IRF Trustee Bios
|SUSAN ADAMS, CPIM, CEP is Vice President of Engagement at Next Level Performance, a Dittman Company. She is committed to generating business improvement through recognition, incentives, and engagement and her areas of expertise include marketing operations, demand generation, copy writing, group and individual travel management, event planning, and product development. She is an author and frequently contributes to industry press. Currently, she serve on the board of the Incentive Research Foundation (IRF), and as chair of the Research Committee. She recently served as secretary of the board of directors of the Incentive Marketing Association (IMA), as a member of the Incentive & Engagement Solution Providers and the Performance Improvement Council (strategic industry groups of the IMA), and am a past president of the Recognition Council. She has earned both CPIM and CEP certifications, and has been a member of SHRM and RPI.|
|MARK ALT, Senior Vice President and Director of Sales for Maritz Motivation Solutions. Mark Alt brings diverse experience to lead a team of sales professionals representing results-based loyalty and motivation solutions. His experience in both the motivation and learning divisions of Maritz enables Mark to guide the Maritz team in designing innovative programs for clients that deliver higher levels of loyalty and sales performance through the sales channel, employees and customers. Mark’s sales career has encompassed both direct and channel sales. While at Oracle he was involved in leading sales teams to focus on government, defense systems, utilities, and engineering solutions. He is an advisor for Global Channel programs for manufacturers and distributors in the technology market. He was a member of the US Chamber of Commerce-Telecommunications and Ecommerce committee. Currently resides as the Board of Directors on Action for Autism. Mark is also a mentor to the SixThirty organization. He enjoys working with and motivating individuals so they can achieve greater potential. Mark received a bachelor’s degree in Computer Science from Southern Illinois University. He is married with three boys, three girls and two dogs. In his spare time, he loves to golf.|
|COSIMO BRUZZESE Cosimo Bruzzese joined PRA in 2002, bringing with him an outstanding sales record in the hospitality industry with several years of previous experience in hotels, airlines and cruises. In his current role as Vice President of Business Development, Cosimo is responsible for developing and maintaining Sales & Marketing and is the primary contact for Corporate and Incentive clients. He currently serves on the IRF Board of Trustees, FICP Influence Committee and is a former Board member of MPI, FICP Hospitality Partners Advisory Council, Board of Directors for ADMEI and Co-Chair of SITE Young Leaders; he is a past SITE Kevin Forde Spirit Award recipient and was also named one of Special Events Magazines Top 30 under 40 in the events industry and Collaborate Magazine Top 40 under 40. Cosimo is the proud father of twins.|
MORGAN CRAIN It's no secret the Un-carrier works hard, but it plays hard, too. In fact, that's where you'll find Morgan Crain—at the intersection of hard work and celebration, with her pom poms cheering. T-Mobile, knows what success looks like, and celebrates this success in Un-carrier style. Morgan spends each day of the year focused on recognizing others – and she and her team do that in a big way.
As the Senior Manager for T-Mobile’s Rewards and Recognition team, Morgan leads the development and delivery of innovative and dynamic departmental and company-wide recognition programs. These include reward programs like the PEAK Recognition Award – the pinnacle of achievement at the T-Mobile – and Winners Circle, which rewards the top performing frontline employees in its retail stores and customer care. But whether it’s a complex, company-wide award program or a small gesture of thanks, Morgan helps ensure that meaningful recognition remains a big part of T-Mobile’s DNA.
T-Mobile has built a strong reputation for listening to customers and evolving based on their feedback, and in the true Un-carrier spirit, the company’s sweet suite of offerings evolves based directly on feedback from #TeamMagenta – after all, people are willing to give more fuel to the Un-carrier machine when they feel recognized, motivated, and engaged!
|STEPHEN COOK has broad experience through various sales positions in the travel industry including account executive, sales director, vice president sales & marketing. He is currently owner and Chief Inspiration Officer at Lorandus Meetings, focusing on providing meeting planning solutions for customers throughout North America.
His specialties include: Destination and hotel selection for companies seeking meeting planning and incentive travel support.
