The Leadership Institute and the Society of Innovators at Purdue Northwest (PNW) have announced the 2024 Northwest Indiana Women on the Rise honorees.

The annual Northwest Indiana Women on the Rise list includes leaders, innovators and entrepreneurs who are making an impact across Northwest Indiana. These are the women shaping business and encouraging economic growth in our region’s communities. They achieved success in 2023 and are bringing that dynamic momentum with them into the new year. To view the full list of 2024 Women on the Rise honorees, visit

“Celebrating women and their powerful accomplishments is a way to call out exemplary leaders who through innovation, effort and a dose of moxie, change our communities. Research shows that companies and organizations with more women in leadership positions achieve greater success than those without,” said Sheila Matias, executive director of the Leadership Institute at Purdue Northwest. “Recognizing their contributions honors these women and serves to share varied leadership models with other women and girls who can find motivation and encouragement from these truly inspiring women.”

“We believe it is important to recognize these Women on the Rise because many times the accomplishments of the ‘everyday’ woman get overlooked,” added Mekisha Richardson, assistant director of the Leadership Institute at PNW. “It’s vital that we use our platform to showcase the wonderful contributions of women across our region from various backgrounds and walks of life.”

A reception will be held to encourage networking and connection among the honorees, other regional leaders and the individuals, companies and organizations who are contributing to a stronger Northwest Indiana where leadership, entrepreneurship and innovation is a valued focus.

The 2024 Northwest Indiana Women on the Rise Reception will take place from 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. CST on Thursday, March 21 at the James B. Dworkin Student Services and Activities Complex on Purdue University Northwest’s branch campus in Westville, Ind. Individual tickets are $30. For more information and to register, visit or reach out to the Society of Innovators at

The 2024 Northwest Indiana Women on the Rise are:

  • Samantha Bean (Valparaiso, Ind.) – Director of Marketing and Communications, Porter County Community Foundation
  • Felicia Blakely (Michigan City, Ind.) – Executive Pastor, President & Founder, Diamonds & Pearls Mentorship for Girls and High Praise Outreach Ministries
  • Whitney Bradshaw (Michigan City, Ind.) – Curator, Lubeznik Center for the Arts
  • Julie Dessauer (Knox, Ind.) – Owner & Operator, Papa Farm Pizza
  • Sara E. DeYoung (Lake Village, Ind.) – Executive Director, Jasper County Economic Development Organization
  • Emmani Ellis (Merrillville, Ind.) – COO, IronWorkz Corporation and CEO, No Limit Living LLC
  • Liliana Franco López (Michigan City, Ind.) – Operations Director, Economic Development Corporation Michigan City
  • Kylee Fraze Norman (La Porte, Ind.) – Partner, CLH, CPAs & Consultants
  • Amy Fry, Ph.D, RN (Hammond and Westville, Ind.) – Dean, College of Nursing, Purdue University Northwest
  • Nicky Ali Jackson, Ph.D. (Hammond and Westville, Ind.) – Professor of Criminal Justice and Executive Director of the Center for Justice and Post-Exoneration Assistance, Purdue University Northwest
  • Gretchen Kalk-Castro (Michigan City, Ind.) – Partner, CLH, CPAs & Consultants
  • Beverly Mack-Martin, MPA (Michigan City, Ind.) – Founder & Director of Development, The Midwest Minority Consortium for Alternative Energy Solutions
  • Joellen Matzat (North Judson, Ind.) – Co-Owner & Operator, Lewellen Blooms
  • Imani Mayo (Crown Point, Ind.) – Director of Aging Services, Northwest Indiana Community Action
  • Melissa Mitchell (Valparaiso, Ind.) – CEO, HealthLinc, Inc.
  • Meg Piercy (Munster, Ind.) – Owner, MegMade
  • Faith N. Spencer (Gary, Ind.) – Founder & CEO, IronWorkz Corporation
  • Jacqueline Thomas (La Porte, Ind.) – President, South Shore Public Relations
  • Darien Thompson (Hammond and Westville, Ind.) – Director of Student Success & Urban Engagement, Purdue University Northwest
  • Catisha Toney (Merrillville, Ind.) – President & CEO, Coates Inc.
  • Becca Tuholski (La Porte, Ind.) – Local Food Access Coordinator, NWI Food Council
  • Shannon Walker (La Porte, Ind.) – Vice President, Unity Foundation of La Porte County
  • Jen Yednak (Chesterton, Ind.) – Owner & Cake Designer, Jen’s Gourmet Cakes
  • Gianna Zyla (Portage, Ind.) – Manager, Asset and Risk Management, NiSource