Robbie Vitrano, Co-founder of The Idea Village, is widely known for his notable entrepreneurial and brand marketing expertise. He is also the Co-founder of Trumpet, a local branding agency, and Naked Pizza, an international franchise built on the advocacy of demonstrating the commercial appeal of healthy fast food. Both Trumpet and Naked Pizza have been recognized in the top 10 of the most innovative companies in the world by Fast Company in their respective categories (advertising/marketing firms and food).
In addition to serving as an IDEAsession Mentor, Vitrano will continue ongoing role as a brand advisor to Naked Pizza, as well as his ongoing work in branding and innovation as chairman of Trumpet.
Gregg Lassen has recently been appointed as Vice President of Business Affairs for the University of New Orleans. He served as vice president for finance and operations at Lamar University in Beaumont, Texas. He will succeed Linda Robison who is retiring as vice president of business affairs after 39 years at the University. Lassen’s appointment begins on July 1.
Prior to his position at Lamar, Lassen spent five years at The University of Texas at Tyler, first serving as vice president for business affairs and then executive vice president. He also spent three years as vice president of business and finance at the University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg, Miss.
Lassen holds a doctorate in political science from Southern Miss, a law degree from the University of Houston and a master’s and bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Peter J. Fos became the sixth leader and the first president in the history of the University of New Orleans in January 2012. A UNO graduate and New Orleans native, President Fos has extensive experience as an administrator and faculty member with a proven record of conducting research, fundraising, developing collaborative relationships with other academic institutions, and implementing institutional effectiveness and student success programs.
Prior to being selected as UNO’s president, President Fos was a professor and program director of health policy and systems management at Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center. He was responsible for the academic aspects of the program, including curriculum development and assessment and student and faculty professional development.
As a graduate of Harvard University, James Bernazzani reported to the FBI Academy in Quantico, Virginia on June 7, 1984. His career as a lawman and crimefighter has been stellar ever since.
Prior to coming to New Orleans, Bernazzani served as Assistant Special Agent in Charge of the Houston Division where he was responsible for investigations and operations targeting international drug cartels and other organized crime groups. Following the 9/11 terrorist attacks against America, Special Agent Bernazzani was promoted to Deputy Director for Law Enforcement at the Counterterrorism Center, Central Intelligence Agency. During May 2003, he was again promoted to Principal Deputy Director of the newly formed Terrorist Threat Integration Center. At the time of his appointment as Special Agent in Charge of the New Orleans Division, Special Agent Bernazzani acted as Deputy Assistant Director for international terrorism investigations and operations handled by the FBI.
His term in New Orleans led to numerous convictions against violent criminals and corrupt government officials. As Special Agent in Charge of the New Orleans Division, Mr. Bernazzani led the FBI response relative to Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. For his work post Katrina/Rita, Mr. Bernazzani was awarded the 2006 Presidential Award for Meritorious Service. During May 2008, Mr. Bernazzani retired from the FBI after 24 years of distinguished service. He then co-founded a new nonprofit organization, The Youth Rescue Initiative, which is a comprehensive endeavor designed to assist at-risk youth in the greater New Orleans area overcome challenges and achieve success. Its mission is to create structured opportunities for positive growth in an effort to build character and discipline among today’s disenfranchised youth, thus improving the quality of life for all citizens of New Orleans. He currently serves as President.
*PLEASE NOTE THAT ALL STUDENT BLOGS ARE DUE NO LATER THAN NOON ON WEDNESDAY, MAY 8TH.
COUNCILWOMAN LATOYA CANTRELL
In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Councilwoman LaToya Cantrell led a citizens’ effort to restore New Orleans’ historic Broadmoor neighborhood and resist efforts to turn the community into a flood zone. Seven years later, Broadmoor is one of the most recovered communities in New Orleans, featuring an education corridor anchored by a new school, library and community health center opening next year. As a community leader and elected official, Councilwoman Cantrell is committed to always lending an ear to neighborhood concerns. Councilwoman Cantrell represents District B on the New Orleans City Council and is a graduate of Xavier University.
