Our annual Women to Watch recognizes Southern Nevada women whom we believe are going to make a difference in the coming months. They represent an empowering group.
Women to Watch is an interesting program for a couple of reasons. One, in seeking out our honorees, we don’t rely merely on past behavior — a touch of prognostication is involved. How are each of these women positioned to make 2019 the best year yet? We want to know.
Two, our honorees were chosen by a group with a unique perspective: previous Women to Watch winners. Being chosen as a Woman to Watch is an honor; choosing the Women to Watch is hard work and we appreciate the help of our judging committee. The panel chose leaders in business, philanthropy and health care. It’s an esteemed group of women that VEGAS INC is honored to profile.
Rampart Casino & JW Marriott Las Vegas
Nevada native, Michelle Bacigalupi was exposed to the gaming industry at an early age by her parents, who both worked in casinos.
“I completed a summer internship at Harrah’s in Lake Tahoe when I was in college and was hooked from there,” said Bacigalupi, who holds a degree in journalism from the University of Arizona.
She joined JW Marriott Las Vegas Resort & Spa/Rampart Casino as marketing director in 2011, assuming her current post of general manager and vice president Jan. 1 of 2019. One of a handful of women to serve as GM of a Las Vegas gaming property, she oversees all casino, hotel and resort departments that include more than 1,300 associates, focusing on sales and marketing, operations and construction. She was instrumental in the expansion of the casino slot floor, as well as the addition of a new sports book, a 300-seat bingo room and two new restaurants.
“We are excited to celebrate our resort’s 20th anniversary this year, and have put together a series of events and promotions for our associates and hotel and casino guests to enjoy,” said Bacigalupi. “In addition, we will be completing multiple property renovations this year, including a parking garage expansion and the construction of a brand new Asian restaurant.”
She serves on the community board for Vitalant (formerly United Blood Services), and in partnership with Rampart Casino works with Goodie Two Shoes and Assistance League of Las Vegas.
Director of Sales and Events
Brooklyn Bowl Las Vegas
Santa Monica, Calif., native Jessica Hardt has been immersed in the hospitality industry since the age of 14, starting as a hostess with TGIFridays, then as a corporate server trainer at Margaritaville before moving on to Hard Rock Cafe as a server.
“At Hard Rock, my senior sales and marketing manager saw something in me and offered me a job as a sales coordinator,” said Hardt, who attended Saddleback College and moved to Southern Nevada in 2003. “I hesitated but I knew this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and I needed to do something great for my daughter. With my boss’s guidance and mentorship I am where I am today and I am grateful to still work for her at Brooklyn Bowl, which I joined in May 2014 as sales and events manager.”
Hardt is responsible for a team of five that sells and services the venue to groups of 10 to 3,000 and produces more than $9 million in sales annually.
“I never pictured myself as a director because I’m happy being part of a team and in the trenches, but there were influential people around me who pushed me to believe in myself and I’m so happy I did,” said Hardt, who supports the Susan G. Komen Foundation, volunteers with the Las Vegas Hospitality Association and assists with Fill a Bag with Cheer during the holidays. “There are a lot of exciting things happening for Brooklyn Bowl in 2019, starting with expanding the Vegas team to now include an event services manager.”
Bridge Counseling Associates
Born and raised in Toronto, Merlelynn Harris “was fascinated by mental health and the brain, and how ‘normal’ people could end up behaving oddly,” she said, adding that there was a history of untreated mental illness in her family.
Harris, a former professional basketball player who was a member of the Canadian National Basketball Team and competed in the Olympics, moved to Southern Nevada in 1988 to attend UNLV, earning degrees in psychology and pre-med and a degree in counseling, marriage and family therapy.
She worked in private practice prior to joining the nonprofit Bridge Counseling Associates in early 2015, and has served as clinical director since early 2016. “Bridge provides enhanced comprehensive services onsite for a population that normally doesn’t get good anything,” she said. “We set a standard for not only the underserved but for everybody in Nevada.”
Since Harris joined Bridge, the staff and number of patients served has quadrupled. She supervises the work of 46 dual-licensed clinicians and clinical staff as well as 3,000 Southern Nevada clients undergoing treatment for mental health and addiction issues. Harris is currently developing and leading Nevada’s first urban Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinic — a national designation only attained in eight states — which provides completely integrated behavioral health services to vulnerable members of society. A second such clinic is slated to open this year.
An adjunct faculty member at UNLV, Harris is also the president of the Nevada Association for Marriage and Family Therapy and works with state and local lobbyists during the Legislative session in order to create change in her industry. She supports public radio and public television, and sponsors two children through World Vision International.
