The Amherst Area Chamber of Commerce and its members aims to ensure the continued commercial strength of the area and to initiate programs that improve and promote the community’s quality of life.


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Em Shank '14

Em Shank '14Venly Fellow: Alumni Spotlight

See below for a retrospective on Em's Fellowship year and a description of the cool career that came out of her experience as a Fellow. Nominated as Fellow by the Amherst Area Chamber and the Quaboag Hills Chamber, Em has special interests in social media, data analysis, local businesses, and complex organizations. She worked her way through college as a Data Support Specialist for a local insurance company where her responsibilities ranged from trend analysis to marketing tools development. Em grew up in Minnesota, where her family was in the retail grocery business, and where Em also had a chance to serve as a grocery store assistant manager to pay her way through school. Her other jobs included painting houses, working in the kitchen of a retirement home, and milking cows on a dairy farm. In addition to Em 's knowledge of computer languages, she is proficient in French. Em graduated from Mount Holyoke College with a BA in Sociology where she also played varsity soccer.

Chiderah Okoye


As Venly Institute's Executive Director, Chiderah Okoye helped to launch the Mary S. Peake Fellowship over the last nine years. In her joint role between Venly and the Peake Fellowship, she leads the development of Peake’s approach to applied learning & teaching among local businesses & their industry ecosystems; local chambers of commerce & other trade/professional associations; and higher ed institutions including vo-tech schools & military outplacement centers.

Chiderah builds on her experience as an engineer serving a range of industries for the world’s largest industrial automation company, Rockwell. Nationally, Chiderah leads initiatives on public-private mobilization of cyber-readiness with the Department of Defense. Locally, she served as the longtime President of the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) Boston Chapter hosting 11,000 engineers as part of the NSBE annual conference. Chiderah bridged from NSBE to become Founding Chair of the Affinity Leadership Consortium, a first of its kind U.S. effort that aligns local chapters of minority professional organizations. Chiderah was appointed by the governor to serve on the Massachusetts Black Advisory Commission. She was also selected by the World Economic Forum to join the Boston Hub of the Global Shapers. Chiderah serves on the boards of the Black Economic Council of Massachusetts, Resilient Coders, and Bridgewater State University’s Science & Math Council. She holds a BS in Biomedical Engineering from Case Western Reserve University. Her work on economic development, cybersecurity, and national defense strengthens sustainable & inclusive growth locally and globally.