Women We Admire is pleased to announce The Top 50 Women Leaders of Nebraska for 2024. Nebraska is well known in the US and around the globe as a producer of quality corn. And while agriculture continues to be important to the state, many more industries now thrive in modern-day Nebraska. Some of the more prominent sectors in the Cornhusker State include health, banking, Insurance, manufacturing, and transportation, as well as a number of services like government, real estate, finance, and utilities. 

In the real estate sector, we celebrate the career of Marcella Thompson. She serves as the Senior Vice President of Corporate Environmental Sustainability at CBRE, the world’s largest commercial real estate services and investment firm. Thompson specializes in sustainability and environmental, social, and governance (ESG) initiatives. 

We also acknowledge the accomplishments of transportation executive Lori Lentsch, the Deputy Chief Information Security Officer for Union Pacific Railroad. Lentsch has been with Union Pacific for 17 years, and in this time, she has remained committed to mentoring women entering STEM fields and advocating for women in leadership roles. 

Finally, we extend our honors to the financial and technology leader Courtney Grassau, who leads the Customer Success, Business Strategy, Leadership, and High-Risk Industries at PayPal, where she excels at driving large strategic sales motions and building client-focused relationships.

Please join us in celebrating the accomplishments of The Top 50 Women Leaders of Nebraska for 2024.

1. Marcella Thompson
Senior Vice President, Corporate Environmental Sustainability, CBRE

Marcella Thompson is the Senior Vice President of Corporate Environmental Sustainability of CBRE. CBRE Group, Inc., a company headquartered in Dallas, is the world’s largest commercial real estate services and investment firm. The company has more than 130,000 employees, including Turner & Townsend employees, serving clients in more than 100 countries.

Thompson’s specialties include environmental, social, and governance (ESG), sustainability, and corporate responsibility strategy that connects to a purpose-driven future. She influences the planning, design, and construction of sustainable infrastructure across diverse sectors and geographies. She has expertise in greenhouse gas emissions accounting and a deep understanding of decarbonization pathways. Thompson is a skilled communicator with an eye for interpreting complex data sets and bringing sustainability concepts to life in presentations, writing, and other media. She engages stakeholders to influence change and do more together, communicating in a way that tells a story, builds brands, and inspires trust.

Thompson got her start in 1997 as an assistant recycling coordinator at Emory University. From there, she went on to Chattahoochee Nature Center, before eventually rising to area business group manager and vice president at HDR, her most recent position before joining CBRE. Thompson graduated from Emory University with an undergraduate degree in economics and environmental studies.

3. Becky Watkins
SVP of Relationship Management, ResultsCX

Becky Watkins joined ResultsCX in 2017. She is currently Senior Vice President of Relationship Management, where she is responsible for building integrated go-to-market strategy for business development and serving as the senior point of contact for all clients. ResultsCX is a leading provider of transformational Customer Experience Management (CXM) solutions to over 75 global brands, including Fortune 100 and 500 companies. 

Watkins brings over 30 years of experience in the BPO industry, including 10 years dedicated to healthcare solutions and outsourcing. Prior to ResultsCX, she held several leadership roles, growing large global accounts, while improving customer satisfaction and bottom-line performance. As vice president of healthcare client solutions at Alorica, she was responsible for driving strategic growth and client satisfaction for large payer and PBM accounts. Prior to that, she was vice president of healthcare at Expert Global Solutions, where she was responsible for strategic account planning for Fortune 100 healthcare clients. 

Watkins graduated from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Outside of her work life, she finds joy in watching women's volleyball, with the Nebraska Cornhuskers being her team. She has had the pleasure of playing and coaching over the years and appreciates the camaraderie and teamwork that define women's volleyball. Watkins is an Executive Sponsor for the ResultsCX R.E.A.L. Women initiative. 

4. Karen Tatten
EVP of Strategic Channel, Experian

Karen Tatten is the Executive Vice President of the Strategic Channel of Experian, the world's leading global information services company. They help individuals to take financial control and access financial services, businesses to make smarter decisions and thrive, lenders to lend more responsibly, and organizations to prevent identity fraud and crime.

