As the entertainment and telecommunication industry’s leading national foundation dedicated to advocacy around diversity, equity and inclusion, the Walter Kaitz Foundation provides resources and significant funding to key organizations that support vital programs and initiatives that further diversity’s impact. The foundation was initially established in 1980 as a non-for-profit with the purpose of advancing the contributions of women and ethnic minorities in cable telecommunications and today serves the broad embrace of diversity and inclusion across the entire industry.
As the Executive Director of the Walter Kaitz Foundation, a non-profit organization devoted to providing opportunities for people of color, women and the LGBT+ community in the cable, media and entertainment industries, Michelle Ray is responsible for developing and implementing the Foundation’s strategic direction, initiatives and programmatic activities.
Michelle provides oversight and management of the Foundation’s distribution of targeted grants to the industry’s key diversity organizations and collaborates with these organizations to refine and advance diversity and inclusion programs and initiatives that impacts the media and telecommunications industry. Additionally, she works collaboratively with national organizations that advocate for the social and economic interests of women, ethnic minorities and the LGBT+ communities and connects them with the industry’s member companies to further diversity and inclusion goals.
Michelle successfully developed the Foundation’s decade-old Hollywood Creative Forum, the first program of its kind uniting the efforts of the television industry, the Writers Guild of America, the Directors Guild of America, the Producers Guild of America and the Television Academy of Arts and Sciences designed to match credentialed content creators of color with networks, studios and production companies serving the industry.
Michelle is a graduate of McGill University in Montreal, Canada with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Economics and Political Science. She is also a 2015 graduate of WICT’s prestigious Betsy Magness Leadership Institute – Class 31; a 2010 graduate of NAMIC’s highly respected Executive Leadership Development Program (ELDP) at UCLA’s Anderson Graduate School of Management and a 2002 graduate of CTAM’s Executive Management Program at Harvard University School of Business.
Ms. Berger has spent her career working for both pro-sports teams and large international companies. Most recently she served as vice president of marketing at Morgan Stanley Global Sports & Entertainment and led production departments producing live events for Major League Baseball teams the Atlanta Braves, Colorado Rockies, Baltimore Orioles and the Cincinnati Reds. Berger began her career in television production and subsequently moved to producing large marquee live events, building her portfolio that includes managing detailed execution to overseeing long-term strategic direction and visioning. Her expertise includes entertainment and content development and extends to production facility design and workforce management.
She cites her time working for Turner Broadcasting System (TBS), owners of the Atlanta Braves, as pivotal in developing her leadership and critical thinking skills. There, she says, she benefitted directly from their commitment to diversity and inclusion and was “given not just a seat at the table, but the ability to steer the ship on behalf of her team.”
As Director of Marketing & Strategic Initiatives for the Walter Kaitz Foundation, Ms. Berger is responsible for strategic planning, manages communications and branding strategy. In her role, she also assists with fundraising outreach and handles donor and sponsor relations.
As Senior Marketing Manager, Jackie Szmaja is responsible for the coordinated management of the Foundations marketing assets. Creating and curating content that supports the organization’s goals, brand objectives and online strategy.
Ms. Szmaja maintains the Foundations website, social media assets, e-news, and advertising channels in addition to being the primary contact for vendor and partner marketing relationships.
Ms. Szmaja has extensive marketing experience with national associations, non-profits and media organizations. A graduate of the University of Maryland with a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration and Marketing as well as a graduate certificate in Nonprofit Management from Georgetown University.