2015 Forum Logo

Meet our 8th Annual LNC Forum Speakers


Photo - Brenda BergBrenda Berg

President and CEO

Brenda is the President & CEO of BEST NC (Business for Educational Success and Transformation NC) a nonpartisan organization of over 90 business leaders with a focus on making education in North Carolina the best in the nation.

She has over twenty years of experience as a business owner, public policy professional and education advocate.  She founded Scandinavian Child in 2002, a baby products manufacturing and importing business.  Prior to founding her business, she had almost ten years of public policy experience in both education and transportation policy and programs. Brenda’s passion for education stems from her own experience as a first-generation college graduate.  She also has two children in North Carolina public schools.  She serves on various boards and education organizations, including Habitat for Humanity of Wake County. Brenda has a B.A. in Economics and a Master’s degree in Public Policy, both from Georgetown University.

Photo - Kenston GriffinKenston Griffin

Founder and Chief Executive Officer
Dream Builders Communication, Inc.

Mr. Kenston J. Griffin is one of the nation’s most sought-out keynote speakers, a best-selling author and a top performing trainer and coach. Mr. Griffin is nationally/internationally known throughout corporations, educational systems and non-profit organizations for his award-winning addresses that are not only life-changing, but transformational. Whether it may be the NFL, NASCAR, NBA, Fortune 500 Companies, Educational or Federal/Judicial Systems, Mr. Griffin and the Dream Team’s philosophy is to under-promise and over-deliver. Mr. Griffin and the Dream Team also work with entertainers such as Ludacris, Toby Keith, Tim McGraw and Dwayne Carter, better known as Lil’ Wayne, to name a few.

Mr. Griffin is a native of Statesville, NC, and currently resides in Charlotte, NC. His educational background includes Social Work and Psychology. He received his Bachelor’s Degree from Livingstone College and his Master’s Degree, in just one year, from the University of South Carolina. Mr. Griffin is the Founder and CEO of Dream Builders Communication, Inc. (DBC), which consults internationally. DBC provides training and development in the areas of: Professional/Organization Development, Academic Enhancement/Retention, Diversity and Inclusion, Supply Chain and Demand, Board Development and Peak Performance Coaching.

Photo - Renee HutchesonRenee Hutcheson, AIA

Energy Architect
North Carolina Department of Natural Resources

Renee is a member of the Utility Savings Initiative at North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources. The program that helps public agencies reduce energy and water use in their buildings. In her 30 years as an architect she has been involved in helping formulate and implement policy in private and public practice. In her position with NCDENR, her work involves:

  • Implementation of the state energy management plan to help state buildings reach a 30% energy improvement by 2015,
  • Working with DOE on the Better Buildings Challenge,
  • Performance contracting, and
  • Leading a taskforce to document energy savings in high performance buildings and develop best practices.

Renee received the AIA North Carolina 2012 Gail Lindsey Sustainability Award and has served as Chair of the AIA-NC Committee on the Environment and on the Board of Directors of AIA North Carolina. She holds a master’s degree in Architecture from Virginia Tech.

Photo - Zak KuznarZachary Kuznar

Manager, Renewable Generation Business Development
Duke Energy

Zachary Kuznar works in the Renewable Generation Development Group at Duke Energy.  In this role he focuses on business case development, technology evaluation and regulatory initiatives for Distributed Generation (renewables, combined heat and power, energy storage, microgrids) in Duke Energy’s regulated service territory.  Previously he worked in the Emerging Technology Office focusing on identifying, developing, testing and deploying technologies in the renewable generation, energy storage, and water reuse and reclamation space for both the regulated and commercial businesses.  He also has experience in the fossil generation business unit.  Prior to joining Duke, Zak worked in the Advanced Materials division of General Electric.

Zak holds an undergraduate degree in Chemical Engineering from Purdue University, and a Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering from Yale University.

Photo - Roger LeesonRoger Leeson, AIA

Client Manager
LaBella Associates, P.C

Roger is the currently a manager and lead architect for LaBella Associates Engineers and Architects. For thirty years he’s been designing and managing public projects including K-12 school facilities, higher education, and civic buildings. He’s been a leader in the realms of sustainable design as a LEED AP. He designed the first geothermal public school project in North Carolina. While working with the State Office of School Planning in Raleigh, Roger co-authored the high performance guidelines for NC Public Schools.  He has been an implementer of alternative delivery methods such as integrated project delivery. Rogers’s numerous public school designs have helped shape the education of over 50,000 students, each year in North Carolina.

His current interests include reshaping classroom environments to facilitate project based learning, integrated curriculums and inverted classroom teaching methods. He’s also been an advocate for children’s health exploring initiatives like “The Edible Classroom”, “Walking School Bus”, and “Safe Routes to School”. Roger is a member of the United States Green Building Council (USGBC) and Past President of AIA North Carolina and the North Carolina and Council of Education Facilities Planners International (CEFPI) Chapter.

