Board Bios

Berdan, Mark


Mr. Berdan has headed Northern Transformation Corporation, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, since its inception in 2010. As Executive Director of Region 7B Consortium- Michigan Works! for the past 14 years, he is responsible for workforce development activities in the six counties of Arenac, Clare, Gladwin, Iosco, Ogemaw and Roscommon Counties and beyond.

He believes in a collaborative approach to improving employment opportunities for job seekers and looks for ways to combine workforce and economic development strategies assisting businesses to prosper. He has held leadership positions with numerous partnerships and statewide and local boards including the Michigan Works! Association Steering Committee, Veterans Services and Michigan Rehabilitation Services. Having extensive experience with community assessments and planning, Mr. Berdan served as Community Coordinator for four counties. He is a graduate of Adrian College. Residing in Ogemaw County, Mr. Berdan and his wife are foster parents joining their already active household.

Beydoun, Fay

Executive Director

Fay Beydoun is a visionary leader who has devoted her career to serving the business community and the community at large. Since leading the American Arab Chamber of Commerce in 2008, Ms. Beydoun has used her talent and expertise to benefit the Chamber and the community. Her leadership has had positive rippling effects at the local, national and international level.

In 2002, Ms. Beydoun expanded her circle of activities to enhance the relationships between the United States and the Middle East. She became vice president of the U.S.-Arabic Economic Forum, an organization that facilitates economic collaboration, cultural dialogue, and innovation between the United States and the Middle East. The Forum attracts more than 1,000 participants from 35 countries including top Fortune 500 executives and more than 150 global leaders, in the fields of government, business, technology, academics and policy. It fosters powerful opportunities for American and Arab leaders to reinforce existing partnerships and forge new alliances and collaborations between the two regions.

Ms. Beydoun also serves as the Executive Vice Chair of the American Middle East Economic Affairs Committee, which works to further economic relations between the United States and the Arab World. It has initiated projects such as the U.S. Arab Economic Forum, the Mayors Council, U.S. Arab Women’s Business Council, The U.S. Arab Leadership Program, and more recently the TEJARA Center (a minority business development center) located in Michigan focusing on immigrant entrepreneurs and exporting.

Since joining the American Arab Chamber of Commerce, Ms. Beydoun has reached out to various business, governmental, and academic organizations to facilitate the growth of the Arab- American businesses and the community at large. The American Arab Chamber of Commerce is the largest Arab-American business organization in the United States, delivering services and counsel under Ms. Beydoun’s leadership to more than 1,500 companies, ranging from small businesses to multinational corporations and executive professionals. The Chamber is also the main business and trade link between the United States and the Middle East, with a current goal of making Michigan a hub of trade for the MENA region.

Ms. Beydoun is a firm believer in empowering entrepreneurs and the greater minority business communities. Growing up in Dearborn, as an immigrant and a daughter of an immigrant family, she has mobilized and directed thousands of volunteers for various causes, social, political and economic, as part of her strong believe in giving back to her community. She cofounded the US Arab Women’s Business Council, is a member of various MENA region chambers of commerce and serves on various Boards, including: New Detroit, Detroit Strategic Framework Plan, Michigan Council for Arts and Culture Affairs, ACLU Advisory Board, WXYZ Media and Community Stakeholder, Global Detroit Advisory board.

Conklin, Kathy

For over 19 years, Kathy Conklin has been the Executive Director of the Saginaw County Business & Education Partnership, which is an entrepreneurial nonprofit organization. The Partnership is made up of leaders from business, education, and the community who are working together to increase academic achievement and employability skills within the region.

Kathy also serves as the Executive Director of the Great Lakes Bay Manufacturing Association whose primary purpose is to attract and develop skilled employees for job opportunities in manufacturing.

Kathy is a member of the Michigan’s National Career Readiness Advocates Board and Michigan’s Advanced Manufacturing Task Team. Locally she serves on the Saginaw County Chamber of Commerce Small Business Advisory Board, the Ezekiel Project Jobs Taskforce, the Women in Leadership Board, and the Regional Entrepreneurial Collaborative.

