Emerging Speaker Showcase

Welcome to the Emerging Speaker Showcase

Thursday, February 23 | 3 – 4:30 p.m.
WOSU Ross Community Studio


The Emerging Speaker Showcase is a TED-like event featuring eight emerging speakers, each delivering a 9-minute talk. This event is produced by Articulation, under the direction of our founder, Ruth Milligan.

Meet Our Speakers

Ukeme Awakessien Jeter - Emerging Speaker ShowcaseUkeme Awakessien Jeter

A multi-passionate, first-gen immigrant, and transformational leader Ukeme Awakessien Jeter wears different hats in different spaces. No matter what space she’s in, her mission is to enable others to drive change. Ukeme has walked into rooms to help clients bring innovative products and services to the marketplace. An engineer turned lawyer, she’s a partner at a national law firm and works collaboratively with clients to develop solutions to the complex challenges encountered when driving innovation. She’s walked into rooms as a public servant advocating and championing policies and initiatives that drive equity, access and inclusion. In 2021, following a grassroots, community building campaign, Ukeme was elected as the first person of color on Upper Arlington City Council. In her pursuit to enable others to drive change, Ukeme is currently focused on Immigrant leadership development. Her upcoming book will help business leaders unlock the superpowers of immigrant talent to drive business results.

Rachel Finney

Rachel D.K. Finney is a CEO, speaker, author and Certified Animal Welfare Administrator with 20 years of experience in animal sheltering and 24 years of nonprofit leadership. Finney has degrees in nonprofit management, psychology, political science and sociology from Indiana University.

In 2015, Finney was recognized as Small Nonprofit CEO of the Year by Columbus CEO magazine and in 2013, she was recognized as one of the youngest ever “Forty Under 40” award winners. Finney is a natural teacher and regular guest lecturer for nonprofit management, human resources and veterinary students at The Ohio State University. She offers keynotes and workshops for corporations and nonprofit organizations, inspiring audiences to embrace and even benefit from the challenges they face.

Rachel describes herself as an Advantageist: one who expands perspective to find the advantages in difficult experiences. She operates under the philosophy that we should “never be afraid to do the right thing” and aspires to be a human being, rather than a human doing. Finney shares her bliss with her husband, 2 children, 3 dogs, 3 cats and 3 fish. It’s hairy.

Karen Hewitt

Culture Creator. Community Builder. Artist. Poet. Writer. Creatrix. Voice. Rest Advocate. Karen Hewitt is committed to doing the work of creating experiences that connect, foster belonging, and create community. Karen is a co-founder of The Ohio REST Collective. She is a non-negotiable stand for the most vulnerable and the dignity and value of every human life. Currently, Karen is a highly requested speaker, moderator, facilitator and emcee. Ze is considered a subject matter expert in the areas of: Gender and Sexuality, Intersectionality, Diversity Management, Culture Management, Leadership Development and Team Building; centering Black and LGBTQ+ experiences and wisdom. Karen is a published author and poet and has traveled locally and nationally to perform poetry, sing, drum and do improv comedy and poetry. Karen is an invitation. Her work and presence compels others to journey inward, and encourages them to see the world in more expansive and hopeful ways.

Varsey Laurelle, MBA, CELC, CTA

Varsey Laurelle lives in Columbus, Ohio with her daughter, son, + chihuahua who keep her busy, stimulated, + humble! Though she identifies as a “Buckeye,” she also claims Ft. Lauderdale, Florida as her home. She is the first American born citizen on my mom’s side of the family, therefore is a proud multi-flag waving Bahamian American! She is a graduate of Wright State University where she obtained her BA in Mass Communications with a Public Speaking + Marketing focus. During undergrad, she had dreams of being a VJ for 106 and Park! But upon receiving her MBA from Ashland University, she found a new passion for the inner workings of business. She is extremely passionate about assisting leaders in curating spaces where their team members are seen, valued, + heard. She does this with empathy, awareness, + intentionality as her core guiding lights. Having over thirteen years of experience in Organizational + Professional Development has allowed her to harness her craft + further cultivate her passion. She supports leaders in creating spaces where people feel empowered to be their best selves, contribute, + thrive! She serves on the Board of Directors for the National Black Women’s Creative Cooperative whose mission is to liberate Black Women from oppressive + toxic work environments and generate wealth. She enjoys having meaningful conversations, preferably over a nice glass of wine (off the clock, of course), spending time in nature with friends + family, + traveling.

Rachael A. Pinckney

Rachael A. Pickney is a product of Columbus City Schools and grew up far East Columbus. She attended The Ohio State University majoring in Agribusiness and Applied Managerial Economics. She has worked in Public and Private sector companies ranging from healthcare to insurance and most recently Finance. Rachael found her passion and calling as a leadership coach. She’s now a Leadership Development Trainer and Coach at Virago Consulting, LLC and provides a variety of consulting services to small and medium-sized organizations. She has two teenage children and is married to her college sweetheart, a Columbus Fire Fighter/Paramedic. Her passion is serving others in a meaningful way.

Lee Whitwell - Emerging Speaker ShowcaseLee Whitwell

Lee Whitwell is professional pickleball player known for her early adoption of the sport, her spirit and humor on and off the court and her love of teaching and promoting the sport amongst youth. Originally from Gibraltar, she now lives in Florida where she trains and practices for tournaments in the PPA, APP and MLP league, where she is a member of the Texas Ranchers team.

Donte Woods-Spikes - Emerging Speaker Showcase -photo courtesy of the Columbus FoundationDonte Woods-Spikes

Donte Woods-Spikes is an author, TEDx Speaker, and child advocate from Columbus Ohio. Donte’s community advocacy through video and storytelling began with his project, A Talk With Our Sons, which documented his teen group of young Black men sharing their perspectives about life and how society views them. In 2020, Donte’s Film, As a Matter of Black, won an award from Greater Columbus Arts Council and was shown at Sundance Film Festival.

His book, So. Long. Unfinished Good-byes with the Children of COVID-19 explores his experience as a Black male educator, as well the realities that children face in public schools of the inner-city. His goal with the book is to start a national dialogue between educators, hoping to provide policymakers and school boards with qualitative data to better support teachers and students in the classrooms.

Photo courtesy of the Columbus Foundation.

Hope Yin

Hope Yin is a Professional Certified Coach (PCC) by International Coaching Federation and Certified Professional Coach (CPC) by iPEC (Institute for Professional Excellence in Coaching). She is devoted to influencing and supporting Women in STEM on their journey of continued success. Hope is a technology executive in one of the largest Financial Institutions. In 2021, Hope was awarded Technology All-Stars by the Women of Color Conference.

Hope holds an M.S. in Computer Science and Engineering, an M.S. in Industrial & Systems Engineering and an M.S. in Aerospace Manufacturing Engineering.

Hope is an active community leader and volunteer. Her life philosophy is, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” In her spare time, Hope loves reading, hiking, running, paddle boarding, skiing, biking, yoga and meditation.

Want to host your own TED-like event at your organization? We can help. Learn more about Articulation’s Transforming Talks program.