Skip Rizzo

Dr. Albert “Skip” Rizzo
Director for Medical Virtual Reality
Institute for Creative Technologies

Research Professor
USC Davis School of Gerontology and USC Keck School of Medicine Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences

Psychologist Skip Rizzo conducts research on the design, development and evaluation of virtual reality (VR) systems targeting the areas of clinical assessment, treatment rehabilitation and resilience.

This work spans the domains of psychological, cognitive and motor functioning in both healthy and clinical populations.

Championing BraveMind (an interactive, immersive virtual reality system, utilizing exposure therapy, the most effective evidence-based approach for PTSD) and STRIVE under Battlefield Conditions (gaining experience in simulations), are effective tools to engage the user

Rizzo, whose work using virtual reality-based exposure therapy to treat PTSD received the American Psychological Association’s 2010 Award for Outstanding Contributions to the Treatment of Trauma, is the associate director for medical virtual reality at the USC Institute for Creative Technologies.

He also holds research professor appointments with the USC Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences and at the USC Davis School of Gerontology.

Rizzo is working with a team that is creating artificially intelligent virtual patients that clinicians can use to practice skills required for challenging clinical interviews and diagnostic assessments. His cognitive work has addressed the use of VR applications to test and train attention, memory, visuospatial abilities and executive function. In the motor domain, he has developed VR game systems to address physical rehabilitation post stroke and traumatic brain injury and for prosthetic use training.

He is currently designing VR scenarios to address social and vocational interaction in persons with autistic spectrum disorder. Rizzo is currently examining the use of VR applications for training emotional coping skills with the aim of preparing service members for the stresses of combat. He is senior editor of the MIT Press journal, Presence: Teleoperators and Virtual Environments.

He also sits on a number of editorial boards for journals in the areas of cognition and computer technology (Cognitive Technology; Journal of Computer Animation and Virtual Worlds; Media Psychology) and is the creator of the Virtual Reality Mental Health Email Listserve (VRPSYCH).

Wesley Hamilton was born and raised on the east side of Kansas City, MO, where it was difficult for a young African American male to find opportunity outside of the streets. By age 16, he became too much for his mother to handle (which was a common lifestyle for kids in his neighborhood) and moved out on his own. At age 22, he became a father to his daughter, Nevaeh.

Two years later, at only 5-foot-4 and 230-pounds, Wes was non-athletic and vastly overweight as a single father, working full-time and had just won sole custody of daughter. But only 5 days after his 24th birthday (January of 2012), everything changed dramatically. As he was walking back to his car, Wes was shot multiple times, with one bullet slicing through his chest and fracturing a rib. The other entered his abdomen, partially severing his spine and paralyzing him below the waist. The shooter was a guy he’d never met.

Wes spent the next three years in recovery, which included two of those years fighting the severe
emotional depression that arose from his belief that his life would forever be bedeviled by medications,
surgeries and limitations.

Wes knew he had to set an example for Nevaeh. He started a fitness and nutrition regiment, which was completely foreign to him. Wes learned everything he could about nutrition and developed excellent culinary skills. In that first year, Wes lost 100 pounds. He felt his transformation had the potential to help others and so he founded a non-profit called, Disabled But Not Really (DBNR).

Wes has spent the past four years being recognized as a role-model in the Crossfit Community, winning a number of bodybuilding competitions, even being featured in Men’s Health Magazine climbing a rope with his wheelchair. Wes transformed yet again when working with the Fab Five on Season 4 of the Netflix hit show, Queer Eye, who taught him how to be true to himself, leaving him humbled by the experience.

In March 2021, CNN recognized Wesley Hamilton as an official CNN Hero.

Colonel Tony Monaco, US Army (Retired) is a retired Soldier of the US Army, retiring as a Colonel, having served in a variety of senior leadership and staff positions, which include Brigade-level and below commands and deployments in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom/ Operation Enduring Freedom (OIF/OEF) and Bosnia (IFOR). 

