While Influencer Academy is led by Alexia Vernon, participating women have the opportunity to learn and grow from a renowned group of coaches, trainers, guest speakers, and panelists in such complementary influencing areas as emotional intelligence, building a robust professional network, diffusing conflict, fundraising, positioning one’s self as a thought leader, purpose-driven marketing, getting published, building a social movement, community development, new media evangelism, and leading organizational change.

Here are some of the extraordinary women who have participated in modules, panels, and virtual learning opportunities for Influencer Academy and its affiliated events.


Patricia Becker

Patricia Becker is the President of Patricia Becker & Associates, a gaming consulting firm that specializes in compliance and regulatory issues. In addition, she currently serves as chair of the compliance committee at Bally Technologies, Inc. and at Tropicana Entertainment, Inc. Becker holds the distinction of being the first and only woman to serve on the Nevada Gaming Control Board. She recently served as executive director and Boyd Distinguished Professor of UNLV International Gaming Institute. During her career in gaming, Becker held numerous executive positions including roles as a Senior Vice President with Aladdin Gaming and Harrah’s and served on the board of directors for Cash Systems Inc., Fitzgerald’s Gaming Corp. and Powerhouse Technologies. In 2004, Becker was the first woman to be inducted as a Counselor into the International Association of Gaming Advisors and has served as the organization’s president. From July 1979 to January 1983, she served as a Deputy and Chief Deputy Attorney General assigned to Nevada Gaming Division. As deputy attorney general, she advised the Control Board and the Nevada Gaming Commission on legal matters at a time when the regulators were removing the influence of organized crime from the Strip. On behalf of the commission, Becker made the case in front of the Nevada Supreme Court that mobster Tony Spilotro belonged in the state’s Black Book of individuals not allowed to enter a casino. Her adversary representing Spilotro was then-mob attorney Oscar Goodman. She was chief of staff to Nevada Gov. Bob Miller from 1993 to 1995 and served as Chief Operating Officer for state government, with involvement in policy development, budget administration, and program direction.

Patricia Becker is a recipient of the Great Women of Gaming Award, a founding member of AGA Global Gaming Women Initiative and founded “Kick Up Your Heels” charitable event which raises funds for education of women in gaming. She is a 2014 inductee of the American Gaming Association’s Gaming Hall of Fame. She is licensed to practice law in Nevada, California, and Colorado.


Jean Birch

Jean Birch likes to describe her career in three chapters. Her first chapter was focused on managing complex manufacturing operations – taking her from making potato chips in a union plant for Frito Lay to making computer chips for medical pacemakers for Medtronic Inc. Her second career chapter tapped into her fascination with consumer behavior and love of eating – she spent 22 years in the restaurant industry – primarily in operations.  She started on the fast food side working at Pizza Hut advancing to eventually become Sr. Director of Concept Development where she aligned international branding for Pizza Hut and was responsible for keeping McDonalds out of the pizza business. She moved on to Taco Bell where she ran 1800 restaurants accounting for 1.8 billion dollars in sales with over 50,000 employees.

Eventually Jean wanted to lead the full business so she left Taco Bell to become President of Corner Bakery Café – a 120 unit restaurant brand similar to Panera (and coming soon to Las Vegas).  Because she was so successful at Corner Bakery Café, Jean took on the President’s job at the much bigger brand of Macaroni Grill. Jean’s most recent role in restaurants was as President of IHOP Restaurants, a 2.7 billion dollar brand with 1550 restaurants in the US and now, through Jean’s work, eight international countries.  She was responsible for the complete brand repositioning, repairing franchisee relations and engineering new growth in a mature, somewhat tired brand. Jean is now in her third chapter where she does consulting on strategic planning with CEO’s and directs her energy to board work – both at for-profit organizations and not-for-profits like Children’s Miracle Networks.


