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Innovation Council

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Sean Ahlum

Director, tekMountain; Director of Business Development, Castle Branch

Sean Ahlum joined tekMountain in 2014 as Director of Business Development. Prior, Sean served as the director of technology and communications for the University of North Carolina Wilmington's Office of Housing and Residence Life and brings over 17 years of in-depth experience in university information systems, data standards, system coordination, and business process flow. He has served as chair elect of the Residential Management Systems user advisory board, Chair of the Board of Directors of Surfrider Foundation's International Board of Directors, and has founded and led numerous local non-profit agencies, leveraging technology to scale community engagement and business success.

Dr. Daniel (Dan) Baden

Executive Principal MARBIONC, UNCW CREST Research Park

Baden has been an enabler of collaborative big science in Florida and North Carolina. Organized around marine biomedical and biotechnology, his work explores molecular mechanisms of toxicology and therapeutics/drug development. He currently is Executive Principal of MARBIONC, Marine Biotechnology in North Carolina. His immediate past role was Director Center for Marine Science UNCW. He also consults for translational science community and in the area of harmful algae and public health. He is trained in Chemistry (BA), Biochemistry (PhD) and Environmental Health Sciences (Post-doctoral).

Stephen Bon

President, Bon's Eye Marketing

Stephen currently serves as the president of Bon’s Eye Marketing – an agency that specializes in brand and message development. He founded the award-winning business seven years ago with a defined goal: Help companies develop long-term identities that compel prospects to engage, invest and refer.

Prior to launching BEM, Stephen worked as an editor in print media. He possess more than 10 years of experience in graphic design, writing and market research.

Laura Brogdon-Primavera

Manager of Programs and Operations, Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship 

Laura Brogdon-Primavera is the Manager of Programs and Operations at the UNCW Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. She served as the Administrative Assistant to the UNCW Chief of Staff in 2012 before moving to the CIE in 2013. Mrs. Primavera received her Bachelor’s Degree in Hospitality and Tourism Management from Appalachian State University and is currently pursuing her M.Ed. in Higher Education at UNCW. She has co-presented research on Skill Seeker in applied learning at the 2014 ACPA Conference and was recently published in Career Convergence Magazine for the article, “Examining the Skill Seeker Framework for Career Development."

Sandra (Sandie) Cecelski

Lead Teacher/Coordinator, Marine Science Academy, New Hanover County Schools

Sandie has been teaching Marine Science in New Hanover County Schools for 29 years. She graduated with a BS in Biology from the University of Tennessee and received her Masters of Marine Science Education from the University of North Carolina Wilmington. She is married to Richard Cecelski and lives in Carolina Beach with her two children. She enjoys running, yoga, and sailing.

Travis Corpening

Nixon Leaders Coordinator, CFCC

Travis' background ranges from working with K-12 school systems and collegiate institutions to non-profit agencies. He has facilitated presentations on topics like the working with high risk populations, motivating youth, collegiate retention and teaching healthy decisions, gangs, and more. Throughout his career, he has also conducted and developed various social and ethnic diversity trainings for state and local agencies.

Paul D'Angelo

Planning Manager, Wilmington Housing Authority

Paul D’Angelo is the Planning Manager for the Wilmington Housing Authority with a focus on transforming distressed communities into viable and sustainable mixed-income neighborhoods of opportunity. Areas of importance in the revitalization effort include job training and employment, economic development, investment, affordable housing, infrastructure, parks & recreation, income opportunity, access to healthy foods, and placemaking. Paul also represents the Housing Authority on a variety of Boards, including the Cape Fear Housing Coalition and Feast Down East.

Paul received his Bachelor of Science in Financial Management from the University of Delaware, his Bachelor of Arts in Film & Video with a focus on Journalism from Georgia State University, and his Masters in Public Administration from the University of North Carolina Wilmington with a focus on Urban Planning & Preservation. He has been a resident of Wilmington, NC, for over 11 years.

Marilyn Graham

Coordinator, Sustainability through Innovation Leadership Center (SILC), Brunswick Community College

Plans, coordinates, and oversees administration of sustainability and innovation programs. Serves on the BCC Economic Development Team (SBC, Customized Training, & SILC); organizes Sustainability Symposiums, workshops, and brainstorming sessions; part of NC Works 1000x100 surveying team; and on the boards of the Cape Fear Resource, Conservation, & Development, Keep Brunswick County Beautiful, Brunswick County Food Policy Council, and Brunswick Toastmasters. Holds a BS in Business Administration specializing in Entrepreneurship & Business Development, Marketing, and Environmental Studies, and MBA in Sustainable Business. Certifications include: US Green Building Council LEED Green Associate, Global Reporting Initiative training, NC Environmental Educator, and MPA Program.

