Nov 06, 2023

Resource Library | EPIC Toledo Leadership Summit presented by Buckeye Broadband

The EPIC Toledo Leadership Summit aims to equip and inspire emerging leaders with the necessary tools and insights to navigate the evolving landscape of the modern workplace. As organizations face rapid changes driven by technological advancements, globalization, and shifting societal values, emerging leaders must adapt their perspectives and approaches to effectively lead and thrive in this dynamic environment.

This conference will bring together a diverse group of experts, thought leaders, and professionals who have successfully embraced change and harnessed shifting perspectives to drive innovation and growth. Through engaging keynote presentations, panel discussions, and networking opportunities, attendees will gain valuable knowledge, skills, and strategies to foster their leadership development.




Planting Seeds for Future Growth

Regardless of the season you are in, there are opportunities to plant new seeds that can yield growth in the future! However, the biggest obstacle standing in front of us is where we focus our thoughts and often require us to shift our perspective.

In this keynote message, Mark will discuss how to turn over the soil in your heart and mind to weed out bad habits and negative thinking. He will provide ways to create new routines that encourage self-care and help bring joy to our daily lives as we strive to make a difference in the workplace and communities we live in. You’ll be sure to leave with a newfound sense of hope for the future!

About Mark Ostach

A wellspring of energy and born empath, Mark Ostach holds degrees in business, psychology and technology. A recipient of Crain’s Detroit Business 20 in Their 20s and Oakland County’s 40 Under 40 awards, he’s an experienced leader who’s helped create strong cultures at several prominent businesses in Metro Detroit. A nationally recognized speaker on digital wellness, Mark is determined to help people share their light with the world. In his free time, Mark likes to write music, spend time in nature, and enjoy life with his wife and their two children. He is determined to remind the world that human connection is the most powerful connection we have.

Connect with Mark! |

KEYNOTE | 10:30 AM

DARRYL BROWN | Midwest Kids

Embracing Midwest Roots: a Conversation on Shifting Perspectives

In this conversation with Darryl Brown, we’ll dive into what it means to be a “Midwest Kid” and the importance of celebrating the hardworking, down-to-earth individuals who challenge the misconception that fashion trends only originate from New York and Los Angeles. As a genuine product of the Toledo Region, Darryl will share how his upbringing has significantly impacted his leadership style, risk-taking attitude, and strategies for both growing businesses and upholding authenticity and social responsibility.

Darryl Brown’s story stands as a testament to the strength of connecting with one’s roots, embracing bold risks, and fostering innovation in unexpected places.

About Darryl Brown

Designer/Creative Darryl “DB” Brown has come a long way from his Toledo, Ohio roots. Brown’s path
from steel worker to railroad engineer/conductor at General Motors was a true embodiment of hard work. With his own unique street style and eye for fashion he began styling local artists and acting as a buyer for a boutique in Toledo, OH. Brown decided to move to NYC and pivot from the blue collar worker to what would be the beginning of his career in the entertainment and apparel industry.

Darryl worked as a marketing director and stylist for street wear brands Rocksmith and SlamXHype collectively for 8 years. After a stint of freelance styling and creative initiatives, Darryl began working as a stylist/creative to another Midwest Native, Kanye West. After much growth over 3 years, DB decided to launch two of his own clothing brands. His namesake “Darryl Brown” during Paris fashion week January 2019, and for the love and pride of his hometown region, “Midwest Kids” November 2018.

Connect with Darryl! | |



Discover the transformative impact of mentorship on career development, skill enhancement, and self-confidence in this panel with the four leaders who will serve as mentors in the first year of the EPIC Toledo Mentorship Program. Gain a deeper understanding of how mentorship fosters connections, encourages innovation, and paves the way for the next generation of leaders and sign up to express your interest in the pilot-program launching in January 2024

About the Mentors

ZAK VASSAR | 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 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 | 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 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
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.



ADRIENNE AUSDENMOORE | Bowling Green State University

Life Design & the Power of Prototyping

How does your current work align with your personal and professional goals? As you consider the life you want to live, how do you get started and take action? In the world of design thinking and life design, prototypes are low-stakes opportunities to test an idea or explore a curiosity. This workshop-style breakout session will apply the methodologies of design thinking to design actionable steps towards your desired future, one step at a time.

About Adrienne Ausdenmoore

Adrienne Ausdenmoore serves as the Assistant Vice President and Executive Director of the Geoffrey H. Radbill Center for College and Life Design at Bowling Green State University. Within the Life Design program, BGSU students learn to maximize their academic experience, prioritize their well-being, make connections and jump-start their careers – all with a sense of purpose. Adrienne’s work over the last decade has focused on education innovation, design thinking, vocational wayfinding and cross-disciplinary collaboration. Adrienne is part of the global community of Life Design educators that originated at Stanford University, and serves as an advisor and coach for Stanford’s Life Design Studio for University Educators.


Community Collaboration for Workplace Mental Health

In an era where the lines between our personal and professional lives are increasingly blurred, addressing mental health in the workplace is not just an option; it’s a necessity. Join us for an insightful and engaging session that delves into the heart of this pressing issue, emphasizing a holistic approach that sees employees not just as workers, but as complete individuals.

This session will bring together experts, thought leaders, and professionals who are passionate about creating workplaces that prioritize mental health, diversity, and inclusion, with a specific focus on community collaboration. Learn how mental health impacts the overall health of our community. This session gives you an opportunity to gain valuable insights, share best practices, and collectively work toward a future where employees can flourish in a supportive and well-rounded work environment with the added support of local communities.

