Programs provide leadership education and training to sector’s workforce

The Distilled Spirits Council of the United States (DISCUS) today announced the inaugural graduating of DISCUS Academy’s two leadership programs, the Executive Leadership Program and the Developing Leadership Program.

“We are excited to congratulate the first-ever graduates from both our Executive Leadership Program and our Developing Leadership Program,” said Chris Swonger, president and CEO of DISCUS. “These programs are dedicated to developing leaders who are committed to improving the industry. With the completion of this program, our industry has more than 20 newly certified leaders to help grow our sector and innovate for the future.”

The Executive Leadership Program is designed for spirits professionals who have at least five to seven years of experience and have demonstrated responsibility for cross-functional leadership and/or strategy-level decision-making in the distilled spirits industry.

The 2021 Executive Leadership Certificate graduates are:

  • Brittany Brown, director of ideation and innovation, Diageo
  • Dan Butkus, vice president of sales, national sales manager, Campari
  • Alex Castle, senior vice president, master distiller, Old Dominick Distillery
  • Jennifer Friedrichs, state manager (PA, DE), Uncle Nearest
  • Stacey Klass, vice president of sales (central U.S.), Hotaling & Co
  • Carlo Luri, director of government affairs, Bently Heritage
  • Nicki Moore, director of sales, Watershed Distillery
  • Jason Moore, vice president – commercial excellence, Remy Cointreau
  • Al Murphy, co-president, Mother Murphy’s
  • Ned Popovich, senior beverage scientist, Bacardi Martini Product Development
  • Kristen Robinson, senior director of digital and trade development, Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits
  • Dave Smith, partner and vice president, head distiller and blender, St. George Spirits

The Developing Leadership Program is designed for any spirits professional with an interest in growing their leadership skills.

The 2021 Developing Leadership Certificate graduates are:

  • Tameka Beckford-Young, corporate counsel, Campari
  • Denzel Chrismon, state manager, Bacardi
  • Brandon Conley, distillery manager, Cleveland Whiskey
  • Peter Haubenschild, field activation manager (control region), Campari
  • Blake Huber, distiller, Starlight Distillery
  • Juliana Reis Lang, state manager, Bacardi
  • Casey Scamporino, director of legal and regulatory policy, DISCUS
  • Kate Secor, field marketing manager, Brown-Forman
  • Tom Yaggi, state manager, Beam Suntory

“As a class, we’ve been inspired by executive coaches and grown through our coursework, all of which allowed me to gain genuine insights both personally and professionally,” said Dave Smith, vice president and head distiller of St. George Spirits and 2021 DISCUS Academy Executive Leadership Program graduate. “The program has developed us into a cohort of industry professionals that I deeply respect and admire. I’m grateful to count myself among their ranks as members of the DISCUS Executive Leadership Program.”

Available to DISCUS members and non-members alike, both programs are an eight-month commitment consisting of virtual and in-person elements and include a university partner. The executive certificate builds upon leadership skills and develops a participant’s ability to communicate strategy, negotiate skillfully, influence team behaviors and deliver results. The program ensures the right blend of soft skills and a strategic mindset to achieve performance outcomes at participants’ companies. The developing leadership certificate program transforms early-stage managers into true leaders, by learning their leadership style, developing interpersonal skills, and understanding how to build and manage a high-performance team. Entrepreneurs, new managers and employees with limited management experience are encouraged to apply.

DISCUS is now accepting applications for the 2022 leadership programs and will partner again with Cornell University for the Developing Leadership Program and the University of Kentucky’s Gatton School of Business for the Executive Leadership Program.

“We are excited to continue our partnership with Cornell next year and start a new relationship with the Gatton School of Business at the University of Kentucky which is uniquely positioned to provide custom, industry-specific leadership courses that will greatly benefit participants,” said Sarah Fitzmaurice, chief of resource planning and management at DISCUS. “Both universities provide leadership programming empowering participants to apply learnings to daily work and life.”

Applications for the leadership programs will be accepted through January 21, 2022, and the 2022 program will begin in March. For a complete list of 2022 program components, costs of each program and to apply, visit