Continuing and Professional Education Course Instructors

Course Instructor Biographies

Headshot of Instructor Allencia Ballard
Allencia Ballard,
OSHA-Authorized General Industry Outreach Trainer

Allencia Ballard has been designing and delivering curriculum and learning materials to teach adults in the business and education sectors for over 10 years. She is an OSHA-authorized General Industry Outreach Trainer with 6 years of manufacturing safety and environmental health experience, specializing in hazard recognition and machine guarding safety. She also holds a master's degree in Project Management.

Headshot of Instructor Don Bartalone
Don Bartalone,
OSHA-Authorized General Industry and Construction Outreach Trainer

Don Bartalone is the lead instructor at the National Safety Education Center. He has 35 years of transportation and warehouse industry experience, serving on the safety team and committee for 20 of those years. Don also spent five years as a facility manager/safety coordinator for an oil refinery and has recently traveled to Saudi Arabia to assist in safety program development for the world’s largest oil company. He holds National Safety Council certificates in Fork Lift Truck Operator Training, Incident Investigation, Safety Inspections and Advanced Safety. Services: 10- and 30-hour General Industry OSHA training, OSHA 511, 501 and 503 instruction.

Headshot of Instructor Amy Baugh
Amy Baugh,
President of Milestones Project Management, Inc. and Vice President of Technology Program Management for a Major Fortune 500 Company

Amy Baugh is a Program Management executive with over 20 years of experience spanning program management, project management, change management, technology and human resources. Amy is President of Milestones Project Management, Inc. and Vice President of Technology Program Management for a major Fortune 500 company. Amy is an expert in her field, with particular expertise in Stakeholder Engagement. Amy holds her MBA from DePaul University with a concentration in Change Management, and a BA from Illinois Wesleyan University in Business Administration and Sociology. She also has her PMP and PgMP certifications from the Project Management Institute (PMI), and has published a book, "Stakeholder Engagement: The Game Changer for Program Management" (CRC Press 2015).

Headshot of Instructor Karen Brown
Karen Brown,
Director of Human Resources,
Highland Community College

Karen Brown has held a number of senior executive positions in healthcare and human resources. She currently serves as the Director of Human Resources, Highland Community College, Freeport, IL. Prior to this, she served as Vice President, Operations, at OSF HealthCare Saint Anthony Medical Center, Rockford, IL. Karen has a Master of Business Administration degree from Northern Illinois University, DeKalb, Illinois. She holds professional certifications: through the American College of Healthcare Executives, Fellow (FACHE); Society for Human Resource Management, Senior Certified Professional (SHRM-SCP); and Human Resources (SPHR).

Headshot of Instructor Brent Bryden
Brent Bryden,
OSHA-Authorized Outreach Trainer

Brent Bryden has 35 years of manufacturing safety and environmental health experience. Brent specializes in facilitating training for small, medium and large employers with a wide range of needs. He is passionate about using basic safety education and training to form strong safety foundations within an organization. Continuous improvement in safety training is his vision and providing results-oriented, quality products and services is his goal. Services: Training, Inspection Audits, Abatement Assistance, Safety Program Development, Implementation & Management.

Headshot of Instructor Jerry DiCola
Jerry DiCola,
Sr. Director Real Estate and Facilities Operations

Jerry DiCola is the Senior Director, Real Estate and Facilities Operations for Horizon Therapeutics, Inc., a specialty biopharmaceutical company focused on improving patients’ lives by identifying, developing, acquiring and commercializing differentiated products that address unmet medical needs. As an IFMA, certified instructor Jerry has been facilitating IFMA courses at Northern Illinois University since 2008. Most recently, board member for Disability Inclusion, an organization which commitment is, “To collaborate with purpose to promote the full inclusion of people with disabilities, to inspire accessible innovation for all, and to foster cultures of inclusion”. In addition, an active member of the Aspire Facility Committee. He was a chapter president for the Chicago Chapter of IFMA from 2013 to 2015.

Headshot of Instructor Stephanie GambroStephanie Gambro, Director of Business Transformation for a Large Fortune 500 Company

Stephanie is a Director of Transformation for a large Fortune 500 Company. She has over twenty years of experience driving strategic transformational programs within large multi-functional organizations. Working with Executive Leadership teams, she helps set the strategic objectives and efforts that will drive an organization towards success. Stephanie also teaches with the NIU Outreach Program, preparing professional learners to sit for the PMP and the SHRM S-CP and CP exams.

Headshot of Instructor Eric Hermonson
Eric Hermonson,
Director of Human Resources for OSM Worldwide

Eric Hermonson is the Director of Human Resources for OSM Worldwide. He is responsible for overseeing the entire human resources department, which includes everything from strategic planning to overseeing the day-to-day operations within the HR Department. Prior to his years at OSM, Eric has a diverse industry experience having worked in healthcare, higher education, governmental and consulting. Eric has been working in the Human Resources profession since 2003 with expertise in strategic HR, talent management, employee engagement, organizational development and effectiveness, employment law and compensation and benefits. Eric has previously been a guest speaker at local colleges on developing a career in the field of human resources, as well as a guest speaker for the American Cancer Society. He currently holds his SHRM-SCP and SPHR certifications. He also possesses his Bachelor of Science, with an emphasis in Human Resources from Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, IL.