Lee Reid joined Adams and Reese in 1999 and practices in the areas of business services, education, aerospace, governmental relations, economic development and litigation. These practice areas encompass a wide range of subject matters, including contract drafting and negotiation, lobbying, public finance, corporate law, general administrative practice, general business advice and business capture and general business disputes.
Most recently, Lee has worked to bring to fruition one of the largest economic development projects in the State of Louisiana: the Federal City Project. He has also been instrumental in the development of charter schools across Louisiana, representing a diverse array of stakeholders and dedicating numerous hours of pro bono assistance to improving the environment for charter schools in the State.His significant contributions in these areas include:
- Serving as lead attorney on the Federal City Project, representing the New Orleans Federal Alliance, “NOFA”, and working with the State of Louisiana, City of New Orleans, the Algiers Development District, United States Department of the Navy and the United States Marine Corps to retain 1,900 Marine Force Reservists in New Orleans. The project also includes conversion of the Historic Naval Support Activity – West Bank in Algiers to a public-private development that will eventually create over 10,000 jobs.
- Guiding many of the charter schools in Louisiana through the charter application process, assisting in all operational aspects, drafting legislation and policy, lobbying at the local and state level, representing charter schools on various study groups and assisting in the formation of charter school advocacy organizations.
Lee also served as Special Assistant to the General Counsel for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, NASA, during the investigation into the Columbia shuttle disaster in 2003. He took a leave of absence from Adams and Reese and assessed the legal needs of the Agency, formulating timely and workable response plans and meeting with search teams and governmental representatives from the debris fields in Hemphill, Texas, to Washington, DC, Lee’s efforts led to a “by-name” appointment to the Return to Flight Implementation Team, and he was awarded the NASA Astronaut’s Personal Achievement Award, the “Silver Snoopy,” in recognition of this work.
Lee is currently the Chair of the New Orleans Public Library Board and Vice-Chair of the New Orleans Public Library Foundation, appointed by the Mayor of New Orleans. He is currently assisting in oversight of the construction of five new libraries and rehabilitation or renovation of five others as part of post-Hurricane Katrina rehabilitation efforts.
He is a Past President of the Young Leadership Council, an organization of over 1,400 members who create, run, fund, and oversee ongoing community service projects in the New Orleans metro area. Lee also serves on the Board of Directors for Infinity Science Center and Partners for Stennis, among others.
Acclaimed chef John Besh grew up in southern Louisiana, learning at an early age the essentials of Louisiana’s rich culinary traditions. Besh has set the benchmark for fine dining in New Orleans– with four successful restaurants – Restaurant August, Besh Steak, Lüke and La Provence. His talent and drive have earned Besh continuous kudos from the outset of his career: from Food & Wine’s “Top 10 Best New Chefs in America” to Gourmet’s “Guide to America’s Best Restaurants,” and “America’s Top 50 Restaurants”. He won the James Beard Award for Best Chef of the Southeast in 2006.
Besh’s passion to secure and preserve New Orleans’ culinary culture have led him to make a number of commitments to his community including concentration on local ingredients produced by local farmers, support of the Louisiana Seafood Council and involvement in organizations like Rebuild New Orleans (instrumental in the rebuilding of Willie Mae’s Scotch House, a local institution).
The chef has also represented the city and state he loves through several national television appearances
The father of four sons –Besh takes breaks from his popular New Orleans restaurants to engage in a longstanding family tradition: fishing. The chef says he wants his sons to understand the origin of local foods and the knowledge of food at its source.
In the early 1990s, he was a non-commissioned officer (NCO) in Operation Desert Storm in the Mideast, serving on active duty with the Marine Corps Reserves for 10 months, and led a squad in the company that liberated Kuwait International Airport..”