More information about the Women In Leadership: Focusing on the Future Speakers & Coordinators

Ms. Leah Braun is principal of Harney Business Group.  They provide customized consulting, training and coaching to small and medium sized businesses, organizations and individuals to help them reach the next level.  She has coached many clients through a variety of professional and personal issues.  She conducts numerous seminars and retreats throughout South Dakota in topics ranging from customer service to work-and-life balance.   Leah retired from the South Dakota National Guard at the rank of Master Sergeant after 22 years of military service, where she began to hone her passion for working with people.  Leah has a teaching degree from BHSU and a Master’s of Science in administrative studies with an emphasis in counseling from USD.  Leah is a Certified Professional Coach, credentialed through the International Coach Federation.  She and her husband, Adam, have been married for 23 years.  They have 3 busy children and are very active in the community.

Ms. Jessica Castleberry is an entrepreneur, mentor, leader, and advocate for early childhood education from Rapid City, SD.  Jessica instructed preschoolers for ten years prior to opening her own center, Little Nest Preschool, in 2010. Jessica is a regional early childhood education conference presenter, author of the blog Early Education Plantation and contributing writer to the blog, Fractus Learning, London, UK. In addition to her National CDA credential, Jessica holds a Director Certificate, and is a graduate of the 2015 Women in Leadership series from Black Hills State University. Jessica was awarded the South Dakota CEO Young Enterprising Entrepreneur of the Year Award in 2016 and graduated from Leadership Rapid City, Class of 2016. Jessica is the head of the committee for the Rapid City Early Childhood Educator of the Year Award. She also serves on the Board of Directors for both the South Dakota Association of Child Care Directors and the SDAEYC. Jessica is dedicated to mentorship, professionalism, and early education leadership.  Jessica served as the SD CEO Women in Leadership Blog Moderator in 2016, and is thrilled to return in 2017!

Dr. Mary Caton-Rosser is an associate professor of Mass Communication at Black Hills State University. She advises the school’s student newspaper, Jacket Journal/, and the BHSU PR Club. Dr. Caton-Rosser also teaches classes in mass media law, mass communication theory and interviewing/newswriting/editorial, as well as business communication. She has a Ph. D. in Communication from the University of Colorado-Boulder, a Master’s degree in Education from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, and a Bachelor’s of Fine Arts degree from the University of Colorado-Boulder. Dr. Caton-Rosser also has several certifications in leadership, including one from the University of Wisconsin-Stout and from Viterbo University.

Ms. Catherine Greseth began her career in broadcasting in South Dakota with KBHB and KOTA and was the Media Relations Director for the Sturgis Bike Rally.  She went on to become the Business Development Director for a variety of Fortune 500 companies throughout the western United States.  Catherine has been appointed by Governor Daugaard to the Board of Services to the Blind and Visually Impaired and to The State Independent Living Council (SILC). She serves on the State Board of Directors for South Dakota National Federation of the Blind, serves on the Rapid City Mayors Committee For People With Disabilities, is an Ambassador for the Rapid City Chamber, is a board member of the Zonta Club of the Black Hills, and was chosen for the 2017 Leadership South Dakota program and is a 2016 graduate of the Women in Leadership program. Catherine, who herself is visually impaired along with her daughter Mary, is an advocate for all the abilities of people with disabilities. She is the Executive Director of the Workforce Diversity Network of the Black Hills which was formed out of the Governor's Employment Work Task Force in 2013. South Dakota is now the national leader in employing individuals with disabilities. She is married to Clete Greseth, and they have four grown children.

Dr. Rachel MK Headley is the owner and principal of Project Leadership Secrets, a company that specializes in providing premium leadership and management training to high-achieving women so they can reach their highest financial, career, and intellectual goals. She also owns Cobblestone Science, a 6-figure management consulting company. She works with a wide range of organizations, from nonprofits to large corporations and Federal agencies. Headley is a certified project management professional with the Project Management Institute, which sets the gold standard for project management. She has 20 years of experience with earth-imaging satellite science and systems management. Dr. Headley is a professional speaker, whose largest audience was a 10,000+ attendee conference plenary. She has briefed the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Deputy Secretary on her team and their accomplishments.

Ms. Kayla Klein currently works as the Executive Director at Northern Hills Alliance for Children, which is a child development center and preschool. They have modeled their program after the Starting Strong model of Rapid City. Her other two hats include serving as the President of the Northern Hills CASA board as well as the Public Policy Chair of the SDAEYC board. Kayla is passionate about advocating for the young children of our state and helping professionals of early childhood and women in general meet their potential and find their inner voice to help fulfill their goals.

