Every year since our founding in 2015, we have recognized Wisconsin’s most influential Black and Latino leaders, and we are very proud now to also begin to recognize Indigenous and Asian American leaders. These lists have become the most anticipated thing we do. Every year, I’ve intended these lists to highlight the beauty of the diversity across our state. I want kids 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.
This week we shine a statewide spotlight on the dedicated leaders of Wisconsin’s Latino communtiies. These are richly diverse communities with roots that represent a massive geographic area. The people we highlight this week are elected leaders, business leaders and community leaders, doing difficult, important work, often in the face of discrimination and literally generations of oppression.
We are also aware that this list, like every other, is not comprehensive. There are, without a doubt, more than 46 influential Latino leaders doing good work in Wisconsin. We hope you will let us know about people in your community who we can include on future lists. For now, though, we just want to introduce you to a few of the people doing the work, often behind the scenes and without the accolades, across Wisconsin.
You might know a few of these names, but there’s a good chance that most of them will be new to you. I urge you to get to know them. Reach out to those living and working in your communities. Learn from them, network, create partnerships. And spread the word — let others in your network know that we have people of all ethnicities living and working across Wisconsin to make this state a good and prosperous place for all.
And one more note: Many of the people on this list — and on previous lists — will gather next week, October 10 and 11, at the fifth annual Wisconsin Leadership Summit. You’re welcome to come, too, to meet, network with and learn from this dynamic group!
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Patty Cisneros Prevo is Diversity & Inclusion Manager at the University of Wisconsin School of Business Undergraduate Program. She previously served as Assistant Director of Inclusion & Engagement with Wisconsin Athletics, where she assisted in the development and execution of the DEI Strategic Plan and created programs and initiatives to support a more diverse and inclusive Athletics Department. She’s also won five National Wheelchair Basketball Association Championships, and became the first female head coach of a collegiate wheelchair basketball team with the University of Illinois, winning the national championship that same year. A three-time Paralympian, she was a member of the U.S. Women’s Wheelchair Basketball Team for 10 years. As captain of the 2008 Paralympic team, she led Team USA to its second consecutive gold medal after winning gold in 2004. Cisneros Prevo is currently contracted with Lee & Low Books and will have her first picture book published in Spring 2023. Tenacious: Fifteen Adventures Alongside Disabled Athletes focuses on 15 disabled individuals and their major life and athletic accomplishments. And, in January 2021, Cisneros Prevo was appointed to the Congressional Commission on the State of the U.S. Olympics & Paralympics.
Aisha Morales is morning and noon news anchor at WBAY, the ABC affiliate in Green Bay. Aisha moved here from Colorado Springs, Colorado, where she was a weekday reporter and weekend weather forecaster/storm chaser. She was a reporter and weekend anchor here in Green Bay for about five years before getting a major promotion, stepping in as an Action 2 News This morning Anchor and Noon Anchor after legendary Anchor Kevin Rompa retired. She is also now WBAY’S first First Alert Fastcast Anchor, operating the First Alert Digital Desk where she adlibs top stories of the day, weather, traffic, all the while operating as her own sound operator and director. She received an Eric Sevareid Award of Merit for her “Learning 2 Adapt” piece speaking to kids in the community about how the 2020 pandemic was affecting them on various levels. Aisha attended Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communications and received a Bachelor’s Degree in Broadcast Journalism in 2011.
Dr. Lauren Usher is vice president in charge of gBeta, gener8tor’s turnkey platform for the creative economy connects startup founders, musicians, artists, investors, universities and corporations. The gener8tor platform includes pre-accelerators, accelerators, corporate programming, conferences and fellowships. She was previously a postdoctoral researcher at the Waisman Center, where she focused on the individual and contextual factors that relate to lifespan social cognition and social development of individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. In her dissertation at the University of Miami, Lauren examined how adolescents with and without autism formed perceptions of each other during a naturalistic social interaction, as well as how they were able to understand the perceptions that others formed of them.
