March 15: OTA Sessions to Feature National Thought Leaders

Event Details

Date: March 14, 2013

Times: Registration begins at 8 a.m. | Event runs 8:30 a.m. - 5:30 p.m.

Location: Edith Mortenson Center Theatre

Ticket Info:

Sixteen dynamic and nationally known thought leaders, including a leading communications designer for Pinterest, the global creative chief of 20th Century Fox, and the former president of National Geographic Films, are among the speakers at the 2013 OTA Sessions, set for Friday, March 15, in the Edith Mortenson Center Theatre. Registration begins at 8 a.m. in the Morrison Commons; the event begins at 8:30 a.m. Tickets are limited and can be purchased online.

Buy TicketsSince 2009, OTA has served as a creative collaborative offering extraordinary experiences and engagements that educate, empower, and serve as catalysts for community-builders and change agents to improve the lives of all people living in South Dakota, North Dakota, and Minnesota.

Now in its fourth year, more than 1,000 attendees have gathered to find inspiration and learn from over 30 global leaders specializing in technology, entrepreneurship, community building, innovation, non-profits, branding, marketing, social media and movements.

“OTA has always been more than just a conference,” said Hugh Weber, OTA Sessions founder and curator. “It’s an entire movement dedicated to connecting the disconnected creative and community leaders throughout the OTA states and bringing them together tobuild something that we could never accomplish as individuals.”

OTA was recently featured by marketing expert, Seth Godin in his book, The Icarus Deception. Godin noted that OTA is “a creative collective based in South Dakota that is nothing less than a catalyst for a regionwide explosion in creativity and possibility.”

“The connections and collisions of people and ideas at OTA events have impacted our largest and smallest businesses, organizations and communities,” Weber said. “We now have past speakers returning each year just to be part of the community. I believe that the people of OTA are starting to expect more of OTA and themselves.”

The 2013 OTA Sessions are sponsored by The Evangelical Lutheran Good Samaritan Society's innovation initiative, Vivo: Innovation for Well-Being and Avera McKennan Hospital and University Health Center, as well as, OTA Host, Augustana College. For more information, visit or call 605.413.8436.

OTA Sessions 2013 speakers include:

