Connecting Arkansas Internet Conference

Connecting Arkansas Internet Conference


Registration is now open to the public, but space is limited, so sign up now to make sure you have a seat! You must register if you plan to attend any portion of the conference, including the opening reception. Register here.

Thank you to our Platinum Sponsors:

Autonomic Software

   Comcast Business   Farm Bureau


The Connecting Arkansas Internet Conference welcomes the members of the Arkansas General Assembly’s House and Senate Education Committees and the Joint Committee on Advanced Communications and Information Technology, who are meeting today in conjunction with the conference.




Please check back often for updates!

Wednesday, September 25
Opening Reception/Event Registration
5:00 p.m. - 7:00 p.m.
Pinnacle Room

Thursday, September 26
Event Registration
7:30 a.m. - 10:00 a.m.
Commons Area – Marriott Conference Center

Continental Breakfast
7:30 a.m. - 8:30 a.m.
Commons Area – Marriott Conference Center

8:30 a.m. - 8:45 a.m.
Conway Room

  • Claire Bailey, Director, Arkansas Department of Information Systems and Arkansas State Broadband Manager

Claire BaileyClaire Bailey, director of the Arkansas Department of Information Systems (DIS) and Arkansas chief technology officer (CTO), leads more than 250 information technology (IT) professionals responsible for the state network and telecommunications services supporting Arkansas's public services.

As CTO, Ms. Bailey is the governor’s appointed chairperson for the Arkansas State Technology Council. The Arkansas Legislature also designated her to serve as the state broadband manager to help promote, develop and coordinate broadband expansion and appropriate broadband infrastructure across the state. Bailey also serves on the board of directors for the Information Network of Arkansas (INA). In this role, she provided guidance and strategic direction to INA in the development, the state’s official web site which was named the nation’s best state web portal in the Center for Digital Government’s 2011 national Best of the Web competition. That same year, Government Technology magazine selected Bailey as one of the Top 25 Doers, Dreamers & Drivers in Public Sector Innovation.

Governor Beebe appointed Ms. Bailey to the Arkansas Health Information Exchange Council to advise and assist in the development of a statewide health information exchange for Arkansas. She also serves as a member of the Cyber Infrastructure Task Force, the Connect Arkansas Board, Arkansas Homeland Security Executive Committee, and the Arkansas Geographic Information Systems Board. Ms. Bailey is a member of the Arkansas Interoperable Communications Executive Committee that oversees the Arkansas Wireless Information Network (AWIN) which received an award from the National Association of State Chief Information Officers (NASCIO) for Outstanding Achievement in Information Technology.

Ms. Bailey is a member of the Arkansas InfraGard Chapter, an organization sponsored by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, to share cyber security information. She is also a member of the Association for Users of Telecommunications and Information Systems, and the Central Arkansas Project Management Institute where she earned certification as a Project Management Professional. Ms. Bailey is an executive committee member of the NASCIO and is past president of the National Association of State Technology Directors (NASTD). 

Under her leadership, DIS became the first state agency to receive the coveted Governor’s Quality Award for Performance Excellence by the Arkansas Institute for Performance Excellence (AIPE). In 2012, Bailey was appointed to serve on the AIPE board of directors.

Ms. Bailey holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Science from Texas A&M University at Commerce. She is a seasoned IT veteran working as a systems analyst at Texas Instruments and as a senior systems analyst at J.B. Hunt Transport. She has worked for the state of Arkansas since 1991 and is currently the second longest serving CTO in the nation.

  • The Honorable Mike Beebe, Governor of Arkansas

Governor Mike BeebeSince taking office in 2007, Governor Mike Beebe has made improving education, expanding Arkansas's economy and cutting taxes his top priorities. Under Governor Beebe's leadership, Arkansas was one of only four states to enter the past two fiscal years without a projected budget shortfall. Arkansas has avoided the massive cuts in services and tax increases suffered by other states, while achieving more than $1.2 billion in tax relief during the Beebe administration.

Governor Beebe's education policies and initiatives have garnered nationwide attention, and Arkansas now ranks fifth in overall K-12 education. To build a better-trained workforce, Governor Beebe has worked to match colleges and universities with local businesses and has led changes in the way schools teach math, science, engineering and technology. All of these efforts have made Arkansas an attractive place for business investment, and the State was recently named the second-easiest place in America to start a small business.

Born in Amagon, Arkansas, in 1946, the Governor earned a bachelor's degree in political science from Arkansas State University in 1968, and completed law school at the University of Arkansas in 1972, while serving in the U.S. Army Reserve.

The parents of three adult children, Governor Beebe and his wife, Ginger, have worked together to improve children's health and literacy throughout the State and have been recognized for their leadership in fighting childhood hunger.


General Session
8:45 a.m. - 9:45 a.m.
Conway Room


Impact and Future of Broadband Technology Opportunities Programs Funded in Arkansas and Nationwide; New Arkansas Broadband Initiatives in 2013

  • Tony Wilhelm, Associate Administrator, National Telecommunications and Information Administration, U.S. Department of Commerce; Washington, D.C.

Tony WilhelmOver the past decade, both inside and outside of government, Dr. Tony Wilhelm has spearheaded some of our nation’s most important initiatives to expand the benefits of broadband and digital technology to all Americans, winning the prestigious Arthur S. Flemming award for exceptional contributions to the federal government and dedication to public service.

Dr. Wilhelm is currently the senior executive in charge of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration’s broadband grant programs, a key component of President Obama’s broadband agenda. Dr. Wilhelm’s stewardship of over $4 billion in investments across the country is transforming communities and institutions with grant recipients already deploying over 100,000 miles of new or upgraded broadband infrastructure; connecting over 17,000 institutions to high-speed broadband and adding over 620,000 new broadband subscribers.

Previous to his current position, Dr. Wilhelm led the successful conversion of America’s television sets from analog to digital as one of the directors of the TV Converter Box Coupon Program. He has been an executive in private philanthropy, including serving as vice president for programs at the Benton Foundation, where he launched several signature initiatives to enhance educational and economic opportunity using technology.

Dr. Wilhelm has written and spoken extensively and published two books on expanding opportunity in the digital age. He earned his Ph.D. in public policy from the Claremont Graduate University’s School for Politics and Economics in Claremont, California.

  • Kathy Smith, Senior Program Officer for Arkansas Education Reform Initiative, Walton Family Foundation; Vice Chair, Fast Access for Students and Teachers and Economic Results (FASTER); Bentonville

Kathy SmithAs senior program officer for the Home Region Focus Area, Kathy Smith is responsible for the Arkansas K-12 education reform initiative that promotes systemic reform, using the principles of accountability, transparency, choice, and incentives.

She has spent more than 30 years in public education in Oklahoma and Arkansas, first as a high school English teacher and eventually moving to district secondary curriculum director. Ms. Smith holds a bachelor's in education from Southwestern Oklahoma State University and a master's in educational administration from the University of Arkansas.

  • Sam Walls III, Connect Arkansas

Sam Walls IIISam Walls, III is the president of Connect Arkansas, a project of the Arkansas Capital Corporation. He has more than ten years of corporate finance experience, including tax credit financing, and has been a Connect Arkansas officer since its inception in 2007. In addition to his role as president of Connect Arkansas, Mr. Walls also holds executive management positions in various affiliates of The Arkansas Capital Corporation Group. Prior to joining Arkansas Capital Corporation, Mr. Walls worked with The Hartford where he was involved in structuring financial products to address specific client needs. Prior to The Hartford, he was involved with Baptist Health Foundation as director of Planned Giving.

Mr. Walls has served on numerous volunteer boards and committees. Presently he serves on the Board of Directors for the Little Rock Zoo and the Board of Directors for the Pulaski County Big Brothers and Big Sisters. Mr. Walls earned an undergraduate degree from Southern Methodist University and a Juris Doctorate from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.


9:45 a.m. - 10:00 a.m.


Morning Breakout Sessions.
Choose from one of four concurrent breakout sessions.
10:00 a.m. - 11:30 a.m.


Morning Breakout Session 1 – Internet Innovations in Arkansas Agriculture
Grampas Room

Session Description: According to the Arkansas Farm Bureau, the ratio of farmers to the number of people they feed through their crops has more than tripled since the 1960s, where it was one farmer feeding 26 people. Today, with the benefits of the use of high-speed Internet, one farmer is feeding 155 people, and he or she is working with shorter windows of time to harvest crops and move animals.

Panelists will demonstrate actual applications of the Internet in the grain and poultry industries, including the Intelliar BinManager system. A farmer can be anywhere in the world, and, by getting online, he or she can monitor the moisture content and temperature of the grain in their bins as well as the outside air – and how the Intelliar BinManager automatically knows when drying fans need to be turned on. The application lets farmers know by e-mail or text message if there is a problem.

See how farmers and ranchers are also upgrading equipment for high-speed Internet to provide up-to-date data on crop yields to give them the best prices for their products. This equipment also uses broadband technology when it breaks down to allow the company to immediately assess the mechanical issue.