Dr. William Hall

Professor Emeritus of Economics, UNC Wilmington

Dr. William Hall was a UNCW faculty member for almost 41 years, specializing in environmental economics and regional economic analysis. He developed a database of measures of socioeconomic activity for 40 counties in eastern North Carolina.

Dr. John Hayes

Executive Director, North Carolina Foreign Trade Promotion Council (FTPC)

Dr. Hayes is President of the North Carolina World Trade Association (NCWTA) in Wilmington, NC (, Executive Director of the Foreign Trade Promotion Council (FTPC) (, and Principal and Co-Founder of Hayes Escalante Group, LLC (, a global business development and trade finance consultancy. He also serves as a member of the NC Public School Forum and advisor to the North Carolina Superintendent of Schools.

In Public Service, he was appointed to two US Presidential initiatives as the First Executive Director of the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award Program. He was also called upon to direct a nationwide Presidential program, EXPORT NOW, as Executive Director, working directly with a presidential-appointed board. Dr. Hayes has BS, MS and Ph.D. degrees from NYU School of Engineering and Science in Oceanography. Dr. Hayes held several marine science leadership positions including Director, NOAA Office of Oceanography and Marine Services; Assessment and Chief Oceanographer at the US Navy Fleet Numerical Oceanographic Center in Monterey CA; Chief Oceanographer at ERT, Concord MA; President, Global Scientific; and Founder of ShellBond LLC, a marine environmental products company.

Randall Johnson

Executive Director, Southeastern Office, North Carolina Biotechnology Center

Randall Johnson has extensive experience in regional economic development, with a focus on entrepreneurship, cluster development, and knowledge sector growth. He works to strengthen the regional economy and to improve the quality of life across North Carolina, through economic development action related to marine biotech, industrial biotech, renewable bioproducts/energy, clinical research, and agricultural biotech.

Johnson was awarded the U.S. President’s Volunteer Service Award, a national honor award recognizing individuals who have answered the call to make a lifelong commitment to volunteer service. He serves on the boards of the NC Economic Developers Association and the NC Sustainable Energy Association. His work with statewide partners led to the creation of NC’s Marine Bio-Technologies Center of Innovation.

Johnson has completed several International Economic Development Council courses, including Basic Economic Development, Technology-led Economic Development, Entrepreneurial and Small Business Development Strategies, Economic Development Strategic Planning, and Business Retention and Expansion.

Johnson graduated cum laude from Wake Forest University with an undergraduate concentration in psychology, and he holds an MBA from the Babcock Graduate School of Management at Wake Forest University, where he concentrated in IT Management, Operations Management, and Entrepreneurship.

Rob Kaiser

Publisher, Greater Wilmington Business Journal

Rob Kaiser is the owner and publisher of the Greater Wilmington Business Journal and WILMA magazine. Before moving to Wilmington in 2007, he helped create a business publication in Fort Wayne, Indiana, as its editor and then became the newspaper’s publisher. He previously worked as a reporter at the Chicago Tribune, Asian Wall Street Journal, Baltimore Business Journal and Lynchburg News & Advance. Rob has an undergraduate degree from James Madison University and masters degrees in business and journalism from Northwestern University.

Dr. Amanda Lee

President, Cape Fear Community College

Dr. Amanda K. Lee was named president of Cape Fear Community College in June 2015. She has over a decade of experience at CFCC, serving in roles in both executive administration and instruction.

Dr. Lee's priorities for CFCC include increasing opportunities for all students by streamlining pathways toward the achievement of educational goals. She also wants to build on CFCC's role as a driver of economic development in our region by ensuring that CFCC offers training programs for jobs that are available locally, and by working with area businesses to design programs specifically tailored to their hiring needs.

Dr. Jennifer McCall

CEO, SeaTox Research, Inc.

