2021 Conference Speakers

Amanda Trainor Patrick

President, League of Railway Women (LRW) and Vice President of Trade Shows, Programs & Board Relations, Railway Supply Institute (RSI)

RSI is a trade association that advocates for rail supply industry servicing America’s freight railroads located in Washington, DC. Since joining in 2008, Amanda Trainor Patrick has contributed to RSI through managing membership, marketing, governance, and most notably, RSI’s annual trade show and conference.

She was selected as member of the 2015 ASAE NextGen Association Summit, a group of leading young association professionals and established association thought leaders that come together to discuss and problem solve in the association community. In 2014, Amanda received her IAEE Certificate in Exhibition Management, a conference management accreditation. She has also held the board positions of Public Relations and Outreach and Secretary. LRW is an all-volunteer association that promotes the professional development and advancement of women in the rail industry.

Amanda was raised in Caruthersville, Missouri located in Bootheel, the most southeast portion of the state. She attended undergraduate school at Southeast Missouri State University in Cape Girardeau, Missouri where she studied political science and economics. In her free time Amanda enjoys yoga, reading, and exploring Civil War battlefields. She currently resides in Falls Church, Virginia with her husband Sherman, their three daughters, and their cat Ramses.

Andrea Waldock Niethold

Director of US Government Affairs, Canadian National Railway

Andrea Waldock Niethold was appointed Director of U.S. Government Affairs at CN in August 2017, based in Washington, D.C. In her role, Waldock Niethold engages with federal lawmakers and regulators on issues important to CN and the freight railroad industry. She also manages CN’s relationships at various levels of government with a strong focus on community support and engagement.

Prior to joining CN, Waldock Niethold held various legislative positions on Capitol Hill for almost a decade. Most recently, from 2012-2017, she served as Chief of Staff to Pennsylvania Congressman Lou Barletta.

Waldock Niethold holds an A.B.D. and M.A. in Education Policy and Administration from the Catholic University of America and a B.S. in Elementary Education from Butler University in Indianapolis, Indiana.

Andrew Johnsen

Partner & Chief Executive Officer, Columbia Strategic Consulting Group

Andrew builds bridges and solves problems between government and industry. He’s delivered major legislative, public policy, and management wins throughout his career in both public and private sectors. For 15 years Andrew led teams of government and public affairs professionals as Assistant Vice President at BNSF Railway, focusing on state legislative, regulatory, and political challenges; and local, regional, and tribal government and public affairs.

Prior to BNSF, Andrew was Executive Policy Advisor to former Washington Governor Gary Locke (D-WA); he managed projects and congressional relations at the US Department of Transportation’s national systems engineering lab (the Volpe Center); and served in district and Capitol Hill leadership roles for former US Congressman John Miller (R-WA).

Andrew holds graduate and undergraduate degrees in Government from Harvard University and the University of Puget Sound, respectively. While at Harvard, his degree curriculum (ALM) centered on public policy development among multiple jurisdictions.  
Andrew and his family live in Fort Worth, Texas, where he serves on civic and charitable boards and commissions, including the North Texas Commission, All Saints Health Foundation, Fort Worth Sister Cities Int’l, and Amazing Grace Children’s Charities.

Ayesha Qureshi

Network Operations Manager, Canadian Pacific Railway

Ayesha Qureshi has been working for CP for 8 years. She started her journey in 2013 as an intern and since then, she has enjoyed various opportunities of growth and held different roles in CP. Today she is a Network Operations Manager at Canadian Pacific. She manages technologies and people. Her team consists of highly technical and skilled specialists.Her scope of work involves design and implementation of complex data Networks for Canadian Pacific. In her spare time, Ayesha enjoys reading books (she is a member of four book clubs), going to her Toastmasters club, and spending time with her family. 

Cathrin Banks

President and General Counsel, The Maryland and Delaware Railroad Company (MDDE) and Vice President and General Counsel, Chesapeake and Delaware LLC​

Cathrin Banks has served as President and General Counsel of The Maryland and Delaware Railroad Company since January of 2019. Prior to being named President, Cathrin served as Vice President and General Counsel, and Assistant General Counsel. She also serves as Vice President and General Counsel for Chesapeake and Delaware, LLC, which operates a number of railroads in New Jersey.

