Women We Admire is pleased to announce The Top 50 Women Leaders of Wisconsin for 2023. Situated in the Midwest, Wisconsin has a mix of urban and rural areas with cities such as Milwaukee, Madison, and Green Bay playing significant roles in its economic landscape. It is home to one of the oldest public universities in the US, the University of Wisconsin-Madison, which serves as a hub for education, research, innovation, and cultural enrichment. With a robust tradition in manufacturing and agriculture, the state is known for its precision and innovation, and companies often take pride in their craftsmanship. The distinguished women leaders on our list this year actively contribute to Wisconsin’s thriving economy, serving in various roles such as engineers, lawyers, C-level executives, doctors, and more.

Among this year’s awardees is Laura Kohler, Chief Sustainability & DEI Officer at Kohler, who oversees the global integration of environmental sustainability and social impact initiatives, driving the company's efforts towards net zero by 2035. Awardee Caroline Burger, Chief Technologist of Stormwater at Carollo Engineers, with over 21 years of experience, specializes in urban stormwater systems' modeling and design, leveraging her extensive understanding of regulatory and policy drivers to anticipate and position projects for success, benefiting both Carollo's clients and staff. Also awarded is Laura Gillespie, Vice President of Women’s Health Initiatives at Hologic, Inc., who spearheads company-wide initiatives to prioritize and improve women’s health globally, collaborating with leaders, representing Hologic at key conferences, and drawing on her extensive experience with grassroots non-profit organizations focused on children’s education and healthcare.

We commend these individuals for their commitment to the organizations they serve. Please join us in celebrating the accomplishments of The Top 50 Women Leaders of Wisconsin for 2023.

1. Laura Kohler
Chief Sustainability & DEI Officer, Kohler Co.

Laura Kohler is the Chief Sustainability & DEI Officer of Kohler and has served on their Board of Directors since 1999. She oversees the company’s worldwide integration of environmental sustainability and social impact efforts. In this capacity, she drives Kohler’s progress towards our environmental, social, and governance efforts, including Kohler’s journey to net zero 2035 and the advocacy and innovation around climate change, access to safe water and sanitation, and water conservation. She also leads the company’s advancement and integration of diversity, equity, and inclusion, fostering a culture of innovation and inclusion in all aspects of the Kohler experience.

Laura began working summer jobs at Kohler Co. during high school. After returning in 1995, she served as VP of communications and then VP of HR in 1999. She was promoted to SVP of HR in 2002 with the addition of labor relations and assumed responsibility for Kohler Stewardship in 2015 and Sustainability in 2018, until assuming her most recent appointment in 2023. Kohler earned a master’s degree in fine arts and theatre from The Catholic University of America and an undergraduate degree in political science from Duke University.

2. Darcy Lorenzon
Vice President, Women's Health, Ascension

Darcy Lorenzon is the Vice President of Women's Health at Ascension. She is passionate about new ideas to make healthcare work for everyone. She has spent years working in the strategic planning trenches of some of the most recognized healthcare systems in the Midwest. She’s drawn to working with teams of people dedicated to creating new and innovative ways to fix what is broken in healthcare today. Darcy is interested in designing new programs for women to engage them in improving their health in ways that work for them. She focuses on bringing people together and looking for common ground to advance the idea or project forward, keeping the focus on the problem they are trying to solve.

Lorenzon first got her start in 1995 as a manager of clinical service lines at Mayo Health System. From there, she went on to Aurora, before eventually rising to become a vice president of planning at ProHealth Care, her most recent position prior to joining Ascension. Lorenzon graduated from Cardinal Stritch University with an MHS in healthcare administration and from the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse with an undergraduate degree in marketing.

3. Jennifer Dietrich
SVP & Head of Global Benefits and Wellness, Fiserv

Jennifer Dietrich is an accomplished global benefits and wellness leader. She stands out for her unique ability to blend empathy and care with behaviors and skills that contribute to the success of the organization while creating a positive employee experience. Her leadership style is marked by a genuine concern for the well-being of employees, coupled with a strategic approach that drives tangible results for the organization.

Known for her leadership, Jennifer goes beyond the traditional role of a benefits and wellness professional. She is a culture carrier, actively engaging with internal and external communities, recognizing the interconnectedness. She listens to the needs and concerns of employees, creating an environment where individuals feel heard and valued. This approach fosters a culture of collaboration and support that is essential for team and organizational success.

