Tony Paustian introduces ciLive! lineup

ciLive! Speakers Announced

Posted 10/3/2019

​photo cutline: DMACC West Des Moines Campus Provost and ciLive! Founder Dr. Anthony Paustian announces the speakers for Celebrate! Innovation 2020 at a launch part at the Greater Des Moines Partnership offices in downtown Des Moines. The theme of this year is “The Art of Imagination.” The speakers at the March 9-13, 2020 event will include the cast of “Napoleon Dynamite” actors Jon Heder (Napoleon), Efren Ramirez (Pedro) and Jon Gries (Uncle Rico); Visual Effects Supervisor Mårten Larsson and Ruth Carter, who won the 2019 Academy Award for “Best Costume Design.”

Free event set for March 9-13 at the DMACC West Des Moines Campus


DMACC and the Greater Des Moines Partnership announced an inspiring and diverse line-up of speakers scheduled to appear at Celebrate! Innovation in 2020 – also known as ciLive! 11 – during a launch party held October 2 at the Greater Des Moines Partnership offices in downtown Des Moines. The annual speaker series, which is free and open to the public, will take place March 9-13 at the DMACC West Campus.

Celebrate! Innovation, now in its 11th year, was previously known as ciWeek and traditionally focused its efforts on a week-long celebration in the spring. However, as ciWeek continued to grow in popularity, DMACC organizers have seen an opportunity to host more events year-round under the ciLive! name.
“The response to Celebrate! Innovation has been incredible over the past decade, and we’re excited to keeping growing by hosting more events and speakers throughout the year,” said ciLive! founder and DMACC West Campus Provost Dr. Anthony Paustian.

The Art of Imagination

This year’s ciLive! theme is “The Art of Imagination” and speakers will include a panel of cast members from the cult-classic film “Napoleon Dynamite,” an Academy Award-winning costume designer, a visual effects supervisor for Marvel Studios, two Discovery Channel program hosts, a NASA project chief and many more.

“This year’s ciLive! theme focuses on the power of imagination and how it can lead to remarkable innovation and achievement,” Paustian said. “From science and the arts to business and technology, imagination helps lead us forward in so many ways. Our ciLive! 11 speakers represent that creative diversity.”

ciLive! 11 will feature the following speakers:

Miles Nielsen is a singer, songwriter and guitarist from Rockford, Ill., following in the footsteps of his father, Rick Nielsen, who is the lead guitarist, backing vocalist and primary songwriter of the rock band Cheap Trick. The younger Nielsen has toured and/or performed with a wide range of groups including Cheap Trick, Cory Chisel & The Wandering Sons and Cameron McGill, among others. Drawing inspiration from influences ranging from Otis Redding’s classic soul to Jellyfish’s cult power pop, Nielsen has produced seven albums, and his folk-rock n' roll style of music helps listeners explore heartbreak, travel, people and places (

Ken Schmidt is a marketing expert, known for playing a key role in one of the most celebrated turnarounds in corporate history. In 1985, Schmidt was asked to work with then-struggling Harley-Davidson to help restore the company’s image and create demand for its motorcycles. Within a few short years, Harley-Davidson became one of the most visible and frequently reported-on companies in the world. Schmidt would go on to become director of Harley-Davidson’s corporate and financial communications, and served as the company’s primary spokesperson to the media and financial communities. He is also the author of the 2018 book, “Make Some Noise: The Unconventional Road to Dominance” (

Geoffrey Notkin starred in three seasons of the award-winning television adventure series “Meteorite Men” for Discovery Channel, as well as two seasons of “STEM Journals.” A two-time Emmy Award winner, Notkin has also appeared on shows for National Geographic (NAT GEO), History Channel, Travel Channel, TLC, PBS, A&E and the BBC. As an author, world traveler and CEO of Aerolite Meteorites, Inc., Notkin frequently appears as an expert on national news shows. He is also a television and film producer who has written many articles and books on meteorite science, paleontology, astronomy, adventure travel and the arts (

Ruth Carter won the 2019 Academy Award for “Best Costume Design” for her work on the film “Black Panther” and made history as the first African American to win in that category. She also has received Academy Award nominations for Spike Lee’s “Malcom X” and Steven Spielberg’s “Amistad,” as well as an Emmy nomination for the 2016 reboot of “Roots.” Carter has worked in the industry for more than three decades and has been credited on more than 40 films to-date. She is known for her research and diligence to the craft of costume design, specifically for her outstanding work for period ensemble films such as the highly praised Lee Daniels’ film “The Butler” (