Kathy is a graduate of Leadership Saginaw, the 1000 Leaders Initiative, and the 2011 Great Lakes Bay Leadership Institute. In addition, she has earned certification as a Business Solutions Professional from Michigan State University. Kathy has been recognized for her leadership by the National Alliance of Business as the Education Professional of the Year and by the Zonta Club as the Women of the Year.

Kathy is a graduate of Saginaw Valley State University and is currently working on her Masters Degree in Quality Management from Eastern Michigan University.

Geith, Christine

Dr. Christine Geith is CEO of eXtension, the digital arm of the national Cooperative Extension System, the largest informal learning network in the United States. Previous to her appointment there, she was Assistant Provost and Executive Director, MSU Global Knowledge and Learning Innovations, Michigan State University. There she lead the development of new entrepreneurial approaches in higher education using technology, online learning and open models. She worked with faculty to open up critical knowledge to help transform global food systems and agriculture. She lead teams using a comprehensive approach to planning, instructional development, and program evaluation and administration. Dr. Geith has experience in research, teaching, small business, internet startups, online and adult education, peer learning and open educational resources. She is an advisor to several educational software startups, has served on for-profit boards, and has held leadership roles on higher education association boards. She holds a PhD in Higher Education from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, an MBA from Rochester Institute of Technology and a BS in Design from the State University College at Buffalo.

Gillespie, Pat

Pat Gillespie is the chief visionary, founder and president of Gillespie Group. Under Pat’s leadership, Gillespie Group has been at the forefront of development and property management, and is recognized as a driving force for progress in Lansing and throughout the state.

A graduate of Michigan State University, Pat supports his alma mater through frequent speaking engagements and attendance at sporting events. His expertise is put to good use, engaging audiences at MSU’s School of Planning, Design and Construction and the MSU Land Policy Institute. Pat is frequently asked to speak within the Building Construction Management department, sharing his insight with eager undergraduate students.

Known for his multifamily and mixed-use developments in the Greater Lansing area and surrounding markets, Pat is a respected leader. His heartfelt mission is to motivate and energize Mid-Michigan communities. He is recognized for his focus, enthusiasm and ability to bring his unique perspective to life.

Committed to community and cultural growth, Pat has invested his time and resources to work with the MSU International program; specifically to engage the Chinese student body in an effort to create a stronger and more enhanced internship program in addition to housing communities that would celebrate their culture.

A passionate participant in Lansing’s growth, he holds board positions on the Capital Region Community Foundation, Sparrow Foundation, Lansing Chamber of Commerce Political Action Committee, Summit Community Bank and Junior League of Lansing Community Advisory. Pat’s a member at large for the Lansing Regional Chamber board of directors. He also attends Lansing Economic Area Partnership Placemaking Committee meetings and frequently leads discussions with other local community leaders and organizers through his support on the Summit Bank’s Executive Loan Committee. Pat is also noted for his community service support.

Advocating for urban renewal through activism and revitalization projects, he affects positive change and makes a lasting commitment to communities and the environment with each development. And with new projects constantly in the works, Pat and the Gillespie Group will continue to promote progress and inspire growth in Lansing and beyond.

Haas, Virginia

MSU Director of Community Relations, Retired

Ginny Haas retired from Michigan State University in October, 2014 after working for the university for 20 years. For the last 15 years, she served as the Director of Community Relations at MSU. In that role she was responsible for connecting the university, community leaders, and the Lansing region on initiatives that advanced mutual interests.

Ginny worked extensively with municipal, business, and economic development leaders throughout the region on a variety of projects, including bringing a new Amtrak station to the Lansing area, and developing and implementing a comprehensive plan to bridge gaps between international students at MSU and the local community.

Prior to this, she worked to develop the first-ever advocacy program allowing MSU alumni to assist with advocacy with state and federal officials. Prior to joining MSU, Ginny served on the staff of US Senator Donald W. Riegle, Jr., for more than 15 years, until his retirement from the US Senate in 1994. Her final role was as State Director, supervising a staff of 31 employees who worked to serve the citizens of Michigan.

Ginny graduated from Drew University in Madison, NJ with a BA in Political Science.