Headshot of Instructor Ronette Kersting
Ronette Kersting,
Lean Project Manager

A highly motivated, passionate and accomplished leader with 25+ years of successful experience in a Fortune 500 company. Ronette creates value by delivering innovative and sustainable solutions to drive bottom line results to help organizations and customers prosper today and tomorrow. She is a proven leader with a solid background in Project Management, Continuous Improvement, Product Development, Six Sigma, Lean, Supply Chain, Logistics, and Manufacturing coupled with a strong customer design focus. Ronette received her BS Industrial Engineering from Iowa State University and MBA from Northern Illinois University.
Headshot of Instructor Linda Medina-HafezLinda Medina-Hafez, HR Deployment Manager, McDonald's Corporation

Linda started her career as an HR generalist for a long-term care organization focused on hiring, corrective actions, employee relations, conflict resolution, investigations, training, development and engagement. She also has several years of experience as an HR business partner supporting company leaders. She now works for McDonald's, where she has contributed to a variety of teams, including employee relations for restaurant employees/managers/franchisees, U.S. People strategy & innovation, HR product management and deployment, and most recently as the PMO and Alignment Manager for the Global People Strategy team where she leads the design, development and execution of several key staff and restaurant initiatives. She has been part of the NIU family as a student and instructor and really enjoys sharing her work and exam experiences. Linda loves when students engage in class to shape their own learning experiences. When Linda is not working, she enjoys traveling (postponed due to the pandemic), activities with her daughters (twin 5-year-olds and a 3-year-old) and dreaming of winning The Amazing Race.

Headshot of Instructor Ricardo MurilloRicardo Murillo, Senior Human Resources Manager, MAPEI

Ricardo Murillo, SHRM-SCP, is currently the Senior Human Resources Manager at MAPEI in West Chicago, IL. Ricardo has worked for large organizations such as Smithfield Foods and Wolverine World Wide, where he has had the opportunity to work with teams in multiple states and outside of the U.S.

Headshot of Instructor John Newquist
John Newquist,
OSHA-Authorized Outreach Trainer
John has over 30 years of experience as a safety trainer. Since 1987 John has trained over 50,000 people including OSHA compliance officers and Fortune 500 Clients. His areas of expertise include Incident Investigation, Confined Space, Excavation Safety, Cranes Signaling, Rigging Safety, Fall Protection, Scaffold Competent Person, Silica Competent Person, CHST Prep, Lockout, Machine Guarding, OSHA Recordkeeping and Safety Management. Services: Mock OSHA Inspections, Site Safety Audits, Expert Witness.

Headshot of Instructor John Newton
John Newton,
Human Resources and Learning and Development Professional

John Newton is a Human Resources and Learning and Development professional. He is a coach, consultant, trainer, teacher and public speaker who specializes in helping people and organizations reach their ultimate potential. His company, John Newton and Associates, provides people-development services to a multitude of industries in both non-profit and for-profit organizations. John’s philosophy is “Kindness is the bottom line.” Be kind to your employees and they will reward you with hard work and commitment. John has been an Instructor for Northern Illinois University for over 15 years.

Headshot of Instructor Jason PopeJason Pope, Director of Recruitment, Rockford Public School District 205

Jason is a cross functional business partner managing all aspects of HR for multiple schools within the Rockford Public School District. He brings over 15 years of Human Resource experience in both the public and private sectors and loves to engage students with practical, real-world experiences in the classroom.

Headshot of Instructor Karen Vujtech
Karen Vujtech,
Managing Director, Total Rewards Consulting

Karen Vujtech, the Managing Director of Total Rewards Consulting, has over 20 years of experience in Human Resources, with significant expertise in compensation as well as experience in benefits and HR systems management. Prior to consulting, Karen held key compensation and benefits positions in a variety of industries, from consumer products and healthcare to high tech. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree from Northern Illinois University and an MBA from Dominican University. Karen is the past-President of the Chicago chapter of SHRM and is a certified senior Human Resources professional (SPHR). She has held regional officer positions for WorldatWork and numerous Board positions, including President, for the Chicago Compensation Association (CCA). Karen has extensive experience teaching certification preparation courses at Northern Illinois University, DePaul University in Chicago, Illinois, and Aurora University in Aurora, Illinois.

Headshot of Instructor Susan Walsh
Susan Walsh, Director of HR & Finance at L2 Interactive
Susan has over 25 years of experience in human resources. She began her career in training & development, specifically management and leadership development with various global service industries. She has worked with executive teams to align strategic initiatives, implement systemic change efforts and ensure HR deliverables add value to the bottom line. In her current position as the Director of HR & Finance for a digital agency, her role is both operational and strategic, including all aspects of talent acquisition & development, change management and financial analysis. She’s been a member of the NIU instructor team for two years and finds it so rewarding to help students make the transition from gaining knowledge to business application. When she’s not at work, Susan enjoys almost anything outdoors from hiking to biking. She loves being out of her element in new and interesting places. She is also an avid reader and enjoys topics on productivity.
Headshot of Ericka Westgard
Ericka Westgard,
Sr. Facilities Leader
Ericka Westgard is an experienced senior facilities leader and outsourcing expert, having worked with several Fortune 500 clients across many industries developing and implementing integrated facilities strategies. She has successfully led complex operational workforces across multi-site client portfolios occupying upwards of 100M square feet within the Americas. Ericka balances her operational account leadership experience by having successfully led a number of global support teams, serving more than 10,000 internal facilities associates across the Americas, APAC and EMEA. Ericka has held a number of instructor positions across the US and is a qualified instructor for CFM, FMP and ProFM through Northern Illinois University.

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