Since the 1980’s, Colonel Monaco turn’s out to be a VR Pioneer serving as Program Manager, Department of Defense, ASDC3I Digital Information Technology Testbed (DITT) and for the Army’s University After Next (UAN) Program. As well as, Deputy Director, TRADOC Program Integration Office, Chief, Simulation Integration Division, and Combat Training Centers (CTC) Chief, Program Analysis Division including Training Aids, Devices, Simulations and Simulators (TADSS).

He was honored for serving six years as, Secretariat, International Organization for Standardization and International Electrotechnical Commission (ISO/IEC) Joint Technical Committee 1 (JTC1) Sub-Committee 36, Information Technology for Learning, Education, and Training. ISO/IEC JTC1 SC36 facilitates twenty-three International Bodies and Heads of Delegations in the development of international standards. Standardization supports individuals, groups, and organizations enabling inter-operability and reusability of resources and tools. Also, he was an Advisor to the United States Technical Advisory Group (US TAG), V36.

Ambassador Monaco currently serves as the President for Patriot Outreach, a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization. He was the Kansas State President of the Reserve Officers Association (ROA). He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science from UCLA, a Masters of Public Administration from the University of Oklahoma, and Masters of Strategic Studies from the US Army War College. Ambassador Monaco is active in multiple civic, military, and private organizations and has established valuable working relationships with military/veteran organizations, government and community leaders. 

Professor Leon R. Probasco brings 30 years of behavioral health expertise with psychiatric and substance abuse care in a variety of venues including hospitals, treatment centers, outpatient clinics, employee assistance programs and his private practice.

Professor Leon teaches diagnostic trends, advanced practice and military social work at Park University. At his two private practice locations (Liberty, MO and Overland Park, KS) he specializes in treatment of depression, anxiety, mood disorders, substance use and trauma-related disorders utilizing both conventional and Virtual Reality Exposure Therapy.

Currently, Professor Leon is writing a training manual for use of VR in behavioral health, education and medical healthcare.

Contact via email: [email protected]

Jonathan D. Truesdale, ESQ. is an attorney in the Greater Kansas City, Missouri area. He practices in
the areas of criminal defense, employment discrimination and personal injury. Mr. Truesdale has
been in private practice (Truesdale Law, LLC) since relocating from Baltimore, Maryland in
He earned his Juris Doctor from The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law. He also
holds a Master of Public Administration (MPA) from the University of Pittsburgh’s Graduate
School of Public and International Affairs and a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science
from Johnson C. Smith University.

Canise Salinas-Willich is a School administrator in the greater Kansas City area. Her interest in
educating students dates back to her years in high school, when working with peers, assisting
them with their studies. Throughout her high school career, she was involved in multiple
opportunities that allowed her to build academic and social skills as she was an active member
of the School Leadership committee, Drama Club, Music Scholars as well as a graduate of the
Inroads Business Program.

When Canise began her undergraduate studies at Ottawa University in Ottawa, Kansas, she had
the opportunity to be exposed to the full range of educational courses, all of which
reinforced and solidified her intense interest in teaching. She had the opportunity to study a
number of subjects in the social sciences, which were both enjoyable and enlightening,
providing her with a new and different perspective on the world in which we live.

Canise Salinas-Willich began her career by receiving her BA in Education. She taught elementary
education with a focus on early literacy, comprehension and fluency. A few years later, she
obtained her Masters in Counseling; working successfully as an elementary counselor until
receiving her Education Specialist in School Leadership. Canise has held a leadership role for
14 years. Four of the 12 years spent at the high school level, which she states was a
tremendous experience, followed by 10 enthusiastic years as an elementary principal. She is
currently pursuing her doctorate from William Woods University and teaches Multi-Cultural
Education at the University of Kansas (KU) and the University of Saint Mary.