Associate Executive Director
The daughter of an Air Force fighter pilot, Melissa Meacham-Grossman settled in Southern Nevada in 1992 to attend UNLV, where she earned a bachelor’s of science in kinesiology.
“When I graduated, it was my intention to pursue a career in medicine, but prior to that I interned in the UNLV sports marketing department and immediately fell in love with college athletics and event production,” she said. “Three weeks into the internship, I knew that this was the career path for me, and I eventually became the assistant athletics director for marketing for UNLV’s 17 Division I sports.”
In 2004, Meacham-Grossman left UNLV to work as a consultant in the sports and event industry with Mountain West Conference Basketball Championships and other events, and had worked with the Las Vegas Bowl for years on the event-production and game-management side before being hired by ESPN Events in October 2008. In addition to working on Las Vegas Bowl, she also manages additional ESPN-owned events including the Wooden Legacy and the College Basketball Awards.
Last year, the Las Vegas Bowl showcased the city to more than 3 million viewers on ABC, hosting more than 35,000 fans at Sam Boyd Stadium, according to Meacham-Grossman, who was instrumental in establishing the Huddle, a group of businesswomen who are passionate about football and using the game to support our community.
“These woman are directly involved in supporting the Bowl’s nonprofit organizations, Goodie Two Shoes and Opportunity Village, serving as community ambassadors during the week of the Bowl and assisting with game-day operations,” said Meacham-Grossman, adding that the program has been so successful other Bowl games across the country have established similar groups.
“As ESPN continues to expand and grow our event portfolio, I know 2019 will bring more of what I love: college football, college basketball, collegiate esports and highlighting some of the country’s top athletes at our awards shows.”
Vice President of Human Resources
Born in Nebraska and a Southern Nevada resident since 1998, Kim Nasuta — vice president of human resources for gaming equipment supplier AGS — admitted that HR was not her original career preference.
“I actually enrolled in cosmetology school and decided not to pursue, and my growth in HR has been from the ground up,” said Nasuta, who landed her first job in HR for TRIRIGA as the executive assistant to the vice president of human resources. “She became my first mentor and taught me everything she knew about HR, and I fell in love with it. She then moved to a new company and brought me along as her director of human resources and I have never looked back.”
Early in her career, Nasuta held HR management positions with various hospitality and technology companies, and spent 10 years as director of HR for SK+G followed by a brief stint as vice president of HR for the Lucky Dragon. She joined AGS in March 2017 as vice president of human resources, and oversees organizational development, recruiting, staffing, employment law, performance management, employee relations, and compensation and benefits. She also manages the global HR team, responsible for driving human resource operations in five United States offices and four international facilities.
“Since I joined AGS, we have successfully recruited and hired more than 300 high-quality team members globally, including staffing new game-development studios,” Nasuta said.
“2019 is looking to be another whirlwind year as we continue our fast growth. I’ll focus on hiring over 100 full-time employees, a tough task in this competitive job market with such a low unemployment rate. We will also continue to progress our veterans’ initiatives, and make further strides in our employee health and wellness programs. At AGS, we are huge supporters of Three Square and Spread the Word and I will continue to spearhead initiatives and other support for both.”
Director of Philanthropy
Goodwill of Southern Nevada
After relocating to Southern Nevada in 1999 from Chicago, Ohio native Jennifer Ramieh got her Las Vegas start at Mandalay Bay in advertising and marketing when the nonprofit sector caught her attention.
“I was always drawn to the work the American Red Cross was doing across the country helping people after disasters, and in 2008, the local chapter had an opening for communications/fundraising,” said Ramieh, who would go on to work in various fundraising capacities and serve as a national spokesperson for the organization. “It was a life-changing experience; the deployments, in particular, had a profound effect on me.”
Ramieh assumed her current role as director of philanthropy for Goodwill of Southern Nevada in April 2018 with one primary objective: to secure funding and develop partnerships that allow the organization to fulfill its mission, which is to offer training and job-placement services for the unemployed and underemployed in Southern Nevada.
Among her recent accomplishments, Ramieh led the team that secured a $1.4 million grant from Department of Labor, which will support transitioning military members and spouses into civilian employment. In 2018 alone, Goodwill helped some 1,400 veterans or their family members with employment services.
Looking ahead, “We are focused on how we can take innovative approaches in reaching individuals who need assistance with finding employment,” said Ramieh, who also supports the ACLU, NRDC, American Red Cross, Golden Rainbow, and Osteogenesis Imperfecta Foundation. “I’m a long way from sitting in the snack bar at the University of Mount Union dreaming about my future, but I wouldn’t change a thing.”
