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Advisory Board

Robert Howden, Chairman

Robert Robert HowdenHowden is a former senior adviser to Governor Rick Perry and a government relations veteran. In his role as senior adviser to Perry, Howden assisted the governor on a variety of issues, including economic development, and served as the governor’s liaison to the Governor’s Task Force on Economic Growth, chaired by Ross Perot, Jr. Howden was the governor’s official representative to hundreds of events throughout the state, which earned him the unofficial title, “Mayor of Texas.”

Before serving as senior adviser to Perry, Howden was communications director for the governor. Prior to joining Perry’s staff, Howden was the Executive Director of the National Federation of Independent Business/Texas (NFIB/Texas), a position held for more than 10 years. In that position he was political and legislative leader for more than 40,000 small business members. At NFIB/Texas, Howden worked on numerous legislative issues such as the small business franchise tax exemption.

An Austin native, Robert holds a BA in Advertising from the University of Texas.  Currently he in on the Helping Hand Home for Children Community Advisory Board and is on the Advisory Board of the Junior League of Austin.  He was formally served on the UT Athletic Foundation and on the board of his alma mater’s alumni association (Texas Exes).  He and his wife Jana have three children who attend Austin public schools.  A community volunteer, Jana was a PTA President and a past Governor Perry appointee to the Texas Motor Vehicle Board.

Chelsea (McCullough) Collier, Principal, Intercambio

As the former Executive Director for TEP (2012 – 2015), Chelsea brings more than 15 years of experience working with innovative organizations that serve the civic and social good through technology. She has built strategic partnerships with stakeholders in both the public and private sector from early-stage start-ups to technology incubators to state government and elected leadership. Through her consulting company, Intercambio Group, Chelsea has participated in the launch of several startups, the latest of which is Wake Up, a professional and personal development company.

Chelsea is the former Marketing Director for MPOWER Labs and was the founding Program Director for RISE, an annual conference series dedicated to connecting and inspiring entrepreneurs. She has also served in the public sector as a staff member for the Texas Governor’s Office in Economic Development where she participated in the launch of TexasOne, the creation Wide Open for Business brand and the formation of the Texas Enterprise Fund.

She is a Leadership Austin graduate and in 2013 received the BPE Ascendant Award. In 2014, she was awarded theAustin Under 40 award for Technology & Science and was a finalist for Profiles in Power (2013).  She is active in the community on several boards and committees focused on economic empowerment including the Seton 50, St. Edwards University Bill Munday School of Business, Impact Hub Austin and the World Economic Forum Global Shapers, various Leadership Austin committees,the City of Austin Community Technology & Telecommunications Commission, Impact Texas and was a founding member of the Japan-America Society of Greater Austin (JASGA). Chelsea has masters and bachelor degrees in Advertising from the University of Texas at Austin.

Michael Girdley, CEO, Codeup

Michael Girdley is an entrepreneur, angel investor, reformed programmer and author, believer in San Antonio’s startup ecosystem and part-time Crossfit instructor. Most recently, he spent the 2013 session as Mentor-in-Residence at TechStars Cloud in San Antonio.  In addition, he has spent the last 10 years as CEO of the largest pyrotechnics company in Texas and as head of a real estate investment firm.
Prior to selling explosives, Michael was Director of Product Strategy for BEA WebLogic in San Francisco.  He has held roles in engineering at RSA Security and is the author of several books on programming.  He holds a Bachelor of Science with Honors from Lafayette College in Easton, PA.
His passions are his kiddos, physical fitness and growing San Antonio’s startup ecosystem.

Sandra Haverlah, President, Texas Consumer Association

Sandra Haverlah is a founding Board member of Texans for Economic Progress and has been working on consumer pocketbook issues with the Texas Consumer Association (TCA) since 1988. She has served as President of TCA for the last decade. She currently serves on the boards of several non-profit organizations representing individuals on environmental, consumer rights, civil justice and utility issues. Her career has included representing consumers on Board of the Texas Automobile Insurance Plan and as a funded consumer representative at the National Association of Insurance Commissioners. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism, Bachelor of Science in Business and Master of Public Administration.

Thomas R. Kowalski, President & CEO, Texas Healthcare and Bioscience Institute (THBI)

Thomas R. Kowalski is President and CEO of the Texas Healthcare and Bioscience Institute (THBI) in Austin, Texas.  The Institute is a statewide, public policy research organization whose purpose is to promote medical research, development, and manufacturing in Texas.  THBI consists of leading biotechnology, medical device, and pharmaceutical companies, universities, private research institutions, chambers of commerce, and economic development corporations.

Prior to his appointment as President of THBI, Mr. Kowalski served as the Executive Director for the Washington, DC-based National Association for the Support of Long Term Care. He has previously served as a senior staff member to Governor Bill Clements of Texas, U.S. Senator John Tower of Texas, and Congressman Jim Collins of Dallas, Texas.

