Since our founding in 2015, we have published lists of the most influential Black and Latino leaders in Wisconsin, and this year, we expanded that to include our Indigenous and Asian American brothers and sisters. It’s been exciting and gratifying every time, and I’m excited to bring you today our 2020 Sí Se Puede list, recognizing the most influential Latino leaders in Wisconsin. We are also proud to bring you the list this year during Hispanic Heritage Month.
I have always intended these lists to highlight the beauty of the diversity in our community. I wanted young people here in Wisconsin to see role models of people who are succeeding, to know that it’s possible for people of color to achieve great things here, and to highlight people of color doing great work in a variety of fields and pursuits.
But it never quite feels like enough to publish these names and short bios; a few words can never quite capture what it is that makes each of these people special. Plus, we feel that the rest of the Wisconsin community deserves the chance to learn from these amazing leaders.
That’s why we convened the Wisconsin Leadership Summit in 2018 and expanded it in both 2019 and 2020. The third annual summit will be a weeklong, online experience, October 5-9, featuring 25 panel discussions on topics in education, business, social justice and more. Even though we can’t be together this year, the people we’re convening virtually will have so much knowledge, experience and expertise to share that it will be the best summit yet. Each of the people you meet this week, along with everyone else on our lists, are invited to attend for free, and you can join in, too: registration is now open.
This list couldn’t possibly include every Latino doing good work in the community. It does, however, introduce you to some people you’ve never heard of who are doing great things in other parts of the state or simply working behind the scenes, doing the work without the accolades.
It was important for us to expand the way we think about influence, and to highlight more of the people doing what it takes to improve their community. That’s one reason this list is entirely new — we considered anyone named on a previous list to be ineligible for this one, even though most of them continue to wield considerable influence.
I pray you learn something you didn’t know about some of the real leaders in communities throughout Wisconsin. It’s critical to recognize and highlight our neighbors whose stories begin elsewhere, or who trace their roots to other parts of the world. Only then will we truly appreciate the contributions we all make to the prosperity of our communities, our state and our nation.
Henry Sanders, CEO and Publisher, 365 Media
Mark Fraire, the Dane County Director of Arts and Cultural Affairs, has worked as an arts administrator for over 20 years and has been involved in supporting theater arts on every level from producer to writer to actor to comic to playwright to manager to director. Fraire has deep connections in the Madison Latino community and spent 17 years as the state’s Grants Officer for the Wisconsin Arts Board. Fraire created the Community Education Department for the Milwaukee Repertory Theater where he was awarded the President’s Coming Up Taller Award for creating TEENworks, an innovative youth and community theater arts training program. Fraire, who earned an MBA in Corporate Finance from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2010, has served on the board of directors of Centro Hispano and the Overture Center for the Arts.
Angel Ramos-Ortiz is the CEO of Innovative Dynamic Networks, a managed IT services provider in Racine. As CEO, Ramos-Ortiz provides leadership and strategic plans to advance the company’s mission. For the past 15 years, Ramos-Ortiz and his team have been supporting several industries through custom solutions. His company received several awards and recognitions, including the 2013 Certificate of Congressional Recognition, 2015 Outstanding Business of the Year and 2017 Hispanic Business of the Year. Ramos-Ortiz received his bachelor’s degree from UW-Parkside.
Fabi Maldonado is the Racine County Board Supervisor for District 2, which covers a southeastern portion of the fifth most populous county in the state. He also is one of 40 members of the state’s 2020 Census Complete Count Committee, which creates an outreach strategy to ensure a strong response. He has been the political director of Voces de La Frontera since August 2019.
Jessica Marquez is the vice president general counsel and chief compliance officer of Hy Cite Enterprises, which is based in Madison. Marquez is a University of Wisconsin Law School graduate and has been with the international cookware company since 2014. She leads HCE’s global operations for the legal, compliance and human resources departments. The company has corporate offices in Mexico, Brazil, Colombia, Peru and Argentina. Jessica has a business litigation background and expertise in Enterprise Risk Management, consumer financial regulation and international corporate governance.