Cathrin is a graduate of the University of Maryland at College Park (B.S., Government and Politics) and the University of Maryland School of Law. After working for Maryland Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller, Jr., Cathrin began her legal career working for the Honorable Albert J. Matricciani, Jr. of the Maryland Court of Special Appeals. She was admitted to the Maryland Bar in 2010 and the District of Columbia Bar in 2014. After completing her clerkship with Judge Matricciani, she joined the Baltimore trial firm of Bekman, Marder & Adkins, LLC, where she spent several years litigating complex civil cases.

In 2015, Cathrin was offered an opportunity to join The Maryland and Delaware Railroad Company as Assistant General Counsel. Eager for a career change, Ms. Banks accepted the position and quickly fell in love with railroading. Although she is a more recent transplant to the industry, railroading is in her blood: her father has been on the Board of Directors of the MDDE since 1977, and her grandfather was a fireman for the Pennsylvania Railroad in the 1940s.

Cathrin is a member of the League of Railway Women and a member of the B&O Railroad Museum Board of Directors. She was recently named as one of Progressive Railroading’s 2019 Rising Stars.

Charity Duran

Assistant Director Roadway Planning, BNSF Railway​

Charity Duran leverage the data collected from multiple data streams to help make capital and maintenance plans to efficiently use resources in her role as Assistant Director of Roadway Planning. She has been in the railway industry for over 20 years, and has expertise in vehicle track interaction and data analytics.

Crystal Gitchell

Scholarship Chair, League of Railway Women (LRW) and Assistant Vice President of Legislative & Regulatory Policy, American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association (ASLRRA)

Crystal Gitchell is seasoned government relations professional with experience in the manufacturing and transportation industries. With a focus on trade groups, she has advocated on behalf of association members before the United States Congress, Department of Transportation, Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Energy, and state legislatures.

In her current position as Assistant Vice President of Legislative and Regulatory Policy for the American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association, Ms. Gitchell covers issues such as truck size and weight and crew size with regulatory agencies, and legislative priorities such as infrastructure and grant funding with Congress.

Ms. Gitchell received her bachelor’s degree in Political Science from Virginia Commonwealth University and a Master’s degree in Public Policy from George Mason University. A life-long Virginian, she enjoys equestrian sports and volunteering for women’s professional organizations.

Divya Dinesh

Product Architecture & Product Manager, Wi-Tronix

Divya Dinesh is Product Manager-Software Platform & Product Architect at Wi-Tronix. Divya spearheaded the company’s technology vision in providing remote monitoring solutions to railways totaling 12,000+ locomotives, ensuring both transportation safety and the most efficient and reliable movement of goods and people throughout the world.

She is the Lead Architect responsible for development of the most advanced technology available for rail; edge computing, cloud-based SaaS solutions, advanced GIS solutions, real-time Big data aggregation and analytics which give rail operators the ability to take real-time action on critical issues and use precise insights for strategic management across their operations. Designed and developed remote monitoring software with multi million revenue used by 60 plus railroads and 4000 user bases.

Divya holds a degree in Bachelor of Technology, Computer Engineering from Cochin University of Science & Technology, India. She is currently pursuing a degree for Master of Business Administration, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (expected 2022). She has a patent pending on Real-Time Data Acquisition and Recording Data Sharing System where users can share data such as from locomotive event data recorders with remote recipient end users that have internet access and a modern web browser in a secure, controlled, tracked, and audited way.

Donna Tyner

Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Lead, The Greenbrier Companies

Donna Tyner is currently the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Lead for the Greenbrier Companies and previously worked as the Corporate Risk Manager. Donna graduated from Willamette University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science.  Her prior work experience includes: Allstate Insurance Property and Casualty Adjuster, State of Oregon Insurance Compliance Officer, State Risk Management Consultant and Senior Risk Analyst for the Port of Portland.

Helen Gitmez

Director of Technology Controls Engineering, Wabtec Freight

Helen Gitmez is helping usher in the next generation of locomotive controls for the rail industry. She is Wabtec’s Director of Locomotive Controls and Software. She is responsible for the global fulfillment of largely freight onboard locomotive controls software to address sales and reliability needs and commitments. Her core focus is on Program Management and Testing for all locomotive software releases.

