Founders and Instructors
"A cattle ranch twenty miles from Hardin, Montana, ten miles from the nearest neighbor is an isolating place for a gay kid. Back then there were no reference points for growing up gay. There were no role models and there were no resources for someone like me. I didn’t know that other gay people existed, I didn’t understand why I felt the way I felt. It wasn’t until about the age of ten when we moved to Bozeman that I started to learn what it meant to be gay. Back then it meant you got teased, bullied and marginalized for being different. I learned to watch my mannerism, to mask my interests and to adjust the way I came across as more masculine. I lived in fear of others finding out I was gay up until after I graduated from Northern Arizona University.
It wasn’t until I started my own business in China, that I started to understand that being gay was an asset and that the LGBTQIA+ community, in which I would become a part of, was remarkable. In subsequent years I learned how to leverage my gayness rather than fear it. As the leader of thousands of people in the business I built, I was fully out and fully representative of myself. I became one of the first Out leaders in China and built a large multifaceted food and beverage company with thousands of team members and tens of millions in annual revenues. Through building the organization, I learned how crucial it was as a leader to be authentic and how that authenticity drove my success.
At this point I’ve been a fully Out leader for two decades; the world has come a long way since my early days in Montana. In our community there is less fear these days, there are more resources and there is more freedom to be out and ourselves. In my opinion, there are still too few people in leadership who are leading out. The main driver for this program is to work with young people, specifically from rural communities, on building the leadership skills that will help drive their own leadership style and future successes."
Bob is one of a handful of Western business trailblazers in China and is widely recognized for having built one of China’s most recognized homegrown Western-style hospitality brands. Bob is now based between Seattle, Spokane, and Montana and is an active investor and advisor in historic redevelopment, and preservation with a positive impact on surrounding communities.
The Montana native arrived in Beijing, China, in 1994 to study Chinese after graduating from Northern Arizona University. Even at that time, China was a place with huge potential for adventure and opportunity, though Western food choices were still scarce and hard to come by. After several years of studying Chinese and working, Bob set about to fill the void by offering great quality, consistent, and classic Western food and drink. He spent the next 18 years building two distinct Western Food and Beverage brands in the PRC; “blue frog bar and grill” and “KABB Bistro Bar” both of which became the gold standard for casual Western dining and drinking in China.
As CEO, Bob oversaw the procurement, design, fit-out and management of over forty multimillion-dollar restaurant projects in China and Macau. He has deep experience in the development of these assets in one of the most completive environments in the world.
As of January 2017, the company he founded, Blue Horizon Hospitality Group, operated 35 restaurants in 10 cities throughout China, had revenue of seventy-five million US dollars per annum and employed nearly two thousand team members country wide.
In February of 2017, Bob completed the final sale of his shares in the business to a European restaurant Group and completely exited from the business.
During his time growing the business in China, Bob maintained an active leadership role in EO (Entrepreneurs Organization) and then YPO (Young Presidents Organization) serving eight years on the leadership committee of the YPO Pan Asian Chapter. He is currently the Chair of the YPO LGBTQIA+ Network.
Instructor - Leadership
"I've never been the cool kid at school. Being dyslexic, I have always experienced the world in a different way. I never really felt like I fit in.
When I moved for work to China at 29, this was the first time I felt like my skin fit my bones. I found my purpose and thrived navigating between the East and West cultural similarities and differences.
My excitement as an executive coach stems from inciting awareness to motivate a person's choice for action that enables behavioral and mindset shifts. On many occasions, I have been told I am provocative because I ask the questions no one else wants to ask. Practical, because I like efficiency. Ballsy, because I push back when people are being teased. Unexpected, because I tell it like it is. Quirky, because I have coffee with my chickens in the morning. This is my 'normal'.
During my 20 years as a global executive coach, I have worked with leaders from all over the world who say, "I feel like I am an outsider." Living abroad, I realized leadership is not rocket science. Leadership is a choice, regardless of a person's background, country, religion, gender, sexuality, and ethnicity. Leaders are human. No one is wired the same way, yet they have similar pain points.
My belief is leadership starts with the raw and real choice to lead your life authentically."
