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New Member Profiles submitted by:
Ginger Garner, CMP 
Associate Director, Meeting Planning and Management
The College Board
Member since 2006

New Member Feature Profile: February 2018

Carla Carroll
Director of Global Sales

Salamander Hotels & Resorts
Member since November 2016

MPI Georgia welcomed Carla Carroll as a new member in November of 2016, but she has been attending chapter events for a while with her former colleague, Melissa Legaux, CMP of the Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau. Currently, Carla is the Brand Ambassador for Salamander Hotels & Resorts and is responsible for managing and cultivating client relationships in the Southeastern Region. She is very active in attending tradeshows, roadshows, and hosting events in key markets to represent the Salamander Brand.

Carla received her bachelor degree in Tourism and Commercial Recreation from Georgia Southern University. She reflects upon her first position at the Ritz Carlton Amelia Island and believes it set the tone for her career. Today, her best practices include always being the first and last to speak when greeting a guest and anticipating the needs of clients. One thing she has learned in her 22 years in the industry is to listen and probe for the need behind the need. “It’s important to understand what things are important to people, but even more, WHY they are important – never assume that you know the answer, everyone is different.” Her parents also inspired her dedication to service with life-long advice. “I grew up in a home where all people, regardless of status, race, or nationality were respected. My mother and father taught me to treat the janitor with the same respect as the CEO. I will always carry this forward in life no matter where I am.”

Work travel is on Carla’s horizon as she will be attending an immersion program for a new hotel opening up in Charleston this summer, Hotel Bennett, located in the heart of Marion Square on King Street. Carla’s work-related travels mostly include events in the Southeastern Region. As for personal travel, Carla laughs, “Ha, I wish I could say I had this one planned.” A typical getaway includes a long summer weekend in Destin, but the next vacation she would like to plan would be a trip to the Caribbean.


New Member Featured Profile: January 2018

Tim Ruplin
Director of Event Services

AV-Tech Media Solutions
Member since August 2017

Tim has been in the audio-visual production business for over 15 years. Prior to joining AV-Tech, he spent seven years traveling as an audio engineer. In 2010, Tim joined AV-Tech to lead their Event Services team which specializes in serving enterprise customers with unique technology experiences for internal messaging, corporate tours, training sessions, webcasting, and customer interactions. 

When not on the road, Tim enjoys spending time with his wife and three children in Marietta, Georgia. “AV-Tech has built an organization that lets me do what I love while being able to focus on my family.”

AV-Tech Media Solutions is an Atlanta based audio-visual services business that serves organizations by connecting people with technology to create meaningful experiences that teach, reach, engage and inspire.


New Member Featured Profile: December 2017

Jessica Peeples, CMP
Marketing Events Manager, North America

Member since May 2017

Jessica (re)joined MPI in May 2017 after taking a few years hiatus. Previously experiencing the value first-hand, she missed being part of a group where she could not only network with other event professions, but learn and expand her skills on a continuous basis.

In her current role at Secureworks, she manages an array of marketing events throughout North America – ranging from regional trade shows to an annual client conference, and everything in between. Prior to joining SecureWorks in 2015, Jessica managed marketing events in Asia Pacific and Australia for AirWatch by VMWare. Although she didn’t get to live abroad during this time, a memorable trip to Singapore and Australia checked two more places off of her bucket list.

With a passion for travel, working an international market was right up her alley. Jessica tries to go to a new destination every New Year’s Eve… to ring in the New Year celebrating like a local. She started this tradition nearly a decade ago. Work is taking Jessica to New York City in the coming weeks, but her dream vacation is touring Italy. 


New Member Featured Profile: November 2017

Nickie Sears-Schroeder
Owner/Senior Meeting Planner

NSS Eventive
Member since February 2017

Nickie Sears-Schroeder joined MPI Georgia in February. She is a Senior Planner for meetings and incentives, and also works as an International Travel Director. She looks forward to joining a study group for the CMP exam, participating in the CMM program, and becoming involved in a committee. Nickie has 20 years of meeting and event services under her belt, and works in all facets of the hospitality industry; including procurement, pre-planning, and onsite logistics. Recently, she has worked with Destination South Meetings & Events, HPN Global, and American Meetings.

