Melinda T. Swan
Melinda Swan launched The Collective Genius to marry an expertise in strategy and marketing to a lifelong commitment to the greater good. She has more than three decades experience as a marketer, innovator and entrepreneur. Her previous roles include serving as associate vice president for university communications and marketing at The Ohio State University, leading a comprehensive market research effort and helping craft the university’s new advancement strategy.
As chief operating officer of the YWCA Columbus, Ms. Swan helped the agency earn additional grants of more than $1 million and turned a low-performing facility into a highly rated shelter. She undertook similarly successful public-private initiatives as chief of staff for the Columbus City Council, most notably leading a public education and training effort on sudden cardiac arrest that has saved more than 30 lives and coordinating the enactment and campaign to preserve Columbus‘s clean indoor air law on smoking.
She began her career in private sector public relations, first entering the public policy arena as an aide to a state senator and then heading media relations for Ohio’s attorney general. As part of a public affairs firm in 1990, Swan worked with Children’s Defense Fund on a policy initiative that won public recognition from newspaper editorial boards and ensured that both gubernatorial candidates invested in children’s programs. After serving as the first woman to run a U.S. Senate primary campaign in 1994, she returned to Columbus and launched her first company, working extensively with clients such as Children’s Defense Fund-Ohio, Children’s Hunger Alliance, Jobs for Columbus Graduates and Jobs for Ohio Graduates, and Voices for Children, among others.
Most recently, she and TCG won 74% of the vote for the 2015 Alcohol, Drug and Mental Health levy, increased public awareness and brought more problem gamblers in for treatment at Maryhaven, helped secure $3 million and counting for the anti-poverty work of the Columbus Urban League and successfully launched a private foundation dedicated to affordable excellence in public higher education.
Her work has won numerous recognitions and awards, including from the Columbus Marketing Association and The Ohio State University Board of Trustees.
Ms. Swan was one of the original advisors to the Ohio Domestic Violence Network, helping them to win support from the Ohio General Assembly and close a major loophole in Ohio’s family violence laws. She is one of three co-founders of the Greater Common Good and won the Corcoran Award for Social Justice Advocacy in 2011. She has served on numerous boards including Jobs for Columbus Graduates, the Mid-Ohio Board for an Independent Living Environment, and Equality Ohio. She has volunteered extensively, with an emphasis on advocating for low-income families. As a current member of the Star House Advisory Board, Ms. Swan contributes her time to serving homeless youth.
Colin Baumgartner joined The Creative Genius after completing his MBA at the University of Louisville, adding web analytics, digital advertising and strategic management expertise to his portfolio as a marketer for the university. He previously served as Marketing and Communications Director for Mid-Ohio Foodbank, where he oversaw media relations and digital/social media presence — utilizing those tools in helping the organization complete its $10 million capital campaign in 2010, which included their move to a new LEED-Gold Certified facility in Grove City.
Mr. Baumgartner earned numerous writing and broadcasting awards from the state of Michigan before moving into the non-profit sector in 2008. He has since helped various organizations in Michigan, Ohio and Kentucky to launch websites, optimize their social media presence and update their brand in the digital age.
In 2015, Mark Laski launched ThinkBold Creative, an innovative design firm offering inspired visual solutions to a variety of organizations. He strives to offer fresh designs fed by a passion to find the right solutions for each and every client. Exceptional client service and collaborative, constructive partnerships also are a hallmark of the firm.
Mr. Laski is an on-going partner with The Collective Genius, offering strategic and on-brand designs to a variety of clients including Intellqiuip, Inc., IFS, Inc., the Columbus Urban League, Maryhaven and ADAMH of Franklin County.
