Faculty-in-Residence

Usha Balakrishnan

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Usha R. Balakrishnan is President of CarthaGlobal Ventures & Consulting, LLC. Her work and leadership style fosters humanity-centered incubation of programs, projects and partnerships through a collaborative, cross-sector, and intergenerational approach. She enjoys an ever-expanding contact network with a wide range of innovators including physicians, scientists, lawyers, writers, filmmakers, academic administrators, nonprofit leaders, and corporate executives.

Usha received a Bachelors in Commerce from Bombay University and an MBA from The University of Iowa (UI). After a successful 15-year career in managing academic inventions, patent licensing, and strategic university-industry partnerships at the University of Iowa, she became a grantee of The Rockefeller Foundation, the Kauffman Foundation, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation from 2004-2006.

Usha currently volunteers her time as CEO & Board Chair of CARTHA (“Collaborative Arts in Research Translation for Human Advancement), a 501c3 nonprofit that she founded in 2006. CARTHA means “doer” in Sanskrit and her mission is to Cultivate Collaborative Doers for Humanity. “What are your aspirations for humanity?” is a question fundamental to CARTHA’s work with all-volunteer teams that inspire glocal academic-practitioner networks around themes of social innovation, healthfulness, and philanthropy. Usha has traveled widely (US, Canada, Mexico, Brazil, Italy, India) to share her vision for Collaborative Doer Networks and continues to speak at conferences, academic forums, and social service clubs. CARTHA’s current Fellows and Glocalizers around the themes of loneliness and sleep disorders as huge public health challenges are focused on encouraging musical interventions that invoke childhood memories to make people feel youthful and re-socialize into broader networks in random venues.

She has served on numerous boards including for the Community Foundation of Johnson County-IA; Iowa Economic Development; Iowa Biotechnology Association; and committees for the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS); and Council on Foundations. Usha served as the 2016-17 President of the Iowa City Noon Rotary Club.

After growing up in New Delhi and Mumbai, Usha arrived in 1985 in New York City at age 20 following an arranged marriage. She has lived in Iowa City since 1986 and is married to Ramji Balakrishnan, a Professor of Accounting at the University of Iowa’s Tippie College of Business. They have two adult children; a son, Vasu, in New York City who works for a hedge fund; and a daughter, Uma, in Iowa City who is a first-year medical student. Because her Godmother lives in Florida, Usha has been successful in establishing deeper professional connections in the Sarasota-Tampa Bay area.

Marthaellen Florence

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Marthaellen Florence is a broadcast journalist by education and trade with an award-winning career spanning over four decades within the Public Broadcasting System. She is the Director of Community Engagement at Nebraska’s statewide PBS station, NET. She also recently joined the faculty of the Center for Leadership Development of the Federal Executive Institute of the US Government.

A practitioner of the power of inclusive leadership, Marthaellen has expertise in leading both small and large groups. Since 1998 she has co-facilitated for The LeaderShape Institute - asix-day immersion program for college students.  She has co-facilitated leadership institutes for over 38 universities, most notably for students from Xi Jiang University in China, intercultural student groups for York University in Toronto, Canada and mentored visiting Mandela Scholars. On a domestic level she has sponsored re-entry programs for incarcerated youth and adults; been a proponent for programs design to help eliminating the educational gap for youth at risk; championed workforce development for unskilled laborers; addressed the need for like skills education for student and professional athletes; led resiliency classes for battered women and rape survivors; served as an advocated/ally for the rights of the LGBTQ community; and mentored those seeking political office, coaching them to greater clarity, confidence and direction. Internationally, she is a crusader for the plight of those with Albinism in Zimbabwe through the Alive Albinism Initiative, and reproductive and human rights of women in Angola through the NGO Mwana PWO.

Marthaellen has extensive experience in training the trainer and leading teams in the areas of cultural sensitivity, cultural competence and intercultural communication. She has comprehensive knowledge in the areas of unconscious bias; resiliency; life strategies; vision creation and emotional intelligence. She is regularly called to design project specific curriculum and facilitate workshops for non-profit and for- profit organizations, institutions of higher education, emerging leaders and corporate executives.

A highly respected community leader Marthaellen has been recognized with the Mayor’s Heart of the Arts Award (Lincoln, Nebraska) for 25 years of stewarding Jazz in June, an internationally recognized Jazz festival; YWCA Woman of the Year; the prestigious NAACP Leola Bullock Community Service Award; named a  Leadership Lincoln community-co-creator and was a nominee for the 2018 Inspire Award recognizing women who have excelled in their professional lives and emerged as leaders and role models in the Lincoln community (Lincoln, Nebraska).

A servant leader, she serves in a leadership capacity on numerous local, regional and national boards.

Liz Bennett

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Liz Bennett is representing the people of Iowa House District 65. She is enthusiastically committed to working for progress in our state; doing everything in her power to fight for fair wages, clean water, great schools, and equal rights for all.

As a graduate of Cornell College in Mount Vernon, and an employee of an internet company, I understand both the opportunities Iowa has to offer, as well as the challenges we face as a state. I will be a tireless advocate for the people of Iowa in the State House.