Founder and CEO
Rossetti Public Relations
As a student at UNLV, where she earned a degree in business administration/finance, Baltimore native Amy Rossetti worked as a server at Bellagio’s Osteria del Circo, where fate intervened when she waited on the right table.
“Elizabeth Blau was creating concepts for Steve Wynn, and they would come into Circo for dinner, and over time and many tables, she became my mentor,” Rossetti said. “Working as her assistant was a launchpad to becoming a PR manager and then senior PR manager for Wynn Las Vegas’ collection of restaurants and nightclubs. When Elizabeth left her leadership role with Wynn, I was given the incredible chance to oversee what she had built.”
Rossetti played a role in the openings of Wynn Macau and Encore Las Vegas. In 2010, she helped open The Cosmopolitan as director of public relations, then went on to become a vice president. In March 2017, she combined her passion for PR and her experience in the luxury hospitality industry to create Rossetti Public Relations.
“Attending glamorous openings is part of the gig, but so is hand-polishing 150 crystal tequila glasses for a client’s tasting,” said Rossetti, who works on a national level with celebrity chef Scott Conant, and also opened NoMad Restaurant and Bar inside Park MGM in 2018. “This year will see Rossetti PR ramp up messaging around The Drew, an exciting resort-casino concept developing on the site of the former Fontainebleau. New projects and clients are also on the horizon, with Southern California being a particular focus. Meanwhile, we are on the hunt for the right individuals to expand the company’s offerings.”
Rossetti also sits on the board for Communities In Schools of Southern Nevada.
Vice President, Marketing and Communications
Comprehensive Cancer Centers
“As a child I always saw myself as a woman in corporate America,” said Lisa Santwer. “As I got older I realized I wanted to pair my business sense with creativity and decided to focus my efforts on marketing, advertising, public relations and journalism. I’m a people person and need variety, and my career affords me both of those.”
Santwer leads Comprehensive’s communications valley-wide, spanning more than 550 employees, nearly 50 providers and 15 treatment centers and offices.
“Recently we completed a new advertising campaign with Pierre-Edouard Bellemare from the Vegas Golden Knights,” she said. “Creating campaigns, events and opportunities to bring awareness to cancer, early detection, raise money for cancer research and spotlight our patients is one way to help empower our patients and connect the community with our brand.”
Santwer has spearheaded skin safety partnerships with a number of businesses, providing free sunscreen and educational components for locals and guests. Last year, through a new collaboration with the Nevada Cancer Coalition, Comprehensive added partnerships with Springs Preserve, Downtown Summerlin, Cowabunga Bay and the Cadence master-planned community. Additionally, last month, Santwer managed the grand opening of Comprehensive’s newest treatment center, located in Summerlin.
“In 2019, my goal is to continue to connect the practice and its brand to the community,” said Santwer. “We plan to expand our existing partnerships, and are always evaluating new opportunities to partner on a meaningful and impactful level.”
CFP, Wealth Management Advisor and Senior Vice President
Fifth-generation Nevadan Jennifer Shydler started working at the age of 8, filing and answering phones at the insurance agency her mother owned.
“I would provide auto quotes: ‘Any tickets or accidents? Year, make and model of the vehicle?’ My compensation came in the form of Lee Press-On Nails,” said Shydler.
Since February 2008, she has served as a Merrill Lynch Wealth Management Advisor. She co-manages $750 million in assets for high net-worth families and business owners.
“My office is their one-stop-shop for all things financial and provides boutique, personalized service with Bank of America’s financial powerhouse supporting us,” said Shydler, who was recently honored for the second consecutive year as one of “America’s Top Next Generation Wealth Advisors” by Forbes. “With the economy seeing unprecedented growth and opportunities, it’s more important than ever for me to advise my clients to set goals, revisit their financial plans and set short- and long-term priorities and keep their focus on what’s most important to them.”
Shydler anticipates continuing to grow her business as well as hosting events with her colleagues to engage female clients in her role as Merrill Lynch’s Women’s Exchange president.
“As women seek more financial knowledge and empowerment, money becomes more than just the bottom line — it’s a means to meet our responsibilities, reach our goals and take care of the people we love,” said Shydler, who volunteers with The Tyler Robinson Foundation, Olive Crest, and has served as a mentor with Big Brothers Big Sisters for 11 years.
DREAM Big Nevada
Born in Gomez Palacio, Durango, Mexico, Astrid Silva moved to Southern Nevada when she was 5 years old, growing up undocumented in the United States.