Pablo DeFilippi leads membership development and engagement strategies for Inclusiv, an organization that helps low- and moderate-income people and communities achieve financial independence through credit unions. He manages Inclusiv/Network, a network of community development finance practitioners that provide valuable consulting services to CDCUs. Mr. DeFilippi has more than 20 years of experience in community finance, working with regulated financial institutions both in the domestic and international arena. Originally from Chile, DeFilippi came to the US in the early 90s and almost immediately became involved in credit unions. After working at MCU, a large credit union serving New York City employees, he joined the Lower East Side People’s FCU (LESPFCU) a credit union serving Hispanics and other underserved populations in the New York City area and acted as its CEO until early 2004. From then and until the end of 2005, Mr. DeFilippi managed the World Council of Credit Unions, Inc. (WOCCU)‘s International Remittance Program (IRnet), a world-wide initiative to provide alternative remittance services to consumers both in the US and in recipient countries through the credit union system. DeFilippi holds a B.A. in Social Studies from Universidad de Chile, as well as a Professional Accounting Certificates from Baruch College and New York University. He has a Masters of Business Administration from Pace University, and is a graduate of CUNA’s Management School and NCUF’s Social Impact Management Institute. He is also a Credit Union Development Educator (CUDE) and a UK Credit Union Development Educator.
Wensy Melendez is president and CEO of Amigo Construction in Cambridge, which specializes in exterior cladding in the commercial sector. The company’s recent projects include Madison Central Library, Gorman Company’s Blue Ribbon Lofts, the Union on Lincoln student housing project in Ames, Iowa, and many others. Wensy was named to InBusiness Magazine’s 40 Under 40 class of 2022.
Marcos Vega is vice president of treasury and payment services at BMO Harris Bank, where he Provide counsel to diverse commercial banking customers regarding their cash management needs and goals. He works to fulfill the role of a trusted adviser on all things treasury, including liquidity, working capital, fraud protection, international payments, innovation in banking, and more. He started his career with internships at M&I Bank and the Milwaukee Bucks while a student at Marquette University, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in finance in 2006. He volunteers as a money coach for the teen financial literacy organization SecureFutures.
JoAnna Bautch is Executive Director of VIA Community Development Center, working collectively and collaboratively to create a Milwaukee with healthy and equitable neighborhoods that empower all of our people to rise and thrive together. She is a community organizer and communications professional who has spent her career working with advocacy and nonprofit organizations across Milwaukee. Growing up in Milwaukee, JoAnna attended and graduated from Milwaukee Public Schools and then received her Bachelor’s degree in Communication from Alverno College. As a community organizer with the Reproductive Justice Collective, JoAnna advocated for and supported women of color to be their own advocates and to act upon the knowledge that they are the leading experts on their own lived experiences. JoAnna continued her community centered work at the United Community Center (UCC), where she led communications efforts focused on uplifting the education, economic development, and health of our south side neighbors. JoAnna is committed to structural change in Milwaukee and the state of Wisconsin. She has worked on historic political campaigns electing the first Latina/Latinx woman to the Wisconsin State Legislature and the first Latina/Latinx woman and openly-LGBTQ person elected to Milwaukee’s Common Council. JoAnna also serves on the board of All in Wisconsin, an organization working to build a narrative that centers our communities to win racial justice and the freedom to thrive for all in Wisconsin, and True Skool Inc., an arts-focused nonprofit collaborative dedicated to empowering youth and families.
