We’re pleased to introduce the Fellows and facilitators of the 2023 Southern Arizona Workforce Leadership Academy! The Academy — launched in partnership by the Center for the Future of Arizona, Pima Community College, and the Aspen Institute Economic Opportunities Program — brings leaders from across the Southern Arizona workforce ecosystem together for a year-long series of retreats, workshops, and action learning projects. The Academy provides a forum for local leaders to work collaboratively to identify local and regional systems-based challenges and create shared solutions for economic opportunity for all. Fellows work with leading practitioners throughout the country as they deepen networks; strengthen systems leadership skills; apply race, equity, and systems change frameworks to their work; and increase understanding of effective strategies and programs.
The Southern Arizona Workforce Leadership Academy is one of eight local academies launched in 2023. Alumni of the Academy become part of the Aspen Institute’s Economic Opportunity Fellows Network, joining Fellows from fourteen previous Academies in eleven cities in the US and Canada.
Project Manager, Workforce Development at the Center for the Future of Arizona
She has 18 years of combined managerial, operational, logistical, data management, and administrative experience garnered from a unique mix of boutique stores, big box retailers, and nonprofits. Her comprehensive skills and capacity to foresee an organization’s fiscal year obligations have given her the unique ability to uncover creative solutions and apply fresh initiatives.
Tennille’s retail accomplishments include tailoring sales and outreach goals to align with customer experiences, fostering a learning spirit in her fellow employees, and raising sales to 30% in 4 months. She has always been passionate about helping those in the retail industry understand that their roles are vital; pushing for continued education and self-growth. Tennille was born and brought up in Arizona and is an alumna of Arizona State University with a bachelor’s degree in Global Health and minor in Nonprofit Management.
Director of Workforce Development, Center for the Future of Arizona
Holly Kurtz is the Director of Workforce Development at the Center for the Future of Arizona, who is accountable for the Retail Career Pathways Sector Initiative and College & Career Pathways. Previously, Kurtz was the Vice President of Talent Management at PetSmart, a pet specialty retailer headquartered in Phoenix, AZ.
Kurtz joined PetSmart in 2008 and was accountable for talent acquisition, talent management, internal communications, learning & development, leadership development, and organizational development. Prior to PetSmart, Kurtz was with Wells Fargo & Company for 28 years in various corporate HR and business HR leadership roles. Holly is from Minnesota and attended the University of Minnesota majoring in Technical Communications.
Dean of Workforce Development and Lifelong Learning, Pima Community College
Amanda is the Dean of Workforce Development and Lifelong Learning at Pima Community College (PCC). In this role, Amanda Abens administers career and technical education programs as well as continuing education and workforce training. Amanda actively works to develop systems and processes to increase responsiveness to business & industry; to pilot new CTE programs and initiatives in entrepreneurial and/or grant-funded settings; and to develop and deploy training to meet business and industry needs. She is an alumna of the University of Arizona and has her Master’s in Counseling from the University of Phoenix.
Before joining Pima Community College, she built multi-sector collaborations with the Norton School of Family and Consumer Sciences at the University of Arizona and has over 15 years of experience working with homeless and low-income families. Amanda combines her experience in both social service and higher education to bring a unique perspective to workforce development.
Founder/Board Member, Ambivium/American Red Cross -Southern AZ Chapter
Nubert is a Master of Liberal Studies from Arizona State University, and a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from the University of Arizona. He has interests in the area of international relations, migration and global development, and water. His short term goal is to engage policymakers in the local development and sector where crucial policies affect humanity, work and education of the future by addressing policies that affect them.
Regional Director for Business and Educational Partnerships, Northern Arizona University
Patty Diaz was born and raised in Tucson, Arizona. In 1991, Patty earned her bachelor’s degree from Northern Arizona University (NAU). Her 25 years in higher education have focused on educational partnerships promoting collaboration, outreach, and program development by collaborating with community colleges, government agencies as well as school districts in Southern Arizona. Patty has been dedicated to increasing the number of diverse college students; increasing student access, retention, and success; and helping adult learners graduate with a high-quality education. Currently, Patty is serving as the Southeastern Regional Director for Business and Educational Partnerships with NAU and oversees initiatives to advance academic programs, and degree programming to increase student access and degree completion. Patty completed her master’s degree in educational leadership in 1996 and her Doctorate Degree in Higher Education Administration in 2021, both from NAU.