“It always loomed over me and blocked my opportunities,” said Silva, a graduate of Advanced Technologies Academy who holds three associate degrees from College of Southern Nevada as well as a bachelor’s degree in history with an emphasis in pre-law from Nevada State College.
In 2009, after an encounter with then-Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid, Silva got involved with the politics of the DREAM Act and became a poster child for the legislation. Three years later she co-founded DREAM Big Vegas and also worked at the Law Offices of Peter L. Ashman learning immigration law and how it directly affects families in the community. She currently serves as executive director of DREAM Big Nevada, which was chartered in 2017 and opened its doors in April 2018.
Most recently, in December DREAM Big Nevada became an official nonprofit under the IRS, which will provide the organization with the momentum to pursue additional opportunities. As for the organization’s focus in 2019, “More than anything it is growth,” said Silva, who also supports Immigrant Home Foundation. “I am undocumented and I share many of our communities’ paths, but in order to grow our organization we need to be able to blend all these paths. This also includes bringing on more hands so we can provide the best support and harness the power our community has.”
Dr. Erica Stockwell
Founder, President & CEO
A native of Milwaukee, Dr. Erica Stockwell has always been curious and enjoyed working out problems.
“I think my obsession with solving problems is what led me to become an engineer, but my passion for helping and learning about people is what led me to become a doctor,” said Stockwell, who holds a dual degrees in biomedical engineering and physiology with minors in chemistry and psychology from the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities; earned her medical degree from Midwestern University; and completed her residency in obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, where she also conducted research in the biomaterials lab.
In October 2017, she and six other graduates of the MBA program co-founded Doctor Stockwell’s, a DBA under Stockwell Medical Inc, a nutraceutical company designed with women in mind.
“The idea came from my desire to find a better prenatal vitamin for my patients who suffer from morning sickness,” said Stockwell. “Doctor Stockwell’s Prenatal Vitamin is revolutionary. It is the only doctor-formulated prenatal vitamin that dissolves in a beverage of choice, contains all necessary vitamins and DHA, and prevents and treats nausea.”
The company is currently working on more products and strategic partnerships, according to Stockwell, who also plans to continue her medical mission efforts.
Dr. Courtney Vito
Medical Director of Breast Care
OptumCare Cancer Care
Originally from New York, Dr. Courtney Vito, a longtime Southern Nevada resident, attended UNR and earned a degree in health sciences in support of her long-time goal of becoming a physician. Accepted at age 19 to Emory University School of Medicine, she originally planned to pursue a residency in ophthalmology.
“But during my internship year, a pre-requisite for ophthalmology training, I spent several months on a surgical oncology service, mostly doing breast cancer cases, and I was inspired by Dr. William Wood, then the surgical chairman at Emory University and an internationally renowned breast surgeon, to abandon my pursuit of ophthalmology and follow in his footsteps,” said Vito.
She joined OptumCare Cancer Care in September 2017 and serves as the medical director of the breast-care program and breast surgical services.
“I currently oversee the breast care and breast surgery programs,” said Vito, who supports Opportunity Village and FEAT. “I have been working for the past two years to design one of the most integrated, total-care breast centers in the state that will change the face of breast cancer care for women. In May 2019, OptumCare Cancer Center’s breast care program will open, offering women high-risk screening, genetic counseling and testing, all forms of breast imaging and biopsy, and a breast cancer survivorship program integrated with on-site physicians across the spectrum of cancer care.”
Dr. Tracy Wakefield
P3 Medical Group
Native Nevadan Dr. Tracy Wakefield realized that a career in medicine would be an ideal means of harnessing science to work directly with people and improve their lives. To that end, Wakefield graduated from UNR’s School of Medicine, completed a residency in internal medicine and is currently pursuing a master’s degree in medical management from USC.
She joined Summit Medical Group in 1997, and was a leader in the company’s transformation to deliver value-based coordinated care. After Summit Medical Group joined the HealthCare Partners team, Wakefield transitioned from full-time clinician to medical director of adult primary care where she oversaw more than 120 primary care providers.
In May 2017, she transitioned to P3 Health Partners as their vice president of medical management for Arizona operations and, in March 2018, became president of the Nevada Medical Group. She currently leads 35 primary care providers spread among P3’s nine senior-focused clinics throughout Southern Nevada.
Under Wakefield’s tenure, P3 Medical Group opened nine primary care clinics in less than 10 months, welcomed two new Medicare Advantage plans to the Nevada market and built an extensive care team focused on supporting patient wellness. In 2019, P3 Medical Group is focused on growing its patient base and delivering care to seniors.