Lorena Chávez Van Assche personifies the American dream.

She is a first-generation American whose first language is Spanish. She grew up in the border town of Yuma and spent significant time across the border in Ciudad Morelos, Baja California, Mexico.

Lorena Chávez Van Assche

Now, Chávez Van Assche is a partner at Thorpe Shwer and practices in the areas of business, commercial, lending, and trust and estate litigation. She also has experience resolving disputes involving business, financial, and employment contracts, restrictive covenants, real estate, commercial leases, and wills and trusts. Like many of the “Diverse Business Leaders to Watch in 2021,” who are featured in this issue of Az Business,  Chávez Van Assche remains a passionate supporter of the Hispanic community. And, like most influential business leaders in Arizona, she took the challenges of the past year and used them as lessons to become more effective moving forward.

READ ALSO: How Arizona companies can create a diverse and inclusive workforce

“This past year highlighted our need for flexibility and collective desire for meaningful connection,” Chávez Van Assche  says. “Going forward, I will remain flexible with the continued use of video conferencing and remote work. More importantly, I will make sure to be fully present with colleagues and clients to ensure our connection is meaningful.”

Diversity and inclusion has never been more important — and more at the forefront of society — than it is today, following the events of the past year. Here are 20 Diverse Business Leaders to Watch in 2021, but we look forward to the day when it’s simply Business Leaders to Watch in 2021, without the need for distinction.

Ivy Banks

Associate vice provost, University of Arizona

Ivy Banks serves as the associate vice provost for diversity and inclusion at the University of Arizona. In her current role, Banks leads campus diversity and inclusion initiatives. Banks has received numerous awards, including the Martin Luther King Jr. Legacy Award.

Lesson learned in 2020: “I learned to lead through the lens of trauma informed leadership. Centering my leadership and management style around empathy, compassion, safety, and empowerment were essential to ensuring everyone felt respected and valued. The meaningful connections established from that leadership shift strengthened the team through the crises and will serve as the foundation for trust-building as I move forward.”

Jamie Boggs

Interim vice president of athletics, Grand Canyon University

Boggs drives the overall operations for GCU athletics and was instrumental in GCU’s successful transition from NCAA Division II to Division I classification. Boggs was recently appointed to serve on the NCAA’s Division I Council.

Lesson learned in 2020: “In times of significant challenge when circumstances can create chaos, a leader’s responsibility is to create calm and a clear direction. It is important to lean on your culture, which, for us is one of collaboration, continuous improvement, community and Christian leadership (service, humility, gratitude). Teams excel when they feel they can contribute and their strengths are creatively utilized and recognized.”

Miguel Bravo

Manager, strategic partnerships, APS

Raised in Tucson after immigrating from Mexico, Bravo has more than 20 years of civic involvement in diverse communities. His expertise spans economic development, customer service, and community engagement. He currently leads community engagement and impact strategies for APS.

Lesson learned in 2020: “Maintaining strong relationships and trust is everything. Teammates, customers and community partners value an authentic, trusted relationship, especially during difficult times. I’m more grateful, aware of everyday opportunities I once took for granted to listen, connect and be of service to others to build a strong foundation for the future.”

Rachel M. Bond, MD, FACC

Medical director, Women’s Heart Health, Dignity Health

Dr. Bond is a faculty physician at the Dignity Health Medical Group Cardiology – Mercy Gilbert. She specializes in women’s cardiovascular health and prevention. Her goal is to ensure women get the care they need from a trustworthy medical partner to help improve their overall health.

Lesson learned in 2020: “With a year like 2020, leaders can easily fall into the traps of waiting for a situation to rectify itself. Instead, we must act in a timely, transparent, and interactive fashion, recognizing that mistakes are inevitable, but that responding productively to missteps, always wins in the end.”

Charles W. Brown Jr.

Managing attorney, The Law Office of Charles Brown, PLLC

Charles Brown is the managing attorney of The Law Office of Charles Brown and handles civil litigation, commercial litigation, and family law matters. He is an Arizona native and has practiced law here since 2015. Prior to becoming an attorney, he served in the U.S. Air Force for eight years.

Lesson learned in 2020: “I think the pandemic has helped underscore that the keys to effective leadership are empathy and flexibility. You have to be able to respect the lives of others and to not be so married to your idea that you can’t appreciate the need to adapt to new circumstances.”

