Powering Social and Economic Opportunity Speaker Bios

Susan Abod – An IDA Business woman put her musical career on hold in 1986 after she developed chronic fatigue syndrome and chemical sensitivities then later diagnosed with Lyme disease. Despite her diminished physical strengths, she wrote and produced the autobiographical video documentary, “Funny, You Don’t Look Sick” in 1995.  Twenty years of Susan’s songwriting, culminated in her recording “In the Moment” (2001). The 16- song CD encompasses jazz, blues, and pop styles with lyrics “infused with an intimacy and zest for living”(Boston Globe).  Since moving to Santa Fe in 2005, to try to improve her health, she has continued to write songs and pursue her passion for jazz- -most recently; as guest singer with the Bert Dalton trio at Vanessie. Susan has been described as one of Santa Fe’s hidden gems by The Reporter and was a featured singer in 2009 and 2011 New Mexico Jazz Women Voices Series in Albuquerque.


Clarence H. Carter, Director of the Arizona Department of Economic Security,
is a veteran social-service administrator with nearly 20 years of experience at the local, state and federal level. His track record is one of successful innovation in the delivery of entitlement programs, homeless services and prevention, child care services, adult protective services and teen pregnancy prevention.  Prior to coming to Arizona, he was Director of the Department of Human Services for Washington, D.C.  He also served as Deputy Administrator for the Food Stamp Program with the United States Department of Agriculture and was Commissioner of the Virginia Department of Social Services.


Gail Chasey is serving her 8th term as state representative in New Mexico.   Rep. Chasey has served for 10 years as the Chair of the House Consumer and Public Affairs Committee and also serves on the House Judiciary and House Rules committees.  During the Interim, she serves as co-chair of the Tobacco Settlement Revenue Oversight Committee and is a member of the Courts, Corrections & Justice Committee.  She also served on the Legislative Redistricting Committee in 2011.  In addition to the 2009 repeal of the death penalty, a bill she championed since 1999, Rep. Chasey has successfully sponsored legislation to eliminate filing fees for victims of domestic violence, end discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, expand community corrections, and prohibit exorbitant phone rates for inmates trying to stay in touch with their families while in public or private prisons.


Roberto Coronado is an economic outreach officer and senior business economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas in El Paso. Coronado oversees the branch’s outreach activities through branch publications, presentations and speeches, public conferences, and economic education programs. His research at the Fed focuses on issues pertaining to the Mexican economy, the maquiladora industry, the U.S.–Mexico border economy and the West Texas and New Mexico economies. Coronado has written articles for various Federal Reserve publications and academic journals in both the United States and Mexico.  Coronado currently serves as the vice president for the Rio Grande Economics Association, the El Paso chapter for the National Association for Business Economics. Coronado is also a clinical assistant professor at the University of Texas at El Paso, where he teaches in the master’s of science in economics program. He obtained his PhD in economics from the University of Houston and holds a BBA in accounting and economics and a MS in economics—both from the University of Texas at El Paso.


Race Cowgill – After founding and running a successful media company in New York City for ten years, Race Cowgill began a career in consulting with the national firm of Zenith Management Consulting in 1985 and was invited to become a Principal eight years later. For the last twenty-seven years, he has consulted to over three hundred medium and large companies in every industry. He grew up in Boulder, and has lived in Albuquerque for the past 20 years.



Dede Feldman has had a varied career as a journalist, high school and university teacher, and the owner of a small public relations business. As a State Senator from District 13 in Albuquerque’s North Valley since 1997, Dede Feldman has already had a big impact on the lives of women, children and people struggling to make ends meet.  She is the sponsor of several successful initiatives including the “Graduated Drivers License” system for teens, a mastectomy bill that mandates insurance companies cover a minimum 48 hr. hospital stay, as well as the creation of a Brain Injury Services Fund that provides much needed services to people with head injuries. She also sponsored the“Do Not Call” bill in 2003 prohibiting unwanted telephone solicitations, an ATV safety bill in 2005 and the state’s Senior Prescription Drug Discount program (2002).  She currently serves as the Chair of the Senate Public Affairs Committee and the Co- Chair of the Interim Health and Human Services Committee.


Vikki Frank is the founding Executive Director of Credit Builders Alliance. She has 15 years experience creating wealth building and anti-poverty solutions for international, national and community-based organizations throughout the Americas and Africa. Vikki has worked with over 600 community-based organizations providing technical assistance, training, and consulting to build their capacity around financial services. She is recognized for her expertise in adapting mainstream asset-building strategies to diverse population. Vikki also worked with the Center for Higher Education Policy Analysis of the University of Southern California to expand university participation in education IDAs.



