Advancing women entrepreneurs to fuel economic growth in Puerto Rico

Vital Voices Global Partnership and Bank of America will bring together women leaders in the private sector and social enterprise to San Juan, Puerto Rico March 18-22 for the Global Ambassadors Program (GAP), a weeklong initiative to connect women entrepreneurs to mentoring and expertise. Connecting women entrepreneurs to tools and resources that give them the power to succeed is one way Bank of America helps advance economic and social progress.

The Puerto Rico Global Ambassadors Program will pair a diverse group of women leaders of small businesses and social enterprises (mentees) with 10 Global Ambassador mentors, established women executives from a range of sectors and organizations, including Bank of America. The program includes one-on-one mentoring and workshops focused on building business acumen and enhancing skills in key areas such as leadership, financial management, business strategy, and communications.

In particular, the Puerto Rico program will assist women entrepreneurs who are driving economic growth one year after Hurricane Maria’s widespread devastation. From tourism to healthcare to communications, GAP mentees are contributing to the local economy through jobs, revenue and investments in the community.

For more information, visit our Global Ambassadors Program page. Follow @BofA_News and @VitalVoices for updates via #GlobalAmbassadors.

Please see below for our GAP Puerto Rico mentor and mentee pairings.

Puerto Rico Global Ambassadors

Wendy K. White Eagle
President and Chair of the Board, Native Capital Investment, Inc.
Maple Park, IL, USA


Wendy currently leads business development and fund management activities at Native Capital. As a member of the Ho-Chunk Nation, she has firsthand knowledge of tribal operations, from strategic planning to business development.

With more than 25 years of business-building experience in the utility, financial and manufacturing sectors, her specialization is in helping companies build high-performing processes to actualize business impact. Wendy is skilled at integrating various strategic approaches — from Six Sigma to customer relationship management — into organizational culture. She has been intimately involved in the creation of organizational approaches that augment capital infusion and has served to bring core competencies into alignment with these strategy directions.

In addition to her extensive corporate experience, she has been involved in circles of worldwide thought leadership in sustainable business and mindful development. Wendy graduated from Edgewood College with a Bachelor of Science degree in communications and has completed graduate work at the Center for Quality and Productivity, School of Business, University of Wisconsin-Madison. She has also served on many boards of directors, with her most recent volunteer activity in the area of metric impact reporting in the nonprofit sector.

Ana Yris Guzmán
Cofounder and Executive President of Nuestra Escuela, Inc.
Puerto Rico


Ana Yris Guzmán is the co-founder and executive president of Nuestra Escuela, Inc. (Our School, Inc.). Nuestra Escuela is a nonprofit organization founded in 2000 that practices an Alternative Education model for children and young people in the municipalities of Caguas and Loíza.

The center in Loíza empowers children from an early age to enjoy life through education, and the other center provides a life experience for the young who have left school without completing their high school education. They become part of the Nuestra Escuela community, so together they can embrace with love a new lifestyle to accomplish their goals for the well-being of their family, community and country.

Ana is a specialist in the biopsychosocial academic approach and has focused on developing an educational service model that provides students and their families with personal development tools, leadership skills and healing. She has helped to impact and transform the lives of thousands of families through her centers. 

Ana’s work is widely recognized and Nuestra Escuela has received numerous awards. She serves on the executive committee of the board of selection for the Miranda Foundation’s Solidarity Award, and in 2014, she was recognized with the “Defender of Human Rights” award by the College of Professional Social Workers of Puerto Rico. Nuestra Escuela was honored with the Sor Isolina Ferré Medal for “Excellence in Service to Others” and the “Award for Solidarity” from the Miranda Foundation. In 2015, Nuestra Escuela received the Tina Hills Award for Outstanding Service to the Community from the Angel Ramos Foundation.

Ana completed a bachelor’s degree in arts of psychology at the Metropolitan University and is pursuing her master’s degree in administration of nonprofit organizations, with a minor in schools administration, at the University of the Sacred Heart, in Puerto Rico. She is certified in alternative education by the University of Puerto Rico.


