Elissa serves as Executive Director for the Forté Foundation, an organization dedicated to inspiring women business leaders. Elissa brings to the role extensive knowledge of issues affecting women’s abilities to seek, prepare for and attain business leadership positions, drawn from her prior experience as Assistant Dean and Director of the MBA Program at the McCombs School of Business at the University of Texas at Austin. There she oversaw all activities related to the full-time McCombs MBA program including marketing, admissions, student services, and alumni relations.
Elissa received her MBA and her B.A. in English from Texas A&M University, where she was the Assistant Director of the MBA Program until 1997. She is also past Chair of the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) Annual Industry Conference. Elissa formerly served as chair of the MBA Student Services Professionals (MBA SSP). She is an ex-officio member of the Forté Foundation Executive Committee.
Lisa Westlake Chen
Director of Marketing
more than 15 years of experience in marketing, brand building, consumer
behavior and market research. Prior to Forté, Lisa was Director of
Brand Development at The Walt Disney Company where she provided
strategic counsel on marketing and branding issues across Disney, ESPN
and ABC business units. Prior to Disney, Lisa was a management
consultant at the Monitor Group in the marketing strategy practice, and
worked in the New York, Los Angeles, and South Africa offices. While in
South Africa, Lisa also taught business strategy at CIDA College in
Lisa received her MBA from The Wharton School at the
University of Pennsylvania. At Wharton, she worked in the Career Center
as a career counselor and was the co-Director of Wharton’s a cappella
group The Whartones. Prior to her MBA, Lisa worked in public
relations. She has a BA in psychology from Cornell University.
Lisa is an avid traveler. She has traveled to 30+ countries,
across 6 continents and has lived in China, Taiwan, Japan, Argentina,
Spain, and South Africa. She currently lives in Austin, TX with her
their Havanese dog.
Director of Development
Nicole is a social sector executive with 15 years of experience. Her career path includes The White House, UN-consultative NGOs, a business school, corporate foundation and Fortune 500 consultancy. Her leadership in philanthropy has encompassed capital campaigns, foundation partnerships, corporate social responsibility, cause branding, executive engagement, board relations and global public affairs.
She holds an MA in International Administration, certificate in Conflict Resolution, and Human Rights specialization from the University of Denver and a BA from Gettysburg College. Nicole studied graduate economics in Prague and has extensively traveled throughout emerging market regions. Her earliest career experience was in The White House Office for Women’s Initiatives and Outreach inspired interest in economic equity. In 1998, the wage gap was then 74¢ and today it stands at 77¢.
As a first-generation American, Nicole believes in entrepreneurship and educational access. Through volunteer work for The Fellowship Initiative – an innovative pilot program by JPMorgan Chase Foundation – she witnessed how winning one scholarship can transform confidence. Nicole proudly mentors two exceptional young students who overcame much urban adversity and achieved their collegiate dreams this spring. Nicole is based in Manhattan – and loves the Red Sox.
Director of Corporate Relations and Programs
Denise has an extensive background in Human Resources, with over 20 years experience in leading firms including Philip Morris (now Altria), Citigroup, and Deutsche Bank. For over 10 years, Denise has focused on Diversity and Inclusion, starting the first Diversity function at Citibank and managing Diversity in the Americas for Deutsche Bank. Her expertise includes developing and enhancing the effectiveness of Diversity programs and strategies, consulting with senior leaders to develop practical solutions to business issues, enhancing the effectiveness of employee resource groups, and implementing professional development programming for diverse populations. In addition, Denise has experience in HR Legal Compliance, Recruiting, Generalist and Employee Relations functions.
She has a J.D. from New York Law School and a B.S. from Pace University. She lives in Harding Township, New Jersey with her husband Steve and Bichon Frise, Maddie.
Director of School Relations
Laurie Stewart jointed
the Forté Foundation in March 2012 as Director of School Relations and serves
as the primary point of contact for Forté's school sponsors. Previously,
she was Executive Director of Masters Admissions at Carnegie Mellon's Tepper
School of Business, where she spent many years in graduate admissions and
student services. Laurie initially began her professional career in
product engineering at General Motors in the Pontiac Division. She
holds an undergraduate degree in mechanical engineering—completed at Kettering
University as a co-op student, with co-op assignments across manufacturing,
engineering and administrative functions. She later received a GM
Fellowship to pursue her MBA at Carnegie Mellon and returned to GM and the
automotive industry—before a project completed while an MBA student led to the
opportunity to join her alma mater as a staff member.
Laurie has served as a
primary representative to the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) and
as a Board Member for the Consortium for Graduate Study in Management.
