Chad is an entrepreneur with 20 years of experience in the information technology sector. He is the founder of MindSpark and sees the company as an opportunity to drive tremendous social change by bettering the lives of people with disabilities. He is also the co-founder and principal of Square One Solutions, Inc., a 7-year old professional services firm that acts as the sister company to MindSpark (which is now part of Optimity Advisors). Chad graduated Magna Cum Laude from Trinity University in San Antonio with dual degrees in Finance and Computer Science. His career has been firmly centered in information technology consulting, working first at Arthur Andersen to see how large complex projects are managed, then moving to an incubation firm called Avante Global, where he learned how to manage startups in the IT space.
Wendy has an MBA degree from the University of Chicago and worked as a CPA, financial analyst and strategic planning consultant before becoming a full-time advocate for her two sons. Since relocating to California after 35 years in the Midwest, she has been an active volunteer grant writer and researcher at Exceptional Minds, a non-profit vocational training program and computer animation studio for young adults on the autism spectrum. Wendy also serves on the Board of Directors of Exceptional Minds.
Lisa is currently the Director of Student Disability Services at The University of California, San Francisco where she oversees services for all health science students. Lisa specializes in working with Asperger’s and HFA adolescents and adults during periods of transition. Her work is especially relevant to transitions into college and from college to work. She is committed to advancing the employability of individuals on the spectrum and educating the public about the strengths of individuals on the spectrum. Lisa has developed support groups for students with Asperger’s at the University of Alabama, John Carroll University, and Case Western Reserve University and is currently leading a research project exploring the best models of college-to-workforce transitions for students with Asperger’s syndrome. Lisa frequently presents on Autism Spectrum related topics at conferences and workshops across the United States, and serves as a consultant for educational, psychological, and private agencies. She has co-authored a book entitled It’s all in my head: Writing for Students on the Spectrum, to be published by Jessica Kingsley for release in June 2014.
An entrepreneur and higher education professional with over 10 years of experience working in support of exceptional individuals, Dr. Westlake leads by example. He uses his personal experience with dyslexia to inspire, motivate, and change attitudes about the role of diversity and disability in society. Dr. Westlake has served as the Coordinator of Disability Services for Volunteer State Community College, and in leadership roles for the Association on Higher Education and Disability (AHEAD), Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education (NASPA), and the Tennessee Department of Education. He is currently an Assistant Dean of Students and Director of Disability Resources at Arizona State University, and the CEO and Founder of STEM Force Technology – a social impact company dedicated to improving employment outcomes for individuals on the Autism Spectrum in science, technology, engineering, and math. Recognized for his significant contributions to the fields of disability and education, Dr. Westlake has received multiple awards for program development, teaching, and student support. Notable achievements include a 2006 President’s Award from Volunteer State Community College for Exemplary Service, an Outstanding Support of Student Leadership Award from Arizona State University in 2010, a President’s Award for Excellence from Arizona State University in 2011, and the 2013 Spirit of Carleton alumni award from Carleton College. Dr. Westlake is an expert on Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD), student development, and entrepreneurship in higher education. He is a respected speaker and consultant appearing at national conferences, colleges and universities, and local parent and advocacy organizations. Dr. Westlake has a PhD in Curriculum and Instruction from Arizona State University. He holds an MEd in Special Education from Vanderbilt University’s Peabody College, and a BA in Cognitive Science from Carleton College, where he graduated with distinction.