Carmen Cedré
Founder, Clutch Consulting
Puerto Rico


Carmen Cedré is the founder of Clutch Consulting, a firm dedicated to supporting business growth by developing business, marketing strategies and ideas that connect and build brands.
Carmen’s entrepreneurial mindset was the basis of her successful career as president of FCB/DRAFTFCB, where she spent 16 years helping client leaders in their categories, while transforming and growing the agency business into one of the top 10 in Puerto Rico, and the first in terms of client satisfaction and profitability in the Latin America region. 

In addition, Carmen served as director of the Sales & Marketing Executive Association, president of the Advertising Agencies Association, Cúspide Awards president and YPO Chapter/Education chair. She acquired an ailing medium-sized business in the beauty salon industry, building a brand from zero and creating bloOm Salon & Spa, which is now one of the top salons in Puerto Rico.
 
Lured by a challenge and the opportunity to make a complete brand transformation in 2012, Carmen took a 180̊-degree turn in her advertising career to become the executive vice president and general manager of Mazda of Puerto Rico. The brand was reenergized, and sales grew by double digits in a declining market.

Carmen holds a master’s degree in advertising from Syracuse University. She is a member of YPO and serves as its Latin America region communications officer. She is a director of the Hogar Niñito Jesús Foundation and a founding member of “WE” and “Are we there yet,” organizations dedicated to supporting the equality and development of women. Carmen completed the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program in 2018.

Auralís Herrero-Lugo
Founder, Retazo
Puerto Rico


Auralís is a circularity expert, entrepreneur, fashion designer and educator with over 15 years of product development and small-batch production experience, specializing in integrating ethical practices within the fashion industry and its supply chain.

She lectures on ethical fashion, circular product life cycle and product development at New York’s Fashion Institute of Technology, at Parsons New School for Design and at her alma mater, Moore College of Art and Design. She also guest lectures at design universities in Puerto Rico, including Escuela de Artes Plasticas and Universidad del Turabo. 

Auralís has founded two fashion companies: Retazo, a Puerto Rico–based circular fashion platform that meshes circular manufacturing, modular training, capacity building, and sales for long-term economic development on the island of Puerto Rico; and her first business, Auralís Studio, a sustainable resort-wear line that was designed and manufactured between New York City and Puerto Rico.

Her experience includes strategy, circular supply-chain management, responsible sourcing, client relations, training and capacity building in American manufacturing. Auralís spent her whole career in New York’s fashion and manufacturing industry before returning to Puerto Rico full time in January 2018 to serve as the director of product development at Blue Water Defense and to work on Retazo. Her work has been featured in CNN, Glamour, Now This and El Nuevo Dia.


Robin Leeds
CEO, Winning Strategies LLC; Strategic Partner, Burson Cohn & Wolfe
Washington, D.C., USA


Robin Leeds is the CEO of Winning Strategies LLC, a public affairs and political consulting firm based in Washington, D.C. Winning Strategies is a strategic partner to Burson Cohn & Wolfe, a leading global public relations and communications consultancy firm.

Winning Strategies offers clients a depth and breadth of experience cultivated over more than four decades working at the intersection of politics, policy and communications. From the campaign trail to the boardroom, Robin has built solid relationships with leaders and change-makers across the public, private and nonprofit sectors. Her career has been devoted to expanding access to economic, civil and social opportunities for all Americans, and she is a powerful voice for women, people of color, the LGBTQ community and other underrepresented groups.

Robin has a proven track record in both the public and private sectors. She has successfully guided numerous companies through public crises, and has stewarded major corporations’ socially responsible policies and programs creating more diverse, inclusive and fair workplaces.

