2017 Women’s Executive Leadership Program Class


This year’s class is comprised of twenty highly accomplished women in fields that span the public, private, and non-profit sectors, including healthcare, city government, professional services, the arts, military, academia, non-profits, and hospitality. These leaders are driven to make life better for patients, clients, students, guests, and citizens through their work at premier institutions including the Mount Sinai School of Medicine, the City of Detroit, the Rockefeller Foundation, the Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, and many others. As lifelong learners, most of the selected participants earned advanced degrees (Masters, MBAs, MDs, JDs) from renowned universities across the country; many hold multiple degrees. All of the selected participants have a commitment to developing themselves and others through involvement in Boards and volunteering for causes they care about in their communities.

Ellen Auwarter

Ellen is the Marketing and Business Development Manager at Duane Morris LLP. She has worked at or with law firms for most of her career, which began with the practice of litigation and employment law for nearly a decade. At Duane Morris, Ellen oversees marketing and business development for the global corporate and real estate practices. Previously, Ellen held marketing and business development positions at Deloitte, as well as two other law firms.  Ellen also spent three years at the New York New Media Association (NYNMA), the largest industry association for new media and technology in the country at the height of the dot-com boom.

Ellen is a member of The University Club in New York, where she has served on the Council and its Executive Committee. She also previously served on the Board of Directors of the Metropolitan New York Chapter of the Legal Marketing Association (NYLMA).  Ellen received her JD from Fordham University School of Law and her BA from Mount Holyoke College in American Studies.  


Jennifer Collins

Jennifer Collins currently heads the asset management group at LaSalle Hotel Properties, a leading multi-operator real estate investment trust with a market capitalization of ~$3.2 billion.  LaSalle owns 46 upscale, full-service hotels and resorts in the United States.  In addition to her asset management role at LaSalle, Jen also leads the financial analyst program and founded the company’s in-house mindfulness program, which she created to enhance well-being, creativity and focus. Prior to joining LaSalle, Jen was the head of hotel asset management at Westbrook Partners, a global real estate private equity firm.

Jen joined Westbrook from Tishman Hotel & Realty where she served as a Director and worked on development, master planning, asset management, refinancing and brokerage initiatives for the firm.  Jen is a graduate of Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration, where she was a member of the Women’s Varsity Basketball team from 1995-1997.  Jen currently serves on the Executive Committee of the Board of Trustees at St. Paul’s School for Girls in Baltimore, MD.  She is the Founder of Awake Mindfulness, a company that teaches mindfulness in corporate settings.  She is also a certified yoga instructor and co-founded a community program in the Anacostia neighborhood of Washington DC.


Amy Dietz

Amy is the Executive Vice President, General Manager at INgrooves Music Group. Amy is a veteran player in the independent music and media space with a wealth of expertise in marketing, rights management, distribution and technology platform insights. Since 2012, she has overseen the day-to-day management of global operations at INgrooves ,ensuring the company’s label and artist partners are provided with unparalleled customer service and best in class technology they need to successfully market, promote and monetize their music. In her role, Amy manages a team of 50, and spearheads, business development,revenue, product development and customer relations strategies.

Prior to INgrooves, Amy worked at Warner Music Group owned, Alternative Distribution Alliance, where she rose from a regional marketing and advertising manager to Vice President of Label and Artist Development. Early on, she began her career in music with Title Wave, a Minneapolis mom-and-pop record store, where she learned the retail business from the ground up. Amy then segued to the label Red Decibel, which further drove her passion for advocating for independent music and artists.

Amy is on the board of two prominent music associations, A2IM and Music Business Association, where she is a vocal champion for women to forge new pathways to attain and succeed in executive roles within the music industry. In 2016 she was also selected for Billboard’s Digital Power Players list.


