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Business Alumni Conference

​Our Speakers

​Rising Star Award
​Ivan Sanchez, Chairman of United States Millennials & President of Houston Millennials

Ivan Sanchez is the Chairman of United States Millennials and is President of Houston Millennials, a Nationally Awarded social purposes chapter organization with 8,000 Houston Millennial active and general members. As a current professional, Sanchez is also a Commercial Real Estate Lender with Gold Quest Group and an apartment investor with Sanmore Investments. After graduating college as a political scientist, Sanchez joined and worked in the United States Congress (TX18) for 5 years, then decided to run for United States Congress (TX7) in 2018, the richest district in the Nation promising a futurist vision in the energy capital of the world. After a tough election, Sanchez founded Tenas Consulting, a public affairs, lobbying, and digital marketing company. 

With a Political Science Degree from UHD & and a certificate from Rice University in Commercial Real Estate, Development & Investments, Sanchez is bringing the public, private and nonprofit sectors together to create change. With 7 leadership institutes under his belt, most notably Leadership Houston Class XXXIX, Sanchez has become a strong Houston community leader and influencer. Additionally, the International Parliament of Education granted him an honorary degree, as he was able to lead 36 different Latin American countries and representatives in an educational seminar. 

Sanchez is a recipient of many honors including, but not limited to; Joe Biden’s Presidential Life Time Achievement Award, as well as being recognized by President Barack Obama. Additionally, a US flag and Texas flag were flown over their respective Capitols in honor of his community work. US Congressional Representatives, Texas State, and local Houston politicians, including Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner, whom gave Sanchez his own day in the City of Houston after serving as the youngest advisor to the Mayor in the Mayors Hispanic Advisory Board. 

To highlight some impact work, Sanchez reversed the national board decision for a major hospital to vaccinate immigrants that only had passports through shear advocacy, impacting hundreds of thousands of people to be vaccinated. Additionally, according to TUFT University, Sanchez mobilized 60% of the UHD student body to vote, comparing all the university’s student body in the Nation at 5-15%. 

Ivan was born in a hostile environment. Following death threats in Colombia, his mother, an accomplished attorney, immigrated with her 3 children to the United States. Although she was successful in her quest starting from scratch once again, her life was lost to cancer the year Sanchez graduated from High School. The tragedy left Sanchez, a nightclub promoter at the time, disoriented; however, in a daring attempt to dream of a different future he propelled himself to be like his mother and threw himself into the clearest means for success: schoolwork. 

Sixteen years ago, Sanchez was pushing shopping carts at Krogers and selling chocolates at Godiva. Fast Forward, Sanchez pushed legislation in the United States Congress and funds millions of dollars in commercial real estate. His mission to continue to push his entire community forward through private, public, and non-profit means for the betterment of the community is well toward its fruition.

​Keynote Speaker
Omar ReidOmar C. Reid, Executive Vice President & Chief People Officer, Human Resources, Harris Health System

Omar C. Reid is the Executive Vice President and Chief People Officer at Harris Health System, also known as Harris County Hospital District. Harris Health System is the 4th largest community based Hospital System in the United States, which houses a Level One and Level Three Trauma Hospital and 43 Ambulatory Care locations. With over 8,000 employees in the organization, Omar is currently responsible for all Human Resources programs, policies and initiatives; including: Talent Acquisition, Organizational Development, Employee & Labor Relations, Compensation, Benefits, and HRIS. 

Mr. Reid has an extensive background which includes: 6 years as the HR Director at the City of Houston; where he was responsible for citywide Human Resources responsibilities, and 25 plus years with United Parcel Service (UPS) in various operational and administrative capacities. He earned his Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration from University of Houston-Downtown (UHD) and his MBA from Texas Southern University (TSU). He also serves as Corporate Fellow at UHD and as Adjunct Professor at TSU’s School of Public Policy. 

In his personal life, Mr. Reid has been a member of Wheeler Avenue Baptist Church since 2000; an ordained Deacon since 2010; and elected Trustee Board Chair in 2018. He has also served in many other capacities at WABC during his tenure there. 

Mr. Reid is a published author of The Traffic of Life: Characteristics of Effective Leadership, and a second book, M.A.D. Leadership: Making a Difference (Show the People Light and they will Find Their Way. Reid is a nationally recognized speaker on leadership, transformation and change. He is the Board Chair Elect of Communities in Schools of Houston and the Former Board Chair of the 4th Ward Tax Increment Zone and the Center for Civil and Public Policy. Not to mention, Reid is a proud member of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Incorporated. 

He has a ‘people come first’ personal philosophy and counts his biggest accomplishment his marriage of 28 years to his wife Janice; the glue of the family. She has helped shape him into the person he is through her selfless sacrifice. They have one daughter, Briana, who graduated from LSU law school in May 2020 and recently was sworn in as an attorney; after passing the Uniform Bar Exam.

Reid’s favorite scripture is Proverbs 3:5, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will direct your path.” He says he is blessed to be a blessing to others.

​Session Speakers
Melanie Rodriguez, Elevate Latinas

Session: Cultural Intelligence: Leading Diverse Teams
We live and work in world where globalization grows every day. With more cross-cultural relationships in the workplace, leaders need cultural intelligence in order to adapt to the diverse needs and expectations from their organizations and teams. As leaders it is critical to be self-aware, to understand the environments in which they operate, and to get to know their people. When culturally intelligent leaders thrive, they can create inclusive, equitable cultures that drive transformative change.

