Utah tourism leader to be honored with prestigious national award in recognition of business leadership and community service

SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH (AUGUST 10, 2022) – The Salt Lake Chamber has announced that Vicki Varela, Managing Director of the Utah Office of Tourism, will receive the 2022 ATHENA Leadership Award. The organization’s highest recognition for women in business, the national ATHENA Leadership Award, is presented annually to an active member of the Salt Lake Chamber who demonstrates excellence, creativity and initiative in business. Each recipient must also provide valuable service by devoting time and energy to improve the quality of life for others in the community and assist women in reaching their full leadership potential.

“Vicki Varela has been a mainstay in public service in Utah for decades and one of the chief champions of all our state has to offer,” said Derek Miller, President and CEO of the Salt Lake Chamber, in announcing the award. “Her leadership spans from serving in Fmr. Governor Leavitt’s office, higher education, and her most recent work with Fmr. Governor Herbert and Governor Cox in leading the Utah Office of Tourism at the Governor’s Office of Economic Opportunity. Vicki truly embodies the Utah brand of ‘Life Elevated’ and does her best to lift others and showcase what Utah has to offer. We look forward to honoring and adding her among the prior ATHENAs to inspire generations to come.”

In addition to the ATHENA Leadership Award, six women will receive Pathfinder Awards at the conference. The Pathfinder Awards are presented annually to community leaders who create new paths promoting the development and recognition of women in business. The six Pathfinder recipients this year include:

  • Heather Doggett, COO, Loveland Living Planet Aquarium
  • Marlise Fisher, Regional President, WaFd Bank
  • Natalie Kaddas, President/CEO, Kaddas Enterprises
  • Kacie Malouf, Co-Founder, Malouf Companies
  • Sui Lang Panoke, Senior Vice President, Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, Zions Bank
  • Dr. Astrid Tuminez, President, Utah Valley University

The ATHENA Leadership Award will officially be presented to Vicki Varela at the 46th Annual Women & Business Conference and ATHENA Awards Luncheon, November 14, 2022, at the Grand America Hotel. This year’s conference is sponsored by Dominion Energy and WCF Insurance. Wells Fargo is hosting the ATHENA Awards Luncheon. Boeing Company, Mountain America Credit Union and SelectHealth are a breakout sponsor, and the exhibit hall sponsor is City Creek Center. Supporting Sponsors are American Express, Boart Longyear, CBRE, Deseret Management Corporation, Housing Assistance Management Enterprise, Holland & Hart, Intermountain Healthcare, Rio Tinto, Rocky Mountain Power, Staker Parson Materials & Construction and The Larry H. Miller Company. Sponsorship opportunities are still available and added weekly until sold out.

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ATHENA Leadership Awardee bio below:

Vicki Varela, Managing Director, Utah Office of Tourism

Vicki Varela is the managing director of the Office of Tourism in the Utah Governor’s Office of Economic Opportunity. She leads Utah’s national and international strategy to create a prosperous and responsible visitor economy.

Varela has been recognized as the U.S. Tourism Director of the Year by the National Council of State Tourism Directors and one of America’s 25 Great Minds by Hospitality, Sales, and Marketing International. Her Utah community service includes the Salt Lake Chamber Board, the Utah Olympic Legacy Foundation, the Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute Advisory Board and the Utah Clean Energy Steering Committee. Nationally, she serves on the U.S. Travel Board. 

Before leading the state tourism office, Varela’s career spanned many roles in the public and private sectors. Her passion is advancing initiatives that create broad community prosperity.

As vice president of Kennecott Land, she was a key driver in establishing the Daybreak master-planned community and its vision for the West Bench of Salt Lake Valley. As deputy chief of staff and spokesperson for Gov. Mike Leavitt, she organized the communications strategy that helped establish his reputation as a bold public policy entrepreneur and one of Utah’s great governors. As Assistant Commissioner of Higher Education, she led a communications campaign to educate Utahns on the critical role community colleges play in providing career pathways for all students. She has led statewide issue campaigns, including securing citizen support that laid the groundwork for the 2002 Winter Olympics. She started her career as a journalist with the Associated Press and later the Deseret News, where she learned the value of a good story.

Varela has two children and one beautiful granddaughter. She enjoys adventures in Utah and around the world, including biking, hiking, and river rafting.