Melvina Ford

Melvina is the Executive Director of the Equal Rights Center (ERC), a national nonprofit with a successful history of using civil rights testing to identify unlawful and unfair discrimination in housing, employment, and access to public accommodations. Melvina stewards the ERC to ensure that civil rights testing data is used to educate the public, advocate for change and enforce the law. Under her leadership, the ERC launched its first mobile app - The Fair Housing Checklist App, designed to ensure that multi-family housing developers have the right tools to build accessible housing for individuals with disabilities.

Before joining the ERC, Melvina served as a political appointee in President Obama's administration at the U.S. Department of Labor, providing counsel on enforcement and regulatory issues for the Wage and Hour Division. During her tenure, she also temporarily acted for the Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Office of Policy, where she oversaw and advised the Acting Secretary on the Department's regulatory portfolio, including regulations to abolish overtime exemptions for home healthcare workers and raise wages for thousands of low-income workers in the non-immigrant H2B visa program.

Melvina has almost 20 years of public service and nonprofit management experience, including previously serving as the Executive Director of the D.C. Employment Justice Center and the Legal Projects Manager for the Women's Law Center of Maryland, where her work focused on improving economic security and promoting equal opportunity for low wage and vulnerable people. She is also a seasoned litigator, with an emphasis on labor and employment law, having practiced as an associate at the law firms of Tydings & Rosenberg LLP and McKenna & Cuneo LLP.

Melvina received her Bachelor's degree from the University of California, Berkeley, and her law degree from Georgetown University Law Center.


Sarah Franchak

Sarah is CEO at Avyance. In her previous role, she led Booz Allen Hamilton’s Human Capital & Learning practice for the aviation sector. She drives large-scale organizational transformation programs that focus on leadership development, learning, and technology. In her work for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), she is a trusted advisor to key FAA executives and was instrumental in designing and implementing FAA’s foundational change management program aimed at cultural transformation. Her team currently drives outreach to engage the more than 46,000 FAA employees on organizational development initiatives. Sarah currently oversees a large multidisciplinary team in support of her clients.

Sarah was a founder of the Women’s Leadership & Development Group for the Justice, Homeland Security, and Transportation group at Booz Allen. In this role, she is empowering over 400 women by helping them expand their professional and personal growth opportunities. Prior to her tenure with Booz Allen, Sarah led corporate brand management, international finance, and project management efforts for a joint venture of SAIC and Rolls-Royce. She spearheaded the creation of the multinational joint venture’s corporate brand in a period of rapid expansion. She led multi-party negotiations with the U.S. Export-Import Bank and the U.K. Export Credit Guarantee Department and international lenders to secure project financing for nuclear plant upgrades in Eastern Europe.

Sarah earned a master’s degree in Educational Psychology from the University of Virginia, a bachelor of arts from the College of William and Mary and is certified in project management, change management, facilitation, and business capture.


Ami Gadhia

Ami Gadhia is Assistant Director in the American Academy of Pediatrics’ Department of Federal Affairs.  Ami works on federal policy issues related to child abuse and neglect; toxic stress; genetics; environmental health; injury, violence and poison prevention; Native American child health; and foster care, adoption and kinship care. 

Before joining the AAP, Ami spent 7 years in the Washington Office of Consumers Union, the policy and advocacy arm of Consumer Reports. At CU, she worked on federal legislation and regulation related to product, auto, and food safety, among other issues.  Ami has testified before Congress and federal agencies numerous times, and has appeared in the national print and TV press on product, auto, and food safety policy issues. A former practicing attorney, she is a member of the Connecticut and New York State Bars. Gadhia received her law degree from the University of Connecticut School of Law and earned a Bachelor of Arts in Government from Cornell University.


