Led by Founder & CEO Gary Schoeniger, ELI has assembled a team of entrepreneurial staff, contributors, and advisory board members who are dedicated to achieving our vision and mission.
Founder & CEO
Author and entrepreneur Gary Schoeniger has emerged as an internationally recognized thought leader in the field of entrepreneurial mindset education and training. Gary is the co-author of Who Owns the Ice House? Eight Life Lessons from an Unlikely Entrepreneur, an international bestseller described as “required reading for humanity.” Drawing from decades of research, Gary led the design and development of the original Ice House Entrepreneurship Program through a partnership with the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation. Gary has presented around the world, including the Global Entrepreneurship Congress, European Commission, U.S. State Department, and the Colombian Ministry of Education.
Gary is currently a member of the Forbes Business Council, the Dean’s Council at Purdue Polytechnic Institute, and an advisory council member for Tecnológico de Monterrey’s Tec21 model to produce graduates in Mexico with an entrepreneurial spirit and humanistic outlook for the 21st Century. Gary also served as a past board member for the Hershey Montessori School in Concord, Ohio.
President Rob Herndon is responsible for client engagement, new product development, thought leadership and training. With degrees in Astronautical Engineering and Systems Management, Rob spent over eight years in education at the university, community college, and high school levels as well as twenty-one years as a United States Air Force officer. In his varied roles as an engineer, pilot, commander, faculty member and associate dean, Rob positively impacted hundreds of colleagues and students that he’s enjoyed interacting with over the years.
Rob has served as a volunteer youth soccer and baseball coach. He currently serves as the President of Lemon-Aide’s Friends, a 501c3 non-profit organization dedicated to assisting cancer patients in need.
Director of Training & Operations
Director of Training & Operations Joanie Weber is responsible for coordinating ELI keynote, workshop, and training services as well as the oversight of ELI operations, human resources, and finances. Prior to joining ELI in 2014, Joanie earned her B.A. in Entrepreneurship and Marketing from Kent State University and served as a research intern for the Burton D. Morgan Foundation in Hudson, Ohio. She worked to gain a deeper understanding of business plan competitions, identify best practices, and review outcomes and impact through an in-depth review of objectives, processes, and structures.
During her time at ELI, she has completed Babson College’s Symposium for Entrepreneurship Educators as well as an Essential Management Skills for Emerging Leaders Program through Harvard University’s Extension School.
Previously a volunteer for the Humane Society, Joanie now has two rescue dogs of her own, Cooper and Maizie. And, has become the standby dog sitter for traveling colleagues.
Director of Client Engagement
Director of Client Engagement Nic Houle provides support for client engagement, program implementation, and order fulfillment. Prior to joining ELI, Nic performed national service through AmeriCorps for two years, where he assisted with a healthy futures program in the city of Lansing, Michigan. In this role, Nic served a diverse community of residents, promoting healthy living through gardening and farming. Through this experience, Nic participated in community leadership trainings, service project event planning, and neighborhood resource development within the program.
With a degree in Comparative Cultures, Politics & Social Relations, Nic has served as a member of the nature stewardship team at Fenner Nature Center and as a volunteer with Michigan State Representative Theresa Abed to ensure all voices were heard in the state legislature.
Director of Information Technology
Director of Information Technology Alex is responsible for managing the day-to-day technical and operational support of ELI’s Learning Management Systems, website, and decision-support systems. Prior to joining ELI, Alex earned her B.S. in Information Technology from North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University where she was involved with numerous organizations, such as Epsilon Pi Tau and Alpha Kappa Mu Honor’s Society and Women in Science and Technology. She also participated in activities such as hackathons, innovation/project challenges, and research opportunities.
Alex recently completed her M.S. in Software Engineering at Kennesaw State University where she served temporarily as a Graduate Research Assistant. With starting this, she has worked with the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as an ORISE Research Participant.
Thought Leadership Consultant
With more than 15 years of experience creating and implementing strategic PR programs for entrepreneurs and education organizations, Sarah Williamson, and her team at SWPR Group, support ELI’s thought leadership efforts with an emphasis on blog content strategy and development. Her Build Momentum podcast is a must-listen for anyone in the education sector looking to elevate their brand.
Sarah has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and public relations from Northern Arizona University and is based in Bend, Ore., where she lives and enjoys the outdoors with her husband and two sons.
Curriculum Design Consultant
For more than a decade, Dave Cross has served as a seventh- and eighth-grade social studies teacher at Strong Vincent Middle School in Erie, Pa. During the 2017/2018 and 2018/2019 school years, Dave tested a 10-week version of ELI’s Ice House Entrepreneurship Program for his seventh-grade students. As a result of the pilot’s success, Dave is working with ELI on a middle school edition of the program.