With over thirty years of political and policy experience, Mr. Kowalski was appointed in 1989 by Governor Bill Clements to the Board of Regents of the Texas State University System.  He served as Chairman of the Board of Regents in 1995.  In addition, Mr. Kowalski currently serves as Chairman of the Texas State University Development Foundation and Chairman of the McCoy College of Business Administration Advisory Council.  He also serves as Chairman of the Texas Coalition for Capital.

An avid public speaker, Mr. Kowalski gives numerous talks on positioning Texas as a global leader in the development of biotechnology.  He is the Executive Producer of Texas Innovations, a semi-annual publication of the Texas Life Science Industry.  He was appointed in 2002 to Governor Rick Perry’s State Council on Science and Biotechnology Development.  He helped facilitate the founding of the Texas Life Science Center of Innovation and Commercialization as its initial chairman of the Texas Emerging Technology Fund.  He is the former Chairman of Bio’s Council of State Biotechnology Associations, whose national membership consists of forty-nine state associations involved in biotechnology development and advocacy.

A lifelong Texan, Mr. Kowalski resides in Austin, Texas with his wife, Susie.

Sam Segran, Chief Information Officer

After an earlier career in the International Airline industry, Sam Segran joined the Information Technology field in 1983 and has been active in this field for almost 30 years.  He holds a Bachelor’s degree and an MBA, both in MIS. His career background includes Application Programming, Help Desk Operations & Support, Server & Desktop Administration, Computing Facilities Management, Data Center Management, Multimedia Support, and Policy Development. After three years as Deputy Chief Information Officer (CIO) for Texas Tech University (TTU), he was promoted to the current position of CIO for Texas Tech University in April 2003.

He is also active in various professional organizations, including Elected 2013 Chairman of the Texas Board of Directors of the LoneStar Education and Research Network (LEARN) – a non-profit Regional Optical Network (RON) organization. He is passionate about educating citizens about the safe use of cyberspace, and launched a major Information Security User Awareness education campaign for Texas Tech University and regional communities in 2004; branded as the “Safe Computing Practices” campaign. This ongoing campaign includes a Cybersecurity Awareness week that runs parallel to the annual national Cybersecurity campaign in October, and an “IT Security Alert” email list.

He is also a member of the Texas Cybersecurity, Education, and Economic Development Council (SB988; Van de Putte/Larson) for 2012-2013.

Carol Thompson, President, The Thompson Group
After serving as CEO of the Computerland franchise, co-founding Hiretech and Thompson Executive Search, Carol founded The Thompson Group in 1993. The Thompson Group has since served clients in the Technology, Services, Manufacturing, Healthcare, Legal and Education sectors.

Thompson has played a significant role in bridging Austin’s new and traditional economies. Thompson has chaired the Austin Chamber Board and served a six-year term on the San Antonio Branch of the Dallas Federal Reserve Board. In all Thompson has served on 30 boards, including the World Congress of Information Technology (WCIT).

Carol has been recognized by the Austin Business Journal as “one of Austin’s 5 most powerful women” and named by the Austin American-Statesman as one of Austin’s “top 25 tech players to know.” She was on the cover of Digital South Magazine, which named her “A Real Hero of Southern Technology”, and was lauded in an October issue of eCompany as one of the “Nine People to See in Austin.” She received the Women in Communication Liz Carpenter’s Lifetime Achievement Award and was the recipient of the Office Depot National Woman in Technology Award.

In the book, entitled NO LONGER MOOT: The Premier New Venture Competition from Idea to Global Impact, Carol and her FACE TO FACE event are cited as the origin for the relationship that made the creation of the book a reality. More recently, the book entitled A Cup of Cappuccino for the Entrepreneur’s Spirit authored by B. Nord and Cindy Patterson-Thompson includes Carol’s entrepreneurial journey.

Krisstina Wise, Good Life Team

Krisstina Wise leads one of most technologically advanced real estate companies in the country. Her firm, GoodLife Team, has been recognized by Apple Computer as an advanced technological business and power user of Apple products; won the highly acclaimed Innovator or the Year award for most innovative brokerage by Inman news in 2010; in 2011, Krisstina was named Evernote Ambassador for Real Estate, by Evernote; and most recently, in 2012 GoodLife Team was recognized by The Austin Business Journal as one of the best places to work in Austin.

When asked about these accomplishments as Founder CEO of this boutique brokerage in Austin, Texas, you will hear Krisstina say “Of course I am proud of being nationally recognized as industry thought leaders, innovators, and early adopters. But, what I am most proud of is my Team of Professionals and the collaborative commitment each GoodLife Team Member has to taking delicate care of our customers. I think our biggest accomplishment to date is the high number of 5-star reviews that can be found about my company and my agents on sites like Google and Zillow. We do not innovate for innovation’s sake. Everything we do at GoodLife Team is for the sake of our customer and helping them live their GoodLife.”