Early in her career, Nickie learned from experience to manage the client, and not allow the client to manage the planner… this results in “scope of work creep.” Additionally, her foundation of success is built upon several fundamentals: be proactive instead of reactive, change is the only constant, and teamwork makes the dream work. Outside of work, Nickie enjoys volunteering for her church, Sugarloaf United Methodist; and working with her Homeowner's Board and Northbrook Middle School PTA. Whenever she has a free moment, she enjoys watching her 12 and 13 year-old boys play multiple sports. The boys are active in academy soccer for Atlanta Fire United, Norcross/Peachtree Ridge travel baseball, and SwimAtl.

“Her blood runs orange” as a Clemson Tiger Alumni. Nickie goes back to her hometown in South Carolina to support the team as much as possible. She and her family recently vacationed in New Jersey to enjoy time at the shore.


New Member Featured Profile: October 2017

Mallory Siemen
Senior Sales Manager

Mandarin Oriental, Atlanta
Member since June 2016

After six years in the hospitality industry, Mallory Siemen joined our chapter this past June. She started her career with Starwood Hotels & Resorts, and currently serves as a senior sales manager for Mandarin Oriental, Atlanta. Mallory handles all vertical markets for territories including West Coast, Southeast, and International. Membership for Mallory is invaluable to her profession having connected with planners and other suppliers at a variety of Georgia MPI functions. She is enthusiastic about our chapter and says, “This is a great opportunity to not only meet new contacts, but to uncover trends in the marketplace.”

Mallory’s colleagues would best describe her as energetic and always smiling. She is also a self-motivated professional who embraces the following advice: “Push yourself because no one is going to do it for you.”  Additionally, in order to best serve her clients, Mallory encourages open communication and does not assume their needs or expectations.

Business travel takes her from Toronto and California, and this jet setter keeps Italy and Bora Bora on her dream vacation bucket list. In the meantime, the Empire State, New York, is Mallory’s next vacation. 


New Member Featured Profile: September 2017

Kathy Grashof, CMP
Director of Marketing, North America

Americas Marketing, Orange Business Services
Member since March 2017

Kathy manages marketing activities in Americas Marketing, Orange Business Services, a global telecommunications company. She most enjoys building customer relationships through events; providing sales teams and executives quality time with customers. A successful engagement is all about getting to know each other focusing on increasing sales opportunities down the road.   

Kathy joined MPI with the goal of expanding her knowledge in the industry, and to learn more creative ways of accomplishing her goals. She participated in the May 2017 CMP study group, and thoroughly enjoyed her time with peers in a collaborative, learning environment. Having been out of school for a few years, Kathy highly recommends that members take advantage of this great resource for chapter members.

When Kathy first started her career in marketing events, her VP gave her a beautiful Swarovski swan. He told her that when we do marketing events, we must be a swan – “above the water, we are calm and graceful. No one sees what we are doing under the water, but we are paddling like heck.”  That advice has stayed with Kathy through her 20+ years in event marketing. People often comment during her big events that she always portrays a calm disposition.   


New Member Featured Profile: August 2017


Justin L. Page
Senior Director of Sales

Atlanta Convention and Visitors Bureau
Member since February 2017

Justin currently serves as a Senior Director of Sales with the Atlanta Convention and Visitors Bureau (ACVB). He manages a team of sales professionals who bring meetings and conventions to the wonderful destination of Atlanta. The team’s sales efforts bring 1.6M room nights to Atlanta annually. 

One of his colleagues, Melissa Leguax, CMP, is a board member this term. We are most appreciative of the ACVB’s sponsorship support for events throughout the year.

Speaking of Justin’s coworkers, they would best describe their colleague as passionate, “casually intense,” aggressive, and fun. These traits are complimented by several best practices implemented within his work: always be on time, always look the part, respond to every client within 24-hours, and listen more than you speak.

Justin also shared two pieces of advice he will never forget: “To be early is to be on time, to be on time is to be late, and to be late is unacceptable.” Additionally, “it’s not the lions that are going to get you; it’s the mosquitos.” Justin follows the philosophy that one should always treat every person and every customer equally.