Pathfinder Awardee bios below:

Heather Doggett, COO, Loveland Living Planet Aquarium

Heather Doggett is a mission-focused non-profit leader who has been fortunate to gain experience with four AZA-accredited zoological organizations over her 30 years in the zoo and aquarium profession. With her background in zoology and a passion for creating engaging experiences for guests, Doggett is right at home in her role as Chief Operations Officer at the Loveland Living Planet Aquarium. 

Harnessing best practices in impactful management, Doggett is experienced in exceptional guest service, thematic interpretation, social marketing, visitor studies, diversity and inclusion strategies, and exhibit/event creation. She has led staff training, guest engagement, community relations, and conservation education departments at several distinguished conservation organizations across the country including the National Aquarium, Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo, Riverbanks Zoo and Garden, and the Santa Barbara Zoological Gardens. 

For the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), Doggett serves as the Immediate Past Chair of the AZA Diversity Committee and a past Advisor for Conservation Education Committee.She is also a New Economy Maryland Fellow at the Institute of Policy Studies, a think tank in Washington, DC. 

Marlise Fisher, Regional President, WaFd Bank

Marlise Fisher serves as the Utah Regional President for WaFd Bank overseeing Retail and Commercial banking operations. The Utah Retail branches are responsible for providing a full array of banking, mortgage lending, and mortgage loan processing services. The Utah banking operation also provides Small Business Banking, Business Banking, Wholesale lending, Construction lending, Treasury Management and Commercial Real Estate lending, as well as a full suite of products associated with the day-to-day transactions of a retail bank.

Fisher has worked in the banking industry for over 30 years. She attained her Series 6, Series 7, and Series 63 securities licenses working as a Stockbroker, Financial Advisor and finally as the Registered Principal for Mountain West and Heritage Savings Banks prior to joining Washington Federal as a Branch Manager at the main office in downtown Salt Lake City.

After a period of being a top producing Branch Manager in the company, she was promoted to Utah Division Manager, and then to her current position as Regional President. Her knowledge of all aspects of Retail and Commercial banking, combined with her strong interpersonal skills has been instrumental in the success of the region.

Fisher currently serves on the Board of Governors for the Salt Lake Chamber and is a board member of the Ivory-Boyer Real Estate Center at the University of Utah.

Fisher and her husband, Gary, consider themselves avid skiers, golfers, and general outdoor enthusiasts.

Natalie Kaddas, President/CEO, Kaddas Enterprises

Natalie Kaddas is the President and Chief Executive Officer of Kaddas Enterprises, a second-generation family business. The company specializes in manufacturing thermoform plastic products and cutting-edge, custom solutions for the energy, transportation, and aerospace industries. Kaddas Enterprises’ mission is to eliminate animal caused power outages globally and is a champion of protecting the global energy infrastructure against power outages caused by animals with their patented BirdguarD™ designs. Under Kaddas’ leadership, the company has pursued a global market strategy that has more than tripled revenues and grown net profits annually.

Kaddas is passionate about small business success and the ingenuity of manufacturing. She serves on the US Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors; she is the Regional Vice Chair for the Western Region and is the Chair of the US Chamber’s Small Business Council. 

She serves on the Utah District Export Council, The World Trade Center, Utah and Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses Voices National Leadership Council. 

She is proud of the impact BirdguarD™ products have on the natural resources, and she has recently been appointed to a Board position with The Peregrine Fund. 

Awards and Honors

  • 2016- Ms. Kaddas represented Small Businesses at a global event in Hannover Germany and was recognized by President Obama and Chancellor Merkel for their International Success. 
  • 2017- Kaddas Enterprises was awarded Small Business of the Year by the Salt Lake Chamber. 
  • 2020- Kaddas Enterprises was recognized as SBA Exporter of the year for the Rocky Mountain region. 

Kacie Malouf, Co-Founder, Malouf Companies™ and Board Chair of the Malouf Foundation™

Kacie Malouf is the co-founder of Malouf Companies™ and board chair of the Malouf Foundation™. In 2003, Kacie and her husband, Sam, started a small business that would one day grow into Malouf Companies™—a Certified B Corporation™ that employs nearly 1,600 people, operates with 21,000 retail partners in 56 countries, and is consistently ranked among the best places to work in the United States.

