Three alumni given awards for engagement, leadership and achievement

The Department of Management at the Daniels College of Business will host Daniels Management Day, Friday, May 6, where Charles Dhanaraj, chair of the department, will announce the 2022 alumni honorees. The three awards are: Emerging Leader, Sustained Achievement and the Engagement Awards.

Emerging Leader Award

Elisa Ballard

Elisa Ballard developed a passion for Italian culture, visiting family there in her youth, and later studying abroad in Bologna. The experiences perfectly prepared her for her current role as the director of operations for Volio Imports, an importer of fine wine. Ballard (BSBA 2010, MBA 2011) splits her time between Italy and Colorado, where she invests in producer relationships, leading product innovation and managing operations.

The Emerging Leader Award recognizes an alum who has attained substantive accomplishments early in their career, within 10 years of graduation. Ballard certainly fits the bill, quickly adding significant responsibilities to her portfolio.

Before working at Volio, Ballard worked for MISA Imports, a wine and spirits importer and distributor in Dallas, Texas, as its director of marketing and sales support. She also worked at Starcom MediaVest Group, a subsidiary of Publicis Groupe, supporting global accounts, with a focus on Kraft and Microsoft.

Ballard’s colleagues speak highly of her, noting her professional attitude, leadership and management capabilities.

“Elisa stepped in as a true knight in shining armor and has been a leader through some of the most difficult challenges our business has ever faced,” said Blake Eve, director of marketing for Volio. “She has grabbed our business by the horns during a challenging time. Now the company is experiencing dramatic month-over-month growth, and we wouldn’t be here without Elisa.”

“It is an honor to receive this award,” Ballard said. “My experience at the University of Denver’s Daniels College of Business provided a great platform to network both personally and professionally. Being able to apply my academic background in management to a career in supply chain, while also promoting sustainable farming practices and offsetting our company’s carbon emissions through our partnership with, has enabled me to live by DU and Daniels’ ethical values.”

 Sustained Achievement Award

Evan Cohen

The Sustained Achievement Award is given to a DU alum who has continued to use and develop management and leadership skills and has demonstrated ethics, social responsibility and furthering of the public good in their profession.

You don’t interact with Evan Cohen (BSBA 2001) without knowing integrity is a high priority in his life and career. Cohen, president and CEO of Quality Marble & Granite, credits his mom for instilling a high level of integrity, and his dad with teaching him a strong work ethic. With both, Cohen has led Quality Marble & Granite to success for 18 years.

Headquartered in Ontario, California, Cohen imports natural stone from countries, including Brazil, India, Italy, Spain, China, Taiwan and Norway. His team helps design and produce large projects such as hotels, apartments, shopping malls and airports. A large division of the company is responsible for sourcing, importing and displaying a large inventory of hard surface products for residential remodels and new builds.

“We’re a one-stop shop for a luxurious home or commercial project,” Cohen said. “We have a highly skilled inspection team and factories overseas that produce and ship the products ‘cut-to-size’ and ready to install. This unique process saves time and money in the fabrication and installation process, as well as increases the material options to allow any and all products found around the world to be utilized.”

Cohen has expanded his business to Bullhead City, Arizona, as well. The company has won back-to-back “Best Of” awards in Bullhead City and Ontario.

“Growing a business has been extremely challenging,” Cohen said. “However, with a focus on constant personal and professional growth and development, new challenges become lessons learned for a new and brighter future.”

Cohen is known in the industry and holds a seat on the executive board of the Natural Stone Institute, the worldwide industry organization which provides many opportunities to speak to industry leaders around the world. He also served as a mentor to the Women in Stone program, which helps women who are looking to advance their knowledge and skills in the natural stone industry.

“I am extremely honored to be selected for the Alumni Sustained Achievement Award by the University of Denver,” he said. “I am very honored to be recognized by my wonderful College, which has provided me the base for which my entrepreneurial endeavors began.”

Engagement Award

Taylor Wettlaufer

Taylor Wettlaufer spent years in the music industry, handling tour operations and production management. Wettlaufer (BSBA 2013) worked in conjunction with creative agencies, event organizers, record labels, talent managers and talent agents to effectively execute event, performance and promotional obligations for global brands and musicians. Then, in 2017, his career moved into operations and strategy for consumer packaged goods.

All of that experience executing live events with multiple stakeholders and understanding how to optimize manufacturing and drop-ship operations came in handy when the pandemic hit. Wettlaufer was especially qualified to handle mass COVID-19 testing and vaccination locations, like the mass testing and vaccination sites located at 5th Street Garage in downtown Denver. 

His experienced aided in the implementation of scalable strategies that reduced the number of wasted doses and the time that patients had to wait. Ultimately, this benefited the community as a whole by ensuring anyone that wanted to be tested or vaccinated could do so in a timely manner.

“Taylor is a visionary, hard-working and kind leader who was responsible for engineering countless COVID vaccine testing and vaccine sites with his team,” one of Wettlaufer’s nominators said. “He is one of the best leaders I have ever met; he takes a personal interest in all of his team members and works hard to deliver the best results that he can.”

Wettlaufer, who is currently the program director at Health Center at Auraria, was selected for the Engagement Award, which recognizes outstanding work in philanthropy, engagement with the College, and advancing DU’s mission.

During his time on campus, Wettlaufer was heavily involved assisting with the presidential debate hosted at the University in 2012. He also sat on DU’s programming board, coordinating all of the on-campus concerts.

Since graduating, Wettlaufer has stayed engaged. He attends alumni gatherings, DU sporting events and meets up with faculty.

“I’m honored and beyond grateful to have been chosen by the Daniels College of Business and my peers for the 2022 Engagement Award,” Wettlaufer said. “Since my freshman year, DU and its alumni network have not only been incredible resources, but also support mechanisms through various stages of my career since graduating. I look forward to continuing to be a part of such an exceptional institution.”

Importance of Alumni

Charles Dhanaraj, chair of the Daniels Department of Management, expressed how difficult it was to select this year’s honorees.

“We are proud of so many of our alumni who are doing great things, but we have to choose the best of them for this award,” he said. “I am so glad that Evan, Taylor and Elisa have been chosen by the Awards Committee this year.”

“Alumni are the life blood to our department,” Dhanaraj said. “We want to make sure that our students are able to see our Daniels graduates as great role models in the workplace and community. Eventually, we want to see that we can add value to their lives and create opportunities for them to grow and enrich the communities where they live.”