While serving at the Clinton White House Office on Women’s Initiatives and Outreach, Robin coordinated domestic and global constituency engagement efforts on behalf of the president and first lady. As a Clinton appointee, she shaped public policy on fair pay, Title IX, affirmative action, voter protection, reproductive rights, health, domestic violence, and sexual harassment. As the director of Massachusetts Human SERVE, Robin played a leadership role in the fight to win passage of the National Voter Registration Act.

Robin has consistently fought to increase women’s participation, visibility and leadership in politics and government. She played important roles in Democratic presidential, gubernatorial and congressional campaigns since 1984 as an advisor on strategies to engage women voters and ensure that a gender perspective is fully integrated.

Robin currently serves as a Woodrow Wilson fellow and as a board director for the National Council of Jewish Women and Breast Care for Washington. She served as a member of the Harvard Women’s Leadership Board, fellow at the John F. Kennedy School of Government’s Center for Public Leadership, advisor to the Senior Director of Harvard University Women’s Initiatives, scholar-in-residence at the Women in Politics Institute at American University, academic advisor to the Carter-Baker Commission on Federal Election Reform, and appointee to Governor Weld’s Commission on the Status of Women.

Isabel Rullán
Executive Director, ConPRmetidos
Puerto Rico


Isabel Rullán is a Puerto Rican social innovator, co-founder and executive director of ConPRmetidos (www.conprmetidos.org), a nonprofit organization in San Juan whose mission is to create a stable, productive and self-sufficient Puerto Rico. It does this by identifying innovative and sustainable solutions to community challenges, leveraging talent and networks at home and abroad, and convening strategic partnerships in support of its work. Since Hurricanes Irma and María devastated Puerto Rico, Isabel and her team have raised over $4 million for ConPRmetidos programs to assist vulnerable communities throughout the country.

In 2016, Isabel was the first Puerto Rican woman selected as a Rockefeller Foundation Global Social Innovation Fellow. In 2018, under Isabel’s leadership, ConPRmetidos was selected to participate in the Marriott International #LoveTravelsBeyondBarriers Social Innovation Investment Program. She has been invited to speak about social change in Puerto Rico at Harvard, MIT, Hunter College, the Puerto Rico Chamber of Commerce, the ANIMUS Women’s Leaders Conference in Puerto Rico, and more.

Isabel studied at the University of Puerto Rico, in Mayagüez, and at the Polytechnic University of Puerto Rico, from which she graduated with a BS in business management. She held internships in the public and private sectors, working for the Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Administration Office in Washington, D.C., and as special assistant to the U.S. ambassador in El Salvador. She was also a production manager for the documentary Mala Mala, a film about the challenges facing the transgender community in Puerto Rico.


Sarah F. Thorn
Senior Director, Global Government Affairs, Walmart
Washington, D.C., USA


Sarah is primarily responsible for managing global government relations related to supply chain and trade issues at Walmart. In this capacity, she advocates for Walmart priorities in legislation and trade negotiations that impact the company’s worldwide sourcing, e-commerce and retail distribution rights. She also leads a team that drives global public policy in support of Walmart’s responsible sourcing commitments. Most recently, Sarah has expanded her portfolio to manage Walmart’s UK government relations, focused on BREXIT negotiations.

In 2011, Sarah led the strategy team that developed Walmart’s Global Women’s Economic Empowerment Initiative, which is focused on empowering women throughout Walmart’s global supply chain. She is actively involved in the implementation of the initiative, focusing primarily on stakeholder engagement and global partnerships.

Before joining Walmart, Sarah worked for seven years at the Grocery Manufacturers Association, where she led the food, beverage and consumer products industry advocacy on international trade issues. Sarah has also worked as a consultant for PricewaterhouseCoopers on business mobility issues and has served as an international relations representative with AMP Incorporated. Sarah began her career in Washington as a Presidential Management Fellow at the U.S. Information Agency.

She holds a Master of Arts degree in law and diplomacy from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy and a Bachelor of Arts degree in comparative area studies and comparative literature, cum laude, from Duke University. She has been recognized as a Top Lobbyist by The Hill magazine and serves as co-chair of the board of the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition and secretary of the board of the Washington International Trade Association.