Moderator: Beau Bishop, Coordinator, Rural Affairs and Local Development, Arkansas Farm Bureau

Beau BishopBeau Bishop is the Coordinator of Local Affairs and Rural Development with Arkansas Farm Bureau. Arkansas Farm Bureau is a nonprofit, private advocacy organization of more than 200,000 families throughout the state working to improve farm and rural life.

Prior to his time with Farm Bureau, Mr. Bishop worked as a political consultant for CDP Strategies and spent more than five years working in various positions for former Congressman Mike Ross.

Mr. Bishop is a 2001 graduate of Ouachita Baptist University with a degree in accounting. He graduated from Arkadelphia High School. He was recently appointed to the Arkansas Broadband Advisory Council by Governor Mike Beebe. He also serves on the Board of Directors for the Arkansas Sheriffs’ Youth Ranch. He is a member of the Arkansas Society of Association Executives and the Arkansas Society of Professional Lobbyists.


  • Kevin Smith, Farmer; Decatur

Kevin Smith of Decatur is a fifth-generation poultry farmer. He is graduate of Northeast Oklahoma A&M in Miami with a degree in Agriculture Business. Mr. Smith also installs computers systems in poultry operations that help operate the facilities.

Mr. Smith is a Board Member of the Benton County Farm Bureau and the current Chairman of the Young Farmers and Ranchers Committee of the Benton County Farm Bureau.


Morning Breakout Session 2 - Internet Innovations in Arkansas’s Governments
Harris Brake Room

Session Description: The adoption of high-speed Internet throughout all sectors of government has revolutionized our public officials’ abilities to improve the quality and delivery of services at our convenience 24/7/365 – whether in times of peace or in cases of emergency. Government efficiency, transparency, and the ability to communicate has increased while thousands of dollars are being saved. Those who have grown up with the Internet are now expecting to transact all government business online; and that they can do so at the local, county, regional, and state levels are selling points as communities work to attract young families and professionals. See how Arkansas is leading the way in the use of mobile government applications and examples of how our state and local leaders are working to save you money, keep you informed, and keep you safe now and in the years to come.

Moderator: Claire Bailey, Director, Arkansas Department of Information Systems; Arkansas State Broadband Manager


  • The Honorable John Thurston, Commissioner of State Lands, State of Arkansas; Little Rock

John Thurston

Arkansas Commissioner of State Lands, John Thurston, is the first Republican to be elected as Land Commissioner since the post became elective in 1874. He is currently serving his first term in office after being elected in November of 2010.

In 2013, Commissioner Thurston was elected to serve as the vice president of the Western States Land Commissioners Association. He is also currently serving as the vice chairman of the Arkansas Natural and Cultural Resources Council. Commissioner Thurston was born in Little Rock, Arkansas, and was raised in Saline County, attending and graduating from Sheridan High School in 1991. He attended Henderson State University in Arkadelphia, Arkansas, (Clark County) before graduating from Agape College in Little Rock with a diploma in Biblical Studies. Commissioner Thurston was a licensed minister and was a Certified Religious Assistant in the Arkansas state prison system. Commissioner Thurston served 13 years on the staff of the Agape Church in West Little Rock, where he also attends services, prior to his tenure as land commissioner.

Commissioner Thurston now resides in Little Rock, Arkansas (Pulaski County) with his wife Joanna and their five children. He is also an avid outdoorsman.

Commissioner Thurston’s vision for the future is that the Commissioner of State Lands Office along with Arkansas government will lead the nation in the area of ethics and accountability.

  • Penny Rubow, Director, Arkansas Wireless Information Safety Network; Little Rock

Penny RubowPenny Rubow is director of the Arkansas Wireless Information Network (AWIN), the state’s premier interoperable, digital, wireless radio communication system that supports the emergency response efforts of more than 25,000 first responders and public safety users. AWIN received a Recognition Award for Outstanding Achievement in the Field of Information Technology in State Government, in the category of Information Communications Technology Innovations, from the National Association of State Chief Information Officers.

Ms. Rubow is also coordinator of the Arkansas Interoperable Communications Committee formed to address the challenges facing interdisciplinary communications across multiple jurisdictions. The committee institutes collaborative leadership among law enforcement, fire departments, state agencies, and cities and counties in order to enhance the state’s interoperable communications capabilities.

Ms. Rubow has worked with contiguous states to Arkansas to coordinate interoperable communications efforts and provide assistance during disasters. She is recognized as a leader in the discipline of public safety communications and is frequently called upon to speak as a subject matter expert regarding interoperability. She has shared her expertise with the Association of Public Safety Communications Officials-International, Gulf Coast Interoperability Conference, Arkansas Emergency Management Conference, and Arkansas County Judges Association among others.

Ms. Rubow is a member of the National Council of Statewide Interoperability Coordinators, SAFECOM Emergency Response Council, Association of Public Safety Officials Spectrum Management Committee, and the National Public Safety Communications Council Public Safety Grade Task Group.

Ms. Rubow holds certifications in continuity of operations planning from the Disaster Recovery Institute and project management from the Project Management Institute. Penny holds a B.A. in Management from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock and resides in Conway, Arkansas.

  • Debra Buckner, Treasurer, Pulaski County; Little Rock

Debra BucknerDebra Buckner was elected to the office of Pulaski County Treasurer in November 2000, where she serves as both Treasurer and Tax Collector and manages a staff of 50 in six locations with oversight of $600 million. Ms. Buckner began her seventh term in January 2013.

Prior to being elected Pulaski County Treasurer, Ms. Buckner was the founder and president of Mortgage Services, Inc., a national consulting company to commercial banks, credit unions, investment firms, mortgage bankers, savings & loans, and insurance companies for 10 years. She also worked in retail banking and lending for a total of 15 years in Central Arkansas.

Ms. Buckner serves on the Board of Association of Arkansas Counties and the Board of Workers Compensation for Association of Arkansas Counties. She has served as President of Mortgage Bankers Association of Arkansas and taught nationally for Mortgage Bankers Association of America (MBA). Ms. Buckner was the first Arkansas recipient of the Faculty Fellowship Award for Excellence for MBA and the first FHA Direct Endorsement Underwriter in Arkansas. Ms. Buckner is an active member of Lakewood United Methodist Church and Praise Band.

Ms. Buckner was born and reared in Hot Springs, where she is a 1969 Lakeside High School Graduate. She attended Henderson State University and has completed many lending and management training programs.

She is married to Joel Buckner and has two grown daughters and two Great Dane grandpuppies.


Morning Breakout Session 3 - Internet Innovations in Arkansas's Higher Education
Conway Room

Session Description: The abilities of our state’s colleges and universities to deliver more options and opportunities for Arkansans to grow their education beyond high school have skyrocketed because of high-speed Internet. And, Internet speeds are faster than ever with the September 2013 completion of a three-year, $102 million Broadband Technology Opportunities Program grant that now connects all our two- and four-year institutions with fiber optic cable. This technology has meant a different way of doing professional development for faculty, administrators, and other staff. Researchers and innovators have more access to information and collaboration than ever. Arkansans that didn’t think they could pursue their dreams – or needs – to earn college degrees; whether because of time or money, or because life simply got in the way; may think differently after this session.

Moderator: Rex Nelson, President, Arkansas's Independent Colleges and Universities; Little Rock

Rex NelsonRex Nelson of Little Rock has been the president of Arkansas’ Independent Colleges and Universities since January 2011. Mr. Nelson, one of the state’s most high-profile writers and speakers, has had a long career in government, journalism and public affairs. He has been honored through the years by organizations as varied as the Historic Preservation Alliance of Arkansas, the Arkansas Municipal League and the Arkansas chapter of the National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame. He’s viewed as an expert on Arkansas history, Southern culture and Southern politics and has appeared on radio and television stations across the country.

Mr. Nelson writes a weekly column for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, the state’s largest newspaper, and is the author of the popular “Southern Fried” blog at His feature stories regularly appear in magazines such as Arkansas Life and Talk Business Quarterly.

Mr. Nelson earlier served as the senior vice president for government relations and public outreach at The Communications Group, a Little Rock-based marketing, advertising and public relations firm. Prior to that, he spent 13 years working at senior levels of the state and federal governments. He served Governor Mike Huckabee’s administration for nearly a decade as a member of his senior management team. He was then named by President George W. Bush in 2005 as one of the president’s two appointees to the Delta Regional Authority, a regional planning and economic development agency that serves 252 counties and parishes in parts of eight states.

Mr. Nelson directs the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame Foundation and is the board chairman of Connect Arkansas, an effort to increase broadband coverage and use statewide. He also chairs the Political Animals Club of Little Rock, whose monthly meetings receive widespread media coverage. Mr. Nelson serves on the boards of the noted literary quarterly Oxford American, the Little Rock Touchdown Club, the Arkansas Travelers baseball club, the Arkansas Humanities Council and the Pryor Center for Arkansas Oral and Visual History.

Mr. Nelson is an Arkadelphia native and a summa cum laude graduate of Ouachita Baptist University. He has served as the radio voice of the Ouachita football team for three decades. He and his wife, Melissa, are the parents of two sons, Austin and Evan.


  • Dr. Charles Welch, President, Arkansas State University System; Little Rock

Dr. Charles WelchOn November 9, 2010, Dr. Charles Welch was named as the second president of the Arkansas State University System.