Anique Ruiz is WiscAMP STEM-Inspire Program Manager at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (UWM). The STEM-Inspire program provides mentoring, peer support and research opportunities for underrepresented minority STEM majors, funded by the National Science Foundation LSAMP grant, with support from the American Family Dream Fund. She also served UWM as Program Assistant in the Office of Equity & Diversity Services and co-chair of the 2013 & 2014 Milwaukee Partners in Giving Campaigns. Moreover, Anique is the immediate past Chair of the Multicultural Network and Governance/Nominating Committee Chair of the African Diaspora Council (formerly the African-American Faculty & Staff Council) at UWM. In addition to her role at UWM, Anique is the Founder of The Journey For Women, Inc., a nonprofit organization based in Milwaukee. Its vision is to empower women in need with resources and strategies to address their spiritual, physical, mental and emotional needs. Anique is an experienced attorney in both civil and criminal litigation. As a litigation attorney with Gonzalez Saggio & Harlan, LLP, Anique represented Fortune 500 clients, including Wal-Mart, Rockwell Automation, JPMorgan Chase, AT&T, The Hershey Company and Texas Roadhouse. She also represented clients under the Student Practice Rule at the Wisconsin State Public Defender’s Office-Milwaukee Trial Division. Anique also gained experience as a summer associate at Godfrey & Kahn, S.C. in Milwaukee.
Dr. Adriana McCleer is Community Partnerships Supervisor for the Appleton Public Library, one of only two percent of the library and information sciences profession that’s Latino. She earned a PhD in information sciences from UW-Milwaukee in 2019 with a case study on the dismantling of Tucson, Arizona’s Mexican American Studies program.
Maria Lara is a corporate trainer and adjunct business school faculty at Northeast Wisconsin Technical College in Green Bay. She joined the college after nearly 20 years as a transportation and logistics leader at shipping company Schneider National. She is cofounder of Latino Professionals Association of Northeast Wisconsin. She also volunteers as a citizenship tutor at Literacy Green Bay, advisor at CollegeReady and community volunteer at Casa ALBA. She earned a degree in political science in 1994 at UCLA and an MBA in 2005 from Wayne State University.
David de Leon is President of Alliant Energy’s Wisconsin energy company and Senior Vice President of Operations. He joined the company in 1987 as a thermal performance engineer and has held multiple roles, each with increasing levels of leadership and responsibility. In his role as Director of Construction, David spearheaded a team of employees responsible for executing large strategic projects on budget and on time. The team successfully delivered on projects, totaling over $1 billion, that improved customer costs and air quality. Today, Alliant Energy continues to use many of the construction and operations processes and procedures developed under David’s leadership. Outside of work, David volunteers for various activities to help strengthen the communities Alliant Energy customers and employees live and work in. He is on the board of directors for Madison Region Economic Partnership, working to help retain and attract businesses to the area. David is also a board member at Second Harvest Foodbank of Southern Wisconsin and proudly embraces their efforts to help build an understanding of the connection between access to food, obtaining a job that pays sustainable wages and securing permanent housing. David holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Wisconsin-Platteville and MBA from Edgewood College in Madison, Wisconsin. David is a Wisconsin Registered Professional Engineer and a member of the Leadership Greater Madison Alumni Association.
Juan Corpus is senior culture and engagement professional at Humana in Green Bay, a role he’s held since May 2021 after a career at the company including many roles over the past 23 years. He earned a bachelor’s degree from UW-Green Bay in 2003.