Isabel C. Fernández
Cofounder, ALL GRANTS, LLC
Puerto Rico


Isabel C. Fernández co-founded ALL GRANTS, LLC, in 2017, as a consulting firm that provides strategic funding development services to organizations and entities that foster social change in Puerto Rico. Her law degrees, from the University of Puerto Rico, University of Nottingham (UK) and Universidad Santa María La Antigua (Panama), have allowed her to understand the need to build up stronger, autonomous not-for-profits and pro-social entities. Isabel’s ultimate goal is to empower community-based nonprofit, nongovernmental organizations so that they become key players in rebuilding a better Puerto Rico.

Isabel’s professional experiences include time served as a law firm associate, in Panama, and as a legal counselor for the Embassy of Panama in Washington, D.C., during the negotiations of the U.S. Panama Trade Promotion Agreement and the extradition proceedings of Manuel Noriega. In 2009, Isabel moved back to Puerto Rico and became a special aide and federal grants manager for the Puerto Rico Trade and Export Company (PRTEC). In that same year, she was also recognized as one of Puerto Rico’s Caribbean Business’ “40 under 40,” a distinction for local upcoming entrepreneurs and young professional leaders.

Isabel is also the co-founder and chairwoman of the San Juan Tech Meetup (SJTM), whose goal is to connect all players in the creative (arts, design, culture) and tech economy through networking and collaboration. She is a member of Network, a women-only professional group in Puerto Rico, formed by C-suite executives, academics and top professionals.


Tara Rush
Chief Communications Officer
White Plains, NY, USA


Tara Rush’s purpose is to be the contagious energy that transforms a melody into a symphony, a game into a carnival and a flame into a fire. She is an innovative communicator who is not satisfied with the status quo, driving her team to find unexpected ways to elevate the profile of brands in the hearts and minds of consumers, partners, employees and communities. As a collaborative leader, Tara effortlessly leverages partnerships with cross-functional teams and powerful, like-minded brands to amplify the impact of share-driving communications and marketing programs.
 
Most recently, Tara spent six years at Heineken USA as chief corporate affairs officer. Previously, she was an SVP at Emanate, a midsize public relations agency, where she led consumer marketing and social relevance campaigns for a number of leading CPG and travel clients. Prior to Emanate, Tara led public relations at Mars, Inc., and held roles in the consumer marketing practices at Ketchum, Edelman and Weber Shandwick in New York.
 
Tara is a graduate of Cornell University.

Lucienne Gigante
Founder, LuGi, LLC
Puerto Rico


Lucienne Gigante is a strategic communications, branding, crisis management and public relations expert. She is the founder of LuGi, LLC, a strategic communications and positioning firm, and the co-founder of Animus, the largest women’s economic development summit and platform in Latin America and the Caribbean. LuGi, LLC, aligns community as a key driver of the company brand and uses digital intelligence for reputation management decisions. Animus, in its fifth year, has impacted more than 5,000 women and launched the platform “A Conversation With,” where Lucienne has interviewed key leaders and trailblazers, including Justice Sonia Sotomayor, EGOT winner and icon Rita Moreno, and Olympic gold medalist Monica Puig.

Lucienne started her career as a reporter, and then held senior positions in marketing, public relations and communications for a public financial services company, where she developed numerous successful corporate social responsibility platforms, including “Women of Success,” which created more than 40 new women-owned businesses and over 70 new jobs.

As an advocate and leader for women’s economic development, she co-founded Access Latina in 2015, the first ever multimarket accelerator for Latinas in high-growth industries such as STEAM, social innovation and agriculture, serving New York, Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico and Florida.

Lucienne has also served as a board member of the Council on the Environment of New York City, and received more than 50 awards, including the American Banking Association’s “Social Impact Award,” SME’s “Top Management Award” and PR News’ “Community Relations Professional of the Year.”


