Nov 08, 2023

EPIC Mentorship Program | Meet the Mentors!

Are you ready to supercharge your personal and professional development? Look no further than EPIC Toledo’s mentorship program, where you’ll have the opportunity to connect with accomplished leaders who have paved the way to success.

What Sets Us Apart?

In this pilot program, we are excited to introduce our four community leaders who will serve as the mentors in the first year of this program. These leaders come from diverse fields, encompassing various industries, professions, and backgrounds, all representing a broad spectrum of experience and valuable insights. They each are passionate about developing the next generation of leaders – committed to providing guidance, sharing wisdom and offering the support that can truly elevate the potential of their mentees.

Learn more about these four mentors below and apply to participate in the first year of the EPIC Toledo Mentorship Program!

ZAK VASSAR | President and CEO, Toledo Alliance for the Performing Arts

Zak Vassar began his tenure as President of The Toledo Symphony Orchestra in 2016. In 2019, he successfully led the creation of the Toledo Alliance for the Performing Arts (TAPA), with the historic merger of the Toledo Symphony and Toledo Ballet. TAPA continues to attract new partners, with the Toledo Jazz Orchestra currently exploring membership in TAPA in 2023.

Prior to joining the Symphony and TAPA, Zak had a successful career as a marketing consultant, with leadership roles at Communica, Fulcrum, Observant, and MaPS. In this career, he conducted domestic and international market research for Fortune 100 companies and adapted his for-profit expertise to create new marketing solutions for non-profits. He holds a degree in Marketing from Boston College’s Carroll School of Management and serves as a board member of CreativeOhio and Paramount Health System

CANDICE HARRISON | Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, SSOE

Candice is the Corporate Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion for the SSOE Group and is the owner of Synergy Engagement, a strategic communications, public relations, and engagement firm. She is formerly the External Communications Manager for Toledo Public Schools,  Director of Communications for the Toledo Museum of Art and Senior Communications Manager for the Toledo Zoo and Aquarium.

Candice is the recipient of the 20 Under 40 in Leadership Award and a Top Community Voices Award from the United Way.  Through her work with AALC of United Way, she has helped to improve the areas of education, income and health for African American families in the Toledo region. She currently serves on the Board of Trustees for Rotary Club of Toledo, Central Catholic High School, The Press Club, Toledo Urban Volleyball Association and formerly the Arts Commission.  She is also a member of The Toledo Chapter of Links, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, and the Toledo Chapter of Jack and Jill of America where is serves as President.

She is a native Toledoan and a proud graduate of Central Catholic High School. Candice received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Toledo and her master’s degree from Spring Arbor University.  Candice is an avid community servant who is passionate about helping young leaders grow personally and professionally.

ALEX GERKEN | President, Fifth Third Bank

Alex J. Gerken serves as Toledo City President and Senior Commercial Banker for Fifth Third Bank, Northern Ohio. He is responsible for the overall leadership of activities for all business lines in Toledo, and particularly focused on driving the Bank’s growth in Commercial, Wealth & Asset Management, Capital Markets and Treasury Management Solutions.

Alex previously served as Middle Market Manager for the Commercial Division and Business Banking Executive for six years. He joined Fifth Third Bank in 2001 in the Commercial Banking division. He was promoted to Vice President, Business Banking Team Leader in 2006 and was named Business Banking Executive in 2007. He was then promoted to Senior Vice President of Business Banking in early 2010.

Alex received a bachelor’s degree in finance from the University of Toledo, with honors, and a master’s degree in business administration from The Ohio State University. Before joining Fifth Third, Alex served as an intern in the Commercial Credit Department at KeyBank.

Alex serves on the Toledo Regional Chamber of Commerce Board of Advisors and the boards of United Way of Northwestern Ohio and ProMedica Community Board. He is an executive committee member of the Regional Growth Partners Board and ConnectToledo Board. He is currently the Board President for the Dana Open.

Previously, Alex served on the Board for the Epilepsy Center of Northwest Ohio for over seven years, and remains on their finance committee.

REBECCA SHOPE | Partner, Shumaker

Rebecca serves as the Labor, Employment and Benefits Regional Service Line Leader in Shumaker’s Toledo office. She represents private and public entities in a variety of litigation, internal investigations, risk management, and traditional labor matters, such as collecting bargaining and arbitrations. Rebecca’s practice includes defending employers in claims involving discrimination, harassment, retaliation, Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), wrongful discharge, whistleblower, workers’ compensation retaliation, and National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) violations. She also frequently litigates to enforce noncompetition and non-solicitation agreements against former employees, as well as defending claims for enforcement on behalf of employers who have hired new employees subject to such covenants. Known for her client-focused legal advice, Rebecca makes a point to understand her client’s business needs, enabling her to work shoulder-to-shoulder with her clients on preventative measures. As part of her practice, Rebecca also assists clients in employee and supervisory trainings across the United States, and works with them on their diversity and inclusion initiatives.

On the family law side of her practice, Rebecca represents clients in divorce and child custody matters. Her training in collaborative divorce law matters, paired with her connections to the judges in Northwest Ohio, lend to her familiarity and comfort when going to court.

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