Justin Moralez is the Wisconsin State Director of the American Federation for Children, a school choice advocacy organization. Moralez is also an alder for the City of Cudahy and an advisory board member for the Wisconsin Women’s Business Initiative Corporation. Shepherd Express’s annual Best of Milwaukee series nominated Moralez as a rising star in politics three years in a row.
Irissol Arce is Senior Director of Diversity and Inclusion for Northwestern Mutual, where she combines over 20 years of experience in international business, tech, community impact, and workforce culture development to offer strategic direction, thought leadership, and targeted diversity, equity and inclusion strategies. She’s also charged with developing data-driven and DEI approaches to leadership development, advancing women organizationally and shedding light on underestimated talent. She previously led K12 Technology Advancement and Outreach efforts for Northwestern Mutual and served as Program Officer for the Northwestern Mutual Foundation where she led local childhood education efforts aimed at improving outcomes for kids in Milwaukee. Irissol earned her master’s degree in Business Administration (MBA) at Alverno College and St. John’s University Rome, Italy; a bachelor’s degree in the areas of International Business, Marketing and Spanish from Marquette University; a Design Thinking certification from Cornell University; a Human Capital Strategist certification from the Human Capital Institute, accredited by Society Human Resource Management; and a Workforce Development certificate from the University of Wisconsin – Parkside. She is also a graduate of Marquette University’s Future Milwaukee program focused on developing leaders who create positive change in Milwaukee. She also serves as a mentor for at-risk youth, is a Mosaic Partnership program alum which focuses on fostering diversity, equity and inclusion efforts, and has served as communications liaison for the United Performing Arts Fund and United Way corporate campaigns.
Patrica Tellez-Giron is a family physician with UW Health, as well as a strong advocate for health education and an advocate for healthcare in the Latino community. A health education advocate in Dane County for many years, Téllez-Girón’s practice is at the Wingra Clinic where more than 90% of her patients speak only Spanish. She is also the chair of the Latino Health Council in Madison and the medical director and main presenter, for the past 17 years, for a monthly health education Spanish radio program at La Movida. Time Magazine recently recognized Dr. Tellez-Giron’s efforts to keep Madison’s Latino community informed throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. She earned her medical degree from the National University of Mexico and completed her residency at the University of Wisconsin Family Practice Residency Program.
Gery Paredes Vásquez is the Race and Gender Equity Director for the YWCA in Madison. In her role, she supports the YWCA through creating programming, curricula development and community empowerment rooted in race and gender equity. Paredes Vásquez has 12 years of experience in program development, training, co-facilitating, and consulting, in both English and Spanish. She holds a bachelor’s degree from Prescott College.
Ian Bautista is the senior director of civic engagement at the Greater Milwaukee Foundation, a seasoned nonprofit executive leader working to make a positive impact on the future by working inclusively with a broad-based constituency of other leaders from all industries. Previously, Bautista was the executive director of the Clarke Square Neighborhood Initiative in Milwaukee and president of Comunidad, a community building consulting practice. He is a former president of the United Neighborhood Centers of America.
Patricia Contreras is the Vice President of Global Public Affairs for Rockwell Automation, Inc., the world’s largest company dedicated to industrial automation and digital transformation, where she oversees the company’s federal and state government affairs activities, external communications, media relations, corporate responsibility and environmental, social and governance (ESG) reporting functions as well as the community relations and contributions group. Prior to that, Contreras served as Director of Global Community Relations and Contributions for Rockwell Automation. She is the first Latina to lead the company’s global public affairs function. Contreras represents Rockwell Automation on national corporate advisory councils including FIRST, MIND Research Institute, and Georgetown University New Strategies. Locally, she serves on the board of the Wisconsin Philanthropy Network, United Way of Greater Milwaukee and Waukesha County Campaign Cabinet and Volunteer Council, and University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Committee for Hispanic Serving Institutions Advisory Board.