Jennifer ensures that benefit and wellness initiatives not only respond to individual needs but also align with the fast-paced nature of the organization. Her fiscally responsible decision-making ensures that programs are not only competitive but also sustainable across diverse regions for both short-term and long-term success.

In addition to being a leader, she is a mentor and guide. She is dedicated to creating an environment where every team member plays a role in shaping the organization's success, where collaboration and mutual support are valued over hierarchy. Her mentoring and guidance are not only about professional growth but also about building relationships and a supportive network within the organization. Jennifer is an approachable benefits and wellness leader, championing a culture of collaboration and empowerment. Her leadership style not only meets the unique needs of the organization and its employees, but also places a strong emphasis on the collective success of the team, creating a workplace culture that sets the standard for well-being, success, and inclusive collaboration. 

5. Nommo Donald
Vice President and COO, Beloit Health System

Nommo Donald is the Vice President and COO of Beloit Health System. She first joined the organization in 2021. Beloit Health System is an independent community health system serving northern Illinois and southern Wisconsin. It offers world-class facilities and services to improve the overall health of the communities it serves with cornerstones for quality, engagement, integrity, and patient satisfaction. Donald is an engaging senior operations management leader possessing a winning blend of team leadership, strategic talent, and communications acumen. She is highly skilled in managing large, complex healthcare organizations to produce exemplary results, via hands-on involvement and cross-functional delegation. 

Previously, Donald was a vice president professional and support services officer at Texas Health Resources and before that an administrative director of primary care for the Ambulatory Care Division at Grady Health System. Earlier in her career she worked with Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University as an associate director. Donald earned an MHA in healthcare administration from The University of Texas at Arlington and an undergraduate degree in organizational management from Wilberforce University.

6. Sara Dwyer
VP of Consultant Relations & Partner Development, Fiserv

Sara Dwyer is Vice President of Consultant Relations and Partner Development at Fiserv. She is the main Fiserv point of contact for the consultant community and serves as their executive sponsor into Fiserv. She partners with the consultants to make sure they have the latest information about Fiserv's strategy and products, improve ease of doing business, and represent the voice of the consultant community within Fiserv. Sara also works with technology firms to evaluate and establish sales partnerships to benefit Fiserv clients.

Prior to joining Fiserv, Sara had over 20 years of experience in the financial services technology sector, including leadership roles in account management and product development at Mastercard, Fifth Third Bank, and CNH Capital. Over her career in financial services technology, she has worked with debit, credit, prepaid, private label, deposit, risk management, commercial, ATM, and lending products. She has a BSBA in Marketing from the University of Dayton and an MBA from DePaul University.

Sara resides in Brookfield, WI with her husband and two sons ages 13 and 11. They spend much of their time going to games and practices for baseball, volleyball, and basketball and enjoy traveling to new places together. When Sara is not cheering on her boys from the sidelines, she enjoys cooking and skiing.

8. Jill Perlberg
VP & Head of Client Experience Marketing, Northwestern Mutual

Jill Perlberg is a Vice President and Head of Client Experience Marketing at Northwestern Mutual. She is responsible for driving new and existing client growth by leading audience segment campaign strategy through the orchestration of omnichannel data/content-driven campaigns leveraging NM’s thought leadership and distinctive offerings, fueling engagement and impact at each stage of the funnel while building trust, conviction, and loyalty. Her responsibilities include new client demand generation/acquisition, deepening and growing existing client relationships, and thought leadership and content marketing. 

With more than 24 years of marketing, digital product, and CX experience, her efforts have ranged from company rebranding and ground-breaking UGC experiments to developing client experience vision and strategy, co-creating an enterprise task force on deepening client relationships and leading the integrated approach and launch of 360-degree brand campaigns. Her career is centered on being a servant and collaborative leader who educates, guides, and drives alignment on complex topics within large organizations to achieve superior results. 

Jill serves as the chair of the ANA Relationship Marketing Committee and as special strategy advisor to Northwestern Mutual’s Hispanic Employee Resource Group (ERG). Before joining Northwestern Mutual, Jill worked with Manpower Group and Chase Bank where she held leadership roles in commercial banking, internal audit, sales, marketing, and digital product. She has a degree in finance from UW-Whitewater and participated in a foreign studies program at HAN University in Arnhem, Netherlands.