|JOOST DE MEYER, Joost worked with Holland America Line before beginning his career in tourism. During his 25 years of working within the European Travel Trade, Joost worked primarily in management positions for various Dutch and German tour operators. Moving to Florida in 1997, Joost became a partner in First Incentive Travel and at the beginning of 2000, Joost and his wife Iris became owners of First Incentive Travel. The clients of First Incentive Travel are international corporate groups traveling to the USA. Joost achieved his CITE (Certified Incentive Travel Executives) Certification in 2007 and his CIS (Certified Incentive Specialist) in 2012. Both certifications are from the association SITE. Additionally Joost is a MPI member and received his CMM (Certified Meeting Manager) Certification in 2005. In January 2015 he received his ACC (Accredited Cruise Counsellor), a certification from CLIA and is working on his MCC.|
|MICHAEL FREEDMAN, International Director of Group Sales for AmStar DMC. Michael Freedman leads the Amstar DMC Meetings & Incentives team in 5 countries (Mexico, Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Hawaii & Costa Rica) as Director of International Sales. Michael has been living in Mexico for over 20 years working in the hospitality industry. Having hosted 3 IRF invitationals, 2 consecutive years with Amstar, Michael brings his passion of delivering top notch programs to the incentive industry.|
|SARAH HAINES Sarah Haines, Vice President of Event Management at ITA Group, a full service engagement agency. Sarah has been in the events industry for over 15 years. She became an employee-owner at ITA Group in 2007 starting in operations and has moved to various leadership positions within the company. In her current role she leads a team of over 250 event professionals handling purchasing, operations, air operations, registration and onsite event execution. Her primary focus is helping clients infuse strategy and the science behind motivating people into their events. Sarah believes in a culture of integrity, teamwork and unwavering commitment to excellence. In her free time she enjoys spending time with her family, traveling, running and taking on various projects around the house.|
CHRIS JOHNSON Chris joined Land O’ Lakes in 2016 and currently leads a centralized corporate team responsible for driving strategy across five work groups including Corporate Travel, sourcing, event management, technology and event operations. Additionally, Chris has responsibility for sports marketing and sponsorship, tradeshow exhibit management, LOL campus conference center operations and all corporate premium solutions.
Recognized by Incentive Magazine as Top 25 Incentive Industry Influencer, September 2018 - Chris has over 20 years of creative and business savvy event marketing and travel operations experience across a wide range of event and travel management functions at a global level. His passion is driving experience through collaboration and strong teamwork. He also represents the industry on various hotel and partner customer advisory boards.
Chris enjoys adventure, sports and travel with his wife Julie and their triplet boys.
|BICH-LIEN KALDAHL recently retired from United Airlines after 31 years in aviation sales and management. She was a Meeting, Incentive & Group Sales Manager, a position she had held for over 16 years combined with Continental & United Airlines. In this role, Ms. Kaldahl seeked out and facilitated corporate, group, incentive and meeting travel. She worked closely with many tourism offices and Convention Visitor Bureaus to help increase meeting and group business worldwide. Prior to this, Ms. Kaldahl held positions of increasing responsibility in the Continental Sales organization in Baltimore, Washington DC and Chicago. Ms. Kaldahl is very involved with the hospitality industry and was the SITE Chicago Chapter President in 2007 and 2008 and SITE Leadership Council in 2007. She is a member of MPI, PCMA, FICP and SITE.|
|JIM KELLEY, Vice President, Marketing and Industry Relations, Jim Kelley brings to the table decades of trade show and corporate meetings industry experience. He came to Fern in 2019 from Production Resource Group (PRG). Jim's career prior to that spanned the industry, including roles with exposition service contractors, convention centers and hotels. Committed to supporting the professional growth of the industry, Jim has been active in PCMA, both locally and nationally. In 2014 he was honored by PCMA as the “Distinguished Service Professional of the Year.” Additionally, he is active with the Incentive Research Foundation and Corporate Event Marketing Association (CEMA). Jim is excited to be part of a company with a deep-rooted culture of service and solutions that is designed around the customer first.|
|SOMA KIM draws on two decades of hospitality sales experience at some of the most renowned players at the luxury end of the industry. As Account Director, Incentive Sales at Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts, she is focused on direct sales efforts in the Incentive Market, building solid relationships, increasing market share and generating revenues for the still-expanding luxury brand. Prior to joining Four Seasons, she spent just over two years as Director of Global Sales with Morgans Hotel Group, transforming a struggling operation by revamping global sales strategy, implementing effective promotional strategies, and boosting the company’s image both internally and externally. Born in Cambodia and raised outside of Chicago, Kim was drawn to hospitality through a personal love of travel and discovered her passion for the sales side of the industry while pursuing a Bachelor of Science degree in Hospitality Administration/Management from Eastern Illinois University. A strong believer in the power of Incentive Market, Kim was named 2015 Outstanding Partner of the Year by the performance improvement company MotivAction. She will serve on the board of the Incentive Research Foundation, the leading organization funding research studies and developing products serving the global incentive industry, for 2016-2018.|
|MIKE MAY, CMP, IP is President and owner of Brightspot Incentives & Events, a full-service performance improvement company based in Dallas, Texas. Brightspot helps enterprise clients drive performance improvement and channel engagement through group incentive travel, recognition and incentive programs, event planning, and engagement campaigns - with creativity, flexibility, and a commitment to results. Under Mike’s leadership, Brightspot has quadrupled in size, added many Fortune 1000 clients, and broadened its expertise. Mike is also a member of the Performance Improvement Council of IMA and regular presenter at The Motivation Show and IMA webinars.|
|RODNEY MORROW, Director of Sales and Marketing for Accor Hotels and Resorts representing The Fairmont Pittsburgh. Rodney has over 20 years of experience in luxury hotels in North Carolina, Atlanta, California, Las Vegas and Pennsylvania. Rodney has worked for Ritz-Carlton and Fairmont Hotels and Resorts as well as luxury independent properties. His current role includes managing the Sales and Marketing teams while continuing to maintain and develop relationships in the marketplace. His greatest fulfillment at work comes from mentoring and developing hospitality Sales people. Rodney enjoys spending time with his wife and twin daughters. Rodney has been a participant in the IRF Invitational since 2007.|
DAWN RYBURN Dawn Ryburn serves as Director, Program Management and Communications in the Services organization at Ricoh USA, Inc. Her responsibilities include the strategy, planning, development, and implementation and management of Services programs, events, and effective communications. She brings more than 20 years’ experience in Incentive/Recognition and Communications to the role, executing on strategies that elevate company progress/processes and strengthen the organization and recognition culture. Dawn focuses on a creative and collaborative approach to running effective meetings and programs that work to advance Ricoh’s goals with a passion for recognition.