Dr. Stephen Quintana, the current Department Chair of Counseling Psychology at UW-Madison, has been working in counseling psychology since 1989. Much of his research has focused on multiculturalism and children. Quintana has received several awards and recognitions, including being named the Gimbel Child and Family Scholar for his work to promote ethnic, racial, and religious understanding in 2001. In addition to being department chair, Quintana is the Associate Editor for Journal of Counseling Psychology. Quintana received his Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology from the University of Notre Dame.
Alex Zacarias is an award-winning producer and independent filmmaker who lives in Green Bay. He founded 3N Production Company and has been the digital visual arts director at the Boys and Girls Club of Green Bay since 2014. He is a creative entrepreneur intersecting art, commerce and community, according to his Linkedin profile. He has experience in writing, directing, and editing skills of English and Spanish language television programming including documentaries, news, adult/children’s educational series, and corporate/industrial videos.
Dr. Armando Ibarra is an associate professor in the School for Workers at the University of Wisconsin Extension. He has extensive and diverse teaching, research and organizing experience. Ibarra’s research and fields of specialization are Chicano/a Latino/a working communities, adult education on issues of diversity in the workplace, international labor migration, leadership development, organizing workplaces, and applied research. He earned his Ph.D. in Political Science from the University of California-Irvine, and joined the School for Workers faculty in January 2011.
Lorissa R. Bañuelos is the Director of Marketing and Investor Relations at New North Inc, the regional marketing and economic development organization for the 18 counties of Northeast Wisconsin. She oversees marketing efforts, along with serving as a daily point of contact for regional firms invested in New North. She also leads the planning and execution of events, including the annual New North Summit, and the distribution and marketing of New North Inc.’s branding tools. The Madison native is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay with a degree in business administration. She held a series of marketing and leadership roles throughout her time at UWGB, including implementation of strategic initiatives for the College of Health, Education and Social Welfare. She also held positions with Kimberly-Clark Corporation in Neenah and Cumulus Broadcasting in Green Bay, along with the Wisconsin Historical Society Press and Art Gecko, both in Madison, while a student. She is an active volunteer in the Green Bay community, working with organizations such as Junior Achievement and Golden House, to make a positive impact.
Christian Albouras represents Madison’s southwest side on the Common Council, elected in 2019 after serving on the Madison Police Policy and Procedure Review ad-hoc Committee since its inception in 2015, the Dane County Cultural Affairs Commission since 2016, and the Board of the Latino Chamber of Commerce since 2018. InBusiness Magazine named him one of the area’s 40 Under 40 in 2017, and the CUNA Marketing and Business Development Council named him Business Development Professional of the Year in 2018. Christian earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater.
Jimmy Anderson represents Wisconsin’s 47th district in the State Assembly, serving areas south and east of Madison, including Fitchburg, McFarland and Monona. In 2010, Jimmy was paralyzed from the chest down in a collision caused by a drunk driver, which killed his parents and younger brother. He earned a law degree from UW-Madison in 2012. Elected to the Assembly in 2016, he serves on the committees on Colleges and Universities, Environment, Health, Judiciary, Medicaid Reform and Oversight and Science and Technology, as well as the Speaker’s Task Force on Suicide Prevention. He is also founder and director of Drive Clear, a nonprofit organization that aims to prevent drunk driving and offer support and financial assistance to victims.
Marisol Coriano is the vice president of human resources for Rockwell Automation, where she supports close to 9,000 employees. Coriano is an important member of Rockwell Automation’s leadership and entrusted with maintaining the happiness of employees, whether it be through perks, benefits, or recognition and awards. Born and raised in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Coriano became the first person in her family to pursue higher education in the United States.