Christine K. Channels
Chief Operating Officer, Consumer & Small Business, Bank of America
Charlotte, NC, USA


Christine and her leadership team are responsible for designing and implementing programs across Consumer & Small Business to drive responsible growth, deliver client care and foster a strong risk culture in an operationally sound environment. Christine joined Bank of America in 2002 and has held various leadership roles within Consumer as well as in Compliance, Quality & Productivity and Global Technology & Operations. Prior to that, Christine worked at First Union, where she was a database administrator and led a team supporting client analytics.

In the community, Christine serves on the board of the American Red Cross and actively supports Junior Achievement, devoting time to volunteer activities in local schools. She also works locally with several nonprofits focused on ending human trafficking and is an active supporter of Fashion & Compassion, a nonprofit focused on rebuilding lives by providing transitional employment, supportive community and connections to individualized resources that empower women who are charting a courageous path toward a self-sustaining life of purpose.

Christine graduated from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington.

María Gabriela Velasco Corrada
Cofounder, PRsiliency
San Juan, Puerto Rico


María Gabriela Velasco Corrada is the co-founder of PRsiliency in San Juan, Puerto Rico. She is an entrepreneur, now creating an organization that focuses on a recovery protocol for post-disaster zones that includes inter-organizational resource coordination, strengthening humanitarian response efforts through effective resource allocation, knowledge sharing and attendance to mental health issues.

María co-founded HiveCube as a result of the catastrophe that Hurricane Maria left in Puerto Rico. In a short time frame, HiveCube was accepted to a global startup accelerator, Parallel18, and won the MCS Health Innovation Award 2018 and the T-Mobile People’s Choice Award 2018.

María earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology and Spanish, from Hood College, and a PhD in clinical psychology, from the Pontifical Catholic University of Puerto Rico. She is the recipient of the 2018 Rotary Humanitarian STAR Award for her contributions in disaster relief and recovery.


Silvina Moschini
CEO, SheWorks!
Miami, FL, USA


Widely known by technology media as @Miss_Internet, Silvina Moschini is an award-winning technology entrepreneur, a CNN Español industry expert and an international speaker. Her focus on changing how the world works in the digital economy led her to create an ecosystem of innovative companies that leverage the power of the cloud to connect enterprises with on-demand talent, and make remote workforce management simple, transparent and inclusive.

As an entrepreneur, she followed her passion for disruptive technologies to become the co-founder of TransparentBusiness — a web-based solution for building talent marketplaces and managing remote teams and freelancers. She later leveraged TransparentBusiness technology and became the founder and CEO of SheWorks! and Yandiki, online platforms to help companies scale exponentially by accessing vetted talent on demand and to help them monitor, manage, rate and pay their virtual teams.

Via her social-impact startup SheWorks!, Silvina partners with leading companies such as Google, SAP, Cisco, Microsoft and Facebook to provide online education and flexible job opportunities to empower women and help them achieve financial independence via remote-based flexible work. She also joined forces with EY to take the initiative to a global scale and drive awareness of the benefits of the gig economy, not only for economic development in emerging markets, but also to bridge the gender unemployment gap.

Silvina’s background includes entrepreneurial experience and senior corporate executive roles at Visa International and Compaq Computer Corporation. She is an Endeavor Entrepreneur, serves as a mentor for Google Launchpad and is on the advisory council of AdWeek Latin America.

Mariangie Rosas
CEO, UrbanVittles LLC; Founder, co.co.haus
Puerto Rico


Mariangie Rosas is an entrepreneur, community builder and mentor determined to boost Puerto Rico’s entrepreneurial ecosystem. After a career in architecture in New York and Mexico City, she returned to her home in Puerto Rico at a time when most professionals were leaving the island to pursue better opportunities in the U.S.

In San Juan, as Mariangie began her journey to launch a culinary tech startup, she realized that there was a lack of coworking space available for the local entrepreneurship scene. In a pivot, she put a pause on her startup and in 2017 founded co.co.haus, the first co-working space in the Santurce district of San Juan.