9. Antonette Volpendesta
Vice President of Field Marketing, Northwestern Mutual

Antonette Volpendesta is a Vice President of Field Marketing at Northwestern Mutual. She is a customer experience professional with product management and marketing strategy expertise. Antonette is highly successful at driving initiatives from concept through implementation within Fortune 500 and start-up companies. She has an exceptional ability to synthesize analysis and present it in a consumable manner to all levels of an organization. She’s known for her talent at fostering collaborative partnerships with cross-functional teams to deliver efficient, profitable, customer-centric solutions. 

Before joining Northwestern Mutual, Volpendesta was a marketing director for client experience at Charles Schwab and before that a product marketing manager at PocketExpress. Earlier in her career she worked with Embark/College Edge as a product manager. Volpendesta graduated from the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse with an undergraduate degree in business.

View the complete list of awardees

10. Sherilyn Whitmoyer
Vice President, Deputy General Counsel & Assistant Secretary, Quad

As Vice President, Deputy General Counsel, and Assistant Corporate Secretary, Sherilyn Whitmoyer applies her expertise in transactional law to support Quad’s position as a global marketing experience – or MX – company that gives brands and marketers a more streamlined, impactful, flexible, and frictionless way to go to market and reach consumers. Backed by 25 years of legal experience, she leads her team in executing initiatives across corporate development, real estate, treasury, public and regulatory affairs, and enterprise risk management. Her marked contributions toward Quad’s strategic planning process have been critical in the success of the organization’s evolution from an expert commercial printer to a strategic partner that assists clients with every step of their marketing journey.

Since joining Quad as Deputy General Counsel and Assistant Secretary in 2016, Sherilyn has exhibited insightful leadership skills and garnered trust throughout the organization and with stakeholders. She has been instrumental in many complicated transactions, including Quad’s strategic acquisitions of marketing, creative, and digital agencies. Likewise, she has guided Quad through significant divestitures to help maintain the company’s financial strength and advance its MX transformation. She was promoted to Vice President in 2022 to lend increased leadership and guidance to Quad’s corporate development and strategic growth execution initiatives.

Before joining Quad, Sherilyn spent five years with Milwaukee manufacturer Brady Corporation where she served as Assistant General Counsel. She spent the early 2000s at the Milwaukee law firm Reinhart Boerner Van Deuren s.c. as well before running her own firm for four years. Throughout her career, Sherilyn has maintained an impressive track record of tackling complicated, high-stakes deals – all while also solo parenting her three children.

Sherilyn graduated with a bachelor’s degree in English Language and Literature from Purdue University and later earned her Juris Doctor from the Moritz College of Law at The Ohio State University.

12. Janice Simmons
VP & Chief Culture and Learning Officer, Froedtert Health

Janice Simmons is an action-oriented leader of business transformation and people strategy at Froedtert Health. She is actively driving innovative talent management and change programs across all of Froedtert Health. She brings her experiences from leading people strategy and workforce of the future practice as Accenture and leading Johnson Controls’ global organizational learning practice to deliver quantifiable cost savings and employee satisfaction results to Froedtert Health. 

Janice is passionate about creating a culture of innovation, learning, and excellence at Froedtert Health. As the VP and Chief Culture and Learning Officer, she leads the strategy and execution of talent development, leadership development, change management, organization development, and culture change initiatives that support the organization's vision, mission, and values. She brings diverse perspectives and experiences to the team, having worked with various industries, sectors, and geographies. Janice is a passionate advocate for a workplace culture that values diversity and inclusion because she believes it is imperative for a healthy society and workplace. 

Today, Janice is an active member of the Waukesha County Business Alliance and has been a member of the Indiana University Women’s Philanthropy Council for over 10 years. She is a life-long learner and is finishing her Certificate in Strategy from Harvard Business School online. She holds a certificate in neuroleadership from the Neuroleadership Institute and has a PhD in Instructional Systems Technology from Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana. 

13. Denise Starcher
Chief Human Resources Officer, Menasha Corporation 

Denise Starcher has a track record of transforming an organizational vision into reality through sound strategy development. With over 20 years of leading human resources and building productive workforces, Denise intuitively sees threads of opportunities within an organization, helps others extend their thinking, and drives the competitive advantage of human capital. A thought leader, Denise inspires action while at the same time being grounded in financial information and data analytics to leverage business decisions. Respected as a credible voice in decision-making, Denise successfully finds resources, identifies and develops talent, and possesses a balanced leadership style that engages with others on key issues and aligns interests and outcomes.