Victoria Sanchez is a Multicultural Student Services Coordinator at UW-Stout in Menominee. In her role, she advises students from different backgrounds and serves the Latinos Unidos and Black Student Union student organizations. Sanchez also helps educate students on cultural competency as it relates to self-awareness and cultural identity. Sanchez earned her bachelor’s degree from Winona State University and her Master’s degree in Student Affairs Administration from UW-La Crosse.
George A Torres, a Milwaukee native, is the CEO and president of La Causa Inc., a bilingual nonprofit social services agency working with the south side of Milwaukee. Prior to this role, he served as the director of the Department of Transportation and Public Works for Milwaukee County. Torres received a bachelor’s degree in business administration and a master’s in business management from Cardinal Stritch University.
Maria Luisa Morales has been a Latinx community activist around the state of Wisconsin for nearly 60 years. She is well known in Racine for getting out the vote through translation, education and registration. She has fasted more than once to protest in favor of migrant rights, immigrant rights and healthcare rights. In Racine, she helped form a coalition of people who pushed the city council to make living conditions better for migrant workers by installing indoor plumbing, paving the streets and adding sidewalks. She has worked for Voces de la Frontera and served on the board for the Urban League.
Jose Ortiz Jr. is an orthopedic surgeon at the Luther Campus Clinic in Eau Claire, which is part of the Mayo Clinic Health System. He specializes in hand surgery and is experienced in elbow surgery and hand and wrist surgery. He has been in practice for at least 25 years and has been Chief of Staff at Mayo Clinic Health System in Eau Claire since 2012.
David Aguayo Director of Latino Outreach in Wisconsin for the Biden for President campaign, leading the campaign’s efforts to secure a critical voting block in a crucial battleground state. A 2015 graduate of UW-Madison, he is also Latino Outreach Director for the Democratic Party of Wisconsin. He interned with US Representative Mark Pocan and also previously served as executive assistant in the state’s Department of Workforce Development.
Carmen Cabrera was appointed by Mayor Tom Barrett as the first Latina Election Commissioner in Milwaukee’s history. Cabrera has been working in the Latino community for decades and is well-known for her community activism and considers working for social justice and equal opportunity for all her true passion and duty. Cabrera, who is of Puerto Rican descent, was instrumental in bridging a network between the Puerto Rican and Mexican community to work together and her activism in the 1970s helped lead to changes in education policies and other successful strives and opportunities for Latinos in Milwaukee and the State of Wisconsin.
Francis Castro is the newly-crowned Miss Wisconsin Latina. Castro can speed-paint, is a professional makeup artist, sews and works as a paraeducator during summers when she is not studying at UW-Whitewater. However, her greatest passion is her platform of bilingualism and Castro emphasizes that it is important for young Latinos not to lose their ability to speak Spanish when they feel the pressure to perfect their English.
Luis Franco is a Bilingual Family Engagement Coordinator at the Green Bay School District, where he is committed to reaching out to engage parents in meaningful ways and helping parents to actively support their children’s and adolescents’ learning and development. Franco is also an energetic master of ceremonies and a popular public address announcer for community and corporate events. He has been an outgoing, interactive disc jockey and entertainer for the past 15 years using his bilingual skills to cater to a wide variety of audiences.
Nelson Soler is the chair of the CItizen Board of Commissioners for the Fire and Police Commission in Milwaukee. He is also the president and Chief Solutions Officer of Multicultural Entrepreneurial Institute Inc., a multicultural marketing organization. Soler is an active member of his community and is part of many Latinx organizations. Soler received two bachelor’s degrees from the State University of New York and holds an MBA and Masters of Science in international business from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
Anny Morrobel-Sosa is the vice president for academic and student affairs at the University of Wisconsin System. In 2016, she founded The Micaela Group, which assists universities in improving student success, closing achievement gaps, and strategic planning, including diversifying students and faculty in science, engineering, technology, and mathematics (STEM) fields, according to a UW news release. Morrobel-Sosa has also served as the senior vice president for academic affairs at Herbert H. Lehman College and the dean of the college of science at the University of Texas-El Paso.
