working with small business programs and municipalities.
Kaori has extensive experiences in the international business and automotive industry, starting from Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Alabama, where she was hired as the third employee at the plant start-up. She has managed a diverse range of supply chain operations in purchasing, contract negotiation and management, budgeting, material management, production planning, inventory management, new product development, logistics, supplier development, and integrated business process management.
She has been instrumental working with and coaching start-up, small, and diversified businesses through non-profit, state, and federal government programs. Kaori was a recent coach and mentor for two start-up Birmingham businesses which participated in the Alabama Launchpad – a “shark tank” program of the Economic Development Partnership of Alabama (EDPA).
Kaori is currently the treasurer and serves on the executive board of directors for the Japan-America Society of Alabama (JASA). In October 2018, she facilitated and organized the first JASA delegate visit to the cities of Hitachi and Maebashi, Japan in the organization’s thirty-year history. Her strong background in relationship management and her general business acumen, coupled with her strategic leadership, enables her to successfully create business communications between key officials of the City of Birmingham, AL and the Japanese cities as well as establishing new networks and programs with Hitachi Regional Technical Support Center. She is also actively involved with the City of Stonecrest, Georgia for developing a roadmap and projects of international business and economic development.
Kaori was born and raised in Niigata, Japan and currently resides in Birmingham, Alabama. She is a proud alumnus of Southern Illinois University at Carbondale where she obtained bachelor’s degrees in Business Administration and Marketing.
Karim immigrated to the United States in 1984 from Damascus – Syria. His blog, Arab in Alabama, is on the Huffington Post nationally and all over Europe. He won two prizes in the 84th Writer’s Digest International Competition – one for a poem and another for an essay. He has written and photographed extensively for several print and online publications including Sports Illustrated, People, Time, Southern Living, The Alabama News Center and the Birmingham News/al.com. Other publications include B-Metro, Portico, Birmingham Magazine and Aramco World magazine. He wrote an essay for the book: Alabama Christmas alongside Helen Keller and Truman Capote.
He has published three coffee-table books. The Beauty Box, was a book about beauty parlors in The South. Shelter from the Storm, is a collection of portraits and quotes of the homeless. This book was commissioned by the Salvation Army and has received worldwide accolades. Home Sweet Home Alabama, shows Alabama as one of the most beautiful and friendly states. In 2005, he was one of 100 photographers commissioned to photograph for the book: America 24/7.
He has written the book: PAUL and me, A Journey to and from the Damascus Road. The book became an international phenomena and landed the number four best seller spot in religion books on Amazon. It has received coverage on The Huffington Post, National Public Radio, The Associated Press, The Birmingham News, The Australia News, and even the Fiji Times! With the book, Karim aspires to better understanding and acceptance of different worldviews.
He is an activist who seeks to increase the world’s understanding of acceptance and love and peace. He is the recipient of numerous awards including Best Annual Report, Pictures of the Year International, Writer’s Digest, The Addy Awards, and Best Book for Shelter from the Storm. He has been on the faculty of numerous workshops including the Southwestern Photojournalism Seminar in Dallas, and the Radius of Arab-American Writers in Detroit. He is a single father to three precious children: Zade, Dury, and Demi, and lives by the motto: Carpe diem – seizing every moment of this beautiful gift called life. Karim’s photography work can be viewed at his website: www.HireKarim.com. His writing can be seen at his popular Huffington Post blog at www.arabinalabama.com.
His current novel with agent Rena Rossner of the Deborah Harris Agency in Jerusalem, is about a Muslim boy in love with a Christian girl amidst of the Syrian civil war. Karim’s wish for people to love one another is where his personal and professional goals intersect.