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Innovators of the Month: April 2015

NWI “Innovators of the Month” highlights Norma Serrano Williams, founder of Excellence by Design, Hebron; and Kenneth J. Brock, Ph.D., Chesterton, award-winning author and birdwatcher of Indiana birds, both new Society Members. This issue is for media serving Jasper, Lake, LaPorte, Newton, Porter, Pulaski and Starke Counties. The Society celebrates Fellows, Chanute Prize and Accelerating Greatness recipients; and other Members of the 2014 – 2015 Class of Innovators. Each edition of this newsletter features inspiring stories of innovation. The Society of Innovators is part of the Gerald I. Lamkin Innovation & Entrepreneurship Center of Ivy Tech Community College. For information, contact O’Merrial Butchee, Director, Gerald I. Lamkin Innovation & Entrepreneurship Center at (219) 981-4942, or John Davies, Assistant Director and Managing Director, The Society of Innovators at (219) 981-1111, Ext. 2292.

Norma Serrano Williams purposely hires women in need and transforms them through mentoring and a paint brush…


Ask Norma Serrano Williams, who owns a commercial and residential paint contracting business, what innovation means to her and she says: “Innovation has become, for me, success out of failure.” So her new norm is to think differently! This not only applies to her life, but also the women she hires whom she describes as “in need.”

Inducted last fall into The Society of Innovators, her innovation is hiring and mentoring an all-women crew who are going through tough times and have no experience. She has hired and trained more than three dozen women, two of whom have started their own companies; others have gone on to college or full-time jobs. In her company called Excellence by Design, which will mark its 10th anniversary this July, she blended a for profit business model with a not-for-profit objective. But her business is no charity. “The women who work for me must also be ready for a transformation in their own lives.”

Her personal story reflects this transition from failure to success. Launching her business as a single mother of three children with only $75, she passed flyers while her teen daughter pushed a stroller. She taught herself to paint, and as her business grew, she needed workers. Because she struggled in her own life, she decided to hire women with similar experiences. “I teach them that they can be great, too!” In demand as a motivational speaker, Norma has more details at Kenneth J. Brock, Ph.D., created the “Migration Envelope” for optimum times when birds arrive and depart along lakeshore…


Birdwatchers are preparing for the annual spring migration when the magnificent colors and delightful warbling of songbirds are abundantly evident along the shorelines of Lake Michigan. In fact, serious birdwatchers are marking May 14th as a sort of “W-Day” as the peak time to observe many of the 36 varieties of warblers passing through the region. This date is no accident, but the perfect coming together of science and observation thanks to Ken Brock, a retired geologist from Indiana University Northwest and a birdwatcher for over 4 decades. This foremost authority on birds on Indiana was inducted into The Society last fall for creating what he calls the “Migration Envelope.”

Utilizing a bell curve for each species, it is based on observational data of hundreds of birders and statistical analysis of thousands of birds. His envelope increases the probability of seeing the birds during migration season by providing data that define the arrival and departure of a given species, as well as the peak time for observing the birds. He developed this tool in the 1980’s when he started his first book, “Birds of the Indiana Dunes;” it now is a “signature” in each of his four editions. His contributions have been lauded by Indiana Dunes tourism officials for advancing our region for inland bird watching.

Dr. Brock was nationally recognized for his outstanding contributions to regional ornithology as the recipient of the Ludlow Griscom Award in 2014.

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