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Catalyst University-Local Event Keeps Growing

Catalyst University Believe

By definition, a catalyst is a person or thing that advances an event, usually referring to change. It means the same as stimulation, incitement, and spark. Catalyst University, southwest Michigan's premier leadership event, remains true to its name as it continues to build momentum in the Kalamazoo community.

Also known as Catalyst U, the annual all-day event is filled with energy, surprises, and notable speakers. Catalyst University has doubled in size since it began in 2011. This year, the Jan. 29 venue is Wings Stadium, beginning at 7 a.m. Online registration is available.

Lisa Garcia, Director of Western Michigan University (WMU)'s Business Connection office, attended Catalyst University 2014 to enhance her already skyrocketing career.

"The amazing thing about Catalyst University is the ability to hear from great leaders from all over the country in one place," Garcia said. "Normally, you would have to travel to some pretty large cities in order to be exposed to the kinds of great minds all under one roof at Catalyst University."

A Portage native, Garcia attended the University of Michigan, then worked at advertising agencies in New York City and Chicago. She moved on to receive a Master's of Arts degree in Advertising from the University of Texas at Austin and chose to return to Kalamazoo after working as a Marketing Manager in Dallas for several years. About three years ago, she came to WMU to head up the newly formed Business Connection office, whose purpose is to match WMU's resources to the needs of the local business community.

"The conference was inspiring in the sense that it made me really want to be a better version of myself, find my creativity, and not be afraid to take risks," she said.

Catalyst University Lisa Garcia

This year, Garcia has expanded her family with the birth of her first child. Not only is Kalamazoo a great place to work, live, and grow professionally, it is also a great place to raise a family, she said.

"There are so many great things for children to do around Kalamazoo! In a much bigger city, many activities for kids would be really expensive, but Kalamazoo offers so much for free," Garcia said. "I'm really looking forward to taking my son to the Kalamazoo Valley Museum and can't wait to take him to the Air Zoo. I think he'll love both of those places as much as I love them!"

This year's Catalyst U theme is "believe." Attendees will leave thinking about what they believe. The ultimate catalyst for growth is the ability to empower the right people to lead. The greatest way to create positive change is through a collaboration of work and inspiration. Catalyst University can help create this change by building leadership in all sectors of our community - industry, business, education, government, not-for-profit and faith-based - and at levels of an individual's development. Current and up-and-coming leaders are encouraged to attend each year.

As in past years, the day will be filled with surprises and scheduled presentations from inspiring leaders, including:

In addition, this year's Makers' Mart competition is giving five small businesses in southwest Michigan an opportunity to win $10,000 worth of business growth resources. The finalists include Handmade Kalamazoo, Lush Gourmet Foods, Mamaleelu Cold Brew, Damn Handsome Grooming Co., and Pop City Popcorn. They need your vote to help them win! Learn more about the competition and participate in the live voting online until Friday, Jan. 23.

Don't forget to register as soon as possible for Catalyst University 2015!

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