As a thought leader and client-focused business strategist, Tatten focuses on solving complex problems through innovation. As a Women in Experian Ambassador, it is her mission to help women take the next step in their career journey. She loves inspiring others to learn, grow, and get comfortable being uncomfortable. This becomes a catalyst for new ways of thinking and sustainable strong results. Tatten excels in looking beyond what is possible and raising the bar to envision how client engagement and employee culture will benefit their people, the business, and the bottom line.

Tatten got her start in 1989 as a vice president of sales and business development at First Data Corporation. She graduated from the University of Nebraska at Kearney.

6. Lori Lentsch
Deputy Chief Information Security Officer, Union Pacific Railroad

Lori Lentsch is the Deputy Chief Information Security Officer of Union Pacific Railroad. The Union Pacific Railroad is a Class I freight-hauling railroad that operates 8,300 locomotives over 32,200 miles of routes in 23 US states west of Chicago and New Orleans. Lentsch leads teams that secure endpoints, provision access, protect sensitive information, identify system vulnerabilities, and ensure compliance with regulations and cybersecurity policies. She is widely respected for her ability to work with cross-functional teams and resolve conflicting priorities. She currently participates in the Industry’s Rail Information Security Committee, which brings together the cybersecurity leads of all Class 1 Railroads to ensure the industry’s critical infrastructure protection efforts for cyber.

Lentsch is a 17-year member of Union Pacific’s Women’s Initiative, LEAD, where she has served as executive director and chaired several committees. In these roles, she has mentored women entering their STEM careers, built relationships with women across the company, and advocated for women pursuing STEM careers in cybersecurity, technology, and engineering teams across the railroad. She has also held chairperson roles for committees within the Company’s Parent Partnership Group. 

Lentsch graduated from Creighton University with an MBA and from South Dakota State University with an undergraduate degree in mathematics and computer science.

8. Samantha Morris
Vice President of Digital Sales, iHeartMedia

Samantha Morris is currently a Vice President of Digital Sales at iHeartMedia, bringing experience from previous roles at iHeartMedia, Clear Channel Radio, and You Matter Omaha. She first joined the company in 2012 as a digital advertising coordinator. iHeartMedia is the number one audio company in the United States, reaching nine out of 10 Americans every month. It consists of three business groups. With its quarter of a billion monthly listeners, the iHeartMedia Multiplatform Group has a greater reach than any other media company in the US Its leadership position in audio extends across multiple platforms.

With over 10 years of experience working with companies across multiple media forms, including broadcast audio, streaming audio, podcasting, video (both long and short), social media, email, and display, Morris has honed her skills in helping businesses reach their full potential. Her expertise spans graphic design, web design, social media, event planning and promotion, branding, and marketing. She is passionate about connecting with fans and consumers, educating them on the value her company can provide.

Previously, Morris was a marketing specialist at You Matter Omaha. Before that, she was a graduate assistant for graphic design at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Campus Recreation. Morris earned an MA in Marketing, Communication, and Advertising from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and an undergraduate degree in graphic design from Arkansas State University.

10. Colleen Block
Senior Vice President & Practice Leader, Lockton

Colleen Block is the Senior Vice President and Practice Leader of Lockton, an American company that provides insurance, risk management, and employee benefits. It is the world's largest privately held insurance brokerage firm. In addition to its Kansas City, Missouri headquarters, Lockton operates more than 130 offices and transacts business in more than 140 countries. Lockton currently employs more than 10,750 people worldwide. 

At Lockton, Block has been serving in her current position since November 2023, where she is responsible for client retention and growth and ensuring her team delivers service excellence. She fosters a deep understanding of each client's business needs and ensures the execution of each client's overall strategic plan aligns with key objectives. Prior to this, she held various positions within Lockton, including vice president and unit leader, where she exhibited strong leadership and strategic advisory skills. 