Margarita Avila is the Director of Workforce Development at the Latino Academy of Workforce Development, Inc. in Madison, where she is responsible for developing and steering the agency’s strategy for engaging people, communities, and entities across Dane County in the Latino Academy’s important work. She is an innovative trailblazer, connector, and compassionate leader with a particular strength that exemplifies the mission of the Latino Academy of Workforce Development, Inc. to positively impact the American workplace by cultivating the pipeline of Latinx/a/os talent and providing insight, access and support to their careers. A native of Durango, Mexico, she understands the barriers and anxiety related to being an immigrant and navigating complex systems. Avila moved to Madison at the tender age of fourteen. Many of the resources the Latino Academy offers to the community are the same resources that assisted Margarita with assimilating to American culture. Margarita volunteers her time at the Dane County Employment and Training Network-Steering Committee as a Networking Coordinator. She currently serves as the Membership Officer for Prospanica Milwaukee Chapter and serves as a board member for the Fair Opportunity Project. Margarita is currently part of Mujeres de Hispanic Alliance for Career Enhancement (HACE) Women’s Leadership program. Prior to joining the Latino Academy of Workforce Development, Margarita served as the Director for Multicultural Initiatives for the American Heart Association and actively participated in leadership roles across the business and education sectors for the last fifteen years. Ms. Avila’s leadership experiences range from marketing and public relations with Mark Thatcher Real Estate, LCC., MiVoz.com, and ESPN Milwaukee; to curriculum design & evaluation for Pathways to College Program, and University of Wisconsin–Stevens Point; to global advocacy and workforce development with the United Nations and Prospanica. She earned a bachelor’s degree in Communications and Marketing from Wisconsin Lutheran College. As a Latina and immigrant, Ms. Avila continues to make positive contributions to the Latino community through her professional career and service to the community. Margarita’s passion has been to empower the Latinx/a/os community and to ensure everyone has a dignified seat at the decision making table.
Yannette Figueroa Cole represents Madison’s near west side on the Common Council. She grew up in Puerto Rico and has lived in Madison for almost 30 years. She has served as Treasurer and President of Dunn’s Marsh Neighborhood Association and served people experiencing homelessness through the Beacon and Friends of the State Street Families as Outreach Specialist and more recently as a board member. After Hurricane Maria, she worked to establish the Puerto Rico Relief Fund of South Central WI, successfully raising over $90,000 in the Madison area to support grassroots relief organizations on the island. Professionally, she has over two decades in the healthcare & medical devices manufacturing field as a system administrator, data analyst, business process mapping analyst, integration lead, and financial reporting.
Alex Ysquierdo is Diversity Business Development Manager at the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, a role he assumed in April 2021 after a seven-year career in banking. He grew up in a migrant working family that traveled between Texas and Wisconsin, settling in Nekoosa for high school where he was a three-sport athlete in football, track and weightlifting. He earned a degree in Latin American Cultural Studies from UW-Stevens Point in 1999 and a master’s degree in organizational management and change from Edgewood College in 2021. He serves on the board of directors of the Girl Scouts of Wisconsin Badgerland Council and Downtown Madison, Inc.
Temo Xopin is founder of NeuroRepublica, a bilingual digital marketing and branding agency with offices in Madison and Milwaukee that specializes in helping businesses reach the Latino market. Clients have included Catholic Knights, St. Thomas More High School, We Energies and more. He volunteers as an instructor of Digital Marketing, e-mail marketing, Social Media Marketing, Entrepreneurship and personal development with Wisconsin Women’s Business Initiative Corporation.
Cristina Villanueva is cofounder of negozee, a social learning platform for Spanish-speaking entrepreneurs across the country. The app offers access to education, resources, networking, classes and more to help enable entrepreneurs to succeed and grow. She is also the owner of Ambas Financial Services LLC, a bilingual tax preparation and accounting business serving the south side of Milwaukee. She serves as a volunteer mentor with the nonprofit SecureFutures. She earned a degree in business administration from UW-Milwaukee.
Eugene Manzanet is the first executive director of Scaling Wellness in Milwaukee, a nonprofit organization launched last year to form strategic partnerships between local service providers addressing generational trauma in the state’s largest city. Manzanet served eight years in the United States Marine Corps Reserve before launching a 25-year career in the banking industry, serving the Milwaukee area as a resource for financial education and community and economic development. He recently left his role as vice president of community lending for U.S. Bank Home Mortgage Wisconsin, where he led a team of mortgage lending bankers dedicated to providing affordable residential lending options to low-to-moderate income earners in the Milwaukee area. Manzanet is completing research in pursuit of his doctoral degree at Cardinal Stritch University in leadership in the advancement of learning and service. The focus of his research is nonprofit sustainability and advancement of organizational leadership. His research and commitment to the advancement of organizational leadership is demonstrated in his role as the chairman of the board of advisors for Mission Fuel. Mission Fuel is the area’s first nonprofit accelerator hosted in the hub of innovation and community engagement at Cardinal Stritch University.
