Aspen Institute Recognizes 21 Innovative Business Leaders

June 11, 2014

Contact: Nancy McGaw
Director of the First Movers Fellowship
The Aspen Institute
212-895-8007 |

Aspen Institute Recognizes 21 Innovative Business Leaders
6th Class of Aspen Institute First Mover Fellows creates success for companies and communities 

New York, June 11, 2014—The Aspen Institute Business and Society Program today announced the 2014 recipients of its prestigious First Movers Fellowship, awarded to individuals who are working within companies to unite business growth with a sustainable society in the products and services they are developing. This year’s First Movers were chosen from a wide variety of business sectors including technology (eBay, Facebook, Google and LinkedIn); pharmaceuticals (GlaxoSmithKline); food and beverage (Chipotle); finance (Credit Suisse, JPMorgan Chase and Visa) and chemicals (Dow). 

“The fellowship serves as an innovation lab and leadership development opportunity for the exceptional business leaders selected for this program,” says Nancy McGaw, creator and director of the First Movers Fellowship Program.  “First Movers have a proud tradition of delivering lasting value to their companies and to society. The diversity of the Fellows’ job titles and their industries demonstrates the many ways business men and women can lead positive change in their companies.”   

The 12-month Fellowship, which includes three seminars, is built around the core themes of innovation, leadership, reflection and community. The program offers individuals a chance to become part of a growing community of innovators who share a passion about their work and belief in new possibilities for business.  (Click here to read a Fast Company article about recent First Mover Fellows.)

The Aspen Institute Business and Society Program works with an expert design team which helps structure and facilitate the seminars and evaluate the program’s impact.  Matthew Breitfelder, managing director, Global Human Resources, BlackRock and a member of the First Movers design team, affirms the unique value of the fellowship.

“The First Movers Fellowship program not only fosters innovation among participants but is also a great example of innovation itself,” Breitfelder says. “No other program brings together such a diverse and accomplished group of business leaders and builds their capacity to achieve positive change and impact in their companies and beyond.  We need this kind of bold leadership in business more than ever to deliver long-term value creation and economic growth.” 

Judy Samuelson, the founder of the Aspen Institute’s Business and Society Program and a regular contributor to The Huffington Post agrees.  “First Mover Fellows exemplify the creativity and resilience that companies need now to thrive in rapidly evolving industries,” she says.  “The fellowship program gives them additional confidence and skills to lead effectively. Their companies benefit from having this increased leadership capacity and also from the value-creating projects that the Fellows take on during the fellowship.”   

The First Movers Fellowship was developed by the Aspen Institute Business and Society Program, whose mission is to equip business leaders for the 21st century with a new management paradigm—the vision and knowledge to integrate corporate profitability and social value. 

For more information about the First Movers Fellowship, or about the 2014 Fellows, visit  

About The Aspen Institute 

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, DC. Its mission is to foster leadership based on enduring values and to provide a nonpartisan venue for dealing with critical issues. The Institute is based in Washington, DC; Aspen, Colorado; and on the Wye River on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. It also has offices in New York City and an international network of partners. For more information, visit


The First Mover Fellows – 2014

Safir Bellali, Director, Design Innovation, Vans. With over 15 years of combined experience as an automotive engineer and industrial designer, Safir has been able to leverage his strategic thinking and creative problem-solving skills to tackle a wide range of design challenges. He currently leads a team of advanced concept designers and engineers at Vans to handle everything from technical snowboard boot design to the exploration of advanced materials and ground-breaking design and visualization processes. 

David Bennett is the Real Estate & Workplace Services Green Team Operations & Innovations Lead at Google. David leads implementation of health and sustainability strategies for the operations and maintenance of the company’s global portfolio as well as leading an innovation program focused on evaluating emerging technologies for Google’s built environment.

Caitlin Bristol, Global Manager, Social Innovation, eBay Inc. Caitlin is a creative strategist focused on the design and development of more sustainable forms of commerce. At eBay Inc. she helps catalyze, incubate and scale new programs that enable both business and social value. A couple of the programs she has helped to develop include partnerships with Patagonia’s Common Threads Initiative and the PGA Trade-In Network.

Meg Burritt, Director of Wellness and Sustainability, Raley’s Family of Fine Stores. At Raley’s, Meg manages the natural foods and OTC drug departments while also developing a sustainability program for this 118-store grocery chain. She is passionate about creating sustainable food systems and bringing good, clean food to the everyday American. 

Albert Cho is Vice President for Strategy and Business Development at Xylem, a global water technology company. He leads strategy, market intelligence, business development and government relations activities across the global ~$4 billion enterprise. 

Nick Ellis, Member of the Leadership Team, TrueBlue, Inc. Nick is currently responsible for firm-wide innovation at TrueBlue, Inc., a $2 billion/year workforce solutions company employing 400,000 workers at 175,000 businesses. He is a serial entrepreneur using business model innovation to accelerate solutions to global problems. 

Jorge Fontanez, Marketing Manager – Corporate Marketing, JPMorgan Chase & Co. Jorge reports into the firm’s Chief Marketing Officer and partners with Corporate Responsibility on marketing strategy and deployment of the firm’s latest brand campaign. He joined the firm in 2011 to lead Chase Community Giving (CCG); a philanthropic initiative leveraging the power of social media. Gaining nearly 3.8 million fans, CCG fulfilled the firm’s commitment to deliver $25MM in grants to thousands of small, local non-profits nationwide.