Kelly Holly

Ms. Kelly Bulliner Holly is currently the Chief of Staff to the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Strategy, Plans, and Capabilities.  Ms. Holly was most recently a Global Force Planner focusing on ensuring the United States has the right balance of forces, footprint, and agreements in Europe.  Ms. Holly previously served as the Country Director for Australia, New Zealand, and the Pacific Islands leading the Department's marquee initiative to rotationally deploy U.S. Marines and grow a rotational U.S. Air Force presence in northern Australia.  Ms. Holly also served as the Director for the Pakistan-Afghanistan Rotation Cell and prior to that as the Country Director for Pakistan where she managed U.S. security assistance programs.  Ms. Holly is a graduate of the Defense Institute of Security Assistance Management and is a recognized expert on Pakistan's F-16 program.  From 2006-2008, Ms. Holly served as the Special Assistant for Asian & Pacific Security Affairs and the Special Assistant for International Security Affairs in the Office of the Secretary of Defense for Legislative Affairs, where she earned the Secretary of Defense Medal for Exceptional Public Service in 2008.

Prior to her work at the Pentagon, Ms. Holly served in various legislative staff positions in the U.S. House of Representatives.  She served as the Senior Policy Advisor for national security and foreign policy to then-Republican Conference Chairman, Congresswoman Deborah Pryce from Ohio.  Prior to working for Chairman Pryce, Ms. Holly worked for then-Conference Chairman J.C. Watts, Jr. from Oklahoma.  Ms. Holly began her career at the U.S. House of Representatives as an intern, then as a Legislative Assistant, for Congressman Charles Taylor from North Carolina.

Ms. Holly holds a Bachelor of Arts in Economics from George Mason University and earned a Master of Arts in National Security and Strategic Studies from the Naval War College.  The daughter of two U.S. Army officers, Ms. Holly is a member of the Samuel Grant Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution in Gardiner, Maine.  Ms. Holly recently served as the President of her neighborhood Civic Association and volunteers throughout her community.  She and her husband, Josh Holly, live in Arlington, Virginia with their sons, Cobb and Anderson.


Diana Jeffrey

Diana leads the customer experience and quality program for Ritz-Carlton Hotels in the Caribbean and Latin America (expanding to include additional luxury brands among Marriott's 30-brand portfolio). As Area Director of Performance Improvement, Diana partners with hotel and regional leaders to achieve operational excellence, inspire innovation, and translate customer trends into curated guest service experiences. Prior to her career in hospitality, Diana served 10 years as a Management Consultant in the government sector, supporting strategic change initiatives with agencies such as the Department of the Treasury, Department of Defense, U.S. Navy and Emergency 911. 

Diana holds a B.A. from Brown University and an M.B.A. from University of Virginia's Darden School of Business. She spent 25 years as a stage performer and currently acts as a client representative for Selective Search, an upscale matchmaking service. In between her frequent travels to the Caribbean, Diana resides in Washington, D.C.


Claritza Jiménez

Claritza is passionate about how people consume information and media to make sense of their world. Jiménez serves as the digital video editor for The Washington Post’s Metro section and its blogs, which include education, religion, and transportation coverage. In her role, Jiménez advocates for the use of video to complement news gathering and stories and takes the lead in producing breaking news video for the Washington, D.C. region. 

Prior to The Post, Jiménez was responsible for coordinating and producing coverage as the lead producer on evenings for the Latin America broadcast desk at Associated Press Television News (APTN).  Some of the biggest stories she worked on included the breakthrough in diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba and the election of Pope Francis. Jiménez started out her journalism career working at the CBS television stations in Chicago and Dallas. 

She graduated cum laude from The George Washington University's School of Media and Public Affairs with a B.A. in political communication. Jiménez was a recipient of an Investigative Journalism Fellowship at American University’s School of Communication where she earned a Master of Arts in journalism while working as a reporting fellow at the Center for Public Integrity, one of the leading investigative journalism groups in the world. While at CPI, she was part of the team that partnered with NPR on a series investigating how sexual assault cases are adjudicated on college campuses. Jiménez serves on the board of directors of the GW Alumni Association and  on the committee of AU's Entertainment Media Alumni Alliance. She has also mentored students interested in media through the T. Howard Foundation, the Urban Journalism Workshop and the News Literacy Project. Jiménez was born in the Dominican Republic and raised in Miami, Fla. She is a native Spanish speaker and conversant in French.