Hooper, Allan


Allan Hooper is the Executive Director of the Jackson Anchor Initiative, an effort of larger fixed location businesses and institutions (anchors) to make downtown Jackson, Michigan a more vibrant downtown for attracting and retaining the young talented workers needed in the new economy. It is a joint effort of the anchors, the City of Jackson, and other organizations seeking to have a better downtown experience in the community.

Previous to that, Allan was Economic Development Manager for Consumers Energy, a large electric and natural gas utility serving much of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula. He has 25+ years of experience, and has developed, managed and implemented a broad range of strategies including domestic and international business attraction programs, export assistance programs, place-based marketing concepts and international regional economic development projects in Argentina, Brazil and Venezuela.

In 2001 he began studying the economic development challenges of smaller communities in the United States and became involved as a board member of Rural Partners of Michigan, a nonprofit council whose members, individually or through their organizations, have a common interest in issues facing rural communities.

In 2005, Allan led a strategic shift in Consumers Energy’s proactive economic development focus to supporting smaller communities. These communities represent about 40% of the company’s customer base and are the ones typically in most need of economic development assistance. Concurrent with this change, Allan became responsible for an annual Michigan Small Town and Rural Development conference hosted by Rural Partners of Michigan.

In 2007, Allan was elected chairman of Rural Partners of Michigan and in 2008 he was appointed to the board of Partners for Rural America, the national level organization focused on rural issues.

Allan’s work focuses on grassroots economic development, recognizing that trends have changed our small towns. Manufacturing is locating elsewhere, there are fewer job prospects and smaller communities are losing key segments of their populations, particularly younger adults. Yet despite these challenges, small towns and rural areas are attractive and some are responding with a new approach to economic development. They are focusing on creating livelihoods rather than just hoping to attract jobs and finding ways to make their communities unique, interesting and inviting as places to live and work.

Allan has written articles on growing communities from within and is the editor of the book, 101+ Quips, Quotes and Concepts for Sustainable Small Town Development, published for Rural Partners of Michigan. He also created the Strategies for Sustainable Small Town and Rural Development series ( produced by Consumers Energy, featuring leading concepts for promoting small town prosperity. He speaks frequently on new concepts for small towns and rural economic development.

Allan is a graduate of Penn State University with a B.S. in Political Science and an M.S. in Regional Planning. He worked as an urban and regional planner prior to joining Consumers Energy and has taught political science at the community college level.

Pichla, Marv

Marv Pichla is the owner and creative advisor for Inspiring Innovations, Inc., his own small business. Sharing his unique experience with entrepreneurship and innovation in public service, Marv consults with public and private business, education, and community organizations to develop new and different problem solving methods through real-life example-based learning.

Prior to starting Inspiring Innovations, Inc. Marv served as Executive Director for Thumb Area Michigan Works! As Executive Director, Marv used public sector innovation as his guide for the organizations regional career development, employment service, education and strategic planning initiatives.

Finally, Marv was raised on a farm in the Thumb Area of Michigan where he claims he received the education principles he values most. However, he obtained his Bachelors and Masters Degrees from Central Michigan University in Public Administration and eventually his Ph.D. from Capella University in Minnesota.

Walker-Griffea, Beverly

Dr. Beverly Walker-Griffea became the seventh president of Mott Community College in August 2014. She is the first female and first African American president in the college’s history.

Prior to joining the MCC family, Dr. Walker-Griffea served as the Senior Vice President for Student Services at Montgomery College in Rockville, Maryland where she is credited with leading the restructuring of Student Services. She also reinvigorated the college’s intercollegiate and intramural athletic program, guided the development of strategic student success and retention initiatives, and fostered a relationship with the University of Gondar in Ethiopia to include study abroad, faculty and student exchange, and professional development opportunities. Dr. Walker-Griffea also served in several administrative capacities and as a counseling and instructional faculty member at Montgomery.

Dr. Walker-Griffea came to Montgomery College with a long history of experience in education. She served as Vice President of Student Affairs at Thomas Nelson Community College in Hampton, Virginia, where she led student focus groups and college faculty in the restructuring of the registration process. She also served as Dean of Student Development at Houston Community College-Central Campus, and as Interim Dean of Health and Environmental Sciences at Spokane Community College. Additionally, while at Spokane CC, Dr. Walker Griffea earned tenure in three years as a counselor, led the nationally recognized Single Parent Program, and served as the Department Chair for Institutional Diversity.