Nora Gonzalez Carvajal is Cultural Adviser for the Appleton Area School District, though she will soon move on to Reach Counseling where she will be a anti-human trafficking and exploitation advocate. Originally from Mexico City, she moved to Appleton in 1997. She has been working for the Appleton Area School District since 2001 in a variety of different roles. She started as a Spanish Interpreter for Title I preschool in 2001 and progressed until she assumed the cultural adviser role in 2014, a role that exists due to a partnership between the school district and Fox Valley Technical College. Her passion has always focused mostly on helping the Latino Community in one way or the other. As a Cultural advisor, she focused on working with all students of color helping them manage any obstacle to successfully graduating from high school and pursuing post-secondary education. She also currently serves as one of the Board of Directors for Court-appointed Special Advocates. She earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Silver Lake College in Manitowoc and an associate’s degree in early childhood from FVTC.
Roberto Partarrieu is executive director of Catholic Charities for the Diocese of LaCrosse. He’s worked for the Catholic Church since 1998 in different positions both in the United States and in his native Chile. In Chile, he worked in the private sector for a number of years before joining the management team of a Catholic Congregation, becoming the General Manager of an Institute and later Principle of a large K-12 school. When he and his family moved back to the United States, he worked in fundraising and as Vice President for Finance and Administration at a Catholic Graduate School of Psychology in Arlington, VA. He graduated with a Bachelors and a Master’s Degree in Economics from George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia.
Joe Hankey is Director of Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging at CUNA Mutual Group, where he advises leaders on ways to foster open, trusting and inclusive work environments; identifies organizational risks and develops training opportunities. He also leads the company’s network of Employee Resource Groups responsible for representing employees’ with shared interests. Before coming to Madison in 2014, he worked in variety of roles, including Director of Programming, at Casa Norte in Chicago. He earned a bachelor’s degree in social work from St. Louis University in 2001 and a master’s degree in counseling from DePaul in 2008.
Monica Cliff is the creative mind behind Inventiva Works and Teatro ñ. She is from a small town in Mexico named Zacatepec, Morelos. She holds a degree in Scenography from the National Institute of Fine Arts Center, National Theater School of Mexico and a master’s degree in Social Innovation and Sustainability Leadership from Edgewood College.
Dr. Raul Leon is Assistant Vice Provost for Student Engagement and Scholarship Programs at the University of Wisconsin, where he leads a portfolio that includes some of the largest scholarship programs in the country offering opportunities to talented and diverse students that continue to be leaders locally and nationally. Dr. Leon is an expert on strategic diversity management and his work has been nationally recognized as influential in effectively guiding retention and degree completion initiatives. Dr. Leon is an active researcher with over 40 scholarly contributions and has shared his policy-relevant work locally, nationally, and internationally in over 70 conferences. Dr. Leon has received a number of prestigious awards through his career. At EMU, Dr. Leon was the recipient of EMU’s Distinguished Faculty Award for Research. This is the highest award given to a faculty member at EMU. Dr. Leon was the first faculty member in his department in over 35 years to obtain this award for his research contributions. Dr. Leon also received EMU’s Distinguished MLK Humanitarian Award. This award is given to an influential member of the campus who has contributed to build a better community. This award recognized Dr. Leon’s efforts founding and directing the BrotherHOOD and SisterHOOD Initiatives, living and learning communities on campus designed to foster success for students of color. In 2017 the BrotherHOOD Initiative received the “Outstanding Men’s Program Award” from ACPA’s Coalition on Men & Masculinities. Dr. Leon is a graduate of the Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis (ELPA) doctoral program from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Dr. Mariana Pacheco Ortiz is a professor of education at the University of Wisconsin. Her research focuses on meaningful opportunities for bi/multilingual and English Learner students to use their full linguistic resources for literacy learning and self-determination. She employs ethnographic and anthropological methods to understand sociopolitical and sociocultural processes related to language, teaching, learning, and curriculum. Her work contributes to theorizations and empirical knowledge of policies, programs, pedagogies, and practices that amplify what ‘counts’ as knowledge and that enhance bi/multilingual students’ academic potential through asset-based and strength-based educational practices, particularly for Chican@/Latin@ students. She is a former elementary bilingual (English-Spanish) teacher in Southern California and a proud alumnus of the Migrant Education and Upward Bound Programs. She earned a bachelor’s degree at California State University-Long Beach in 1995 and master’s and doctoral degrees from UCLA.