Mrs. Salinas-Willich has developed a special interest in the field of education, school leadership,
social justice education and 21 st century technology skills. She has sat on a plethora of boards
and committees whose purpose spans from organizational planning to visionary
leadership. Upon completion of her doctoral degree, Canise plans to continue her research of
preparing and retaining teachers in the urban core by providing them the necessary education
and technology to be successful.

Edwin Burch serves as the district’s Executive Director of Communications and Marketing for Kansas City, Kansas Public Schools (KCKPS). Prior to Birch’s current role at KCKPS, he served as the Public Information Officer for the Unified Government of Wyandotte County/Kansas City, Kansas (UG) from February 2008 to October 2019.

During his employment at the UG, he was responsible for media relations, social media, the UG’s website, event planning for major announcements related to groundbreakings and ribbon cuttings, and the upgrade of the government’s local tv channel, UGTV.

Prior to his role at the UG, Birch worked for what was then the Kansas City, Missouri School District as the Director of Public Relations. The school district has since changed its organizational name to Kansas City Public Schools. Under his leadership, the Public Relations Department received awards from the National Public Relations Association for the school district’s website design, The District newspaper and other communications publications.

Birch is a native of Kansas City, Kansas and has worked in television news as an executive producer at KMBC TV 9 and Metro Sports at Time Warner Cable, and as an assignment editor at WDAF TV 4 while attending college.

He has a Bachelor of Science degree in Broadcast Journalism and Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science from the University of Kansas.

Drew R. Meyerowich retired from the United States Army in 2014. He is a graduate of the United States Military Academy and served 28 years as an Infantry Officer and is currently the President of SFS Inc.

Drew is a wounded warrior who twice led Soldiers in combat. He received the Nation’s Third Highest award for valor, The Silver Star, while serving as the Company Commander that led the successful rescue of the members of Task Force Ranger in Mogadishu, Somalia in 1993, made famous by the movie, “Blackhawk Down”. He also served in combat for 15-months as a Battalion Commander of a Task Forces of over 1,200 Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Civilians during the height of the insurgency in Iraq from 2006-2008. 

Colonel (Retired) Meyerowich has numerous awards and decorations including the Silver Star, Legion of Merit, two Bronze Stars, the Purple Heart, and various other awards. He was awarded the Combat Infantryman’s Badge with one star and has earned his Expert Infantryman’s Badge, Parachutist Badge, and Ranger Tab as well as authorized to wear the German Jump Wings. He has a Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Science from the United States Military Academy, West Point, New York and holds a Master’s Degree in Strategic Communications from the Unites States Army War College.

Dan P. Ritter III retired educator, Dan spent 45 years teaching and coaching at the high school and college levels. Growing up in Kansas City, Kansas, Dan was a three-sport athlete and participated in the industrial arts program. He went on to Wichita Statue University where he lettered in both football and track and earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Industrial Education.

Dan’s high school education and coaching career took him from Kansas City to Miami, Arizona, to San Diego, California. He advanced to collegiate coaching in 1985 with positions at the University of San Diego and Indiana State University. Dan returned to the high school classroom and coaching with a move back to Kansas City in 1999. Along the way, Dan has trained and mentored thousands of students.

Dan is a “builder”, and he has successfully built Career and Technical Education and athletic programs throughout his career. Over 20 years ago, Dan leveraged his on-field experience to start a high school robotics program. His teams went on to succeed at the local, regional,and national levels. As the popularity of robotics’ programs grew, so did Dan’s profile in the FIRST movement. Dan conducted program development workshops across the country and was the recipient of the Woodie Flowers Finalist Award. Named after the FIRST Robotics founder, this award recognizes an individual who has done an outstanding job of motivation through communication while also challenging the students to be clear and succinct in their communication. Students act as the nominators and it is considered the highest FIRST recognition.