Dr. Welch previously served as President of Henderson State University, Chancellor of the University of Arkansas Community College at Hope, Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs at Arkansas State University-Beebe and Dean of University Studies at Pulaski Technical College. Welch also worked at UALR and has served as an instructor of education and political science at three different colleges in Arkansas. He is the youngest person to ever serve as president or chancellor of an Arkansas community college, is currently the youngest college president in Arkansas, and is believed to be the youngest college president in the United States.

Dr. Welch is a native of Jonesboro, Arkansas and was a first-generation college student. In fact, he was the first member of either side of his extended family to receive a graduate degree. Welch received a Bachelor of Arts degree in political science from the University of Arkansas where he served as president of the student body. He received a Master of Arts degree in political management from George Washington University, and a doctor of education degree in higher education administration from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.

Dr. Welch also has considerable experience in the governmental affairs arena. He served as a White House intern and also served on the staffs of Senator David Pryor and then- Representative Blanche Lincoln while he earned his graduate degree.

Welch is active in numerous higher education activities. He currently serves as chairman of the Arkansas Presidents’ Council and the Arkansas Association of Public Universities, is a past president of the Arkansas Association of Two-Year Colleges, is a board member for the Arkansas Sheriffs’ Youth Ranches, and was recently inducted into the Arkansas Boys State Hall of Fame. Welch was selected as one of AY Magazine’s “Men of Power” in 2013, and in 2005, Arkansas Business selected Welch to 40 Under 40, which profiled 40 “intriguing business and political leaders under age 40.” He also has been active in the communities where he has worked, serving on a variety of local and regional boards and committees.

Dr. Welch and his wife Mandy are the proud parents of three daughters–Wheatley Grace, Emma Caroline, and Ava Claire.

  • Dr. Javier Reyes, Vice Provost for Distance Education, University of Arkansas; Fayetteville

Dr. Javier ReyesDr. Javier Reyes currently serves as the Vice Provost for Distance Education at the University of Arkansas. He oversees all aspects related to online and distance education programs at the university.

Dr. Reyes was born in Mexico City, and he is an Associate Professor of Economics. He holds a Ph.D. in Economics from Texas A&M University and a B.A. in Economics with a Finance minor from Instituto Tecnológico y de Estudios Superiores de Monterrey (Mexico). He joined the faculty of the Sam. M. Walton College of Business in 2003 as an Assistant Professor. He has published his work in internationally recognized publications. In 2011 he published a textbook that covers the economic history of the economic development of Latin America.

For his excellence in research, teaching and service activities, he has been recognized as an Outstanding Mentor in 2006, 2008, and 2010, and received the University’s Faculty Gold Medal Award in 2008. He was inducted into the Teaching Academy of the University of Arkansas in 2011 and received the Honors College Leadership Award in 2012. 

He has worked as a Consultant or Invited Academic Scholar in international organizations like the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), and the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

In 2011, Dr. Reyes was selected by the editors of the Northwest Arkansas Business Journal as one of the “40 under 40” intriguing business and political leaders in Arkansas. In the spring of 2013, he was invited to participate as a speaker at the inaugural TEDx Fayetteville event, where he presented a talk about having impact by identifying big challenges, transforming them into opportunities and showing that education plays a center stage in this process. Because of his participation in the TEDx Fayetteville event, he has been catalogued as one of the most innovative and influential minds in Northwest Arkansas. 

  • Dr. Ed Franklin, Executive Director, Arkansas Association of Two-Year Colleges; Little Rock

Dr. Ed Franklin

Dr. Ed Franklin has served as executive director of the Arkansas Association of Two-Year Colleges (AATYC) since 1996. Under his leadership, AATYC has successfully collaborated with two-year colleges, business/industry leaders, state agencies, and other organizations to develop regional and sector partnerships as well as implement student success initiatives. The AATYC is currently working with more than $93 million in grant funds for college consortia efforts.

Dr. Franklin has over 37 years’ experience working at community and technical colleges in three states. He has taught and performed a variety of administrative duties on campuses ranging from 1,500 to 33,000 students. Dr. Franklin has served as a consultant to colleges throughout the United States, has contributed chapters to numerous publications, and has been a featured speaker at more than 100 conferences.

Most recently, Dr. Franklin was named chair of the National Council of State Directors of Community Colleges. The council is an affiliate of the American Association of Community Colleges and provides a forum for the exchange of information about developments, trends, and problems in state systems of community colleges across the United States.

Dr. Franklin also serves on the board of the Arkansas Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Technology Coalition, is vice-chair of the Connect Arkansas Board of Directors, and is a member of the Accelerate Arkansas Board of Directors. Governor Mike Beebe appointed Dr. Franklin to serve on the Governor’s Workforce Cabinet, where he is the only nongovernmental member. He has an extensive history of community volunteer activities and is a Rotary Paul Harris Fellow.

Previously, Dr. Franklin was appointed by former U.S. Secretary of Education Richard Riley to serve on the Board of the National Technical Institute for the Deaf in Rochester, New York. He was appointed by Governor Mike Huckabee to the Southern Growth Policies Board Council for the New Economy Workforce and was a member of the CISCO Networking Academy Advisory Council. Dr. Franklin was appointed to the implementation committee for the American Association of Community Colleges 21st Century Commission on the Future of Community Colleges – Reclaiming the American Dream. He also developed and produced more than 20 educational television programs and was a finalist for an American Cable Excellence (ACE) Award for educational programming.

  • Dr. Hanna Norton, Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs, Arkansas Tech University; Russellville

Dr. Hannah NortonDr. Hanna Norton joined the faculty of Arkansas Tech University in 2001 after completing her graduate work at the University of Georgia. Her background is in advertising and print journalism. After serving as a faculty member, Norton was selected as Department Head for the Speech, Theatre and Journalism Department and fulfilled that role for the 2010-2011 academic year. In May 2011, Dr. Norton was promoted to Assistant Vice President for Academic Affairs and was tasked with coordinating the university's expanded online education initia tive. Since spring 2011, she has coordinated the design and delivery of 75 vetted courses in both 15 and 8 week formats. 


Morning Breakout Session 4 - The Impact of High-Speed Internet on Arkansas’s Economic Development
White Oak Room

Session Description: Although it might sound dire, it’s virtually a fact that most businesses today need an online presence, especially if they are selling products and services. This is also true for economic developers promoting available property sites and their surrounding community’s qualities-of-life assets to potential businesses. See examples of how Arkansans are helping businesses and entrepreneurs build websites, adopt social media, and ensure they are among the first businesses found when people search the Internet to look for a product or service in their area. And, hear from those who have made the leap to a website or Facebook who found it was not as hard as they thought – and the unexpected and profitable surprises they are reaping from being online.

Moderator: Grant Tennille, Executive Director, Arkansas Economic Development Commission; Little Rock

Grant TennilleGrant Tennille, former Deputy Chief of Staff to Arkansas Governor Mike Beebe, serves as the Executive Director of the Arkansas Economic Development Commission. A native of Florida, Mr. Tennille graduated in 1992 from Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio, before moving to Arkansas in 1992 to work as a reporter for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. He later worked as a communications assistant in the Arkansas Governor's Office and at the Game and Fish Commission from 1996 to 1998.

In 1998 he worked for The Thompson Group, a telecommunications consulting firm, as manager of its Denver, Colorado, office before joining Qwest Communications International Inc. in 2001 as Senior Director of Public Policy Planning and Advocacy. In 2004, Mr. Tennille was named vice president of a start-up company, The Distribution Point in Birmingham, Alabama. He returned to Arkansas to join the office of Governor Mike Beebe.

In his career, he has provided business and strategic counsel to companies of all sizes - from Fortune 500 corporations to small start-ups. He is married to Rebecca Tennille, a public-relations executive. They have three children.


  • Melissa Rivers, Director, East Arkansas Planning and Development District; Jonesboro

Melissa RiversMelissa Rivers has served as executive director of the East Arkansas Planning and Development District (EAPDD) since May 2011. During her tenure, she has worked to increase the efficiencies and resources of the EAPDD, which provides technical assistance in community planning and development, business development, and waste management to 12 counties in northeast Arkansas.

Before joining the EAPDD, Ms. Rivers served as executive director of the Crossroads Coalition, an alliance of eight counties in east Arkansas working to improve economic development through a regional partnership network. Ms. Rivers implemented an organizational development strategy to grow the regional network while creating diversified revenue streams for organizational sustainability.

Ms. Rivers’ economic development career also includes serving six years as director of regionalism and workforce development for the Memphis Regional Economic Development Council, a network of state, regional and local level economic development officials from 53 counties throughout Arkansas, Tennessee, and Mississippi. She worked to develop, fund, and implement a Cornerstone Study Concept, a study series that included analysis of the three key components of economic development (sites, people, and infrastructure). She also created the Memphis Youth Leadership Program, a summer youth employment program that, in addition to jobs, incorporated basic life skills critical to employment success, while introducing students to career pathways in target industries.

Ms. Rivers is a member of the Board of Directors of Arkansas Economic Developers. She earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Communications and Marketing from Union University in Jackson, Tenn. She is also a graduate of the University of Oklahoma’s Economic Development Institute.