Amanda Avalos is co-executive director of Leaders Igniting Transformation, an advocacy and activism organization in Milwaukee. She is also vice-chair of the Milwaukee Board of Fire and Police Commissioners. Avalos is a graduate of Marquette University, the Emerge Wisconsin program, the Harvard Business School Young American Leaders Program, and Public Allies (twice). She is a co-Founder of Milwaukee Beautiful, a Legal Observer for the American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin, and an activist committed to seeing Milwaukee thrive.
Samantha Maldonado is Senior Manager for Diversity & Inclusion at Kohl’s, based in Milwaukee. She joined Kohl’s in 2020 after two years at Principal Financial Group and nearly six years in leadership roles at Northwestern Mutual. She serves on the Board of Trustees of Alverno College, where she earned both a bachelor’s degree and MBA. She is also on the board of the Milwaukee Parks Foundation, the United Way of Greater Milwaukee & Waukesha County Leadership Council and is vice chair of the board of MobiliSE, formerly known as the Regional Transit Leadership Council. She was president of the Milwaukee chapter of Prospanica.
Blanca Gonzales is executive director of technology training nonprofit i.c.stars, which provides a rigorous technology-based workforce development and leadership training program for underserved adults, connecting them with career opportunities in Milwaukee and growing their professional network. Blana stepped into that role last year as the next step in a career in nonprofits that has included leadership positions at Neighborhood House of Milwaukee and Boy Scouts of America.
Dr. Amanda Garcia is a paleobiologist and staff scientist on a NASA astrobiology team at the University of Wisconsin called MUSE (Metal Utilization and Selection across Eons). MUSE is centered on understanding the early coevolution of nitrogen fixation and the Earth environment; the team hopes to discover what factors determine life’s selection of chemical elements. She came to Wisconsin after working on the same project when it was housed at the University of Arizona. She’s earned a number of honors, including the University of Arizona Galileo Circle Postdoctoral Scholar Award and UCLA Earth, Planetary and Space Sciences Excellence in Teaching Award. She earned bachelor’s and doctoral degrees in geology and paleobiology from UCLA, where she was undergraduate department valedictorian in 2014.
Juan Jimenez is Associate Dean of General Studies at Western Technical College and president of the La Crosse School Board. Prior to his current role, which he took on in 2017, Jimenez was the associate dean for the Learner Support and Transition division at Western. He also served as a math educator in rural Wisconsin for several years, and continues to serve on several educational, philanthropic, and volunteering organizations.
Ana Simpson is Director of Community & Economic Development at the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority. She took that position in 2019 after a year as Director at Veterans Business Outreach Center for Wisconsin Women’s Business Initiative Corportation and a long career in banking and insurance. She serves the community as a member of the boards of directors of TEMPO Milwaukee and La Familia de Arte, the advisory boards of Family Service of Waukesha and La Casa de Esperanza, and the Governor’s Council on Financial Literacy and Capability.
Dr. Lourdes Shanjani is Bilingual Health Education Coordinator at Public Health Madison and Dane County where she provides leadership for public health staff and community partners to assess, develop, implement and evaluate health education programs and services to meet community health priorities. She received her Medical Degree at Universidad Autónoma de Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic. She also holds a Master of Science in Health Sciences with a double concentration in Health Education and Public Health. Dr. Shanjani has over a decade of experience working with under-served communities in both the United States and the Caribbean; providing direct services as well as designing, managing and fundraising programs that benefit immigrant communities. She also serves as Communications Secretary for the Medical Organization for Latino Advancement Board of Directors.
