GrowthCon 2024

Growth Conference (GrowthCon) is a one-day, virtual conference to help equip students, recent graduates, and alumni with the tools to succeed in the workplace after graduation and navigate their young careers. The conference features a variety of speakers, panels, and networking opportunities to help attendees identify and strategize their path to personal and professional growth.

GrowthCon provides a unique opportunity to learn from prominent alumni in the community on topics such as networking and professional development, financial preparedness, health and wellness, and the many ways to pay it forward to the next generation of Panthers!

GrowthCon 2024

Conference Agenda

Explore all our sessions below!

  • 10:00am: Welcome & Opening Remarks

    Dr. Kenneth A. Jessell 
    President, Florida International University 

  • 10:10am: Keynote Speaker - Carmen Ibarra '14

    Keynote Speaker:

    Carmen Ibarra '14 
    Co-Creator of Atomica Roots 
    Finalist on Gordon Ramsay's Hell Kitchen: The American Dream (Season 22) 
    Founder of Mango Mama Salsa  

    Moderated by:  

    Leo Cosio '18 
    FIU Young Alumni Chair 
    Chief of Staff at North Bay Village

    An alumna of FIU’s Chaplin School of Hospitality & Tourism Management, Ibarra brings passion and a positive attitude to everything she does. As a finalist on Gordon Ramsay’s Hell’s Kitchen: The American Dream (S22), Ibarra has not only made a name for herself in the hospitality field, but she has also embodied the entrepreneurial Panther spirit, honoring her family and Peruvian roots creating an iconic mango salsa with locally sourced ingredients.

  • 10:30am: Networking and Professional Development Session

    Networking is an integral part of your professional development, in this session, you’ll learn tips & tricks from the Panthers who know how to do it best. We’ll explore development of leadership and soft skills, identifying and learning how to combat impostor syndrome, and how collaboration and the ins and outs of recruitment for professional opportunities come together to give you the tools necessary to continue to grow your professional skills as a young professional or take the first step.

    Moderated by:  

    Jose David "JD" Melendez '17 
    Onboarding Facilitator at Lennar 


    Melissa Cancio '18, MBA 
    Executive Director at ChamberSOUTH 

    Daniela Cadena '15 
    Director of Corporate Development at Chiper 

    Malcolm Jones '18 
    Owner and Principal Architect at MAJ Architecture + Design 

    Richard Lopez '10, MBA '13 
    Chief Learning Officer at FounderFuego 
    Principal at Rich Lopez Consulting 

    Daniel Torrens '14 
    Strategic Partnership Growth Lead at SAP SuccessFactors 

  • 11:00am: Financial Preparedness Session

    Panthers are money-savvy, ambitious, and incredibly hard-working. This session will focus on understanding and articulating your value when entering the workplace and navigating salary negotiations, understanding benefit packages, and simple budgeting tips to keep you on track.

    Moderated by:  

    Jimmy Egas '18 
    Director of Charter Memberships at Family Office Club 


    Jose A. Garcia '12, MBA 
    Senior Private Wealth Investment Manager at Wells Fargo Private Bank 

    Anthony Rodriguez '13 
    Talent Acquisition Leader at Wix 

    Charlomae Wathington '02 
    Human Resources Director at Westgate Resorts

  • 11:30am: Wellness: Creating Space for Work and Life Session

    Join distinguished FIU Faculty experts in the health and wellness fields for a discussion on work/life balance and mental health. As we see our reality through the lens of social media where you have the same hours in a day as Beyoncé and keeping up are sentiments that reign supreme, stress levels can be through the roof as we attempt to lead successful careers, drink enough water, practice mindfulness, and binge the latest shows on streaming platforms, all while giving off good vibes. During this session, we will focus on identifying common stressors and help you develop skills to help manage and reduce stress to live a happier, healthier, and more productive life. We’ll get you ready to live and thrive in your wellness era.

    Moderated by: 

    Carlos Rivero '20 
    Business Development Manager at Park Street 


    Mihaela Plugarasu, M.S. '11 
    Associate Teaching Professor at FIU, Global Strategic Communications 
    NeuroMindfulness® Institute Master Practitioner Coach 

    Dr. Nancy Richmond 
    Associate Teaching Professor at FIU, Department of Marketing & Logistics

  • 12:00pm: Giving Back and Mentorship: Paying it Forward.

    We know Panthers love to give back with their time, talent, and treasure. Our growing Panther community contribute billions into the local economy, stay involved with FIU for life, and continue to exemplify the values they learned on campus as they set off into their professional journeys. In this session, you’ll hear from alumni across different stages in their careers and why they choose to give back to pave the way for future Panthers and to make their communities better and brighter. In this session, you’ll be sure to be inspired, and identify the ways in which you’d like to be involved in the future!

    Moderated by: 

    Marlon Velez '14, JD '17 
    Attorney at Akerman LLP 


    Ashley Alvarez '14, MPA '20 
    Development Manager at Alzheimer’s Association 

    Veronica Bernace '09 
    Associate Director at United Way Miami 

    Melissa Lopez '16, MBA '21 
    Manager, Sports Communications at Telemundo Deportes 

    Rahul Mittal '21 
    Data Scientist at Dell Inc. 

    Hector C. Lans Jr. '13, JD '17
    Vice President of Business Development and General Counsel at Crosswell International 
  • 12:30pm: Closing Remarks

    Sara DuCuennois 
    Chief Alumni Officer and Associate Vice President for Alumni Relations 

    Introduced by: 

    Keandre Blount ‘20 
    Associate Customer Technical Support at Beckman Coulter Diagnostics

    GrowthCon 2024 concludes at 12:45 p.m.

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