Az Business and AZRE magazines announced the publications’ lists of the Most Influential Women in Arizona of 2022 including, Melanie Smihula, executive director of Exceptional Student Services, Edkey Sequoia Schools. In celebration of the 11th anniversary of the Most Influential Women program, is profiling one of the Most Influential Women of 2022 each day leading up to the Most Influential Women of 2022 dinner and reception.

READ ALSOThe Most Influential Women in Arizona Business for 2022

READ ALSO: The Most Influential Women in Commercial Real Estate for 2022

The Most Influential Women for 2022 will be honored at a reception on August 25 at Chateau Luxe in Phoenix. For sponsorship information, email For information about the event honoring the Most Influential Women, email or click here. To buy tickets, click here.

Melanie Smihula, executive director of Exceptional Student Services, Edkey Sequoia Schools

BACKGROUND: As the Executive Director of Exceptional Student Services, Melanie Smihula ensures that schools and districts follow all state and federal regulations relative to the identification, placement and program development for special education students. She provides system-wide leadership for assuring the development of effective and appropriate special education programs and teachers. Smihula also facilitates communication and mediation with parents and advocates regarding the delivery of special education services, while representing the school system in dealing with outside agencies and organizations concerned with special education.

SOURCE OF PRIDE: Standing behind my team and agreeing that their decisions were right by taking a parent through a due process hearing. It was a long legal process that was very time-consuming but in the end, my team and I were validated, and we created a case law that has been used by many public and charter school districts in the Valley to support their educational teams. It was a monumental case in Arizona educational law and I am proud it came from my team and me.”  

SURPRISING FACT: “When I was in high school, I played every sport: softball, volleyball, basketball, badminton and track but not a lot of people know I did biathlon. In the winter for 10th and 11th grade, I took part in competitions where I would cross-country ski and shoot targets.  I hated doing penalty laps so much that in two years and several competitions I never missed a shot.”

SOURCE OF INSPIRATION: “I was very inspired by a former grad school teacher, Dr. Rita Curl. She was so very educated, and her name was often on textbooks I came across as an undergrad, however, she never made me feel small. I did my senior paper with her and whenever I presented something new to her, she would get excited about learning something new, she never acted bored or acted like what I said was not important. She truly loved to learn and ask questions. She always made me feel empowered and excited when I worked with her.

Most Influential Women in Arizona Business for 2022

Dr. Suzanne Bentz, Red Mountain Weight Loss

Stephanie A. Bivens, Bivens & Associates

Rachel M. Bond, MD, Dignity Health

Suzanne Boyles, City of Buckeye

Alaina Chabrier, SRP

Margaret Chamberlain, OneAZ Credit Union

Rachel Davis-Schultz, CopperPoint Insurance Companies 

Jennifer Delgado, Burch & Cracchiolo

Brigitte Finley Green, Engelman Berger

Lin Sue Flood, Hospice of the Valley

Christine Gannon, BrightWorks Consulting

Karen Hoffman Tepper, PhD, Terros Health

Dawn Jones, Intel

Lisa Lovallo, Cox Communications

Lyndel Manson, Arizona Board of Regents

Carli Ann McClure, Grant Thornton

Karla Morales, Arizona Technology Council

Emily Nachlas, Western Alliance Bancorporation

Breanna Naegeli, PhD, Grand Canyon University

Shar Najafi-Piper, PhD, Copa Health

Christina Noyes, Gust Rosenfeld

Grace O’Sullivan, Arizona State University

Reena Rastogi, MD, Phoenix Children’s Hospital

Sara Regan, Desert Financial Credit Union

Karen Roch,  Credit Union West

Lisa Rulney, University of Arizona

Melanie Smihula, Edkey Sequoia Schools

Sherry Stotler, Valleywise Health

Lynn Toler, TV judge and host 

Kelli Tonkin, Enterprise Bank & Trust

Telle VanTrojen, Geneva Financial

Ruth Veloria, University of Phoenix

Amy Walters, Cancer Treatment Centers of America

Annabel Whiting, PNC

Reine Yazbeck Hamilton, Wells Fargo 

Sandra Zebrowski, MD, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona

Most Influential Women in Commercial Real Estate for 2022

Morgan Betancourt, project director, Okland Construction 

Keri Davies, partner, LevRose Commercial Real Estate

Alicia Hardwick, leasing manager, Prologis

Michelle Heeb, president and CEO, Forward Tilt

Dani Huval, business development director, Chasse Building Team

Bev Jensen, regional operations manager, Colliers

Carrie Kelly, executive director, Arizona Association for Economic Development

Alexandra Loye, executive managing director, Cushman & Wakefield

Stephanie Maderazzo-Hughes, CEO and COO, Canyon State Electric

Nancy McClure, first vice president, CBRE

Kathleen Morgan, managing director, Newmark

Vicki Robinson, senior vice president, JLL

Heather Skinner, vice president of global real estate, JP Morgan Chase

Angela Watson, president and CEO, Shepley Bulfinch