Photo - Jay NemethJay Nemeth

Director, Resource Planning and Strategy
North Carolina Electric Membership Corporation

Jay Nemeth is the Director of Resource Planning and Strategy for North Carolina Electric Membership Corporation (NCEMC) where he oversees the organization’s long-term resource acquisition and resource planning activities.  Jay also works with GreenCo Solutions, Inc. to manage the strategy and execution of activities to ensure its members’ compliance with North Carolina’s Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Portfolio Standard (Senate Bill 3).

Prior to joining NCEMC, Jay was a Sr. Trader at Progress Energy with responsibilities for natural gas and environmental markets.  He traded natural gas in all of the major southeastern markets and led Progress Energy’s emissions trading and compliance activities related to the EPA-mandated cap-and-trade programs.  During his tenure at Progress Energy, Jay also had roles in Supply Chain Strategy, Enterprise Risk Management, and in Research and Structuring.

Jay’s professional career began in software development where he provided consulting services and product management for analytical tools used in electric utility planning and market price forecasting.  Jay holds a Bachelor of Electrical Engineering degree from the Georgia Institute of Technology.

Photo - Mike RowandMichael Rowand

Director, Technology Development
Duke Energy

Mike Rowand is Director, Technology Development for Duke Energy. He is responsible for technology evaluation and development of distributed energy resources, including energy storage, electric transportation, distributed generation, and other end-use energy systems and devices.

Mike has 30 years experience with Duke Energy in various aspects of the utility industry including Transmission and Distribution Engineering, Customer Service, Rates and Regulatory processes, and Marketing. He is an honors graduate of the University of Florida with a degree in Mechanical Engineering and is a licensed Professional Engineer in North Carolina and South Carolina, and a Certified Energy Manager.


Photo - Tony ZeissDr. Tony Zeiss

Central Piedmont Community College

Dr. Zeiss holds a doctorate in community college administration from Nova University, a master’s degree in speech (radio and television), and a bachelor’s degree in speech education from Indiana State University.  In 1992, Dr. Zeiss became the third president of Central Piedmont Community College, one of the largest community colleges in North Carolina, serving approximately 70,000 students per year.  During his tenure, the college has grown from one campus to six and has become recognized as a national leader in Workforce Development.   Dr. Zeiss has authored or co-authored several books on economic development, adult literacy, national workforce development and the Civil War.  His most recent publications include four books on creating high performance employees, a book on community college leadership, a tribute to John Montgomery Belk, and a novel on the Revolutionary War.

Dr. Zeiss is a professional speaker and a frequent keynoter for companies and colleges on recruiting, developing, and retaining peak performers at the workplace, and on fundraising.  He regularly consults on workforce development and resource development.

Dr. Zeiss is past chair of the Board of the American Association of Community Colleges, past Board Chair for the League for Innovation, and was the Association of Community College Trustees’ National CEO of the year for 2004-2005.

Dr. Zeiss serves on several local, regional and national boards, including Leadership NC, the Institute for Emerging Issues, and the Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education (FIPSE).  He is the Chair of the Trail of History and the Little Sugar Creek Greenway Action Committee. He frequently serves as a workgroup member for the U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Labor.

Dr. Zeiss is the recipient of the 2012 Whitney M. Young Humanitarian Award presented by the Urban League on March 23, 2012; the 2012 Jack Callaghan Cornerstone Award presented by Goodwill Industries of the Southern Piedmont on May 24; 2012; the 2012 UNC Charlotte Distinguished Service Award on May 30, 2012; and the 2012 National Leadership Award from the National Council for Continuing Education and Training (NCCET).

Dr. Zeiss and his wife, Beth, have two sons, a daughter-in-law, and two grandchildren.


Photo - Tom ZwengDr. Thomas Zweng, M.D., FACS

Executive Vice President and Chief Medical Officer
Novant Health

Dr. Thomas N. Zweng serves as Novant Health’s Executive Vice President and Chief Medical Officer since March, 2014. From 2006 – 2014 he was the SVP of Medical Affairs for the five Charlotte based hospitals of Novant Health, supporting the 2,000 members of the medical staff. He is a board certified general surgeon and prior to his role as VPMA, he was the Chief of General Surgery for the Novant Health Presbyterian Hospitals for two years while practicing in Charlotte with a general surgery group.

He completed his medical school training at UCLA in 1984, followed by a six year general surgery residency at the University of Michigan. He was an assistant professor of surgery at the University of Kentucky Medical School from 1990-1995 and developed the laparoscopic general surgery program for the university. Dr. Zweng then moved to Charlotte, North Carolina, practicing in the area for ten years.

Dr. Zweng is involved in the community as well. He has been a member of the Opera Carolina Board of Directors and served as the co-chair for the Mecklenburg County Arts and Science 2010 annual fund drive. Currently he serves on the boards of Charlotte’s CBI, Community Building Initiative, which focuses on racial and ethnic inclusion and equity and Discovery Place, which is an organization dedicated to the exploration of the natural and social worlds through exhibits and programming.

Register Now!