Melissa VelaMelissa Vela, Vice President, Houston Community Manager at JP Morgan Chase

Session: How to Build Wealth
Melissa Vela is a Community Manager in Houston, Texas for Community & Business Development. She is a local ambassador for Chase whose job is to build and nurture relationships with key community leaders, nonprofit partners​, and small businesses at the neighborhood level. Melissa hosts financial health workshops, facilitates non-profit partnerships and offers community programming. She is helping to advance racial equity by supporting Black and Latinx communities with tools and resources to help them improve their financial wellbeing. 

With over 17 years of experience in the financial services industry, Melissa has held a number of positions within the retail bank. Prior to this role, Melissa served as Business Development Officer at BBVA. She is currently a member of Adelante and Women On The Move and serves on Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo’s Go Tejano Committee. 

Melissa Vela currently lives in Pasadena, Texas and spends her free time with her two daughters, husband, and pug!

Dan WalmerDan Walmer, Healthcare Operations Leader

Session: Strategic Networking For Early Career Alumni​
Dan Walmer is a former teacher and social worker turned healthcare executive, a long winding story best told over a few cold beers. He wasn't born in Texas, but upon graduating college in the Midwest, he got here as quickly as he could! He is married, has 3 children ages 17, 14, and 4, and is expecting a fourth here in August. He has run 43 marathons, and is an avid Houston sports fan despite the continual heartbreak provided by their professional football and basketball teams. 

After 15 years in education and social services in Houston's under-resourced communities, he transitioned to healthcare where his soft skills and crisis management toolbox has served him well. Returning to school for an MBA and an MHA after the age of 40, he learned quickly that strategic networking and job crafting could assist him in climbing the ladder two rungs at a time to make up for a late start. His last 3 positions were at the #1 rated cancer hospital in the world (MD Anderson), a fortune 100 hospital system (HCA) and currently as the facility director for 3 dialysis centers in the Houston market for the world's leading kidney care provider, Davita Inc. 

He has served on several local non-profit boards, trains teams on staff development and process improvement, and is a proud UHD alumnus who has served as a Corporate Fellow in the MBA program and is always happy to give back to the institution he took so much from!

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​Distinguished Panelists
Meredith OldacreMeridith “Yvette” Oldacre

Yvette earned a BS in Mechanical Engineering from Texas A&M University. She is an Executive at ExxonMobil where she has worked over 25 years. She began as a Project Engineer and has held various ​regional and global management roles across multiple disciplines including sales, planning, safety and commercial. In addition, she is a certified Holistic Life, Career and Executive Coach and author. 

In addition to her assignments, Yvette frequently assists with recruiting and retention efforts as well as personnel training, Inclusion & Diversity initiatives and process improvement teams. She has also led United Way efforts and serves as the President of BEST (Black Employee Success Team). Her passion for teaching has led her to become a Corporate Fellow for the University of Houston Downtown where she focuses on bringing real world experiences into the MBA classrooms. 

Outside of work she is actively involved in youth sports, youth mentoring programs and preparing students for college and/or transitioning into the workforce. Yvette is a longtime supporter of Meals on Wheels and March of Dimes. She is also a proud and active member of Impact Church of the Woodlands, Jack & Jill of America, Inc. and Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.

Yvette’s favorite quote is by Muhammed Ali – “Impossible is just a big word thrown around by small men who find it easier to live in the world they’ve been given than to explore the power they have to change it. Impossible is not a fact. It’s an opinion. Impossible is not a declaration, It’s a dare. Impossible is potential. Impossible is temporary. Impossible is nothing. Growth often occurs in tension points and moment of discomfort. Yvette has learned to be comfortable with being uncomfortable. As a result she founded New You and Write the Vision. Both companies focus on helping people walk in their purpose. She encourages people to always be authentic, to celebrate their uniqueness and to strive to make sure that whatever they do, they do with excellence. She is co-founder of Transitions, a joint collaboration with Joanne Courtney, founder of Eventit. Transitions was founded to provide support to individuals, groups and companies as they move through various stages transitions. There are customizable programs which includes coaching. 

Yvette is a native of Port Arthur, TX and is the daughter of entrepreneurs Herbert and Claudia Felix. She has one brother, Herbert Felix, Jr. She is married to the love of her life, Patrick and has three boys Miles, Maddox and Malachi.​​

Dietrich von BiedenfeldDietrich von Biedenfeld

The Honorable Professor Dietrich von Biedenfeld is a frequently consulted business, legal, and supply cycle subject matter expert. He was appointed to his tenure track position as an Assistant Professor of Business Law and Supply Chain Management at the University of Houston-Downtown following one year as a Visiting Assistant Professor. He was selected that same year to serve as Assistant Department Chair of the department housing his two disciplines. Dr. Biedenfeld recently concluded his fifth term as Mayor Pro Tem on West Columbia, Texas’ City Council and was appointed Associate Municipal Judge. He is Governor Abbott’s representative on the Public Transportation Advisory Committee, and serves on numerous regional, state, and international boards and committees, including the West Houston Association and Australian American Chamber of Commerce. He also accesses his three law licenses to provide pro bono legal representation for veterans across the nation. When he isn’t volunteering in the community, researching, or teaching, Dr. Biedenfeld can be seen in the media—and at local breweries.​

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Last updated 6/17/2022 4:34 AM