Helen joined Wabtec in 2004 as part of the Edison Engineering Development program. She has held several leadership roles of throughout the Engineering function including Locomotive Controls, Energy Management, Embedded Software, Operations, and Product Management.  Helen works closely with the Association of American Railroads, Class I and short line customers on heavy-haul locomotive solutions. She is an advocate for diversity and inclusion within Wabtec and the engineering profession. Helen is actively involved with Women of Wabtec, the Society of Women Engineers, and outreach events at several local universities.
She is a graduate of Penn State University Park with a BS in Electrical Engineering and an MBA. Helen resides in Erie, PA with her husband and two children.

Joan Smemoe

Chief Information Officer & Vice President of Information Technology, Railinc Corp.

As CIO, Smemoe is at the helm of software development and applications engineering and is instrumental in shaping the company’s vision for product development, data, and information systems platforms. Under her technical leadership, Railinc delivers a wide array of applications and technologies that are critical to freight rail industry operations in North America. With close to 20 years of experience in IT, Smemoe brings strong technology leadership and expertise critical to Railinc’s day-to-day operations, growth, and ability to serve its customers.

A 2020 Triangle Business Journal C-Suite Awards honoree, Smemoe is an influential executive officer who has also been recognized by Railway Age magazine’s Women in Rail awards and Progressive Railroading magazine’s Rising Star awards, in 2019 and 2018, respectively. Smemoe holds a bachelor’s and master’s degree in computer science from the University of Missouri and completed Carnegie Mellon University’s CIO Certificate Program. She is also PMP-certified.

Kari Gonzales

President & Chief Financial Officer, Transportation Technology Center, Inc. (TTCI)

Prior to her role as President at TTCI, a wholly owned subsidiary of the Association of American Railroads, Kari served as Vice President and Chief Financial Officer for TTCI and was responsible for company-wide strategic planning and business functions associated with day-to-day operations. Kari has been a part of TTCI’s organization for nearly 20 years, starting as a student intern in 2000, and was hired full-time after completing her degree in Mechanical Engineering from the Colorado School of Mines in December of 2002. She also holds a Master of Business Administration from Regis University, Denver (2015). During her time as a research engineer, Kari excelled in conducting research and managing a diverse set of projects in support of the industry’s Strategic Research Initiative (SRI) program and TTCI’s commercial customers. She contributed a body of work that resulted in authoring/coauthoring of over 25 technical publications, including articles in Railway Age, Railway Track and Structures (RT&S), and the Journal of Wear.

In early 2012, Kari was selected as the inaugural candidate for TTCI’s Railroad Exchange Program and spent a year as a visiting professional with BNSF Railway in Fort Worth, TX on the railroad’s Condition Based Maintenance team. This experience enhanced her understanding of railroad operations and extended her expertise in wayside inspection systems. Upon her return to TTCI, Kari managed the industry’s senior technical committee, the Equipment Engineering Committee, and revamped TTCI’s Internal Research and Development (IR&D) program. In 2014, Kari was selected as one of Progressive Railroading’s “Rising Stars.”

In addition to her commitment to TTCI, Kari volunteers her time in several industry and community organizations. She is currently the Education Chair for the League of Railway Women and serves on several community Boards.

Kayden Howard

Vice President Health, Safety & Environmental, Kansas City Southern

Kayden Howard is Vice President of Health, Safety, & Environmental for Kansas City Southern, a transportation holding company with railroad investments in the U.S., Mexico, and Panama. Ms. Howard provides strategic direction and leadership in the United States and Mexico, implementing critical initiatives related to employee safety and health, public safety, and environmental protection. Ms. Howard is also responsible for critical incident management programs and hazmat incident prevention and response. Most recently, Ms. Howard has taken on additional responsibilities related to environmental and social responsibility reporting, including development of the Company’s annual Sustainability Report, in accordance with GRI and SASB standards. Reporting directly to the Chief Operating Officer, Ms. Howard champions a culture of safety and sustainability while advancing corporate objectives.  Prior to her appointment as Vice President of Health, Safety & Environmental, Ms. Howard was Associate General Counsel, where she defended KCS in labor, employment, personal injury, grade crossing, wrongful death, and property damage claims, which position she held from 2005 to 2017.