Colleen Jones currently is the Director of College/Career Readiness and Community Partnerships for the Liberty Public School District, Liberty, Missouri.  She has worked in Liberty for 25 years as a teacher, Assistant Principal, Curriculum Director, Professional Development Director and Assistant Superintendent for Academic Services. Prior to working in Liberty, she taught in both an urban and rural school district. She has also worked for Sprint in the area of sales and business development.

Her career has taken her from the classroom to the boardroom and has had a variety of experiences working with students, adults and community. She currently works to partner the education community and the business community to support the opportunities for students. She works with the Liberty and Kansas City area to create partnerships for schools, students and externships for teachers. She works with local, regional and state for community partners to participate in school career Presenters panels, career fairs, Advisory Boards, Career Centers, Northland CAPS, job shadowing and internships.

Her leadership experience has included Board Chairperson for the Liberty Area Chamber of Commerce, Missouri Staff Development Council President, and Greater Kansas City Professional Development Network President.  Committee involvement includes Grad Force KC, William Jewell College Women’s Committee and Career Mentor Program, KC Rising, Education Advisory Council for Northwest Missouri State, Avila University and Central Missouri State, Commissioner’s Award reviewer, Sprint grant reviewer. She has helped to secure over $2,000,000 in grant funding during her career.

During her career with Liberty Public Schools, she has been awarded the Outstanding Service award from Liberty Area Chamber of Commerce (2014-2017), along with the Liberty Area Chamber of Commerce Volunteer of the Year (2017). Recently, Colleen has been named a Paul Harris Fellow from The Rotary Foundation of Rotary International (2018).

Colleen’s goal is to support the Liberty School District Strategic Plan which is to expand relationships and partnerships with parents, patrons and businesses to ensure greater opportunities for real world application of learning.

Dr. Jeremy Bonnesen is the director/principal of Summit Technology Academy (STA) at The Missouri Innovation Campus. He has over 26 years of experience in education. He has received numerous awards and recognitions within the educational and civic arenas, including Lee’s Summit Community Reflections of Character Award Recipient, Kansas City Connector Recognition by the Kauffman Foundation, and a Lee’s Summit School District Excellence in Teaching Recipient. He holds a doctorate and specialist’s degree in educational leadership from Saint Louis University. In addition, he also has earned a master’s degree in school counseling and a bachelor’s degree in English education from the University of Central Missouri. 

Rich Groves

Richard Groves has served as Executive Director of the North Kansas City Business Council since September, 2010. In that role he has worked with his Board of Directors, the businesses of North Kansas City, the City of North Kansas City and other organizations to help fulfill the mission of the North Kansas City Business Council: “To promote and advocate for business and quality of life in North Kansas City.” His simplified expression of that mission is captured in three words: “Support. Inform. Connect.”

During the seven-plus years Rich has been a part of the North Kansas City community he has been a member of three City task groups: Centennial, Marketing and Armour Road Complete Streets. He has also been a member of the Clay County EDC Strategic Planning committee, the Clay County Tourism Advisory Board, the Northland Business and Education Alliance and the Northland CAPS Board of Directors. He was one of the founders of the Northland Coffee Connect weekly networking event now held at iWerx. He also serves as the coordinator of the North Kansas City Friday morning Farmer’s Market which operates from early May through October.

All of these activities have had one common goal: to keep the name and progress of North Kansas City prominent in the minds of participants in each of those groups. He has guided the creation of three videos which portray reasons to have a business in North Kansas City. He faithfully attends each City Council meeting and sends a brief enewsletter to Business Council members summarizing important business-related topics that were discussed.

Although now a solid supporter of everything North Kansas City, Rich’s roots are in the Liberty community where he grew up, attended high school and college and still lives. He has brought to the position of Executive Director of the North Kansas City Business Council management experience with two Kansas City-based Fortune 500 companies earlier in his career – Trans World Airlines and Marion Laboratories – as well as the experience of helping create and serve as the first leader of Liberty’s “Main Street” program, Historic Downtown Liberty, Inc. He is a graduate of William Jewell College and Washington University in St. Louis where he earned an MBA degree.