Lupe Camargo

Financial planner, Perspective Financial Services

In addition to her role at Perspective Financial Services, Camargo has also held management positions with US West and Honeywell. Camargo is chair of Girl Scouts–Arizona Cactus-Pine Council and served as chair for Friends of Tempe Library. She is a first-generation American and Arizona native.

Lesson learned in 2020: “During difficult times, we need to show compassion, listen to what others are experiencing, and be agile enough to adapt to what is needed. We need to stay connected to those important to us and communicate often. It’s also so critical we create an environment where others feel they belong.”

Latasha Causey

Vice president of human resources, Bell Bank

Causey has oversight of human resources activities, culture and diversity efforts for Bell Bank. She is very active in the community, serving on the Teach for America, Valley of the Sun United Way, ASU Alumni Association and Phoenix Workforce Commission board of directors.

Lesson learned in 2020: “2020 was a rollercoaster of a year, from a pandemic to social injustices, from highs to lows, to hope and inspiration. As a leader, it reiterated the importance of patience, understanding, listening and educating. As a leader of color, this year stressed the importance of having difficult and uncomfortable conversations about race even when you don’t want to.”

Hector J. Diaz

Partner, Quarles & Brady

Diaz is a partner at Quarles & Brady, practicing in the areas of white collar and complex criminal matters. Previously, Diaz worked with the Maricopa County public defender’s office, handling major felony matters. He’s a fellow in The Leadership Council on Legal Diversity and former member of Los Abogados.

Lesson learned in 2020: “There is no question that 2020 impacted the legal community, as it did with all other sectors. Regardless, the practice of law continued and the wheels of justice, while slowed by the pandemic, could not be stopped. Being open to new business and technology trends, even if incredibly uncomfortable at first, is a survival must.”

Lionel Evans

Investment advisor representative, Wilde Wealth Management Group

A U.S. Navy veteran, Evans is an investment advisor representative at Wilde Wealth Management Group. He holds the Series 7 and 63 securities registrations, long-term care, and Arizona insurance licenses. Evans was a long-time volunteer youth football coach and is currently active in the Wilde for Arizona community outreach program.

Lesson learned in 2020: “The challenges of 2020 taught me to always have an attitude of gratitude and to be deliberate and intentional about making this world a better place for all humanity.”

Ivan O. Garcia

Business relationship manager, Chase

With more than 18 years of experience in financial services, Garcia delivers an array of banking solutions to boost small business growth. He represents JPMorgan Chase on the board of the Arizona Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

Lesson learned in 2020: “My family grew closer as my mother fought off COVID. I helped clients seek PPP loans to keep their businesses alive. I strived for a deeper understanding of systemic racism to help stop it. These events taught me that leaders can’t prevent life’s challenges, but we can grow through them.”

Larry Hofer

Vice president of people services, Cox Communications

As vice president of people services for Cox Communications’ Southwest region, Hofer provides human resources leadership and strategic direction for more than 4,800 employees in Arizona and Nevada. Over the years, Hofer has helped transform the culture, resulting in Cox receiving Best Places to Work recognition in both states.

Lesson learned in 2020: “Compassion and Patience. Everyone is dealing with crisis differently so there’s no room for perfection. Stay true to your values. This will help you move mountains during chaos. Don’t bounce back but bounce forward. Don’t look back but reimagine what we can do differently and better.”

Spencer A. Isom

Director of business development and government affairs, West-MEC

Having served as city and town manager for two Arizona communities, Isom has brought his experience to the Western Maricopa Education Center. He has a doctorate in education policy and administration from the University of Minnesota and a master’s in public administration from the University of Cincinnati.

Lesson learned in 2020: Isom believes 2020 demonstrated it is a mistake to simply hope for a return to how things were. Instead, he plans to inventory lessons learned and work toward a new, more collaborative and inclusive future. He suggests how we approach business, education, and each other should be forever changed.

Vicki Mayo

CEO and founder, The TouchPoint Solution

Mayo is a self-made serial entrepreneur and the business powerhouse behind The TouchPoint Solution, for which she invented a patent-pending technology that alleviates stress in 30 seconds. She also owns and is on the leadership teams of GMI, a technology solutions company and Valor Global, an industry-leading customer care company, both headquartered in Phoenix.