Maira Gavioli is an international lawyer with over 15 years of in-house and law firm experience in the U.S. and abroad. She currently works as Assistant General Counsel for Harley-Davidson Motor Company. Before joining Harley-Davison, she worked as Lead Counsel for GE Healthcare, as an Associate Attorney for Foley & Mansfield PLLP, and Associate Attorney for Ribeiro, Küster, Rosa Advogados Associados in Brazil. In 2019, she was honored by the Wisconsin Law Journal. In addition, Gavioli also serves as a board member for Latino Arts Inc.
Benjamin Juarez is a technology strategist and entrepreneur. In August 2016, he founded Cream City Coders where he focuses on desktop, mobile and web development while working closely with clients to develop comprehensive project plans for production of simple to complex software. Additionally, Cream City Coders provides technology training to middle and high school youth. Juarez also works as a Technology Training Manager for i.c.stars in Milwaukee, an immersive, technology-based leadership development program for promising young adults. Prior to this position, he worked as a fiscal researcher for Wisconsin Policy Forum where he conducted fiscal research using publicly available and in-house municipal financial documents. Juarez has co-authored award-winning reports which played an informative role for elected and business leaders in the Greater Milwaukee Metropolitan area. Also, as a regional representative for U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin from 2013-2016, he worked on outreach efforts in Milwaukee and southeastern Wisconsin. In 2011, Juarez led a team of young professionals in a bid to upset the incumbent in Milwaukee’s 8th aldermanic district.
Valentina Ahedo is Dean of Students at Madison College’s Goodman South campus, whose opening in 2019 represented a major shift to focus on education and economic development for the South Side of Madison, especially for the communities of color concentrated there. The south campus was initially expected to serve 1,500 students, but just two weeks into its first semester, enrollment was nearly 1,850. Tina was part of the Madison College family long before the south campus opened, working her way up over the course of 17 years. Centro Hispano of Dane County honored her with the Roberto Sánchez Award in 2019.
Karen Olivo is a Tony-winning Broadway actress and theater educator who chose Madison as her home after announcing that she was taking a break from the bright lights of New York City. She might be best known for originating the role of Vanessa, opposite Lin-Manuel Miranda, in his musical “In the Heights” in 2008. In 2009, she earned a Tony Award for her performance as Anita in the revival of “West Side Story.” She moved to Madison in 2013, getting involved with Forward Theater Company, opening a studio to train young performers and teaching acting at UW-Madison. In 2016, she took over the role of Angelica Schuyler in the Chicago production of Hamilton. After leaving that production in 2017, she returned to teaching, saying, “I’m leaving the spotlight to make sure others find theirs.”
Cesar Pinzon is the vice president of Sales & Service Operations at American Family Insurance in Madison. Pinzon has been with American Family for almost 20 years, starting as an agent in 1999 and advancing in the organization in sales leadership roles. In 2007, he became the Chicago Metro sales director and in 2010, assumed the sales director role for the state of Illinois. In 2010, Cesar became life sales and support director. In 2014, Cesar became the east region sales vice president and was named agency strategy and support vice president later in 2018. Pinzon is involved in the community, focused on philanthropy, economic development and inclusion. He is a member of the Centro Hispano Board of Directors, Henry Vilas Zoo Board of Directors, the Waunakee Economic Development Committee, the United Way Personnel Committee and the Latinos Professional Association.
Cristy Garcia-Thomas is the Chief External Affairs Officer at Advocate Aurora Health, the 10th largest health system in the United States. In this role, she oversees patient experience, diversity and inclusion, community relations, foundation, community health and customer service as well as community programs. Before joining Aurora in 2011, Garcia-Thomas also served as the president and CEO of the United Performing Arts Fund (UPAF). She sits on the board of directors for Delta Dental, Chicago United, Greater Milwaukee Committee, the United Community Center and the United Way of Greater Milwaukee and Waukesha. Garcia-Thomas has received numerous awards and recognition, including The Business Journal’s 40 under 40 Award, Women of Influence, 2004 Hispanic Professional of the Year by HPGM and TEMPO Milwaukee’s Mentor Award in 2017.
