May Member Spotlight

Meet Max H. Cropper, Ph.D.

Tell me about your career

For most of my career I did instructional design and evaluation for organizations, sometimes as an employee, sometimes as a contractor. Now, as CEO at 5-Star Performance Solutions I teach 5-Star Instructional Design Certification programs based on M. David Merrill's First Principles of Instruction, as well as Lean Process Improvement Certification workshops. In addition, LeRoy Maughan, a former Covey Leadership Facilitator, and I teach a 5 Precepts of PEOPLE (Positively Energizing People, Leaders, and Employees) Leadership program.

What skills have you found vital in your career?

The ability to discover, implement and teach best-practice instructional, performance-improvement, and leadership strategies.

What is the best career decision you ever made?

To get a Ph.D. in Instructional Technology and Learning Sciences

Who/what inspires you?

M. David Merrill and his First Principles of Instruction.

At work - what do you get lost working on?

Studying performance improvement and leadership development models.

What is something about you that not many people know?

I am a semi-professional photographer and have photographed many weddings.

What has been your oddest or most fun job?

Testing Program Director for the USDOT Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. Developed and did test item analysis for 24 pairs of certification tests for public safety officers. One set of tests was for Criminal Interdiction of Truck Drivers hauling drugs or drug money.

What are you currently reading?

Atomic Habits, Outward Mindset, Performance Improvement Pathfinders

Why did you join ISPI BABS?

I joined ISPI BABS 2 years ago because of the outstanding leadership, members, and programs. I also had the opportunity to present my 5-Star Course Design presentation. I've really enjoyed getting to know some of the members, as well as enjoying the valuable programs. I would recommend that new members take advantage of the valuable programs, network with the members, and share their expertise.

You can connect with Max on LinkedIn

April Member Spotlight

Meet Laura Braeunig, CLSSGB, CACP, CCP

Tell me about your career

One of the best decisions I ever made for my career was getting my master’s degree. My master’s degree is in Industrial Organizational Psychology from Roosevelt University.  I work for the National Inspection Testing & Certification, Corporation (NITC) as an Examination Developer and Tehcnical Writer. Prior to coming to NITC, I worked in performance improvement in healthcare. 

At work - what do you get lost working on?

Finding ways to get and report on data and looking for learning opportunities. 

What skills have you found vital in your career?

Listening and being willing to learn and change perspective. Being willing to take on projects that stretch and put me out of my comfort zone. 

If you could choose anyone as a mentor, who would you choose?

Judy Hale, Nancy Burns, David Merrill (First Principles)

What is something about you that not many people know?

I sing with a big band and love singing the older songs. A whole other era. It is so fun.

What are some of your daily habits?

On a daily basis, I enjoy meditation quiet time, journaling, coffee, and keeping track of what I do workwise to stay on top of projects in and out of work.  

What advice do you wish you had 10 years ago?

Be patient and gentler with yourself. Always.

Why did you join ISPI BABS?

I joined ISPI BABS 2 years ago to learn and connect with other performance improvement professionals. ISPI BABS helped connect me to both Steve Monroe and Lee Maples. To get the most value out of your membership, I recommend showing up for events and volunteering for the club. Even if it feels like a stretch, it is rewarding. I volunteer for ISPI on the national level and chapter level.

You can connect with Laura on LinkedIn

March Member Spotlight

You can connect with Fred on LinkedIn, Twitter, or at IntegratedHuman.Consulting

Meet Dr. Fred Baker, CRP, PMP, PMI-ACP


I’m Fred. I’m a designer at heart, and I appreciate systems thinking and advocate for human-centered approaches. 

Tell me about your career

I consult on strategic initiatives, project management, and instructional design through my firm, Integrated Human, LLC.

How has your career changed over the years?

Immensely. After 15+ years in service and labor industries, I obtained a Bachelor’s in Entrepreneurship and decided to be a university professor. I completed a doctorate in Instructional Design in 2014, which provided a practical foundation and helped me appreciate systems thinking and ill-structured problem-solving.

I then honed my craft in higher education and began leading and supporting large-scale initiatives around instructional quality assurance and technology integration. I cut my project management teeth on those initiatives, and recovered a complex campus-wide data analytics implementation initiative worth over $300,000 as the capstone. 

