Break the Rut

cMoe’s creativity forum encourages professionals to channel their inner child
Jason Kotecki

Staying creative and motivated at work can be tough. In 2016, the World Economic Forum predicted creativity would be the third top skill needed in 2020 to succeed. Now is the time to find ways to stay inventive in our jobs.

On March 11, I attended the annual IGNITE It! Creative Forum at the Children’s Museum of Evansville. cMoe has hosted this event for the last six years, offering business leaders and employees an opportunity to workshop with speakers on creative professional development.

“It’s really all about adults keeping imagination and creativity in play in our everyday life, even at work,” explains cMoe Director of Development Helen Zimmerman. “The whole message of the forum is that it is OK to be like a kid.”

This year’s workshop featured speaker Jason Kotecki, an artist and author who works to connect adults back with their childhood curiosity. Kotecki broke down for us how routines create what he calls “adultitis,” which is the typical stress and discontent adults feel when they get into ruts in their lives.

In our workshop, he explained how typical routines we have in adulthood can turn into ruts in the workplace, and how those ruts create rules for us that may not really exist.

“That’s essentially the core of my mission and my company,” says Kotecki. “Escaping these rules that don’t exist, these things we’ve been conditioned to believe, to get us back to who we were when we were kids, when we had curiosity, creativity, and we weren’t afraid to try things.”

We worked to identify these rules-but-not-rules, and Kotecki gave us tools on how to break them. We looked at perceived problems as actual puzzles that are fun to solve. We focused on reframing our perspective and seeing problems as opportunities. And Kotecki challenged us to continue thinking openly.

While Kotecki is not the average professional development speaker, I personally felt his words rang true. As someone who works in a very creatively demanding field, burnout is common. His tips and tricks can be easily transferred to my life and allow me to gain a fresh perspective.

As the state and country went into new social distancing restrictions the following week, Kotecki’s teachings took on an added meaning. During this time, Jason and his wife Kim began hosting daily virtual conversation meetings to address many topics. On March 19 in a session titled “Not Knowing is OK,” Jason reiterated his teachings of staying open minded, even if the times are unsure.

“You have to stay open to what is possible, even if you don’t know what possibly could come of it. I think that’s fitting of what is happening right now,” says Kotecki. “We’re all in a hard spot right now … it may be really hard to see what positive could come of this, and that’s OK. All I’m asking you to do is be open to it.”

cMoe Online

While the doors of cMoe remain closed, the organization continues to provide at-home programs to residents through social media platforms.

“cMoe is a place where families can gather, play, and learn together. Children and families will need cMoe more than ever after the crisis,” says the museum’s Executive Director Stephanie Terry.

She urges residents to consider donating through an un-visit ticket online to help cMoe continue offering virtual educational activies. Those looking to help in other ways are asked to consider memberships to the museum or making a donation to the museum’s Sustainability Fund.


Varying Degrees

Every year Ivy Tech, the University of Evansville, and University of Southern Indiana work to provide prospective students with a wide range of programs. These new degree offerings bring opportunities to students to follow their desired path.

Ivy Tech
• Associate of Science in Engineering Technology
• Associate of Science in Cyber Security
• Medical Assisting Technical Certificate
• Associate of Applied Science in Therapeutic Massage
• Certified Personal Trainer Certificate
• Process Operations

University of Evansville
• Accelerated Elementary Education, Second Degree Bachelor of Science
• Bachelor of Art in Spanish-Medical Spanish Specialty
• Bachelor of Art in Sport Communication
• Bachelor of Science or Bachelor of Art in University Studies
• Bachelor of Science in Ethics and Social Change
• Bachelor of Science in Logistics and Supply Chain Management
• Bachelor of Science in Statistical and Data Sciences
• Master of Science in Computer Engineering
• Master of Science in Electrical Engineering
• Master of Science in Mechanical Engineering
• Master of Science in Leadership
• Higher Education Leadership Graduate Certificate
• Innovation Graduate Certificate
• Nonprofit Leadership Graduate Certificate
• Public Health Graduate Certificate

University of Southern Indiana
• Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering
• Data Analytics for Business Certificate
• Post-master’s Certificate in Addiction Science
• Instructional Communication and Advanced Instructional Communication Certificates (online)
• Master of Business Administration-Project Management Concentration (online)


Embrace It

Student-led business makes a difference for local clients

On Nov. 5, Kaitlin Moore Morely won her bid for an at-large seat on the Evansville City Council. The people behind parts of the campaign’s marketing weren’t a large firm or even seasoned marketing veterans. It was a group of University of Evansville students working with Embrace Marketing and Communications, a project through the school’s ChangeLab program.

Embrace operates as a true business with a team of eight students who went through a traditional interview process to be accepted into the program and that celebrated its first anniversary this October. Unlike many new businesses, however, Embrace turned a profit in its first year.

“For the first couple of months, it was really doing everything a startup business would do, just getting ourselves up and running before we even looked at clients and interacted with them,” says Jesse Stafford-Lacey, Embrace’s creative director and a senior sports communications major.

