Ashleigh Burt, MD, is currently the chief resident at Blank Children’s Hospital in Des Moines where she also works as one of the pediatric hospitalists. Ashleigh loved reading as a young child, and knows it played a crucial role in her path to becoming a pediatrician. While completing her residency at Blank Children’s Hospital, she started a newborn early literacy program that provides education to families in the newborn nursery about the importance of reading at a young age, not only in the development of children’s brains, but also in the development and strengthening of bonds within families. After her chief residency year, she plans to remain in the Des Moines area as a general pediatrician. In her free time, Ashleigh enjoys reading, exploring Des Moines via bicycle, and traveling.
Pediatrician, Blank Children’s Hospital and
Adjunct Professor, Des Moines University
Amy Shriver, MD, is a general pediatrician at Blank Children’s Pediatric Clinic and an Assistant Professor of Specialty Medicine at Des Moines University. She is the Medical Director of the statewide nonprofit Reach Out and Read Iowa, which partners with pediatric primary care providers to give books and shared reading guidance to children and families at health maintenance visits.
Dr. Shriver teaches and practices child advocacy across the state. She is the co-director of the Iowa Pediatric Resident Advocacy Education Collaborative. She is on the executive board for the Council on Early Childhood as well as the Iowa AAP executive board and legislative committee. She heads the chapter’s mental health committee and is the Iowa Chapter CATCH grant facilitator.
Dr. Shriver’s clinical and advocacy focus is on early child brain development and the prevention and mitigation of Adverse Childhood Experiences, or ACES. She collaborates both across the state and nationally with organizations such as Iowa ACES 360, the American Academy of Pediatrics Council on Early Childhood, and the Center for Youth Wellness to promote improved screening, early identification, and treatment and referral for families experiencing toxic stress.
Dr. Shriver supports early childhood education through her collaboration with the Iowa Association for the Education of the Young Child. She was awarded the 2018 IAEYC Child Champion Award. She is on the IAEYC Play Leadership Group.
Kandace Bass, MD, is a general pediatrician. She was a pediatian at MercyOne in Des Moines and Ankeny for four years, completing her pediatric residency at Children's Mercy Hospital and Clinics in Kansas City, MO. Currently Kandace is in school completing her training on teaching English as a Second Language. Kandace moved to the Des Moines area in July 2016. Kandace is a strong believer in the importance of reading to children to promote their brain development. Kandace and her husband Peter love to read. While she does not yet have children of her own, Dr. Bass enjoys reading to her nieces and nephews.
Ashley Hunt is a Partner and Senior Account Executive at LS2group, a nonpartisan public affairs, public relations, government relations firm in Des Moines' East Village. At LS2group, Ashley specializes in issue advocacy, social media, and event management. Outside of her full-time job, Ashley enjoys volunteering for various political and charitable organizations, including Dance Without Limits, a dance program for children with special needs, and 5050 in 2020, an organization dedicated to helping women run for office. In her free time, Ashley enjoys attending Ballet Des Moines performances, shows at the Civic Center Des Moines, exploring Des Moines with her dog, and reading as much as she can.
Mercy College of Health Science, Des Moines, Iowa
Jennie Ver Steeg is the Director of Library and Media Services at Mercy College of Health Sciences. Jennie holds a Master of Arts in Library and Information Science from the University of Iowa, an MA in English and an MS in Child Development from Iowa State University. Before librarianship, Jennie taught Composition at ISU and DMACC, and was the Writing Specialist at the University of Northern Iowa, as well as a test prep tutor, security guard, test kitchen assistant, and proofreader. As an undergraduate she had an internship in the Child Life department at Johns Hopkins Hospital. Her library career began as the director of the West Liberty Public Library. She was most recently employed as Library Director at North Iowa Area Community College in Mason City. She lives in a "Beaverdale brick" in Des Moines, with three cats who allow her to continue living there.
Senior Vice President – Commercial Banking Northwest BankRudy Fors is a Commercial Banker with Northwest Bank. His responsibilities include developing customer relationships and growing the commercial banking portfolio in central Iowa.Rudy received his M.B.A. at Colorado State University. He is a graduate of Graduate School of Banking, University of Wisconsin – Madison and received his undergrad at Saint Louis University in Finance & Aviation. Rudy was a Commercial Pilot and Flight Instructor before getting into Commercial Banking.Rudy is involved in the community and active several other non-profits which focus on Children’s Education and Health. Those non-profits include United Way: Tocqueville Society & Education Leadership Initiative, Mentor Iowa, and ChildServe. Rudy is also a youth sports coach, charity runner and volunteers his time speaking on banking topics for several non-profits and universities in Central Iowa. Rudy and his wife reside in Ankeny with their three children.