Currently, as Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer at Menasha Corporation, a privately held, leading corrugated and plastic packaging manufacturer and supply chain solutions provider, Denise oversees the human capital development of a $3+B organization. She is spearheading major strategic shifts that integrate the HR organization to support changes in the manufacturing landscape. This includes identifying how to engage and empower people as artificial intelligence technology transforms the workplace and human resources. 

Denise is distinguished by her ability to identify, leverage, and develop talent at various levels. Throughout her career, she has helped peers and subordinates recognize their unique capabilities and position themselves as high potentials by addressing career strategy, leadership development, professional positioning, and visibility. Denise has a contagious enthusiasm and passionate belief in people that inspires them to become more proud, stronger, and more valuable contributors to their organizations. She has led initiatives to build top-performing organizations with solid management bench strength and staying power. Denise holds an MBA from Georgia State University and an undergraduate degree in psychology from Centre College of Kentucky.

17. Amy Kocourek
Chief Merchandising Officer, Kendra Scott

Amy Kocourek is the Chief Merchandising Officer of Austin-based jewelry and accessories brand Kendra Scott. In her role, she leads all product functions including design, merchandising, product development, production, planning, allocation, distribution, and logistics. Amy is a champion of the brand’s core pillars of fashion, family, and philanthropy integrating these into every customer experience within Kendra Scott.

Being drawn to emerging businesses and change, she has led the incubation of new businesses inside large companies. Yellow Rose by Kendra Scott is the latest example. Amy is a champion for innovation and has forged several unique product partnerships with relevant brands including the most recent Barbie x Kendra Scott collaboration. She sets vision with an eye for what’s next and takes bold action to lead a company’s focus delivering consistent results and accelerating sales year over year. Throughout her career, she has been known for her unwavering passion, clear vision, innovative thinking, and being a change agent.

Before Kendra Scott Amy was an EVP at Kohl's and was a part of the senior team that led the organization through digital transformation becoming a leading omnichannel retailer. Her career spans over 25 years of experience in the retail industry across several channels including vertical specialty, digital to department stores.

18. Julie Furst-Bowe
Vice President for Academic Affairs, Arkansas Tech University

Julie Furst-Bowe is currently serving as the Academic Vice President at Arkansas Tech University, a multi-campus institution in central Arkansas, where she provides leadership to the academic programs, curriculum, and several academic and student success units. Her previous leadership roles have included provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs at the University of Wisconsin-Stout, chancellor of Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, and academic vice president at Chippewa Valley Technical College in Eau Claire, Wisconsin.

In addition to her administrative roles, Julie has also served as a trainer, mentor, and peer evaluator for the Higher Learning Commission for more than 20 years. She has also served on the board of directors for the Wisconsin Center for Performance Excellence, Wisconsin Literacy, Inc., and several other non-profit organizations. She has spoken to educators across the country and around the globe on the topic of leadership and performance excellence in education. Julie holds an undergraduate degree from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire and a doctorate from the University of Minnesota. She was born in Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin, and makes her permanent home in Elk Mound, Wisconsin.

23. Rebecca Goldman
SVP and General Counsel, Optimas Solutions

After twenty years in executive positions at General Electric and Rockwell Automation, Rebecca Goldman is the SVP and General Counsel for Optimas Solutions – a $1B engineered industrial fastener business owned through private equity and an independent director for IEEE GlobalSpec, Inc. She has considerable expertise in risk identification and management and doing business around the globe. Her deep involvement in all parts of the globe gives her perspective on economic and political shifts over time and the ability to uncover anomalies and understand what they suggest for the future direction of a company.

Rebecca began her career in financial management at Johnson and Johnson and later managed financial planning and budgeting for a CIGNA subsidiary. She has applied her financial acumen to the successful turnaround of a private equity-owned credit insurance company which was sold at a premium. She led GE’s Water Business through a series of financially complex acquisitions and integrations. She presently serves on the Finance Committee and Executive Committee of the Center for Independence, a $70M non-profit agency in Milwaukee serving adults and children with disabilities. She also represents Center for Independence on the board of its joint venture with Humana (“I-Care”), a $300M health care provider in Wisconsin and the surrounding states.

Rebecca has been responsible for integrating acquired businesses around the globe. She has recruited and developed teams from Asia, Europe, and Latin America to fill both business and compliance roles. She has managed acquisitions and divestitures in Israel, South Korea, South Africa, Switzerland, the UK, Mexico, and China. In the past twenty years, Rebecca has created award-winning solutions for assessing and mitigating cybersecurity risk among third-party engineering services providers, driving global mobility compliance, and assuring global corporate secretarial compliance. She has a BA in economics from Stanford University, an MBA from the Kellogg School at Northwestern University, and a JD from the University of Dayton. She is a graduate of Harvard Business School’s Executive Education Program for Women on Boards.