About the Panel

ALEXANDRIA THOMAS | Neighborhood Properties

Alexandria Thomas-Hollen is The Director of Community Relations and Development at Neighborhood Properties. Neighborhood Properties Operates the State of Ohio’s first peer run mental health respite care center. As a Cleveland native, Alex is a graduate of The University of Toledo and has chosen to call Toledo home for the last 9 years where she has dedicated her life to our community and the mental health needs of others. The WRC currently employees up to 20 peers who use their own life experiences to help community members overcome challenges while reducing the need for emergency psychiatric and or substance use services. Alex has also volunteered for a number of years with NAMI of Greater Toledo, where she is now a board member. In addition Alex is also a member of the Board of Directors for the Lucas County Suicide Prevention Coalition, The Warren Senior Resource Center, and The National Crisis Residential Association. 


Cecil Holston II, is a Mastered licensed social worker. Mr. Holston has been a social worker for 13 years. Mr. Holston obtained his Bachelors in Social Work from the University of Toledo and his Masters’ in Social Work from Spring Arbor University. Mr. Holston is currently working private practice work, One Person At A Time. Mr. Holston is the founder of the Black Clinicians of Toledo group. Mr. Holston has worked with diverse populations from reentering individuals, families, children, fathers, and adults. Mr. Holston is the father of Myles.

DANA DIMODICA | Cumulus Media

Dana DiModica, Vice President/General Manager at Cumulus Media – Toledo (K100, Q105, 9355 WRQN, 945 XKR, 983 Nash Icon, and 100.7 The Ticket.  Dana is responsible for the overall operations, staff, sales, and promotions while ensuring profitability and compliance with FCC regulations. Dana has been in the media for over 20 years, advancing in various positions and departments. In Dana’s spare time, she is a mother to four children ranging from 11 to 29 and wife to a local on-air radio personality.


Michael E. Carter Jr. D. Min, also known as Mike Carter, is a highly accomplished individual who has received numerous accolades for his outstanding contributions to society. As the recipient of Ohio’s MLK 2019 Governor’s Humanitarian Award, he has been recognized for his unwavering commitment to making a positive difference in the lives of others.

With a reputation that extends far beyond national borders, Dr. Carter is an internationally known speaker, journalist, and broadcaster, renowned for his insightful commentary and thought-provoking analysis. His expertise in various fields has earned him the title of a scholar and public intellectual, solidifying his position as a leading figure in the academic community.

Hailing from Toledo, Dr. Carter has always remained deeply connected to his roots. As a native Detroiter, he understands the unique challenges faced by his community and has dedicated himself to advocating for mental health awareness. His work at the Center of Hope Family Services, where he led the fatherhood program and the juvenile justice family navigator program, has had a profound impact on countless individuals and families.

Beyond his professional endeavors, Dr. Carter is a devoted family man and loving husband. His commitment to his loved ones serves as a testament to his character and values, further exemplifying his role as a compassionate and empathetic leader.

As the Director of Community Engagement & Equity for the Mental Health Recovery Services Board of Lucas County, Dr. Carter is at the forefront of promoting community engagement, social strategies, and mental health awareness. His dedication to these causes is evident through his role as the host of the LC Mentally Well Podcast, where he provides valuable insights and facilitates important conversations surrounding mental health.

Furthermore, Dr. Carter is set to release a highly anticipated book in 2024, which will undoubtedly expand his reach and impact even further. His ability to connect with diverse audiences and deliver meaningful messages has solidified his position as a respected and influential figure in the media landscape.

In conclusion, Rev. Dr. Michael Carter D. Min is a remarkable individual who has made significant contributions to the fields of ministry, advocacy, and community outreach. His unwavering commitment to community engagement, social service, and mental health awareness has earned him a well-deserved reputation as an urban thought architect. Through his various endeavors, he continues to inspire and uplift others, leaving an indelible mark on the lives of those he encounters.



Unraveling the Impact of AI on Business

In this session, learn about Generative AI and associated tools like OpenAI’s ChatGPT, Google’s Bard, and Microsoft’s Copilot as well as other emerging technologies that are already reshaping how people work and live.

Deanna and John will provide you with some practical examples and ready-to-inspire use-cases for how you can start using these revolutionary new technologies right away.

About Deanna Lawrence

Deanna Lawrence is an innovative thinker who embraces disruption, new technologies, and new ideas with a contagious enthusiasm. Her appreciation for emerging trends has continued to guide her direction during her customer-centric career.

As Director of Data Integration and Social Media, the purpose of Communica’s marketing has evolved, driven by data, focused on the needs of the consumer and the role consumers play within the brand relationship. As part of Communica’s digital services, Deanna expands the scope of integrated, collaborative strategy with a focus on building audiences and using social platforms to connect with people while developing the critical elements of first-party insight.

Deanna’s career spans 22 years, from the early days of 1:1 marketing to disrupting the field of market research and communication. Deanna’s encounters and experiences have created a very unique understanding of consumer behavior. She brings an expertise in qualitative research built from the discipline of ethnographic research to global segmentation, analysis, persona and journey mapping reporting for FMCG brands including; Coca-Cola, Ford Motor Company, and L’oreal. During an interesting challenge from P&G, Deanna’s human-driven perception supported qualitative and ethnographic social research, to develop an innovative use of social communities and the importance of influence within social media platforms from connectedness to social commerce.

About John Edwards

John Edwards is an EVP/Partner at Communica, focusing on the integration and implementation of best-practice marketing tools, tactics, and technologies for clients, including AI.  Focusing on both B2B and B2C organizations, his customers span a wide range of industries including manufacturing, consumer products, media, telecommunications, e-commerce, healthcare, and professional services. 

John has also worked for, and with, some of the world’s leading brands including Apple, AOL, CNN, Netscape, TimeWarner, Walmart and others to increase the impact of marketing programs within their business.

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