Featured Speakers

Alex Fischer

Alex Fischer

President and CEO, Columbus Partnership
Alex Fischer is President and CEO of the Columbus Partnership, a civic leadership organization formed in 2002 of Columbus, Ohio’s, top business leaders to improve the economic and cultural base of central Ohio. The Partnership is helping to lead the Columbus 2020 economic development effort, which is a collaboration of regional economic development organizations. The membership of the Partnership is composed exclusively of chairpersons and chief executive officers of Columbus’ largest companies and institutions and includes 15 Fortune 1000 CEOs.
The Columbus Partnership played a key role in winning the U.S. Department of Transportation’s “Smart City Challenge” to bring $50 million of grant funding to the city and receiving official designation as the “Smart City” of North America. Fischer serves as Co-Chairman of Smart Columbus and leads the private-sector efforts to make Columbus a pioneer in smart mobility. Fischer also serves as Chairman of Nationwide Children’s Hospital; Trustee of The Ohio State University; and on the boards of Advanced Drainage Systems, Columbus 2020, Nationwide Children’s Championship and The Ohio State Innovation Foundation.
A native of Hendersonville, Tennessee, Fischer graduated from the University of Tennessee in Knoxville with a bachelor’s degree in business administration and a master’s degree from the school of Architecture and Planning. Alex and his wife Lori have three children and reside in the city of Columbus.

Dr. Javaune Adams-Gaston

Dr. Javaune Adams-Gaston

Senior Vice President for Student Life, The Ohio State University
Javaune, or Dr. J, as she is affectionately called, oversees the operations of the Office of Student Life and its constituent departments. She represents Student Life in the university's senior administration and provides leadership on issues affecting students. She has broad leadership responsibility for numerous university operations affecting students outside the classroom, including residence halls, food service, the Ohio Union and student activities, student leadership development, mental health counseling, career direction, recreational sports, health care and wellness programs, disability services, the Multicultural Center, off-campus student services, the student judicial process, student advocacy and crisis intervention.
Javaune came to Ohio State in January 2009 as Vice President for Student Life from the University of Maryland, where she had served in a variety of administrative and faculty positions since 1985.  As a psychologist, she also was a member of the graduate faculty at Maryland. Her experience included serving as associate dean of academic affairs, assistant athletic director and equity administrator. 
She is the recipient of numerous awards, including the 2009 Diamond Honoree Award from the ACPA-College Student Educators, the highest honor of the America College Personnel Association, which recognized her transformative contributions to the field. The award cited her relationally centered approach, commitment to diversity and inclusivity and desire to help others reach their fullest potential.
Javaune has a bachelor's degree in biology, psychology and general science and a master's degree in applied psychology and she also earned a PhD in psychology from Iowa State University.
Andrew J. Ginther

Andrew J. Ginther 

Mayor of Columbus, Ohio
Andrew J. Ginther was elected the 53rd mayor of Columbus on Nov. 3, 2015, succeeding Mayor Michael B. Coleman who was the longest-serving mayor in Columbus history. 

Mayor Ginther previously served on Columbus City Council from 2007-2015, and served as president of Council from 2011 until assuming the Office of Mayor January 1, 2016. Under his leadership, Columbus topped the Midwest in job creation, adding 50,000 jobs while wages grew more in Columbus than any other big city in America. At the same time, the City reduced healthcare, workers’ compensation, pension and other expenses projected to save more than $260 million.
Under the leadership of Andrew J. Ginther, the City of Columbus was named America’s Opportunity City, and as mayor, Andrew J. Ginther will continue to work with labor, business, faith, and community leaders to promote opportunities for every person in every neighborhood.
Mayor Ginther is a Columbus native and proud Columbus City Schools graduate, and he has a long history of community service. Prior to joining Columbus City Council, he was elected to the Columbus Board of Education in 2001 and re-elected in 2005.
Mayor Ginther earned a Bachelor of Arts Degree in political science from Earlham College, studied abroad at the University of Ulster and Queen’s College in Northern Ireland, and taught at public schools in Belfast and Derry. He also served in consecutive internships at the Carter Presidential Center in Atlanta, where he taught non-violence and dispute resolution.
Mayor Ginther, wife Shannon and their young daughter live in Clintonville. 
Shannon Hardin

Shannon G. Hardin 

Columbus City Council President
Columbus City Council President Shannon G. Hardin serves as the Chair of the Rules and Reference Committee which oversees the approval and placement of legislation on the agenda, Columbus City Code changes, and appointments. During his time on Council, he has laid the groundwork to promote equality in Columbus by leveling barriers to transportation, creating new opportunities for small businesses, and working to eliminate opportunity gaps for young men of color. 

Council President Hardin believes that investing in our transportation infrastructure helps residents access jobs, education, and healthcare. Council President Hardin fought for Columbus to win the Smart Cities Challenge. With the $140 million grant, the Smart Columbus team is working with partners around the city to improve our transportation system by implementing smart technology on our public transportation lines, increasing electric car utilization, and much more. 

Understanding the racial disparities that impact communities of color every day, Council President Hardin worked with former Mayor Michael B. Coleman to create Columbus’s My Brother’s Keeper initiative. My Brother’s Keeper, housed in the Department of Neighborhoods, aims to reduce the opportunity gaps for young men of color through city-wide goals, service provider coordination, and collective action.  

Council President Hardin was appointed to Council on October 7th of 2014, won election on November 3rd of 2015, and was reelected on November 7th of 2017. Council President Hardin earned his bachelor’s degree from Morehouse College after studying abroad in Nairobi, Kenya.