In 2016, to formalize the company’s charitable efforts, Kacie and Sam founded the Malouf Foundation™ to confront child sexual exploitation, specifically sex trafficking and online abuse. This past year, the Elizabeth Smart Foundation joined forces with the Malouf Foundation™ to broaden the impact of both organizations. In 2020, Kacie joined the executive team at Downeast™, a company Malouf™ acquired. She works on the women’s apparel line and designs the Jewelry for a Cause collection that raises money for survivors of human trafficking and sexual exploitation.

Malouf is also a majority partner at Tamarak Capital, where she actively supports entrepreneurs and mentors other female founders. In 2022, Sam and Kacie were named Entrepreneurs of the Year by Mountain West Capital Network. Malouf lives in Logan with her husband and five children.

Sui Lang Panoke, Senior Vice President, Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, Zions Bank

Sui Lang L. Panoke is a visionary leader, social entrepreneur and international trainer and facilitator with a passion for empowering today’s leaders to rethink. create. and innovate.  She has recently been named, Senior Vice President of Diversity. Equity. Inclusion. for Zions Bank. In this role, she is responsible for directing the bank’s strategic vision, developing a comprehensive DEI strategy, and delivering on a plan of action to promote diversity, equity and inclusion across the bank and the communities that it serves.

Sui Lang is also the founder of Rethink International, a global social enterprise and international training organization designed to challenge people to rethink how and what they think.  She has trained thousands of leaders around the world leading in politics, business, government, higher education, nonprofits, international NGO’s, and the media on a wide range of leadership and communications topics. Areas of expertise include global leadership, personal empowerment, developing women leaders, diversity, equity, inclusion, unconscious bias, strategic communications, power speaking, branding, civil discourse, and building cultures of inclusion in the workplace. 

Sui Lang also founded the Rethink Tank, a social think tank that hosts power conversations bringing together people with diverse points of view for the purpose of building bridges across social, cultural, racial, and political differences. She also founded Women Politics Media, a global leadership, and media training organization that seeks to democratize the media landscape by training women, people of color, and emerging young leaders to use the media as a vehicle to impact public policy.  

Sui Lang currently serves on the Board of Trustees for the Multicultural Media Correspondents Association 2016-22, Advisory Board of YWCA Utah’s Real Women Run 2018-22, is an Ambassador for the Utah Women & Leadership Project 2017-22, Advisory Board Member, David Eccles School of Business Executive Education Program 2021-22, Board Member, Pioneer Park Coalition 2022, and is a member and mentor for the Ken Garff Foundation’s Success In Education: Women Who Succeed Mentorship Program 2021-22.  She earned her MPA from American University with a Certificate in Women, Policy, and Political Leadership, and was awarded the Outstanding Leadership Award from the Women & Politics Institute upon graduation. She received her BS in Political Science from the University of Utah’s Hinckley Institute of Politics after completing her first year of undergrad at Brigham Young University’s Hawaii campus. 

Sui Lang is the proud mother of an intellectually curious teenage daughter who is taller, smarter, and much more mature than she is. After living on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC for 13 years, they have moved back to Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood in Salt Lake City, Utah where they reside together with their red toy poodle, Rue. Kaleila is now a proud Bruin studying Bus/Econ at UCLA. 

Dr. Astrid Tuminez, President, Utah Valley University

Dr. Astrid S. Tuminez (pronounced too-MEE-nez) was appointed the seventh president of Utah Valley University in 2018. Born in a farming village in the Philippine province of Iloilo, she moved with her parents and siblings to the slums of Iloilo City when she was 2 years old, her parents seeking better educational opportunities for their children. 

Her pursuit of education eventually took her to the United States, where she graduated summa cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in international relations and Russian literature from Brigham Young University (1986). She later earned a master’s degree from Harvard University in Soviet Studies (1988) and a Ph.D. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in political science (1996).

Before UVU, President Tuminez was an executive at Microsoft, where she led corporate, external, and legal affairs in Southeast Asia. She also served as vice dean of research at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, National University of Singapore. She has worked in philanthropy and venture capital in New York City and is a permanent member of the Council on Foreign Relations. She is the author of Russian Nationalism Since 1856: Ideology and the Making of Foreign Policy and many other publications. She and her husband, Jeffrey S. Tolk, have three children. In her spare time, she enjoys running, dancing, and traveling.