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Our Team

Tricia Brunton
Tricia Brunton
President

Tricia Brunton founded “The Females’ Center of Excellence and Leadership” (Xcel) as a student-focused organization at Northeastern University, Boston, MA, in 2002. Tricia served, as President and member of NU Xcel’s Executive Board until 2005.

In 2005, Tricia and then co-Directors, Neakai Lewis, Olympia Valentine, Makeda Keegan and Allison Appel incorporated The Females’ Center of Excellence and Leadership in Massachusetts. Tricia continues to lead organizational efforts to provide value added programs and services to its members and the community, while expanding its outreach through resource development and establishing long-term relationships with businesses, community organizations and educational institutions.

Tricia has over 15 years of experience in accounting and finance within manufacturing and healthcare industries. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Finance and Marketing from Northeastern University as well as an MBA and a Master of Science in Finance degree from Indiana University. Tricia has held leadership positions at United Technologies, General Electric, Connecticut Health Insurance Exchange and is currently the Controller at Health New England.

Karen Randall
Karen Randall
Director

Karen is a Manufacturing Plant Operations Manager who is passionate about providing support to future women leaders in traditional male-dominated industries. She has been instrumental in mentoring young women from elementary school through high school ages to increase their interest in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) through the Women In Nuclear (WIN) Program. Additionally, she has been involved with several workplace support groups for women.

Karen believes that a woman’s unique leadership style brings much needed compassion, empathy and fairness into the workplace. When employees can’t or don’t take care of themselves, their family or feel mistreated in the workplace, they are not engaged. Engaged employees care about their work and their company. She believes that balance in life, work and self-care is critical to survival. Leaders who care about their employees get the reciprocal benefit.

Karen holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Nuclear Engineering from the University of Massachusetts Lowell and a Master’s degree in Business Administration from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. She became a certified Project Management Profession (PMP) in 2000 and a certified Lean Six Sigma Black Belt in 2006. She is also a Certified Yoga Teacher.

Amy Smalarz
Amy Smalarz
Director

Amy Smalarz is a lot of things. A wife. A mother. A Ph.D. A woman’s empowerment coach, author, Podcast host, speaker, Professor, contributor to Huffington Post and Founder, Women’s Biz Accelerator.

All of those things are the building blocks for the focus of Amy’s core values and driving ambition – helping women uncover and rediscover their truest, best selves, discover how to Live Intentionally and empower themselves in their personal lives and business.

Amy spends her weekdays teaching at University of Massachusetts (UMass) Lowell in the Department of Public Health. Her work has focused on Executive Coaching as well as health care services research, specifically the impact of organizational culture and structure on the delivery of care services in multiple settings. She received a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology and Sociology from Brandeis University, a Masters in Healthcare Administration from Simmons College and earned a PhD in Social Policy as a Fellow in the Academy of Healthcare Research and Quality from Brandeis University.

Nancy Nicolescu
Nancy Nicolescu
Director

Nancy Nicolescu is the Director of Education and Communications for the Connecticut Office of State Ethics. Nancy is a highly effective communicator, trainer and spokesperson. She is an executive team member focused on agency organization and has developed and implemented regulatory and policy initiatives. Nancy has over 20 years of experience and knowledge serving the public sector.

Prior to joining the Connecticut Office of State Ethics, she was a senior manager at the State Elections Enforcement Commission and was responsible for the administration of public campaign financing through the Citizen’s Election Program which provides grants to General Assembly candidates and Constitutional Officers.

Nancy is the Vice Chair of the Management Advisory Council and serves as a judge for the School for Ethical Education, Laws of Life Essay Program. Nancy is from Connecticut, is married with three children and enjoys spending weekends with her family.

Olivia Otto
Olivia Otto
LinkHer Manager

Olivia Otto is a devoted Care Manager at Connecticut Community Care where she manages and coordinates home care services for elderly clients to prevent institutionalization. Utilizing a person-centered approach, with tailored individualized plans of care, she ensures client needs are met through; ongoing support, budget management, risk mitigation and discharge planning.