Michelle McCoy is Coordinator of the Parent Support Program at Briarpatch Youth Services in Madison, an organization that provides support for at-risk youth and their families. She joined Briarpatch in January 2022 after more than four years as a program specialist at the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority and a nearly two-decade career in banking. As a volunteer, she is a Commissioner for Affirmative Action and Chair of Community Impact Advisors Council, serves on The Law Enforcement Leaders of Color Collaboration, and previously served on the Micro Investment Team and Community Volunteer Awards as a Judge with United Way. She also serves as a Guide for Wisconsin Leadership Summit annually as well as has been chosen to serve on the Culture Steering Committee for Wheda.
Maria Yturriaga Dyslin joined One City Schools as elementary school principal in July 2022. She began teaching in the Madison Metropolitan School District in 1998 after graduating from the UW-Madison Teach for Diversity Program. She holds a Master’s Degree in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She taught in MMSD for 19 years as a classroom teacher in grades 2, 3 and 4 and an instructional coach with a literacy emphasis at Mendota Elementary and Virginia Henderson Elementary. She transitioned into school leadership as principal at Sunset Ridge Elementary School in Middleton in 2017 and served as principal there until June of 2022.
Jesús Villa is Equal Rights Division Administrator at the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development. A 1998 graduate of the Duke University School of Law, he practiced as an associate with Michael Best & Friedrich and a partner with Gonzalez Saggio & Harlan before joining Northwestern Mutual as a diversity and inclusion consultant and later Equal Employment Opportunity Officer, a role he held for 14 years. In addition to his law degree, holds a degree in sociology from Princeton and a master’s degree in public policy from Duke.
Kenny Perez is Assistant program director and afternoon drive-time host at Radio Milwaukee, where he also hosts “In the Mix with DJ Kenny Perez,” which showcases both local talent and world-renowned DJs. He’s also performed as a DJ around the Milwaukee area for nearly 30 years, including as a Summerfest regular. He’s also had a long career in education, starting as a computer specialist teacher at La Causa Charter School and later Dean of Student and Systems Operations Manager for Hope Chrisitian Schools.
Adriana Nanis Rodriguez is Executive Director of Public Allies Wisconsin, overseeing programs of Public Allies Milwaukee and Public Allies Racine/Kenosha. Born and raised in Milwaukee, Nanis is a proud Public Allies alumna. She then continued to stay connected to the organization as a Program Manager and volunteer facilitator. Currently, she is working on her doctoral dissertation exploring youth organizing in the city. She has dedicated over 15 years to building learning spaces that are anti-oppressive and reduce the perpetuation of harm through learning and community building. She earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Marquette and master’s degree from UW-Milwaukee, where she is now a doctoral candidate.
Dr. Vitaliano Figueroa is Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs at UW-Lacrosse. Originally from New York, he was the first of six siblings to go to college. Figueroa has over 20 years of experience in student affairs and higher education. Prior to joining UWL, he was the assistant vice president for student affairs at San Diego State University. Before that, he led a variety of student affairs programs at Valley City State University in North Dakota, the College of Southern Nevada, United States International University in San Diego, Santa Ana College and the University of Rhode Island. He holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Rhode Island and a doctorate from Argosy University in California.
Jair Alvarez is a litigation attorney providing corporate and criminal law counsel and representation in Madison, operating his own practice since graduating from the University of Wisconsin Law School in 2014. As a law school student, he volunteered at the National Immigrant Justice Center.