  • Kristen Woodruff, Training Coordinator; UAM Arkansas Small Business and Technology Development Center; Monticello

Kristen WoodruffKristen Woodruff is the Training Coordinator and a Business Consultant for the Arkansas Small Business Technology Development Center (ASBTDC) at the University of Arkansas at Monticello. She received her Bachelor of Arts in Organizational Communications from Capital University in Columbus, Ohio, and her Master of Business Administration from Otterbein University in Columbus. She has experience with small business training, budget management, fundraising and class instruction. She currently instructs training programs for the ASBTDC including Website in a Day, Get Listed Locally, Starting a Business in Arkansas, and more.

  • Donna Lawhon; Director, Bradley County Economic Development Corporation; Warren

Donna LawhonDonna Lawhon has served as the Director of Bradley County Economic Development Corporation (BCEDC) in Warren, AR since 2012. She works with the BCEDC Board of Directors, the City of Warren and Bradley County officials to improve the economic climate of Bradley County. Donna Lawhon is a newly elected Southeast Arkansas Cornerstone Coalition Board Member. She attended the University of Arkansas at Little Rock and majored in Speech Pathology. Donna and her husband originally from Little Rock but have lived in Warren since 2001. Their adult children – a daughter, a son and daughter-in- law – live in Memphis, Tenn.

  • Aaron Harris, Program Training Specialist, Connect Arkansas/Arkansas Sourcelink; Little Rock

Aaron HarrisAaron Harris joined the Arkansas Capital Corporation in January 2010 as a research associate, working with the Connect Arkansas Initiative. In April 2011, he assumed the position of entrepreneurship training specialist. As an entrepreneurship training specialist, Mr. Harris is responsible for managing Arkansas SourceLink, an online entrepreneurial support system, and conducting e-commerce entrepreneurship training programs across the state. 

Mr. Harris is a native of Little Rock, Ark., and graduated in 2009 from the University of Arkansas with a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration with emphasis in Marketing Management. Aaron then went on to pursue his Master’s in Business Administration from the University of Arkansas Little Rock, graduating in 2010.

  • Matt Price, Founder, Bourbon & Boots; Little Rock

Matt PriceMatt Price graduated from Hendrix College in 2003 with a degree in Politics. Mr. Price worked in Washington, D.C. for Congressman Vic Snyder and focused on economic development and international trade issues. After leaving D.C., Price worked as an asset development Policy Analyst for Southern Bancorp. In 2006, Mr. Price joined the office of Gov. Mike Beebe as Deputy Communications Director. There he worked on strategic messaging and speechwriting.

Mr. Price left politics in 2008 to start his first company Capsearch, a legislative database for tracking bills and regulations. Mr. Price founded Bourbon & Boots in February 2012 to connect global consumers with local, handmade products.


11:30 a.m. - 11:45 a.m.


General Session / Buffet Luncheon
11:45 a.m. - 1:15 p.m.
Salon A


A Real Look at How Many Arkansans are Online, How do We Stack Up Nationally, and How Can Arkansas be a Leader in Broadband Subscription and Adoption?

  • John Horrigan, Independent Communications and Technology Policy Consultant and a Senior Fellow at the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies; Washington, D.C.

John HorriganJohn Horrigan is an independent communications and technology policy consultant and a Senior Fellow at the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies. Mr. Horrigan’s work focuses on consumers’ use of information and communications technologies and drivers of broadband adoption and usage.

Before joining the Joint Center, Mr. Horrigan was Vice President for Policy and Research at TechNet, where he developed research characterizing the job impacts of mobile applications and wrote reports on progress on broadband adoption since the delivery of the National Broadband Plan (NBP). Mr. Horrigan also authored TechNet’s 2012 “State Broadband Index” that ranks U.S. states on where they stand on broadband adoption and deployment. He has served as a consultant for the Partnership for Connected Illinois and to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration’s “Broadband Adoption Toolkit.”

In 2009-10, Mr. Horrigan was part of FCC Chairman Genachowski’s leadership team tasked with developing the NBP. In that capacity, he developed the research agenda for the “Inclusion” portion of the NBP and conducted the FCC’s first national survey on broadband adoption and usage. Before that, he spent nine years at the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project.

Mr. Horrigan received his Ph.D. in public policy from the University of Texas at Austin and his B.A. in government and economics from the University of Virginia.

  • Clint Reed, Partner, Impact Management Group; Little Rock

Clint ReedClint Reed is a partner at Impact Management Group (IMG), a public affairs, public relations, and public opinion research firm with offices in Little Rock, Arkansas and Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

Mr. Reed specializes in winning campaigns for clients ranging from large corporations to small businesses to political candidates at all levels. The nexus to Mr. Reed’s success is accurate, detailed public opinion. His approach is simple. Mr. Reed uses public opinion to develop marketing strategies that bring people to his client’s positions. Combined with disciplined messaging, detailed budgeting, and quality data management, Mr. Reed’s approach has proven highly successful.

Mr. Reed has extensive experience conducting public opinion surveys in Arkansas and the Southeast Region of the United States. From 2009 to the present, Mr. Reed has been the lead researcher on over 250,000 survey interviews in Arkansas alone. These results have been used by opinion leaders and decision makers within the media, government, and corporations to measure public opinion and, subsequently, make well-informed decisions. Decision makers and opinion leaders have come to trust and rely on the accuracy of these survey research results and analyses.

Mr. Reed’s success has earned him a solid reputation both in Arkansas and across America. Campaigns and Elections Magazine recently named him one of the top five most influential Republicans in Arkansas and among the top two hundred and fifty most influential Republicans in America.

Mr. Reed is the former Regional Political Director for the Republican National Committee (RNC). From 2007-2009, he served as the political liaison between the RNC and State Republican Parties in the Southeast including Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, and South Carolina.

Prior to this, Mr. Reed served as Executive Director of the Republican Party of Arkansas. He also managed the highly successful grassroots operations for the Bush-Cheney re-election (2004) in Arkansas.

In January 2011, Talk Business and Politics (TBP) spotlighted Reed’s accomplishments as one of the “Young Guns” in Arkansas business and politics. In 2009, Arkansas Business recognized Reed as one of the most significant business/political leaders under the age of forty.

Mr. Reed has published numerous articles for national and local news outlets, and he appears frequently on news stations to provide political commentary.

In 2004, Mr. Reed published an article in the Arkansas Historical Quarterly entitled, “Batesville, Bryan, and Direct Democracy: The Lasting Legacy.” The article was awarded “Best Local Article” by the Arkansas Historical Association.


1:15 p.m. - 1:30 p.m.


Afternoon Breakout Sessions. Choose from one of four concurrent breakout sessions.
1:30 p.m. - 3:00 p.m.


Afternoon Breakout Session 1 - Internet Innovations in Arkansas's Healthcare
Harris Brake Room

Session Description: As noted in today’s morning session, Arkansas’s community clinics, doctor’s offices, health units, hospitals, and other healthcare providers have more high-speed Internet capacity than ever before. The ways both rural and urban providers are working together via the Internet to provide better treatment and save lives have gained national attention. Attendees will be able to see why – and leave the session with a greater understanding to spread the word of how high-speed Internet is increasing wellness, healthcare, and quality of life in their communities. They will learn how Arkansas has also led the way in helping providers move from doing business with paper and manila folder files to electronic health systems and record-keeping; leading to better and more efficient care while saving money and time in ways they had not thought possible. Attendees will also learn what our state’s healthcare system consumers should be doing to help their doctors, clinics, and hospitals help them take better care of themselves both in times of emergency – and in times of good health.

Moderator: Michael Manley, Outreach Director, Center for Distance Health, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences; Little Rock

Michael ManleyMichael Manley is the Outreach Director for the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) Center for Distance Health, as well as the Director of the AR SAVES Program. Part of his responsibilities include coordinating the outreach and development of telehealth clinical programs for other UAMS subspecialties and also providing leadership with the South Central Telehealth Resource Center that covers three southern surrounding states. He is a core team member for the Arkansas e-Link program that was awarded $102 million to fully connect all Healthcare and Higher Education institutions in Arkansas on one single network, the UAMS Telehealth Training Center, and Telehealth Government Relations. He has been in the telehealth field for 10 years.

Mr. Manley is a graduate from UAMS College of Nursing Graduate School with his Masters in Nursing Administration and Education.

He is a graduate of Leadership Little Rock Class XII, has served on Legislative Commissions at the pleasure of the Governor, and serves on several community boards, including the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.


  • Jonathan Fuchs, Chief Operation Officer, Arkansas Foundation for Medical Care and President, Association of Regional Centers for Health Information Technology; Little Rock 

Jonathan FuchsJonathan Fuchs is Arkansas Foundation for Medical Care’s (AFMC) chief operating officer, as well as the AFMC executive responsible for HITArkansas, the Regional Extension Center for Arkansas. He is also the president of ARCH-IT, the Association of Regional Centers for Health Information Technology.

