Speaker Biographies

**Complete list of panelists and biographies here.** 

Jim Ziolkowski—Opening Keynote

Founder, President and CEO, buildOn

Jim Ziolkowski is the founder, president, and CEO of buildOn, a non-profit organization that builds schools in developing countries while also running afterschool service programs in America’s toughest innercities. Jim’s goal is to break the cycle of poverty, illiteracy, and low expectations through service and education. Inspired by his own travels to some of the most impoverished countries in the world and his experiences living in Harlem, Jim derailed his fast-track career in corporate finance at GE to dedicate his life to buildOn.

buildOn empowers inner-city teens to transform their neighborhoods through intensive community service and to change the world by building schools in some of the economically poorest countries in the world. Currently, buildOn is working in urban high schools throughout the United States, including South Bronx, Detroit, and Oakland. Students in buildOn’s programs work with elders, homeless people, younger children, veterans, and individuals with disabilities among others. They have contributed nearly 1 million hours of service and have helped build nearly 500 schools around the world.

Internationally, buildOn is breaking ground on a new school every five days and will construct its 500th school in October 2012. Currently the organization is constructing schools in Haiti, Nicaragua, Nepal, Senegal, Malawi, and Mali. There are 73,000 children, parents, and grandparents attending these schools every day.

The seeds for buildOn were planted when Jim was hitchhiking and backpacking around the world after graduating from college in 1989. During a twenty-seven-day hike into the Himalayas, Jim came upon a village in Nepal that was in the midst of a two-day celebration for the opening of a school. For the last several months, he had witnessed the immense suffering caused by extreme poverty. But in this village he saw something different. He saw the hope and courage of a community, and it all revolved around education.

When he got back to the United States and began his job in corporate finance at GE, Jim could not shake those memories of poverty abroad and he was more acutely aware of poverty faced by many urban youth here in America. So he quit GE to start buildOn.

He knew he had to build programs that would engage urban youth in a profound way. Because he didn’t feel qualified to develop programming for inner-city kids because he came from a small town in Michigan, he moved into a half-boarded-up brownstone in Harlem. Jim spent three years living in what the New York Times called the worst drug trafficking neighborhood in the city. There he learned that urban youth don’t want to escape their inner-city environments; they want to transform them.

Today, Jim is still the guiding force of buildOn. Deeply influenced by his own religious faith, shaped by his personal meetings with Mother Teresa and the Dalai Lama, and hailed by President Barack Obama, Jim likes to say, “We’re not a charity – we’re a movement.” Jim has been most profoundly influenced by the youth he has worked with from America’s biggest cities to the poorest villages on the planet. It is their courage, hope, and thirst for change that inspire Jim every day.

Jim graduated cum laude from Michigan State University with a bachelor’s degree in finance, and he has been featured on many news outlets, including NBC’s TODAY Show, CNN, CBS Evening News, and the Big Ten Sports Network.


Jerry Porras-Closing Keynote

Lane Professor of Organizational Behavior and Change Emeritus, Stanford University

Jerry Porras is the Lane Professor of Organizational Behavior and Change Emeritus at Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business. He has taught courses in leadership, interpersonal dynamics, and organizational development and change in the MBA and executive programs. Porras directed the School’s Executive Program on Leading and Managing Change for 16 years. From 1988 to 2001, he served as the University’s Faculty Athletic Representative to the Pacific-10 Conference and the National Collegiate Athletic Association and on two occasions was president of the Pacific-10 Conference Council. From 1991 to 1994, he was an Associate Dean for Academic Affairs in the Graduate School of Business. Porras has won numerous awards, including the Brillante Award presented by the National Society of Hispanic MBAs; the Silver Apple Award presented by the Stanford Business School Alumni Association; the Kantor Medal awarded by the Pacific Graduate School of Psychology; 2002 Community Educator of the Year from the Hispanic Net; the Robert T. Davis Award from the Stanford Business School; the 2007 Lifetime Achievement Award from Hispanic Business magazine; the 2011 Outstanding Alumnus of the year, University of Texas, El Paso; and the 2012 Visionary Leadership Award presented at the Silicon Valley Latino Leadership Summit.

A student of organizational change, Mr. Porras has helped numerous clients around the world improve their organizational performance. As a lecturer on visionary companies, he has delivered presentations to more than 250 senior management audiences worldwide.

Porras has served on the editorial boards of many academic publications, including the Academy of Management Journal, Academy of Management Review, Journal of Applied Behavioral Science, Business Review, and the Journal of Organizational Change Management. 
In addition to more than 40 articles for leading academic journals, Porras has published three books on individual and organizational success. In 1987, he wrote Stream Analysis: A Powerful New Way to Diagnose and Manage Organizational Change, which has since been converted into an exciting software tool used for diagnosing, planning, and managing change within an organization. Working with Jim Collins, Porras co-authored the international bestseller Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies. The book is based on the results of an exhaustive six-year research project aimed at discovering the approaches and behaviors of the most visionary companies of the past two centuries. Translated into 35 languages, it has sold more than one million copies worldwide. In 2006, with Stewart Emery and Mark Thompson, Porras co-authored another best seller, Success Built to Last: Creating a Life that Matters. This book focuses on more than 200 leaders who have made a significant impact on the world and identifies the key approaches they used to build such meaningful lives.
Porras serves on the board of directors of Translattice and the Advisory Board of the Positive Coaching Alliance, and he is a member of the Knight Commission and the Stanford Athletics Board. Previously he was a board of directors member of the State Farm Automobile Insurance Company, State Farm Life Insurance Company, State Farm General Insurance Company, Quaker Fabric, and ReloAction and an advisory board member of the Decurion Corporation. He recently co-founded the Latino Business Action Network, a non-profit organization.