Executive Director of Human Resources and Marketing, Benson Hospital
She is responsible for human resources functions including employee relations, training, employment, affirmative action and employment equity programs, benefits management, development, and implementation of all of the organization’s marketing strategies. Ashley has over 10 years’ experience in HR leadership roles and received her degree in Business Administration in 2012 and her Professional in Human Resources (PHR) in 2016. Currently Serving as the Treasurer of the Benson Hospital Employee Development, a member of the SHRM (national and local chapters), Benson Chamber of Commerce and Girl Scouts of Southern Arizona volunteer.
Throughout her career, Ashley has focused on increasing employee retention by creating an employee-centered positive company environment reducing turnover by 10%, leading the hospital to a Platinum AZ Worksite Wellness award in 2019-2022, developed targeted outreach recruitment programs to recruit the best talent and meet all departmental hiring requirements.
Director Talent Management / Board Development Chair, HSS Solutions / Pima County Workforce investment board
Danielle is a native Tucsonan and Wildcat at heart! A graduate of the UOFA Eller College with a BS in Business management and MIS. She has 20 years’ experience in the Recruiting/Staffing industries. Currently serves as the National Director of Talent Management for Hospitality Solutions. She leads their Talent Acquisition, Training/Development, Recruiting Process Outsourcing, Search and Taskforce divisions.
She thrives at connecting people with employers. She uses her skills to impact and serve the community on several boards/organizations including Board Development Chair Pima County Workforce Investment board, member JTED Business and Industry council, Job Corps Community Relations Council and past board member of Tucson Young Professionals, Founder/President Tucson Professional Recruiters Association. Recipient of 2011 Tucson’s 40 under 40. Married to her HS sweetheart, Vince, she is the mother of 3; Vinnie, Roman and Izabella. Danielle enjoys watching sports, traveling and being with family and friends!
Workforce Development Specialist, MHC Healthcare
Susan comes from a close-knit entrepreneurial family and grew up in SoCal helping them run manufacturing businesses. They moved to Tucson in the 1980s, where she graduated from Pima CC and University of Arizona (Go Cats!) with degrees in Business Management, Political Science, Communications and a secondary Social Studies teaching credential while working as a counselor at the state prison. She returned to SoCal to teach Economics/Financial Literacy (+Academic Decathlon, AP Government, Football Announcer, Union Representative, etc.) and earned 2 Master’s degrees; Criminal Justice (2006), Economics (2017), from CSUSB and University of Delaware.
She joyfully returned home to Tucson, in 2019; earned SHRM-CP, served AmeriCorps, worked in the prison system, high schools, and with MHC Healthcare promoting Career Development and Personal Growth. She is happily married to her British husband of 25+ years and loves history, watching sports and traveling. Favorites: Red, Bulgaria, Paris, D.C. and the Wildcats!
Human Resource Manager – North America, South32
Skylie provides strategic human resources leadership across South32’s assets in the Americas, including Hermosa. Her significant expertise in pinpointing people whose passion, purpose, proficiency, and potential will be key to creating a next-gen mine at Hermosa has been built through increasingly senior operational and corporate roles exclusively within multinational mining organizations, including South32, Barrick Gold, and Newmont.
Founder & CEO, AZ Cyber Initiative
Regional Program Manager, State of Arizona, Department of Economic Security, Rehabilitation Services Administration
Mary is currently the Regional Program Manager for the Southern Arizona region of Vocational Rehabilitation as a part of the Department of Economic Security. She serves as a board member of the Pima County Workforce Investment Board, the Pinal County Workforce Development Board, and is a surveyor consultant for the international accreditation body, CARF, that is headquartered in Tucson.
She has 35+ years working in the field of vocational rehabilitation. Mary K. has a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of Nevada Las Vegas, a master’s degree in rehabilitation counseling from the University of Arizona, and a post graduate certification in rehabilitation administration from San Diego State University.
Workforce Development Administrator, Banner University Health Plans
Kate is the Workforce Development Administrator for Banner University Health Plans. Kate has worked in Medicaid healthcare for over fifteen years, starting in direct member care and spanning across several lines of business, both locally and nationally. Kate is an experienced facilitator and designer with a demonstrated history of working as a servant leader in the healthcare industry. She is skilled in Medicaid, nonprofit organizations, community building, competency and career path development, ideation to activation, instructional design and development, and training facilitation. In her current position she oversees Workforce Development initiatives for Healthcare Providers across the Banner network.
