KAAN 2015 Conference Speakers
Speakers subject to change without notice.
Dr. Amarel is a licensed clinical psychologist in private practice in New York City, where he specializes in couples therapy, trauma, and diverse identity issues. David has received twelve years of intensive training in adoptive parenting from Eli (Inbeom) and Lucy (Sunghee). Along with his wife, Martha Crawford, the family of four resides in Brooklyn. David is proud to be a columnist for Gazillion Voices (gazillionvoices.com).
As a transracial Korean adoptee raised in Minnesota, Aeriel developed a passion for facilitating healing conversations about race during her graduate studies at the University of Maryland. Specializing in racial identity development, women's leadership and empowerment, and transracial adoption issues, Aeriel has been a scholar-practitioner in higher education for more than eight years. Last year, Aeriel co-founded Ashlee Consulting with her life and business partner, to intentionally foster brave spaces for others to engage in bold conversations. Aeriel's positivity coupled with her story-centered facilitation style makes her a highly dynamic educator, consultant, and social justice advocate.
Hailing from a small town in Michigan, Kyle grew up with a knack for community development and relationship building. Throughout his career, he has discovered that engaging in social justice and anti-racism work has made him happier and healthier. Kyle specializes in working with boys and men around bystander intervention, ally development, and positive masculinity. He also specializes in engaging white-identified folks in conversations about white privilege and allyship. Having worked around the world in places like Switzerland, Poland, the Dominican Republic, the United Arab Emirates, and multiple states across the U.S., Kyle brings a wealth of experience and knowledge to his work as a facilitator, writer, trainer, and coach.
Uhriel is a native of Panama and has lived in the U.S. for close to two decades. An international banker by trade, he has done business in over 15 countries and has traveled to over 35, including his first trip to Korea in 2011. He returned with his wife Jannie, a Korean adoptee, in 2014 for her birth family search. In his spare time he likes to perform with his classical chorus and spend time with his Little Brother from Big Brothers Big Sisters. He and Jannie reside in Miami.
Kerry is an adult Korean adoptee whose participation in KAAN has included volunteering, facilitating sessions, and organizing bone marrow donor registration drives. She first became aware of the Korean adoption community in 2001 when she traveled back to Korea on the Holt Motherland tour. She currently works as a Physician Assistant at the University of Michigan in Hematology/Oncology.
Adopted at the age of three, Michael was raised in Pennsylvania where he later attended college and grad school. Currently residing in Arlington and studying at George Washington University, he has a degree in counseling and experience in the field of mental health and addictions. Michael has attended KAAN intermittently as a panelist and workshop leader.
Sara is an adult adoptee who has been involved with the Korean adoption community since 2003. She has been to multiple KAAN conferences and is a member of KAAN's Advisory Council. Sara has also been added as a staff member of Connect-a-Kid for the Family Outreach department. She has been able to teach, demonstrate, and display a positive aspect of the adoption triad. She has also worked as a mental health professional for Hope Network (nonprofit) organization for the past eight years.
Melanie Chung-Sherman is the clinical director for Post-Adoption Services at ChristianWorks for Children in Dallas, TX. She specializes in adoption-related therapy which serves all members of the adoption constellation. She and her younger brother were adopted from South Korea in the 1970s. She and her husband live in North Dallas and have two energetic boys.
Martha Crawford is a clinical social worker, psychotherapist, and clinical supervisor with a generalist private practice in NYC for the past twenty years. She is a graduate of NYU School of Social Work and Advanced Certificate Program in Clinical Social Work. She is an adoptive parent to two children born in Korea, and the current Parent Liaison for Camp Sejong. She has been a columnist with Gazillion Voices magazine and is the author of the blog What a Shrink Thinks.
Chris Detrych joined Connect-A-Kid as a mentor in April 2015. Currently residing in Chicago, he is also involved with Korean Adoptees of Chicago (KAtCH). Born in Seoul, Chris was adopted to Detroit at 3 months old and spent his formative years in the surrounding suburbs. While attending the University of Michigan, he co-founded a Korean adoptee student organization. The 2015 KAAN conference marks Chris' first KAAN event, so he is eager to get involved, attend the sessions, and meet other participants. Don't hesitate to say hi if you see him around.