Mary is a global executive coach and has accumulated over 25 years of on-the-ground field experience coaching leaders across the globe. Working with Fortune 500 companies, Mary's list of clients include Google, Logitech, NVIDIA, Unity Technologies, Accenture, GAP Inc., Under Armour, Cathay Pacific Airlines, Air New Zealand, Kimberly-Clark, Phillip Morris, Schneider Electric, Adidas, AGCO, Grainger, Allen and Overy Law Firm and Spectrum Health.
In 1977, Mary moved to Shanghai, China working for PwC (China) as National Training Manager. She then joined Microsoft in 1999 as the Asia Pacific Greater China Region Training Specialist and was quickly promoted to Organizational Development Consultant. She was responsible for co-designing and facilitating management and leadership development programs as well as building the learning and development platform across 14 countries in Asia.
In 2004, Mary decided to take a year off to travel and 'accidentally started her coaching business in Shanghai with a field office in San Francisco. Now living between Shanghai, China and Napa, California, the Pacific Ocean is her commute when working in Asia and an 82-mile drive to Silicon Valley.
Mary is a certified executive coach, a TEDx Talk speaker coach, and holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree from Saint Mary's College, majoring in training and development. Mary is an active member of the California business community by volunteering with Rotary, Napa City Council, the Leadership Napa Valley Program, and is Vice President of the Napa-Sonoma Kappa Kappa Gamma Alumnae Association. Mary also spearheads emergency readiness planning and awareness for the Latinx community in Napa County, is involved in efforts to provide affordable housing in Napa and fundraises for women and children at risk.
Instructor - Conflict Transformation
"At age 18, I left Montana for Seattle University where I received an education from the Jesuits rooted in critical thought, which, at its core, challenged me to ask the question: "what is my role in this world?" By asking that simple question, life carried me in various directions to work alongside powerful changemakers around the world. More than anything, my connection to this global community sustain who I am as a peacebuilder.
The British nuclear physicist and dialogue specialist, David Bohm, explained that everything we see in existence--at some point--began with thoughts. Thought processes at the root of much of Western culture stems from the dualistic paradigm put forth by the French philosopher, Rene Descartes, in the early 1600's. Dualism, at its core, reduces the complexity of life into only two options, which then often evolves into us vs. them, good vs evil, and either/or mentalities. In my experience, diversity of people, perspectives, and ways of life are fundamental, not so that people can simply coexist, but to build a fundamental foundation of acceptance of complexity that combats mentalities of dualism, and thus creates the space for people to coexist harmoniously in actuality. While often challenging, working in diverse environments--where I do not know the culture, or speak the language, or have "control" of my surroundings--have been the most enriching experiences of my life."
Robert Rivers is a native of Helena, Montana. He has 20 years of experience managing projects and facilitating trainings in systemic peacebuilding and conflict transformation. He holds an M.A. in Peace and Conflict studies from the European University Centre for Peace Studies and has lectured both there and in the Master's program in security studies at the Catholic University of Paris. He is considered one of the world's foremost educators in unarmed civilian protection and has coordinated multi-cultural and international teams working constructively in and on war. He has trained over 5,000 people from 100 countries in 13 conflict zones around the world, most recently in Iraq and South Sudan.
With his wife, Fernanda, Robert co-founded Imagine Nation Brewing in Missoula--the country's first combination of microbrewery and center for community transformation. In five years of business, they have hosted over 3,500 community events, supported over 500 local organizations, and given back 25% of their net profit to socially-minded organizations. He is the recipient of the 2013 Peacekeeper of the Year award from the Geneva-based, Nonviolent Peaceforce, and the co-recipient, along with his wife, of the 2019 Peacemaker of the Year award from the Jeannette Rankin Peace Center.
Support - Advising
Kathleen’s passion is helping students bridge the gap between college and career. She has worked with the College of Business at the University of Montana since 2002. She sees an exciting future for the Gianchetta Student Success Center and is continually working hard to bring fresh ideas and enthusiasm to the students each semester. Kathleen earned a Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology and a Master of Business Administration (MBA) from the University of Montana.
The Gianchetta Student Success Center mission is to engage students in developing career goals and planning their academic experiences to best support those goals.
"I grew up part of a large family in Billings, Montana. I had a great childhood and school experience. While in school I played football, ran track, was on the speech team, and was involved in student service and leadership activities. Like many Montanans, I also hunted, fished, skied and spent as much time outdoors as I possibly could. I also enjoyed spending my summers living in a bunkhouse and working on a cattle ranch outside of Nye, Montana.
