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2019 Sacagawea Awards

Congratulations to Dr. Jeanette Mitchell, Ed.D and May yer Thao

Professional Dimensions’ Sacagawea Award was created in 1982 to recognize two trailblazing women who exhibit the spirit of Sacagawea. The award is named for the Native American woman who helped guide Lewis and Clark on their legendary 1804-1806 search for the Northwest Passage to the Pacific Ocean. This prestigious honor acknowledges exceptional leadership by “Women Who Inspire,” and embraced opportunities to hone their skills and strive toward excellence by conquering daily challenges through career achievements. The Sacagawea Awards Dinner will be Thursday, March 7, 2019 at the Pfister Hotel in Milwaukee. Proceeds of this annual fundraising event will benefit Milwaukee area organizations that work to advance the self-sufficiency of women and girls.


2019 Sacagawea Award Winners

Dr. Jeanette Mitchell, Ed.D has spent her life serving Milwaukee and its residents. She is a proven leader and a dedicated community advocate, committed to the education and empowerment of youth, women and people of color. Through her consulting business she works in creative partnerships to direct, design and manage leadership development programs throughout the Greater Milwaukee community. Her current projects include the Neighborhood Leadership Institute (NLI), the African American Leadership Alliance-Milwaukee (AALAM) and the African American Leadership Program (AALP), which celebrated its 10th anniversary this year. Prior to starting her own businesses, she served as the Program Director for Cardinal Stritch University’s Leadership Center where she managed and directed the Professionals of Color lines of business. She also founded the Stritch Leadership Center and served as its Executive Director, working to develop innovative programming for professionals of color.

Throughout her career Mitchell has held leadership positions in both the corporate and non-profit sectors, and also served as President of the City of Milwaukee School Board. She has received a long list of honors and awards including a Lifetime Achievement award from Cardinal Stritch, a Milwaukee Business Journal Women of Influence award and an appointment to the Governor’s Advisory Taskforce on Education. She is a graduate of Alverno College, University of Wisconsin- Milwaukee and Cardinal Stritch University where she earned her Bachelors, Masters and Doctorate, respectively.

May yer Thao is a leader that is willing to roll up her sleeves and is dedicated to do everything she can to empower Milwaukee’s underserved communities. In May 2014, Thao was recruited to the Hmong Wisconsin Chamber of Commerce to work in grants administration. Twelve months later, she was named Executive Director. Under her tenure, Thao has deployed the most business loans in HWCC history, growing the Chamber’s profile and community outreach through her innovative leadership. In addition to the growth she has fostered, Thao has forged partnerships with other Milwaukee organizations, such as the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. and the Wisconsin Women’s Business Initiative Corp., to further strengthen the Hmong Chamber’s presence in the region.

Thao has been featured in Milwaukee’s BizTimes as one of Milwaukee’s women leaders driving economic development and was named the U.S. Small Business Administration Wisconsin Minority Business Champion in 2016. That same year, she was also named the Wisconsin Hmong Woman of the Year. Thao serves as the Board President of Wisconsin United Coalition of Hmong Mutual Assistance Associations, sits on the board of the Havenwoods Economic Development Corporation, and is a Co-Chair of the MKE United Steering Committee. Thao graduated from the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, with a BA in American Studies and a focus in Asian American Studies.



2019 Sacagawea Artist
Ian Baker Johnson


Ian Baker Johnson, the 2019 selected Sacagawea Award artist, will create three unique pieces of art: one piece will be crafted for each winner, and one that will reside in the permanent Sacagawea collection at Alverno College. 

Johnson is a Milwaukee-based artist, known for colorful contemporary art on canvas, paper and board. Her work is rooted in abstract expressionism. She has participated in numerous exhibitions throughout the years primarily to include juried and group shows. After receiving a BFA in studio painting, Ian continued to study at various other art institutions and with other professional artists. Always wanting to expand her focus, she currently includes works with oils, acrylics, cold wax and other mediums on paper, canvas and board. She continues to work out of her studio in Milwaukee.

Johnson says, like Sacagawea, “My work as a fine artist… is the result of taking risks, of moving ahead in spite of obstacles, of thinking on my feet, of making quick decisions, of using the materials at hand and of trusting my inner voice to guide me in order to create.”

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