Dawn Downey is an author and essayist, published in journals and anthologies. In her memoir, Stumbling Toward the Buddha, she describes the challenges of being an African American raised by a white stepmother. At the other end of her life, as half of an interracial marriage, she and her former husband raised her nephew from age five to fifteen, as his legal guardians. She lives in Kansas City and uses her blog to foster heart-centered conversations about spirituality in daily life.
Judge Draper was appointed Associate Circuit Judge on April 13, 2004 by Governor Bob Holden. Judge Draper is a founding member of the Missouri Asian American Bar Association ("MAABA") and served as President from 2001-2003 and now serves as Historian and Board Member. Judge Draper is a member of the Woman Lawyer's Association, National Association of Women Judges, and the National Asian American Bar Association. Judge Draper was also appointed Honorary Consul to the Republic of Korea. She is married to Judge, George W. Draper III, appointed to the Missouri Supreme Court in 2011. They have one daughter who is an attorney.
Mei-Mei Ellerman, PhD, resident scholar at the Brandeis Women's Studies Research Center, focuses on memoir writing, social activism, photography, and reiki. She has both spoken and written on adoption-related issues. She is working on two memoirs based on her life journey and her two-decade-long search for her origins as well as her adoptive family's history. Founding director emerita of Polaris, leading anti-trafficking and modern-day-slavery NGO, Mei-Mei is deeply committed to address growing industry of transnational trafficking in adoption. She also serves on the board of Chinese Adoptee Links International and is co-founder of Global Generations. She regularly contributes a blog piece to ChineseAdoptee.com on adoption-related issues, Chinese culture, and history for the vast international community of adopted persons, especially the younger generation. Recent publications as co-founder of the An-Ya Project with Diane Rene Christian include "Perpetual Child, Dismantling the Stereotype, an Adult Adoptee Anthology" and "Dear Wonderful You, Letters to Adopted and Fostered Youth," which Mei-Mei also co-edited.
Erica Engler is the mom of two sons (5 and 8 years old) adopted from South Korea. Erica strives to incorporate Korean language and culture into her family's life. Professionally, Erica is the Clinical Director at Rockford Sexual Assault Counseling.
Alysha is an adult Korean adoptee who has attended KAAN in previous years.
Erica Gehringer is a recent graduate of the University of Michigan, where she studied Sociology and Asian/Pacific Islander American studies. Throughout her time there, she co-created an on-campus Korean adoptee group, wrote a thesis on Korean American adoptees' perceptions of Korean American adoption itself, joined a youth adoptee mentoring program, and helped design a class focused on the topics of international adoption. She plans to attend graduate school in the near future to continue her work and research as an adoption scholar.
Elizabeth was adopted from Korea at the age of four months and was raised in Springfield, Illinois. Growing up, she enjoyed playing sports and attending Korean culture camp. Over the years, Elizabeth has loved visiting Korea for homeland tours, study abroad, and vacation. She graduated from the University of Illinois with a Bachelor's in Education and a Master's in Curriculum and Instruction. Teaching kindergarten, first grade, and fifth grade has been her passion. Currently she resides in Evansville, Indiana with her husband Ron and their dog Toby.
Shannon is a writer, educator, and activist in Minneapolis. Her Young Adult novel SEE NO COLOR, which deals heavily with transracial adoption, will be released by Carolrhoda Lab in November 2015. Her writing has appeared in a variety of venues, including The Crisis, Gawker, and Inside Higher Ed. Gibney is Faculty in English at Minneapolis Community and Technical College (MCTC), where she teaches critical and creative writing, journalism, and African diasporic topics. She was adopted by a white family in Ann Arbor, Michigan in 1975 and currently lives with her husband and children in Minneapolis.
Feminist columnist for the Lost Daughters, Rosita is a transracial, Korean-American adoptee. She was adopted in 1968 at the age of one through Holt International. Her road has been speckled with Puerto Rican and Appalachian history. While quite content with her role as a "Tennerican," Rosita is now processing her biological roots through ceramics, writing and photography. With the help of G.O.A.'L., she visited Korea in August 2014. She shares her adventures as an adoptee and parent on her blog, mothermade. She has also joined the Dear Wonderful You project aimed at adopted tweens and teens.