Along with work on Morely’s campaign, Embrace has worked with clients including website development for the Vanderburgh County Democratic Party, internal communications for Alcoa, social media promotion for ShrinersFest, and branding and promotional efforts for Willard Library’s inaugural Heritage Days Festival.

“It’s really cool to see a client come to us with a problem, with some sort of marketing objective, and for us to take it, talk it through, come up with a solution, and then be able to tangibly measure that, making a difference in their business,” says Emily Schuster, Embrace’s CEO and marketing strategist and senior multimedia communications and political science major.

While employees at Embrace will graduate each semester, the goal is to prepare participants with real-world, professional experience they can take with them after they leave. It also gives students opportunities to gain experience they might not be offered through their majors.

“I’ve been able to build up on the knowledge I’ve been acquiring through my classes, but I also have been able to be out of my comfort zone in things I would not have been exposed to otherwise,” says Pamela Oliva, Embrace’s CFO and account executive and a junior accounting major. “It definitely gives you that real-world experience you don’t get in a classroom.”

▲ Pamela Oliva, Emily Schuster, and Jesse Stafford-Lacey are three members of the student-run business Embrace Marketing and Communications, which gives UE students real-world experience in marketing and client relations.


Rewarding Software

Motivating Systems builds good environments through programming
The company started as a division to develop software for schools to implement Positive Behavioral Interventions & Supports.

At the offices of Motivating Systems in Downtown Evansville, it is common to hear the ring of a school bell followed by clapping and cheering. Every time the bell rings, it means Motivating Systems has a new agreement to provide its PBIS Rewards services to a new school.

Officially established as its own company in December 2016, Motivating Systems began as a division of Lieberman Technologies that developed software schools use to manage their Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) initiatives. The PBIS framework has been around for decades, and over the last several years K-12 schools have been rapidly adopting their PBIS management system.

“You can do PBIS without software to help you, but I don’t think you can do it well,” says Pat Heck, president and CEO of Motivating Systems. “It is very data driven. Without the software component of it, you’re really behind the eight ball.”

As of January 2019, Motivating Systems has provided PBIS Rewards to more than 1,100 schools in 47 U.S. states and seven countries, including South Korea, Australia, Canada, Saudi Arabia, the Virgin Islands, and Qatar. When Motivating Systems was established, the company had seven employees. Today, they have grown to 23 employees.

“We have a great mix of people who have really good business experience, really good software experience, and a lot of our staff now has an education background,” says Heck. “I think there are 11 of our 23 who either were a teacher, are married to a teacher, or have a parent who is a teacher.”

The core of PBIS Rewards’ function is to make schools a better place for every kid to learn and grow academically, socially, and emotionally. The PBIS framework is based on research that shows in- and out-of-school suspensions do not work. Suspensions do not address the behavioral problems; they only remove the problems from the classroom. Through PBIS, students are rewarded and recognized for doing the right thing, whether that is walking quietly down the hallway, helping a classmate, or being at their desk on time with materials ready when the bell rings. When schools successfully implement PBIS, suspensions drop significantly.

“What most schools call office discipline referrals is the main gauge to how they are measuring the success with their PBIS Rewards program, but there are lots of other data points in our system,” says Andrew Epperson, vice president and chief marketing officer at Motivating Systems. “We have a component to our system that tracks the positive recognition and the discipline referrals, so all of that data is in one spot for the school.”

“There are schools who will see their in-school and out-of-school suspensions drop by 75 percent, and that changes a school entirely,” says Heck. “The culture of the school is a different place when that happens.”

After launching PBIS Rewards and seeing the success in schools, Motivating Systems (which was still part of Lieberman Technologies at the time) started thinking about issues in its own office — specifically issues with time card compliance. Instead of badgering employees to submit time cards on time, the company decided to reward people through a new program called “PhilBucks,” named for the company’s founder Phil Lieberman. If an employee submitted their time card on time, they were rewarded with PhilBucks.

“I’m not exaggerating that our time card problem almost disappeared instantly,” says Heck. “I had no idea of the impact it would have.”

They decided to categorize actions that were good for the company, good for individuals, and good for camaraderie and company culture. For example, turning in a time card on time was good for the company and merited PhilBucks. Exercising during lunch or walking to work were good for the individual employee’s health (and subsequently good for the company) and earned PhilBucks. Eating lunch with a coworker or attending a company event was good for camaraderie and, therefore, deserving of PhilBucks.

Around the same time, news outlets picked up stories about schools who had success implementing PBIS Rewards, and businesses would reach out to Motivating Systems asking if they had software to implement in a professional setting.

“We started saying there is a product here,” says Heck. “We said let’s go build a workplace product called Workplace Rewards that embodies some of those same concepts of being positive and recognizing people for doing the right thing.”

In the last couple of months, Motivating Systems has rolled out Workplace Rewards to the first commercial customers. Along with the development at Lieberman Technologies and Motivating Systems, the Evansville-based Signarama beta-tested Workplace Rewards for a year and two other local businesses will begin to implement the software as well.

