36th Annual Connecting Leaders Conference

June 17-19, 2021

We weren’t able to be together in Galveston for Connecting Leaders Conference in 2020, so we brought the best of the conference to you virtually. In 2021, we're hopeful to see everyone in person and we are planning to host our first live event in more than a year! Join us in Grapevine at the Gaylord Texan Resort and Convention Center this June, and bring the family!

Keynote Speakers


Christopher L. Williston, VI

Christopher L. Williston, IV is the president and chief executive officer of the Independent Bankers Association of Texas (IBAT), the largest state association dedicated exclusively to community bank advocacy. In his current role, Williston has responsibility for the association, as well as its subsidiaries that include the IBAT Education Foundation and IBAT Financial Services.

In addition to his job responsibilities at IBAT, Williston has been recognized for his service to the association industry. He is a past chairman of the Texas Society of Association Executives, an organization that honored him with its Young Professional Leadership Award and Chairman’s Award. He has been recognized with the Certified Association Executive designation from the American Society of Association Executives. Williston is a graduate of Texas Christian University (TCU) and Brite Divinity School at TCU. He and his wife, Michelle, live in Cedar Park and have six children.

Jill Castilla

Jill Castilla leads Citizens Bank of Edmond as its President and Chief Executive Officer, and Chairwoman of its bank holding company. Castilla joined Citizens Bank of Edmond in 2009, transforming the struggling institution into one of the most innovative community banks in the nation. Most recently, Castilla partnered with Mark Cuban and Teslar to create the award-winning PPP.BANK website to support small businesses during the COVID pandemic, and she filed a patent for the creation of a full-service electronic banking facility. Her entrepreneurial spirit spills over into her community engagement as the founder of “Heard on Hurd,” a monthly street festival that revitalized downtown Edmond and generated $30 million local economic impact, and as the creator of Vault 405, the first co-working space in downtown Edmond. 

In 2020, Castilla received several industry awards, including being named as one of the 25 Most Powerful Women in Banking by American Banker.

Mikaila Ulmer

Mikaila Ulmer is founder and CEO of Me & the Bees Lemonade. When she was just four years old, Mikaila was stung by two bees in the same week. Her parents encouraged her to do some research on the bees rather than being upset with them. Upon discovering the important role that bees play in our ecosystem, Mikaila was determined to help them. Using her Great Granny Helen’s flaxseed honey lemonade recipe, Mikaila launched her business from her home in Austin, Texas in 2009. Landing a deal with Daymond John on the show Shark Tank was just the beginning of Me & the Bees’ many business successes. Today, the award-winning lemonade is buzzing off the shelves of H-E-B, Whole Foods Market, Earth Fare, The Fresh Market and Kroger. In 2018, Mikaila launched her Healthy Hive Foundation where 10% of the net profits from the sale of her lemonade goes to saving our honey bees.  

Now at the age of 16, Mikaila has shared her story with Good Morning America, NBC News, ABC 20/20, The Real, Forbes and TIME among others, and has been invited to speak on social entrepreneurship at prestigious gatherings including the White House and the United State of Women Summit, where she introduced President Barack Obama. Her book, Bee Fearless: Dream Like a Kid was released in 2020 and can be found wherever books are sold. 

Preliminary Agenda

Wednesday, June 16  
3:00-5:00 p.m. Conference Registration 
Thursday, June 17
8:00-9:00 a.m.
8:30 a.m.-5:00 p.m. Conference Registration
10:00-11:30 a.m.  Opening General Session
11:45 a.m.-1:00 p.m. Networking Lunch
1:00-2:00 p.m.

Breakout Sessions:

  • Management and Leadership Track
  • Operations Track
  • Lending Track
2:15-3:15 p.m. Breakout Sessions:
  • Management and Leadership Track
  • Operations Track
  • Lending Track
3:15-6:00 p.m. Free for Family Afternoon
6:30-7:30 p.m. Hospitality Suite + Kids Camp
7:30-9:00 p.m. Family Movie Night
Friday, June 18  
7:30 a.m.-12:00 p.m. Conference Registration
7:30-9:30 a.m. Buffet Breakfast
7:30-8:30 a.m. Breakout Sessions:
  • Management and Leadership Track
  • Operations Track
  • Lending Track
8:45-10:00 a.m. 2nd General Session: Jill Castilla
10:00-10:30 a.m. Refreshment Break
10:45-11:45 a.m. Breakout Sessions:
  • Management and Leadership Track
  • Operations Track
  • Lending Track
12:00-1:30 p.m. 3rd General Session & Lunch
2:00-5:30 p.m. Free for Family Afternoon (pool hospitality suite and/or activities)
5:30-6:30 p.m. Hospitality Suite (sponsored by JMFA)
6:30-10:00 p.m. Friday Family Fun Night (entertainment to be announced)
Saturday, June 19  

Grab-and-Go Breakfast