Through her experiences with different non-profit organizations, she has worked with vulnerable populations including youths in foster care, victims of domestic violence, people with developmental disabilities and co-occurring disorders.

Dedicated to the public service field, she is passionate about the people she serves. She enjoys advocating for her clients, identifying resources and finding creative solutions to the complex challenges they face. Olivia holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Urban and Community Studies from the University of Connecticut.

Maureen Ross Gemme
Maureen Ross Gemme
Director

Prior to launching her successful business as an educator and leadership mentor, Maureen Ross Gemme, enjoyed a 27 year career at a Fortune 200 company. After experiencing a major life transformation in her 20’s, Maureen learned early on what it takes to advance and grow in a challenging business environment.

Maureen has been training and coaching professionals at work and young women in the community for over 30 years. Since founding Emerge Leadership Academy LLC, her focus has been on developing leaders who want to make an impact and get the most out of their people. Maureen is passionate about helping her clients overcome life’s obstacles, develop their confidence to present their ideas solidly and lead others so they can live up to their full potential and move forward faster.

Maureen holds a Bachelors of Arts degree in Psychology from Saint Joseph College (now University of St. Joseph) and a Master of Science degree in Education with a Focus on Training and Performance Improvement from Capella University.

Marlude Pierre-Louis
Marlude Pierre-Louis
Analytics Manager

Marlude believes in the power of effective mentoring and has partnered with many organizations that promote youth development and mentorship. Marlude’s experience in data collection, analytics and customer service enables her to lead the coordination and alignment of Xcel’s programs within the community in a strategic and impactful way.

Marlude previously interned at United States Attorney’s Office, where she assisted with creating and implementing anti-violence programs and planning outreach meetings with community leaders. She also interned at United States Senator Richard Blumenthal’s Office, where she supported briefings for the Senator’s upcoming events and responded to constituents’ economic and social matters.

Marlude Pierre-Louis holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Legal Studies from the University of New Haven and a Master of Science degree in Business Analytics from Quinnipiac University. Marlude is currently an Enrollment Analyst at Access Health CT, Connecticut’s health insurance marketplace.

Lisa Sabbatino
Lisa Sabbatino
Director

Lisa is a 28 year pharmaceutical industry leader and contributor. She has vast experience in sales management, national account program development, business operations and strategic planning. She has lead many teams to top ranking success within highly competitive arenas.

Most recently Lisa has provided consulting services in the biotech space where she assists in building and launching start-ups looking to outsource their sales and marketing functions.

Throughout her career she has measured her personal success by how many people she has helped to achieve their goals. Lisa believes that although the inequality of women in the workplace has improved over the years, the gender gap in leadership roles remains a significant problem and must be addressed. She is on a mission to help make a difference and Xcel’s core focus provides a great foundation for this change.

Lisa holds a Bachelor of Science degree from Springfield College. She is an active member of her towns Historic District Commission. Her greatest pride comes from raising her two amazing daughters who she believes will someday experience true equality in the workplace and they will help lead the change.

Debanjan Dey
Debanjan Dey
Director

Deb Dey has over 17 years of industry experience with Global Consulting and Fortune 100 companies. Over the years, Deb has worked on several transformation initiatives in IT, Business and Ops functions. Deb’s experience spans across companies in Asia, Europe, LATAM and US leading diverse teams across geographies.

Deb is deeply involved with the cause of women empowerment and believes there is lot that still needs to be done across several dimensions including the role of men in enabling this. He is working on a committee focused on creating a diverse and inclusive environment at his workplace. Deb has been involved with several charity organizations volunteering and raising money for their cause.

Deb holds a Bachelor of Engineering degree in Electronics and Telecommunication from Assam Engineering College and an Executive Leadership certificate from University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business. Deb is an avid sports fan, who plays soccer and golf. He also coaches boys travel soccer team, loves reading and blogging.