While Workplace Rewards, in the past, has taken more of a backseat to its predecessor, PBIS Rewards, the goal in the coming year is to successfully launch Workplace Rewards in the marketplace. With PBIS Rewards, the focus is to continue to improve the product and add the software to more schools throughout the country.

“Since it started back in its infancy, we’ve more than doubled the number of schools using PBIS Rewards each year,” says Epperson. “We’re targeting to accelerate that pace because of the success stories our schools are having with using the software. We want to make sure more schools have the opportunity to have that success.”

“When we go to conferences, it is common for our schools to come up to us and give us hugs — that’s how much the schools love what we help them with,” says Heck. “It’s unlike anything I have experienced in most of my business-to-business relationships.”

▲ Workplace Rewards was born from an idea to motivate employees at Lieberman Technologies to turn time cards in on time. Now, the program has expanded to reward employees for company-enriching actions, like participating in a work corn hole tournament.

Help Wanted

Goodwill job placement program focuses on client success
Employment Specialist Jo Ann Kappell and client Jonathan Ash work on submitting online applications.

“Today is a backwards day,” Carrie Hanebutt announces at the start of the Business Advisory Council (BAC) meeting Oct. 17 in the offices of Goodwill Industries along Green River Road.

Hanebutt, a recruiter and human resources officer for Old National Bank, is the head of the BAC group, which works with Goodwill job placement clients on writing resumes, preparing for interviews, and other tasks during job searching. While interview practice days usually see BAC board members — recruiters and human resources staff from local businesses — mock interview clients for jobs, the meeting on Oct. 17 had a twist. The clients would be interviewing board members, each playing a different part.

“It allows clients to see different types of interviews,” says Hanebutt.

The BAC is just one part of the job placement program offered by the Evansville Goodwill Industries. Since the 1990s, those with disabilities referred by Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) Counselors in Indiana and Kentucky have come to the organization looking for a step up in finding employment. The process of job placement has a few steps, says Goodwill Human Services Director Brandy Smith, but at the center of it all is a focus on the client and finding what fits best for them.

“Our first job is to figure out what [the client] is good at, what their limitations are,” she says. “The better we know our clients, the better we are at serving them.”

This discovery phase also includes activities for clients — Goodwill employment specialists work with community employers who allow clients to visit and even be placed into temporary jobs to gain work experience.

The next phase is where the BAC comes in — job readiness. Here, clients are exposed to interviews, constructing resumes, filling out applications, acquiring appropriate attire, and more. The cooperation and support from local businesses comes into play again during this phase, says Smith, and is important to bring clients knowledge that can help them in their job search.

“This type of board is extremely important to our community and, to my knowledge, I’m not aware of any others like it in the Tri-State,” says Hanebutt.

The final step for the client is active job searching. There is no timeline for the process, says Smith, but on average a client is employed after participating in the program between three to six months.

“We set goals as far as what we would like to have done,” she says. “We still follow along for an 180-day period [after employment] — we’re still going to be there to provide support.”

In 2017, Evansville’s Goodwill expanded their placement program with the addition of the Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP). Through a federal grant awarded to Goodwill International, Evansville’s organization was given a sub-grantee contract to provide job placement resources for individuals 55 years of age and older who hit income eligibility requirements.

The process for SCSEP is similar to the VR program, says Smith, but there are some differences. Ran through the federal Department of Labor, participants in this program acquire on-the-job training through a host agency, which typically is a nonprofit or government organization.

“The idea is to get them up-to-date employment skills, a work history, some references, and get them into community employment as well,” says Smith.

More expansion is in the works as well. and Goodwill Industries International Inc. recently announced a partnership to launch a Goodwill Digital Career Accelerator program, set to equip people with digital skills training via Goodwill. The Evansville Goodwill is set to receive $50,000 over the next three years for the program beginning in January 2019.

Evansville’s Goodwill already has begun to create awareness of the new program, including establishing a website ( that links to the free curriculum and assessment content. In January, an on-site computer lab at the Green River Road offices will be built and accessible to the public to use for job searching, formal computer classes, creating resumes, and more.

“It’s very exciting to be paired up with a company like Google. This is an opportunity to serve more people and provide better services to the populations we serve now,” says Smith.

Last year, both Goodwill job placement programs totaled more than 300 participants.

Being able to develop a relationship with an employer and give that warm handoff from client to employer helps solidify the job process for the clients,” says Smith. “If employers are familiar with what we do and who we serve, that makes our jobs a whole lot easier.”

For Hanebutt, who joined the BAC board in 2010, working with the job placement program opened her eyes to what Goodwill does in regards to helping those with disabilities and limitations find work.

“When I joined the Goodwill Business Advisory Council in 2010, I really had no idea what exactly the board came together to discuss,” says Hanebutt. “Our community benefits greatly from this service. These clients are hardworking individuals who are extremely excited to be offered an opportunity.”

Fellow BAC board member Sara Schmitt of Custom Staffing Services, who was brought onto the board by a co-worker, reiterates the importance of educating local businesses on the program as well as clients.