Wendy Kang

Wendy currently leads statewide strategic planning efforts as the Director of Innovation at the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia to support the Commonwealth’s objective of becoming the best-educated state by 2030. She is also responsible for communications, preK-12 outreach, and workforce development. While Wendy’s roles and titles have varied over her 20-year career, her main goal in any job is to incorporate data, evaluation, strategic planning,communications and business practices to improve programs in the public and nonprofit sector.

Prior to joining the Council, Wendy worked for the Virginia Community College System as the Assistant Vice Chancellor of Workforce Research and Evaluation. She led efforts to improve coordination and data use for workforce development across multiple agencies; evaluated and supported improvement efforts of college programs across the state; and monitored federal grant programs totaling over $50 million annually. Wendy also worked as a senior analyst with the Joint Legislative Audit Review Commission (JLARC), a non-partisan, watchdog organization for the Virginia General Assembly. She conducted studies that provided policy and budget recommendations in the areas of education, workforce development, Medicaid and child protective services.

Wendy has also lead strategic planning efforts for several nonprofits with a focus on managing a “double bottom line”—providing a social good while keeping an organization financially secure. Wendy earned her master’s degree in public policy from Duke University, bachelor’s degree in business administration/actuarial sciences from Bentley University and is a certified Project Management Professional (PMP). Wendy also was as a math teacher and small business development trainer in the Peace Corps.


Michelle Kang Kim, MD, PhD

Dr. Kim is the Director for Carcinoid and Neuroendocrine Tumors at The Mount Sinai Hospital. She is also the Associate Chief of Endoscopy and an Associate Professor of Medicine at Mount Sinai School of Medicine. Dr. Kim received her undergraduate and medical degrees from Harvard College and Stanford University School of Medicine. She pursued postgraduate training at New York Presbyterian Hospital (Cornell). Dr. Kim’s clinical and research interests are in gastrointestinal cancers, with specific expertise in carcinoid and neuroendocrine tumors. Dr. Kim is known internationally for her work in translational and epidemiologic approaches in assessing outcomes in patients with these tumors.

 Dr. Kim recently earned her PhD in Clinical Research at Mount Sinai. She is the former President of the New York Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy. She was recently appointed a Councilor within the GI Cancer Section in the American Gastroenterological Association.  A gifted educator, Dr. Kim has mentored dozens of trainees and has won multiple teaching awards.  Dr. Kim is also an accomplished pianist who formerly attended the Juilliard School.


Cpt. Annie Morgan

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Annie is a Captain in the United States Air Force. She received her commission as an Air Force Judge Advocate in July 2010 and currently serves as an Appellate Defense Counsel assigned to Joint Base Andrews Naval Air Facility Washington, Maryland. She is responsible for representing Air Force members for the United States Air Force Court of Criminal Appeals, the United States Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces, and the United States Supreme Court.

Previously, Capt. Morgan served as a trial defense counsel and a prosecutor. She is admitted to practice law before the Virginia Supreme Court, the Air Force Court of Criminal Appeals and the United States Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces. Capt. Morgan holds a B.A. from Gettysburg College and a J.D. from the George Washington University Law School. 


Natalie Fleming Nolen


Natalie Fleming Nolen is a partner in the Litigation Department of Morrison & Foerster’s Washington D.C. office. Her practice focuses on complex civil litigation with an emphasis on antitrust litigation, commercial litigation, and financial services litigation. Recent representative matters include the defense of a financial institution in a large multi-district antitrust litigation; consumer class actions alleging breaches of contract and violation of the Truth in Lending Act; and representing a large company that was being investigated by regulatory authorities. Ms. Fleming Nolen has strived to increase diversity in the legal profession, including by mentoring young lawyers, being actively involved in recruiting efforts, and being a member firm committees and affinity groups. For her efforts, Ms. Fleming Nolen was named a NALP Diversity Champion in 2010.

