Gene Lunger
Executive Vice President of Retail Operations, Ashley Furniture

Gene Lunger is the Executive Vice President of Retail Operations for the global manufacturer, Ashley Furniture Industries. Ashley is the world’s largest manufacturer of furniture, and the #1 home furnishings retailer in North America. Gene’s responsibilities encompass Licensed Store Operations, Business Development, Licensee Marketing and Retail Education. As a 30+ year home furnishings retailer, Gene’s approach to leadership has been influenced heavily by a lifetime of adventure in the outdoors, stretching and growing his personal comfort zone climbing mountains across the United States. The lessons learned at altitude in a dynamic environment give him a unique perspective on life, business growth, survival and success in a wildly evolving retail environment. Gene resides in Ft Lauderdale Florida with his wife Canicia.

Opening Keynote

Connecting Business, Academia and Students in the Talent Pipeline: How establishing win-win relationships with your local Colleges and Universities supports business growth and success

In this talk, Gene will lean into a past loaded with successful college recruitment activity that supported the growth and prosperity of various business ventures. Having a focus on creating a powerful employment brand with your chosen academic institutions supports what we all want and need in our businesses: top grading talent and providing a source and path for internal development to fuel long term sustainable growth. In today’s hyper-competitive marketplace the organizations with the best people win. Focusing on the process path of Find, Hire, Educate, Retain and Develop will help you establish a sustainable competitive advantage in your most important resource category. People.


Nora El-Khouri Spencer, MSW, NCGC, CAPS

Founder and CEO of Hope Renovations in Carrboro, North Carolina

Nora spent the first 15 years of her career in human resources and recruiting at Fortune 50 Companies but changed directions and graduated in 2017 from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a masters in Social Work. A self-taught tradeswoman and NC Licensed General Contractor, Nora envisioned a training program that would empower underemployed women to make inroads into the construction trades where they could earn living wages on a sustainable career path. After becoming familiar with the concept of aging-in-place, she recognized the opportunity for these women to practice their newfound skills while carrying out needed repairs and renovations for older adults in the community, and the model for Hope Renovations was born.

Nora is a North Carolina Licensed Building Contractor. She also holds a B.A. in Journalism and Mass Communication from UNC, a Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR) designation and is a Certified Aging in Place Specialist (CAPS). Nora lives in Chapel Hill with her husband Brian, her cats Lucky and Lola, and her dog Daisy.

Foundation for Hope: How a career in campus recruiting built an NC nonprofit 

Hear Nora El-Khouri Spencer, former NCACE President, share how her time as a Campus Recruiter shaped her perspective on people, workforce development, opportunity gaps, and led to the creation of Hope Renovations, her Triangle nonprofit. Hope Renovations trains underemployed women for living wage jobs in the construction trades, and gives them hands-on experience through its work carrying out repairs and renovations for older adults. From figuring out her path to crafting Hope’s mission to serving her clients, her experiences in the college space have shown up in every aspect of her career. Whether you’re a seasoned vet or a campus rookie, you’ll be inspired to consider the big picture of how ordinary experiences can create extraordinary change – and how your personal journey can impact others in ways you may never have imagined.

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