Before joining Lockton, Block gained experience at Grace/Mayer Insurance Agency, Inc., where she served in account services for nearly five years, developing expertise in client management and strategic planning. Throughout her career, she has demonstrated a commitment to providing quality service and building strong client relationships.

12. Kelly Cawcutt
Medical Director of Infection Prevention & Hospital Epidemiology, Nebraska Medicine

Kelly Cawcutt is the Medical Director of Infection Prevention and Hospital Epidemiology at Nebraska Medicine. Formerly The Nebraska Medical Center, Nebraska Health System, Nebraska Medicine is a private not-for-profit American healthcare company based in Omaha, Nebraska. 

Cawcutt is actively engaged on a national level with the Infectious Diseases Society of America, the Society of Critical Care Medicine, and the Society of Healthcare Epidemiology of America. Her passion lies in the prevention of hospital-acquired infections, the utilization of social media in medicine, and faculty development, particularly focusing on advancing the careers of women in medicine. Additionally, she harbors a strong enthusiasm for both personal and professional development.

Previously, Cawcutt was an assistant professor at Mayo Clinic. Earlier in her career, she worked with the University of Minnesota as an internal medicine resident. Cawcutt earned an MD in medicine from the University of Minnesota Medical School.

View the complete list of awardees.

15. Kristen Erickson
Vice President of Finance, Right At Home

Kristen Erickson is the Vice President of Finance of Right At Home. She first joined the company in 2015. Right at Home is a global senior home care franchise corporation with a mission to improve the quality of life for those they serve. 

An experienced vice president of finance and controller with a history of working across various industries, she brings a strong background in accounting to her role. Skilled in financial accounting and reporting, audit, tax preparation, and management, she has nine years of public accounting experience and over ten years of private company accounting experience, making her a seasoned accounting professional. Prior to joining Right at Home, Erickson spent two years as a team leader with a publicly traded company, supporting international accounting. Prior to that, she spent nine years in public accounting, where she managed audit engagements and prepared tax returns for companies operating in various industries. 

Erickson has been a certified public accountant since 2007 and is a member of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants and the Nebraska Society of Certified Public Accountants. She earned a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration and an MBA from Creighton University. Kristen and her husband Trent have one child and enjoy spending time outdoors and traveling.

17. Lisa Schmitz
Regional Vice President of Operations, CommonSpirit Health

Lisa Schmitz is the Regional Vice President of Operations of CommonSpirit Health, a health system based in the United States, the country's largest Catholic hospital chain and its second-largest nonprofit hospital chain. Schmitz has been a qualified leader in the healthcare industry for the past 23 years. 

Schmitz is no stranger to home health and hospice care, having spent 11 years as a director of clinical services over hospice and an executive director of home health, hospice, and palliative medicine program, where she experienced four years in a row of 0% turnover and grew the community-based palliative program. As a director over multiple sites, Schmitz led the transition from a paper charting system to the EMR system of homecare home base in hospice and home health.

Previously, Schmitz spent two years as a hospital charge nurse and ten years in long-term care as a quality assurance coordinator, care plan coordinator, and assistant director of nursing, along with the director of nursing. She is passionate about caring for individuals in the setting they consider their home and those who care for them. Schmitz holds an Associate’s degree in Registered Nursing.

18. Jamie Peters
Assistant VP of Operating Services, Union Pacific Railroad

Jamie Peters is the Assistant Vice President of Operating Services of Union Pacific Railroad. She first joined the company in 2020 as general director of corporate strategy. One of America's most recognized companies, Union Pacific Railroad connects 23 states in the western two-thirds of the country by rail, providing a critical link in the global supply chain.

Over the course of her over 20-year career, Peters is a trusted leader with diverse experience in P&L management, supply chain operations, strategy development, competitive market analysis, & B2B sales. She takes pride in learning aptitude, the ability to turn complex ideas into concrete results, and the agility to shift with dynamic business needs. Previously, Peters was a general director of cold connect at Loup Logistics. Peters earned an MBA and an undergraduate degree in business, management, marketing, and related services from Creighton University. 