Before joining the railroad, Ms. Howard was an attorney at Shook, Hardy & Bacon, LLP, where she represented KCS and other corporate clients from across the country. While in private practice, Ms. Howard served as lead counsel in employment and other business litigation matters. She also advised clients regarding litigation avoidance, internal investigations, best practices, and compliance with federal and state employment laws. Ms. Howard began her litigation career at the United States Department of Labor, Office of the Solicitor, where she prosecuted violations of federal employment laws including the Occupational Safety and Health Act, the Fair Labor Standards Act, and the Family and Medical Leave Act, through civil litigation. Ms. Howard also defended the Secretary of Labor in actions brought by current and former Department employees. Prior to joining the Department of Labor, Ms. Howard clerked for the Honorable Gary W. Rulon at the Kansas Court of Appeals.

Ms. Howard is a frequent speaker at professional education seminars and industry meetings, and has served as co-author and co-editor of various professional publications. She provides service to her community through non-profit board positions and pro-bono work in the Jackson County Family Court Division. Ms. Howard graduated from the University of Kansas School of Law in 1993. She received her Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Missouri in 1990. She is a member of the Kansas and Missouri bars.

Kelle Ravn

Rail & Defense Application Engineer – Technical Specialist, Cummins

Kelle joined Cummins in 2011 as a Product Application Engineer, supporting the majority of Cummins' Power Systems markets, including Rail, Mining, and Oil & Gas. In 2016, she moved up to be the Market Application Engineer, specializing in Rail and Defense Markets and working across Cummins Business Units as well as OEMs. These roles specialized in engine and aftertreatment integration and optimization.

Kelle earned her Mechanical Engineering bachelor's degree from St. Cloud State University in Minnesota. Kelle lives in Inver Grove Heights, Minnesota with her wife (Kayla) and 2 year old daughter (Lucy). Kelle is a member of the Locomotive Maintenance Officers Association (LMOA) on the Fuel, Lube, and Environmental team and volunteers with the local non-profit, Courage Kenny.

Kellie Andrews

Vice President of Safety, Security & Environment, Keolis Commuter Services

Kellie Andrews has a career that spans 23 years in the transport domains. She began operationally as an Officer in the Royal Australian Air Force and subsequently was both a military and civilian Air Traffic Controller. Her analytical nature was a natural fit for accident/incident investigation and she ultimately found a passion in Systems Safety. Kellie was on the development team for the first fully certified Safety Management System in the United Arab Emirates and went on to enhance the Safety System with Dubai Airports introducing robust investigation methodologies, operational risk management and human factors. Kellie was one of the youngest female officers promulgated in an Operations Command (specialist) position in 2006. In 2011, she explored the impact of national culture on safety culture in the United Arab Emirates and continued the cultural focus with work on effective Team Resource Management in multi-cultural environments. She has worked on the integration of drones into civil airspace, emergency response and planning, airspace management in fires/floods, airspace design, and human factors test planning to name a few. In 2016, Kellie was the subject matter expert in the design of a new industry leading Incident Investigation Course, that was sponsored by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). Kellie was invited to South Africa in 2018 to participate in ICAO’s inaugural Global Gender Summit, where the industry gathered to strategize and address gender balance within the industry. She is a full member of the International Society of Air Safety Investigators and as an avid learner, holds a Bachelor’s degree in Management, a Masters in Science & Technology (Safety) and is currently completing a Masters in Human Factors. Kellie has now pivoted to rail, as Keolis Commuter Services Vice President of Safety, Security & Environment, where she looks forward to enhancing the focus on systems safety and sustainability.

Kim Sass

Vice President of Human Resources, Wi-Tronix

Wi-Tronix is a tech company that ensures safety and efficiency in rail operations using the most advanced IoT platform in the industry. A trusted coach and mentor with over 20 years of experience in the industry, Kim Sass is responsible for leading the ideation and execution of the HR Strategy for Wi-Tronix.