28. Carla Kelly
Chief Medical Officer, Advocate Health

Dr. Carla Kelly received her medical degree from the University of Des Moines, completed her internship and residency programs at St. John Detroit Riverview Hospital in Detroit, MI, and completed her master’s degree in medical management at Carnegie Mellon University, Heinz School of Business. She is a clinical adjunct associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology for the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health and recently relocated to Oshkosh, WI during a transition from the role of chief medical officer at Aurora Sinai Hospital in Milwaukee to the market chief medical officer for Oshkosh and Fond du Lac.  During her time at Advocate Aurora Health, Dr. Kelly also served as chief of ob/gyn, director of women’s health at Aurora Sinai Hospital, program director for the Aurora UW Residency Program, and director of patient experience for Aurora UW Medical Group. Her teaching areas of emphasis included colposcopy, the business of medicine, and menopause. Prior to moving back to Wisconsin, she was the medical director of a private practice in Wilton, CT.  

Dr. Kelly is also very involved in global health. She is fluent in French and Haitian Creole and has used these skills to provide medical mission care to the underserved in rural Haiti for the last 12 years. She also serves on the board of directors for the Paine Art Center and Gardens, a preserved historic estate with a mansion and gardens located in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, and for a non-profit Children’s Home of Haiti based in Gressier, Haiti. Dr. Kelly lives with her husband and three adult children.

View the complete list of awardees

30. Jean Horvath
Vice President - Custom & Specialty Products, The Vollrath Company

As Vice President of Vollrath Manufacturing Services (VMS) for The Vollrath Company, Jean Horvath leads the strategy and business development for highly engineered, custom metal components for some of the most well-known and respected brands in the market. In this role, Jean has transformed the business to provide innovative solutions for a diverse customer base that spans medical, water filtration, beverage dispensing, appliances, energy, and consumer products. Her expertise lies in developing and implementing strategies that not only meet but exceed customer expectations, all while driving business success. Jean is known for her ability to inspire and guide teams to achieve their full potential, ultimately delivering exceptional financial outcomes. With a commitment to excellence and a customer-centric approach, Jean is a driving force in achieving business growth and success.  

Jean has a passion for developing young talent and has supported the mission and vision of several organizations through creating leadership development initiatives. She has paved the way by becoming the first woman to hold a sales director position at a major agricultural and construction manufacturer. Her leadership in developing a collaborative business planning strategy and process with independent dealer organizations has ensured mutual success for the business, customers, and partners. She is a member of Chief, an exclusive private membership network focused on connecting and supporting women executive leaders from various industries.

Jean held her current position since 2013 and has helped diversify VMS’s portfolio into dozens of new industries. She holds an MBA from Loyola University - Chicago and an undergraduate degree in economics from the University of Wisconsin - Madison.

34. Shelly Mondeik
President, Mid-State Technical College

Dr. Shelly Mondeik joined Mid-State Technical College on June 1, 2017, as the College’s sixth president. In 2022, Dr. Mondeik celebrated 20 years in the Wisconsin Technical College System (WTCS). Just before joining Mid-State, she served in multiple roles such as full-time faculty, academic dean, and vice president of academics. She has held leadership positions at the national, state, and regional levels and is highly regarded in higher education. She has earned a reputation as a leader who works tirelessly to ensure her college meets student, business/industry, and community needs. 

Believing greatly in the value of partnerships, student success, and building relationships, Dr. Mondeik has led many initiatives such as raising over $23M to construct a new Advanced Manufacturing, Engineering Technology, and Apprenticeship (AMETATM) Center, partnering to build a new health care simulation center along with signing multiple multi-year agreements with public safety entities to keep needed training in their local communities. Under her leadership in 2022-2023—on the heels of COVID, and while many other educational institutions are seeing a decline in student headcount—Mid-State Technical College experienced a 20+ percent increase in headcount, earning the college number one spot in the WTCS for headcount and full-time enrollment (FTE) growth. 