Jim Hampton

Jim Hampton graduated from William Jewell College in 1979 acquiring a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration with an emphasis in mathematics.

He was named the executive director of the Clay County Economic Development Council in 2001; He is responsible for all of the activities of the Clay County EDC, Midwest Small Business Finance,   the Clay County Rehabilitation Corporation, the Northland Research Center, the Northland Angel Investor Network, the Northland Education and Business Alliance, and the Northland International Trade Assistance Group. Special projects of the EDC include the Ford 20/20 task force, The Clay County Competitiveness Taskforce, Certified Work Ready Communities, The Clay County Strategic Planning Initiative, the Quality of Life Task Force, the Doniphan Leadership Institute and the Research Facility Task Force.

Mr. Hampton has successfully completed Economic Development Institute training at the University of Oklahoma and advanced leadership training from the Doniphan Leadership Institute. He has earned designations of Economic Development Finance Professional (EDFP) from the National Economic Development Council, Professional Community and Economic Developer from the Community Development Council and Six Sigma certification.

He and his wife Glenda have two adult daughters Andrea and Alexandra.

Dr. Diana E. Clemons Commonly known as a “Vision Motivator”, Dr. Diana E. Clemons, founded Future Leaders Outreach Network (FLON) in 1996 that was incorporated in 1999.  The nonprofit organization headquarters is located in Kansas City, MO and two Regional offices in Kansas City KS and Arlington TX.

Dr. Clemons is a highly motivated and results-oriented Executive Director and Entrepreneur with over 25 years of experience serving in the roles of supervisor, consultant, leadership, and team building.  Her leadership and training style focus is on striving to accomplish and exceed organizational, programmatic, professional and personal goals.

Expertise includes providing guidance, leadership, mentorship and training to staff and entrepreneurs functioning in roles to include program coordinators, facilitators, educators, independent contractors and volunteers, who are C.A.R.E. Willing Workers. C.A.R.E. is an acronym for committed, accountable, respectful and enthusiastic.

Dr. Clemons, co-author of the Pursuing MY Dreams curriculums, students learn skills to motivate them to set behavioral boundaries from drugs, alcohol, violence/bullying, tobacco and prevention from teen pregnancy. Additionally, students are taught career planning exploration for the purpose of discovering their occupation/job career path.

During 2006 – 2009, FLON was awarded a $4-million-dollar contract to provide parent and caring adults’ education workshops and community events in targeted communities of eight (8) States.  The program was developed to equip parents to talk to their teen early often and consistently about setting behavioral boundaries from drugs, alcohol, violence/bullying, tobacco and prevention from teen pregnancy.

Under the leadership of Dr. Clemons, FLON has provided various youth and family development curricula education and other activities to over 375,000 teens, young adults and adults associated with schools, community and faith based organizations and churches.

To date Future Leaders Outreach Network has been awarded thirteen million five hundred thousand ($13,500,000).

PUBLICATIONS:  American Journal of Health Studies, Published Manuscript Volume 26/Number 1/2011, 45-56:  Authors:  Diana E. Clemons, Wetta-Hall, RN, PhD, MPH, MSN, Jacobson LT, MPA, MA, Chesser A, PhD, Moss A, MS (2011). Article: Pursue Your Dreams Initiative – Does one size fit all: Culturally appropriate teen curriculum for risk behaviors.

Mat Maynor

Mat Maynor is a graduate of William Jewell College with a degree in History and Economics. 

He has served in rolls such as CEO, President & COO, Chief Marketing Officer and Lead Technology Strategist. Mr. Maynor currently serves as the CEO and Founder of think strategy marketing, LLC a strategic marketing consultancy. 

Mr. Maynor is also the founder of two non-profits. BASE KC, a non-profit promoting sustainable businesses and their growth in the Kansas City metro area and KC FIRE Track Club, a non-Profit youth track club promoting the sport of track and field in the Kansas City Northland and beyond.