Lesson learned in 2020: “I believe it is our greatest obligation to humanity to help others. It’s not about money, it’s about how we can make an impact on society.”

Timothy Overton

Partner, Dickinson Wright

Overton is a partner with the law firm of Dickinson Wright’s Phoenix office, focusing on complex commercial disputes and litigation. He is also a featured speaker, consultant and trainer on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI). Overton consults with businesses to create, institute, and improve DEI policies, practices, and culture.

Lesson learned in 2020: “2020 taught that being inclusive will help us succeed no matter the challenge, including a worldwide pandemic and racial discord. When we value everyone’s perspectives, we’ll better understand challenging issues and how to address them, and the results will be better both for morale and for the bottom line.”

Lucy Ray

Vice president of commercial real estate, Alliance Bank of Arizona

Ray provides financing solutions for clients in markets in the western U.S. She is active in ULI Arizona and currently serves on the board of Valley of the Sun United Way’s Women United Leadership Group.

Lesson learned in 2020: “People will step up if you let them. It was amazing to see colleagues at all levels take on ownership and a ‘whatever it takes’ attitude when navigating through the unprecedented challenges of 2020. Every individual worked their hardest to meet the needs of our clients and expectations of our shareholders.”

Khala Stanfield

Director of organizational performance, City of Glendale

Stanfield oversees the development and implementation of organizational strategy to drive performance improvements for the city. She brings 22 years of public service experience in analysis and strategic planning. Stanfield serves as a board member for ASU’s Alumni Chapter and the National Forum for Black Public Administrators – Central Arizona Chapter.

Lesson learned in 2020: “First, leaders must remain engaged and proactive. When challenges occur, it is essential to have a backup plan already in place. Second, employees are our most valuable resource and will stay dedicated if you show they are valued by the organization and emphasize how their contributions positively impact the customers.”

Marvina Thomas

CEO, 420 Skincare and 420 Medibles

The former registered nurse began her canna-business journey learning to make soap blending CBD oil with beautifying Egyptian ingredients. Later, Thomas created THC treats to help others heal naturally without opioids. The social entrepreneur channels a percentage of her profits to help fight addiction and homelessness.

Lesson learned in 2020: “The importance of remaining adaptable to capitalize on opportunities or adjust to changes impacting operations. Staying grateful and focused continues to grow our success as COVID brought operational challenges along with an increased demand for 420 Skincare products, which allowed our THC edible line expansion in time for recreational marijuana.”

Mayra J. Uribe

Regional banking district manager, Wells Fargo

Uribe oversees consumer and retail banking operations for the Las Avenidas district. She is responsible for 130 employees and eight banking branches in the Phoenix area.

Lesson learned in 2020: “Maintaining a positive and resilient attitude, and reassuring my team that they were capable of overcoming adversity was essential. Instinctively, I’ve always taken chances and frequently venture into unknown territory — 2020 was unknown territory. I now stop and listen more carefully to better understand others’ beliefs and world views. 2020 helped strengthen my character and talents to hopefully help ‘grow’ others.”

Ken Udenze

Managing partner, Deloitte

Udenze is the managing partner of Deloitte’s Arizona practice, leading a team of professionals in Phoenix and Gilbert that provide audit, tax, consulting, and risk and financial advisory services to companies across a wide array of industries, including refining, utilities, transportation, and real estate.

Lesson learned in 2020: “It all comes down to how we choose to react to the challenges we face. As a result of last year, I am now even more cognizant that there are still positive things happening in our communities that we all should be proud of. I choose to focus on those and channel that positivity into the way I lead our Arizona practice.”

Corey Woods

Mayor, City of Tempe

Woods was elected mayor of the City of Tempe in March 2020. In his professional career, he is the chief of staff at ASU Preparatory Academy. Woods served as a council member for the City of Tempe from July 2008 through July 2016.

Lesson learned in 2020: “Challenges present opportunity. It is necessary to have all perspectives at the table to better understand what those opportunities are and how we can shape solutions. This is a simple concept, but it can be difficult. Proactive communication is a must. Do not be afraid to explain your vision.”