Thomas (Toby) Gannett is the President of BCR Management, an independent consulting firm specializing in innovation management, management optimization, leadership development and strategic planning. He is currently a consultant in a health care merger, the creation of a center of innovation, entrepreneurialism and science as well as an 18,500 acre conservation effort. 

Brynn Harrington, Global Manager, People Growth, Facebook. Brynn leads the People Growth team at Facebook, which is focused on talent development, employee engagement, career development and culture. She is passionate about building environments and experiences that help people perform their best while finding meaning in what they do.  

Ashley Hegland is the Regional Director of Edelman’s Business + Social Purpose Practice in Asia Pacific. Ashley established the Practice in 2006 and he currently leads a team that advises clients on how to create value through the management of complex business-society issues. Currently based in Hong Kong, Ashley also serves on Edelman’s Global Citizenship Senior Advisory Committee. 

Laura Hemrika, is the Head of the Microfinance Capacity Building Initiative (MCBI) at Credit Suisse, one pillar of the comprehensive and holistic approach to microfinance developed by the bank. The MCBI works directly with key players in the industry to strengthen institutional and management capacity, innovation and research across regions. It also comprises an industry-leading skills-based volunteering in which Credit Suisse employees work directly with MFIs and social enterprises to improve operations and overcome business challenges on the ground. 

Gabriella Herzog is Senior Manager for Corporate Social Responsibility at Hess Corporation, where she recommends, develops and implements corporate-level corporate social responsibility strategy, analysis and systems design, as well as operations-level support for implementation. Gabriella has over 16 years of experience in both the public and private sectors leading headquarters and field-level work in the areas of international development, human rights, labor rights and corporate social responsibility.

Suzanne Gibbs Howard is an Associate Partner at the global design and innovation consultancy IDEO. With over 20 years of experience in systems and organization design, understanding and influencing culture and social change has always been a central aspect to Suzanne’s work. She is one of IDEO’s thought leaders on topics such as social movements and design for learning. Currently she leads efforts around scalable learning experiences, aiming to mainstream creative problem solving. 

Mark Pickens, Senior Director, Emerging Markets Digital, Visa. Mark joined Visa in 2011 to help design and launch mVISA, a mobile financial service helping underserved consumers manage their financial lives. mVisa also brings Visa together with new and non-traditional partners, from Rwanda’s largest microcredit lender to the World Food Programme and frog design from Silicon Valley. 

Maria Olivia Recart is Vice President of Corporate Affairs for the Copper business of BHP Billiton, one of the most diversified mineral companies in the world. Maria Olivia and her team, based in Santiago, manage corporate affairs for the company’s copper operations in Australia, northern Chile and relations with joint ventures in Peru and other places. Her team is accountable for corporate strategy linking non-renewable resources to their most extended contribution to economic development.

Tyler Stewart is Director of Tradeshow Sales at The Venetian / The Palazzo Sands Expo Center and currently leads a team of 13 talented sales people and administrative staff at one of the largest hotels in the world. His team is responsible for contracting some of the largest tradeshows and association clients in North America. These clients, many of whom have over 100,000 attendees, utilize 7000 hotel rooms and 2.2 million square feet of meeting and convention space at the Sands Expo and Venetian Congress Center.

Sarah Sasaki Tsien is the Senior Manager of Community Relations for Pacific Gas and Electric Company, one of the largest combination electric and natural gas energy companies in the United States. In this role, she is responsible for PG&E’s community investment program, including PG&E charitable contributions, the PG&E Corporation Foundation, signature philanthropic programs and corporate social responsibility.

Connie Chan Wang, Social Media Strategist, LinkedIn. In this position Connie leverages social media to pursue the company’s vision of creating economic opportunity for every professional in the world. She also serves as the Chairperson of the Board for LinkedIn for Good for Employees, an employee-led organization she co-founded that focuses on connecting employees with opportunities to make an impact.

Eric Wilson, Director, New Market Development, Chipotle Mexican Grill. In this recently created role, Eric oversees all aspects of the company’s growth into new international regions or markets. In addition to his international responsibilities, Eric also co-chairs the planning, prioritization and resourcing process for all major corporate initiatives.

Laura Wolak, Senior Marketing Manager, Dow Chemical. Laura coordinates the Midland/HQ Women’s Innovation Network (WIN) and Pinnacle Award for Marketing Excellence for North America, and is a member of the Corporate Citizenship Steering Team. In her current role she leads business teams through holistic market assessments, market opportunity mapping and innovation projects. In her personal time she has co-founded RedDirtRoad.CO, a non-profit company focused on empowering women in Cambodia.

William Zuercher is Senior Scientific Investigator of Chemical Biology at GlaxoSmithKline (Research Triangle Park, NC, USA) where he has been since 2000. His team develops and evaluates innovative new approaches to improve drug discovery through better target identification and selection. Bill is a strong advocate for value creation by expansion of precompetitive discovery space with open access to chemical probes as research tools. He believes that advancing the starting line in this manner will more effectively address unmet medical need through better informed and more successful proprietary drug discovery efforts.

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