2016 Speakers

Garrett Choquette
HES Emergency Manager, Occidental Petroleum

GarrGarrett Choquette - bwet Choquette is the HES Emergency Manager at Occidental Petroleum where he oversees all aspects of crisis and emergency management and emergency response from a corporate level, company wide. Prior to joining Oxy he was in charge of crisis and emergency management at Dolphin Energy and Mubadala Oil & Gas and before that with SABIC and ADNOC.

Before moving to the Middle East Garret was an experienced member of the Kamloops British Columbia PEP Squad (Provincial Emergency Preparedness) for 5 years performing Alpine and Rapid River Rescue.

He has worked extensively with local responders in Canada, USA, Saudi, UAE, Qatar, Oman, Kuwait, and Bahrain to align an understanding and cooperative approach to emergency response between industry and public services such as Fire, Ambulance, Police, Coast Guard, Navy and other Civil Defense entities.

Gil Meyer
Director of Global Issues & Crisis Management, DuPont

Gill Neyer bwGil Meyer directs issues and crisis management programs for DuPont worldwide. In addition to these roles, he tracks future trends for the company.

Gil has been with DuPont for 29 years, serving in a wide range of Public Affairs and Regulatory Affairs roles. His current position at the corporate level began in 2004. For the previous 13 years he supported company interests in agriculture, food and biotechnology.

His current assignment includes issues and crisis management related to product recalls, chemicals risk management, biotechnology, synthetic biology, nanotechnology, cyber-security, intellectual property protection and pandemic planning.

Gil holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a master’s degree in plant pathology, both from West Virginia University.

James Morrison
Computer Scientist, Federal Bureau of Investigation

James Morrison is a Computer Scientist with the Federal Bureau of Investigation assigned to the Houston Division. He serves as a local technical expert to the Special Agents and Task Force Officers assigned to the Houston Area Cyber Crimes Task Force. He assists in computer intrusion investigations and reverse engineers software to determine source and purpose of the malignant code. He has worked in the IT field for more than 27 years, including 18 years with the FBI.

Prior to working with the FBI, Morrison was an engineer with Lockheed Martin at Kirtland AFB, NM and a UNIX/database administrator with the US Air Force at Falcon AFB (now Shriver AFB), CO and Clark AB, Republic of the Philippines. Morrison holds a BS in Computer Engineering degree from Colorado Tech University, a MA in US History from the University of New Mexico, and a MBA from the University of Phoenix as well as other professional certifications.

Jennifer Vardeman-Winter, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Public Relations, Valenti School of Communication at University of Houston

Jennifer Vardeman-Winter is an associate professor of public relations in the Jack J. Valenti School of Communication at the University of Houston.

She has over 18 years experience working for public relations and management consulting firms. Her clients over the years have varied greatly in size and industry: in the electrical engineering and high-tech world, she conducted media relations for global giants like IBM Software, Motorola Semiconductors, and Compaq Computers, as well as start-ups like Expeditrix and Tantau Software; in the public health sector, she conducted communication research and strategic planning for federal government agencies like the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Radiological Studies Branch. She’s also provided communication work for public sector agencies such as the Department of Homeland Security’s Citizen Corps and Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs.

Dr. Vardeman-Winter currently teaches undergraduate and graduate communication courses in issues management, public relations management, crisis communication, and entrepreneurial communication. She also serves as the Director of Graduate Studies for the Valenti School of Communication.

Omprakash Gnawali, Ph.D.
Assistant Professior, Computer Science Department at University of Houston

Omprakash Gnawali is an Assistant Professor at the Computer Science Department of the University of Houston. He does research on wireless networks, Internet technologies, sensor networks, cyber-security, and technology for resilience. He received his SB and MEng from MIT, PhD from USC, and was a postdoc at Stanford.


Brad Leone
Director of Communications and Stakeholder Relations, Plains All American Pipeline

Brad_Leone_CMCHouston_websiteBrad Leone has responsibility for Plains All American Pipeline’s external communication, including preparing for and communicating during an emergency, establishing and maintaining relationships with elected officials and other community leaders in proximity to the company’s assets, and ongoing internal and external communications. Since joining Plains, he has supported or managed the communication response for multiple high-profile incidents in the United States and Canada.

Prior to joining Plains in 2011, Leone spent more than 15 years working for public relations firms in Houston, northwest Ohio, the San Francisco Bay Area and Southern California, advising clients ranging from start-up to Fortune 500 in industries such as high-tech, healthcare, automotive, retail and manufacturing. During that time, he worked on a variety of projects, including developing and implementing communications campaigns for new retail product launches, providing communications support for high-tech company launches, promoting a human rights event tied to the Olympics, developing and supporting a thought-leadership platform for a Fortune 500 CEO and supporting the communications efforts for a high-profile tech IPO.

Elizabeth Perez
Director of Communications, Education, and Engagement, Harris County Public Health

Elizabeth Perez is the Director of Communications, Education, and Engagement at  Harris County Public Health (HCPH). Harris County is one of the largest counties in the U.S. and incorporates the fourth largest city in the U.S., Houston, Texas. Before moving to the Houston area, Elizabeth was a Public Health Advisor, Communication Specialist at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in Washington, DC.

Prior to working at HHS, Perez worked at the National Coalition of Health Care, a think tank and advocacy group for the Affordable Care Act. Perez originally comes into the health policy and communication arena as a clinician, as she worked within the health care sector for over 8 years. Perez is California native and received her Bachelors in Radiations Sciences, emphasizing in health administration and research, and a Masters in Public Health in Health Policy and Leadership from Loma Linda University.