Jennifer McCall is the co-founder and CEO of SeaTox Research, a biotech startup that specializes in R&D for drug discovery/development and assay development for marine toxins. She has a PhD in biology from UNC-Charlotte, where her research focused on the gender differences in susceptibility to infection. She has an MBA from UNC-Wilmington, with an emphasis on the business of biotechnology. She also holds a teaching position at UNCW, where she teaches microbiology and general biology to nursing students, and biotechnology to undergraduates.

Tony McEwen

Special Assistant to the City Manager for Legislative Affairs, City of Wilmington

Tony McEwen serves as the Assistant to the Wilmington City Manager for Legislative Affairs. He has ten years of legislative and political experience, both at the state and federal level. In his current role, McEwen represents the City of Wilmington to the North Carolina General Assembly and to their Congressional delegation. He seeks opportunities to work collaboratively with other local governments on legislative and lobbying efforts of mutual interest. Previously, McEwen worked as an Economic Development Director to a United States Congressman working to leverage federal resources to advance economic development and community enrichment efforts.

Dr. Deborah (Deb) Mosca

CEO, Marine Bio-Technologies Center of Innovation

Dr. Mosca is the CEO of the Marine Bio-Technologies Center of Innovation (MBCOI), headquartered in Wilmington with two regional offices in Morehead City and the Research Triangle Park, NC. As a proven leader of multi‐disciplinary project teams, she has guided the discovery and development of novel therapeutic agents for human, animal, and agricultural applications in various organizations including biotech, non-profit research institutions, and large Pharma. In her current role, Deb is responsible for driving commercialization of marine biotechnologies to deliver economic benefits statewide. Her efforts include cultivation of a collaborative environment among stakeholders regionally, nationally, and internationally.

Shaun Olsen

President/CEO, CloudWyze, Inc.

Shaun Olsen, founder and CEO of Wilmington’s communications and technology company CloudWyze, is a prominent leader in the region’s burgeoning business and technology community. He has been a part of numerous innovative start-ups over the past 15 years.

Shaun received a degree in Business Administration from the Cameron School of Business at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington. He is an active-member of the Center of Innovation and Entrepreneurship, the Cameron Executive Network, Cameron Executive Advisory Board, Rotary International, as well as a contributor/advisor to a number of other professional organizations within the greater-Wilmington area.

Michelle Sabaoun

Director, Biotech/Marine Biotech, Brunswick Community College

Michelle Sabaoun is Director of Biotechnology and Marine Biotechnology at Brunswick Community College (BCC), she holds a M.S. in Marine Science from UNCW and B.S. in Environmental Science/Marine & Coastal Sciences from Rutgers University. She has developed and implemented two programs in Southeastern NC; Biotechnology (2007) and most recently Marine Biotechnology (2014) within the North Carolina Community College System (NCCCS). Brunswick Community College has the first two–year degree Marine Biotechnology program in the world. She has conducted research in algal ecology, implemented an algae biofuels project at BCC and is currently implementing the culture of sea cucumbers (Holothuria), horseshoe crabs (Limulus polyphemus) and sea anemones (Aiptasia) into coursework and active learning projects for students in the Center for Aquaculture and Biotechnology. All organisms have biomedical importance in the marine biotech industry and some have importance in the aquaria industry. She is a returned Peace Corps volunteer (Morocco ‘96-‘99) and holds the NCCCS BioNetwork Instructor of the Year award for 2013.

Fran Scarlett

Regional Director, SBTDC at UNC Wilmington

As regional director, Scarlett is responsible for providing direction and coordination of the business and economic development activities of the Southeast Center, which serves six counties in partnership with its host institution, UNCW’s Cameron School of Business.

The SBTDC at UNC Wilmington is consistently one of the highest performing centers in the state. In the past 6 years, we have assisted our clients with starting 106 companies; securing $49.5M in capital and creating or retaining 1700+ jobs.

Scarlett received her MBA from Harvard University and a bachelor’s degree in Mass Communications from Boston University. She is an adjunct faculty member of the management department of the Cameron School and teaches Organizational Behavior, Entrepreneurship and Negotiation.

She is vice-chair of the Advisory Council for Exceptional Children with the New Hanover County Schools, a member of the Cameron Executive Advisory Board, former board member of Wilmington Downtown, Inc., DREAMS of Wilmington and is a member of Leadership Wilmington Class of 2012.