Cindy Lopez Johnson is a full-time Multicultural Advisor at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay. Prior to beginning this position in August 2020, she worked as an Academic Advisor for Student Support Services at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh since 2015. Johnson provided individualized support for first-generation, limited-income college students through academic advising, student success and life skills development, career planning, financial literacy, and financial aid & scholarship assistance. She even spent time outside of Wisconsin working as an academic advisor at Pulaski Technical College (now The University of Arkansas-Pulaski Tech) in Little Rock. Johnson received a Bachelor’s in Human Development and Spanish from the University of Wisconsin- Green Bay in 2013 and a Master’s in Higher Education (College Student Affairs) from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock in 2015.
Dr. Nestor Rodriguez is a board-certified emergency medicine physician and the Medical Director and Co-Owner of Carbon World Health in Madison. He emigrated from El Salvador to the inner city of South Central Los Angeles at the age of 7. After graduating with honors from Yale, Dr. Rodriguez followed his dream to study medicine, which he did at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, where he found a passion for sports medicine, cosmetic procedures, and emergency medicine. Thereafter, he was part of the inaugural class of the University of Wisconsin emergency medicine residency program. Dr. Rodriguez is currently the Medical Director of Emergency Services at Watertown Regional Medical Center. In addition, Dr. Rodriguez and his significant other, Ashley Greer, created Carbon World Health, a one-stop-shop for fitness, health, and beauty. In 2016, he was awarded the “Impact Award” by the Urban League of Greater Madison for his work in developing young professionals in the Greater Madison Area. In 2018, Dr. Rodriguez was awarded the “Entrepreneur of the Year” by the Latino Chamber of Commerce of Dane County.
Jennifer López was named chief executive officer of Carmen Schools of Science and Technology in Milwaukee in July 2019. She has leadership experience in both public district and charter schools. Most recently, she was chief academic officer of St. Anthony School in Milwaukee. Prior to that role, López was a school leadership coach for Schools That Can Milwaukee. She was raised by immigrant Salvadoran parents in a low-income community and attended under-resourced urban schools that did not adequately prepare her for the rigor of a college-prep high school. López initially struggled academically and socially, however, this experience served as a catalyst for her life-long commitment to education and belief that all students deserve access to excellent schools. López earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Spanish Literary and Cultural Studies from Occidental College in 2008 and her Master of Arts degree in School Administration and Policy from Loyola Marymount University in 2011.
Victor Alatorre is chief technology officer at UW-Oshkosh, one of the university’s top information technology executives. He provides vision, leadership, and coordination for the Infrastructure Layer of Information Technology (IT), including the device support, server automation and network infrastructure teams. He took on that role in 2019 after nearly 20 years as an employee at the university, beginning as assistant director of resident life for technology and budgets. He’s been a Titan even longer than that, though, earning both bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the university.
Tony Garcia is Director of Diversity and Inclusion at Edgewood College in Madison. He joined Edgewood as an inclusion coordinator in 2010. Before that, Tony worked for the PEOPLE Program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He is an alumnus of the University of Wisconsin-Madison and is an active member in the Madison community. When not on campus grounds, Tony can probably be found on one of the many bike paths that the city of Madison has to offer.
Raquel Lopez is an associate professor of psychology at St. Norbert’s College in De Pere. Her research focus is on studying how early adversity influences decision-making processes later in life. She cares deeply about helping students from underrepresented groups navigate the world of higher education. She is a former Ronald E. McNair Postbaccalaureate Achievement Scholar, which is a program meant to increase graduate degree awards for students from underrepresented groups who have demonstrated strong academic potential.
Who’d we miss? Send nominations for next year’s list to firstname.lastname@example.org!