She has also enjoyed collaborating with many industry colleagues on
various committees for the Forté Foundation, the Consortium and GMAC over the
years. She is into technology and gadgets, enjoys golf and divides her
time between Pittsburgh and northern Michigan.
Online Marketing Manager
Bickford is a Microsoft Certified Professional with over 11 years of
web technology experience and holds a Bachelor of Arts in Japanese
Language and Culture from The University of Texas at Austin. Her
websites have been Notable Achievements at the Texas Interactive Media
Awards and a finalist in SXSW Web Awards. Bianca was a finalist for the
Dewey Winburne Community Service Award and is a member of the Leadership
Austin Emerge class.
Bianca has volunteered with organizations
including Austin Free Net, Knowbility, Girlstart, and Animal Trustees of
Austin. Bianca recently served on the City of Austin Community
Technology and Telecommunications Commission and is a volunteer at Wells
Branch Community Library.
Partner Marketing Manager
Cowan is Program Marketing Coordinator for Forté Foundation. Jessica
joined Forté Foundation in the fall of 2004 as the Events Coordinator.
In her current role, she works to develop and implement marketing plans
that drive awareness to the organization and its events. Specifically,
she’s responsible for the development of online content for web pages
and HTML email campaigns, managing the creation of marketing assets and
other event related activities. Beyond marketing organizational
programming and events, Jessica is responsible for managing a team of
interns each semester.
working for Forté Foundation, Jessica worked for the Texas Council of
Administrators of Special Education, a state education association.
Working on behalf of school administrators from around the state of
Texas, she planned a number professional development conferences and
seminars yearly. Jessica earned her BA from Texas State University,
graduating Cum Laude with a degree in Communications. Jessica loves
living in Austin, Texas, and enjoys running. She is currently training
for her 8th marathon.
Graham jointed the Forté Foundation in March 2012 as Executive
Assistant. Melissa is responsible for bookkeeping, multiple
administrative duties, and website inquiry support. She is a certified
legal administrative assistant and brings over 12 years of experience to
her role at Forté.
to working at Forté, she spent 12 years at Westgate Pet & Bird
Hospital where she provided direct administrative support to the
Hospital Administrator, Hospital Director and four other physicians.
her husband William, their daughter Madison and several pets enjoy life
in a small town outside of Austin, Texas. In their free time, they
volunteer with a group that helps to rebuild and build houses of those
affected by natural disasters.
Program and Events Coordinator
over seven years of diverse project management experience,
Veronica brings her qualifications to the Program
and Events Coordinator position
with exceptional multi-project management abilities and vendor and client relations expertise. At Forté
Veronica is responsible for over 15 events annually, ranging in size from regional
seminars to large national conferences.
She is responsible for overseeing the entire planning process, from
inception to completion, including site selection, event identity development,
budget management, pre-event logistics coordination and onsite event
Prior to working for Forté
Foundation, Veronica was an Event Manager for the largest Association
Management firm in Texas, CMP Management.
With both local and national events for seven different clients under
her direction, she was integral in ensuring that revenue,
attendance and educational goals were consistently met or exceeded. Veronica is a graduate of the University of
California, San Diego with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication. A born and bred Californian, she now loves
living in the quaint town of Dripping Springs just outside of Austin, Texas
with her husband Justin, son Gunnar and their two dogs, Daisy and Beau.
Lopez joined Forté in September of 2006 as the Executive Assistant, in
which capacity she handles data management and provides bookkeeping,
administrative and marketing support. In addition, she is responsible
for updating and maintaining content on the Forté Foundation website.
to working for Forté, Beth spent 7 years at Executive Association
Management Incorporated. She was the executive and publications
assistant to seven local, state and national associations.
Beth enjoys living in San Antonio with her husband Alex, son Gabriel and Boston Terrier, P-Nut.
Manager of Sponsor Relations and Programs
As the Manager of Sponsor Relations and Programs, Arrion manages speakers and panelists for Forté Forums and webinars throughout the year. She also manages the admissions process for the Financial Services FAST track program. Finally, she works closely with the Director of School Sponsor Relations in the strategy, planning and delivery of college outreach programs.
Arrion brings extensive experience in graduate business education. Most recently, she was the Director of MBA Admissions at The Cox School of Business at SMU where she oversaw the marketing and recruiting for the full-time MBA program. Prior to that, she worked at the McCombs School of Business at the University of Texas at Austin in Graduate Alumni Relations and at the W.P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University in MBA Student Services. Arrion is a co-founder and former chair of the MBA Student Services Professionals and has served on various Graduate Management Admissions Coucil program committees.
She earned a Bachelor of Science degree in business from the Eller College of Management at the University of Arizona. She lives in Austin, TX with her husband Ben and their two children, Alex and Kaylee.