19. Lisa McKee
Founding Partner, American Security and Privacy, LLC

Lisa McKee is a Founding Partner of American Security and Privacy, LLC. She has over 20 years of industry experience. She provides security and privacy services, assessments, training, program development, and leadership as a virtual Data Protection Officer (vDPO) for companies globally. McKee has a PhD in Cyber Defense with an emphasis in Privacy. She is a highly regarded privacy expert, international speaker, and keynote events worldwide. She is a member of the Accredited Standards Committee X9 and provides input on industry standards. 

McKee is passionate about privacy and shares her knowledge as an APMG Certified ISACA Trainer, volunteer on boards for several professional groups, mentor, professor, and research advisor for graduate students. She has authored several publications, including a Data Privacy Management textbook.

Previously, McKee was a member of the faculty at Dakota State University. Before that, she was a director of governance, risk, compliance, and privacy at Hudl. Earlier in her career, she worked with First National Bank of Omaha as a manager in payment processing.

20. Heidi Grunkemeyer
Vice President University Communications and Marketing, Creighton University

Heidi Grunkemeyer is the Vice President of University Communications and Marketing at Creighton University. Grunkemeyer has over 20 years of experience in the marketing and communications industry, working with big and small companies. Grunkemeyer attended Creighton University and earned a BA in Journalism. As VP, she leads a team of professionals dedicated to enhancing the university's reputation, visibility, and engagement. She oversees the development and implementation of branding, marketing, web, social media, communications, and media relations strategies, as well as managing the university's budget and resources. 

With prior leadership roles in advertising agencies, Grunkemeyer brings extensive experience in account management and strategy development, enabling clients to achieve their business goals. Throughout her career, she has demonstrated skills in brand development, digital marketing, email marketing, and marketing communications. As a Creighton University alumna, she is driven by the university's mission and committed to advancing its vision and values while fostering a culture, where teams can excel and bring best-practice marketing communications to life.

Grunkemeyer started her career at Bozell, an advertising agency, in 1996. There, she worked as an account supervisor before moving on to Alegent Health, where she became the operations director of marketing and communications. In 2004, Grunkemeyer joined Catholic Health Initiatives as their marketing and communications director. In 2013, Grunkemeyer left Catholic Health Initiatives to join Swanson Russell as her vice president and account director, where she worked with clients to develop strategic marketing plans and brand development. After four years with Swanson Russell, Grunkemeyer returned to Creighton University in 2017 to take on her current role. 

22. Lisa Vail
Vice President of Patient Care Services, Bryan Health

Lisa Vail has a wealth of experience in the healthcare industry, with a strong background in patient care services. Vail currently holds the role of Vice President of Patient Care Services at Bryan Health. Bryan Health (formerly BryanLGH Health System) is an American not-for-profit healthcare organization located in Lincoln, Nebraska. The system operates an acute-care hospital, several outpatient clinics, and a College of Health Sciences, as well as a physician network and a heart institute.

A visionary, honest, and mission-driven nursing leader, Vail is recognized for her ability to achieve positive outcomes in complex situations. Her uncompromising core values, combined with hard work, dedication, and loyalty, drive her commitment to providing the highest level of patient care while aligning with sound stewardship of limited resources. Previously, Vail was a vice president of patient care at Liberty Hospital. Earlier in her career, she worked with St. Francis Health Center as a clinical director of telemetry.

Vail's educational background includes a Doctor of Nursing Practice in Organizational Leadership from The University of Kansas, a Master of Science in Nursing Administration from The University of Kansas, and a Bachelor of Arts in Nursing from Luther College.

24. Jodi Culp
VP of Gas Supply & Transportation Services, Black Hills Energy

Jodi Culp is the Vice President of Gas Supply and Transportation Services of Black Hills Energy, a customer-focused, growth-oriented utility company with a tradition of exemplary service and a vision to be the energy partner of choice. Culp oversees energy support functions, such as gas control room operations, gas supply services, shipper services, market center services, and non-regulated commodity supply. 