Chris Giangreco works to promote financial success for Texas families who interact with the child support system. His duties include oversight of the Urban Fathers Asset Building demonstration, integration of financial education into existing programs, education about the intersections of asset building and child support, and development of pilot projects to create opportunities for child support customers to attain financial stability. Prior to his work with the Child Support Division, Chris worked in Chicago, Illinois, where he managed a statewide asset-building coalition and helped promote local, state, and federal policy supporting economic stability for families and individuals of all incomes. Chris has experience in policy advocacy, program development, government relations and research in a variety of areas – financial services, consumer protections, public health, transportation, housing, and environmental sustainability.

Inger Giuffrida has operated her own consulting business for eleven years and has had the privilege of working with a diverse set of clients from throughout the United States and Canada.  As a financial literacy/capability and asset-building consultant, she has developed and delivered asset building training and financial education “training for trainers” to thousands of practitioners in the asset-building field across North America and is frequently asked to be a keynote speaker or featured trainer at state and national conferences.


Sharon Henderson is Vice President of Strategic Initiatives with Prosperity Works.  She founded the New Mexico Assets Consortium, a statewide partnership of community and tribally-based organizations providing asset formation opportunities for lower income families.  Prosperity Works tests and demonstrates strategies throughout New Mexico that build personal, social and financial capital within low and modest income households.  Best practices are modeled and replicated through the network of partner organizations.  Outside of New Mexico, Ms. Henderson provides technical assistance to tribes and community based organizations that are developing asset-based initiatives.  Ms. Henderson serves on the Board of the Credit Builders Alliance, a national organization dedicated to providing access to credit reporting for micro enterprise organizations.  Her background is in business development and micro enterprise lending, as well as community planning, development and asset mapping.

Thomas Jensen is the owner and principal of Vaerdi, LLC (www.vaerdi.com), a private financial planning practice where he works with private clients and consults with state, federal and non-profit agencies on asset building and wealth management projects.  Prior to founding Vaerdi, Mr. Jensen was Program Director with CASA of Oregon where he created a multi-million dollar IDA network with 60 sub-grantees, serving more than 2,500 IDA participants.  Additionally, he was instrumental in the creation of Oregon’s first adaptive technology loan fund, serving people with disabilities.  A Danish native, he spent his first 24 years in Europe and graduated with a BA (Hons) in Cultural Anthropology and an MSc in International Economic Development from University of London. He moved to the US in 2003 where he now resides in Portland, Oregon with his wife and daughter.


Senator Tim Keller, (D-Bernalillo-17) Tim represents the Albuquerque’s International district in Albuquerque’s SE Heights around Expo NM and Kirtland Air Force Base.  Tim was born and raised in New Mexico and is an Eagle Scout.  Following graduation from St. Pius X High School, he attended the University of Notre Dame, where he earned a Bachelor’s degree studying in Public Service, Art History and Finance.  He then went on to earn an MBA with honors from the Harvard Business School.

Tim’s work in the legislature has widely recognized.  He sits on the Business, Education and Committee’s Committees.  He also sits on the Finance, Tax, Investments, and Economic Development interim committees.


Linda M. Lopez has represented Bernalillo County’s South Valley and Westgate Community as a senator in the New Mexico Legislature for the past thirteen years. She was the first woman ever elected from her area to the New Mexico Senate and, among her many projects, she has worked to ensure that  single mothers have access to childcare, training opportunities and quality health care for themselves and their children.  Senator Lopez has an MBA and, in addition to her legislative advocacy, serves on the Board of Directors for the Albuquerque Rape Crisis Center and TVI Foundation.  She also championed and helped pass the energy assistance memorial.




Greg Mays has taught technology and mathematics courses at private schools in Albuquerque and Santa Fe for the past several years, and is currently the Technology Director at Desert Academy.  He started the first podcast in the state of New Mexico and is a journalist with a degree in Public Relations from NMSU.  He researches and teaches on the benefits and pitfalls of social media for individuals and corporations worldwide and has his own blog, Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, LinkedIn, and Foursquare accounts.



Leon R. McCowan  serves as the ACF Assistant Secretary’s representative for the Administration for Children and Families (ACF), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Region VI, Dallas, Texas. He provides executive leadership, direction, and coordination for achieving ACF’s key national goals, priorities, and special initiatives; advocates for and advances the priorities of the HHS Secretary and ACF Assistant Secretary, and facilitates Administration initiatives to improve outcomes for vulnerable children and families, special populations, and distressed communities.  He manages and coordinates special sensitive and cross-cutting projects and initiatives such as Healthy Marriage, Fatherhood, and Faith-based Programs in the region, consisting of the states of Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas.  As Regional Administrator he helps achieve ACF’s key national goals and priorities by communicating ACF’s regional interests and concerns within HHS, with other Federal agencies, State human service departments and agencies, territorial and tribal governments, and with public and private local organizations that assist children and families.  He serves as the Lead Regional Administrator for Positive Youth Development, Child Support Enforcement, Responsible Fatherhood, and ACF’s Effective Use of Technology.