Dr. Barbara Looney is an assistant professor at the BHSU School of Business, where she teaches Managerial Communications; and at the BHSU School of Liberal Arts, where she teaches Humanities. She also co-advises the BHSU enactus Team. Dr. Looney has a PhD in English from the University of Southern Florida, a Master’s in English from Rutgers University, and a Bachelor of Science in Education from BHSU. She also holds paralegal certification from the University of Maryland. Prior to her collegiate academic career, Dr. Looney worked in private industry as a Customer Service Representative for the Sheraton Hotel Corporation in Boston, as a Congressional staff assistant in Washington, D.C., as a corporate paralegal for law firms in Washington, D.C. and Charlotte, NC, and as the assistant manager of a bar supply company in Ft. Lauderdale, FL.  For three years in Copenhagen, Denmark, she held leadership positions with both the American Women’s Club and International Women’s Group, for whom she organized events and projects that benefited women from around the globe.

Ms. Meg Manke is the Human Resource and Training Manager at Coeur Wharf, a gold mine, near Lead, SD.  She earned her BSBA at Creighton University in Omaha, NE and her MS in Strategic Leadership at Black Hills State University. She has several years of experience in human resources and communication.  Ms. Manke finds employment law fascinating and also has a passion for designing organizational and individual development training.  She has developed mentorship programs, safety culture programs and is currently working on a project to utilize technology in order to effectively measure a perspective employee’s ability to perform physical tasks without injury.  Meg serves on the advisory board for the SD CEO, teaches for Junior Achievement and volunteers within the Spearfish community.  Outside of work and career, Ms. Manke has taken up running, finishing three half marathons in the last two years.  She has three planned for 2017 – the training must begin soon!  Meg has two beautiful daughters, Jobie (8) and Peyton (7) – they are her inspiration and driving force.  The three amigos spend their time helping on the family ranch, golfing, hiking, biking and laughing!

Ms. Ann McKay Thompson is a recent South Dakota Hall of Fame inductee for her innovation in higher education as an architect of the University Center model, establishment of the first Oscher Lifelong Institute in SD for people over 55, for her life long work giving women and equal playing field in jobs, athletics and political participation. Ann is a national award winning author published by Simon & Schuster NY, NY for "Management Strategies for Women". She has been one of ten Outstanding Young Women of America, on the Governor's Cabinet as Secretary of Labor, University Center President and Director of Workforce for Avera. She is a Bush Foundation Fellow with studies at MIT and a mentor/leadership leader for programs in Central SD, Sioux Falls, and Rapid City.

Ms. Helen Merriman has served as the founding director of the SD CEO, the only women’s business center in South Dakota, since its opening in November 2009.  SD CEO is housed under the School of Business and Natural Sciences and is located on the campus of Black Hills State University (BHSU) in Spearfish, South Dakota. Their mission is to provide comprehensive business assistance, education, counseling and training from startup to expansion and to foster economic and workforce development in South Dakota. Participation has grown from 425 participants to over 1400, in 50 counties statewide. She has developed many programs to help women realize their full leadership potential including the annual Celebrating Women in Business Luncheon and Awards, the annual Women’s Business Conference and a monthly Women in Networking event. Helen was instrumental in the creation of the Women in Leadership Focusing on the Future educational curriculum/program funded by Coeur Wharf gold and silver mine and is now in its fourth year with 100 graduates to date. Additionally, she was an invited participant at the 2015 National Security Forum at Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama and has served as an Honorary Commander for the Ellsworth Air Force Base 28th Contracting Squadron. Helen and SD CEO were awarded the 2013 SBA Region VIII Women's Business Center of Excellence Award. She is a member of the Rapid City Women’s Network. In 2001, Helen and her husband Roger sold their commercial printing and publishing business in Pierre that they had operated for 24 years. Owning their own business gave her the valuable experience of a "startup business" to the selling of a successful business with 40 employees. Prior to joining SD CEO, Helen served as communications and development director for Catholic Social Services. She also has experience as a sales manager for two regional publications, as a coordinator of social services for a long-term care facility and in leading both non-profit and for-profit entities. Helen is originally from the Sioux Falls area and earned a bachelor’s degree from Northern State University. She currently lives in Spearfish with her husband, has two adult stepchildren, six grandchildren, and two great grandsons.