Dr. Walker-Griffea currently serves on the American Association of Community Colleges’ Commission on Diversity, Inclusion and Equity and as Vice President for Resources and Development for the American Association for Women in Community Colleges. She also has served as a member of on-site and off-site review committees for the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools’ Commission on Colleges Accreditation and Reaffirmation Process.

A native of Tulsa, Oklahoma, Dr. Walker-Griffea holds a Doctor of Philosophy in Child Development from Texas Woman’s University; a Master of Education in Guidance and Counseling from Virginia State University; and a Bachelors of Science in Journalism and Broadcasting from Oklahoma State University.

Dr Walker-Griffea is committed to college and community collaboration with a history of involvement with the Montgomery Sister Cities Board, the Mental Heath Association Board, Leadership Montgomery, and the City of Hampton Town and Gown initiative.

Webster, Steve

Steve is the Executive Fellow and Managing Director of the Social Impact Center, Schulze School of Entrepreneurship, Opus College of Business at University of St.Thomas in Minneapolis. The Center is focused on meeting the growing and changing talent needs of not-for-profit entrepreneurs and leaders across the region, nation and globe.

He has extensive experience developing and advancing educational institutions, as well as other non-profit and for-profit enterprises. He also has extensive experience with fund development, and success in creating opportunity in economically dislocated populations and communities in transition.

Steve is a problem solver with success leading large and small university/public/private consortia formed to address complex challenges through strategic partnerships, team building, mentoring and leadership development.

Weinfeld, Arnold

Board Chair

The Board of Directors of Priima Civitas named Arnold Weinfeld its Chief Executive Officer and Chairman of the Board on February 17, 2014.

Arnold, who served as treasurer of the board, joins Prima Civitas from the Michigan Municipal League, where as Director of Strategic Initiatives he developed programs, services and outreach strategies to further the League’s policy initiatives. Also, as President of the Michigan Municipal League Foundation he engaged local officials in innovative League programs.

Prior to his position with the Municipal League, Arnold worked for the Michigan House of Representatives as a legislative aide, policy analyst and policy director. He also served as an elected member of the Waverly Community Schools Board of Education as Treasurer and then Board President. He currently is Treasurer of the Waverly Education Foundation and is a board member of the Michigan Parks and Recreation Association and Michigan Rural Development Council. Arnold succeeds Prima Civitas CEO Steven Webster, who took the helm of Prima Civitas in 2011.

West, Dennis

Dennis West has spent over 25 years in the community economic development movement, having worked on a broad range of community-based civic and professional activities.

Since 1997, Dennis has served as President of Northern Initiatives, a private nonprofit community development financial institution based in Marquette, Michigan. Northern Initiatives was founded by Northern Michigan University. Northern Initiatives serves 46 counties of rural Michigan and five Wisconsin Counties, providing financial and business advancement services to underserved rural markets. Northern Initiatives helps people start and grow businesses, strategizes with communities to develop public private partnerships, and promotes entrepreneurship, tourism and regional collaboration. NI has made nearly 600 loans totaling over $31,000,000 with forty percent of its loans to women owned businesses, and close to half to start ups. Its business advancement services provide technical assistance, training and consulting to over 100 businesses annually. It has built region-wide collaborations in three different parts of the UP, around nature and cultural tourism and food systems.

Dennis serves on the Boards of the Michigan Magnet Fund, UP Business Capital LLC, the Michigan Food Policy Council, the Lake Superior Community Partnership, the Vestry of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church and the Michigan Economic Development Corporation Advisory Board. He is a member of the Marquette Ambassadors. He has served on the Board of Directors of the YMCA of Marquette County, and was a founding member of the Central Lake Superior Land Conservancy Board, the Upper Peninsula Economic Development Alliance (UPEDA) and the Community Economic Development Association of Michigan (CEDAM). Dennis was the recipient of the 2011 Land Use Excellence in Leadership Award.

Dennis is a native of Indianapolis, having received his undergraduate degree from Hanover College. He also did graduate work at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee in Urban Affairs.

Dennis and his wife Kayla live in Marquette and have two children.