With extensive experience in the natural gas industry, Culp specializes in wholesale trading, marketing, and regulated utility gas supply management. Her expertise spans management, origination, trading, and asset optimization. Her specialties include natural gas trading (both physical and financial), origination, and asset management. Throughout her career, Culp has exhibited a strong understanding of the natural gas industry and a proven ability to manage complex operations and optimize assets to achieve positive outcomes.

Culp has nearly 16 years of experience at Black Hills Energy. Previously, she held positions, including vice president of gas asset optimization and director of gas supply services, where she was responsible for gas load control, load forecasting, gas supply purchases, financial hedging, contract negotiations, and project management. Culp graduated from the University of Nebraska at Omaha with an undergraduate degree in communication. 

View the complete list of awardees.

26. Kate Brown
CIO and Vice President Building Services, Omaha Public Power District

Kate Brown is Vice President And Chief Information Officer of Omaha Public Power District (OPPD). She first joined OPPD in January 2016 as vice president of business technology and building services. OPPD is a public electric utility in the state of Nebraska. It is a publicly owned electric utility in the United States, serving more than 855,000 people in Omaha and 13 surrounding counties in southeast Nebraska.

Brown provides leadership in the continuing effort to develop a robust and innovative business technology environment that maintains a focus on security, developing plans to support business initiatives and business continuity planning. Her oversight includes business technology systems in relation to communications, operations, resource allocation, business applications, information security, business intelligence, and project management. She also oversees facilities services to support the maintenance and care of non-plant building needs. Brown has over 20 years of prior IT experience in retail and manufacturing industries, including Best Buy, Oriental Trading Company, and, most recently, Warren Distribution, where she was vice president of human capital and business systems and, previously, director of Information systems.

She currently serves on the AIM Board, as well as the technology board of advisors for Heartland Family Services, and previously was a member of the AIM InfoTech advisory team. Brown earned master’s degrees in Management Information Systems and Business Administration with an emphasis in Human Capital Management from Bellevue University. She holds a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Wisconsin, Madison.

29. Maria Vazquez
Vice President for Student Affairs, Metropolitan Community College

Maria Vazquez’s dedication to serving others at the local and state levels is evident in the various positions she has held. Vazquez’s current role as the Vice President for Student Affairs at Metropolitan Community College aligns with her lifelong commitment to serving others. Metropolitan Community College (MCC) is a public community college system in the US state of Missouri. Vazquez joined the Metropolitan Community College staff after her time in public service. She has held several positions at MCC over the years. As dean, she managed the overall coordination of Campus and Student Services, administered student conduct and discipline, and oversaw community outreach. 

Vazquez grew up in the South Omaha community. After graduating from Daniel J. Gross High School, she attended Metropolitan Community College and graduated with an Associate of Arts degree. She has since earned her Bachelor’s degree and Master’s degree in Social Work from the University of Nebraska at Omaha and completed her PhD in Educational Administration at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln. As the first Latina to serve on former Omaha Mayor Mike Fahey's cabinet, Vazquez worked as the director of the Greater Omaha Workforce Development. She became a staff assistant to the US Senator Ben Nelson, serving as a statewide community liaison with the Latino and general populations. 

Vazquez serves on numerous community boards and committees, including Fontenelle Forest, Girl Scouts Spirit of Nebraska, Salvation Army Kroc Center, Fraser Stryker Diversity scholarship, and Latino Center of the Midlands Destino Dinner co-chair. She has served on numerous founding boards, such as the Intercultural Senior Center, Heartland Latino Leadership Conference, and the United Latino Endowment. Vazquez has participated in the Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce Leadership Omaha class and the United Way Heartland Blueprint. She mentors many young professionals, served as an MCC TRIO mentor, and currently mentors young people through Partnership 4 Kids and TeamMates.