For Mariangie, entrepreneurship is the answer to the economic turmoil that has overpowered the island for decades. She believes networks are a powerful instrument, and her mission is to empower and catalyze this community by providing the right working spaces.

In February 2019, Mariangie was invited to attend Facebook’s Communities Summit, where 400 community leaders were handpicked to attend conferences and access mentoring at the company’s headquarters. She has also attended relevant conferences and workshops including the Global Coworking Unconference Conference in Canada and the UD, SXSW and Startup Grind.

Mariangie serves the boards of various community organizations that work on the betterment of her community of Santurce. She graduated from Cornell University with a bachelor’s degree in architecture.


Kirstin Hill
Managing Director and Strategic Performance Executive, Merrill Lynch Wealth Management,
Bank of America 
Boston, MA, USA


Kirstin Hill is a managing director and strategic performance executive for Merrill Lynch Wealth Management at Bank of America, overseeing growth strategy, practice management strategy, market planning, advisor compensation, field communication and recognition programs. In this role, Kirstin is also charged with developing metrics and reporting structures that are critical to measuring the firm’s growth and guiding the firm’s market executives.
                                                                                       
Prior to this role, Kirstin led the Personal Retirement Solutions business for Bank of America Merrill Lynch and held leadership roles in the GWIM markets business. In these roles she led teams responsible for personal retirement products and sales, market-linked investments, new-issue debt and equity among others. Early in her career, Kirstin worked in the bank’s Global Markets division in the equity derivatives business in New York, London, Hong Kong and Australia. 

Ensuring that the firm meets the needs of women investors is a top priority for Kirstin. She uses her experience, skills and passion to help enable financial advisors to deliver on the unique priorities, earning power, career paths and life spans of women clients and prospects.

Currently, Kirstin is executive sponsor for the Merrill Lynch Millennial Advisory Board and is a member of the Women’s Exchange Advisory Council; she is also executive sponsor of the Merrill Lynch Women’s Forum. She is a strong advocate for hiring and developing diverse talent and fostering an inclusive work environment.

Kirstin holds a bachelor’s degree from Harvard University and is a First Mover Fellow with the Aspen Institute.

Paulina Salach
Cofounder and Managing Director, Spoon X
Puerto Rico


Paulina is co-founder of Spoon Food Tours®, a culinary and cultural tourism company in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Since the company’s creation, in 2012, Paulina has served as the managing director, overseeing all business operations. Spoon has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, CNN, The Guardian and many other notable publications, and recently secured a partnership with Food & Wine magazine and Holland America Cruise Lines. Paulina is in the process of expanding the company, locally and abroad, into Spoon X, with luxury, corporate and volume divisions.
 
Paulina was born in Poland and immigrated to New York with her parents as a child. After graduating from Fordham University in 2007, with a bachelor’s degree in communications and media studies, she worked as a public relations executive and event planner in New York City. A year later, she moved to Puerto Rico, where she continued to work as a licensed publicist, event planner and freelance food and travel writer. In 2011, Paulina co-founded Kinori Group, a culinary events and consulting company where she co-produces Puerto Rico Restaurant Week™ and provides consulting services to the food and beverage industry.

In 2018, Paulina participated in Grupo Guayacán’s EnterPRize competition/business accelerator and was awarded the Tourism & Hospitality Prize. Most recently, Paulina received a scholarship to partake in the Xcelerated Action Program for Women.


Aleksandra Gren
Country Head and Board Member, Fiserv Poland, Fiserv International Group
Warsaw, Poland


Aleks is country head and board member of Fiserv Poland, at Fiserv International Group, and has over 20 years of experience in the financial tech sector in Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA).

Aleks started her career at the Royal Bank of Canada, in Vancouver, at the age of 23. She then joined a U.S. financial services technology firm working with global banks across North America, Europe and the Middle East. She was also part of the launch team of ING Direct Italy, in Milan, and was later a client partner for Tier 1 banks in EMEA, spearheading new technology initiatives.

