Panelists Bios

Roneal Josephs

Systems Engineer / MITRE Corporation

Roneal Josephs is a native Washingtonian. Roneal works as a Systems Engineer with the MITRE Corporation. She is a dynamic leader with over 15 years of systems engineering, project management, and program management experience in the Federal government contracting services and private industry, with emphasis in systems modernization and systems performance engineering. Currently, Roneal is the President of the Washington Metro Area (WMA) Chapter of the International Council of Systems Engineering (INCOSE), serves Center City Public Charter Schools, and is the Engineering Pathway Committee Lead at Girls Global Academy in Washington, DC. Roneal is also a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Incorporated Washington DC Alumnae Chapter. When Roneal is not working or volunteering, her most cherished pastime is traveling. Roneal holds a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science from Frostburg State University, a Master of Science in Information Technology Management, and is currently working on her second Master in Systems Engineer Leadership.

Karen James Sloan

Senior Field Producer for CNBC

Karen James Sloan, affectionately known as Kj, is a Senior Field Producer for CNBC in the Washington D.C. Bureau. Her beat consists of covering business and financial news from Capitol Hill. Topics include Covid relief aid for Americans, tax reform and legislative policies affecting state and local governments. She has written several articles on a range of topics that can be found on

Karen has traveled internationally covering stories in various parts of the world. Domestically, she has traveled throughout the country covering several presidential campaigns and mid-term races to help shape the network's coverage of the elections. However, the most rewarding opportunity in Karen's career, so far, has been producing three network quality interviews with former President Barack Obama .

Before joining CNBC, Karen did a stint in local news, working at three TV stations around the country. First, in Orlando at a CBS affiliate as a Satellite Coordinator and Writer and then worked in Chicago at NBC's WMAQ-TV. Karen's last local news station was Baltimore's WBAL-TV, where she produced several news programs and developed stories for their website.

Karen began her career in New York City, where she produced promotions for the Fox affiliate TV show Good Day New York, then moved on to CBS This Morning, where she worked various shifts to support the production staff of the morning news program. Karen is a graduate of St. John's University and a member of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority Incorporated. She is also a member of the National Association of Black Journalists and the NAACP. She was born and raised in Brooklyn, NY. She currently resides in Washington, D.C. with her husband and son

Ateira Griffin

CEO and Founder of BOND BOND Inc. (Building Our Nations Daughters)

Ms. Ateira Griffin is a life-long Baltimore City resident, entrepreneur, educator, and community organizer. She earned a bachelor's in civil engineering from Morgan State University, a master’s in secondary education, and school leadership and administration certificate from Johns Hopkins University. Her love for teaching led her to serve as a k-12 educator and school administrator at the Baltimore Leadership School for Young Women and create leadership training for adults in Baltimore and across the nation. She is the founder and CEO of BOND - Building Our Nation’s Daughters, Inc., which mentors single mothers to cultivate positive mother-daughter relationships and increase their economic mobility two generations at a time.

Ms. Griffin has always believed in the power of a black woman’s voice and uses every chance to lift hers and amplify others. Recently she testified in front of Congress advocating for equitable housing practices across the nation. Ms. Griffin also co-hosts Point of Hue, a podcast by and about women of color. She has spoken on many panels, led sessions, and created experiences for black women and girls and Women of Color. She has started two initiatives - We See Us: a unifying space for Black women and femmes, and Blackenomics Collective: an organization aiming to advocate and educate black economic power.

Currently, she serves as a School Board Commissioner for Baltimore City Public Schools, on the board of Teach For America - Baltimore, The Unity Hall in West Baltimore, and 211 MD. She was awarded the 2019 Echoing Green Fellowship and the 2020 Open Society Institute Fellowship to recognize her leadership and work with BOND. She believes a part of her life’s purpose is to disrupt all things oppressive to the black community, women of color, and single mother households. Through her experience in urban education, policy, and community organizing, she has learned that purpose, action, and unconditional love go a long way to create change.

Sueann Tennis

Senior Director, Intergrated Communications / United Nations Foundation

Born and raised in Barbados, Sueann Tannis is a communications professional who has worked in the field for 15 years.

She is currently Senior Director, Integrated Communications at the United Nations Foundation, based in Washington, D.C. In this role she develops and oversees content strategy, and is accountable for the experiences of the Foundation’s online community of 2 million constituents.

Most recently, Sueann was Head, Corporate Communications at the Caribbean Development Bank and Consultant at the World Bank, where she advised on digital communications for a $530 million Trust Fund focusing on women’s and children’s health.

