student in computer lab

Rockford University Business Summit

The 2024 Rockford University Business Summit will take place on June 13, 2024. Join us from 7:30-11:00 a.m. in Regents Hall in the Burpee Center for presentations and breakout sessions focused on AI & Business, Data Analytics, and Entrepreneurship. Registration for this event is free and includes breakfast, with an optional lunch for purchase.

Venue & Parking Information

Burpee Student Center (Building 2 on the Campus Map).
Best location to park is Parking Lot A (Across the street from Burpee.)

Breakout Sessions

How AI & Chat GPT Can Help Your Business Be More Productive

Presented by Rockford University Professor Jeffrey Karlberg.

Discover the transformative power of artificial intelligence in the business world, focusing on Chat GPT. This interactive session will enlighten you on AI’s benefits and demonstrate practical ways to integrate Chat GPT into your daily operations, making your business more efficient and productive.

What to Expect: Insightful presentation on the impact of AI on productivity, live demos showcasing the effective use of Chat GPT in various business scenarios, expert advice on implementing AI strategies in your business model, and build personal GPT’s for specific reasons.

Don’t miss this chance to explore how AI can streamline your business processes and drive growth.

Prof. Jeff Karlberg, Rockford University
Jeffrey Karlberg is a business professor and marketing entrepreneur with extensive experience in manufacturing, logistics, AI, and education. He holds advanced degrees in business administration and education and is currently pursuing a Doctorate in Business Administration (DBA) with a focus on marketing. Karlberg has taught at various institutions, including Rockford University, where he developed innovative courses and mentored students teaching them how to use AI to build new businesses. In addition to his academic achievements, he is a serial entrepreneur and inventor with multiple provisional patents. 

Data Analytics

Presented by Mr. Ron Clewer, Market President, Gorman and Company. 

Becoming “data-driven” has been a commonly professed objective for many over the last decade plus. At the same time, we hear the need to be collaborative and aligned to see the best outcomes for parts production, merchandise sales, reading and math proficiency, housing access, health outcomes, and more. How might we make meaningful impact in Rockford by correctly leveraging data analytics so that we can increase employment, income, and stabilize our economy and families who live here? Join us to have meaningful discussion as we collectively assess conditions and work together on assumptions and solutions.

Mr. Ron Clewer, Market President, Gorman & Company
Ron Clewer became a Market President for Gorman & Company in March of 2019. Prior to joining the Gorman & Company, he served as Chief Operating Officer of the Alliance for Strong Families and Communities, now Social Current, where he was responsible for operations of the National Operations Center in Milwaukee, WI and the Public Policy office in Washington DC. He was also charged with improving and advancing nonprofit human service sector outcomes through this strategic action network at a national scale.


Presented by Dr. Sheila Hill, Think Big and Mr. Spitty Tata, Accelerating Creatives and Entrepreneurs.

This dynamic workshop is designed for aspiring entrepreneurs who dream of launching their own businesses but might need help knowing where to begin. In this engaging session, participants will be guided through the fundamental steps of becoming entrepreneurs, from the initial idea conception to successfully starting a business. This workshop combines practical strategies to empower participants with the knowledge and skills they need to embark on their entrepreneurial journey with confidence.

This workshop is perfect for anyone who dreams of starting their own business but feels they need help with how to begin. Whether you’re a recent graduate, a professional looking to shift careers, or someone with a burning business idea, this workshop will provide you with the foundational knowledge and tools to take the first steps toward entrepreneurship.  No prior business experience is required; you just need a passion for innovation and a desire to make your entrepreneurial dreams a reality.

Dr. Sheila Hill, Think Big
Dr. Sheila Hill is a highly accomplished businesswoman with over 25 years of experience in the corporate world. She holds certifications as a John Maxwell Leadership Team member and transformation coach and is renowned as an international speaker. Dr. Hill’s educational background is equally impressive, featuring a Master’s degree in Business Management and Leadership and a Doctorate in Theology with a specialization in Leadership. Dr. Hill’s achievements have earned her prestigious accolades, including the Key to the City of Rockford and the Illinois State Ceremonial Coin, a testament to her exceptional contributions. Most recently Dr. Hill was recognized by Illinois State Treasurer Michael Frerichs, for her Outstanding Service in Leadership. Beyond her accomplishments, Dr. Hill is deeply committed to empowering women in business and Leadership. She has co-founded two impactful organizations: Think Big, an entrepreneur center dedicated to supporting women and minority-owned businesses, and Women & Wealth, an organization focused on nurturing leadership development. Additionally, she serves as the founder and president of the Girlfriends Network, a platform through which she inspires women to uncover their life’s purpose for ministry. Dr. Hill’s mission is to empower women worldwide to pursue their passions and fulfill their purposes in life.

Mr. Spitty Tata, Accelerating Creatives and Entrepreneurs
Spitaman (AKA Spitty) Tata spent his first 23 years of life in India. There, he graduated with a Bachelor’s  degree in Electrical Engineering, He then obtained a Masters in Electrical Engineering from West Virginia University. He later obtained a Master’s in Business Administration from Rockford College (NKA Rockford University)

Spitty moved to Rockford and worked at Woodward for 36 years in many departments in various roles. At Woodward, as you might imagine, he was smitten by the Aerospace bug. He worked with many customers and never missed a chance to go into their engine manufacturing shops and flight lines. His son, Rayo, is an even bigger Aerospace nut. Today he is on the Steering Committee of RAAN, The Rockford Area Aerospace Network.

