The Walter Kaitz Foundation (WKF) is pleased to welcome two new members to the team. Jennifer Berger joins the WKF in the newly created role of Director of Marketing and Strategic Initiatives and Jackie Szmaja (pronounced Sm-eye-a) serves as Senior Marketing Manager for the Foundation. Jennifer and Jackie joined the WKF on May 28th and both report to Executive Director, Michelle Ray. Also joining the team for the summer and making her mark was T. Howard Foundation intern, Tingwei Hsu.
Berger has spent her career working for both sports teams and large international companies. She served as vice president of marketing at Morgan Stanley Global Sports & Entertainment and managed events and productions with the MLB’s Baltimore Orioles, Cincinnati Reds and Atlanta Braves. Berger began her career in television production and subsequently moved to producing large live events, building her portfolio that includes managing detailed execution to overseeing long-term strategic direction and visioning. Her expertise includes not just content development but extends to facilities and workforce management.
She cites her time working for Turner Broadcasting System (TBS), owners of the Atlanta Braves, as pivotal in developing her leadership 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.”
In considering the mission and goals of the WKF, Berger offers that she is excited to be a part of the industry and the Foundation. “Being Latinx and having worked my way up in the male dominated sports business world, I experienced firsthand both the good and the bad when it comes to fairness, equity and inclusion. In my roles I have been required to produce great programming utilizing a talented diverse workforce in the most economically prudent way possible, all skills that will serve me well here at WKF. It excites me to utilize all my skills in service of our mission.”
To complement Berger’s experience, Szmaja brings a different set of skills to the Foundation. With her focus on digital engagement and online production Szmaja says she looks forward to elevating the diversity, equity and inclusion work of the WKF, as she learns more about the organization’s history as the team prepares to chart its future.
Szmaja has extensive marketing experience with national associations, non-profits and media organizations, most recently as marketing manager at the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), where she was responsible for developing strategy, implementing tactics and evaluating the results of the organization’s marketing activities. She looks forward to bringing to bear her skills in strategic oversight and digital project management to elevate the reach and visibility of the WKF and its partner organizations.
Most appealing to Szmaja is WKF’s efforts on behalf of its partner organizations to help “young people, women and people of color to access jobs, and the skills they need to succeed in the media and entertainment industry.” She offers that she is extremely proud to see her efforts focused on such a good cause.
She will be bringing skills from her work managing campaigns and technology projects that led to brand awareness, increased traffic, and the release of new products and processes to the Foundation.
Both staffers bring new perspectives and ways of operating that will be key to the WKF as it seeks to optimize the new and burgeoning opportunities in the media and entertainment industry, all while adhering to the WKF mission of advocacy around diversity, equity and inclusion.