Dr. Mondeik earned a doctorate in educational leadership at Edgewood College. She earned her master’s and bachelor’s degrees in career and technical education at the University of Wisconsin–Stout and an associate degree at Northcentral Technical College. She currently serves on the Aspirus Riverview Hospital Board of Directors, United Way of South Wood and Adams Counties Board of Directors, Wisconsin Rapids Noon Rotary Board of Directors, Wisconsin Women in Higher Education Leadership (WWHEL) Board of Directors, and the University of Wisconsin – Stout Doctoral Career and Technical Education Advisory Committee.

39. Krista Hoglund
Chief Executive Officer, Security Health Plan

Krista Hoglund, Chief Executive Officer of Security Health Plan of Wisconsin, Inc., is a healthcare executive with a track record of building high-functioning leadership teams and developing corporate strategies that work, achieving strong growth and positive financial results. She makes change happen by listening, analyzing, and being willing to take risks.

Krista is a key proponent of the Security Health Plan’s strategic imperative calling for stewardship of financial and human resources. She is highly focused on reducing the total cost of care for Security Health Plan customers and across the health insurance and healthcare industry. As Chief Actuary and Financial Officer, Krista was a key leader in cost reduction efforts at Marshfield Clinic Health System through which Security Health Plan achieved more than $80M in year-over-year savings. She has shaped policy, planning, and analysis guiding the Health Plan’s decisions that affect its financial performance. She has worked especially closely with the financial leadership team at Marshfield Clinic Health System to ensure financial vitality for the Security Health Plan and the Health System overall. 

Prior to being named CEO in 2021, Krista built her career through progressively advancing roles within Security Health Plan’s executive leadership, actuarial, and business intelligence areas, most recently serving as Chief Actuary and Financial Officer. 

Krista is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Stout with an undergraduate degree in applied mathematics and is working toward her master’s degree in business administration. In addition, she completed the Carol Emmott Foundation Fellowship Program, along with a number of additional executive leadership training programs that have created the foundation of her leadership philosophy. She is an associate of the Society of Actuaries and a member of the American Academy of Actuaries.

40. Kelly Helein
Vice President of Business Development, ProCon

Kelly L. Helein is the Vice President of Business Development at ProCon, a leading North American company in paper conversion and sales. With over 27 years in executive roles, she's an expert in marketing, business development, and sales, especially in the specialty paper and flexible packaging industries. Kelly's passion lies in sustainable packaging, where she's a respected mentor and advocate. She's led key commercial initiatives for major consumer product companies and retailers and now drives the development of ProCon's Vireo Coatings unit.

Her commitment to sustainability extends beyond ProCon. Kelly has held leadership roles at the Paper Discovery Center and the Paper International Hall of Fame and is active on the Trout Museum of Art’s Development Committee in Appleton, WI. Globally, Kelly contributes to various advisory boards including Sustainability in Packaging Europe and US, Specialty Papers Advisory Board Europe and US, and the University of Maine Pulp and Paper Foundation Board. Kelly also holds a degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she obtained an undergraduate degree in international relations and foreign policy.

At home, Kelly's life is just as dynamic. Married to Greg for 32 years, they've raised two daughters, a son, and their Berne doodle, Ollie. Kelly enjoys reading, gardening, skiing, cooking, and traveling. She treasures time with her family, walks with her husband and Ollie, and moments with her friends from the Sisterhood of the Traveling Unicorn. Kelly L. Helein's story beautifully blends a successful career with a warm, fulfilling personal life. Her journey, marked by professional achievements and deep-rooted family values, stands as an inspiring example of how one can make a significant impact in their field while nurturing a rich, loving home environment. Kelly's life is a true testament to the harmony of passion, dedication, and the joy of living fully.

41. Kristin Ferge
President and CFO, Capri Communities

As Capri Communities’ Chief Financial Officer, Kristin Ferge is a well-rounded and highly accomplished C-level financial executive and business leader. Kristin’s holistic understanding of sustainable growth coupled with her expertise in the senior living industry has directly contributed to Capri’s growth during her tenure. Since joining Capri in September 2016, the company’s revenue has grown by over 178%. She has been instrumental in enhancing the company’s executive committee to position Capri for continued growth and operational success. Kristin’s specialty is leading fast-paced, dynamic high-growth, and business turnaround initiatives to a successful conclusion. She is able to lead multi-discipline teams across a wide variety of financial areas and brings expertise in both a for-profit and nonprofit setting. She leads capital-raising activities and is also responsible for building relationships with joint venture partners, investment bankers, commercial banks, lessors, auditors, attorneys, and shareholders.