Dr. Alan Stern is a planetary scientist, space program executive, aerospace consultant and author. He led NASA’s New Horizons mission to the Pluto system and the Kuiper Belt. As NASA chief for all space and Earth science programs, Stern directed a $4.4 billion organization with 93 separate flight missions and a program of over 3,000 research grants. During his NASA tenure, a record 10 major new flight projects were started. Stern has twice been named to Time Magazine’s annual list of the “100 Most Influential People,” and has worked with a variety of clients, including Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin, Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic, Ball Aerospace, Embry Riddle Aeronautical University and Johns Hopkins University (

Dr. Kara Cooney is a professor of Egyptian Art and Architecture at UCLA. She produced and hosted a comparative archaeology television series, “Out of Egypt,” which aired on the Discovery Channel and is currently available online via Netflix and Amazon. Cooney specializes in craft production, coffin studies and economies in the ancient world. Her first book, “The Woman Who Would Be King: Hatshepsut’s Rise to Power in Ancient Egypt,” relies on her years of experience at various excavations in Egypt and expert perspective on Egypt’s ancient history to share the biography of its least known female king. Her research is ongoing and has taken her around the world to study and document nearly 300 coffins in collections, including those in Cairo, London, Paris, Berlin and Vatican City ( ).

Jeffrey Morris is a writer, director and production designer who founded FutureDude Entertainment in 2010. He is creator and co-writer of numerous projects, including “Parallel Man,” “Brainstorm” and “Oceanus,” a live-action short film that debuted in 2015. As head designer on all FutureDude productions, Morris builds worlds from the ground up through illustration and art direction. His current projects include the motion picture “Persephone” and two series projects for National Geographic (NAT GEO): “Saturn V” and “Neptune One.” Morris is an education consultant and advisor to NASA, and holds a technology patent for the futuristic Apple calendar app, Timesphere (

Mårten Larsson is a visual effects supervisor currently working on his third Marvel Studios film production. Growing up in Sweden, Larsson made action-packed movies with friends as a teenager. His passion for movie-making, combined with a degree in computer science, led him to pursue a VFX internship at Digital Domain, where he continued to work for 13 years on movies including “Flags of Our Fathers” with Clint Eastwood, “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End,” “Transformers 3” and “Pixels.” In 2016, Larsson joined the visual effects teams for “Avengers: Infinity Wars” and “Avengers: End Game,” the latter of which included more than 2,600 visual effects shots and became the largest grossing movie of 2019, as well as the second largest grossing movie of all time.

A Conversation with the cast of “Napoleon Dynamite” will feature a panel discussion featuring three cast members from the 2004 film directed by Jared Hess--actors Jon Heder (Napoleon), Efren Ramirez (Pedro) and Jon Gries (Uncle Rico). “Napoleon Dynamite” was Hess’ first full-length feature film and was shot in just 23 days in his hometown of Preston, Idaho, with a total budget of $400,000. In its first year, the film grossed approximately $45 million and went on to create a generational cult following (

The Cerny Brothers produce a heartland rock sound that Rolling Stone magazine describes as being in the vein of Bruce Springsteen and John Mellencamp, distinguished by a power-pop sheen. Robert and Scott Cerny grew up in Rock Island, Ill., and after a career transition that took them to Los Angeles and then Nashville, the duo recently released their latest album, “Looking for the Good Land.” The album was recorded at the iconic Cowboy Jack Clements’ studio in Nashville, in the same room that has hosted country icons such as Johnny Cash (

Nick Overton is a professional gamer who has played in major tournaments representing the team CLG. He regularly entertains people by playing and creating gaming videos and livestreams through YouTube and A graduate of the DMACC West Campus, Overton was recently featured in the Des Moines Register article, “How an Iowa video game nerd makes up to $500,000 a year playing 'Fortnite.’” As an online celebrity, Overton has more than one million YouTube subscribers, over 500,000 followers of his Twitch stream, and more than 300 million views on YouTube.

Adam Carroll is an internationally recognized financial literacy expert, and author of “Winning The Money Game,” “30 Days To $1K” and “Mastery of Money for Students.” He also created the documentary, “Broke, Busted & Disgusted,” and founded Carroll has presented at more than 1,000 college campuses and hundreds of leadership symposiums throughout the country. His passion is for helping people build a bigger life, not a bigger lifestyle. Carroll is a two-time TED Talks presenter, and one of his talks has garnered over four million views – and counting (
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