Track: Organizational Excellence

Target Audience: Chief Executives and Board Members Only

In today’s environment, a new mindset is required regarding how boards frame issues, challenges, opportunities, and engage and stay in dialogues. This is especially true when members are determining risk and the organization’s overall vision. A key word in this transformation is “partnership” within the CEO/board relationship. Both parties co-create the vision and agree on the path to success. It means transforming the board members to enable each to step outside of their individual perspective to listen to others’ viewpoints and then courageously make and implement the right decision. When this is embraced, difficult decisions are made by board members and then mutually supported by all to the executive team, staff, and external stakeholders.

This transformation can be difficult as a clear distinction exists between governance and operations and therefore decision making between the board and the CEO. The proof of this transformation is evident when a board self-manages the line between their realm and that of the CEO. A generative thinking board is one that is upstream from fiduciary responsibility, tactics, and execution and solves problems as well as governs.

Succession planning and trained, prepared board members are crucial. However, finding the right people can be difficult and rarely do we have the time and resources to develop them. By creating a Young Professionals Board, your organization can build a pipeline of engaged, active, and up-and-coming professionals. This sector is often disregarded in the workplace due to its perceived lack of networks and finances. However, changes in technology and social interactions has made networking and innovative fundraising strengths of this untapped generation. We will discuss the steps, challenges, and benefits associated with starting a Young Professionals Board and how to mold these individuals into brand ambassadors for your agency.

It’s time to raise expectations of the practice of governance within your organization – the present and future call for this to be successful for serving our communities and surviving.

Learning Objectives:

  • An actual specific story of developing a board from a Rubber stamp -> Fiduciary -> Strategic -> Generative process
  • The importance of the relationship between the CEO and board chair and how to develop a successful partnership
  • How to assess for skill sets needed and how to recruit board members
  • How to develop a young professionals board


  • Christina Gullo, president & CEO, Villa of Hope
  • Gerianne Puskas, chief advancement officer, Villa of Hope
  • Dawn Deperrior, board member, Villa of Hope
  • Curtis Johnson, associate, Bond, Schoeneck & King and founder and past president, Villa of Hope Young Professionals Board

Christina Gullo, MSW, MBA
President & CEO
Villa of Hope
@christina_gullo; @villaofhoperoch

In September 2010, Christina Gullo was named president/CEO of St. Joseph’s Villa of Rochester (now Villa of Hope). With a Master of Social Work from Marywood University and a Master of Business Administration from Rochester Institute of Technology, Gullo’s background includes clinical, professional, business, and leadership experience. She began her career as a social worker for Catholic Family Center in 1994 and worked her way through leadership positions in human resources, strategic planning and program to becoming executive vice president/chief operating officer for Catholic Family Center in 2010.

Gullo was a 2014 ATHENA Award finalist which is presented by The Women’s Council, an affiliate of the Rochester Business Alliance. She also received the 2008 Up & Coming Businesswomen’s Award, presented by the Rochester Women’s Network and was a 2005 recipient of the Rochester Business Journal’s Forty Under 40 Award. Gullo co-authored Making Strategy Count in the Health and Human Services Sector which focuses on strategy in the human services world and the importance of adjusting to change, creating a strong organizational culture, and innovating in effective, meaningful ways.

Gerianne Puskas
Chief Advancement Officer
Villa of Hope
@whattwin; @villaofhoperoch

Gerianne Puskas joined the leadership team at the Villa in July 2015 and is now chief advancement officer. She brings to the Villa more than 25 years of experience in fundraising, nonprofit management, and strategy design and implementation. She has served in various positions with national nonprofit agencies where she focused on diversifying fundraising portfolios; strategy design and implementation; building and developing new teams; marketing; and managing regional and national accounts. In 2018, Puskas achieved the rank of Certified Fund Raising Executive through CFRE International.

She also serves on SUNY, Empire State College’s Business Management & Economics Residency team helping to educate and coach the next generation of nonprofit leaders. In addition to adjunct duties, Puskas helps develop residency curriculum and evaluates students’ prior learning to award undergraduate nonprofit management credits.

Curtis Johnson
Bond, Schoeneck & King
Founder and Past President of Villa of Hope Young Professionals Board

Curtis Johnson’s clients value his experience in large-scale, multi-party litigation as they navigate protracted disputes. The focus of Curtis Johnson’s litigation practice is the representation of publicly traded companies, financial institutions, universities, as well as closely-held business. Johnson also has experience litigating the inter-family disputes of high-net-worth individuals arising in the context of guardianship proceedings, will, and gift contests and estate litigation.

As a practitioner concentrating on complex corporate litigation, two of Johnson’s notable cases include representation of a large commercial and investment bank in Adelphia Recovery Trust v. Bank of America, N.A., et al. and representing one of two ownership groups in Ferolito v. Vultaggio in their dispute over control of AriZona Iced Tea. In addition, Johnson has successfully represented parties in disputes arising out of construction work, including general- and sub-contractors in pay disputes and defense of a regional bank against claims of lien law diversion.