Her position includes actively collaborating with community stakeholders and providers to develop, implement, evaluate, and “conquertize” workforce development initiatives across the Arizona Medicaid healthcare industry. Kate holds an MBA and BA in Community Leadership and Development from Alverno College and is pursuing a Doctorate in Education also at Alverno College.
Senior Director, Career Development, University of Arizona Student Engagement & Career Development
Emily is a seasoned professional with over 23 years of experience leading workforce initiatives including university career development, work-based learning, workforce design, and skill development. She is a proven change agent across the private, public, non-profit, and higher education sectors who has marshaled diverse groups of stakeholders at all organizational levels and advised senior leaders.
Currently, Emily is the Senior Director of Career Development within the University of Arizona’s Student Engagement & Career Development Department (SECD). Previously Emily spent 7.5 years at Northern Arizona University (NAU) where she built a reimagined career development function and a campus-wide student employment program grounded in the National Association of Colleges & Employers (NACE) Career Readiness competencies. From 1999-2013 Emily held private and non-profit sector roles in the Washington, DC area at the MITRE Corporation, Booz Allen Hamilton, and CSC. Emily strongly believes in being a strengths-based manager and developer of people.
Sr. Workforce Development Program Manager, Banner Health Plans
Selena McDonald is a native to Southern Arizona, working in healthcare for almost 15 years, and the Workforce Development Administrator for Banner Health Plans (BHP) since 2018. Selena is a servant leader, committed to improving the community and healthcare industry in Arizona. In her current position, Selena is responsible for the strategic development, coordination, implementation, and tracking/monitoring of workforce development activities within BHP and state level Workforce Development Alliance/Coalition teams, including collaborating with stakeholders across Arizona to identify workforce gaps and solutions.
Selena has previously served as Health Educator, Case Manager (DDD & ALTCS), and Population Health Management Administrator (BH). Selena received her Bachelor’s degree in Health Sciences with an emphasis in Community Health Education from The University of Arizona in 2007; her Master’s degree in Public Administration with an emphasis on Healthcare Management from Grand Canyon University in 2014; and certification as a Project Management Professional (PMP) in 2023.
Vice President, Arizona Technology Council
Karla is Vice President of the Arizona Technology Council. Morales leads the Arizona Technology Council’s southern Arizona operations. Karla brings more than 25 years of experience in the region’s education, nonprofit and governmental communities. Formerly, Karla was the Director for the Office of Multicultural Advancement in the Office of the Provost at the University of Arizona. As the liaison for the University’s Diversity Councils, she facilitated the relationship between community and university senior leadership to advance diversity, equity & inclusion efforts. Karla also supported UArizona’s government and community relations for the southern Arizona region.
Karla earned her bachelor’s of science in education from the University of Arizona as well as a master’s in business administration. She serves as Chairwoman for the Tucson Hispanic Chamber, Campus Research Corporation board, and Pima County’s Workforce Investment Board.
Director of Operations, JobPath, Inc.
I’m a Tucson native who has been supporting workforce development and economic mobility in Southern Arizona for 6 years. I joined JobPath in 2020 as the director of operations. Prior to that, I worked with Pima Community College in a variety of roles that focused on supporting community and workforce needs. Supporting economic development and helping community members find careers that support better more prosperous lives is my passion.
Since joining JobPath, I have helped double the number of participants we serve, built partnerships that focus on 2Gen supports, and support economic development through educating community members about their career opportunities. In my free time, I like to garden, build terrariums, and travel.
Deputy Director-Workforce Development, Pima County
Rhonda Piña, a second-generation Tucsonan, holds a Bachelor of Science in Business Management, Certificate in Human Resources Management and Arizona Department of Education, Certificate Substitute, PreK-12. Rhonda currently works in the Pima County Community and Workforce Development Department as the Deputy Director for Workforce Development.
Previously, Rhonda worked in the financial services industry for 29 years working in retail and commercial banking. Rhonda is a former Council Member for the Town of Oro Valley and currently serves as a Board Member for the Tucson Airport Authority, Commerce Bank of Arizona and the Oro Valley Police Chief’s Advisory Board.
Project Director, Equus Workforce Solutions.