Mark Hagland is an adult Korean adoptee. He was born in South Korea in 1960 and adopted in infancy by parents of Norwegian-American and German-American descent. He was raised in Milwaukee, WI, and attended the University of Wisconsin (BA) and Northwestern University (MS-Journalism). He has spent 15 years in public spaces discussing and presenting on topics related to transracial adoption, including 14 years' participation in the KAAN Conference. He lives and works in Chicago.
Ellen Picklesimer Heitzig was adopted when she was five months old and grew up in central Illinois with her younger sister, also adopted from Kore,. She received her master's degree in social work from Washington University in St. Louis and is currently a district social worker with the City of St. Charles School District. She is also grateful to be able to give back to a community that has given her and her family so much insight into adoption and Korean culture. Ellen is currently the social worker for Sejong Cultural Experience Inc. and travels on the annual Korea trip each year. In this position, she works with adolescents and has facilitated biological family reunions. Ellen was asked to serve as the St. Louis area coordinator for KAAN 2015 and is thrilled to show off "The Lou" and be a part of something so remarkable.
Ben was adopted at the age of 4 from Taegu, South Korea. He currently resides in Chicago and is involved in the Chicago Connect-A-Kid program. Outside of work, Ben likes work out and supports all Chicago professional teams.
Jen and her husband have three children - two they adopted from China and South Korea and one born to them. Their children are 20, 17 and 9. Jen has participated in KAAN Conferences for over ten years in many capacities. Currently she serves on the Advisory Board for KAAN.
Courtney Huber previously served as the Director of Marketing for Connect-A-Kid and recently accepted the position as CEO of Connect-A-Kid alongside with their President, Robin Kim. Courtney has been active in Connect-A-Kid for 2 years and previous to that helped to form the first Asian American Employee Resource Group at her previous employer, Discovery Communications, and helped to form the first Asian Pacific Islander Club at her alma mater, Salisbury University. She served as a counselor and attendee at Camp MuJiGae at the Parsons Child Campus in Albany, NY. Courtney was born in Busan, South Korea, raised in Sparks, MD, and currently resides in West Palm Beach, FL.
Heidi was adopted at the age of 11 months from Korea. She returned to Korea for her first trip home in 2012 with the Journey program and returned in 2013 to help coordinate on the tour. She attended her first, official, adoptee gathering (KAAN in 2013 in Grand Rapids, MI) as a youth counselor volunteer and presenter for Connect A Kid (CAK). Heidi has been the Director of Mentor Recruiting for CAK since the program began in 2012, is a mentor for the Orlando/Tampa CAK team, and has returned to KAAN to help coordinate this year's youth program.
Taneka joined Connect-A-Kid as a mentor in February of 2015. She is thrilled that Connect-A-Kid and Korean Adoptees of Chicago (KAtCH) can partner to make this great opportunity a reality for Chicago-area adoptees and adoptive families. Taneka has been an active member of KAtCH since 2009, currently serving as its President. She resides in Chicago and works in non-profit policy and strategic planning. Her diverse interests include singing, dancing, running, cooking and artistic endeavors, mentoring and volunteering in the community. She enjoys opportunities to meet and connect with other adoptees and adoptive families, building meaningful relationships in the community. Taneka grew up in New Jersey and has one older sister, who is not adopted.
Stephen D Johnson is an adoptee, activist and self-identified Evangelical. He studied social work at Baylor University and international development at Eastern University's School of Leadership and Development. Stephen and his partner currently reside in New Haven, Connecticut.
Soojung was adopted from South Korea at age 3 and raised in Kentucky. Soojung lives and writes in Southern California with her husband and four children (three biological, one adopted). She was reunited with her first family in 2013 and is now learning to navigate post-reunion life with both Korean and American families.
Robin Kim joined the board of Connect-A-Kid at the end of 2014 and has since taken on a leadership role with the operating organization as President along with Courtney Huber as CEO. As the famous commercial says: "I'm not only the President, but also an active mentor as well" with Connect-a-Kid's second Chicago-based team. Along with Connect-A-Kid, Robin has been active in the adult Korean adoptee community as Treasurer of Korean Adoptees of Chicago (KAtCH). Professionally, Robin works for Wells Fargo where she has spent fifteen years in financial forecasting and analysis and, most recently, project management. She is the chair of the local Diversity & Inclusion Council, president of the local Volunteer Chapter and helped start the local Asian employee affinity group. Robin grew up in northern Iowa, the youngest of five siblings and currently resides in Chicago.