  • Ash Huang of Pinterest
    A communication designer at Pinterest, Huang's pixelled past includes time at Twitter and Code and Theory. An ardent believer in stories and magic, she's nestled herself in Silicon Valley to prepare for its next design renaissance: the humanization of tech brands.
  • Adam Leipzig, former president of National Geographic Films and senior VP at Walt Disney Studios
    Leipzig’s background makes him uniquely suited to talk about American creativity and the creative economy – because he has worked in our culture and influenced it for more than 30 years. Leipzig has been involved as a producer, distributor or supervising executive on films as diverse as "Honey, I Shrunk the Kids," "Dead Poets Society," "Titus" and "March of the Penguins." He has launched more than 300 theatre productions and performance events, has written for The New York Times and other publications, designed and built four successful businesses, and consulted with dozens more. Today, he publishes the popular online magazine Cultural Weekly, which examines how our creative culture intersects media, money, technology and entertainment.
  • riCardo crespo of 20th Century Fox
    An ambassador of Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation, crespo also serves as SVP, Global Creative. He is best known in the creative+branding industries as a prominent creative ronin; and driven by the simple ethos of intelligently provoking and delivering against a brand’s promise. Prior to joining 20th Century Fox, he held several leadership positions including executive creative posts at Mattel Inc. and notable advertising icons such as McCANN ERICKSON, Saatchi & Saatchi and Bozell Worldwide.
  • Aaron Draplin of Draplin Design Co.
    Raised in the Michigan Northwoods, schooled at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design, and currently hunkered down in the mighty Pacific Northwest, the Draplin Design Co. proudly rolls up its sleeves on a number of projects related to the Print, Identity, Web Development, Illustration and Gocco Muscle categories. "We make stuff for Coal Headwear, Union Binding Co., Field Notes, Richmond Fontaine, Nike, Wired, Timberline, Ford Motor Co., Viva Voce, Hutchco, Patagonia, Chunklet, Incase, Giro, Cobra Dogs, Burton Snowboards, Hughes Entertainment, Megafaun and even the Obama Administration, if you can believe that. We pride ourselves on a high level of craftsmanship and quality that keeps us up late into the wet Portland night."
  • Adam Braun of Pencils of Promise
    As founder and executive director of Pencils of Promise, Braun has helped the nonprofit organization open more than 50 schools around the world and deliver more than 1.5 million educational hours in just over three years. PoP was founded with just $25 and a birthday party in October 2008 using what Braun describes as a "For-Purpose" approach to blending nonprofit idealism with for-profit business principles.
  • Peter Buchanan-Smith, designer, entrepreneur, and founder of Best Made Co.
    A New York–based designer, author and entrepreneur, Buchanan-Smith's career has included designing book jackets for Farrar, Strauss, and Giroux; art direction of The New York Times' Op-Ed page; creative direction for Paper magazine; and work for fashion icon Isaac Mizrahi, musical legends David Byrne, Brian Eno, Philip Glass, and the band Wilco. He is the author of several books, including "The Wilco Book," and he has collaborated on many others, including Strunk and White’s classic "The Elements of Style" with illustrator Maira Kalman, and "Muhammad Ali" by Magnum Photographers. His first tome, Speck: A Curious Collection of Uncommon Things—which originated as a thesis project at the School of Visual Arts—explores the fascinating lives of ordinary people and commonplace objects. The connection between people, objects, and the outdoors is at the heart of Buchanan-Smith’s biggest venture to date, Best Made Company.
  • Shaifali Puri, executive director, Scientists without Borders
    Scientists Without Borders is global partnership that aims to improve the quality of life in the developing world by linking, mobilizing, and coordinating science-based activities, initiatives, and resources. Prior to being named executive director, Puri was the senior advisor to the President and Chief Operating Officer of the Empire State Development Corporation, the economic and development arm of the State of New York, and a journalist at Fortune magazine.
  • Nate Utesch of Ferocious Quarterly and One Lucky Guitar
    Utesch makes his living designing and illustrating, and loses his mind publishing and song-writing. He spends his days as art director for the Midwest shop, One Lucky Guitar, Inc. Any conscious hours left in his week are spent accumulating side-projects: publisher/curator of the art and fiction magazine, Ferocious Quarterly; member/basement producer of the electronic quartet, Metavari; and as the newly minted art director of the design journal, The Manual. He'd almost always rather talk to you about David Lynch, 80's music production and freestyle swimming efficiencies.
  • Jazzrock pianist ELEW
    A modern day pop artist and musical revolutionary, piano iconoclast ELEW is making a substantial impression on the music world with a thunderous new style of playing: an inspired melding of ragtime, rock and pop that he calls Rockjazz. ELEW has toured the world, recorded, and performed continuously with Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, Elvin Jones, Roy Hargrove, and Cassandra Wilson, among others. He won the 1999 Thelonious Monk International Piano Competition, his mesmerizing piano theatrics even then hinting at the new musical paradigm he would one day create.