Understanding what’s beneath the surface has enabled Kim to broaden her Human Resources’ contribution to guiding company strategy and achieving financial results. Inspiring leadership at all levels of the organization, her high level of emotional intelligence helps Kim to understand and motivate the diverse group of people she works with. Kim takes a genuine interest in developing the strengths and talents of her organization, knowing that, when woven together in the right way, people are the fabric that make a company strong.

Adapting to the changing needs of a quickly growing tech company, Kim employs scaled Agile framework (SAFe) for Lean enterprises. Following these practices, Kim believes in valuing individuals and interactions over processes and tools. Looking at talent first through the business lens and then the HR lens offers Kim a different perspective on building capability across the organization.

A graduate of DePaul University with a BS in Finance. Kim holds the SPHR and SHRM-CP certifications. She is an active volunteer and former associate board member of Girls on the Run. In her free time she enjoys telling a good story through photojournalism, spending time with her 3 daughters, and cooking.

Marie-Daniele Pitchen

Director Occupational Health Services & Benefits, Canadian National Railway

Marie-Danièle is the Director of Occupational Health and Benefits at CN Railway. She oversees the strategic direction as well as the development and deployment of occupational programs aligned with regulatory requirements and CN’s wellness goals. She also oversees CN’s benefits strategy, portfolio and programs.

For over 25 years in occupational health in the aeronautics, mining and rail industries, Marie-Danièle has ensured the health and wellness of employees in various safety sensitive environments. This has included fitness for duty and medical surveillance programs, industrial hygiene programs as well as wellness and mental health initiatives.

Merritt Canfield

Chief Executive Officer, Meritus Executive Search Excellence

Merritt Canfield brings 20 years of global award-winning executive search experience, with a passion for leading the future of rail industry executive search, top in the rail industry, and globally certified in Diversity and Inclusion in the Workplace as an Executive Recruiter and CEO of Meritus Executive Search Excellence LLC. In 2013, Merritt joined the Rail Industry an executive search leader. She partners with the industry placing c-suite, executives, and industry specialists providing search excellence with a commitment to best practices in diversity, inclusion, and innovation. She offers a history in the placement of talent in Fortune 25, finance, transportation, healthcare, telecommunications, and retail, and was top 5% in the globe out of a field of over 2,000 recruiters in the largest recruitment network in the world.

She earned a Bachelor of Science, Marketing from Gannon University in Erie, Pennsylvania, numerous coursework in Human Resources Management from Cornell University. Merritt has been a Speaker/Presenter in the rail industry for LHH/Lee Hecht Harrison, ASLRRA, Railway Age NextGen, a member of the ASLRRA Human Resources Committee, a contributor to Railway Age 2021 Outlook, Progressive Railroading RailPrime August 2021, and a member of SHRM.

Michele Malski

Director-At-Large, League of Railway Women (LRW) and Founder & President, Succession Planning for Railroads Investing in the Next Generation (SPRING)

As a second generation railroader, Michele Malski knew early on that she wanted to make an impact in the railroad industry. Founding Succession Planning for Railroads Investing in the Next Generation or SPRING LLC, Ms. Malski recruits next generation railroaders for employers and helps employers retain that talent with various custom training and mentorship programs. Before connecting the dots for candidates and employers alike, Michele worked with the ASLRRA/ Short Line Safety Institute in Washington DC as their Manager of Safety and Hazmat Training programs. What continues to be the keystone of Michele's drive and passion will always be her experience as a Trainmaster with BNSF in Minot, North Dakota, Division Trainmaster with Canadian Pacific in BInghamton, NY, and Operational Manager with Bombardier Transportation / MARC commuter lines in Baltimore, Maryland. Prior to her operational experience in the trainmaster world, Ms. Malski graduated from Cornell University with a major of Industrial Labor Relations and Law and Society. Ms. Malski now holds an MBA from Quantic University and a Specialty Credential in Diversity and Inclusion from SHRM. 

Michele is also engaged with the League of Railway Women as their Director at Large on their Board of Directors, and a temporary chair on the Mentorship committee, the Chair of the Young Professionals Committee with the ASLRRA, and recently the newest member of the Transportation Club of Kansas City's Board. 

Ms. Malski is also an avid runner with her two dogs, Charlemagne and Marcella, and her "pack" cheers for the Kansas City Chiefs.

