Facebook icon Learning Society 2022 Member Salon | Queens University of Charlotte

Learning Society 2022 Member Salon

Jewels in the Queen City’s Crown:

Outdoor Amenities, Environmental Resources, and Good Stewardship that Make Charlotte a Leading City

Learning Society 2022 Member Salon

6:30 – 7:30 p.m. | View Virtually



Alvin “Al” Austin, Corning, Inc., Senior Project Manager, Community Affairs

“Al” Austin was appointed Senior Project Manager, Community Affairs with the Office of Racial Equality and Social Unity with Corning, Incorporated in March 2021. In this role, Al is responsible for supporting the strategy creation and execution of local community affairs efforts with focus on racial equality in the communities surrounding North Carolina. He is responsible for developing community initiatives that positively impact equity and supporting local agencies and organizations already in the work of closing the gap amongst racial groups at the local and state levels.

Prior to this role, Al served as the Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) Outreach Director for the North Carolina Department of Transportation by appointment of the Chief Deputy Secretary of Transportation, David Howard. He is a former Charlotte City Councilman representing Council District Two covering uptown, north and northwest Charlotte. Al also served as the Director of Development at Johnson C. Smith University, Charlotte’s premiere HBCU, where he championed their $150 million Comprehensive Campaign. Prior to this role, he served as Executive Director of the McCrorey Family YMCA which is the second oldest YMCA branch in Charlotte, NC.

A native Charlottean, Al was identified as one of Charlotte’s Emerging Minority Leaders by Access Charlotte; he received the 2020 Martin Luther King, Jr. Spirit Award presented by the YMCA of Greater Charlotte; 2017 Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Champion Award; honored with the PEARL Award from the Alpha Lambda Omega Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated as an outstanding community leader; and honored by the Powerhouse Project with their 2015 Power of One Community Award.

He is a member of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, former Commissioner for the North Carolina Complete Count Commission; former Board Member with Next Level Leadership; serves on the Almetto Alexander Labyrinth Foundation Board of Managers; S.T.A.R.S. Board of Managers and former Board of Trustees for the Penn Center in Beaufort South Carolina. He has Bachelor of Science degrees from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in Sociology and Criminal Justice Administration.

Al is extremely health conscious and believes exercise, nutrition and prayer are keys to a long and successful life.


Guest Panelists

Bart Landess, Catawba Lands Conservancy & Carolina Thread Trail, Executive Director

Bart brings nearly 30 years of fundraising and nonprofit experience to the Conservancy and the Thread Trail. He came from the YMCA of Greater Charlotte where he served for eight years as Vice President of Major and Planned Gifts. Prior to this, Bart worked at the Foundation For The Carolinas in development and planned giving. He is a graduate of Davidson College, where he also worked as Assistant Vice President of Major and Planned Gifts, then General Counsel and the President’s Executive Assistant. Prior to that he practiced law at Smith Helms Mulliss & Moore. Bart received his law degree from the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, and has always been a lover of the land. Landess, his wife and his four children all enjoy the outdoors, especially skiing.

Bart is former Chair of the North Carolina Planned Giving Council. He’s also a founding member of the Institute of Philanthropy and Leadership Gift School and a former Board member of Legal Services of the Southern Piedmont (now Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy) and former Deacon and member of the Session of First Presbyterian Church. He was part of the Charlotte Chapter of American Leadership Forum’s Class V.


Lisa Phocas, Director of Stewardship, Crescent Communities

Lisa Phocas is the Director of Stewardship at Crescent Communities, a Charlotte-based real estate investor, developer, and operator of mixed-use communities with offices across the Southeast, Southwest, and Mid-Atlantic. Lisa attended the University of Toledo in Ohio, where she received her bachelor’s degree, as well as her Master of Business Administration.

In 2015, Lisa accepted the role as Director of Marketing for Crescent Communities’ homebuilding business. Five years later, Lisa assumed the role of Director of Stewardship for Crescent Communities and oversees the sustainability and wellness initiatives across the portfolio, as well as managing the company-wide community engagement efforts.

A lifelong environmentalist, Lisa served on the board of directors for Sustain Charlotte for six years, three of which as the board chair. She is currently a board member for the Catawba Lands Conservancy and serves on the ULI Greenprint Committee. Additionally, Lis is certified as a Fitwel Ambassador, LEED AP, WELL AP, and maintains her real estate license in the state of North Carolina.


Chris Hunter, Mecklenburg County Park and Recreation, Superintendent of Park Operations

Chris is a graduate of Western Carolina University (B.S. Sport Management) and a veteran of the United States Airforce (1995-1999). Chris joined Mecklenburg County in 1999 after being honorably discharged from the Airforce. He began his career as a Recreation Programmer, responsible for creating and implementing youth, teen, and senior programming for the local community. After excelling at his job as a Programmer, Chris was promoted to Facility Manager. As a Facility Manager, Chris’ duties included the operations of a very busy recreation center. After several years as a Facility Manager, Chris was once again promoted to Park Region Manager. As a Park Region Manager, he was responsible for the day-to-day operations for one of Mecklenburg County’s 3 park regions.

Currently Chris serves as Superintendent of Park Operations for Mecklenburg County. He oversees more than 250 properties for his department that includes parks, greenways, County Sportsplex, and undeveloped properties. He leads a team of more than 250 full-time and part-time employees. Chris's responsibilities include oversight of day-to-day maintenance operations, programming, contractual partnerships as well as direct oversight of a $10 million dollar operating budget. Chris has more than 23 years of Recreation, Sport, and Facility Management experience. Chris is married to his forever partner, Lakisha Hunter and is a #GirlDad to twin daughters, Sierra and Sydney. Both girls are currently in their junior year at Winthrop University as full scholarship Student-Athletes. When he is not serving the residents of Mecklenburg County, Chris enjoys woodworking, golf, wine making, and a good audiobook while driving. Chris believes to truly serve God, is to serve thy fellow man!


Jim Warren, Carolina Raptor Center, Executive Director

Jim Warren has been at the Carolina Raptor Center since January of 2006, and has served as its Executive Director since May of 2011.  Jim's journey in nonprofit leadership began as an intern with the Charlotte-area YMCA, and led to a job offer from that organization before graduating from Appalachian State University in Boone, NC. He continued to develop his leadership skills as the Superintendent of Aquatics for Mecklenburg County, NC, and then as Associate Executive Director for the YMCA of Greater Charlotte and Chief Operating Officer for the Upper Marlboro YMCA in Rock Hill, SC. He returned to the Raptor Center as the Vice President and Chief Operating Officer and then assumed the senior role.  Jim notes the best part of his job is working with others who are passionate about CRC, both staff and volunteers. (Who wouldn't love driving into a nature preserve each day?).

In case you were wondering, if he were reincarnated as a raptor, he would be a Great Horned or Barred Owl, "because they seem laid back, but they know how to get down to "business, and are extremely protective of their families."  Jim enjoys mountain biking, snow skiing, hiking, spending time with my family, reading, and listening to music.

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