Keynote Panelists’ Bios

Prof. Karen A. Holbrook, PhD was appointed regional chancellor at the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee on Jan. 2, 2018, after serving as executive vice president at USFSM and senior advisor to the president of the University of South Florida system since the summer of 2017.

Dr. Holbrook was the interim president at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University for one year before returning to USF. She previously served as USF’s senior vice president for global affairs and international research (2010-12), senior vice president for research, innovation and global affairs (2007-10) and as senior advisor to the USF system president (2013-16).

Dr. Holbrook initially came to USF after serving as the president at The Ohio State University (2002-07); the senior vice president for academic affairs and provost at the University of Georgia; vice president for research and dean of the graduate school at the University of Florida; and associate dean for research and professor of biological structure and medicine at the University of Washington School of Medicine.

She has served on the boards of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), ACT, Inc., the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), the American Council of Education (ACE), the National Association of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges (now APLU), the Association of American Universities (AAU), the Council of Graduate Schools (CGS), and Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME), Washington Advisory Group (WAG), among others. Dr. Holbrook has also participated on advisory panels and councils for the National Institutes of Health (NIAMS) and was a member of the Advisory Committee to the immediate past Director of the NIH (Elias Zerhouni). She currently serves on the boards of the Institute of International Education (IIE), CRDF Global, Bio-Techne, Academic Assembly, Inc., INTO USF, and is the immediate past board chair for Oak Ridge Associated Universities (ORAU) and until recently, served on the Board of Trustees for Embry Riddle Aeronautical University and King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST). She is a Distinguished Fellow of the Global Federation of Councils of Competitiveness (GFCC).

Dr. Holbrook was an active biomedical researcher and NIH MERIT Award investigator early in her career. She earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Zoology at the University of Wisconsin in Madison and a doctorate in Biological Structure at the University of Washington School of Medicine where she served as a postdoctoral fellow in dermatology, faculty member and research administrator.

She is married to Jim Holbrook, a physical oceanographer who spent his career with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) at Pacific Marine Environmental Lab in Seattle, Washington and in Washington, D.C. They have one married son, James who is the Senior Art Director and Producer for ABC World News in New York City.


Dr. Karlene C. Cousins serves as an Incoming Chair in the Department of Information Systems and Business Analytics in the College of Business at Florida International University. She also serves as Director of ATOM Think Tank and Director, Master of Science in Information Systems Program. She is recognized for her research on mobile technologies and the legal and regulatory issues impacting the use and innovation of information technology. She serves as an expert panelist and speaker in the mobile technologies area. She has published her research in journals such as the Communications of the ACM, Journal of the AIS, Decision Sciences, Communications of the AIS and the European Journal of Information Systems.

As a researcher, attorney, entrepreneur, business planning and commercialization expert, she has worked with technology, healthcare companies and government agencies on regulatory, data privacy, intellectual property, business and strategic planning and commercialization issues. She has experience in the technology, tourism, healthcare, manufacturing, gaming and airport industries.

Dr. Cousins has worked in a professional capacity at Deloitte, CDW, Alcan, the Airports Authority of Jamaica and the Entrepreneurial Law Center at the Northwestern University School of Law. She obtained a Ph.D. in Computer Information Systems from the Georgia State University and a J.D. from the Northwestern University School of Law.

She is a faculty fellow of the STEM Transformation Institute, and Treasurer of the Academy of Management, OCIS Division. She is co-founder of ITWomen NextGen at FIU, an organization dedicated to increasing the number of women and girls in technology careers. She also served as past Managing Editor of Information and Organization.


Ms. Allison Imre is the President of Grapevine Communications. A graduate of the esteemed University of Kansas School of Communications, Allison launched her professional career with the Kansas City Royals Radio Network. It was here that she combined her love of radio with sports. Allison is well-traveled, having lived in Kansas, the Virgin Islands, New Orleans, Tampa, San Diego, and Lake Tahoe before she found her home in Sarasota in 2003.

Beginning in 2007, Allison worked with iHeart Media as a Senior Account Executive, collaborating with clients such as Anheuser Busch, the Baltimore Orioles, Schroeder Manatee Ranch and more. In 2011, she was recognized by Radio Ink Magazine as one of the top Account Executives in the country. In both 2011 and 2014, she was honored with the Salesperson of the Year Award at iHeart Media Sarasota.

In 2017 Allison joined Grapevine as president, where she leads an all-star cast of writers, designers, web developers, account executives, and public relations experts to bring business-boosting results to a diverse roster of clients.

Allison, her husband David, and her son Rip live in Sarasota and are proud and active members of the community, working with non-profit organizations such as the American Cancer Society, Nate’s Honor Animal Rescue and Suncoast Blood Bank.


Dr. Van Niekerk is an Associate Professor in the Tourism, Events and Attraction (TEA) Department at the Rosen College of Hospitality Management, University of Central Florida, USA. She has a PhD in Tourism Management and a Master’s in Business Administration (MBA). Her research areas include festivals and event management, tourism destination marketing and management and hospitality and strategic management. She has over 110 academic publications (refereed journal articles, books, book chapters, case studies, encyclopedia entries, training manuals, industry reports and conference papers). She has taught 33 postgraduate and undergraduate courses in tourism management, destination marketing, event marketing and event management. She received the 2015 University Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching Award from Rosen College. Dr. Van Niekerk serves on the editorial boards of several academic journals and is the Managing Editor for the International Journal of Contemporary Hospitality Management (IJCHM) and the Founding Co Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Hospitality and Tourism Insights (JHTI).  She received awards for Outstanding Editorial Support and Outstanding Reviewer from Emerald Publishing.  She has been an invited speaker at various international conferences and as a visiting professor at Universities in Brazil, France, Hong Kong, Japan, Italy and South Africa. Before joining Rosen College, Dr. Van Niekerk held senior management positions at different institutions in both higher education and local government in South Africa. During the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa, she served as the cluster leader in Nelspruit, one of the host cities responsible for marketing, communications, events and tourism. Recognizing her leadership and contribution to the 2010 FIFA World Cup in Nelspruit, South Africa, she received the Premier Protea Hotel Nelspruit/Lowveld Chamber of Business and Tourism – Tourism Personality of the year award. Her commitment and competence as an event organizer, visionary and leader are also evident in her success as an owner and director of a business enterprise in the private sector, for which she was named a national finalist for South Africa’s ABSA Business Woman of the Year award.


Dr. Amanda J. Phalin is a lecturer at the University of Florida in the Warrington College of Business Department of Management, where she teaches the college’s undergraduate core course in international business, as well as graduate classes in global strategy and managerial economics. Through her core course, she educates 1,400 students annually. She has earned the college’s Teaching with Technology Award, and the university’s Online Education Excellence Award. Her research focuses on gender issues in international business and economics. She is currently completing a two-year, large-scale randomized controlled trial in her undergraduate course testing how gender may (or may not) impact decision-making in global markets. The first working paper from this experiment, “Gender, Exports, and International Business: A Test of Feminist Theories,” will be presented at the Academy of International Business Annual Meeting this summer. Additional research projects include gender and student perceptions of business faculty, and female membership on boards of directors. Dr. Phalin also writes columns on local business issues for the Gainesville Sun.