Nate Asplund

Partner & President, Columbia Strategic Consulting Group

Nate brings a diverse international and domestic career in the transportation, logistics, and energy support industry.  Company leadership roles and expertise in country management, start-ups, business development, and working with the public sector.
For the last several years, Nate has served as CEO of two shortline/regional railroads; RRVW in North Dakota, which operates 577 miles and is the leading non-class I grain railroad in the US; and Florida East Coast Railway, the largest regional railroad in the US by volume.

Nate served as Assistant Vice President at BNSF Railway where he led a team of US and Mexico-based professionals that provide rail and intermodal transportation between the US and Mexico. Nate also directed the Public Private Partnerships group, which successfully pioneered partnerships with the public sector to remedy multiple rail infrastructure chokepoints in the Midwest and Western US.  Before BNSF, Nate worked with Crowley Maritime Corporation, where his responsibilities included developing marine support services for the oil and gas industry around the globe.

Nate holds a graduate degree in Agricultural Economics from The Ohio State University and an undergraduate degree in Agricultural Economics from Washington State University. Nate recently served as Chairman of the Rail Shippers Advisory Committee, which advises the federal Surface Transportation Board (STB).

Patricia Basuel

Events Chair, League of Railway Women (LRW) and User Experience Manager, Wi-Tronix

For over 15 years, Patricia Basuel has honed her talents in the many disciplines of user experience (UX). She is a creative and product leader who has worked for both large (Motorola Google/Lenovo) and small companies in tech, transportation, and advertising. Her creative career started in graphic design, then she added front end web development to her skill set, and finally fully transitioned into UX. She leads the UX Team at Wi-Tronix, where she advocates for rail customers at every step of the product design and development process.

Patricia brings her passion for empowering women through her work as Events Chair at LRW, encouraging young women and girls to pursue STEM careers as an instructor at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater CyberHigh tech camp, and helping bridge the educational opportunities gap for people of color and minorities by founding the YoUthXDesign.org free summer design camp and mentoring design students and aspiring UX professionals through UXCoffeeHours.com.

Regina Barringer

General Manager of Global Rail and Defense, Cummins

Regina Barringer is General Manager for Global Rail and Defense segments in Cummins’ Power Systems business unit. She is responsible for global product and marketing strategy for Rail and Defense. Engine applications in Rail include locomotive, switcher, rail car, and track maintenance while Defense engine applications include wheeled and tracked land-based vehicle applications.

Since joining Cummins in 2000, Regina has contributed to the company in multiple functions including supply chain, operations, quality, strategy, and account management. Regina has held responsibilities including leadership of global OEM partner relationships, collaboration with global distribution business, and engagement with critical suppliers.

Regina graduated from Hanover College in Indiana, where she received a bachelor’s degree in English and secondary education. Additionally, she earned an MBA from Indiana University and is a Six Sigma Master Black Belt. Regina lives in Columbus, Indiana with her family. Regina is a member of the Cummins’ Women’s Empowerment network, a housing corporation board member for the Upsilon Lambda chapter of Chi Omega at Hanover College, and a volunteer for the Columbus Youth Hockey Program.

Wendi Klocinski

Road Foreman of Operating Practices, Norfolk Southern
Wendi Klocinski started her career on the railroad in 1999 as a conductor with CSX in Walbridge, OH. She later went to Locomotive Engineer school and was certified in 2003. In 2006, she applied and accepted a position as a Yardmaster and worked as a Yardmaster until getting promoted to a management position in 2012. Wendi was promoted to Road Foreman of Engines and stayed in the position until 2017. The position of Road Foreman of Engines was eliminated and forced her back to her union position of Yardmaster. In 2018, she accepted another management position as an Operations Field Trainer, working in this position until 2020. She has now extended her career over to Norfolk Southern and holds the position of Road Foreman of Operating Practices on the Centralized Road Foreman team out of Atlanta, GA.
She currently resides in Abbeville, SC with her partner Allen. She has two children, Kodi and Arkadia. Kodi is a successful business owner and lives in Toledo, OH where Arkadia and her husband, Josh, also live. Allen has two children as well, Alley and Logan, who also live in Abbeville, SC.