“I hope members and companies understand what a person goes through when looking for a job. Whether that be how much help they need from others to be successful or, as an employer, how can you make the job search/application process easier,” she says.

However, just like Smith and the other staff members of the Goodwill program, everything for the BAC board members comes back to helping clients find the confidence and knowledge to land that job.

“Some clients have been out of the work force for an extended period, and they really listen and utilize the direction we provide,” says Hanebutt. “There are so many individuals in our community who just simply need guidance on even the tiniest of things. How do you expect them to succeed if no one raises their hand to say, ‘I’ll help you?’”


Pedal to the Medal

Jared Fulcher, assistant professor of mechanical engineering at UE and faculty advisor for the SAE Baja group.

Between full-time classes, part-time jobs, extracurricular activities, and social lives, the average college student has a lot to juggle. For a group of mechanical engineering students at the University of Evansville who make up the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) Baja student design team, they have even more to cram into their busy schedules — hours poured into planning, building, and testing a car each year to drive in competition only to be destroyed.

“The goal of the competition is to test the vehicle to its limits,” says Jared Fulcher, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering at UE and the faculty advisor for the group. “It’s not about smooth rides and how fast you can go. It’s about surviving.”

SAE Baja offers students the chance to race in a competition against other universities by building a single-seat, all-terrain sporting vehicle that will be driven in one of three courses across the U.S. each year. This year, the UE Baja team will compete in the SAE Baja Kansas race in Pittsburg, Kansas, from May 17 to 20. UE actively has competed for the last five years, but has had teams since the late 1980s.

“The competition has gone on a long time, so placing top 10 means something,” says Fulcher. “And placing top three is really difficult.”

For the UE SAE Baja members, the team of around 20 students is more than an extracurricular activity or university club. It serves as an integrated design project for seniors and helps all students involved earn course credit. Seniors hire underclassmen to help with the project; and while the group is open to all disciplines, it currently is comprised entirely of mechanical engineering students.

“We all really love the project,” says Trevor Hodgson, a senior mechanical engineering student from Newburgh, Indiana, and the UE SAE Baja project lead. “It is a really great learning experience being able to design car components and see them built and see the limitations.”

“The benefit first and foremost is they get to take theory out of the classroom and apply it,” says Fulcher. “Two, they get to be on a team. As an engineer, you never work alone. They actually start leading projects.”

Last year, the team placed 90th out of around 100 teams. One year, the group placed 50th out of 100. In the past, the members have repurposed, modified, and improved the pervious year’s car; however, this year they are building from the ground up, using SAE Baja’s intricate and comprehensive rulebook.

“It’s about a 120-page rulebook,” says Hodgson. “We have to adhere to every rule in it — how wide the car can be. It specifies the engine, specifies different guard equipment. The goal is if this one performs well, we can take the parts that do work well and improve upon it. Building from the ground up is definitely more stressful. It is sometimes difficult to design and build a car concurrently.”

At the event, the team’s car will undergo an inspection before the race by SAE Baja officials who will determine what changes need to be made in order to meet each and every specification in the rulebook.

“It is different,” says senior team member Chris Wigand from Jasper, Indiana. “In years past, they kind of went off what they did previously. This year it is a complete redesign.”

With all the work to do to build a car from scratch, there are many hours of work needed from each team member. To be part of the design team, members have to meet hour requirements, but those prove to only be the minimum level of participation for most students.

“You could easily spend five to six hours at a time on the project,” says Hodgson.

“A lot of design work is done over the summer,” says Fulcher. “That gives them a leg up.”

In the fall, design on the car continues and decisions are made based on analyses of the documents. By the beginning of December, the group has to have a design report prepared to present to the mechanical engineering faculty at UE. Based on approval of the report, building begins in the spring and is completed in time for the competition.

“I’d say I prefer the design work over the fabrication,” says Hodgson. “I like trying to formulate how certain pieces are going to work and acquiring as much knowledge as I can about how a certain vehicle is going to work.”

The ultimate goal for UE SAE Baja is to have a car that can withstand a four-hour endurance race on a track whose features are purposefully designed to tear the car apart. However, one of the other purposes of the race is to interact with other teams from different universities and develop ideas and strategies for future projects.

“This year our biggest advantage was we have so many people on this team who have so much experience — 54 years of experience combined,” says Hodgson. “That gives us such an advantage. We’ve all seen failures. We’ve all seen issues. This year, we really wanted to set up a car that was stable and just functionally good. We wanted to get past those issues and set a good baseline for the team to build upon.”

For more information about the University of Evansville, call 812-488-2000 or visit


One-Stop Shop

Fifth-generation business still going strong after nearly a century
Tom and John Mathias are driving Evansville Electrical and Mechanical Services Company, Inc. into its fifth generation.

 A rare fifth-generation business owner, Evansville Electrical and Mechanical Services Company, Inc. (EEMSCO) vice president Tom Mathias is proud to carry on a longtime family tradition. Since taking leadership from his father John Mathias in June 2015, Tom focuses on demands new technology will bring while maintaining signature services on which the company was built nearly a century ago.