Betsy Fretwell

Betsy Fretwell was sworn in as city manager in 2009, just as the organization was beginning to feel the effects of the “great recession” on the Las Vegas economy. She used performance management and performance based budgeting, community engagement, sustainability and program reductions to bring expenses in line with declining revenues. Ms. Fretwell oversees a dynamic organization, which has nearly 3,000 employees and a budget of $1.2 billion. She also serves as the executive director of the Las Vegas Redevelopment Agency. Some of the major projects that have come to fruition during her tenure include Zappos.com, Inc. moving its corporate headquarters to downtown, the development of The Smith Center for the Performing Arts and the Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health. In 2013, Ms. Fretwell began leading a shared services and management consulting effort with sister-city North Las Vegas. Ms. Fretwell joined the city of Las Vegas in June 2000 as assistant city manager, and prior to joining the city, she held the position of intergovernmental relations director for the city of Henderson and worked for Clark County as the strategic issues manager.

She is a graduate of the University of Georgia with a bachelor’s degree in political science and a master’s degree in public administration. She completed the Harvard University Senior Executives in State and Local Government Program in 2007.


Rose McKinney-James

Rose McKinney-James has dedicated the past 15 years of her career to advancing policies supporting the deployment of clean energy. This advocacy led to the establishment of Energy Works Consulting and McKinney-James & Associates, where she serves as the Managing Principal. The firms provide consulting services in the areas of government and public affairs, economic development and public policy related to energy, education, and the environment. She currently provides real time consulting and strategic planning guidance to businesses engaged in energy intensive endeavors.

A registered lobbyist with the Nevada Legislature, Rose currently represents a range of public and private entities with interests in regulatory and energy policy. Rose is an active member of the Las Vegas community and serves as a member of the Board of Directors of MGM Resorts International, MGM Detroit, and Employers Holdings Inc. In addition, Ms. James serves as a member of the Board of Directors for Toyota Financial Savings Bank, the Energy Foundation, VOTE Solar, and the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE). She is committed to making a difference and serves on the Board of Trustees of Three Square and the Smith Center for the Performing Arts. Rose is currently the Board Chair for Nevada Partners, a nationally recognized workforce development agency. Rose was a candidate for Lieutenant Governor the first African-American to win a statewide primary in the state of Nevada. Ms. McKinney-James served as a member of the Obama-Biden Transition Team with responsibility for the US Department of Energy and the Team Lead for Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). A native of Detroit, Rose is married and the mother of two sons, and she has been a resident of Nevada for over 30 years.


Fafie Moore

Fafie Moore is the President of Realty Executives of Nevada, repeatedly ranked the number one woman-owned business in the Business Press Book of Lists, and repeatedly ranked in the Top 100 Real Estate Offices in the United States by RISMedia Power Broker Report for Sales Volume. Opening in November, 1989, Realty Executives of Nevada has grown to be one of the most productive real estate companies in Nevada. Fafie and her husband Jeff have been named Broker/Owner of the Year nine times by Realty Executives International.

A real estate licensee since 1981, Ms. Moore has a wealth of experience in her field. She is a 1995 graduate of the Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce’s Leadership Las Vegas program and served as 2008 Chairman of the Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce Board of Trustees. Currently she is a member of the Las Vegas Chamber Insurance Benefit board, the FIT for an Independent Tomorrow board and is President of the Las Vegas Executives Association.  She also served on the board of directors for Service 1st Bank of Nevada prior to its sale to Bank of Nevada. Fafie’s involvement in the community has been outstanding. She hosted the “Las Vegas Real Estate Report” on KDWN Radio for nine years and was inducted into the Greater Las Vegas Association of Realtors Hall of Fame in 2007. She has served as a member of the Board of Directors of both the Nevada Association of Realtors and the Greater Las Vegas Association of Realtors, and the U.S. Civil Rights Commission Western Regional Advisory Council 1997-2007.  She is Past President of the Nevada International Women’s Forum and has held numerous local and state leadership positions with the Women’s Council of Realtors. Fafie has been named by In Business as one of the 41 Most Influential Women in Las Vegas.