Dave resides in Millcreek, Pa., with his wife and two children. He’s a former volunteer youth soccer coach and current martial arts instructor.
Taraneh Fultz, APR
Marketing and Small Business Consultant
Recruited into the profession at 17, Taraneh Fultz, APR, is an award-winning mentor, thought leader, and change agent. She’s chaired industry boards, facilitated strategic planning for four different organizations in the last eight years, and has a track record of outcomes-based results (e.g., 42.9% business valuation increase, 578% YOY increase in participation and 122% YOY increase in quote requests). Taraneh’s been a one-woman marketing department with a budget of less than $100k to a member of a 200+ marketing department with budgets in the hundreds of millions and knows how to be creative with the resources at her disposal to achieve results.
In short, Taraneh is the person people and organizations go to when they’re stuck. (If that’s you, please reach out.)
Taraneh is Accredited in public relations by the Universal Accreditation Board, is certified in Mental Health First Aid, a graduate of the SLII® leadership training program, a certificate in project management from Portland State University, a bachelor’s degree in journalism and public relations from the University of Oregon, and a founding member of the Ambassador Board of Albertina Kerr, Oregon’s oldest non-profit.
She lives in Portland, Ore., with her husband and daughter, where they “bake along” with the Great British Baking Show and watch much too much Peppa Pig. When she’s not working or “mom-ing,” you can find her buried in the latest book on her Kindle or submerged in a river, lake or ocean.
Clifton Taulbert’s inspiring life story and message of possibility have captivated audiences worldwide. From his humble beginnings in the deeply segregated South, Taulbert has risen to become the President and CEO of two successful companies: The Freemount Corporation and Roots Java Coffee.
Raised in the Mississippi Delta, Taulbert credits his success to the entrepreneurial spirit he learned from his Uncle Cleve Mormon, who owned the local Ice House. This early exposure to entrepreneurship sparked Taulbert’s drive to break barriers and pursue his dreams. He defied expectations by excelling in academics, the United States Air Force, and also earning multiple degrees, including a graduate degree in banking from the Southwest Graduate School of Banking at Southern Methodist University.
Throughout his journey, Taulbert’s mindset of embracing challenges and opportunities has been instrumental in his achievements. He played a pivotal role in the success of the “STAIRMASTER EXERCISE SYSTEM” and continues to push beyond predetermined boundaries. Taulbert’s life and work embody the belief that the impossible is possible.
Inspired by his Uncle Cleve and the concept of entrepreneurial thinking, Taulbert shares his experiences and the power of the growth mindset worldwide. Despite once being denied entry to a public library, he has authored fourteen books, with The Last Train North being a Pulitzer nominee. His first book, Once Upon A Time When We Were Colored, was even adapted into an acclaimed major motion picture.
Tony Wagner currently serves as an Expert In Residence at Harvard University’s new Innovation Lab and as a Senior Research Fellow at the Learning Policy Institute. Tony’s previous work experience includes twelve years as a high school teacher, K-8 principal, university professor in teacher education, and founding executive director of Educators for Social Responsibility. Tony is a frequent speaker at national and international conferences and a widely published author. His work includes numerous articles and six books including Most Likely To Succeed: Preparing Our Kids for The Innovation Era and Creating Innovators: The Making of Young People Who Will Change The World. Tony earned an M.A.T. and an Ed.D. at the Harvard University Graduate School of Education.
Rodney Walker, a Chicago native, is the founder of Forever Life Productions, a company that creates custom videos for special occasions and events. Along with his production company, Rodney travels both nationally and internationally, speaking at public schools, corporations, and conferences about the importance of education, entrepreneurship education, mentoring at-risk youth, and corporate philanthropy for non-profit organizations aimed to uplift and support at-risk youth.
Given the obstacles placed before him as a foster child, Rodney struggled academically and socially in school. In his early years of elementary school, he was placed in special education, repeated the fourth grade due to poor academic performance, and underperformed with a sub-1.5 GPA in his Freshman year of high school. But despite it all, Walker became an award-winning entrepreneur, with a Bachelors’s degree from Morehouse College, and a Master’s degree from Yale University – all before the age of 25.
Rodney is the bestselling author of the educational memoir titled “A New Day One: Trauma, Grace, and a Young Man’s Journey from Foster Care to Yale,” available on Amazon and in all major bookstores nationwide.
In an effort to address the epidemic of violence and social failure among at-risk youth in Chicago, Walker has partnered with former U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan to create a comprehensive employment pipeline program for disconnected youth across the city. This fall, Walker will be pursuing his Doctorate in Education at Harvard University.