Dawn champions change to improve organizational competitiveness and performance, while building a strong internal culture. She delivers on programmatic goals, which drive key service methodologies, financial results, and effective, standardized communications.
Dawn oversees Ricoh’s Services Team Annual Recognition (STAR) Program, which received the Incentive Grand Motivation Masters Award in 2014. Additionally, Dawn is responsible for REACH, an overall recognition program for the Services organization to increase employee engagement and recognition, as well as planning leadership meetings, and providing support to various conferences including management of an event mobile app.
Dawn has a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Management from The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania. She serves on the Customer First committee and Mid-Atlantic Diversity Council at Ricoh, and volunteers locally as Director of Events for the Brandywine Youth Club.
PATRICK SMITH is a hotel sales executive with almost 30 years of hospitality industry experience. Patrick speaks, blogs, and travels extensively in his current role leading the group sales teams and group sales efforts in North America for all of The Leading Hotels of the World (LHW).The Leading Hotels of the World is the oldest (founded in 1928) and largest (430+ properties) luxury hotel brand in the world.
Patrick joined the iconic hotel brand in 2000 and was tasked with both building a dedicated group sales team and a cohesive sales strategy for LHW’s member hotels globally.
Patrick’s strategies of focusing on customer’s needs first, fostering an environment that facilitates relationship building , and highlighting LHW’s differentiating experiences has led to double digit annual growth for the brand in the group market.
In his spare time Patrick can be found driving his vintage BMW, listening to music too loud, working in his garden, at the gym, cooking for friends and family, reading books, or seeking out authentic and local experiences.
JANET TRAPHAGEN has been in the hospitality industry for over 25years. Today as President of Creative Group, Inc, a CMI Top 25 incentive firm, she maintains responsibility for all sales, marketing, operational and execution activity within the organization. She joined Creative Group in 1996 in an operations role as Account Manager. In 1999, she transitioned into sales as an Account Executive and in 2004 was promoted to Vice President/Account Executive. During her tenure as an Account Executive, she was recognized as “AE of the Year” in 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2010 and served on the company’s Management Committee and Sales Management Team. Janet has served on the Starwood Advisory Council and is a frequent contributor on industry panel discussions with Four Seasons, Ritz-Carlton and Marriott Hotels. She is also a member of the Sales Management Summit, a board for senior sales executives and NAPW (National Association of Professional and Executive Women).
|KARI VRBA leads MotivAction’s strategic vision of presale which includes sales, client solutions, marketing, creative, and purchasing teams. Kari is an industry veteran with 20 years of experience in delivering performance improvement solutions. Her work and client programs have received global recognition from SITE, CMI25, and Incentive Magazine. She plays an active role in industry roundtables and advisory boards for several leading hotel chains and in the past has participated on the Board of Directors for the Minnesota Chapter of Site and multiple committees for SITE International.|
|BETTY WEINKLE is a Vice President of Partnership with Blackhawk Engagement Solutions. Her responsibilities include management of key strategic partners in addition to business development in alternate channels such as wellness. Betty’s 25 years of leadership in the incentive industry includes board membership in the Incentive Marketing Association and as a past President of the Incentive Gift Card Council. She has led research development, been an outspoken incentive champion, and is a designated Certified Professional of Incentive Management. She has additionally enjoyed mentoring a number of successful folks in the industry. She is a tremendous advocate for the power of incentives.