Elizabeth (Beth) Schrader

Chief Strategy and Budget Officer, New Hanover County

Beth Schrader, Chief Strategy and Budget Officer, joined New Hanover County in 2007. In her current role, she has responsibility for policy development, strategy formulation and execution, and administration and preparation of a more than $300 million budget.

Beth has an undergraduate degree in Chemical Engineering from Clarkson University, and an MBA in Finance from Cornell University.

Prior to joining New Hanover, Beth spent nine years in Research and Development with Procter and Gamble, in the US, Japan and China, developing innovative products and markets. She also spent three years as an Investment Banking and the Global Equities Strategy Group Associate working in mergers and acquisitions at Lehman Brothers. Beth holds eight US patents.

Douglas Tarble

Director Small Business Center, Cape Fear Community College

Douglas Tarble has been the SBC Director at CFCC for the past 8 years. Previously, he was a years small business owner for 12 years, and spent 20 years in various corporations, including divisions of Bristol-Myers and RJR- Nabisco. Tarble holds an MBA from Iona College and a BS from the Worcester Polytechnic Institute.

Dr. Ron Vetter

Associate Provost for Research and Dean of the Graduate School, UNC Wilmington

Dr. Ron Vetter is the associate provost for research, dean of the graduate school and a professor in the Department of Computer Science at the University of North Carolina Wilmington and co-founder of two technology companies. Vetter received his PhD in computer science from the University of Minnesota.

Gary Vidmar

Economic & Community Development Director, Town of Leland

Gary Vidmar is the Economic & Community Development Director for the Town of Leland. In addition to leading the Town’s business recruitment and other economic development initiatives, Mr. Vidmar also oversees the Planning Department and Building Inspection Department. Gary previously served as Assistant City Manager and Village Administrator for two communities in the Cincinnati, Ohio area. Prior to entering the public sector, Mr. Vidmar had a 35+ year career in commercial construction and real estate development including 20 years as a business owner. Gary received a BS Civil Engineering from the University of Cincinnati.

Dr. Aswani Volety

Dean and Professor, College of Arts and Sciences, UNC Wilmington

Aswani Volety, Ph. D. is the Dean and Professor of Biology and Marine Biology in the College of Arts and Sciences at University of North Carolina Wilmington. His research expertise includes shellfish diseases, ecotoxicology, physiology, immunopathology, and management and restoration of shellfish habitat. His current research includes investigating the effects of contaminants and harmful algal blooms and watershed alteration on shellfish. He authored over 60 peer-reviewed and technical publications, has nearly 200 conference presentations, and a reviewer for national funding agencies and numerous scientific journals. He is the President-Elect for the Southern Association of Marine Laboratories.

Marlon Weems

Founder, Hillcrest Strategies

Marlon Weems is the founder of Hillcrest Strategies, a Wilmington-based consulting and advisory firm. His career in financial services spans over three decades, with over ten years spent on Wall Street. His subject-matter expertise encompasses financial technology (fintech), global market structure, algorithmic trading, regulatory compliance and social media. He has held leadership positions at several boutique investment banking firms, and has also navigated the start-up of several brokerage and electronic trading operations.

He has authored capital markets research including, Robo-Advisors vs. Traditional Advisors: The Battle for the Hearts and Minds of Investors; Electronic Trading Outlook for Brazil: Trading Faster, Trading Smarter; The Transformative OMS: From Tickets & Timestamps to Today’s Technologies and The Art of Noise: Harnessing the Power of Social Media with Smart Analytics.

Alfred White

Financial Center Manager, Bank of America

Currently, Alfred White serves as a Financial Center Manager for the Bank of America with 11 years of banking experience, ranging from teller to his current position. He is heavily involved in community endeavors. He is the immediate past board chair for L.I.N.C., Inc.; past chair of the BILT Committee of Wilmington; treasurer-board of directors for the Community Boys and Girls Club of Wilmington; Middle Eastern Province Alumni board member and past Wilmington alumni chapter Polemarch for Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc. He is also currently pursuing his MBA at UNCW.

Andrew Williams

CEO, Elite Innovations

Andrew Williams is currently the CEO of Elite Innovations, Wilmington’s premier product development firm and Makerspace. Elite takes early inventor entrepreneurs’ ideas through the product development process and prepares them for the marketplace.

Wilmington native, Cameron Scholar to VMI (2007 graduate B.S. Mech. Engineering), Captain in U.S. Marine Corps., UNC Kenan-Flagler MBA 2014.