30. Melissa Newton
Executive Vice President of Talent and Organizational Strategy, Olsson

Melissa Newton is the Executive Vice President of Talent and Organizational Strategy of Olsson. Newton started her career at Olsson nearly 20 years ago by working as an office assistant while earning her degree in business. After hours of sifting through contracts to reorganize the firm’s filing system, she began to develop an interest in how this engineering firm operated its business, paying particular attention to leadership styles within the organization. After graduating, Newton began recruiting employees and handling payroll for, what was then, the 70-person firm.

Newton’s responsibilities shifted as the firm grew to more than 700 employees. She spent several years leading the human resources team with overall responsibility for recruitment strategy, staff retention, performance management, compensation and benefits, and professional development. With a background in finance, Newton led the successful conversion of an integrated financial, project management, and marketing software program in 2006. In 2009, Newton was promoted to senior vice president of business operations and currently leads strategic initiatives for the firm’s Business Operations team to achieve objectives related to growth, profitability, client service, and employee growth and development. She oversees operations for human resources, finance and accounting, IT, marketing, communications, client services, and organizational development. 

Newton earned a Bachelor of Science degree in business administration with an emphasis in finance from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and is currently working on a Master of Administrative Arts in Business from Doane College, where she has focused her research efforts on documenting best practices in successful engineering firms.

33. Mandy Haase-Thomas
Chief Operations Officer, Lincoln Children's Museum

Mandy Haase-Thomas is an award-winning brand and organizational operations director focused on promoting the power of play in early education. In her role at the Lincoln Children’s Museum, Haase-Thomasis is part of the organization’s senior leadership team facilitating the museum’s 72,000 square-foot building operations and visitor engagement functions through directing the facilities, exhibits, education, marketing, membership, and visitor services teams. Her role draws on her strengths of effective communication, education administration, and creativity to provide a superior-level experience for museum guests of all ages.

Haase-Thomas is a national presenter with expertise centered around brand building and business operations. She has presented at the Smithsonian Institution, taught undergraduate and graduate level courses for the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and led workshops for Southeast Community College. She earned her Bachelor's degree in Marketing and her Master’s in Educational Administration from the University of Nebraska. She also holds a Master’s-level certificate in Early Childhood Curriculum from the University of Florida.

Her work has been recognized as part of the national traveling exhibition Titanoboa: Monster Snake, collegiate level textbook Advertising & IMC: Principles and Practice (11th ed.), the American Marketing Association, and the American Advertising Federation. In 2022 Haase-Thomas assisted as an international volunteer with Operation Safe Harbor – Ukraine focused on helping to provide housing, food, and basic necessities to displaced Ukrainian women and children who fled their homeland after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. In addition to her professional roles, Haase-Thomas holds the title of mom to her three children, and she finds fulfillment in her roles as a local Girl Scouts Spirit of Nebraska co-leader and active member of her alma mater, where she participates in various activities supporting educational initiatives.

36. Jen Miller
President, Behlen Mfg

Jen Miller is the President of Behlen Mfg. Founded in 1936, Behlen Mfg. Co. has grown from the initial products developed in the garage of an entrepreneur to a global manufacturer exporting to more than 90 countries. Today, the company consists of diverse business units, including the Behlen Building Systems, Trident Building Systems, Behlen Country (the nation's leading manufacturer of livestock equipment), Behlen Grain Systems, Behlen Joiners (strip joining presses), Behlen Custom Fabrication, Behlen Technology & Manufacturing, and Hilton International Industries. 

With nearly 13 years of tenure at Behlen Mfg. Co., Miller has held pivotal roles in driving growth and operational excellence within the organization. Serving as President since January 2019, she oversees strategic initiatives and operational functions to ensure the company's continued success in meeting the diverse needs of farm and ranch clientele. In her prior role as general manager, she demonstrated strong leadership in guiding the division toward achieving its goals. 

Miller is dedicated to delivering exceptional products and services to customers in the agriculture and construction industries. She graduated from Bellevue University with an MBA in business administration and management. She also has an Associate's degree in Business Administration and Management.