Milena Stoycheva is the CEO of Junior Achievement Bulgaria and Visiting Professor with the EIT Digital Master School in Innovation and Entrepreneurship. Entrepreneur and educator, she is passionate about the importance of education and the opportunity for young people to develop their talents and discover their future as entrepreneurs. Milena has served as the Chair of the Global Member Council of Junior Achievement Worldwide and Senior Adviser of Higher Education of Junior Achievement Europe. She was the first Dean of Students of the American University in Bulgaria following its establishment in 1991. Additionally, to having a few own ventures, she has served on the entrepreneurship and science core group of Intel Education Team in Europe; worked as a journalist with AP television; and mentored teams in different training programs on business development and technology entrepreneurship. She has degrees from Bulgarian and American universities.
Bree Langemo, J.D.
Bree Langemo, J.D. has spent more than a decade as a college faculty, chair, and dean in higher education. An accountant and attorney, Bree is also the former president of the Entrepreneurial Learning Initiative (ELI), where she led operations, partnership development, client engagement, and product development including the Ice House Student Success Program, which has led to significant student success results in institutions around the world. Bree is the author of the foundational chapter, Leading with an Entrepreneurial Mindset, for the National Association for Community College Entrepreneurship (NACCE) book: Community Colleges as Incubators of Innovation: Unleashing Entrepreneurial Opportunities for Communities and Students. Bree is the founding board member and board chair for uCodeGirl, a nonprofit focused on developing computing and entrepreneurial skills in young girls to inspire them in the technology careers of the future. She is also a member of Minnesota State Community & Technical College’s Community Advisory Board and the North Dakota Department of Commerce’s Intellectual Property Committee. Bree currently serves as a curriculum developer for Agate Development, consults on NACCE’s Verizon Innovative Learning Program, and teaches Business Law at Concordia College in Moorhead, MN, where she is also working on building out the institution’s Entrepreneurship Program.
Margie Worthington Smith is passionate about developing human capital. Her roles at the South African Institute for Entrepreneurship, Cape Town Embrace, and the Triple Trust Organization have all contributed towards empowering individuals to find their strengths to grow towards excellence. Margie has served on several boards and as the executive director of the Allan Gray Orbis Foundation, an organization committed to cultivating an entrepreneurial mindset in the youth of South Africa. Margie currently consults organizations on building vision, strategy, and culture and is working to establish a new organisation, Encompass, with a purpose of empowering children to develop tools to cope with the pressures of modern technology.
David Galbenski is an entrepreneur, lawyer, author and public speaker with global reach. His entrepreneurial achievements include being recognized as an Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award Winner and a two-time recipient of the Inc. 500 award which celebrates the 500 fastest growing, private companies in the USA. David is a passionate supporter of building the next generation of entrepreneurs to innovate and create products and services that help to solve some of the world’s biggest issues. As the Global Chairman of The Entrepreneurs’ Organization in 2008/09, he helped fuel the entrepreneurial spirit in over 40 countries around the globe. David graduated with distinction from the University of Michigan Business School in 1990 and cum laude from Wayne State University Law School in 1993.
Lorenzo Angeli is a Ph.D. candidate in computer science at the University of Trenton Italy. He combines insights from many disciplines in science and the humanities to develop educational methods for innovation and entrepreneurship. Through his teaching, Lorenzo guides students in developing a critical, multi-faceted understanding of the innovation phenomena our world experiences. His work is characterized by a strong education policy dimension, with a particular focus on the European setting. He aims to one day create the world’s first nomadic university.
Ilya Tabakh, MS
Over a decade of technology and startup experience has put Ilya in a central vantage point of value creation. He understands how ventures go from idea to scale and has taken part in this process firsthand.
Currently, Ilya serves as an Entrepreneur-in-Residence at Black & Veatch, a global EPC firm focused on delivering critical human infrastructure. In this role, he supports the company’s Growth Accelerator and works with other parts of the business to connect to forming markets around infrastructure. Construction and Engineering are undergoing a rapid period of change. Navigating this change will drive an important evolution in much of the infrastructure that humanity relies on every day.
Ilya uniquely applies first principles and systems thinking to solve complex problems. A strong academic background and diverse professional experiences act as a strong foundation. Ilya has gained exposure in a wide variety of fields (education, energy, marketing & advertising, transportation, technology). He has built his career at the intersection of computing, people, and systems.
Ilya currently serves in an advisory capacity to a number of organizations including entrepreneurial ventures and venture capital.
Previously Ilya has founded, raised funds for, and run a number of entrepreneurial ventures. One venture was the first to utilize IBM’s Watson to power a sports analytics app.
Ilya holds a BS and MS degree in Computer Engineering from the University of Kansas. During his academic career, he helped build a university-wide transportation research institute that grew to $80M of activity. After completing the Global Scholar Fellowship at the Kauffman Foundation and embedding in the Cisco Systems IP group as part of that experience, he left ABD (all but dissertation) as a Ph.D. candidate in Environmental Engineering to pursue entrepreneurial ventures.