Jorge oversees two workforce contracts in Arizona: The Jobs Program, a Temporary Assistance for Needs Families (TANF) contract with Arizona’s Department of Economic Security and a Youth Contract with Maricopa County. Jorge has over 15 years of experience directly in workforce, in his current role focuses on strategies that help individuals and families improve their skills and experience to enter the workforce.
Jorge holds B.S in Business Administration from University of Arizona’s, Eller College of Business. He is a board member of the Pima County Workforce Investment Board. Jorge is part of Fred Acosta’s Job Corps Community Relations Council leadership team. When he is not helping the community thrive, Jorge enjoys golfing and riding his bicycle on the loop or at El Tour de Tucson.
Director of Business Development and Engagement, Pima Community College
Lisa is a higher education workforce development professional with over 30 years of experience in higher education. Her passion is connecting people to opportunities. She is new to Pima Community College and Tucson as of the end of March and looks forward to developing relationships with the other academy participants.
As a doctoral candidate in organizational leadership with a higher education emphasis, she will be able to apply her learning in her new position as Director of Business Development and Engagement. When not at work, Lisa enjoys music and the outdoors.
Director, Operations & Compliance Adult Basic Education for College & Career, Pima Community College
Ginny is currently a Director at Pima Community College, Adult Basic Education. With over 20 years experience working in the field of Adult Education, Ginny has worked as a teacher, teacher trainer, a Director at the Dept of Education overseeing Adult Education program grants state-wide, and her current role as a Director in Adult Education. She has a BA in Anthropology and two MAs; TESOL and Educational Leadership.
President of the Board, Industrial Development Authority of the City of Sierra Vista
Demetry is a social entrepreneur and community facilitator that focuses on collaborative efforts that bring together business, community development, and education. He is a proactive community leader that focuses on the opportunity in today’s largest challenges.
He currently serves as the President of the Board of the Industrial Development Authority of the City of Sierra Vista and Sierra Housing Resource Partners. Demetry is the Co-Founder of Norther Computing, a full-service software development firm in Cochise County, and the owner of Indeh Multimedia Marketing Group working to connect the business, education, and social movements throughout Cochise County and Southern Arizona.
Executive Director of Program Management, Southwest Technical Education District of Yuma (STEDY)
Jenifer Sumner is a native of Phoenix, Arizona and started her career in business and clinical laboratory science. After 7 years of working as a lab scientist and then Hematology Manager at Yuma Regional Medical Center she started working on the development of healthcare and CTE education programs. She has worked as the Director of Allied Health at Arizona Western College and now serves as the Executive Director of Program Management at Southwest Technical Education District of Yuma. In this role she is working to grow partnerships with K-12 and post-secondary institutions. She is also helping to connect business, industry, and other organizations throughout Southern Arizona to foster the growth of Career and Technical Education in the region.
Jenifer holds a Bachelor’s degree from Arizona State University in Life Sciences, is a certified health coach, and is a student in the MHM program at the Eller School of Management.
Director of Education, Pima Medical Institute
Dr. Jordan Utley was recently appointed as the Corporate Education Director at Pima Medical Institute (PMI). She has over two decades of experience in higher education administration in the roles of Program Director, Department Chair, and Dean of Health Sciences. She has nearly 30 years of clinical experience as a certified athletic trainer, working with athletes from high school to professional sports, including the men’s and women’s US soccer teams.
She is an international scholar, publishing and presenting on her work on interprofessional education (IPE). Dr. Utley believes in educating graduates to be change-agents of healthcare, to lead interprofessional patient-centered care teams that are population focused, cost-effective, and foster personal and professional well-being.
VP Human Resources, Leonardo Electronics
Gladys joined Leonardo Electronics US Inc. in 2006 with a diverse background in manufacturing and the luxury resort industry, she has experience providing support and advice to operational managers and executive staff, recruitment and employment, training and development, labor relations, benefits administration, and the development of organizational culture. She sits on the company’s compensation committee as secretary and serves as the company’s Diversity Officer.
Gladys holds a BS in Business Administration from the University of Arizona and an MA in Organizational Management with an emphasis on Strategic Management from the University of Phoenix. Gladys is a certified Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR) through the Human Resources Institute and is a member of the Society for Human Resources (SHRM) Executive Network. She earned an Executive Women in Leadership Certificate through Cornell University in 2022. She has volunteered for SHRM- Greater Tucson since 2014 and currently serves as President.