As a one-stop industrial maintenance shop, EEMSCO rewinds and repairs AC/DC electric motors, pumps, and gearboxes, and also performs millwright and machine shop services for businesses within a 150-mile radius, which includes Southern Indiana, Southern Illinois, and Western Kentucky. Its services benefit a wide range of industries, including plastics, aluminum, steel, automotive, pulp and paper, power plants, refineries and pipelines, aggregate and mining, utilities and municipalities, hospitals, pharmaceuticals, chemicals, food processing, and colleges and universities.

“Businesses count on us to keep them running,” says Tom, an Evansville native who earned his bachelor’s degree in business management from Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana, and master’s degree from Belmont University, Nashville, Tennessee. “If their industry is succeeding, then we’re succeeding.”

Tom attributes the company’s nearly century-long success to its adaptation to the region’s new and diverse industries, continuity in management, and longtime employee tenure, as well as constant dedication to its customers.

“We want to continue to grow and find ways to improve so we are always able to meet all of our customers’ needs,” says Tom. “I talk to the guys on the floor and ask about certain processes and ways to improve. We don’t want to say we can only handle a portion of your repairs — we want to fix it all. We want to listen and ask questions and always be looking for ways to do things better. If we do that, we will never stop growing.”

Founded by Tom’s great-great-grandfather John Poling and great-grandfather Gil Poling, the business moved into its current facility at 600 W. Eichel Ave. in 1920 and was incorporated in 1921 to serve the booming coal mining industry. John relocated to Evansville from the Eastern Ohio and Western Pennsylvania area upon realizing coal had become the leading source of heat and power for transportation, fueling locomotives, paddlewheel boats, and in turn, the companies of the Industrial Revolution.

Back then, EEMSCO manufactured parts for railroads and railroad cars serving the coal mines. In addition to the growing coal mining industry, the Polings also saw the rise of electricity as a common power source, leading it to begin rewinding and repairing some of the earliest industrial-sized DC electric motors in the infancy of the electric age.

As the region’s coal industry gradually diminished, other industries rose and filled the gap left by fewer mining jobs.

“This area has always had a great industrial base — even in the transition from mining to other heavy industries, such as plastics,” says Tom.

EEMSCO remains at the same location where it has been standing for almost 100 years — on Eichel Avenue, just west of Garvin Park. Today, the 45,000-square-foot facility consists of three areas: a storage warehouse, built in the late 1800s; a machine shop, constructed in the early 1940s; and an electric shop, including management offices, added in the 1980s.

The company has specialties across four divisions: electrical services, mechanical services, field services, and new motors and warranty services. In the electric shop, services include AC motor rewinding and repair — up to 3,000 horsepower — and DC armature winding and repair — up to 2,000 horsepower.

“We can fix just about anything,” says Tom. “And if we can’t fix it, we have the resources to find you a new one for a great price.”

The facility’s major capabilities include a 30-ton crane capacity for lifting motors during repairs, and a 4,160-volt test panel for assessing how motors are functioning. EEMSCO also provides field services, such as predictive and preventative maintenance, and can send teams out for any on-site repair needs.

“Machinery breakdowns can be much more costly than routine maintenance,” says Tom’s father John.

EEMSCO helps companies maintain, repair, or replace critical motors to keep daily operations running, says Tom. With in-shop repair available from 5 a.m. to 6 p.m. and offsite after-hours repairs, EEMSCO offers its services 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

“If you have a critical motor down, your operations grind to a halt, your production line stops, and you can’t do anything,” says Tom. “You call us — even in the middle of the night — and we will be there and get you back up and running. Our quality and our turnaround time are why people come to us and stay with us.”

Because EEMSCO works with specific industries and their highly technical and specialized equipment, customers also rely on the longtime staff’s experience and guidance.

“We have the technical knowledge to advise the customer on the right product,” says Tom. “Our knowledge is a great asset for our customers.”

That knowledge has been passed down from generation to generation.

“There isn’t a school for what we do,” says John. “Employees receive on-the-job training.”

Through the years, continuity in management was maintained by keeping the business in the family and consulting past owners. Workforce continuity also helps the company be successful. From motor technicians, winders, field-service specialists, machinists and bookkeepers to inside and outside sales representatives, average tenure is more than a decade — and eight of the 25 employees have been with the company for more than 20 years.

“Our longest-tenured employee, Flavian Elpers, retired this past spring with 53 years of service under his belt,” says Tom. “We have very little turnover. We really are a tight-knit family.”

As the company continues to grow, so do Tom’s 1- and 3-year-old sons — the sixth generation that could potentially take the company into its next century.
“I would love for them to continue the family tradition,” says Tom. 

For more information about EEMSCO, call 812-426-2224 or visit


Bull Market

Ben S. Bernanke shares experiences as chairman of Federal Reserve with USI students
Dr. Ben S. Bernanke answers questions from moderator Dr. Karen H. Bonnell, University of Southern Indiana professor.