Mr. Fuchs is a veteran health care executive whose significant experience in health care management includes specific expertise in insurance and health plan operations, organizational development, Quality Improvement Organization operations, provider negotiations and contracting, and hospital and facility management. He has worked in a variety of health care settings, including hospitals, health plans, educa­tional and community institutions, and as an independent consultant. His past positions include serving as CEO of the University MSO, an affiliate of the New York University Hospital Center, and as an executive in a number of HMO and PPO organizations.

Mr. Fuchs is a fellow in the American College of Healthcare Executives. He has master’s degrees in college and university administration and health services administration.

  • Ray Scott, Arkansas Health Information Technology Coordinator; Little Rock

Ray Scott

Ray Scott has 40 years’ experience in the health and human services field, having served in the administrations of seven Arkansas governors and as U.S. Senator David Pryor’s Chief of Staff during his first term in the U.S. Senate. 

In 2010, Governor Mike Beebe appointed Mr. Scott to his current position as the State Coordinator for Health Information Technology. His state level career has also included service as the director of Aging Services for Governor Dale Bumpers; Commissioner of Social Services, Legislative and Budget Coordinator, and Chief of Staff to Governor David Pryor; director of the Department of Human Services for seven years in the administrations of Governors Frank White and Bill Clinton; deputy director of the Department and Health and Human Services for Governor Mike Huckabee; and deputy director of the Department of Human Services for Governor Beebe until May 2007. 

Mr. Scott has also operated a private consulting and government relations firm specializing in health and human services management consulting, program financing and development, and policy analysis. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology from Henderson State University in Arkadelphia, and a Master of Social Work degree from Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge. He is also an accomplished and published photographer and author with a book of his images with inspirational text and quotes entitled, “Natural Inspiration: Images & Insights,” published in 2005. His photography website is

  • John Heard, McGehee Desha County Hospital; McGehee

John HeardSince December 2002, John E. Heard has served as the chief executive officer of McGehee Hospital in McGehee. Mr. Heard started his career in healthcare in 1989 at another rural hospital in Southeast Arkansas while perusing his undergraduate degrees in Biology and Chemistry. He then moved to Little Rock and completed another degree on Cardio Respiratory Care from the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS), and worked in the field for many years before obtaining his graduate degree in Health Services Administration from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. Upon completion of his studies, Mr. Heard moved to Louisiana to complete a fellowship at Glenwood Regional Medical Center on West Monroe, La.

Mr. Heard serves on many boards, including the Arkansas Hospital Association, the Arkansas Kidney Disease Commission, the UAMS Rural Practice Board, the Greater Delta Alliance For Health, and the Arkansas Trauma Board. He is the past Chairman of the Boys and Girls Club of McGehee, and the McGehee Chamber of Commerce.

Mr. Heard was recognized in 2005 as the C.E. Melville Young Administrator of the Year, presented by the Arkansas Hospital Association. In 2010, he was chosen by Arkansas Business as one of the “40 under 40” leaders in Arkansas.


Afternoon Breakout Session 2 – Internet Innovations in Arkansas’s K-12 Education
Conway Room

Session Description: All over Arkansas, students from kindergarten through high school, their teachers, and school administrators are using the power of the Internet to literally bring the world into their classrooms – and take their classrooms to others across the world. Teachers have more tools and resources than ever before to make their work more exciting and relevant; the technologies are helping them teach students of all learning styles and disciplines in astonishing ways. Attendees who’ve only heard or read about how K-12 teachers and students are using the Internet in class – but haven’t actually seen it in action – have a chance to do so in this session and get insight from teachers and students on its benefits.

Moderator: Karama Neal, Director, Southern Bancorp Community Partners, and Member, Arkansas Broadband Council; Little Rock

Karama NealKarama Neal, PhD, MA, uses her experience in nonprofit management, genetics and bioethics research, and social justice blogging to promote equal access to health, education, and opportunity for all people through teaching, research, practice, advocacy, and service. Her experience in academic, corporate, and nonprofit arenas has given her broad experience in strategic planning, public speaking, technical and persuasive writing, and evaluation. She conceptualizes, develops, directs, and promotes a variety of solution-oriented programs, projects, and opportunities that support positive social change that is sustainable, scalable, and/or replicable. She strives to recognize the difference between the provision of charity and the establishment of justice, with her energy focused primarily on the latter.

Karama was drawn to the basic biosciences because of the potential to contribute to human wellness. After many years in that field, she transitioned to work that has a more immediate effect on human well-being. Karama speaks frequently on family economic security, internet equity, career development, and her faith. She has taught both online and in the classroom at Emory University, Loyola University Chicago, Shorter College, and the Arkansas School for Mathematics and Sciences.

In addition to experience teaching biology, bioethics, and other subjects, Karama has worked in bioinformatics and program management. She currently serves as Director at Southern Bancorp Community Partners where she manages direct service and public policy programs promoting family economic mobility in rural Arkansas and Mississippi. She maintains an active interest in heir property retention policy, internet equity, and nontraditional access to education.

Karama is the author of the award winning blog, So What Can I Do, and serves on the Arkansas Broadband Council. After graduating from the historic Little Rock Central High School, Karama completed her undergraduate degree in biology at Swarthmore College and later earned her doctorate in genetics from Emory University and her masters in bioethics from Loyola University Chicago. She recently completed executive education in impact investing at the University of Oxford. Karama lives in Little Rock with her family.


  • Kristin Cuilla, Director, New School Development, New Tech Network; Napa, California

Kristin CuillaAs a Director of New School Development, Kristin Cuilla’s primary focus is to cultivate and support new schools who wish to bring New Tech to their community. In that capacity, Ms. Cuilla is instrumental in developing strategic partnerships and in fostering effective district and intermediary relationships. In 2006, Ms. Cuilla joined the New Tech Network as Principal of the East Wake School of Integrated Technology, a new, shared-campus NTN school in the North Carolina network. During her tenure, Ms. Cuilla increased student access to college courses through a partnership with Wake Technical Community College that enabled students in grades 9-12 on-campus access to up to 8 college credits per year.

Since 2009, when she joined New Tech as a Director for the North Carolina network, Ms. Cuilla has partnered with local, state, education, government and business partners to support 10 New Tech schools and 9 districts in North Carolina. From 2011 to 2013, Kristin’s support of Arkansas’ state-wide STEM Works initiative positioned 12 additional New Tech schools for successful implementation.

Prior to formally joining NTN, Ms. Cuilla worked for 16 years in high schools as an English teacher and coach (6 years), assistant principal (4 years), principal (3 years) and district administrator (3 years). During her tenure, Ms. Cuilla was directly responsible for opening two innovative high schools and supported the opening of four additional high schools in her growing district, which served more than 120,000 students in 150 schools. Her experiences as teacher, leader, and district official provide unique insight to her current work with schools, districts and state education agencies.

Ms. Cuilla graduated Magna Cum Laude from Florida State University in 1992. After completing a Masters of English Literature from FSU in 1993, Ms. Cuilla pursued and was awarded a Masters of School Administration from North Carolina State University in 2001. The pinnacle of her academic pursuits occurred when Ms. Cuilla earned a Doctor of Philosophy in Educational Research and Policy Analysis in 2004.

  • Dr. Matt McClure, Cheif Learning and Financial Office, Cross County School District; Cherry Valley

Matt McClureDr. Matt McClure is chief learning and financial officer for the Cross County School District and the lead coordinator/facilitator for the new and innovative LEAD 21 graduate program at Arkansas Tech University in Russellville. The LEAD 21 program is designed to prepare future building-level leaders for the Arkansas Delta and Pulaski County schools.

With the belief that schools must change the landscape of the classroom to make learning relevant and fun for students, Dr. McClure has presented throughout the state of Arkansas and the country on utilizing technology to teach 21st century skills to prepare students to compete in a global economy. The Cross County School District received the 2012 Apple Exemplary Program for its commitment to teaching students these critical skills and changing how teaching and learning occur in the classroom. Under his leadership, the school district has brought its schools out of multiple year school improvement and secured over $10,000,000 through outside grants, foundations, and donations. The district was the first school district in the state of Arkansas with a computer for each student in grades K-12.

Dr. McClure was awarded the 2010 Arkansas Superintendent of the Year, becoming the youngest recipient in the history of the award. He was recognized as a 2011 Arkansas Business “40 Under 40” award, notably as the first public school superintendent to receive this award. He has been named by Scholastic Administrator as one of the 2013 "Fantastic Five” for being a leader that overcame doubts and dissension to initiate radical change in his district and create an environment that is conducive to student success. He is the co-author of Getting it Right- Aligning Technology Initiatives for Measurable Student Outcomes.

  • Colonel Michael Spraggins, Principal, Hope High School Academy of Science and Technology; Hope

Michael SpragginsColonel Michael Spraggins is the director of the Hope Academy of Science and Technology and assistant principal of Hope High School. This is his fourth year as an administrator and sixteenth year in the education profession.

Colonel Spraggins’ formation of the Academy of Science and Technology in 2012 has created increasing support for the district due to a rise in student performance and student engagement at Hope High School. Prior to becoming an administrator, Colonel Spraggins served as band director for grades 6-12, enjoying a great deal of success at contests, festivals, and invitational playing engagements. He is a 1993 graduate of Ouachita Baptist University with a Bachelor of Music Education and a 2010 graduate of Henderson State University with a Master of Education. Colonel Spraggins stays involved in his community as a volunteer, a church musician, a member of Lions Club International, and a youth baseball coach.

