2021 Influential Women Award Winners
Executive Director, Guinn Center
Dr. Nancy Brune, Ph.D. has worked tirelessly to advocate for policies that help Nevadans. She has built Nevada’s only statewide, nonpartisan research center/policy lab (Guinn Center), has published policy reports that have informed legislation, and has successfully written grants bringing more than $20 million to Nevada. In 2016, President Obama appointed Nancy to the President’s Advisory Commission on Educational Excellence for Hispanics. Her analysis has been used to inform policy discussions and the design and support for various legislative proposals in Nevada. Nancy helped design and launch Nevada 95, a civic engagement project that addresses youth health outcomes. Prior to joining the Guinn Center, she worked on issues of national security, energy security, and homeland security in addition to consulting and teaching. She currently serves on the boards of Nevada Humanities and Preserve Nevada and is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition, the Climate and Security Working Group, and the Pacific Council on International Policy.
Chief Executive Officer, JOIN Inc.
Denise Castle is an extraordinary example of a trailblazer, a visionary leader, and an influential woman in the Sierra Nevada region. Her passion and commitment to breaking the cycle of poverty has led her to spearhead new programs and provide much-needed workforce development solutions to Northern Nevada. As CEO of JOIN Inc., an organization dedicated to addressing Nevada’s workforce needs and creating a pipeline of skilled and work-ready individuals across the state, Denise has recently focused on deploying emergency assistance to those whose careers were affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. With Denise’s guidance, JOIN provided career exploration and training to over 1,200 Nevadans who needed it the most in 2020-2021. Her leadership positively impacts local businesses, schools, and individuals in urban, rural, and frontier communities throughout the region.
CEO & Communications Strategist, IC Media Strategy
Ivet Contreras is a professional communications expert and award-winning bilingual journalist who rises above the occasion and executes all of her ideas with professional respect. She is a prominent influencer in the Hispanic community and the only Latinx outreach coordinator in Northern Nevada. In May 2018, Ivet used her experience in the newsroom to launch IC Media Strategy. She not only does national press for Alexandria Ocasio Cortez but she also focuses on the multicultural local community, giving Latinos, Blacks, Asians, and other multicultural communities a voice. She is always there to help anyone in need and does it with a warm heart and a smile. Because of her, there is more inclusivity at the local, state, and national level. Ivet is an example to follow and a leader in our state. She is purely a boss woman who achieves the American Dream everyday!
President & CEO, PK Electrical, Inc.
Karen Purcell is a trailblazer in Northern Nevada. She founded PK Electrical 25 years ago and continues to manage the successful thirty-six person electrical engineering, design, and consulting firm today. In this male dominated field, Karen has created opportunities for aspiring female engineers and provided resources supporting women in STEM. Karen’s book, ‘Unlocking Your Brilliance: Smart Strategies for Women to Thrive in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math” draws on her successful engineering experience to inspire young women to enter into and remain in science, technology, engineering and math related careers with full confidence. She is an active member of the JUSTin Hope Foundation and the board Treasurer of the Nevada Women’s Fund.
CFO & Product Development, Shortie’s Candle Company
Entrepreneur Georgia Vanderville has become a sought after international keynote speaker and entrepreneurial leadership expert with influence over several industry segments including women in business, personal growth, and manufacturing and development. Georgia has had the opportunity to teach, speak, and connect to audiences from teens to business owners across the world. She speaks and leads from her heart, gut, and soul, connecting to create change with her audience and increase their mental vision of themselves. Georgia has consistently uplifted everyone she comes into contact with – personally and professionally. She has turned every trial life has thrown at her into an opportunity for growth and positivity. As the creator of the YouTube video series “Ladder Lessons,” she promotes personal development. Georgia cares deeply about the community. She organizes a trash clean-up and works with “Our Center” to help support mental health for the LGBTQ community.
Nevada Region Market Vice President, United Federal Credit Union
Meredith Williams is phenomenal because of her leadership and influence in our region and in the community. As Market Vice President for United Federal Credit Union, she held us strong through the pandemic and showed us how not to give up and how to continue to move and give our best every day. She built a reputation of by being trustworthy and dependable and of acting with goodwill. Her compassion, dedication, and leadership earned the people’s respect in the credit union and the community. She is a strong and kind-hearted woman, serving the community as a board member of Big Brothers/Big Sisters of Northern Nevada and the Reno Sparks Chamber as well as Junior Achievement of Northern Nevada.
