2nd Annual Conference Attracts More than 400 Professionals, 40 Speakers from U.S. and Croatia

Published: May 29, 2017
Gathering featured special keynote addresses from Archbishop Blase Cupich, David Diehl and inaugural ACAP awards recognition

CHICAGO, May 29, 2017 – The Association of Croatian American Professionals (ACAP) hosted their 2nd annual conference this month. The three-day event brought together more than 400 professionals, academics, students, and community organizers from around the U.S and Croatia. With support by the Consulate General of the Republic of Croatia and the Chicago chapter of ACAP, the organization doubled attendance from its inaugural event last year in Washington, D.C. and increased membership to over 500.

The first day included a welcome reception where guests were greeted by Zdravka Busic, State Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs for the Republic of Croatia and Sanja Lakovic, Consul General of the Republic of Croatia in Chicago. Croatian president Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic also congratulated the organization for its ongoing work and future potential in a special taped video.

The second day included a daylong conference at the Radisson Blu Aqua in downtown Chicago, which featured more than 40 speakers from the U.S and Croatia who helped navigate insightful conversations during seven panel discussions and four themed breakout sessions. The afternoon session included a special keynote conference address by Croatian-American two-time Super Bowl champ David Diehl where he shared inspirational stories as an athlete who has transitioned off the field.

“This event provides an excellent opportunity for diaspora from all corners of the United States to meet and network and created direct dialogue with government officials and representatives for issues that matter,” said Sanja Lakovic, Consul General of the Republic of Croatia in Chicago.

An evening gala dinner featured Cardinal Blase Cupich, Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Chicago. In keynote speech he talked about his journey as a Croatian-American and advice for future work to be done.  His impactful word resonated with the hundreds of guests as they gave him a standing ovation. Throughout the night, guests were entertained by Croatian-Americans from Chicago including the young voice of Iva Galic, the Hrvatska Loza folklore ensemble, and the Kirin-Gornick Band with Damir Stasic.

A third day of networking was added for attendees to get together socially which included a guided architecture boat tour of Chicago and an evening watch-party to support Croatian UFC fighter Stipe Miocic.

“The amount of knowledge shared by our all-star cast of speakers, community-building with our attendees and overall sense of goodwill and networking was inspiring,” said Marko Zoretic, president ACAP, “We brought together Croatian-American leaders and practitioners — those who are defining the next generation of global Croatian success and creating the teams that make them a reality.”

The conference panel discussions focused on: Croatian-language education opportunities in the U.S. and abroad; the climate of entrepreneurship in Croatia; investment and legal issues facing startups/emerging ventures; best practices to enhance multi-platform story-telling for businesses and organizations; the influential role athletics has on expanding brand identity and awareness about Croatia and the diaspora and a special “task force” session aimed to discuss issues crucial to Croatian-American constituents.

This year, ACAP created a unique, audience-interactive session with its first-ever “Showcase Showdown” where attendees watched three Croatian-led start-up ventures present their company ideas in a three-minute pitch followed by Q & A. The start-up pitches were:

  • Unique Travel Set by Raseljka Maras, President
  • Nanodiy by Sasa Miklosic, CEO & Co-Founder
  • Covideo by Marinko Josipovic, General Manager – Europe

The agenda also included themed breakout sessions designed to create more in-depth conversations such as the status of Croatians in Bosnia-Hercegovina, ways to improve Croatian-language programs in the U.S., strategies for medical tourism options in Croatia and a hands-on social media workshop aimed at empowering audience engagement opportunities for grass-roots community organizers.

“The energy in the room was most impressive, but the enthusiasm and forward-looking pragmatic love for Croatia and bond with the U.S. was infectious,” said Dr. Steven Pavletic, vice president ACAP.  “We’re looking forward to build on this momentum for the 2018 conference which will be hosted in San Francisco.”

ACAP also created the first-ever ACAP awards to recognize influential professionals who have demonstrated professional leadership and excellence.  The award recipients are:

  • Nevenka Jurkovic, Honorary Award
  • Luka Misetic, Professional Excellence
  • Jeff Blackard, Friend of Croatia
  • Marko Buljan, Rising Star
  • Maria Sentic, ACAP Member Achievement

Three ACAP scholarships were also awarded to students who demonstrated educational excellence along with dedicated support to the Croatian-American community. The winners received a monetary award from ACAP and a study abroad opportunity at the Zagreb School of Economics and Management in Zagreb, Croatia. The student scholarship recipients are:

  • Madeline Kovacevic, Loyola University Chicago
  • Gordan Kucan, Northwestern University Chicago
  • Tatjana Mustac, Queens College New York

“This inaugural scholarship provides students with an opportunity to connect to their culture and with influencers in the Croatian business sector,” said Maria Sentic, ACAP treasurer and Chicago conference chair. “We hope this experience will create a lifetime of memories for them, but more importantly, enable our youth to network with fellow international students and future business mentors.”

The Association of Croatian American Professionals brings together professionals, business leaders, academics, students and community organizers. Our mission is to foster leadership, collaboration and to promote the advancement of issues relevant to the Croatian-American community. ACAP is a non-profit 501c (6). For more information about becoming a member, please visit www.croampro.com.