Never before has the Arizona business community needed leaders who are agile, adaptable, and innovative more than they are needed in today’s rapidly expanding economy. That’s what the Champions of Change awards are all about — recognizing those dynamic innovators and trailblazers who are changing Arizona’s economic environment through leadership and visionary thinking.

READ ALSO: Nominations open for Arizona’s Most Admired Companies of 2022

“We created the Champions of Change Awards to recognize those innovative leaders, for-profit companies, and nonprofits who are changing the landscape of Arizona business,” says AZ Big Media Publisher Amy Lindsey. “These awards shine a spotlight on the state’s true game-changers and thought leaders. This is an awards event that is unlike any other the state has even seen.”

In the days that follow, the 2022 Champions of Change will be spotlighted right here on Be sure to check back every day.

Champions of Change: Kristin Rodney, head of belonging, PetSmart

While you’d expect a leader tasked with championing diversity and inclusion for an organization with more than 50,000 associates to be outspoken, PetSmart’s Kristin Rodney prefers to listen.

As head of belonging for the Phoenix-based pet specialty retailer, Rodney believes amplifying associate voices is a core component of her role. “Active listening is essential for building an inclusive work culture. It builds trust in relationships, expands our worldview, and creates an environment where associates can fully express themselves,” said the Cornell University diversity certified leader.   

Under her leadership, PetSmart has made substantial progress on its diversity and inclusion initiatives, increasing representation within leadership, broadening bias training, launching a $1 million scholarship fund for associates of color and their dependents, expanding the company’s associate resource group offerings and hosting Belonging Week, a week-long celebration of culture. “In 2018, we set an ambitious goal for the organization: create a PetSmart where every associate feels like they truly belong,” she said.

But Rodney is quick to point out she doesn’t do this work alone. PetSmart’s approach to Belonging empowers teams to celebrate the backgrounds, experiences and differences that make them unique. “I am incredibly proud of the support received from leaders and associates across the business. The progress made has largely been driven by our associates’ commitment to listen, learn, and support diverse perspectives.”

Though every organization’s journey is unique, Rodney shares that much can be learned from PetSmart. “Our Belonging program is always evolving, based on the voices and needs of our associates. As leaders, we must help associates realize that this work can be uncomfortable and it’s possible to have tension without contention. If you remember what’s at the root of the work you’re doing, you’ll be able to build bridges, create connections and gain new perspectives.”