Mr. Laski previously served as managing partner and creative director at Stenger Creative, overseeing the entire process from brainstorming to creative and final production of both print and digital media. He worked with a variety of clients from large, multi-national organizations to small independent start-ups. He has experience with the following industries:
• Community, Arts and Non-profit
• Financial, Legal & Insurance Services
• Development and Real Estate
• Retail & Consumer Goods
• Technology, Industry & Science
• Food Service
Just after graduation, Mr. Laski started his creative career with the Executive Gallery, a print magazine that offered unique gifts for executives. Mr. Laski worked as a graphic designer and was responsible for layout, cover design and photography direction.
He has gained 22 years of experience in the creative design business, graduating from the Columbus College of Art and Design in 1993.
Karla Rothan joined The Collective Genius team in May 2020 after serving for twelve years as the Executive Director of Stonewall Columbus, a nonprofit organization that provides programs and services to the LGBTQ community in Central Ohio.
Karla has over 30 years of nonprofit experience, leading successful efforts in fundraising including a $3.8M capital campaign. She has designed and managed events for over 20 years and is highly skilled at creating social enterprise structures for businesses. She began her career in house management and guest services at the Wexner Center for the Arts and then moved to become a public information officer for the Central Ohio Area Agency on Aging.
Karla is one of the co-founders of the Columbus Recreation and Parks Foundation. She currently serves as the president of the board and is one of the longest serving Columbus Recreation and Parks commissioners appointed for her third term by Mayor Andrew Ginther. Karla also serves on the board of the Greater Columbus Arts Council and the Short North Alliance.
The Columbus Dispatch ranked Yaves as a top young professional under 40, Who’s Who in Black Columbus featured him as early as 16 years old, as a writer and producer he has curated a number of Billboard charting releases.
A graduate of The Ohio State University Fisher College of Business, Yaves has successfully navigated the entertainment and music industry releasing a number of projects garnishing Billboard and top 50 iTunes placements. As a marketing professional, Yaves is the co-managing partner of Canvaas Consulting LLC, which routinely works with The Collective Genius on video and audio projects. Yaves has been engaged to work with Pepsi, Vans Shoe Company, The Ohio State University and other Fortune 500 brands.
He currently serves as Lead Pastor at New Birth Christian Ministries in Columbus, OH. Yaves also currently host two radio shows reaching over 200,000 listeners a week. Late 2017 Yaves and his wife Bonita, launched The Ellis Administration LLC, a real-estate investment firm which has interest in a number of development and rental properties in the region.
Yaves says that his greatest joy does not come from his business ventures and accomplishments, but from spending time with his amazing wife Bonita and their son Yaves Jr.
Virginia Barney joined The Collective Genius as a senior collaborator early in 2012. A skilled administrator, public servant, coach, innovator and facilitator, Ginny brings with her over 30 years of leadership experience in both the private and public sectors. She works with city councils, regional commissions, school boards, non-profits, business and community leaders helping them build personal and organizational sustainability to enable them to achieve their goals.
Prior to joining the Collective Genius, Ginny served as City Manager for the City of Upper Arlington for eleven years. During her tenure, the City achieved and maintained a Triple A bond rating, strengthened its financial sustainability, developed and implemented economic incentive programs and worked with private businesses to reinvest in the City.
In early 2006, Ginny became trained as a facilitator in The Art of Hosting. Using techniques such as Circle, World Café, Appreciative Inquiry, and Open Space Technology, she created an environment that was civil, effective, fun, and efficient. Whether in weekly staff meetings or annual staff and council retreats, Ginny understands the importance of hearing diverse opinions, believes in civil conversations, and helps achieve collaborative outcomes.
A community leader for decades, Ginny has chaired the Solid Waste Authority, the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission, the Franklin County Emergency Management and Homeland Security Agency, the Upper Arlington Rotary Club and the Governing Board of her church to name a few. In all her community positions, she has been called upon to plan strategically and facilitated many discussions among diverse constituencies.
Currently, Ginny serves on the Boards of the ALIA Institute, an international leadership institute, National Church Residences, First Community Village, the OSU Star House, a drop-in center for homeless youth, and the Upper Arlington Community Foundation.