Tucker Publishing Group collaborated with Dr. Marie Bussing, assistant professor of economics at the University of Southern Indiana College of Business, to give 35 students in her Economics 361 Money and Banking course, an upper level class of juniors and seniors, an opportunity to be published in Evansville Business. Students were asked to write about Ben Bernanke, who presented “A Conversation with Ben Bernanke” during the Romain College of Business Innovative Speaker Series on March 23 at USI. Dillon Davenport, who recently graduated from USI, was selected for his piece.

Walking to the podium with a white shirt, grey suit, and a striped tie, he looked as normal as someone would in the audience. The man, Time Magazine’s 2009 person of the year, is referred to as the person who saved the U.S. economy, and has imposed some of the most innovative strategies the Federal Reserve System has ever seen. His name is Dr. Ben S. Bernanke.

Bernanke was born in Augusta, Georgia, and later raised in Dillon, South Carolina, a small rural town. “Dillon makes Evansville seem like New York City,” he jokes. Bernanke shared stories about his wife and how she has kept him grounded by asking him to take out the trash every week and clean the dishes after every meal.

He spoke intelligently, as someone might expect from a Harvard University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology alumnus, but not arrogantly. He is considered one of the most powerful people in the world, and that story began on a Fall weekend in 2008, known as “Lehman Weekend.”

Lehman Brothers, a massive investment bank in New York, was failing. Bernanke says the widespread consensus among economists, politicians, and the media was that it was time to let the company fail. Bernanke, who was serving as chairman on the Federal Reserve, thought differently. They knew if Lehman Brothers failed, it would magnify the crisis and make it worse. Bernanke explains the Federal Reserve brought Lehman, potential buyers of Lehman, and 12 CEOs of top Wall Street investment firms to the New York Federal Reserve to find a solution for this company that was on the brink of collapse.

Unfortunately, the potential buyers dropped out and Lehman Brothers had no collateral for the Federal Reserve to lend the firm cash. Then, the event Bernanke and the Federal Reserve feared would happen did. Lehman Brothers failed, beginning what became known as the recent Great Recession.

After sharing his experiences on 2008, Bernanke took a seat and answered questions from moderator Dr. Karen H. Bonnell, USI professor of communications. One of the questions was: “Do you believe or even acknowledge the existence of a student loan bubble?”

Bernanke’s answer particularly applied to current college students and students wanting to continue their education.

Bernanke says he didn’t believe there was a bubble or that student loans affected the financial sector but did give advice to students seeking financial aid in the form of loans. Bernanke says when students are taking out a loan, they should first develop a sense of whether or not the program they are attending is right for them and whether the program will lead to a job. He also says students should enroll in a program that will lead to a job and will ultimately enable repayment of their student loans.

“It is extremely tough to get out of student loans, not even through bankruptcy,” says Bernanke.

Bernanke testified before the U.S. Congress that his son is on track to leave medical school with $400,000 in student loans.

As former chairman of the Federal Reserve, Bernanke was asked about his most important contribution to the system. He credited the success as a team effort. Bernanke was an academic and needed diverse opinions, solutions, and ideas to solve the unusual and unprecedented problems he faced at the Federal Reserve. He described his leadership approach as collegial, not authoritative. He wanted to involve everyone at the Federal Reserve because of their diverse backgrounds in education and experiences.

When asked about innovative practices he implemented as chairman, Bernanke talked about transparency. He wanted the Federal Reserve’s actions to be open to the public and reach a broad market. Bernanke implemented an explicit 2 percent inflation target, held press conferences, appeared on “60 Minutes,” and spoke to universities about what was occurring at the Federal Reserve. He noted that transparency was in part a failure. In 2009, the Federal Reserve was the most unpopular government agency, even lower than the Internal Revenue Service.

Bernanke served as the chairman of the Federal Reserve for eight years and worked in several additional roles. Currently, Bernanke is finishing a book about his tenure at the Federal Reserve. He also is a member of a think tank at the Brookings Institution. Bernanke will be remembered as one of the most influential people in U.S. history.

For more information about the Innovative Speaker Series at the University of Southern Indiana, call the Romain College of Business at 812-464-1718 or


Family First

Kevin Schwartz came home to help form Myriad CPA Group
Kevin Schwartz helped form the Myriad CPA Group in 2011.

Kevin Schwartz still has the first dollar he ever made.

Tucked in an old yet rather ornate gold frame against a simple piece of cardboard, it sits atop his desk to serve as a reminder that every task, no matter how big or small, is worth the effort.“I was probably 5 or 6 years old,” Schwartz recalls. “I went to play with a friend, and he and his dad were picking up twigs. I helped for about 30 minutes. He paid me a dollar, and I was so excited to take it home and show my dad.

“He put in that old frame, and I have kept it ever since,” he says. “He told me that if I saved it, I’d always have it to spend. At the time I didn’t realize he was talking about more than just that dollar.”

A love of family and a commitment to hard work has been a running theme throughout Schwartz’s life. Every decision has come back to staying true to those two values — values that led him down the path to being a successful CPA and, now, a partner with Myriad CPA Group, one of the Tri-State’s largest accounting firms.