Named Ambassador of the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy for the “Parity in Business” program in Poland, Aleks has been widely recognized for her advocacy for women in technology and innovation. In 2018, Aleks was named the winner of the 2018 Goldman Sachs & Fortune Global Women Leaders Award in the U.S., recognizing global women leaders paying it forward.

Aleks is an alumna of the Fortune Most Powerful Women/U.S. State Department Global Mentoring Program, and she is currently a member of the board of trustees of Vital Voices Europe, in London.

Aleks holds a B.A. in international relations from the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada, and an MSc in European policymaking from the London School of Economics. She has completed executive leadership courses at Harvard Business School, the Scherer Leadership Center and the Center for Leadership.

Tania Rosario-Méndez
Executive Director, Taller Salud
Puerto Rico


Tania is an artist, educator, public health specialist and women’s and girls’ rights activist, born and raised in Puerto Rico.
 
With over 15 years of experience in the nonprofit sector, Tania has a solid background integrating project management, cultural work, community organizing, popular education and human rights activism. Dynamic, charismatic and determined, she now leads the work of historic feminist organization Taller Salud, focused on reducing health inequities, achieving gender equality and preventing violence in the communities that suffer from greater social exclusion. Her goal is to build a Puerto Rico where there is health, peace and economic development for all.
 
Tania is the author of two books and several articles. She is a theatre director and teacher, community organizer and cultural worker. She is also a trained full-spectrum doula and a certified childbirth educator.

She holds a bachelor’s degree in humanities, with a double major in drama and history, from the University of Puerto Rico, Rio Piedras campus, and a master’s degree in public health from the UPR’s Medical Sciences campus.


Elise Labott
Global Affairs Journalist
Washington, D.C., USA


Elise is a journalist covering foreign affairs, most recently as a global affairs correspondent for CNN. Since 2000, she has covered U.S. foreign policy and international affairs for the network, reporting from more than 80 countries and interviewing and traveling the world with seven secretaries of state.

Most recently, Elise traveled to Israel and Turkey with National Security Adviser John Bolton for Politico. She also traveled to the Olympics in Korea with Vice President Mike Pence and to Africa with U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley. She has reported extensively on the conflicts in Syria, Ukraine and Israel, and covered nuclear talks with Iran and the signing of the 2016 nuclear agreement.

Elise has reported on every major global event since she joined CNN, from the Camp David peace talks of 2000 to the 9/11 terrorist attacks to the Arab Spring and the rise of ISIS. She has reported from the demilitarized zone on tension with North Korea, traveled through the Middle East, Afghanistan and Pakistan, and has interviewed several heads of state. She was also part of CNN’s multi-award-winning Freedom Project, which produces original reports, articles and documentaries on human trafficking.

Prior to joining CNN, Elise covered the United Nations for ABC News and foreign policy issues for Agence France-Presse and other publications.

Elise is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. She received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and earned a master’s degree from the New School for Social Research.

Yari Rivas
Vice President and Cofounder, Alterna Communications
Puerto Rico


Yari Rivas is a storyteller and communicator who always points to the relevant stories. From her college years, she dreamed of creating an alternative media agency. That was the beginning of Alterna Communications, an integrated media services agency that she founded with her husband, Angel Hoyos, in 2009.

Long before the era of social networks and startups, Yari and Angel visualized the future of communications and had the opportunity to grow their business providing effective, innovative and accessible integrated communication services, with excellent results for their clients. After Hurricane Maria passed through the new headquarters of Alterna, they demonstrated their capacity to recover by going through the process of relaunching their brand in a new and innovative office space in San Juan, Puerto Rico, on the 10th anniversary of Alterna Communications.

Before becoming an entrepreneur, Yari was a journalist and producer for 15 years and earned a master’s degree in mass communications from the International University of Florida. She loves living in the Caribbean and resides in the mountains of Puerto Rico with her family.



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