41. Marcie Young
Regional Vice President, Primerica

Marcie Young is a Regional Vice President with Primerica. Primerica has been committed to helping families save and invest for their futures since 1977. With approximately 2.5 million client accounts, they offer the best solutions aimed to help families achieve their financial goals. Marcie joined Primerica 1982 and has remained committed to serving clients with top-knotch financial services for more than four decades.

Marcie serves clients throughout Nebraska, Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, North Carolina and South Dakota. Previously, she was a realtor with HOME Real Estate for over four years. Marcie received an undergraduate degree in interior design from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

43. Lori Houser
Director of Residential Sales, Great Plains Communications

As the Director of Residential Sales, Lori Houser is the driving force behind the MDU/SFU Department at Great Plains Communications, one of the largest privately owned digital service providers in the Midwest. With over 23 years of experience in the communications industry, Houser brings a wealth of expertise in single and multi-family sales, business development, account management, project management, team building, relationship building, strategic planning, market research, sales, customer retention, and recruiting. Great Plains Communications has over a century of experience providing telecommunications services to communities in Nebraska, Iowa, Colorado, and Indiana. 

Since joining the company in 2019, Houser has been instrumental in transforming the MDU/SFU division into a cornerstone of the sales team, achieving a remarkable 100% growth year over year. A native of Omaha, Nebraska, she is passionate about contributing to the development of her hometown and takes pride in her role as a partner in many of its advancements.

Houser previously held leadership roles at Fusion Medical Staffing and Cox Communications. She has two teenage daughters and enjoys spending time with family and friends, camping and glamping, boating, attending concerts, traveling, and meeting new people.

44. Heather Kirk
Executive Director, Santa Monica Women's Halfway House

Heather Kirk is the Executive Director of Santa Monica Women's Halfway House. Since 1972, Santa Monica has administered a caring, comprehensive program for women who desire to live without the burdens of addiction. Santa Monica was the first halfway house in Omaha, Nebraska, designed exclusively for women. 

As the Executive Director for over 13 years, Kirk​​ has demonstrated her expertise in fundraising, nonprofit management, program evaluation, grant writing, and program development. Her leadership has been instrumental in driving the organization's mission and ensuring its continued success in providing essential services to the community. Her journey in nonprofit management began as an administrative assistant at the Santa Monica Women's Halfway House, where she contributed to the organization's operations and growth for three years. Throughout her career, she has remained committed to making a positive impact on the lives of others and driving meaningful change in her community.

Previously, she served as a program coordinator at Heartland Family Service for three years, where she gained valuable experience in program management and coordination. Before that, she worked as a mail handler for the United States Postal Service, where she developed strong organizational and administrative skills over two years. Kirk graduated from Bellevue University with a MPA in nonprofit/public/organizational management and an undergraduate degree in business.

45. Lenli Corbett Kountze
CEO & President, Saving Grace Perishable Food Rescue

Lenli Corbett Kountze is the CEO and President of Saving Grace Perishable Food Rescue, a nonprofit business operating in the Omaha-Council Bluffs metro area. Saving Grace works to connect excess perishable and prepared food from local food purveyors to local nonprofits that support community members in need, while also raising awareness and providing education on wasted food and hunger. 

Lenli is an experienced nonprofit professional committed to elevating organizations to their highest potential. In her previous role as an executive leader for a corporate foundation, Lenli worked between the United States and Canada to guide operations, as well as develop and execute strategy around supporting unserved aging adults. She has also worked as a consultant, collaborating with executive teams to direct organizational change, while assisting in programmatic development and evaluation.

Beyond her work, Lenli serves on the boards of Stephen Center and Joslyn Castle & Gardens, as well as the Creighton University College of Arts and Sciences Deans Advisory Council. She has previously served on the Creighton University National Alumni Board, the Creighton University Recent Alumni Board, Saving Grace Perishable Food Rescue, Benson Theatre Board, and the Community Bike Project Omaha Board. Prior to her work with nonprofit organizations, Lenli worked in college athletics. 

View the complete list of awardees.