Higher Education & Social Policy Consultant, Des Moines, Iowa
Lizzie is a native of Des Moines, with a degree in German and International Business from the University of Iowa, and an MS in Education from Northwestern University with a focus on higher education administration and social policy. She began her career in finance in Boston, MA and has worked at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business in the executive program. Her research is published with the Searle Center for Advancing Teaching and Learning at Northwestern. Lizzie worked as the associate director for career advising at the Thunderbird Graduate program, prior to it becoming part of Arizona State University. Lizzie is married to Matt, an Englishman, and for the past 8 years has focused her time on raising their two sons, Finley and
Ellen is currently the Vice President of Finance for SHYFT Collective. Their mission is to provide integrated real estate, design, and construction services that help people and organizations navigate real estate change with confidence. Her role is to help lead the company as part of their core leadership team. Her responsibilities include everything within their accounting records, financial planning and analysis, along with HR and office management duties. She has been with SHYFT for about 4 years. Prior to that, she worked for XPO Logistics (formerly Jacobson Transportation and Logistics) for about 8 years. Her first position after college was with Deloitte & Touche, where she earned her CPA license (now in inactive status). Ellen graduated from Drake University in Accounting and International Business. She is originally from Dubuque, Iowa, and moved to Des Moines to attend Drake. Ellen lives in Urbandale. with her husband and three children: a 6 year and 4 year old sons, and a 2 year old daughter. One of her favorite parenting moments is listening to her 6 year old read to his younger siblings.
Public Education Advocate
Shanda Carstens is a 4th generation Iowan who is passionate about all things Iowa, in particular, public education. Shanda has been married to Matt for over 20 years. They have three children, Claire, Camden and Carolyne. Shanda spends the majority of her time on the volunteer leadership team for Parents for Great Iowa Schools, a statewide parent advocacy group. Shanda also was a founder and co-chair for the Johnston Legislative Action Committee. This committee is parent led and advocates at the Capitol for the needs of Johnston Schools. Recently her family relocated from Johnston back to their hometown of Panora where she looks forward to getting involved with the community. In her spare time, she loves to go boating and spending time with family and friends.
Sales Regional Manager, COPIC Medical Liability Company, Denver, Colorado
Kelsey Casper is a sales regional manager for COPIC Medical Liability Company located in Denver, Colorado. COPIC provides insurance and risk management services to physicians and hospitals across theMidwest. Kelsey currently lives in Denver with her husband and dog but travels frequently to Des Moines for work and considers Iowa her “home away from home.” She is an ac'vely involved member and supporter of the Iowa medical community and takes great pride in working with all the wonderful people in healthcare around the state. Kelsey has been with COPIC since gradua'ng from Gonzaga University in 2012 with a degree in Business Administra'on. She is a dedicated Gonzaga Bulldogs fan and a former Division 1 collegiate cheerleader
Amber Gustafson is a mom of three from Ankeny Iowa and a passionate lifelong reader and learner. As a born and raised farm kid, books opened the world to Amber who spent many hours outdoors reading to the cats and dogs on the farm. Amber was a first generation college student and graduated from Iowa State University in 1999 in the first class of Christina Hixson Opportunity Award winners. Amber has worked and volunteered in educational spaces from preschool to higher education including early three years as an admissions and academic advisor at the Universityof Missouri-Columbia. Amber became active in social justice issues in 2013 after theSandy Hook School Shooting, at a time when her own children were in elementary school. As one of the founding members of the Iowa Chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, she has worked for a state and nation free of gun violence, serving as Iowa Chapter Leader for nearly two years. In 2018, she ran an historic race for Iowa Senate but fell just short of winning. Since that time she has broadened her platform to continue to speak out about issues she is most passionate about while pursuing her Master of Arts in Communication, Public Policy & Advocacy at Drake University. Favorite Children’s Book: Charlotte’s Web
Client Development Director, RDG Planning & Design, Des Moines, Iowa Susan Judkins is a Vinton native, Clive city council member, community developer and water resources advocate who serves as the Client Development Director RDG Planning & Design. She has promoted education and leadership development for youth and adults through volunteer work with libraries, service on the Indianola School Board, chairing the Leadership Iowa Board of Governors, founding the Warren County Leadership Institute, and leading Junior Achievement education modules in elementary classrooms in Indianola and Des Moines.
Molly works with Iowa Reach Out and Read programs to bring our early literacy program to hundreds of children and families, providing technical assistance, training, and other support. In addition, she works to provide fundraising support and guidance to Iowa sites and the coalition through grants, sponsorships, events, and other fundraising partnerships. She also manages the all-volunteer board, social media, communications, and various projects the coalition is working on. Before joining Reach Out and Read Iowa, Molly worked for 14 years as the Community Relations Manager for Barnes and Noble in which she successfully developed and executed results-oriented, community relations programs. In her professional roles, Ms.Topf has cultivated and maintained positive relationships with educational, literacy, literary, cultural, and arts organizations in the central Iowa area, executed and managed events, managed scheduling, budgeting, team-building, training, staff development, and been the media and public relations liaison. She is an member of St. Augustin's parish where she leads the Little Flower's Girls Club, and a Home & School volunteer at St. Augustin school. In her spare time, Molly enjoys creative projects, gardening, reading, exploring new places, and most of all, spending time with her family.