He loves to encourage collaboration and believes that one plus one equals four. In that vein, he volunteered for Transform Rockford and joined their staff for a few years. He now volunteers his time at Eigerlab, Alignment Rockford, Wings & Wheels Museum and One Body Collaboratives. He also coordinates the regional entrepreneurs network called ACE, Accelerating Creatives and Entrepreneurs whose mission is to have our region be known for entrepreneurship and innovation. This work has brought together entrepreneur support agencies, innovators and entrepreneurs for many networking and learning events.

Spitty lives in Rockford with his wife, Shiraz, psychologist, and son, Rayo, Mechanical Engineer from RVC/NIU. They all love the region and work on various initiatives to help the region develop to its full potential. They believe the Rockford region is diverse, has many big city assets, is a great place to bring up kids, and boasts interesting activities and opportunities for all ages. They all love the outdoors and spend time in our many parks and recreational areas. They share their passion for the area with all their friends and relatives and advocate for it whenever they can.

Featured Presenters

Mayor Tom McNamara

Before Tom McNamara became Mayor of Rockford, he already had his two favorite job titles – husband and father. As Mayor, Tom has focused on developing and implementing plans to reduce crime, increasing police technology and training, strengthening neighborhoods and schools, and encouraging economic development. He has worked to reduce the city’s property taxes and has appointed members to commissions and boards who reflect the diversity of our community and are fiscally responsible and share a like-minded responsibility to use taxpayer funding efficiently and effectively.

Travis Andersen, President & CEO, UW Health Northern Illinois

Travis Andersen joined UW Health in 2021 and leads the organization’s operations in northern Illinois. Formerly SwedishAmerican, the health system located in Rockford, IL is a $750 million organization serving a 13-county service area that employs nearly 4,000 people.

Prior to joining UW Health, Mr. Andersen led several merged health care systems in Wisconsin, including serving as Regional President for Ascension Wisconsin, which includes 10 hospitals, approximately 15,000 associates and $2 billion in revenue. Mr. Andersen earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology and German at Simpson College in Indianola, IA and his master’s degree in Hospital and Health Administration from the University of Iowa.

With a relationship-driven, collaborative and transparent leadership style, he is also active on several boards in the Rockford community.

Dr. Ehren Jarrett, Superintendent, Rockford Public Schools

Dr. Ehren Jarrett is in his 11th school year leading the Rockford Public Schools as superintendent. He has overseen the implementation of a $250 million facilities plan to build schools and provide major upgrades at all campuses. With recent federal funding from the American Rescue Plan, additional upgrades are underway, including plans to provide air conditioning to all learning spaces. He and his leadership team are implementing a systemwide framework to ensure all students find success. The Rockford Public Schools equity vision is to create learning environments that work for all students and interrupt the predictability of student outcomes based on zip code. He created a role for a Chief of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion with a goal to ensure African American voices are heard. With the state’s updated school funding model, Dr. Jarrett has prioritized strategic budgeting and increased resources for all schools, emphasizing support for schools with the greatest need.

He is a member of the Alignment Rockford Governing Board and the Discovery Center Board of Directors. In addition to membership on the Ford NGL Leadership Council and its Superintendent’s Council, Dr. Jarrett is the immediate past president of the Board of Directors for the Large Unit District Association, which serves 51 percent of Illinois students. He lives in Rockford with his wife, Christie, and their two children.

Dr. Howard J. Spearman, President, Rock Valley College

Dr. Howard J. Spearman was named Rock Valley College’s eighth president and began his tenure as president on September 1, 2020. His vision for RVC is based on four pillars: Access, Exceptional Educational Opportunities, Exceptional Training Opportunities, and Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. With over two decades of higher education experience, his passion for student success continues to be his mission.

Dr. Alex Stagnaro-Green, Regional Dean, UIC College of Medicine, Rockford


Dr. Alex Stagnaro-Green is the Regional Dean of the University of Illinois College of Medicine Rockford and is Professor of Medicine, Obstetrics and Gynecology, and Medical Education. He graduated from the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in 1983 and performed his residency training in Internal Medicine at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey. From 1986 to 1988, he completed a fellowship in Endocrinology and Metabolism at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine. In 2017, he obtained a Master of Healthcare Administration from the University of Illinois at Chicago.

An internationally known researcher in the field of thyroid and pregnancy, in 1990 Dr. Stagnaro-Green published in the Journal of the American Medical Association the seminal article linking thyroid antibody positivity in euthyroid women with a doubling in the rate of spontaneous miscarriage. He has written over 60 articles on the topic of thyroid and pregnancy including demonstrating the relationship between thyroid antibodies and preterm delivery. In 2011, Dr. Stagnaro-Green was the chair and lead author on the American Thyroid Association guidelines of thyroid and pregnancy that were internationally endorsed.

Dr. Gina Caronna, Executive Director, The Workforce Connection

Dr. Gina Caronna is the Executive Director of The Workforce Connection (TWC), an organization committed to providing a workforce that meets the needs of the business community now and in the future. Her experience connecting trained and skilled workers with high-quality jobs includes working with educational institutions, training centers, and many employers. Projects that Gina has led include the development and expansion of an aviation educational training facility in conjunction with a large MRO business in the Midwest; development and implementation of short-term stackable training for technical positions in manufacturing; oversight of apprenticeship programs for manufacturing, aviation, electrical and construction trades; development and execution of a bachelor’s degree-granting program on a community college campus for mechanical engineering.

Before taking the position with TWC, Dr. Caronna served as the Vice President of STEM and the Dean of Technical Programs at Rock Valley College, the Executive Director of the P-20 Regional Network for educational institutions and business, and the Rockford Public Schools on the career academy’s implementation team. Gina has also taught for many years, both in the K-12 system and for community colleges.

Dr. Caronna is passionate about making education and training relevant for individuals. She believes that education comes in many forms and can be a powerful tool to enable everyone to have the job of their dreams.