Dr. Sonya Pagel is an Associate Professor of Communication Studies at Black Hills State University. She teaches teaches courses in organizational and interpersonal communication, public speaking, and conflict management. She earned her Ph.D. in Organizational Communication from Ohio University and went on to teach at various universities including the University of Rio Grande, Letourneau University, and Seattle Pacific University. Sonya’s research interests include the communication processes involved in organizational change and management development. This led her to study the rhetoric of company executives, and to conduct interviews with middle and senior managers to learn how they select, read and implement popular management theories. She has also worked in government and industry where she designed and delivered workshops on topics such as coaching, presentation skills, and leadership.


Ms. Laura Prosser has been an accounting professor at Black Hills State University since 2002.  In addition to teaching accounting in both Spearfish and Rapid City, she is the program chair for the BHSU accounting and business programs at the University Center in Rapid City.  Laura also serves on the board of directors at Northern Hills Federal Credit Union in Sturgis. In 1988, Laura earned her CPA certification and in 2011 she completed the requirements for her CMA certification (Certified Management Accountant). Prior to teaching at BHSU, Laura taught accounting and business courses at National American University in Rapid City where she chaired the accounting assessment committee. Laura was also the assistant controller at Washington Federal Savings Bank in Hillsboro, Oregon for three years.  Laura earned her bachelor’s degree in accounting and an MBA from the University of South Dakota.  Working with finances and budgets in personal and business applications are some of Laura’s favorite parts of accounting and financial management.  Laura and her husband David reside in Sturgis, SD and have three grown children.


Dr. Priscilla Romkema is the Dean of the College of Business and Natural Sciences at Black Hills State University. She was born and raised in Spearfish where she earned her undergraduate degree in instrumental music at BHSU and later attended the University of Wyoming where she earned a master’s degree in business education and a Ph.D. in education. She taught at various universities including Northern Michigan University, the University of Wyoming, and the Independent Institute of Russian Entrepreneurship in Moscow, Russia. Dr. Romkema currently serves as the 2016-2017 President of the National Business Education Association (NBEA), as a member of the Zonta Club of Spearfish, and as Vice Chair of the Regional Health Board. An avid runner, she has completed seven Boston Marathons and the New York City Marathon. Dr. Romkema was awarded the South Dakota Small Business Administration Women in Business Champion of the Year in 2011.

Ms. Kathy Sazama is an established licensed Marriage and Family Therapist working in the field for over 30 years. She has had the opportunity to work with individuals, couples, and businesses.  Working with Business and providing employee assistance has always been an interesting part of her work.  In the 90’s Kathy began training on Image Development. She received training from Sue Cappelan/Image resources and began providing training and consultations to individuals and college students. In 2013 Kathy relocated to Rapid City and expanded her services to incorporate eye glasses. Furthering her skills, she enrolled in Studio for Professional Image and completed Corporate Image Consulting and Menswear. In addition, she received training with Alyce Parsons on the 7 Universal Styles. Kathy launched An Image of Excellence 2015. Recently she spoke for GE Women’s Health on the importance of Professional Image in the work place. “Image is so much more than what your wear,” is the building block of her business. She provides training on appearance, behavior, communication, and social media presence. She believes having confidence and presenting well allows your professionalism to shine.

Dr. Helen Usera is the owner and president of Aspiring Business Consulting, a consulting company focused on leadership development, organizational development and team building. She is a certified John Maxwell Team coach and mentor and is also certified with Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. Helen received a Bachelor of Science, Elementary Education from Pittsburg State University; a Master’s of Science, Special Education from Pittsburg State University; and a Doctorate of Education, Educational Administration from the University of Kansas. She currently serves on the boards of Black Hills Leadership, Summer Nights on 7th Street and Rapid City Chamber of Commerce. Her greatest accomplishment is being the mother of two sons and now a grandmother to one granddaughter.

Ms. Lorie Vega is the Deputy Director, Force Support Squadron, Ellsworth AFB. She oversees all child, youth and family services, education, library, marketing, hospitality, human resources, and recreation programs for Ellsworth AFB. Her 30 year career in federal service began in 1985 as the first AF Child Development Center (CDC) Intern. She has held positions in CA, VA, GE, HI and MA including CDC Director, Youth Director, Recreation Services Chief, Airmen and Family Programs Chief, Director of the Child and Youth Services Branch for Headquarters Pacific Air Force, and Force Support Squadron and Mission Support Group Deputy.  Ms. Vega has a BS in Psychology from Cornell University and a MBA in Public Administration from Trinity College. She is also a graduate of the Air Force Air Command and Staff College, as well as Leadership Institute of Virginia Peninsula and Leadership Rapid City.  She is currently on the Board of Directors for Destination Rapid City, Women’s Networking of Rapid City, is a member of the Rapid City Cultural Plan Steering Committee and a Rapid City Chamber Ambassador.