Kristin’s expertise includes debt and equity financing, IPOs, M&A, restructuring, SEC matters, strategic planning, governance, treasury, banking, financial analysis and modeling, financial reporting, and auditing. She also has significant experience working with boards of directors and audit committees. Before Capri, Kristin was EVP, chief accounting officer, and treasurer with Brookdale Senior Living which has revenues over $6B, making it the largest for-profit, publicly traded senior living corporation in the US. She also served as VP and CFO at Alterra Healthcare Corporation, a privately held senior living company, where she was responsible for the financial operations of 300 locations and overseeing a team of 300+ professionals. Kristin graduated with a master’s degree in healthcare administration and finance from the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee and an undergraduate degree in accounting from Marquette University. She is a CPA.

42. Denise Jantzen
Vice President- Commercial Banking, Peoples State Bank

Denise Jantzen earned an undergraduate degree in business administration with emphases in finance and management at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville. She has 25 years of experience in banking and 20 of those years in commercial banking. Jantzen specializes in business lending, including commercial real estate loans, equipment loans, operating lines, online banking, merchant services, and lines of credit. She successfully works with government loan programs to assist small businesses in achieving success. Jantzen is experienced in working with companies in seasonal markets, especially hospitality, retail services, professional service companies, and the unique needs of Northwoods manufacturers. 

Denise joined Peoples State Bank in 2011. Peoples is a community bank headquartered in Wausau, Wisconsin, serving north, central, and southeast Wisconsin from eleven full-service banking locations in Marathon, Milwaukee, Oneida, Portage, Vilas, and Waukesha Counties. Peoples provides financial services to business owners and individuals and investment and retirement planning services through Peoples Wealth Management, a division of Peoples. Peoples was founded in 1962 and has $1.4B in total assets.

Denise’s professional volunteer activities have included focusing on small business start-ups and growth. She served on the Board of Directors for Vilas County Economic Development Corp for ten years. During that time, she assisted in policy and procedures by leading the bylaws update work group. As treasurer, she was part of the Executive Committee and director of the Finance Committee, also assisting in hiring the Executive Director. She has volunteered as a presenter for the Entrepreneurial Workshop Series through Nicolet College, helping new entrepreneurs with banking questions and products available in the local market and government programs. 

43. Rebecca McCormick
First Vice President & Corporate Retirement Director, Graystone Consulting, Morgan Stanley

Rebecca McCormick serves clients with retirement plan strategies by assisting plan sponsors with their fiduciary responsibilities and helping drive better retirement outcomes for plan participants. As a Corporate Retirement Director, she focuses on the retirement plan marketplace and advises corporate retirement plan sponsors and plan participants. She assists plan sponsors by engaging and educating plan participants to demonstrate the importance of a savings plan and guides participants in developing a plan to help achieve a comfortable retirement. Rebecca takes the time to work with participants to structure a portfolio in an effort to help achieve the right balance of risk and return in accordance with their goals.

Rebecca has over 38 years of industry experience, including 28 years at Morgan Stanley, having joined Graystone Consulting Green Bay in 1994. Prior to that, she worked for a retirement plan administration firm and a bank trust department where she garnered the technical knowledge that many retirement plan consultants may not have.

Rebecca enjoys giving back to her local community, and she volunteers her time and leadership to several organizations. She previously served on the Board of Directors of the YWCA Greater Green Bay. She is a warm and friendly person who welcomes the opportunity to meet new people and learn about their life experiences. For fun and relaxation, she enjoys boating, gardening, and spending time with her husband Vince, and their dogs. Rebecca is passionate about the well-being of animals and volunteers her time working with no-kill animal shelters and supporting local organizations, such as the Bay Area Humane Society and Happily Ever After Animal Sanctuary.

View the complete list of awardees

44. Tessa Pelkowski
Vice President of Global Professional Services, Neostella

With over 15 years immersed in the dynamic landscape of technology implementation, support, and operational leadership, Tessa Pelkowski embodies the essence of a startup mentality. thriving as an operations leader and strategically steering growth initiatives while placing unwavering emphasis on customer success. Her philosophy is rooted in authenticity and empowerment. An authentic leader, she advocates for being genuine in every business interaction, believing wholeheartedly in saying what you mean and meaning what you say. Her approach isn’t about being the smartest person in the room, but about assembling the brightest minds, fostering talent, and harmonizing teams into a collaborative force.