“When I talk to people wanting to start their own business, I can draw from a lot of experience now,” says Schwartz. “I’ve been through that psychological, emotional process of making those tough decisions. And they are tough.

“When I first started my own firm, I started it from scratch, with experience and knowledge but limited resources. But it was all worth it.

Born in Owensboro, Kentucky, Schwartz graduated from Apollo High School in 1992. A track and cross country stand out, his image now adorns its Athletic Hall of Fame.

He went on to the University of Kentucky in Lexington where graduated with a degree in finance in 1996, but it wasn’t until he attended his brother’s graduation from Parris Island, the Marine Corps Recruit Depot in South Carolina, that he finally felt called to a specific purpose.

“I had no military interest at all,” he said with a laugh. “I didn’t even come from a military family. But it was my senior year. I was 21 and going to be graduating in a few months. I was trying to figure out what kind of professional job I wanted to take. That’s when I watched my younger brother graduate from Parris Island (Marine Corps Recruit Depot). I decided, then and there, on the drive back, that I wanted to join the military and serve my country, too.”

He enlisted in the U.S. Air Force and was stationed at Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri, a small base whose overall purpose is to provide support to the B-2 Stealth Bomber. In civilian’s terms, he acted as a liaison between those who needed to spend money to support the B-2 Stealth Bomber and the lengthy federal guidelines to which they had to adhere.

He spent his nights working on a graduate degree from Central Missouri State University, now the University of Central Missouri in Warrensburg, Missouri, says Schwartz, and volunteering to help troops with their tax returns.

But after four years in the military, opportunity came knocking, and Schwartz was offered a position with PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), one of the country’s Big Four accounting firms.

“It was my dream job,” he says matter-of-factly. “I mean, the training you receive at a Big Four accounting firm, the people you meet, the projects you get to work on, it was a really awesome experience. My goal was to stay there and try to make partner. I was in St. Louis. I was relatively close to home, but then everything changed.”

Schwartz’s grandfather died in 2002, and the then 28-year-old began questioning the goals he had set for himself. Family suddenly became more important, he said, than continuing to climb the Big Four corporate ladder.

“It was really the first time I’d thought about life and how important family is,” Schwartz said. “I just felt like I needed to be closer to home.”

So after a year of soul searching, Schwartz quit his Big Four job and moved home to Owensboro. He started his own accounting firm, Schwartz CPA Group, and a year later met his wife, Rebecca, also a CPA.

He focused his energies on growing his small business, picking up clients and even took on businesses from as far away as Northern Indiana. He was elected president of the Kentucky Society of CPAs and was named the Owensboro Chamber of Commerce’s director and entrepreneur of the year.

He also got involved in the Owensboro community, serving as a Chamber board member, on the board of trustees to Brescia University, treasurer to the Owensboro Rotary Club, and he sits on the executive board to Junior Achievement of West Kentucky. He was on the Downtown Development Committee and is treasurer to the Western Kentucky Botanical Garden.

Then in 2011, Schwartz was at a training seminar when he met a group of four other like-minded CPAs from the Tri-State area, each with a love of community but each also with their own special brand of expertise in the field.

Their friendship grew and flourished, and later that year, the men joined to form Myriad CPA Group, a company with a broad tax and accounting-based service with offices in Owensboro, Evansville, and Henderson.

“Everything has gone so well,” Schwartz says of the partnership. “The accounting industry, public accounting, is very fast-paced, and there are lots and lots of challenges.”

But with his professional life finally coming together, Schwartz began losing control over aspects of his personal life. The one-time track star put on nearly 60 pounds. Then, in early 2012, he vowed to make a change and hired a personal trainer. He took up running once again, and he and his wife began eating clean, organic foods. In a year’s time, he dropped nearly 10 pant sizes and 60 pounds. Today, he logs 20-25 miles per week.

Schwartz turned 40 in April, and when he looks back on his journey he’s humbled by how far he has come. The decision to return home was a difficult one, but as it turns out, the path to success doesn’t always come by way of the Big Four.

“I can’t believe how fast time has gone by,” he said. “I spent all of my 30s growing the business, staying active, staying involved. And that makes you really appreciate time because it has absolutely flown by. But I guess that means I’m having fun and enjoying doing what I’m doing.

“What I find myself reflecting on more than anything,” he said, “is that the more you give, if you give with the right heart, the more that comes back to you.”

For more information about the Myriad CPA Group, visit


The Sky’s the Limit

Entrepreneur Kent Parker predicts networking through cloud communications will define business in 2033
Entrepreneur Kent Parker spoke at the Rotary Club of Evansville about what the world will be like in 2033.

Luke White didn’t actually lug an entire piano onto the New York City subway. There was no bona fide drum in Tobias Smith’s hands. And guitarists Eric Espiritu and Philip Galitzine weren’t even close to real, tangible strings. Yet the rock band Atomic Tom didn’t need instruments to launch itself to stardom. Instead, it reached its key demographic with four iPhones, a battery-powered speaker, and a YouTube video.