Ms. Fleming Nolen also has an active pro bono practice. She has represented several clients seeking asylum in the United States, helped young clients obtain Special Immigrant Juvenile Status, successfully obtained humanitarian parole for Haitian women and children impacted by the devastating earthquake in 2010, and represented clients in housing matters including defending against a foreclosure action by a condominium board. In acknowledgment of her dedication to providing quality pro bono representation, Ms. Fleming Nolen was awarded the 2012 New York State Bar President's Pro Bono Service Award in the young lawyer category.

Ms. Fleming Nolen earned her J.D., cum laude, in 2006 from Harvard Law School, where she was an editor of the Human Rights Journal.


Jenn Poggi


Jenn is an assistant professor teaching classes related to photo journalism and narrative development in the School of Photographic Arts and Sciences at Rochester Institute of Technology. Jenn joined RIT following four years at the White House, where she served as a picture editor and deputy director of the Photo Office under President Barack Obama.

She began her career in as a photo assistant with the Associated Press in New York and later worked as a picture editor covering national,international, and sports news. Jenn joined U.S. News & World Report where she worked as a picture editor handling national and political news in the Nation section before serving as deputy director of photography at the magazine. In 2008, Jenn was awarded a John S. and James L. Knight Fellowship at Ohio University's School of Visual Communication where she taught picture editing and completed her masters course work in multimedia and newsroom graphics management.


Laura Sigman

Laura is a physician and attorney who divides her time between the Emergency Department and Legal/Risk Management Offices at Children's National Health Network in Washington, DC. In this role she reviews safety events, advises the hospital on risk-reduction and quality improvement strategies, and leads a committee to improve the effectiveness of safety event reporting. Laura speaks frequently on legal and risk management issues for physicians and on best practices and communication around medical errors and adverse events. 

She completed her medical residency at Johns Hopkins Hospital and is a graduate of Harvard Law School, the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine, and Dartmouth College. 

Prior positions include serving as an Honors Program Attorney at the U.S. Department of Justice, where she litigated health care fraud cases; teaching 10th grade high school science, and conducting research for the National Academies of Science. She serves on the Mid-Atlantic Regional Board and Risk Management Committee of NatureBridge, an organization that provides hands-on environmental education in National Parks. 


Cardinale B. Smith, MD, PhD

Cardinale is an Associate Professor of Medicine in the Division of Hematology and Medical Oncology and the Brookdale Department of Geriatrics and Palliative Medicine at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, and the Director of Quality for Cancer Services, Mount Sinai Health System. She is a clinician investigator whose research interests include evaluating treatment disparities in cancer care, evaluating determinants of cancer patients' quality of care, characterizing barriers to optimal cancer and palliative care, and developing approaches to eliminating those barriers among racial and ethnic minorities. 

Dr. Smith is a 2013 recipient of a mentored research scholar grant from the American Cancer Society to evaluate determinants of disparities in the utilization of palliative care among patients with lung cancer. Additionally, she is a co-investigator on a Patient Centered Outcomes Research Institute grant to teach and enable goals of care conversations among oncologists. Dr. Smith has had numerous publications in peer-reviewed journals, and is the recipient of the 2014 American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine "Inspiring Hospice and Palliative Medicine Leader under 40" award. 


Nancy Spencer

Nancy is the Associate Head of School at Westminster School, a coeducational boarding and day school located in in Simsbury, Connecticut.  In her role as Associate Head, Nancy oversees all daily operations, manages faculty recruitment and hiring, and assists the Board of Trustees with strategic planning.  Her focus has been working with students, faculty members and administrators on issues surrounding diversity, balance, community and character.  Nancy also teaches a senior history elective called “Outsiders in America” and helps coach the cross-country team.

Nancy is a graduate of the National Cathedral School for Girls.  She received her bachelor’s degree in American Studies from Brown University and her master’s degree in American Studies from Yale. She also holds an M.B.A. from Northwestern University’s Kellogg School, where she was an F.C. Austin Scholar for exceptional leadership in academic and professional endeavors. She received a Klingenstein Summer Fellowship at Teachers College of Columbia University, and a National Endowment for Humanities fellowship. Formerly the Director of Admission & Financial Aid at The Bullis School in Potomac, Maryland, she has also taught and been an administrator at Albuquerque Academy in New Mexico. Nancy started her career as Assistant Director of Admission at The Madeira School, an all-girls boarding school in McLean, Virginia.