Prior, Sueann held marketing communications roles in the financial services, luxury real estate and retail, and tourism sectors.

She holds a Master’s degree in Public Relations from Georgetown University, and an undergraduate degree in Communication and Culture from Howard University.

Sueann also serves on the Board of Advisors of the Shirley Chisholm Education Foundation and the Dean’s Council at the University of the West Indies.

She’s built an engaged online community with her #bolderbigger series, and is a regular speaker on inspiration, career development, and communications.

Afternoon Panelists
12:50PM – 1:50PM
Andrea Thomas
Lola Koiki
Ashley Lewis
Shawn Rochelle Smith

Andrea Thomas

President & CEO / UPO

Andrea Thomas currently serves as the Executive Vice President for the United Planning Organization (UPO), the Community Action Agency for Washington, DC where she oversees the Communications, Development, Technology, Advocacy and Volunteer Divisions. In her role as EVP, Ms. Thomas also guides the organizational strategic plan development and execution and manages several key agency initiatives. Ms. Thomas also serves as the liaison to UPO Inspire; an independent fundraising entity for UPO.

Ms. Thomas’ career began in the field of youth development where she worked locally, primarily with first generation college students, at the Consortium of Universities; DC Community Prevention Partnership; and the Institute for Higher Education Policy. Ms. Thomas’ commitment expanded her youth work to serve as a youth work best practices instructor for the Advancing Youth Development BEST Practices and as one of three national trainers for Scholarship America.

Ms. Thomas received her Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology from the University of California at Davis and her Master of Education Policy, Planning and Administration from the University of Maryland, College Park. Ms. Thomas is a volunteer for the National Center for Children and Families and currently serves on the Montgomery County Community Development Advisory Committee and is board member of the national organization – DiabetesSisters- based in North Carolina. Ms. Thomas formerly served on the board of and College and Career Connections in Washington, DC.

Lola Koiki

Senior Product Manager / Capital One

Lola is a Product Leader in the Payments and Money Movement space at Capital One where she leads the teams responsible for the Bank’s core money movement technologies. She also is a partner at PoyntFour, a Product Management and Delivery Consultancy based in the DC area, with a focus on pre-seed to series a startups and mid-size government agencies looking to build high efficiency teams.Since the Spring of 2015, Lola has also served as an adjunct professor of Entrepreneurship Marketing at the University of Maryland’s Maryland Technology Enterprise Institute (MTECH). Lola is a graduate of Carnegie Mellon University, with a Masters in Information Systems Management and a BS in Marketing and Supply Chain Management, from the University of Maryland. She’s based in Washington DC.

Ashley Lewis

Vice President, Financial Communication & Capital Markets | CEO Action for Racial Equity Fellow | 40 Under 40 Edleman / Former Communications Director for Sen. Sherrod Brown, Senate Banking Committee

Ashley is an experienced communicator with a demonstrated history of working in the financial services industry in both the public and private sectors. Skilled in financial services communication including trade finance, sanctions, financial institutions, housing, housing finance, securities, capital markets, bank regulation, and fintech. Ashley also specializes in crisis management, public affairs, government, and political communication. In 2019, Ashley was named “Top 40 Under 40” by Women in Housing and Finance, Inc. of Washington D.C. and in 2020 she was named "40 Under 40" by her high school alma mater Regina High School. Ashley currently serves on the Young Patrons Board of Arena Stage Theater in Washington, D.C., and the Ambassadors Board for the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture.

Shawn Rochelle Smith

Senior Physical Scientist / Nuclear Regulatory Commission

Ms. Shawn Smith is the Senior Physical Scientist for International Programs in the Office of Nuclear Material Safety and Safeguards at the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). Ms. Smith joined the NRC in 2002 as a Health Physicist in the former Office of State and Tribal Programs. Since that time, she has held progressively responsible positions within the NRC providing technical assistance to Federal, State, Tribal, and foreign governments on matters addressing nuclear regulation and radiological public health. She also completed a rotational assignment as an Executive Technical Assistant in the Office of the Executive Director for Operations. Ms. Smith is a graduate of the NRC’s Nuclear Safety Professional Development Program.

Before joining NRC, Ms. Smith worked as an Associate Engineer at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. She has a Bachelor of Science degree in Physics from Alabama Agricultural and Mechanical University and has completed post-graduate studies in international public policy at Johns Hopkins University, School of Advanced International Studies.


Lydia King

English Teacher, GGA

Shalini Benson

Director, CGI

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