Survivors Empowered is an organization founded by Sandy and Lonnie Phillips after the slaughter of their daughter, Jessica Redfield Ghawi and eleven others in the Aurora Colorado Theater Mass Shooting in 2012. Their original non-profit, Jessi’s Message, has grown into Survivors Empowered - a national organization created By Survivors, For Survivors, Empowering Survivors.
Prior to Jessi's murder, Sandy spent over 20 years working in the tourism industry - product development, destination marketing and travel trade relations.
Wes Roehl is a professor in the School of Sport, Tourism, and Hospitality Management at Temple University. Wes received his Ph.D. from Texas A&M University and holds undergraduate and master’s degrees from The College of New Jersey and Southern Illinois University-Carbondale, respectively. In addition to his current position at Temple University he has taught at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas; Bond University in Australia; and Temple University's Japan campus. His research focuses on tourist behavior, industry performance, and advertising effectiveness. He is a former editor of Tourism Review International and the UNLV Gaming Research & Review Journal. He has worked with industry partners including casinos, destination marketing organizations, festivals and events, industry advocacy groups, and municipal governments.
Advisory Panel Chair and Chief Strategist at The Tourism Academy | TourismAcademy.org is Stephen Ekstrom. Ekstrom began his career in the 1990’s on college radio at Quinnipiac University. He went on to create and deliver successful tourism development strategies for now thriving destinations, theme restaurants, cultural institutions, theatrical management companies, and some of the world’s most recognized attractions. He’s called upon to speak at colleges and universities, conferences and countless panel discussions each year. He hosts The Tourism Academy’s Business Class podcast and is a featured writer for several travel magazines. He’s also been profiled by media giants like the New York Times, NBC, ABC, CBS Morning, and NY1.