Reta Oliver is the State and Tribal Child Support Program Specialist for the Administration for Children and Families (ACF), Region VI Office of Child Support Enforcement where she has child support program responsibility and over-site for the State of New Mexico; Mescalero Apache Tribe; and Pueblo of Zuni. Reta received both her B.S., Summa Cum Laude, in Government-Public Service in August 2000, and her M.A. in Government in August 2001, from Texas Woman’s University in Denton, TX. Reta came to ACF-OCSE through the Class of 2001 Presidential Management Fellows program. Prior to ACF, Reta served ten years with the Region VI FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) in Denton, TX.


  Ona Porter, President and CEO of Prosperity Works, leads the organizations agenda in New Mexico and nationally.  She developed a comprehensive, integrated investment strategy to insure the  healthy development of all children that is used nationally.  She also developed a concept of multigenerational family policy that is designed to provide the values, norms, expectations and resources required for families to effectively nurture across generations.  Ona conducted and published the first comprehensive study of the status of New Mexico’s children which was designed to identify the root causes of the problems manifested, and to develop primary prevention strategies.  She trained private and public sector managers and leaders nationwide in the development of “family friendly” workplaces and the achievement of workplace diversity.


Carl Rist is CFED’s vice president for Assets and Opportunity Programs and director of Asset Building.  In this capacity, Mr. Rist is responsible for CFED’s work to develop, test, support and expand innovative community practices and programs that help to build wealth and create greater economic opportunity.  From 2003 – 2009, Mr. Rist was the director of the SEED (Savings for Education, Entrepreneurship and Downpayment) Policy and Practice Initiative, a multi-year, multi-site demonstration of matched savings accounts for children and youth in low-income families.  More recently, Mr. Rist has helped to design and implement the Partnership for College Completion, an innovative partnership between  three organizations — UNCF (United Negro College Fund), the KIPP network of public charter schools, and CFED — that offers a comprehensive suite of academic, financial and social supports, such as incentivized college savings accounts, financial literacy education, college readiness training and merit-based college scholarships, for KIPP students.


Mary Beth Shewan, M.S. BCC MCC Mary Beth has been coaching for 15 years and is owner of Wholelife Coaching in Albuquerque, New Mexico.  She is currently on the faculty of Coaches Training Institute and teaches both Financial and Career Coaching through Central New Mexico Community College (CNM).  Mary Beth is a Master Certified Coach through the International Coach Federation.  She also trains and coaches in organizations across North America.   Her professional experience includes organizational developer, career counselor, manager, speaker, and trainer for business.  Over her career, she has worked in several nonprofit settings conducting job training, career development, and life planning with a wide range of individuals.  Her goal is to support holistic approaches to workforce development, economic development, and social equity nationally



Irene Skricki is the Senior Financial Education Program Analyst in the Office of Financial Education at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, where she started in August 2011.  Previous to the CFPB, Irene was a Senior Associate at the Annie E. Casey Foundation for the past 15 years, where she managed the financial stability portfolio. She has also held positions at the Ford Foundation and the Coalition on Human Needs.  Irene has a Bachelor of Science degree from MIT and a Masters of Public Affairs degree from Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School.


Shawn Spruce is a financial education consultant specializing in personal finance training, curriculum design, program development, homebuyer counseling, and consumer advocacy.  Assisting both adults and youth he holds professional certifications in a variety of financial education subject matters and draws on a lifetime of firsthand experience with these topics and related issues.  Moreover, while working with clients ranging from private businesses and non-profits to tribal entities and schools; he strives to empower individuals and families with the knowledge and skill to manage their own finances on their own terms.  He also proudly serves on the Pueblo of Laguna Investment Committee and as a board member for Native Community Finance, a start up CDFI located at the Pueblo of Laguna.  Shawn is a graduate of Haskell Indian Nations University and a member of Laguna Pueblo.



 Matt Unrath serves as National Program Director at Wider Opportunities for Women. He currently leads the development of WOW’s Basic Economic Security Table Initiative, oversees all of WOW’s national projects, serves as a principal contact for WOW’s state partners, and represents WOW in several national advocacy efforts. Previous to joining WOW, Matt served as the Policy and Program Liaison for Asset Building at Heartland Alliance in Chicago, where he worked on various initiatives intended to help low-income families build wealth, including financial literacy and match savings programs and advocacy around consumer protection policies in Illinois.