Photo of Amanda Garcia, director of the Center for Entrepreneurial LeadershipAmanda Garcia, MSA, CPA, CFP

Director of the Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership


Full Bio

Amanda Garcia, MSA, CPA, CFP is the director of the Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership, and associate professor of accounting and finance at Elms College. Amanda earned her B.A. in accounting from Elms College and her Master of Science in accounting (MSA) at Western New England University. Amanda teaches in the disciplines of accounting, finance and economics. She has owned a tax and consulting business for over 10 years, which focuses on tax planning for individuals and small businesses. She specializes in small business, rental properties and individuals with investments seeking tax planning strategies. She is also passionate about financial education. She is a 2010 Business West 40 under 40 awardee and finalist for the 2016 Business West Continued Excellence Award. Amanda serves as a volunteer for Junior Achievement of Western Massachusetts, Young Professionals of Greater Springfield, and the Western Massachusetts Chapter of the MSCPA.

Brett M. Gearing, MBA



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Finance / Entrepreneurship
BSBA Western New England University
MBA, Western New England University

Brett is an investment management professional who has spent over 20 years in institutional investment management serving in various roles including structured investments, technology and strategy.  He most recently spends his time investing in and advising startups.  Brett is actively involved in local charities and currently serving on the board for Greater Springfield Habitat for Humanity.

Eric Harry



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Eric currently holds the position of director of strategy and innovation at CardioQuip where he is serving as the lead growth architect. Eric has a background in impact entrepreneurship, community development, and business and program design, having co-founded four startups and accumulated more than 10 years of experience working with non-profit and for-profit organizations in the U.S. and emerging markets. Eric has had the honor of working with world-renown organizations such as MIT, Partners In Health, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and 10.10.10. He is currently an adjunct professor of entrepreneurship at Elms College and serves as an advisor and mentor to several organizations and ventures including Venture Well, Village Capital and Harvard Medical School. Eric holds an MBA from the Global, Social, and Sustainable Enterprise MBA program at Colorado State University and is a former Fellow with MIT’s International Development Innovation Network.

Jeremy Casey



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Jeremy Casey started Name Net Worth, a software startup company in Springfield, Massachusetts, in 2014.  His background as a serial networker, a commercial lender and an authentic communicator were the springboard to his transition from corporate America to becoming an entrepreneur.

Jeremy was the president of the Young Professional Society of Greater Springfield (YPS), an organization that was in its infancy at the time when he joined.  Over five years, he grew the board of directors and the membership through tireless energy and his relationship management techniques and has made YPS the number one membership organization for young professionals in the region.

He has conducted workshops with many high schools and colleges in the Northeast, such as the University of Hartford, Rhode Island University, Western New England University, and Westfield State University to coach students, delivering programs like: “How to Harness Your Inner Entrepreneur” and “Networking 101: Making Business Happen”. His easy going and matter-of-fact approach puts participants at ease and they are able to put the concepts they learn into practice very easily.

Jeremy has mentored many other startup organizations, helping them get their business started and providing ongoing feedback as they grow, through the Valley Venture Mentorship program.  His programs are ideal for people who want to take their ideas to the next level by developing their own authentic skills and using their capacity to make their dreams come true.

Ryan Stelzer



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Ryan co-founded Strategy of Mind as a management consultant specializing in both individual and organizational performance improvement.

Prior to his work in consulting, Ryan served at the White House as a presidential management fellow during the Obama administration, where his team was responsible for improving and sustaining high levels of performance across federal agencies. Before this, Ryan also worked as a special assistant to the chairman of the Export-Import Bank of the US.

Ryan has delivered a TEDx Talk and written articles for diverse publications, including The Washington Post, LinkedIn, and The Huffington Post. He holds a master’s degree from the University of Chicago and undergraduate degrees from Boston University and the University of Cambridge in the UK.

Allen Davis, CFP, ChFC



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Allen is passionate about teaching a holistic approach focused on ethics and helping education clients on the benefits of financial planning. Allen is the managing director at Davis Financial Group LLC and has 12+ years of experience in financial planning. Allen previously has experience in startups and also has a passion for literature and music.

Doug Wheat, CFP, MBA



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Doug is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional with the United Capital office in Western Massachusetts (formerly Family Wealth Management), and has more than 25 years of professional experience. Doug provides comprehensive financial planning and investment management services to a broad range of clients. His clients live throughout Western Massachusetts, including Northampton, Amherst, Springfield, Longmeadow, East Longmeadow, Wilbraham, Holyoke, Westfield, and Stockbridge. He also serves clients in other states including many in the Northern Connecticut towns of Enfield, Suffield, Somers, and Windsor.

Jeff Sajdak, CLU, ChFC, MBA



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Jeff is a results-driven business executive with substantial experience in sales & distribution, operations, and treasury management. He built and managed a business while achieving sales success and operational improvements in a Fortune 100 company. Employing leadership and relationship skills, he has proven to be an effective collaborator and communicator with strong business and financial acumen, as well as the ability to think strategically and execute tactically. Jeff has been an executive in life new business underwriting, insurance group and sales distribution, annuities, and strategic alliances.

Generic Male PlaceholderDana R. Barrows, JD, CLU, ChFC, AEP



Full Bio

Dana R. Barrows joined Northwestern Mutual and the Springfield Group in Springfield, Massachusetts, as a college agent in 1975. After completing law school, Dana became a full- time agent in August 1977. Dana became a field director in 1980 and the agency’s estate and business planning specialist in 1982.

Dana is a 40-year qualifier of Million Dollar Round Table and earned the National Quality Award each year since 1978. Dana is currently chair of the Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts as well as past president of the Northwestern Mutual Financial Representative Association 55+ Board. Dana is past president of the board of trustees of The MacDuffie School in Springfield, the Springfield Association of Life Underwriters, the Hampden County Estate Planning Council, the Northwestern Mutual Financial Representatives Association Inc. and the board of directors of the Children’s Study Home, a child and family non-profit agency in Springfield. Dana is a 1969 graduate of Northfield Mt. Hermon, a 1973 graduate of Wesleyan University, and a 1977 graduate of Western New England University School of Law.

Dana specializes in working with professionals, high net worth individuals, and owners of closely held businesses in the areas of business continuity, estate planning, as well as personal, long term care, retirement and investment planning using a holistic financial security planning approach.

Laura DePergola, MBA, Registered Financial Advisor Series 7, 63, 65 licenses



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Laura is passionate about teaching and empowering women to seek careers in financial services. Laura has over six years of experience as a stockbroker, financial advisor and investment consultant. She encourages clients to seek education as part of the holistic approach to financial advising. She regularly holds seminars for people interested in learning more about financial planning, retirement planning and general financial literacy.

William Johnson

Director of Financial Planning


Full Bio

William has over 20 years of experience in the field of financial planning and wealth management. He is a vice president at St. Germain Investment Management and, prior to joining St. Germain, he was the director of financial planning at New England Financial Group and at ING. William has a Series 7 designation and is licensed in CT, NY, RI, MA, MD and ME to offer life and health insurance solutions. He is also a registered financial advisory in those same states.