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U2030 Annual SPARK Meeting: Transformative Leadership at the Intersection of Customers & Operations

September 16-18, 2024
The Thompson Hotel, Nashville, TN

Get inspiration from 2024 Women Who SPARK Award winners, recognized for contributions to innovation, transformation, leadership, mentoring, diversity, and inclusion.

Learn new communication strategies through a competitive LEGO Challenge.

Explore diverse perspectives through our Human Spectrogram Ac tivity.


Participate in inspiring discussions with Theresa Broyles-Aplin, President & CEO of NES; Brent Baker, Chief Customer and Innovation Officer for NES; Chima Chijioke, Vice President of Customer Services for GA Power Company; Jody Allison, VP of Transformation for Liberty Utilities; Ajit Apte, Vice President of Customer Operations for BGE, Sean Vanslyke, CEO of SEMO Electric Cooperative & GoSEMO Fiber, Brandy Bolden, CCO for SMUD, and Frankie McDermott, Chief Operations Officer for SMUD.


Engage in pre-meeting community service projects to help income-challenged residents. Projects include setting up a new ReStore location for  Habitat for Humanity or assembling care packages for residents of a new Berkshire Homes apartment complex. Join us to forge meaningful connections with fellow attendees and the community. 


Featured Presenters

Theresa Broyles-Aplin


Brent Baker


Janisse Quinones


Chima Chijioke

Georgia Power Company

Chris Hilborn


Kay Fuhrman

Heidrick & Struggles

Vanessa Edmonds


Mike Smith


Christina Corcoran


Marlene Rosenberry




Monday, September 16
2:00 PM – 5:00 PM - Community Service Projects

Once again, we're offering two separate projects for annual meeting attendees who would like to participate in community service projects before the start of the meeting. Don't miss these bonding activities, which include:

  • Set up a new ReStore location for Habitat for Humanity. Transportation will be provided

  • Assemble care packages for payment-challenged residents of Berkshire Homes who are getting ready to move into Birtchstone, a new apartment complex. Kits will include hygiene items, clothing, and cleaning supplies.  

Tuesday, September 17, 2024
7:30 AM – 8:00 AM – Continental Breakfast
8:00 AM – 8:30 AM – Welcome, Safety Moment & Introductions

  • Chima Chijioke (Georgia Power Company)

  • Chris Hilborn (Independent)

8:30 AM – 9:15 AM – Fireside Chat: Welcome to Nashville & Innovating for Tomorrow with NES
Join us as leaders from our host utility, NES, welcome us to their vibrant city and share its innovative strides to enhance customer experience and operations, spotlighting its concerted efforts to modernize the business and foster strategic engagement with employees, customers, and communities.

  • Theresa Broyles-Aplin (NES)

  • Brent Baker (NES)

9:15 AM – 9:30 AM – Panel: Progress on U2030’s Vision & Roadmap
Find out what we have accomplished, learning, member resources, and what’s next for U2030.
Moderator: Chima Chijioke & Chris Hilborn

  • Vanessa Edmonds (U2030)

  • Christina Corcoran (U2030)

  • Mike Smith (U2030)

  • Marlene Rosenberry (U2030)

9:30 AM – 10:00 AM – Break & Human Spectrogram Activity
Position yourself along a spectrum based on your response to a specific question, allowing for a visual representation of the range of opinions or experiences within a group. This interactive exercise helps illustrate diversity in perspectives and fosters group discussion.
10:00 AM – 10:15 AM - Tracking Big Ideas from SPARK
Join us for an insightful session where we will demonstrate an innovative project management tool designed to propel utility innovations forward.
Speaker: Kim Getgen (InnovationForce)
10:15 AM – 11:00 AM – New Strategies for Developing a Culture of Transformative Leadership
During this session, utility executives will explore innovative strategies for cultivating a culture of transformative leadership, focusing on the essential elements that foster growth, innovation, and adaptability. By delving into practical approaches and real-world examples, participants will gain insights into building an empowering and forward-thinking organizational culture.
11:00 PM – 11:45 PM – Group Activity: D&I Family Feud
Divide into two teams and answer questions based on answers from experts about the future of D&I at the utility enterprise. Our host will ask you to guess the top answers to foster an engaging, competitive atmosphere that encourages learning and discussion.
Host: Dwight Scruggs, Cinch Home Services
11:45 PM – 1:00 PM – Lunch & Ignite Talks: Enlighten Us but Make it Quick
7 Ignite Talks, 5 minutes each, 20 auto-advancing slides.
1:00 PM – 1:15 PM - U2030 Annual Research Report Results
During this quick session, U2030’s Mike Smith will share preliminary results from an in-progress research study conducted through a partnership between U2030 and Energy Central, "Transformative Leadership at the Intersection of Customers and Operations." He will share findings into critical issues at the evolving juncture of the energy and water sectors, focusing on pioneering leadership strategies across customer and operational arenas.
Speaker: Mike Smith (U2030)
1:15 PM – 2:15 PM – CX CoE Session
Join us for a thought-provoking panel discussion about strategies for enhancing customer experiences.
2:15 PM – 2:30 PM – Break
2:30 PM – 3:45 PM – Futures Thinking Mini Workshop
3:45 PM – 4:00 PM – Ignite Talks: Enlighten Us but Make it Quick
2 Ignite Talks, 5 minutes each, 20 auto-advancing slides.
4:00 PM – 4:45 PM – Breaking Stereotypes: Seniors Speak on Payment & Technology Preferences