In addition to his civilian career, Colonel Spraggins has served for 23 years in the military and is a veteran of two combat tours for Operation Iraqi Freedom. Currently serving at the rank of colonel in the Army National Guard, he holds the position of deputy commander for Arkansas’s 39th Infantry Brigade Combat Team. Colonel Spraggins commanded at multiple levels and served in staff assignments requiring extensive use of technology for intelligence gathering and commanding and controlling units. He is a graduate of the Field Artillery Officer Basic and Advanced Course, Command and General Staff College, and is currently in his first year of studies in the U.S. Army War College. Colonel Spraggins’ many awards include the Bronze Star Medal, Meritorious Service Medal, Army Commendation Medal, and the Combat Action Badge.

  • Gina Khoury, Instructional Technology Specialist, Rockefeller Elementary and Early Childhood Magnet School; Little Rock

Gina KhouryGina Khoury serves as an Instructional Technology Specialist (ITS) for the Rockefeller Elementary and Early Childhood Magnet School in the Little Rock School District (LRSD). Rockefeller has an elementary computer science and technology focus. As an ITS and as a Microsoft Certified Trainer (MCT), Ms. Khoury teaches students in grades K-5 technology integration lessons that focus on project creation and collaboration using the latest programs and applications. Her students have participated in the Arkansas Association of Instructional Media (AAIM) Student Media Festival for the last three years and have won first and second place in the state for their respective divisions each year. Their projects have included iPhoto books, iMovie videos and multimedia presentations. Ms. Khoury also conducts a variety of professional development courses for teachers and staff on topics including “iPads in the Classroom,” “Making Movies with Students,” “Flip Your Classroom using Flip Videos,” “ActivInspire Tools for Student Engagement,” Defining a Technology School,” and “App Evaluation and Lesson Building.”

She serves as a member of Rockefeller’s Campus Leadership Team and is chair of the Technology Team. She is also co-chair of Membership for the board of the Central Arkansas Reading Council.

In 2012, with funding from the Arkansas Humanities Council and support from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, Ms. Khoury coordinated a school-wide and community outreach study into the life and legacy of her school’s namesake, Arkansas Governor Winthrop Rockefeller, that included a variety of student-created technology and art projects; culminating with a student exhibit at the Butler Center for Arkansas Studies. Last spring she was awarded a Superintendent’s Citation from the LRSD for her leadership on this project.

Prior to her current position, Ms. Khoury worked as a Software Trainer with Adobe and Microsoft Products and as a development director for local non-profits. In addition to being a certified teacher, Ms. Khoury holds two baccalaureate degrees in Speech Communication and Technical Writing. Her breadth of professional and personal experiences as teacher, consultant, student, director and parent has allowed her to integrate each of these perspectives into the training and lessons that she instructs and the projects that she leads. Audiences that experience her instruction always walk away with practical uses for the latest devices and software and a competent resource for the effective integration of technology in education.

  • Ed Franklin, Executive Director, Arkansas Association of Two-Year Colleges; Chairman, Arkansas Quality Digital Learning Study Committee


Afternoon Breakout Session 3 – Arkansans’ Innovations in Internet Applications
White Oak Room

Session Description: As today’s conference sessions look at how sectors throughout Arkansas are using high-speed Internet for more convenience, efficiency, learning, and information; this session takes a further step to showcase several Arkansans working in groundbreaking research and patenting in optical communications, wireless/next-generation networks, and other fields that are reaching governments and the private sector worldwide; and may very likely touch all of us. This session will also look at how the Arkansas Environmental and Spatial Technology (EAST) Initiative is teaching Internet coding other skills to students – using computer workstations, smart tablets, cameras, GPS units, and more – that could spark them to be Internet innovators in the future.

Moderator: Dr. Tim Atkinson, President, Arkansas Science and Technology Authority; Little Rock

Tim Atkinson

After completing a B.S. in Biology from Tennessee Technological University, Dr. Tim Atkinson started a career in research in 1990 as a research assistant at Vanderbilt University, where he sequenced DNA to study transcription and plant genetics.

After spending some time in the Nashville, Tenn. community of science, he worked in research administration at Meharry Medical College in Nashville. From that time, he has maintained a career in the field.

Dr. Atkinson earned a Master’s in Higher Education at Peabody College at Vanderbilt University and a Doctorate in Higher Education from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. He has published 13 peer review articles about research administration, leadership, ethics and higher education.

He is currently the President of the Arkansas Science & Technology Authority (ASTA). Before joining ASTA, Dr. Atkinson was Assistant Provost and Director of Sponsored Programs at the University of Central Arkansas, where he currently has an appointment as Assistant Professor of Leadership Studies. He teaches graduate courses in leadership, grant writing, and budgeting. His research interests are in Organizational Behavior, Semiotics, Leadership, Higher Education and Research Administration.


  • Chuck Chalfant, President and Chief Executive Officer, Space Photonics, Inc.; Fayetteville

Chuck ChalfantChuck Chalfant, President and CEO, Space Photonics, Inc., (SPI) grew up in and graduated high school in Booneville, Arkansas. He received his BA in Physics at Hendrix College and his MS in Laser Physics at the University of Arkansas while teaching Physical Science under a graduate assistantship. He then moved to California to work for Lockheed Space Systems in Sunnyvale. After seven years and four promotions working for Lockheed’s Electro-Optical Products and classified programs, he took a new job at Optivision just down the road in Palo Alto. As a very small high-tech company that got its start by way of Stanford University, it grew rapidly from 20 to 100 employees by 1996. That year Mr. Chalfant and his family moved back to Arkansas under a telecommuting agreement that included regular travel back to Palo Alto. He led the company in R&D revenue generation for the next two years.

In 1997 Mr. Chalfant joined with ten Optivision colleagues and became part of the founding team at Optical Networks Inc. (ONI). A $160 million venture investment kick-started their pursuit of the booming optical communications market. By the end of 1998, ONI’s rapid growth led them to end Government R&D projects and focus on an initial public offering that was later successful. Mr. Chalfant wanted to stay in Arkansas so he founded Space Photonics by transferring his ONI R&D efforts to Space Photonics.

Mr. Chalfant has led more than 20 optical product development efforts in his career, and authored more than 20 publications. SPI is now one of the world’s leading innovators in optical communications technologies. SPI’s patented LaserFire® communications systems provide the world’s most precise laser beam pointing and tracking. These patents and technologies were recently licensed and are now in production by world-renowned innovator and manufacturer SCHOTT for military and government markets.

Space Photonics is employee-owned and has so far not accepted any outside investments or financing and has remained on sound financial footing for more than a decade. With almost $30 million of R&D completed and with proven operational systems, Mr. Chalfant is now attempting to lead the company’s pursuit of commercial laser communications solutions for the wireless information and rural broadband infrastructure.

  • Dr. Seshardi Mohan, Professor, Department of Systems Engineering, University of Arkansas at Little Rock; Little Rock

Seshardi Mohan

Dr. Seshadri Mohan is a Professor of the Department of Systems Engineering at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock (UALR), and also served as department chair from 2004 to 2013.

Prior to his current position, Dr. Mohan served as the Chief Technology Officer (CTO) and Acting CEO of IP SerVoniX, where he consulted for several telecommunication firms and venture firms, and served as the CTO of Telsima (formerly known as Kinera).  At Telsima, Dr. Mohan carried out extensive business development with telecommunications and wireless carriers both in the United States and India. Prior to launching IP SerVoniX, he was with Comverse, Wakefield, Massachusetts, as Chief Technology Officer. At Comverse, he was responsible for starting and guiding an advanced development center, developing architectures and solutions to facilitate the development of wireless and next generation messaging products, enhancing the patent portfolio, and evaluating technology strategies to pursue and providing recommendations to the executive management team.

Dr. Mohan’s industry experience also includes New Jersey-based Telcordia (formerly Bellcore) and Bell Laboratories. At Telcordia, he led many projects in the area of wireless and next generation technologies, including advancing a multimedia-capable softswitch, in which areas he holds several patents.

Dr. Mohan has authored/coauthored over 100 publications in the form of books, patents, and papers. He has co-authored the textbook Source and Channel Coding: An Algorithmic Approach and contributed to several books, including Mobile Communications Handbook and The Communications Handbook (CRC Press). He holds 14 patents in the area of wireless location management and authentication strategies as well as in the area of enhanced services for wireless. He is the recipient of the Science Applications International Corporation’s Publication Prize for Information and Communications Technology. He has served or is serving on the editorial boards of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineer (IEEE) Personal Communications, IEEE Surveys, IEEE Communications Magazine and has chaired sessions in many international conferences and workshops. He is currently serving as the Editor-in-Chief of Advances in Network and Communications.  Recently, Dr. Mohan served as a guest editor of March 2012 IEEE Communications Feature Topic titled “Convergence of Applications Services in Next Generation Networks” as well as the June 2012 Feature Topic titled “Social Networks Meet Wireless Networks.”