Jannie was adopted at the age of two from Korea. She returned to Korea for her first trip home in 2011 with her husband Uhriel. She attended her first KAAN in 2012 in Albany, NY, and it was a revelation to spend time with other adoptees where often words wre not needed in order to be understood. She then became a presenter for KAAN 2013 in Minneapolis, MN and is looking forward to reconnecting with everyone in St. Louis.
Michelle is an adoptee, and a contributor at Lost Daughters. Born and adopted in the U.S., she grew up during the closed-adoption era and has been in reunion for three years. She and her husband are parents to three sons through birth and a daughter through international adoption from Korea.
Marissa Lichwick-Glesne is an actress based currently out of Chicago. She received her MFA in Drama from the University Washington and has appeared at numerous theatre around the country. Favorites include Goodman Theatre, Guthrie Theatre, Denver Center, Steppenwolf, Court Theatre, and the New York Fringe Festival, where Yellow Dress made its east coast premiere. More at www.marissalichwick.com.
Joy Lieberthal is a Korean adopted social worker and clinician from New York. She has been active in the adoption community for over fifteen years starting as a policy analyst at the Adoption Institute to working in post-adoption for a private adoption agency. She has been president of Also-Known-As in NYC and created their long running mentorship program.
Deann Borshay Liem has over twenty years of experience working in development, production and distribution of independent documentaries. She is producer, director, and writer for the Emmy-Award-nominated documentary First Person Plural (Sundance, 2000) and the award-winning film In the Matter of Cha Jung Hee (PBS, 2010); Executive Producer for Spencer Nakasako's Kelly Loves Tony (PBS, 1998) and AKA Don Bonus (PBS, 1996, Emmy Award); and Executive Producer for On Coal River (Silverdocs, 2010) by Francine Cavanaugh and Adams Wood. She served as Co-Producer for Special Circumstances (PBS, 2009) by Marianne Teleki which follows Chilean exile, Hector Salgado, as he attempts to reconcile with former interrogators and torturers in Chile. She was the former director of the Center for Asian American Media (CAAM) where she supervised the development, distribution and broadcast of new films for public television and worked with Congress to support minority representation in public media. A Sundance Institute Fellow and a recipient of a Rockefeller Film/Video Fellowship, Deann is the director, producer and writer of the new feature-length documentary Geographies of Kinship - The Korean Adoption Story. [Deann's commentary will be shared via video.]
Ramsay Liem is professor emeritus of psychology, Boston College, past co-coordinator for the Asian American Studies Program, and visiting scholar in the Center for Human Rights and International Justice. He is also a co-founder of the Ignacio Martin-Baro Fund for Mental Health and Human Rights, a project of the CHRIJ. He has conducted oral histories with Korean American survivors of the Korean War and directed the multi-media project Still Present Pasts: Korean Americans and the "Forgotten War" (www.stillpresentpasts.org) based on this research. Still Present Pasts has been shown at fourteen sites in the U.S. and South Korea. He is currently co-director (with Deann Borshay Liem) and executive producer for the award-winning film Memory of Forgotten War. His latest publication is "When a Fireball Drops in your Hole: Biography Formed in the Crucible of War" (in G. Yoo (Ed.), Koreans in America: History, Culture and Identity. Ch. 40. San Diego, CA: Cognella Academic Publishing, 2012.
Annette-Kassaye is a Quebecoise-Canadian transracial adoptee from Ethiopia. She writes for Gazillion Voices and Lost Daughters and recently co-founded Ethiopian Adoptees of the Diaspora. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and a minor in Human Rights Studies from Concordia University in Montreal.
After leaving Korea in 1961, Allen was raised with my adoptive family on a farm in rural Illinois. His connection to the adoptee community is primarily through group KAtCH, the Korean Adoptees of Chicago, where he served as an executive board member for several years. The adoptee community is a second (third?) family to him, and he feels fortunate to have many adoptee friends in the USA, Europe, and Korea. He is also grateful to be able to volunteer my time and energy in support of other adoptees and adoptee causes. His professional vocation involves negotiating labor contracts and representing clients in adverse employment situations. Travel and travel photography are among his interests. His three sons and two daughters are out of college.