Hear from a lively panel of senior citizens discussing common misconceptions that utilities and other service providers have about their payment preferences, technology proficiency, and communication needs. This insightful session aims to challenge stereotypes, highlight senior customers' true capabilities and preferences, and foster more inclusive and effective service strategies. Join us to gain valuable perspectives directly from the senior community and learn how to meet their needs better.
4:45 PM – 5:00 PM – Day 1 Recap & Key Takeaways Wall

  • Chima Chijioke (Georgia Power Company)

  • Chris Hilborn (Independent)

6:30 PM – 8:30 PM – Women Who SPARK Awards Ceremony & Dinner, Sambuca, Nashville, TN

Wednesday, September 18, 2024

7:15 AM – 8:00 AM – Continental Breakfast
8:00 AM – 8:15 AM – Day 2 Welcome

  • Chima Chijioke (Georgia Power Company)

  • Chris Hilborn (Independent)

8:15 AM – 8:45 AM – Day 2 Keynote

8:45 AM – 9:00 AM – Ignite Talks: Projects from Women Who SPARK Award Winners
2 Ignite Talks, 5 minutes each, 20 auto-advancing slides
Speakers: Winners Announced During Event

9:00 AM – 9:15 AM – Break
9:15 AM – 9:45 AM - Group Activity: LEGO Challenge
Participate in a fun LEGO Challenge where only one team member can see the plans and communicate instructions to building managers, who then relay these instructions to the builders. Without seeing the picture, the builders must follow verbal guidance to construct the model, emphasizing teamwork and communication skills.
9:45 AM – 10:30 AM - Townhall: Utility AI Projects Discussion
During this collaborative Townhall session, we will discuss utility transformation projects and exchange ideas to enhance our collective understanding and drive successful project outcomes.
10:30 AM – 11:15 AM - Panel: Women Who SPARK Award Winners: Team Award
Transformation projects require cross-functional collaboration among employees from different departments, including IT, operations, customer service, and management. Hear from winners of our Women Who SPARK Transformation Team Award whose collaborative leadership approach is mobilizing employees and other stakeholders to foster innovation, adaptability, and a customer-centric mindset
Panelists: Winners Announced During Event
11:15 AM – 12:00 PM – Emergency Preparedness & Communications CoE Session
Hear from a dynamic utility panel about a cross-company formed by SMUD and managed by U2030 to expose best practices for emergency and outage preparedness and response. Find out what they learned and what they are doing with this information.

​12:00 PM – 1:00 PM – Lunch & Ignite Talks: Projects for Women Who SPARK Award Winners
5 Ignite Talks, 5 minutes each, 20 auto-advancing slides
Speakers: Winners Announced During Event

1:00 PM – 1:30 PM – Fireside Chat: Women Who SPARK Lifetime Achievement Award
Join us for a fireside chat featuring the extraordinary contributions of a women in the utility industry including here lifetime achievements and impact.
Moderator: Jody Allison (Liberty Utilities)
Speaker: Winner Announced During Event
1:30 PM – 2:30 PM - Energy Transition CoE Session
Join us for a gallery walk featuring essential concepts and an engaging panel discussion about the technologies powering global Energy Transition.
2:30 PM – 3:00 PM – Meeting Wrap-Up & Key Takeaways Wall
Participate in a fun end-of-day activity where participants write down their most important insights and reflections from the meeting and then post them on a shared wall for everyone to see and discuss, fostering collective learning and engagement.

  • Chima Chijioke (Georgia Power)

  • Chris Hilborn (Liberty)

3:00 PM – Meeting Adjourns

Gain Unexpected Wisdom & Relationships at SPARK

Join us for the lively panel discussion, "Breaking Stereotypes: Seniors Speak on Payment & Technology Preferences," another session from U2030 that will challenge your perceptions of utility customers and elevate your expertise.

Don’t miss your chance to meet outspoken seniors and grow at SPARK, September 16-18, 2024.

Scroll to the bottom of the page for the complete agenda.
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