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Karen Harper serves as President of Building Engineering and Science Talent (BEST), a non-profit organization focused on broadening the participation of women and historically under-represented minorities in STEM.  She leads the organization as a member of the Defense STEM Education Consortium (DSEC), a collaborative partnership between academia, industry, not-for-profit organizations, and government that aims to broaden STEM literacy and develop a diverse and agile future workforce.  Ms. Harper manages the Strategic Outreach Initiative and ensures STEM outreach activities are supported and performing high-quality work; drives alignment to DSEC fundamentals that frame the overall DSEC strategy; and monitors the strategic initiatives of 24 partners to expand the pool of traditionally underrepresented and military connected students.

Ms. Harper also directs the engagement of BEST’s diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility (DEIA) portfolio with the Department of Defense Education and Workforce Development for Advanced Manufacturing.  She has 34 years of federal government experience in human capital management, workforce planning, and project planning and execution.

President Emeritus

John Yochelson, president emeritus, contributes a wide range of high-level policy experience including 21 years of leadership with Building Engineering and Science Talent (BEST), the presidency of the U.S. Council on Competitiveness, an appointment to the President’s Export Council, and membership on the management team of the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Under his leadership, BEST coordinated the nation’s first and most comprehensive search to identify effective diversity programs in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics across the full spectrum of pre-K-12 and higher education.  Mr. Yochelson remains actively engaged in the areas of development and execution of STEM program activities with particular focus on education and workforce development in cutting edge technologies.

Senior Contracts Manager

Jill Haynie, CFCM, CPPS, has served as Vice President of Finance/Contracts for three small Government contractors, including an 8(a) certified, small Economically Disadvantaged Woman-Owned Small Business (EDWOSB).  She has extensive experience with proposals, and she has supervised and acted as an advisor regarding human resource issues.  Additional duties have included serving as the Facility Security Officer, implementing an Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP), and serving as systems administrator.  She implemented ERP systems at the three small businesses.  She has served as the interface with DCAA, DCMA, external CPA auditors, and insurance brokers.  As a Director at Macias Gini and O’ Connell LLP CPAs (MGO) for 13 1/2 years, she provided advice and counsel on issues related to the pricing, costing and administration of government contracts and government property administration.


Jill received her Bachelor of Business Administration degree, with an emphasis in Accounting, from Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas. She has a Professional Certificate in Unix Operating Systems Programming from the University of California, San Diego.

Senior Staff Accountant & Project Control Administrator

Stephanie Peluso, Senior Staff Accountant & Project Control Administrator, has 10+ years of experience providing small defense contractors with the necessary operational, accounting, auditing, and contractual expertise to enable them to successfully conduct their business with the Federal Government. Most of her experience lies in managing administrative details for BEST on various multi-million-dollar government grants.  Current responsibilities include audit preparation, indirect rate computation, assisting on incurred cost proposal submissions, and contract bid/proposal and award management.  
She received her Bachelor of Business Administration degree, with a concentration in Financial Services, from Bryant University in Smithfield, R.I.

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