Dr. Mohan holds a Ph.D. degree in electrical and computer engineering from McMaster University, Canada, a Masters degree in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science from the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur, India; and the Bachelors degree in Electronics and Telecommunications from the University of Madras, India.

  • John Chamberlin, Executive Director, Chamberlin Research; Little Rock

John ChamberlinJohn Chamberlin has been involved in technology in Arkansas since the mid-1960s when he developed software for the poultry industry. After working at Systematics, Mr. Chamberlin founded Arkansas Systems in 1975. Arkansas Systems became a global player in software that acquired, routed and authorized debit and credit card transactions, driving ATMs in over 60 countries. After the purchase of Arkansas Systems by Euronet Worldwide in 1998, the software grew to support mobile phone payments. After leaving Euronet in 2001, Mr. Chamberlin co-founded Ikobo, a pioneer in Internet funds transfer. He served on the Ikobo board until 2008. Mr. Chamberlin is currently a technology investor and consultant, and volunteers with several organizations promoting progress in education, entrepreneurship and the environment.

  • Matt Dozier, President/CEO; and Doug Guswelle, Technical Resource Specialist; EASTinitiative; Little Rock

Matt DozierMatt Dozier is the President and CEO of the EAST Initiative, an innovative educational reform effort that combines student-developed community service projects with sophisticated technology. The EAST model has been recognized by the U.S. Departments of Education and Labor and other groups as an innovative, relevant, and successful approach to education.

Mr. Dozier first became affiliated with EAST in 1998 while teaching at North Pulaski High School in Jacksonville. He became the first for EAST and soon became a member of the first EAST Professional Development training team. In that role, he helped to develop curriculum and train hundreds of teachers as the EAST program spread to over 200 schools in eight states. In 2001, Mr. Dozier joined the EAST staff full-time, working as the initiative’s Communication Director, Assistant Program Director, and National Program Director. He was named EAST CEO in 2007.

Mr. Dozier is currently serving on the Arkansas Leaders Advisory Council for the Arkansas Discovery Network, is a member of the Arkansas State Geographic Information Systems Board Advisory Panel, and was inducted into the Arkansas Academy of Computing in 2011. In 2013, he was named a finalist in the “Arkansas Business” Nonprofit CEO of the Year Award. He is the editor of “Autism is Not a Life Sentence: How One Family Took on Autism and WON!” by Lynley Summers, published by the Autism Asperger Publishing Company in 2006.


Afternoon Breakout Session 4 – The Critical Partnership of Digital Literacy and Libraries
Grampas Room

Session Description: Arkansas’s libraries are digital lifelines for those who are unable to get online from home or elsewhere. They are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to provide, maintain, and upgrade public access computers and high-speed Internet connections. Library staff is also spending much of their limited time helping patrons who do not know how to use a computer and/or the Internet to get on the web. Who are the Arkansans who depend on their library to get online and why – and why is it important for those living and working in different sectors of our communities be aware of this? Attendees will also learn how libraries and Connect Arkansas are responding to calls for more digital literacy training, and why it is now urgent to convince parents and guardians who are resisting computer ownership and subscribing to Internet service.

Moderator: David Johnson, Director, Fayetteville Public Library; Fayetteville

David JohnsonFayetteville Public Library Executive Director and University of Arkansas graduate David Johnson has been a Fayetteville community member for over 20 years. His wife Holly is the Director of Development, Grants and Community Relations for the Fayetteville Public School district. His daughter Cecelia is a sophomore at Fayetteville High School, and his son Russ is an 8th grader at Woodland Junior High.

Mr. Johnson, who received his Masters of Library Science degree from the University of Tennessee, returned to the Fayetteville Public Library after fifteen years with Tyson Foods, where he held various leadership positions in Information Systems, Sales and Marketing, and Research and Development. Along with the wonderful staff at the library, Mr. Johnson shares the passion and enthusiasm for serving his community, and looks forward to continuing to provide the nationally recognized library service that Fayetteville expects, and deserves!


  • Mindy Hodges, Administrative Service Manager; Arkansas State Library; Little Rock

Mindy HodgesMindy Hodges joined the Arkansas State Library in 2009. She oversees information technology infrastructure development within the agency, along with all agency procurement, budgeting and human resources elements. Ms. Hodges’ interest in broadband throughout the state emerged as a result of working with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Grant received by the State Library, which focused on bringing broadband to rural libraries throughout Arkansas. Prior to her time at the State Library, Ms. Hodges worked as an economist at the International Trade Commission in Washington, D.C. She returned to Little Rock to study law and then re-entered public service with the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration Office of Budget.

Ms. Hodges is a native of North Little Rock. She graduated as a University Scholar with a Bachelor of Arts in Economics and English from Baylor University in Waco, Tex., and earned her Juris Doctorate from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.

  • Dr. David Rainey, Superintendent, Dumas Public Schools; Dumas

David RaineyDr. David Rainey is the superintendent of schools in Dumas, Ark. He is a former state representative and one of Arkansas’s earliest advocates for high-speed Internet advocacy, education, and adoption. During his tenure in the Arkansas General Assembly, Dr. Rainey also served as a member of the Education, Joint Budget, Insurance and Commerce, and Advanced Communications and Information Technology committees.

Dr. Rainey’s career has also included serving as the assistant state director for the JBHM Education Group, a school improvement company. He was also a visiting professor at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff (UAPB), where he taught a graduate level class and managed a partnership between UAPB and five school districts to improve reading, math and English in grades K-12. He has also served as program manager for the Southwest Educational Development Laboratory (SEDL), where he managed intensive site work in the SEDL’s five-state service area, which included Arkansas. This major research initiative was designed to assist districts and schools in working systemically to improve student achievement in reading and math. Dr. Rainey was also the director of the Southeast Comprehensive Assistance Center (SECAC), where he managed the delivery of technical assistance and professional development services at the state and district levels in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana and Mississippi. This work involved coordination and collaboration with the State Departments of Education and Regional Service Centers in each state to assist local school districts in implementing the Improving America’s Schools Act. He is also a past director of the Director of the Arkansas School for Mathematics and Sciences, a residential school created to house 300 of Arkansas’s best and brightest eleventh and twelfth graders; and a building administrator with the Dumas Public Schools – one year as assistant high school principal, six years as junior high school principal, and six years as high school principal.

Dr. Rainey’s educational background includes a Doctorate in Educational Administration and Supervision from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, a Masters in Secondary School Administration from the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, and a Bachelor’s in History and Government from the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff.

  • Emerson Evans, Chief Operating Officer, Connect Arkansas; Little Rock

Emerson EvansEmerson Evans is the Chief Operating Officer for Connect Arkansas and is responsible for managing the execution of all grant-related projects.

Prior to joining Connect Arkansas, Mr. Evans He was with Alltel Wireless where he worked with the RF Engineering department to develop mapping standards and processes utilized in creating wireless coverage maps for use throughout the company.

In 2008, Mr. Evans was recruited by Connect Arkansas to create and develop a first of its kind broadband coverage map for the state Arkansas. Mr. Evans worked with more than 70 broadband providers throughout the state to build this comprehensive broadband map using Geographic Information Systems.

Mr. Evans is from Gentry, Arkansas, and graduated in 2006 from the University of Central Arkansas with a Bachelor of Science in Geography.

  • Katie Holder, Digital Literacy Program Coordinator, Connect Arkansas; Little Rock

Katie HolderKatie Holder joined the Arkansas Capital Corporation in January 2012 as an e-Communities Analyst for Connect Arkansas.

Ms. Holder is from Conway, Arkansas, and graduated in 2001 from the University of Central Arkansas with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Communications with an emphasis in Public Relations. She graduated in 2008 from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock with her Masters of Business Administration degree.

She joined the Peace Corps in June 2009 and worked in Mongolia as a Community Economic Development volunteer for over two years. Ms. Holder worked with an organization called Development Solutions to help micro, small and medium-sized enterprises grow and adopt current business methods.

Before joining the Peace Corps, Katie worked at Arkansas Children’s Hospital for six years in both the Admissions Department and Foundation.


3:00 p.m. – 3:15 p.m.


General Session – Broadband 101 and Investments in Arkansas Broadband by Arkansas Internet Service Providers
3:15 p.m. – 3:45 p.m.
Conway Room

Moderator: Marie Bruno, Vice President, Connect Arkansas; Little Rock

Marie BrunoMarie Bruno joined the Arkansas Capital Corporation Group (ACCG) in August 2010 as a vice president, working with the Connect Arkansas Initiative.

Ms. Bruno is a native of Fayetteville, Ark., and graduated in 1981 from the University of Arkansas with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Broadcast Journalism with emphasis in Political Science.

Ms. Bruno was previously with Arkansas Literacy Councils, a statewide nonprofit adult literacy organization that works to support over 50 nonprofit literacy councils that recruit and train volunteers to tutor adults who want to improve their basic literacy and/or English as a Second Language skills. She was with Arkansas Literacy Councils from 1990-1998 and 2004-2010; serving 12 of those years as executive director.

Ms. Bruno also served as communications manager for the Arkansas Department of Career Education from 1998-2004.