DAN aka DAN (Dan Matthews) is an alternative hip hop artist based in Los Angeles, CA. He recently produced a documentary about meeting his biological family including an identical twin brother he never knew. He's also the director of productions at ISAtv where he works alongside influential Asian American entertainment groups Wong Fu Productions and Far East Movement to develop content for a digital network. He's recently put out an album, "Stuntman," discussing identity, addiction, and adoption. It's a companion piece to his adoption documentary "aka DAN."
Hollee McGinnis is a prominent speaker, writer, and community organizer on intercountry and transracial adoptions. She is currently a PhD candidate in social work at Washington University in St. Louis. Her dissertation, funded by the Korea Foundation and U.S. Fulbright, examines the mental health and academic outcomes of adolescents in orphanages in South Korea. Prior to returning to school she was the policy director at the Donaldson Adoption Institute where she headed a national study on adult adoptees' adoption and racial identity. In 1996 she founded Also-Known-As, Inc., a non-profit adult intercountry adoptee organization in New York City.
Kimberly D. McKee, PhD is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Liberal Studies at Grand Valley State University in Grand Rapids, MI. Her current book manuscript, tentatively titled Markets, Children and "Love": Interrogating the Transnational Adoption Industrial Complex, interrogates the institutional practice of international adoption and traces the origins of what she terms the transnational adoption industrial complex. Her second project explores how racialized and sexualized depictions of Asian/Asian American women circulate within the U.S. as a result of American militarism abroad and its impact on the female adoptee body. She is currently KAAN's Assistant Director and serves on the Advisory Council.
Michele is the mother of seven year old Korean adoptee Dane Won Seok. They live in northwestern Illinois and enjoy spending time with family and friends. In her professional life, Michele is the director of marketing and sales for a senior supportive living community.
Katie Naftzger, Korean-adoptee, has worked in the adoption community for more than fifteen years. As an adoption therapist, Katie sees primarily adopted teens, adults and adoptive parents. She has also led online and local workshops for parents of adopted teens and "tweens," and often talks about empowerment. Learn more about Katie's work at http://adoptiontherapyma.com.
Aaron is a 23-year-old Korean-American adoptee and recent graduate of Southern Illinois University of Edwardsville with a degree in Graphic Design. He works at a small design shop called Aggressive Graphics. In his spare time, he likes to take photos, ride his bike, and spend time with friends and family. He was fortunate enough to come in contact with the founder of Sejong, Mrs.Haekyung Jo. She and other colleagues directed Aaron on a path that has led him to meet his biological mom in Korea. His return journey to Korea is one that has changed his life.
Founder and principle trainer at TransracialAdoptionTraining.com, Robert has been leading transracial adoption training sessions and training engagements for more than eighteen years. He is a highly sought-after child welfare and diversity consultant serving county, state, federal, for-profit and non-profit entities. Robert is an adult transracial adoptee of African-American descent. He and his older brother experienced multiple failed adoptions and foster care prior to being transracially adopted at the age of four. He grew up as part of one of the first generations of transracial adoptive families. He has used his life experiences to move from state ward to state ward administrator, from special ed. student to college professor, and from cultural isolation to practice innovation.
Susan Harris O'Connor is a nationally known solo performance artist and author of The Harris Narratives: An Introspective Study of a Transracial Adoptee. She is also a professional coach/consultant and director of quality assurance and adoption services at Children's Services of Roxbury. In 2014 Ms. O'Connor received the Outstanding Practitioner in Adoption Award from St. John's University.
Benjamin Oser, born in Seoul and raised in Central New Jersey, has had experience and opportunities to learn and dissect the intricate relationships with identity and self-awareness, as it relates oneself in the Korean community and the broader community. During graduate school he became self-aware of his identity but wasn't satisfied with just the written materials and set off to immerse himself in the culture by moving to Korea and teach English. Having returned in 2012, Benjamin has been active in Camp Sejong, a cultural heritage camp for children and young adults to engage in and learn Korean culture. In conjunction with the leadership staff of the Sejong Cultural Education Corp. He directs camp for Camp Sejong.
Margie Perscheid is the adoptive parent of two young adults, both of whom were adopted from Korea as infants. She was a co-founder of DC-based Korean Focus, is an advisor for KAAN and SKAN, and blogs occasionally at Third Mom.
