Professional Growth and Enrichment

Event Planning Certificate Program Instructors

Cathy Monteith Arrington is the founder and president of Insight Marketing, a full-service branding company in Western North Carolina. She has planned and implemented numerous well-attended large events for hospitals, financial institutions, golf resorts, and other businesses that led to national media coverage. She is an entertaining and energetic speaker with vast experience on marketing and communications.

Justin Belleme is the Founder and Director of Strategy for JB Media Group in Asheville. A graduate of the University of North Carolina Asheville with a degree in Computer Science, he continues to study developments and trends in Internet marketing and adapts swiftly to industry and technological change. Justin has significant event and conference marketing experience both locally in the Asheville area and nationally. Justin is committed to sharing his knowledge and helping organizations make informed decisions on their marketing campaigns.

Sarah Benoit, Director of Training and Lead Instructor of the JB Media Institute, is an online marketing, SEO, and social media strategist dedicated to making the field of Internet marketing accessible and understandable to business and marketing professionals. Exercising her commitment to education, Sarah also teaches Internet marketing classes on a variety of topics at AB-Tech Community College, the AB Tech Small Business Incubator, and Asheville SCORE.


Susan Fouts has been an evangelist for premium customer service for over 20 years. She has created systems that deliver exceptional customer service training for industries as diverse as plastics manufacturers to arts councils. Her approach to customer service training includes being a secret shopper, and hiring other secret shoppers to analyze the overall consumer experience. Susan holds an undergraduate degree in Clinical Laboratory Science, a Master’s Degree in Business and a Doctorate in Education. Her customer service philosophy guides her work, and her greatest joy at work comes from the unexpected thank you note she receives from a satisfied customer.

Bobby Hensley is the Associate Director of Continuing Education at Western Carolina University (WCU) where he has coordinated workshops and summer conferences for 17 years. He began his career as a publications coordinator with the Project Management Institute where he was instrumental in organizing their seminars and symposium. Prior to WCU, he spent a year at Southwestern Community College as the Coordinator of Meeting Space, Auditorium and Special Events. He is graduate of WCU and holds a Masters from Liberty University.

Van Kennedy is a classically trained chef with nearly 20 years of restaurant/banquet experience. He worked for Sous Chef, Roaring Gap Country Club, and was the Executive Chef at High Meadows Country Club and a private catering Chef. He has a great deal of experience within the hospitality industry including holding positions as a restaurant general manager, a location manager for campus dining, and is now the Director of Hospitality for the Nantahala Outdoor Center. Van was also the director of Clemson Universities Youth Learning Institute and is the Founding member of the Tri-County farmers market Farm-to-Table Local Initiative. He graduated with honors from the Western Carolina University, College of Business.

Amy Lasher started her career in hospitality and events early on by working in her family’s Western North Carolina bakery and restaurant business. She received an International Business degree at Western Carolina University, while continuing to work at the family restaurant, a golf course in Weaverville, and as a Box Seat Server at the Asheville Tourist Stadium. She became a Flight Attendant after college, and then returned to her family’s business after starting her own family. By that time, the business had grown to four different venues; providing food, beverage, staff, and rentals. Amy has worked her way from a dish washer to the head Sales Manager position for the family business--M7Event Solutions at The Crest Center and Pavilion.

Drake Thomas is the President / Owner of DST Works, where he provides technical and consulting services throughout the region in the areas of IT culture management, systems administration, collaboration tools, security, and project management. Specialties include enterprise IT supply chain management, mobile device management and electronic medical record implementations. Drake was the Chief Information Officer/Security Officer for CarePartners Health Services prior to starting his own consulting firm. He holds several technical certifications and licensures, and has a Master’s Degree in Technology Management from Columbia University.

Jill Thompson is the Associate Director for Professional Development at Western Carolina University. She has more than 15 years of experience planning and managing events and training programs within the non-profit sector including educational conferences, public relations events, fundraising dinners, and grant and scholarship announcement celebrations. These events included overseeing the A-Z planning process and coordinating committee meetings, donor participation and other event logistics. Jill has a degree in Bachelor’s in English from the University of Massachusetts with a concentration in Writing.

Ken Sanney is assistant professor of business law at Western Carolina University (WCU). Prior to joining WCU, Ken was the founding Chairperson of the Department of Entrepreneurship in the College of Business Administration at Central Michigan University. He joined CMU's faculty in the Department of Finance & Law in 2009 after serving as a music business faculty member in Middle Tennessee State University’s Department of Recording Industry from 2006 to 2009. Ken was also a leading entertainment and intellectual property attorney in Nashville, Tennessee. His teaching and scholarship focuses on technology, innovation, and intellectual property law; constitutional law (individual liberties); alternative dispute resolution; higher education pedagogy and policy (scholarship of teaching and learning); and business and professional ethics.

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