Luz del Carmen Arroyo Calderon is Retention Initiatives and Student Engagement (RISE) Student Success Manager at Madison College. She grew up in a small town in Mexico and was 12 when she moved to Milwaukee with her mom. She graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2010 and taught in the Madison Metropolitan School District as a Bilingual Resource Specialist, Bilingual Resource Teacher and Dual Language Immersion Teacher until 2017, when she joined the staff at Madison College. She also holds a master’s degree in bilingual, multilingual and multicultural education from Edgewood College and was one of Brava Magazine’s “Women to Watch” in 2021.
Galy Montes is owner of Palereria Yayo in the heart of Milwaukee’s south side, and cofounder of Mercadera, a marketplace for Latina women entrepreneurs to sell their wares. What started as a Facebook group of makers supporting each other has become a series of pop-up markets, offering as many as 50 vendors space to be seen and find customers. The Mercadera hosted a number of pop-up marketplace events around the city over the summer and into the fall. The group is also a member of the “Poderosa Collective,” aling with Hispanic Professionals of Greater Milwaukee, Mujerón Movement, Botanica Galactica, Latinas Connect, and MiVoz.com making up the a collaboration of Latina-founded and Latina-led groups across the area aiming to honor, inspire, empower and lift the voices, contributions, joy and talents of Latinas.
Luis Hernandez is director of public affairs for Milwaukee County. He previously worked as a staff adviser in the Milwaukee Mayor’s office, deputy director of communications for the Chicago park district and enior account director at MVT, a boutique marketing communications agency based in Evanston, Ill., that specializes in sports and lifestyle programs. His career has also included serving as director of marketing for ISE baseball and parts of eight seasons with the Chicago White Sox organization as director of public relations. Lou has a background in team branding, communications, marketing initiatives and philanthropic program development. He is a Chicago native and holds a B.A. degree in public relations from Marquette University and an MBA from the University of Notre Dame and serves on the MU Alumni Association national board of directors.
Eli Rivera and Ruben Gaona are cofounders of The Way Out, which aligns employers with qualified Justice Involved Job Seekers via a comprehensive anti-bias job platform and provides social support services and technologies to help job seekers integrate into new roles successfully. The Way Out provides a robust anti-bias employment platform and self-learning mobile app, that helps remove personal and professional barriers and provides ongoing personal and professional support. Rivera, an experienced restaurant professional, also founded Shyftfly, a digital platform to help restaurant owners and operators manage and communicate with personnel. Gaona, a Navy veteran, is also founder of career consulting firm 2ndChanceWisconsin and a re-entry consultant.
Maria Harris is Multicultural Resource Center Coordinator at UW-Stevens Point and lead organizer of Fiesta Point, the city’s celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month. A first-generation Latina and Stevens Point native, she earned a degree in psychology from UW-SP in 2016 and worked in customer service at Stevens Point-based software company Skyward for seven years before joining the staff at her alma mater earlier this year.
John Cheslock is a licensed professional counselor at UW-Green Bay, providing compassionate, client-empowered, trauma-informed counseling with a wide range of university students of all ages. He is retired from a 26-year career in law enforcement and a proud Latino and California native.
Kattia Jimenez is the owner of Mount Horeb Hemp LLC, a USDA certified organic hemp farm. Mount Horeb Hemp is breathing new life into the agricultural industry by growing organic hemp and developing products that improve natural wellbeing. Mount Horeb Hemp’s line of products include Full Spectrum CBD tinctures, CBD muscle cream, hemp flower soaps, and hemp flower CBD pre-rolls. She regularly invites community leaders and members to visit the farm and educate her community on Hemp and its potential to create generational wealth for non-traditional farmers, while also improving wellbeing. Kattia holds a Bachelor’s degree from the University of Washington and is a member of the Hemp Industries Association, Wisconsin Farmers Union, the Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation, and the Wisconsin Latino Chamber of Commerce. She is a host of the Hemp Can Do It podcast and is a guest lecturer at the University of Wisconsin-Madison College of Agricultural & Life Sciences. Kattia has spent the majority of her career working in public health and has expertise in project management, strategic planning, and marketing.
Who’d we miss? Email your nominations for next year’s list to email@example.com!