NACA® National Leadership Symposium - 2019 Symposium Scholars

Amer F. Ahmed, Ed.D. — Consultant, Speaker, Facilitator

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Dr. Amer F. Ahmed is an organizational strategist who helps institutions and leaders address diversity and inclusion, equity, race, and intercultural development through consulting, coaching, group facilitation, and keynote speeches. A frequently requested speaker nationwide, Dr. Ahmed’s approach is grounded in social justice and commitment to community. He brings his identity as the son of Indian Muslim immigrants and extensive years as an intercultural and diversity consultant as the sources of a pivotal understanding of the depth of diversity and inclusion work. Throughout his career, Dr. Ahmed has worked with large organizations, higher education institutions, non- profit agencies, schools and community groups to create understanding and change among key constituents and institutional leaders.

His thought leadership and keen sense of the latest trends informs his approaches to helping groups address potential areas of opportunity to grow and develop. Dr. Ahmed incorporates deep theoretical knowledge of the field combined with a variety of methods including storytelling, discourse on current events and connections to art and music in order to move audiences to profound awareness of issues and next steps. He has published key opinion pieces and has been featured in media such as MSNBC, documentary film, and other national press outlets for his commentary and critical perspective on news and significant topics in society.

Dr. Ahmed is the Founder and CEO of AFA Diversity Consulting, LLC, a consulting practice dedicated to enhancing the development of organizations through efforts around leadership, professional development, assessment, and strategic change. In addition to his consulting work, Dr. Ahmed serves as Director of Intercultural Teaching and Faculty Development at University of Massachusetts – Amherst, Faculty at the Summer and Winter Institutes for Intercultural Communication, and is a member of SpeakOut: Institute for Democratic Education.

Dr. Kathy Allen — Consultant

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In her consulting practice, she specializes in leadership coaching and organizational change in non-profit organizations, foundations, small to mid-sized businesses, community development, higher educational institutions, and collaborative networks.

Dr. Allen has written and presented widely on topics related to leadership, human development, and organizational development. Dr. Allen is a skilled facilitator of organizational change and organizational development. The earmarks of her work are the creation of shared ownership of the results of a change project, long-term sustainable change for the organization, and increased capacity for the staff members and leaders in those organizations.

Dr. Allen has co-authored (with Dr. Cynthia Cherrey) Systemic Leadership: Enriching the Meaning of Our Work, has written many articles, and contributed to a variety of books including The Transforming Leader: New Approaches to Leadership for the Twenty-first Century (Pearson, 2012) and Innovation in Environmental Leadership: Critical Perspectives (Redekop, Gallagher, & Satterwhite Eds., 2018).

More recently, Dr. Allen has written Leading from the Roots: Nature Inspired Leadership Lessons for Today’s World. This book firmly anchors leadership in the soil of nature. It’s a foundational leadership framework that challenges our 20th century views that leadership concepts can be universally applied to all contexts.

Jeff Heil — CEO of Breakthrough Learning


Jeff Heil is CEO of Breakthrough Learning, a company that develops experiential learning products for leadership development and performance improvement. The company’s flagship learning product, Friday Night at the ER, has been used by thousands of schools, communities and organizations across industries and cultures to shift mindsets from silo thinking to systems thinking.

Friday Night at the ER is an engaging simulation game that helps people at all levels develop an intuitive understanding of systems thinking and how to apply it. Learners become students of their own behaviors and learn practical strategies for putting key principles of systems thinking into practice.

Jeff has degrees in product design and psychology from the University of Oregon and brings years of product innovation and user experience design to the company. He was responsible for the 2013 redesign of Friday Night at the ER, working closely with Breakthrough Learning’s founder, Bette Gardner, to modernize the game and enhance both its visual elements and functionality. The new version received the 2017 Small Business Innovation Award from the Portland Business Journal.

Jeff is active in his community in Portland, Oregon. He currently serves as board president for Friends of Columbia Park, a nonprofit that manages a historic community center located in one of North Portland’s largest parks.

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