Lisa Marie Rollins is a writer, playwright, solo performer and reproductive justice organizer. She has been a commentator on CNN, HuffPostLive, NPR and is one of Colorlines' "Innovators to Watch" for her work in reproductive justice / global transracial adoption. As Founder of AFAAD, Adopted and Fostered Adults of the African Diaspora, Lisa Marie helped build one of the first organizations to focus on the needs of Adult Adoptees of African descent. Lisa Marie holds an M.A. in Cultural Studies & an M.A. in African Diaspora Studies from University of California Berkeley. Her future dissertation work focuses on the (de)construction of black women's bodies in the discourse of domestic and international adoption. She is author of the acclaimed solo show, Ungrateful Daughter: One Black Girls Story of being adopted by a White Family... that aren't Celebrities. She is former Poet in Residence for June Jordan's Poetry for the People at U.C. Berkeley, a VONA Writing Workshop alum, and a Callaloo London Writing Fellow. She is currently finishing her poetry chapbook "Anchoring the Compass" and writing on her new play "TOKEN." She is a 2015-2016 Artist-in-Residence at Brava Theater Center for Women in San Francisco. firstname.lastname@example.org
Rachel (MSW, University of Albany; undergraduate, James Madison University) is a Korean adoptee raised near Binghamton, NY. She currently serves as KAAN's registrar and a member of the Advisory Council. She lives and works in Albany.
Matt is married to Stacy Schroeder (KAAN's Executive Director) and is the proud father of two adoptees, Nicholas and Allison. He has thoroughly enjoyed and appreciated the educational and networking opportunities afforded to him by KAAN and is excited to share his experiences with and learn from other adoptive dads and adoptees.
Stacy Schroeder is the president and executive director of KAAN and lives with her family in Pennsylvania. She also coordinates Ta-ri, a local group that brings together those with ties to Korea for cultural and community-building activities. In 2007, she organized a weeklong camp for young adoptees and their families. Stacy's previous nonprofit experience includes serving as a full-time camp director, working at a library, and co-authoring a book. It brings Stacy joy to see the bonds forged at KAAN continue to flourish and bring support throughout the year, including for her son and daughter, who are teen adoptees themselves.
Jenn is an adult Korean adoptee. She was born in Pusan, South Korea. This will be her sixth KAAN conference and she is excited to share her experiences. She currently lives in Pennsylvania with her husband and two children.
Mike is a facility manager working in Malvern PA, married to the beautiful Jenn Tavenner. We have two beautiful children. We enjoy cooking, crossfitting, and hanging out around the house.
Amanda is an author, speaker, activist, and licensed social worker who serves children and families as a therapist and consultant in the behavioral health field. She has served the adoption and foster care communities through individual and family clinical work, group work, writing and presenting, and working for positive policy change. Her writing and presentations have reached broad audiences through multiple books, magazines, major news and radio interviews, and conferences, and she has engaged with legislators at the state and congressional levels on adoption policy. You can find her writing in various publishing corners of the adoption world, but mostly here, at Gazillion Voices Magazine, Social Work Helper, Lost Daughters, and her personal blog, The Declassified Adoptee.
Terra Trevor (Western Band Cherokee, Delaware, Seneca) is a mother, grandmother and a widely published author whose work is shaped and infused by her identity as a mixed-blood in white and American Indian societies. With her husband she raised three children, who are now grown, two of whom were adopted from Korea. Terra's memoir "Pushing up the Sky," published by KAAN, is widely anthologized.
Alex Wager is a working animator and designer in NYC where he has worked for companies such as Tiffany's and Diane von Furstenberg, and is currently directing and animating a short film. He has also been involved with many adoptee organizations over the years, most recently at Camp Mujigae where he served as Co-Director in 2014.
Born and educated through college in South Korea, she has worked as a clinical psychologist in Michigan for almost 40 years. She is the author of Birth is More than Once: The Inner World of Adopted Korean Children and the primary editor of After the Morning Calm: Reflections of Korean Adoptees. Her new book, Asian Americans in Michigan, is released in 2015.
Kate is an adult adoptee who was adopted from Seoul when she was five months old. She is a research project coordinator who lives in the Bronx with her wife and two dogs.