Ms. Bruno began her career in television, starting as an intern for what is now KNWA (NBC/Fayetteville), in 1978. She went full-time upon graduation until 1982, when she joined KOTV (CBS/Tulsa). She has also worked for the Arkansas Educational Television Network (AETN), and KTHV (CBS/Little Rock). She worked in several different capacities during her broadcasting career, including photographer/editor, writer, weather anchor, producer, and public relations/promotions manager. It was her work at the Arkansas Educational Television Network that led her to a new career in the nonprofit field.

At Connect Arkansas, Ms. Bruno is responsible for coordinating and facilitating High-Speed Internet deployment, access, and adoption activities in southeast Arkansas and related initiatives at the regional, state and federal levels.

In June, Ms. Bruno was named Executive Director of the Arkansas Economic Acceleration Foundation, another project of the ACCG. Established in 1999, the foundation is a private, non-profit corporation dedicated to education-based initiatives that promote and foster the development of innovation and entrepreneurship within Arkansas. Ms. Bruno will move to the foundation full-time October 1.


  • Elizabeth Bowles, President and Chairman of the Board, Aristotle; Little Rock

Elizabeth BowlesElizabeth Bowles is president and chairman of the Board of Aristotle Inc., a full-service interactive agency and Internet service provider, which offers broadband and dial-up connectivity in addition to website design, search engine, online and integrated marketing services.

Ms. Bowles has served as a website and integrated marketing consultant for a number of Aristotle’s enterprise clients, including Elvis Presley Enterprises, Stephens Inc., and Murphy Oil U.S.A. Inc. With her leadership, the company expanded its e-mail hosting/filtering and dial-up service area in 2003 to cover all 50 states and has also developed new, server-based email and application hosting technologies. Aristotle expanded again in 2006 to offer broadband wireless Internet access in the greater Little Rock area and surrounding communities, now serving over 750 customers.

Ms. Bowles is a summa cum laude graduate of the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in International Studies. She received a J.D. from the Vanderbilt University School of Law in Nashville. Tenn., and graduated first in her class. She is licensed to practice law in Arkansas and Washington, D.C., as well as before the Supreme Court of the United States.

Ms. Bowles worked as a clerk for the late Richard S. Arnold, former Chief Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit. Following her clerkship, she was an attorney with the Washington, D.C., law firm Arnold & Porter, where she practiced in the fields of intellectual property and commercial litigation with an emphasis on international and technology law. She has chaired several American Bar Association anti-spam and anti-spyware/malware sub-committees.

Ms. Bowles is president of the Wireless Internet Service Providers Association, a national organization serving the fixed wireless broadband industry. She is Forum Chair of the Arkansas Young Presidents Association and a member of the Arkansas and American Bar Associations.

  • Ed Drilling, President, AT&T Arkansas

Ed DrillingEd Drilling joined Southwestern Bell Telephone Company in 1979. During his career, he has served in various operations positions including customer service, sales and marketing, and the external affairs organization. He was named President of the Arkansas Division in 2002. On June 1, 2012, Mr. Drilling also assumed responsibility of the State Regulatory Initiatives group. In addition to his role for Arkansas, Mr. Drilling is responsible for coordinating state External affairs and state regulatory initiatives for project VIP, IP transition, access reform, wholesale, retail pricing, and wireline reform efforts. Mr. Drilling has served on numerous boards over the last 30 years, including: past Chairman of the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce, Arkansas Children's Hospital Board of Trustees, University of Arkansas Board of Advisors, former President of Little Rock Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors, UAMS Arkansas BioVentures Advisory Board, former President of Fifty for the Future, and the Simmons First National Corporation Board. He is currently vice chair of the Arkansas Economic Development Commission. He received the Pinnacle Award in 2003 from the Little Rock Chamber of Commerce, the highest honor the chamber gives for service to the community. Mr. Drilling holds a bachelor's degree in marketing from the Walton College at the University of Arkansas, and is a graduate of Emory's Advanced Management Program.

  • Joe Molinaro, Executive Director, Arkansas Cable Telecommunications Association; Little Rock

Joe MolinaroJoe Molinaro is the executive director of the Arkansas Cable Telecommunications Association, and has served in that role since May 2008. A lifelong resident of central Arkansas, Mr. Molinaro graduated from Sylvan Hills High School in Sherwood and the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, earning a Bachelor's degree in Political Science in 1986.

Mr. Molinaro worked his way through college and, after graduation, established a career in small business in North Little Rock and Sherwood. He launched three successful business ventures, the largest of which, CheckAlert, Inc., is still in operation today. He also holds two patents.

In 1992, Mr. Molinaro was elected to the Arkansas House of Representatives, District 62, and served as a member of the General Assembly for six years. During this time, he served on various legislative committees, as well as on the Board of Admissions for the University of Arkansas School of Medicine. Mr. Molinaro was also selected as "Jaycee Young Arkansas Businessman of the Year," as well as one of Arkansas Business magazine's "40 Under 40." Following his tenure in as a state representative, Mr. Molinaro served as assistant to Senate Pro-Tempore, Jay Bradford.

  • Katie Burns, President, Arkansas Telecommunications Association; Little Rock

Katie BurnsKatie Burns, manager of Government and Regulatory Affairs for CenturyLink, represents the company in both Arkansas and Oklahoma. Ms. Burns has been employed by CenturyLink for 10 years. Her main focus is lobbying and building relationships with members of the Arkansas and Oklahoma legislatures. She also travels to Washington, D.C., for the purpose of lobbying the Arkansas and Oklahoma delegations on CenturyLink’s behalf. She has built strong relationships with the members and the staff of local, as well as national members of the legislature.

Ms. Burns joined CenturyTel (now CenturyLink) in 2003 after spending almost four years with Austin-based Public Strategies, Inc. (PSI) where she served as a Public Affairs Coordinator for Southwestern Bell/SBC in Arkansas and then San Antonio, Tex. Ms. Burns also worked as the lead media specialist for PSI on the Joint Strike Fighter (F-35) program at Lockheed Martin in Fort Worth, Tex.

In 2012, Ms. Burns was named one of “Arkansas’ 40 under 40” by Arkansas Business. She sits on the board of Connect Arkansas, the Arkansas Broadband Council, and is the current president of the Arkansas Telecommunications Association.

Ms. Burns is a native of Arkansas and earned a degree in communications from the University of Central Arkansas. She and her husband Matt have a daughter, Ellie, and a son, Charlie.


General Session - Broadband in Rural America
3:45 p.m. – 4:30 p.m.
Conway Room

Speaker: Diane Smith, Founder and CEO at and author, TheNewRural.Com; Whitefish, Montana

Diane SmithA business and social entrepreneur, Diane is the co-founder and CEO of a high growth, groundbreaking IPTV company in Northwest Montana. After a career spent in Washington DC as a corporate executive in the fast growing tech and wireless industries, Diane discovered that the most interesting people live and work beyond the Beltway. She authored TheNewRural.Com to explore how technology has changed the opportunity equation in Rural America and co-founded American Rural, an organization dedicated to effective policies regarding entrepreneurship, technology and energy for rural and small town America. 

On Diane’s website, she states that “we can stay true to our rural roots while recognizing that advances in technology and communications infrastructure have changed Rural America in profound ways. We believe that Rural America can lead the way to 21st century entrepreneurial success for our Nation and we are committed to those policies that advance the goals of opportunity and vitality for rural Americans nationwide.”



Who should attend?

Anyone who wants to learn more about the progress being made on high-speed Internet technology and adoption in Arkansas, including:

  • Entrepreneurs
  • Internet providers
  • City, county and state officials
  • Educators - K-12 and Higher Ed
  • Librarians
  • Farmers
  • Economic Developers
  • Healthcare Officials
  • Tourism and Hospitality Professionals

Hotel Accommodations

A room block at the Marriott Hotel is available for the night of September 25. Reservations must be made no later than Monday, August 26, 2013. The room rate is $135 plus applicable taxes and fees. All hotel rooms and expenses (except the provided reception, breakfast and lunch) are the responsibilities of the attendee. Attendees can reserve a hotel room online here or by calling the Marriott Hotel at 877.759.6290. A credit card number will be required to secure a room from this block. Cancellations must be received 24 hours prior to arrival or 1 night room and tax will be assessed. 


What are my transport/parking options getting to the event?
The Marriott Hotel offers overnight valet parking for $20 per day. Day use of valet parking is $14. In addition, there are several hundred on-street parking spaces nearby. There are also several paid parking garages located nearby. Please note that all parking fees are the responsibility of the conference attendee.

Where can I contact the organizer with any questions?
Valerie Erkman, email or call 501.374.9247
Marie Bruno, email or call 501.374.9247

Is my registration/ticket transferrable?
Yes, you may transfer your registration to another person. However, you need to email Valerie Erkman at or call 501.374.9247.

Can I update my registration information?
Yes. If you need to update your registration information, please email Valerie Erkman at or call 501.374.9247.

Do I have to bring my printed ticket to the event?
No. We will be able to check you in at the registration desk located in the Commons Area.

What is the refund policy?
This is a non-refundable event. 

The name on the registration/ticket doesn't match the attendee. Is that okay?
No. You need to contact Valerie Erkman at or call 501.374.9247 and update that name on the registration.