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About this event

How can women foster an entrepreneurial mindset to succeed in business? How do they take an idea, dream or goal and transform that into a strategy for success in a purpose-driven organization, and how can they align their purpose and passion to “do well and do good”?

Authors Barbara Kurshan and Kathleen Hurley, both experienced and highly regarded business and education leaders, wanted to know how today’s top female leaders would answer these questions. So, they asked. The result is InnovateHERs: Why Purpose-Driven Entrepreneurial Women Rise to the Top.  Through 27 personal interviews with women leading purpose-driven organizations ranging from startups and nonprofits to large companies across the globe, they have created a unique, insider’s view of what it takes to be successful.

Whether you’re an entrepreneur, corporate leader, or new to business, learning how to leverage your personal entrepreneurial mindset is key to accelerating your purpose-driven journey. For men, understanding the mindset of entrepreneurial women will help them be better leaders and better mentors. Through a very engaging interactive panel, Bobbi, Kathy and researcher/writer Laura Smulian will share the learnings with Athena members.


Barbara Kurshan Senior Fellow and Innovation Advisor

Barbara “Bobbi” Kurshan is a business-centric c-suite executive, innovator, and board director who leads disruptive transformation through the development and commercialization of digital learning products for wide-ranging audiences. She brings a 35+ year career of leadership roles and a robust network across EdTech companies, for-profits, non-profits, PE firms, and educational institutions. Bobbi’s board governance and advisory roles include two public companies, 35+ private companies, and five non-profits that include charitable organizations and higher education institutions.

Bobbi is pursuing a public or larger private company board seeking to develop, expand, or acquire innovative digital learning as part of their digital product strategy, where she can advise through insight honed from the intersection of technology, learning products, and innovation. As a thought leader, connector and entrepreneur, she innovates via collaboration among researchers, educators, policymakers, and investors to modernize learning, identifying how organizations benefit one another. Bobbi brings experience in CEO and board succession planning, M&A, strategic planning and product evaluation.

Bobbi has commercialized eight innovative, digital learning products including software, platforms, open/shared education resources websites, and online modules including:, Microsoft, McGraw-Hill Inc., Claris Inc., and many others. She partnered with Microsoft to develop their first children’s software products - Creative Writer and Fine Artist. Later, as Executive Director of Curriki, she delivered one of the most innovative, robust global open source education communities supported by Sun Microsystems across +250K members and +40K resources.

Bobbi has served as Board Director for 14+ companies and organizations. She is a Board Director of APEI (Nasdaq: APEI), a leading education services provider with $430M market cap, serving on Audit and Nominating and Governance Committees. She also served on the CEO Search Committee and the Technology Platform Review Committee while advising the board on education; technology and innovation; digital transformation; early stage investment and acquisition; product development and design and digital course design and delivery.

Bobbi was recently appointed to the Board of Trustees of APUS American Public University System (owned by APEI) providing direction on digital products, curriculum design and online learning. She currently serves as Board Director of SpoonRead Inc., a cloud-based reading platform, providing strategic direction to grow the platform in both for corporate and education areas.

Bobbi envisions the strategic M&A synergy of how two companies will increase stakeholder value. She combined the interests of existing accredited colleges into a holding company emulating acquisition strategy of Laureate (LAUR) and on-line degree granting strategy of Apollo Group (APOL). As Board Chair of Education Design Studio Inc. (EDSi), an EdTech incubator run with the Penn Graduate School of Education, Bobbi led the investment in 30 start-ups, leading to several successful acquisitions, including Practice (acquired by Instructure), Raise Labs (acquired by CampusLogic), Byndr (acquired by IntrEdge in India), EdConnective, and Caseworx.

Previously, as CO-CEO of Core Learning Group, a private equity fund, and Chief Education Officer of, a spin-off from ProQuest and Infonautics, Bobbi invested in five companies and raised $95M in two private equity financings. She also acquired three additional companies – Mediaseek, Homework Central, and Get a Clue. As EVP and Board Director of WorldSage, the first large private European post-secondary education system, Bobbi identified investments in learning institutions, created a global network in the EU, and acquired and sold a Swiss culinary school.

Bobbi is currently an Innovation Advisor at the University of Pennsylvania, Graduate School of Education and previous Senior Fellow and Executive Director, Innovation. She is an award-winning sought after speaker, presenter, and regular contributor at and Huffington Post, with a long list of published books and articles.

Kathy Hurley Former EVP Pearson Foundation and Industry Consultant

Kathy is a former senior executive for numerous educational publishing and technology companies, including IBM and Pearson. Currently, she is a senior advisor to educational technology companies, education associations, and school superintendent networks, and serves on the board of directors for several non-profit and for-profit organizations. She was selected as a Fellow of the Advanced Leadership Initiative at Harvard University, and upon completion of the program co-founded Girls Thinking Global, a global non-profit organization which has since merged with the Women’s Education Project, where she serves on the board of directors.


Coco Brown CEO

Coco is founder and CEO of Athena Alliance. Prior to her current roles, Coco served as President, COO, and Board Director of Taos, a market leader in IT Services serving hundreds of F1000 companies, including Apple, Cisco, ebay, Facebook, and Silicon Valley Bank. Coco brings rich experience across F1000 companies, start-ups, and nonprofits in the roles of CEO, COO, advisor, and Board member to Athena. She possesses a unique understanding of the breadth of challenges and opportunities of leadership. She empowers leaders to execute successfully, working with them to develop the relationship between a company’s strategy and its organizational design and environment. Coco’s expertise in developing and strengthening these important linkages makes her a powerful C-level advisor and Board member. In addition to serving on the Board of Taos from 2004 to 2014, Coco served as a Board Director for MentorNet during its rebranding, product transformation, and subsequent acquisition by Great Minds in STEM. Coco was on the finance committee supporting the Board of Directors of Samasource and established the Operating Committee for the Silicon Valley arm of Golden Seeds, a New York-based early-stage investment firm. She also currently serves as Chair of the Nominating Committee for the Anita Borg Technology Leadership Award, one of the most prestigious awards honoring women in technology.

Laura Smulian Writer & Researcher

Laura has over eight years of experience cultivating the entrepreneurial mindset in learners of all ages. At Alterna, Central America’s leading social entrepreneurship incubator, she led the initial growth strategy that led to the team’s expansion from 8 to 30 people, helping the team to serve more entrepreneurs in the region. She then began to work with young adults as a Lead Guide at Acton Academy Guatemala, designing learning environments that fostered innovation, curiosity, creativity, and resilience using cutting edge pedagogy and EdTech tools.

Key Details

Innovating in Times of Crisis and on the Successful Women Entrepreneurs and their Demographics

Tue, Aug 02 @ 12:00pm PT (1 hr)

Virtual (RSVP for link)


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