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

Ms. Andrea Bakeberg has been the Assistant Director for the SD CEO since May 2015. Andrea graduated from Black Hills State University in 2012 with a Bachelor degree in Business Administration - Marketing and a Commercial Arts minor. She just graduated with her MBA in Applied Management from Black Hills State University on May 7, 2016. Andrea is currently serving as the secretary for the Zonta Club of Spearfish.

Ms. Jessica Castleberry 
is an entrepreneur, early childhood education advocate, conference speaker, and mentor.  Starting in 2000, Jessica taught specialized art, music, dance, yoga, and drama classes for preschoolers for organizations such as the Dahl Arts Center, Black Hills Community Theatre, the Academy of Dance Arts, Meadowlark Productions, Storybook Island Children's Theatre, and the Rapid City and Douglas School Systems, among others.  After opening Little Nest Preschool in Rapid City in 2010, Jessica has become active regionally in the mentorship, training, and professional development of early childhood educators.  She serves as the treasurer for the Women's Network of Rapid City, is on the Ambassador Committee for the Rapid City Chamber of Commerce, and is a board member of the South Dakota Child Care Directors Association.  Jessica is dedicated to mentorship, professional recognition for early childhood educators, and raising the bar for early childhood education in the state of South Dakota.  She is a graduate of the Women in Leadership Series of 2015, and is thrilled to be selected as the blog moderator for the class of 2016!

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.

Dr. Rachel Headley is the owner and principal of Cobblestone Science, a 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 helped lead the team that planned and managed a mandated $5M annual reduction in sales, expanded services 10-fold, kept key staff, and maintained on-time deliverables. She was an invited speaker to a 10,000+ attendee conference plenary and has briefed the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Deputy Secretary on her team and their accomplishments.

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 Generalist at Coeur Wharf Resources (USA), Inc. near Lead, SD. She is a Belle Fourche, SD native and attended undergraduate school at Creighton University in Omaha, NE. She has had career opportunities as a dispatcher/operations manager for an over-the-road trucking company, an operations manager for a restaurant/social club, and a marketing account manager for a radio station. She is currently working towards a master’s degree in strategic leadership through an online program at Black Hills State University. Outside of work and career, Ms. Manke has a wonderful husband, Josh, of seven years and two beautiful daughters, Jobie (6) and Peyton (5).  They spend their time riding on the family ranch, golfing and hanging out at home.

Ms. Erica Merchant is an adjunct Instructor in the Art Department at Black Hills State University. She graduated from University of South Dakota with a Master of Fine Arts in Sculpture. Erica received an emerging artist grant from the South Dakota Arts Council, and has been a featured artist at the Governor's Awards in the Arts multiple times, as well as in the Governor's Biennial art show. Her work has also been featured at all the state museums and the annual commercial sculpture show, Sculpture in the Hills. Erica is a multi-talented person spending her time between teaching, video projects and creating.  

Ms. Helen Merriman has served as the founding director of the SD CEO since its opening in November 2009. During that time participation has grown from 425 participants to over 1400, statewide. Additionally, she was an invited participant at the 2015 National Security Forum at Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala. and has served as an Honorary Commander for the Ellsworth Air Force Base 28th Contracting Squadron. She was awarded the 2013 SBA Region VIII Women's Business Center of Excellence award. In 2001 Helen and her husband Roger sold their commercial printing and publishing business in Pierre that they had operated for 24 years giving her 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. She has two adult step children, 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 (or nearly 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 at BHSU. She went on to the University of Wyoming to earn a M.S. 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 is currently a member of the Zonta Club of Spearfish, the Spearfish Area Community Foundation, the Ponderosa Apartments board, and the Regional Health Board of Trustees.  An avid runner, she has competed in 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 began her career in the mental health field. She became a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and had the opportunity to work with individuals, families and groups. In 1992, Ms. Sazama began training under the direction of Sue Cappelan/Image Resources Network. She became certified in color draping, clothing personality, body shapes, skincare and make up. Ms. Sazama now works with men and women to perfect their professional business image.  She has also provided education and training to college students and private businesses areas on professional dress, business etiquette, body language and communication. By helping others with their image, Ms. Sazama believes it helps them gain the edge in our competitive world .The more you know and understand about your personal style, the more confidence and success you will have in pursuing your dreams.

Dr. Pat Simpson has served since 2011 as Dean of the College of Education and Behavioral Sciences at Black Hills State University.  Prior to joining the BHSU faculty in 2005, Simpson served in faculty and administrative positions at universities in Texas and Nebraska.  Her career as a teacher and administrator in public schools spanned two decades and gave her experiences in multiple states.  In 1990, Simpson was recognized as a regional school principal of the year by her peers and honored as a state finalist for the Texas Administrator of the Year.  She was recently elected to the Board of Governors of The Renaissance Group, a national consortium with a commitment to the preparation of America’s education professionals.

Dr. Wei Song received her Ph.D. in Marketing/Management from the University of Edinburgh, UK. Dr. Song has solid international experience in the business world.  She has worked for a major US corporation as a senior facility analyst.  She has also taught classes in a range of universities, including USA, Germany, United Kingdom, Canada and China. Currently, she is an Associate Professor of Marketing at Black Hills State University, USA.  Her research interests are in the areas of marketing strategy, consumer behavior, social media marketing and Chinese own brand strategy. She is also a respected scholar in the area of teaching business ethics and international cultural comparative studies.  She has chaired various sessions at the international conferences and publishes papers regularly. In addition, Dr. Song served as an external examiner for Ph.D. dissertation and a reviewer for the multiple international journals. 

Dr. Helen Usera serves as the Vice President of Development of Black Hill Works Foundation. She is also 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 Women's Community Leadership Initiative committee, Black Hills Leadership Development committee, and chair for Rapid City Area Chamber of Commerce Governmental Affairs.

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 and is a member of the Rapid City Cultural Plan Steering Committee.