After ten years, I finally got the chance to work in a limited-term full time professor position. It was truly a calling, and I received awards, great teaching reviews, and helped a lot of people. Unfortunately, the market for faculty careers is atrocious, and people often sacrifice a lot (too much in my opinion) to obtain and keep them.

My contract ended at the initial peak of the pandemic (May 2020). Hiring was frozen across industries, so I began freelancing and consulting, and loved it! I created my firm and haven’t looked back. Working for yourself provides unparalleled freedom and agency.

One challenge (to me) with freelancing in Learning & Development is the dominance of eLearning focused projects. I prefer more strategic work, such as analysis or design and implementation, so I took on a full time client and explored a number of other paths with macro-level emphases. As a result, I added or improved a range of skills and completed several certifications around ROI analysis, course review, and project management. I also shifted my freelance work toward project management.

I’m always chewing on new ideas and appreciate the constant flow of change.

It leads to exploration, which provides experience and competence in a breadth of areas. My advice to others is do what makes sense at the time, and don’t be afraid of changing directions. In the end, you will be surprised that you were following the same thread all along.

At work – what do you get lost working on?

When I write I become fully immersed. Framing ideas, adjusting information flow, and nudging concepts around is enrapturing. I also love strategic challenges, so converting blank canvases or tangled balls of yarn into streamlined solutions is rewarding AND among the most valuable things we can do for an organization.

What inspires you?

I am inspired most by people who can be authentic in the face of the rest of the world. Those who aren’t afraid to challenge the norms, question our operating assumptions, be colorful, or crack a joke when everyone else is tense. Those are the people who change the world.

Where is your favorite place to be?

It’s really hard to beat the beach. When my family and I go it feels like its own little place that lets us step out of everything and connect with the world in a different way.

What could you talk about for 30 minutes straight?

Anyone who knows me might ask what I won’t talk about for 30 minutes straight! I enjoy thinking about design and systems immensely. For me, project management checks those boxes right now. 

Why did you join ISPI BABS?

I joined ISPI BABS to network with others engaging in performance consulting, and find opportunities to mentor and be mentored. I would recommend attending meetings and finding ways to network with others in the chapter. Share feedback. Lead the charge when you can. Lean into becoming a performance improvement nerd, and attend the ISPI annual conference if you ever get the chance! Most of all, don’t be afraid to put yourself out there and try new things! That is the best way to learn!

February Member Spotlight

Meet EJ LeBlanc

Tell me about yourself

My name is EJ LeBlanc and I am the Founder of CALDO Consulting and Human Learning and Performance Architect at EJ LeBlanc, LLC. I work to identify and meet needs using evidence-based methods to improve human performance. 

What is something about you (a fun fact) that not many people know?

I've spent over two years of my life underwater.

What kind of professional development opportunities do you provide or participate in?

Lately, I've been focusing on creating a framework I call Communications and Learning for DevOps (CALDO) - something I think communications and learning professionals need to understand so that we can all thrive together. I'm writing a book and creating courses to teach about this. My hope is this will lead lead to opportunities to implement these ideas and test them empirically in DevOps-oriented environments.

Regarding the professional development opportunities I participate in, I'm a voracious reader and compulsive course taker. I have memberships to everything from PluralSight and PacktPub to Domestika to Udemy to workshops and discussion groups and... really whatever I can get my hands on.

What book(s) or article(s) are you currently reading?

Learning Experience Design by Donald Clark and the second edition of the DevOps Handbook.

Is there a quote that motivates or inspires you?

"The only predictable outcome of learning is the immediate onset of forgetting." 

I don't remember who said that, but I first heard it from Dr. Dan Surry at the University of South Alabama. It reminds me that learning is, in and of itself, a never-ending war against entropy.

Why did you join ISPI BABS?

I have been a member of ISPI BABS a few months now and originally joined when I was invited to speak. I really appreciate being part of a forward-thinking group that's willing to listen to nascent ideas. I found my presentation introducing CALDO to the group to be very helpful.

If you are an ISPI BABS member, you can rewatch EJ LeBlanc’s CALDO presentation with ISPI BABS (log-in required).

If you are interested in being featured on the member spotlight, please reach out by either emailing or filling out the interest form

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