This is why connected technologies are changing the world, says entrepreneur Kent Parker. Because even if you’ve never heard of Atomic Tom, it’s likely that you do know about smart phones, YouTube, and the cloud that connects the two. These technologies are what allowed White to use two, and what sometimes looked like three, fingers to play the keys of a simulated piano on a tiny iPhone on the B line in New York City. They are why Smith was able to use another iPhone to drum the beats to that same song, “Take Me Out,” which now has more than 5.4 million views on YouTube. These connected technologies are why the band landed a spot on Jimmy Kimmel Live! the same month it uploaded that video. And these technologies are a significant reason why the world will be very different 20 years from now.

“The reality is that business leaders must endeavor to understand (connected technology) … before it is too late for them and their employees and investors,” Parker says. “At the very least, understanding how to operate more effectively and efficiently in this new connected world is crucial (in) hiring, managing people talent, marketing, sales management, supply chain management, financial management, and more.”

Parker has a unique vantage point. A Gibson County, Ind., native, he grew up on a farm. He has a mechanical engineering degree from the University of Evansville and an MBA from the Amos Tuck School of Business Administration at Dartmouth College. He’s worked in business commerce and software; in coffee; in strategic sourcing and procurement; as an engineer; and in sales. Parker is also an avid lover of the arts and history, and he’s involved in numerous economic development ventures as well.

But the 51-year-old is probably best known for his recent retirement from Ariba Inc., a leading provider of business commerce network, software, and services solutions based in Sunnyvale, Calif., after the company was purchased by SAP AG. From that experience and others, Parker is intimately aware of what’s happening in Silicon Valley, how insiders there view the intersection of technology and innovation, and how business leaders and employees here in the Tri-State area can use that information to their benefit.

That’s what he did when he spoke at the Rotary Club of Evansville on March 5 to give his speech, “The World in 2033.”

One of Parker’s key points is that people are more connected by technology and mobile devices than ever before. At the heart of this connectedness is cloud computing, in which computing resources (hardware and software) are delivered as a service over a network, typically the Internet. Rather than being dependent on hardware and software installed in a particular location or on users’ own equipment, users of cloud computing services are able to connect and access computing resources and information remotely, often from a variety of devices and locations. And savvy upstarts like Atomic Tom are using the cloud and technologies that share information through the cloud to circumvent established business models. What’s even more important is that it’s working, because radio and record companies aren’t nearly as powerful as they once were. “The record industry is really in a state of disarray,” Parker says. “Artists and musicians can disintermediate radio and record labels to find each other.”

That’s what Generation Z has done by making YouTube — and not the radio — its main source for new music. Rock bands like Atomic Tom that are looking to succeed know this. They are getting their product directly to their customers at all times and almost anywhere their customers go. The cloud makes that possible.

The cloud is impacting other industries, too, Parker says. Beyond the notion of cloud computing, Parker defines a broader concept he calls the cloud community effect: the realization of a “community” consisting of the hardware, software, information, knowledge, capabilities, and human participants, all connected by the Internet. Under this notion of a cloud community, the access to and impact of technology is becoming embedded in our lives in a ubiquitous way, and it’s actually changing the way we live our lives. And these cloud communities can be very powerful. Take Maker’s Mark. It took less than a week for the company to reverse its decision in mid-February to lower the proof of its whiskey from 90 to 84. The reason? The public hated the idea. It flooded the company with emails and phone calls. “This is the cloud community telling (Maker’s Mark), ‘Bad idea,’” Parker says. “They changed … very quickly.”

Companies that want to be successful in the future are going to have to be comfortable using the cloud and in managing their cloud communities, Parker says. They can’t stick their heads in the sand. Instead, they will have to be experts at managing their cloud community experiences in at least three areas: with customers; with employees and management; and in their relationships with their commerce partners, investors, and others who are involved in those businesses but who are not employees.

In other words, the cloud has created a community of people who are constantly sharing data. In the future, companies that are able to analyze that data and use it to help their businesses have a greater chance of success. Additionally, data culled from the cloud could be used to solve problems that have never been solved before, Parker says.

“When you get this community that’s driven by these cloud communications … all of a sudden we can start to make sense of behavioral or social or economic activity in a way that we couldn’t before,” he says.

In the future, people will have much shorter memories. The old adage of “people never forget” will disappear, Parker says. Instead, that will be replaced with some form of “What have you done for me today?

“Here is one of the new rules: There are no secrets,” he says. “In the era of the cloud, there is no hiding from the crowd. You are going to have to understand the communities that dictate how your customers make decisions, and you are going to have to listen and be responsive to those decisions.”

That’s happening now, and it will continue to happen in the future — largely because of Generation Z, which is very comfortable with technology, connectedness, and the ability to multitask.

“Their expectation of honesty and straightforwardness is going to be very high,” Parker says. “It’s going to redefine how we as business leaders, or business leaders in that era, are going to have to relate to them. Cloud technologies are at the root of this.”

Entrepreneur Kent Parker may be reached at