Co-Founder, Shades of Queening Women’s Empowerment Group
KaPreace Young is the Outreach Coordinator for the Center for Student Engagement at the University of Nevada, Reno, where she is also a two time Black alumnae, the co-creator of the Black Student Resource Guide, part of the Black Leadership Committee and Black at the Pack Affinity Group. KaPreace is not only devoted to her job as a higher education professional where she is constantly promoting Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, but is also a devoted member of her community. KaPreace is the co-founder of Shades of Queening Black Women’s Empowerment group that focuses on uplifting, empowering and supporting Black females from ages young to wise in the Northern Nevada community. She is an advocate and an activist for the progression of the Black community not only in Reno, but in this country. She has done so much for the community and is always willing to uplift and empower her peers as well as our local youth.
Owner, Tiffany Young Consulting, LLC
Tiffany Young has been a mentor, community collaborator, program leader, mother, and friend to many. She has been a spokesperson for the community, diversity and equitable practices, student achievement, and community and economic development. At the Washoe County School District, she has worked on creating and facilitating professional learning around Equity and Cultural Competency. Tiffany also owns the consulting business, Tiffany Young Consulting LLC and is an Adjunct Professor in the Human Development and Family Studies Department at UNR. In 2019, she traveled to Zambia to co-facilitate a Training of Trainers model for girls under the age of 25 and educators from peri-urban areas as part of the Mandela Washington Fellowship Reciprocal Program. She is an incredible leader who has the ability to change how people see their role within society, their community, and within an organization. Tiffany is going to improve Northern Nevada in the next few years and decades, even more than she already has in her many roles as community leader.
Attorney / President, Attorney Marilyn D York Inc.
Marilyn York’s law firm, which she has grown into the largest exclusive family law firm in Northern Nevada, focuses on protecting men’s rights in divorce and family law matters. She believes that the security of a family should never be threatened and is a strong advocate for fathers. She inspires many through her work as a business leader, successful attorney, and mentor. Marilyn regularly does pro-bono and reduced fee legal work. She serves as Board President of both the Nevada Youth Empowerment Project (NYEP), a local community living program that houses and helps otherwise homeless girls ages 18-23 become self-supporting, and the Truckee Meadows Housing Solutions, a local charity devoted to the development of local affordable and low-income housing. Her 2020 TedX talk about the value of a father in a child’s life has earned millions of views on YouTube and she is a frequent contributor to the RGJ with her “Ask Marilyn” advice column.
Director and Chief Curator, John & Geraldine Lilley Museum of Art
Since taking the helm at the Lilley Museum in 2019(ish), Vivian Zavarato has diversified the Museum’s collection, sought to encourage community involvement in the arts with engaging programming, and is seeking accreditation, which would make the Lilley only the second accredited fine arts museum in Northern Nevada.
2021 Special Awards
Young Leader | Samantha Glover
Co-founder & Executive Director, Red Equity
This award recognizes someone who demonstrates wisdom beyond their years through selfless contributions to others.
Transformational Leader | Annamaria Cavallone
Co-founder, Latino Arte and Culture
The Transformational Leader award is intended to recognize a person who is committed to identifying change by creating a vision through inspirational leadership and executing the changes with committed members of a group for the benefit of others. The person is a consummate innovator, who is solution driven and community-minded.
Trailblazer | Violet Richards
Ranch Foreman, El Rancho del Corazon Quebrado
Trailblazers break down barriers, create paths that aren’t already there and show us what is truly possible.
Philanthropic Leader | Bronagh Kelly
Attorney, Woodburn & Wedge
A Philanthropic Leader demonstrates altruistic concern for human welfare and advancement, as well as a generous spirit and a deep desire to make a difference for the greater good.
Inspiring Community Leader | Dani Tillman
Executive Director, Ridge House
An Inspiring Community Leader is values-driven, and breaks through expectations, without compromising who they are, to achieve results.
Voice of Inspiration | Connie Wray
Owner, Connie Wray Inc.
The Voice of Inspiration Award recognizes a person who has served as a conduit of positive influence in the Northern Nevada community and who uses her voice to make our community stronger.