Even though he doesn’t have any upcoming trips planned for work, Justin has some personal travel destinations planned including a trip to Los Angeles, California, and one to Barcelona, Spain. His dream vacation includes a trip to both Africa and Antarctica; the only two continents Justin has yet to visit.


New Member Featured Profile: July 2017


Chris Eldridge
Dedicated Events Manager

Skyline Park and Slater Hospitality Group
Member since March 2017

We would like to welcome Chris Eldridge who joined our chapter in March of this year after meeting so many wonderful members through his new position. Chris leads the Events Team at Ponce City Market, including all three Rooftop Venues. Prior to joining the Slater Hospitality Group, he worked as the Director of Operations and a consultant within the restaurant industry. Though Chris has dabbled on the edge of the event world, his complete immersion started a little over a year ago. After encountering meeting planners from the corporate world, DMCs, and independent planners; Chris decided he had to join MPI GA so he could forge connections with these amazing individuals – connections that have quickly grown to strong friendships with some of the top planners in Atlanta.

Early in Chris’ career, he made the best out of a blunder.  He once scheduled a 300-person event on the wrong day. “We prepped, we staffed, we ordered for 300 people… but that large number of people did not show up. Luckily it was a holiday so he quickly threw one heck of a Labor Day party. The regular guests in attendance thought it was the best party ever." Now, Chris has developed several best practices to ensure success including writing everything down. “I have been through 17 thick notebooks in under a year and I take notes on EVERYTHING.  Phone calls, face-to-face conversations, and even email correspondence. It has saved me repeatedly.” Chris’ coworkers would best describe him as passionate, driven, stubborn as all get out, but also very guest focused. He adds, “the aforementioned positive qualities often require copious amount of Diet Coke to sustain.”

 Chris has traveled the world extensively and having grown up on the beach, he most often gravitates toward the mountains. He enjoys disconnecting and finding locations with no cell phone reception or wi-fi. With a return trip to Toronto and Queensland, New Zealand on his mind, Chris is next traveling to Israel in October with his mom. However, he is very content at home. “I'm happy to be settled on the Rooftop with the most spectacular views in Atlanta.”

New Member Featured Profile: June 2017


Tanna Pearman
Business Development Director

Eldorado Resorts
Member since May 2017


A warm welcome to Tanna Pearman who joined our chapter this spring, and will be a regular contributor to Re:Connect . Based in Reno, Nevada, Tanna works for Eldorado Resorts, as their Business Development Director. In this role, she is responsible for developing future business prospects in all markets throughout the United States. Before becoming a member, Tanna would attend various MPI Georgia events and says she always received a friendly reception. Once her position allowed for MPI membership, she made the Georgia Chapter her home.

Tanna has three keys to professional success: tenacity, preparation, and follow-up.  Even though it can be discouraging to reach out to potential contacts and receive no response; determination and timing are everything. In Tanna’s experience, she cannot tell you the business I’ve booked because a planner saw my email or received my phone call the exact same week they had been discussing my destination.

Next, in order to best connect and serve your customers, it is important to research a contact’s business needs prior to reaching out. Tanna stated that “preparation opens more doors than ignorance.”  

Lastly, whether providing information after a trade show or calling a client when promised, it is critical to follow-through on one’s word. These three best practices can be summarized in Tanna’s key piece of advice, “Treat people the way you want to be treated.”

With business trips to Washington, DC and Las Vegas next on the horizon, Tanna plans to take some time for herself and venture out on an Alaskan cruise. It has been over a year since she has had a proper vacation, and she hopes to enjoy a bit of fishing along the Alaskan coast with the hope of a European cruise in her future.

New Member Featured Profile: May 2017

    Ashton Burks
Sales & Events Manager
The Pearl with St. Joe Club & Resorts
Member since April 2016

Ashton Burks joined the Georgia Chapter last April and has subsequently expanded her network of colleagues and friends within the industry. Based in Florida, Ashton works as the Sales & Events Manager for The Pearl, a hotel intimate in size and feel flavored by a Cuban Flair and a Hemingway narrative. She has the opportunity to act as the sales manager as well as the service manager for the property, thereby working with planners and event teams from concept to execution. Ashton strives to implement transparency and sincerity in all she does. Her coworkers would describe Ashton as a big dreamer as she loves to come up with new ideas. These qualities have helped her grow in her profession and overcome challenges as evidenced by her rookie career mistake:

As a recreation coordinator at another hotel, I was super excited to plan my first ever 5K run for a corporate group of about 200 people starting at 6 a.m. We planned the 5K route inclusive of a mix of nature paths, beach boardwalks, beach run, and across the lawn; but I never looked at what time the sun was rising that day. Five days before the event, I realized it was daylight savings time and the sun would not be up until around 6:30 a.m. (30 minutes after the runners would take off into the extremely tree covered nature paths of the island). In an extremely humbled state, I confessed what I had discovered, and thankfully, we were able to come up with a creative solution to turn it into a surprise “glow” run using LED and glow lights to brighten the paths. Without the quick wit and help of my colleague in my complete state of embarrassment, I would not have gotten through that day. It is almost four years later and I still have the sunrise and sunset website tagged as a favorite on my browser.

Ashton would love to next travel to Cuba. Seeing that The Pearl is a Cuban influenced hotel, she is tempted every day by the colorful photos and adventures that someone else got to photograph or the flavors they got to taste. She also really enjoys strong coffee and a great mojito. If budget were of no consequence, you could find her glamping through Europe – adventuring off the beaten path for restaurants and excursions while crashing in a luxurious bed at 4 and 5 star hotels.


New Member Featured Profile: April 2017

Mallory Siemen
Senior Sales Manager
Mandarin Oriental, Atlanta
Member since: June 2016

After six years of experience in the hospitality industry, Mallory Siemen joined the Georgia Chapter this past summer. She started her career with Starwood Hotels & Resorts, and currently serves as a senior sales manager for Mandarin Oriental, Atlanta. Mallory handles all vertical markets for territories including West Coast, Southeast, and International.  

Mallory has found her membership to be invaluable to her profession having connected with planners and other suppliers at a variety of MPI Georgia meetings and functions. The organization provides a “great opportunity to not only meet new contacts but uncover trends in the market and industry.”

Mallory’s colleagues would best describe her as energetic and always smiling. She is also a self-motivated professional who embraces the following advice: “Push yourself because no one is going to do it for you.”  Additionally, in order to best serve her clients, she encourages open communication and does not assume their needs or expectations.

Business travel takes her from Toronto and California, but this jet setter keeps Italy and Bora Bora on her vacation bucket list.  In the meantime, her next vacation will take her to “The Empire State,” better known as New York City.

New Member Featured Profile: March 2017

Desiree Stoute
Sales Manager
Fogo de Chão Dunwoody
Member since: November 2016

Desiree Stoute was introduced to the Georgia Chapter of MPI by her colleagues last November. She currently serves as a sales manager for Fogo de Chão Dunwoody and is responsible for identifying potential meeting planners and corporate executives in the Dunwoody market seeking space for private parties and small group meetings. While making advances in her career, Desiree has grown her time management and organizational skills; however, she would warn newcomers against prioritizing the need for approval from all of one’s colleagues… and skipping on spell check before hitting “send.”

Travel is an enjoyable pastime for Desiree and she dreams of spending time in Italy. Until her days in il bel paese, she will just have to enjoy Mexico, her next vacation destination. Desiree would also like to share the following piece of advice by Maya Angelou: “When people show you who they are, you better believe them.”

New Member Featured Profile: February 2017

LaToya Southern
Meeting & Events Manager
Arby's Restaurant Group
Member since: 2016

MPI Georgia welcomes LaToya Southern who is the Meeting & Events Manager at Arby’s Restaurant Group where she manages conferences, as well as the annual and internal monthly meetings for the corporate office. She also provides meeting support to other internal departments. LaToya has acquired key professional advice during her career: Be a part of the solution, treating everyone with the same level of respect, and keeping lines of communication open even during the off-season.

LaToya is a wife and mother of two boys and her family supports various volunteer programs with the Arby’s Foundation at the top of the list. In her spare time she is a runner, dancer, reader, and loves to visit new museums, festivals, and events around the metro-Atlanta area with her family and friends. Work will soon take her to Nashville, TN; however, a vacation to Aruba is on the calendar, and hopefully a trip to Maldives – her dream destination.

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