  • Karina Van Schaardenburg of Foursquare
    A user experience researcher and an anthropologist of online communities, Van Schaardenburg's interests center on the ways new technologies shape and are shaped by contemporary culture. She previously worked as a user researcher at Twitter, where she lead research for the 2010-11 website redesigns, and as a research analyst at Meetup, where she designed and implemented a usability lab for all user-facing projects.
  • Ellen McGirt, Fast Company
    A senior writer with Fast Company Magazine, McGirt writes the type of long form profiles that everyone says will soon go the way of the dodo. She hopes everyone is wrong on this one. During the past five years, she’s had the time to explore and explain the people, technology and companies who are shaping the world: Mark Zuckerberg, Al Gore, Jack Dorsey, Chloe Sladden, Chris Hughes, Ursula Burns, and Nike’s Mark Parker, to name a few. Her love of digital remains strong, however, and she started Fast Company’s 30 Second MBA series in 2009. She has been a frequent guest on CNN, CNBC and "Good Morning America." She’s also written for Fortune, Time and Money, which rings more like a Dickensian law firm than magazines she loved. Previously, when the web was young, she was the founder of a financial website for women called "Cassandra’s Revenge," and established similar sites for AOL and Oxygen Media.
  • Dave Brown of Holiday Matinee, Better Looking Records & MKG
    Committed to making this world more awesome, Brown founded Holiday Matinee in 1999, a creative agency and blog that spreads positive vibes to the masses. He authored the book, "I Swear To Good You Are God At This" and coined the motto, "Love your work. Work your love." Having worked with companies such as Zappos, Ford, Apple, Toms and bands Death Cab For Cutie, Sigur Ros, The Album Leaf, Bright Eyes and Jimmy Eat World, he's an expert in creative marketing, trendspotting and social media strategy. When Brown isn't inspiring the creative community, he serves as director of Digital Strategy at MKG, where he helps brands such as Delta Air Lines, NBCU and Evian make lasting connections with their consumers through innovative campaigns that live at the intersection of digital and physical.
  • N/A: Nathaniel Schachter&Anik Decoste
    N/A is the brainchild of Nathaniel Schachter and Anik Decoste, friends and partners who have spent the better part of their lives working with big people and big brands in the worlds of media and advertising. From Vice to V Magazine,Saatchi & Saatchi to Sid Lee — they’ve rubbed shoulders with both the shiniest and grimiest of industry icons.
  • Ben Henretig, creative director, founder, Micro-Documentaries
    As creative director and founder of Micro-Documentaries, Henretig is dedicated to helping world-changing organizations leverage the power of documentary film to drive social change. A graduate of Stanford University Film and Media Studies, he uses his background in art, music, communications and film making to produce beautiful, powerful short-format documentaries for nonprofits and purposeful businesses making positive change in the world. Currently, he's working on two feature length documentary films and is a regular contributor to the Stanford’s Persuasive Technology Lab, whose research and innovative applications have created insight into how technology can be designed to inspire people to take positive action and have personal impact in the world. 
  • The 19th Street Band
    The 19th Street Band is a Washington, D.C., based group best known for their enthusiasm and ability to entertain any crowd!  Whether you're young or maybe just young-at-heart, The 19th Street Band serves up an eclectic mix of both modern and classic tunes that is sure to please the masses!  Their style can best be described as an acoustic mix of popular Rock, Country, Celtic, and Bluegrass songs.  Moreover, each member of the band is classically trained in music and offers their vocal talents to create a great mix of styles and perfectly blended harmonies!
  • Rod Arnold of Media Ventures Group
    Arnold has more than 20 years of experience successfully driving aggressive growth for cause-driven organizations. Under his leadership, charity: water experienced revenue growth and emerged as a premier non-profit brand and social media leader. As chief operating officer/director of Special Projects, Arnold was responsible for leading and scaling the organization, including a strategic approach to growing, leveraging and monetizing their online communities. He also led Teen Mania as an early-stage non-profit and drove growth from $3 million to $30 million in annual revenue, employing a multi-platform strategy of digital, direct mail and events

About OTA: Originally founded to highlight the Midwest as a hub of leadership and innovation, OTA represents the -OTA states: South DakOTA, North DakOTA and MinnesOTA. As it also stands for "Originality + Action," the goal of the OTA Sessions is to bring people of the region together to develop a community that encourages and supports itself. Now in its fourth year, OTA Sessions 2013 is a collaborative of creative catalysts and community changemakers that connects the human, social and innovation capacity of the OTA region of S.D., N.D. and Minn.