There were only a few gay people in town that I knew, but as we all know, being LGBTQIA+ in Montana decades ago wasn’t always safe or supported. Being safe and supported isn’t always true today either. However, the one out gay man I did know was part of the fabric of town.
For me, I honestly didn’t think I was gay until after I left Billings for college. As I look back, I keep saying to myself, well Joe you were a bit naïve. If you have heard Kenji Yoshino speak about “covering,” I was a master at it. Staying deep in the closet, watching what I said, how I acted, who I associated with at school was a daily part of my life.
Looking back, it was clear there were many LGBTQIA+ people that I went to school with. Many have stayed in Montana, while others have left, but we are all out leaders in our communities. I am fortunate to work for a company that is globally supportive of the LGBTQIA+ community, and takes stands to support all people’s rights. Bob and I hope this program is a one of the ways we can help create out leaders who feel safe, supported, and living their best life."
Joe Whittinghill is the Corporate Vice President of Talent, Learning, and Insights for Microsoft. Joe leads a team responsible for activating culture and learning, building world-class leaders, and enabling the workforce of the future for Microsoft. Joe has deep expertise in organizational and executive development, the neuroscience of leadership and is one of the creators of Microsoft’s Leadership Principles at the core of the company’s cultural transformation.
Prior to this role, Joe was the Managing Director/General Manager of the Merger & Acquisitions Venture Integration group. During his six years leading the group, he built a practice that facilitated the closure and integration of more than 130 acquisitions, divestitures and joint ventures representing $31B+ in consideration and adding over 34,000 new employees worldwide to Microsoft.
He joined Microsoft in 1999, and has held various leadership roles responsible for the development of leaders, organizations and learning, as well as Finance. His previous work in learning led to the design and building of what is now known as the Microsoft Learning Center in Redmond, WA. Joe serves on a number of non-profit boards, is the past-chairman of the University of Montana Foundation Board of Trustees, and is a guest lecturer at universities on the topics of M&A, culture and leadership, and organization development. His personal interests include fly-fishing, camping and anything Montana.
He received his undergraduate degree from the University of Montana and his M.S.O.D. from the Pepperdine University Graziadio School of Business.
Instructor - Communication
"My roots are on the East Coast, where I was raised in a rural area of upstate New York. Coming out as bisexual during my high school years required a lot of relational work, as I tried to manage an identity that was decidedly “other” than my Italian, Catholic upbringing while still living within the context of my immediate and extended family. Most of my family members had no idea how to think of me or interact with me, and it was an alienating and lonely experience. Without any models or support had no idea how to be, or even who to be.
When I entered Syracuse University as a first year student in 1995 it was the first time I ever had an LGBTQ community to become immersed in, and I looked for opportunities wherever I could. I became a member of our Lambda League and eventually became President, bringing speakers like Harvey Fierstein to my campus. Leadership experiences during that time in my life paved the way for me to experience agency in my self-presentation and goal-attainment, and I am grateful to have had that scaffolding to support my career growth.
I also realized during that time how complex and impactful families are for everyone’s development, not just my own family in my own difficult situation. That realization inspired me to study interpersonal dynamics, and has been the career I’ve pursued in one way or another ever since then."
Christina G. Yoshimura is a Professor of Communication Studies at the University of Montana (M.A., Ph.D.) and a clinical mental health counselor (M.A., LCPC). Dr. Yoshimura has spent the last 20 years researching and teaching on the topic of family communication, particularly the ways in which family members’ communication is influenced by the world around them.
In addition to her work as a professor Dr. Yoshimura has spent the last 6 years working as a professional counselor, translating academic findings on family communication patterns into applicable interventions and strategies that individuals can use to manage their personal relationships. Dr. Yoshimura engages in research and teaching on and off campus on interpersonal communication and mental health. She has published over a dozen peer-reviewed journal articles and book chapters, including a recent article specifically addressing the role of communication in working with survivors of domestic violence.
Today, Dr. Yoshimura’s focus has been narrowed to helping individuals develop applied skills to navigate difficult situations, and she teaches these in a variety of contexts, including teaching short courses on social skills through the Curry Health Center at UM.