Tina Quigley

As general manager, Tina Quigley oversees street and highway planning and funding, the freeway and arterial traffic management and public transportation for the Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada.

Quigley is known for her positive energy, passion and drive to make Southern Nevada a better and more vibrant community. Her strong leadership, clear vision and collaborative spirit recently led to the passing of bi-partisan legislation that will generate up to $700 million in bonding revenue to improve our transportation infrastructure, create jobs and help encourage economic growth and diversification in Southern Nevada.

Under her leadership, the RTC has also made significant improvements to enhancing our public transportation system and is recognized by the National Transit Database as one of the most efficient transit providers in the U.S.


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Ronna Timpa is a hysterical and lively international speaker and the founder/chief motivator of the workplace language communication’s firm, Workplace ESL Solutions, which conducts keynotes, courses and consulting in such areas as Business Writing and Workplace ESL. Ronna has 24 years’ experience working with corporations and individuals and has published three textbook series as well as co-created an online hotel ESL program with Vegas PBS. She is the Nevada State Director of Diversity for The Society of Human Resources Management, the past president of International Executive Housekeeping Association (IEHA), and is involved with AFAN, ASTD, and SNHRA. Ronna is passionate about making every word count in the workplace – whether in person or in an email – and spends her free time doing Bikram Yoga and snapping photos at corporate events, schools, and basketball games.


Renée West

Prior to retirement, Renée West was the President and Chief Operating Officer of Excalibur and Luxor. In this role, she was responsible for all operations at both Las Vegas Strip resorts. Previously, Ms. West served as President of Mandalay Bay and THEhotel. In 2005, she became the first woman in history to be named president of a major Las Vegas Strip resort when she was named President of Excalibur. Prior to joining Excalibur, Ms. West served as President and COO for Primm Valley Casino Resorts, where she managed a trio of gaming properties.

At Primm, she implemented a number of industry-leading programs, including development of the industry’s first full-service on-site housing community and the creation of an award-winning employee transportation program. Known for her ability to strategically align operations, instill a united vision at all rank levels and improve profitability, Ms. West has enjoyed an extensive career in the hospitality industry. Prior to joining the Company in 2000, she held senior positions with Caesars Palace and Station Casinos and provided organizational strategy design for a number of other organizations.

As a community leader, she holds various board positions for local nonprofits and charitable organizations including board member of the Las Vegas Chapter of the World Presidents Organization, the Nevada Chapter of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, is a trustee on the board for the Culinary Training Academy and an advisory board member of Southern Utah University and Influencer Academy. She was recently awarded the Dom Pérignon Award of Excellence from the William F. Harrah College of Administration from UNLV and received an honorary doctorate of business from Southern Utah University.


Dr. Kate Zhong

Dr. Kate Zhong is the Senior Director of Clinical Research and Development for the Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health in Las Vegas, Nevada, Cleveland, Ohio and Weston, Florida. Dr. Zhong brings a rich and diversified clinical and pharmaceutical research experience to the Las Vegas community since her arrival in July 2010. With a passion for discovery and commitment to bring the best treatment to patients, she is leading the clinical research team conducting urgently needed trials to advance the prevention, early detection and treatment for Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis and Huntington’s disease. With more than 30 drugs and diagnostic trials being conducted at the center, Dr. Zhong has established the Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health as one of the largest and most active clinical research facility for neurodegenerative disorders in the country.

Dr. Zhong has been a scientific consultant for multiple pharmaceutical, biotech and patient recruitment companies and has provided multifaceted services to industry, academic centers and health care institutions in US, Canada and Asia. She was instrumental in establishing the collaboration between Cleveland Clinic and Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences. She is actively engaged in public education and community activities on clinical research, healthy aging and brain wellness. She was named “Alzheimer’s Ambassador” by Vegas Magazine in 2011. Dr. Zhong serves as the Chief Scientific Advisor for Canada Nevada Business Council and is a member of the International Women’s Forum. She was recently awarded with the Girl Scout badge for her leadership and exemplary achievements in the area of research and development.

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