At Neostella, overseeing a global workforce of 150+, Tessa has had a hand in every facet – from interviewing and making hiring decisions to nurturing employee advancement. She has held the pivotal role of making operational decisions across divisions and excelled in client relationship management, deftly handling escalations both internally and externally. Her commitment to fostering talent and advocating for authenticity has been recognized by the industry. As a CHIEF & WI Women in Tech member and an awardee of the 2022 Rising Star of Technology in MKE, Tessa champions the ethos of empowerment and honesty in leadership.

Prior roles as director of ops at LCA and director of consulting support services at Assurant were instrumental in the development of Tessa’s expertise, where she had the opportunity to hone skills in strategic decision-making, team collaboration, and elevating operational efficiency. Tessa is resolute in her belief that being true to oneself is the cornerstone of business success, and she embodies the principles of authenticity, empowerment, and unyielding commitment to customer success in every endeavor.

45. Karen Carlson
Vice President of Product, NEOGOV

Karen Carlson is the Vice President of Product of NEOGOV. NEOGOV serves government, public safety, and education customers with comprehensive software solutions. They enable organizations to attract, retain, develop, protect, and nurture top talent, using industry-leading technology to enhance, automate, and accelerate how they serve the people that serve the people. Ultimately, they help customers build sustainable, attractive, and productive work environments while saving time and money.

With 30+ years of experience with public safety, both public and private sector, Karen is a customer-centric leader bringing strengths in developing and implementing solutions to complex challenges with talent for extending company vision when developing strategies and implementing solutions. Over 14 years working within product management and leadership for software solutions at Motorola Solutions, NICE, RapidDeploy, and now NEOGOV, she is passionate about delivering solutions for Public Safety responders and agencies. Carlson graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay with an undergraduate degree in marketing and communication processes.

47. Kim Diamond
Executive Vice President of Customer Success, Membersy

Kim Diamond's professional journey reflects a remarkable commitment to leadership and innovation in the dental industry. As the Executive Vice President of Customer Success, Kim has played a pivotal role in shaping the success and satisfaction of customers. Diamond joined  Membersy with a dedicated focus on delivering exceptional service and support, bolstering the organization’s strategic commitment to fostering strong partnerships and fueling business growth.

Prior to joining Membersy, Kim spent over 15 years at Henry Schein in various leadership roles across sales, customer support, and operational functions. Most recently, she served as a VP of business development where she led a team of business development executives focused on nurturing and supporting dental service organization partnerships. Diamond's legacy in dental innovation and customer success is marked by a dedication to advancing the industry, empowering professionals, and fostering a culture of continuous improvement and success. Kim studied computer information systems at Rutgers University where she earned her business degree.

48. Diamond McKenna
Chief Executive Officer, Diamond Assets

Diamond McKenna is a true embodiment of leadership and community commitment. As the CEO and Co-Founder of Diamond Assets, Diamond has exhibited exceptional leadership in the world of technology and education. Her innovative spirit and unwavering dedication have propelled Diamond Assets to the forefront of the industry, pioneering responsible and efficient management of Apple devices in educational and enterprise institutions.

Diamond's commitment to her community is evident through her past service as a school board member and her active involvement in the local chamber of commerce. She believes in the power of collaboration and community building, and her philanthropic efforts and volunteer work demonstrate her dedication to making the world a better place. A lifelong learner, she is a testament to the idea that growth knows no bounds. She continually seeks knowledge, staying at the cutting edge of her field. Her journey is an inspiration to many aspiring leaders.

Outside the boardroom, Diamond wears many hats with grace and resilience. She's not just a visionary entrepreneur but a loving mother and devoted wife. Her roles as a sister and a friend further reflect her strong and nurturing character, always there to offer support and guidance. For her tireless efforts, commitment to education, devotion to her family, and unwavering support for her community, Diamond is a role model for women in leadership and an inspiration to all who know her.

49. Tracy Ogden
Chief Executive Officer, Boys & Girls Club of Oshkosh

Tracy Ogden joined the Club staff in November 2009. Ogden earned a degree in journalism from the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh. She has worked at local non-profits for the last 15 years and as Chief Executive Officer is responsible for managing the strategic planning and operation of the Boys & Girls Club of Oshkosh in support of the organizational mission and goals.

Ogden first got her start in 2000 as a PR specialist at Moraine Park Technical College. From there, she went on to St. Mary Central High School, before eventually rising to become a community liaison and development director at Building for Kids, her most recent position prior to joining Oshkosh.

View the complete list of awardees