Applications Open For Next Sessions Including New Women’s Leadership Program

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Distilled Spirits Council of the United States (DISCUS) today announced the graduating classes of DISCUS Academy’s two leadership certificate programs, the Executive Leadership Program and the Developing Leadership Program.

“These programs are dedicated to training leaders who are committed to improving the spirits industry,” said DISCUS President and CEO Chris Swonger. “With the completion of these programs, our industry now has more than 30 newly certified leaders to help advance our sector and drive innovation for future growth.”

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 2022 Executive Leadership Program graduates are:

  • Maridel Altmann, Director of Product Compliance, MHW, Ltd.
  • Angela Balboa, Vice President National Accounts, The Wine Group
  • Armin Buehler, Regional Communications Director, The Americas, Mast-Jagermeister
  • Elana Effrat, Director of Marketing, One Eight Distilling
  • Libby Enright, Director of Winery Operations & Compliance, McBride Sisters Collection
  • Joe Girgash, COO, Co-Founder, Brain Brew Custom Whiskey
  • Aaron Harris, Director of Operations & Head Distiller, Watershed Distillery
  • David Harris, Co-founder, Song Dog Spirits LLC
  • Brian Hoyt, Stakeholder Relations Manager, JobsOhio Beverage System
  • Yannis Karlos, Co-Founder/President, Park Distillery
  • Connor McKenna, Portfolio Director, Pronghorn
  • Jenni Moore, Area Vice President, Pernod Ricard
  • Jake Nettleton, Regional Sales Director, Mast-Jagermeister
  • Michelle O’Callaghan, Regional Director Northeast, Mast-Jagermeister
  • Liz Paquette, Director of Brand, Drizly
  • Lindsay Parmele, National Accounts Director, E-Commerce & Convenience, Breakthru Beverage Group
  • Lauren Reynolds, Global Senior Brand Manager, Super Premium American Whiskey Portfolio, Brown-Forman
  • Caitlin Zibas, National On-Premise Manager, Mast-Jagermeister

The Developing Leadership Program is designed for any spirits professional with an interest in growing their leadership skills. The 2022 Developing Leadership Program graduates are:

  • Niyah Alicea, HR Generalist, Mast-Jagermeister
  • Kate Baker, Area Manager Upstate NY, Mast-Jagermeister
  • Theresa Borden, Assistant General Counsel, Bacardi North America
  • Madeline Conover, Area Manager MA & RI, Mast-Jagermeister
  • Johana Constantine, Client Implementation Manager, MHW, Ltd.
  • Jesse Cortes, Business Development Manager, Park Street Companies
  • Chloe Davidson, Supply Chain Manager, Hotaling & Co
  • Erica Guries, Director, Strategy & Transformation, Moet Hennessy
  • Leah Kelly, Manager Global Alcohol Responsibility, Brown-Forman Corporation
  • Kelly McCarthy, Regional Sales Manager – Southwest , Hotaling & Co
  • Rob McCaughey, Senior Commercial Development Manager, Wine & Spirit Education Trust
  • Nicole Mendelman, Mountain Parks Sales Director, Park Distillery
  • Ashley Noble, Consumer Engagement Coordinator, Moet Hennessy
  • Rafael Quinones, Metro New York/NJ Area Manager – On Premise, Multicultural Channel, Remy Cointreau
  • Kyna Ricks, Controller, DISCUS
  • Ashley Urbanski, Senior Manager, National Accounts On-Premise, Bacardi
  • Karina Villalobos, Manager, On Premise Activation; West On Premise, Constellation Brands
  • Robert Wegusen, Regional Sales Manager, Hotaling & Co
  • Zachary Winkelmann, Sales Manager, Ghost Coast Distillery
  • Jordan Zimmerman, Premium Whiskey Education & Advocacy Lead, Brown-Forman Corporation

“The DISCUS Leadership Academy was a great experience to work with beverage industry professionals and to discuss important topics relevant to our industry such as inclusivity programming,” said Ashley Urbanski, Sr. Manager, Customer Marketing – NAOP, Bacardi North America and 2022 DISCUS Academy Developing Leadership Program graduate. “The Cornell courses offered in this program such as building effective teams, applying strategic influence, and leading for creativity and innovation were especially pertinent for my current role and provided me with a clear roadmap for successful development for myself and my team! I have already recommended this program to several colleagues and friends looking for growth and development opportunities!”

DISCUS Academy Executive and Developing Leadership Programs

The Executive Leadership Program, in partnership with the University of Kentucky’s Gatton School of Business, develops a leader’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 Program, in partnership with Cornell University, transforms early-stage managers into true leaders, by exploring leadership styles, developing interpersonal skills, and learning how to build and manage a high-performance team. Entrepreneurs, new managers and employees with limited management experience are encouraged to apply.

DISCUS Academy Launches Developing Women Leadership Program in collaboration with Women of the Vine & Spirits

DISCUS Academy is expanding its leadership offerings next year to include the Developing Women Leadership Program in collaboration with Women of the Vine & Spirits. The certificate program, conducted in partnership with Cornell University, is designed to empower and advance women in the spirits workforce by developing leadership and managerial skills.

“We are thrilled to be collaborating with DISCUS on the Developing Women Leadership Program to help cultivate the next generation of leaders. Education isn’t just about gaining knowledge; it is also about gaining confidence. Doing so in a woman only cohort can further elevate the experience,” said Deborah Brenner, Founder & CEO, Women of the Vine & Spirits. “Together, we aim to advance women at all levels and across all tiers of the beverage alcohol industry.”

Applications Open for the 2023 Leadership Programs

The leadership certificate programs offered through DISCUS Academy are open to members and non-members alike. All three programs are an eight-month commitment consisting of virtual and in-person elements.

Applications for all three leadership certificate programs will be accepted through January 27, 2023, and the new sessions begin in March. For more information on the 2023 leadership programs including course components, costs and how to apply, visit our DISCUS Academy website.


The Distilled Spirits Council of the United States is the leading voice and advocate for distilled spirits in the U.S., advocating on legislative, regulatory and public affairs issues impacting the distilled spirits sector at the local, state, federal and international levels. DISCUS members are committed to responsibility and encourage adults who drink to do so in moderation. For more information visit

Women of the Vine & Spirits is an all-encompassing global membership organization dedicated to boldly pushing the wine, beer and spirits industry toward a more diverse, equitable and inclusive era that supports business development and innovation, empowering all to thrive. Members connect through our global network and collaborate across all industry sectors. We provide our members with benefits that include education, training, mentorship, and networking, supporting them personally and professionally as well as tools, services and resources toward diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I), and business development & innovation (BD&I). For more information, please visit