Nancy enjoys traveling, reading and being with her family.  She lives on Westminster’s campus with her husband, fellow educator and artist John Sandoval, their two children Stanley and Sally, and Henry, their Old English sheepdog.


Jennifer Stimson

LCDR Jennifer Stimson is a Senior Instructor of Mechanical Engineering at the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, MD. She is responsible for the moral, mental, and physical development of Naval Academy Midshipmen. LCDR Stimson also serves as a mentor to aspiring Naval Officers, spearheading the Women's Surface Warfare mentoring initiative. 

A 21 year Navy veteran, Jennifer's prior experience includes a Global War on Terrorism Support Assignment at Bagram Air Force Base in Afghanistan. As well as shipboard assignment throughout the world including assignment as Chief Engineer of a Guided Missile Destroyer, and Executive Officer of a Mine Countermeasures Ship. Shore assignments included a tour as the Operations and Training Officer for Commander Mine Countermeasures Squadron 2.

Jennifer holds a Master's of Public Administration from Keller Graduate School of Management and a MS in Systems Engineering & Analysis from the Naval Postgraduate School. Additionally, she holds a certification in Joint Professional Military Education from the United States Naval War College, and a certificate in Systems Engineering from the Naval Postgraduate School. Her personal awards include a Joint Service Commendation Medal, two Navy Commendation Medals, two Navy Achievement Medals, the NATO Service Medal, the International Security and Assistance Force (ISAF) Service Medal, and the Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal.


Suman Sureshbabu

Suman Sureshbabu joined The Rockefeller Foundation in 2008. As an Associate Director, she identifies and works with Foundation grantees and partners, and leads strategic development and execution of current and emerging Foundation initiatives. Her work at the Foundation focuses on urbanization, resilience, agriculture, and rural energy access. She has completed assignments both with the Africa and Asia regional offices.

Prior to joining the Foundation, Ms. Sureshbabu focused on supporting women’s economic development and community based development. She worked in the Upper East Region of Ghana as a Fulbright scholar and micro-finance project manager. Previous experience includes consultancies with UNDP-Malawi, Environmental Defense Fund, Oxfam America, and the Association of Women Entrepreneurs of Karnataka.

Ms. Sureshbabu received a Bachelor of Arts degree in political science from the Johns Hopkins University and a Master’s in Public Affairs at Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs.


Leseliey Welch

Leseliey Rose Welch, MPH, MBA was appointed Deputy Director of the City of Detroit Health Department in January 2016. Ms. Welch oversees Population Health Divisions for the $30 million dollar, multi-site, 200 team member, Detroit Health Department. She is honored to be part of the leadership team that is rethinking, re-envisioning, and recreating a model public health department for Detroit. In under a year, she managed the growth of finance and operations from a general fund investment of $1.7 million and four City employees to $5 million and 50 City employees, directing budgeting, hiring and new facility acquisition. She is especially proud of creating SisterFriends Detroit, a volunteer movement that promotes better birth outcomes by supporting pregnant women and their families and growing community leaders. Ms. Welch has over a decade of progressive leadership experience in public health, serving as an administrator, strategist, fund developer, and consultant in state, city, and national nonprofit health organizations.

She is a Lecturer in the Women’s Studies Department at the University of Michigan, where she teaches a course on women’s leadership, and she will be working with Wayne State University to offer an urban public health leadership course this spring. She earned her undergraduate degree in Women’s Studies, Masters in Public Health with a certificate in Women’s and Reproductive Health, and Masters in Business Administration from the University of Michigan. She serves on the board of the James and Grace Lee Boggs School in Detroit and on the SisterLeaders Council for Birthing Project USA.