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CWC speakers tell CGA students not to let others’ expectations define them

Tom Coyne

Marisa Comella Alvarez, executive director of Los Cabos Children’s Foundation, Katie Mitzell Fagan ’06, head of artists and repertoire for Prescription Songs, Kiki Wolfkill, head of intellectual property expansion and entertainment for Xbox, and life coach Marta Brummell. (Photo by Tom Coyne)


Three speakers at the Culver Women’s Celebration told Culver Girls Academy students to take charge of their lives and not to let the expectations of others define them.

The theme of this year’s CWC was “Women Undefined – Boundless Possibilities.” Kiki Wolfkill, head of intellectual property expansion and entertainment for Xbox, music executive Katie Mitzell Fagan ’06 and Marisa Comella Alvarez, executive director of Los Cabos Children’s Foundation in Mexico, told the girls how they took control of their careers.

Wolfkill, a game developer and an executive producer for the TV series “Halo,” told the girls not to listen when others tell them they can’t do something.

“What are the stories we’re told and more importantly, what are the stories we believe, about ourselves and about others,” Wolfkill said. “What are the boundaries we feel confined by and even more importantly, what are the boundaries we feel compelled to break?”

Wolfkill, a friend of the mother of Celeste Gram ’24, said she was taught that because she was a creative artist she couldn’t think analytically or be technical. She majored in Chinese studies in college and didn’t have many job options when she graduated.

Kiki Wolfkill, head of intellectual property expansion and entertainment for Xbox, told CGA students not to listen when others tell them they can’t do something. (Photo by Tom Coyne)


She applied for an internship at a company owned by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen digitizing analog video into digital clips even though she didn’t know how to use a computer.

“I took the job anyway and found myself at the end of another limb terrified because I was about to start a job in a week at a software company and I didn’t know how to use Windows,” she said. “I told myself I could do it because I had to do it.”
She said technology opened up her creativity in ways she never could have imagined, which led her to becoming an executive producer and building a team that built Halo 4.

“Each step along the way was an exercise in trying to put the stories aside that didn’t serve me, not letting the expectations of others prevent me from doing what felt right,” she said.

Fagan, who is head of artists and repertoire for Prescription Songs in Nashville, told the girls how her career got off to a rocky start in the music business. She got her big break when the brother of her Culver roommate told her that music producer Dr. Luke was looking for a personal assistant. She took the job making him breakfast, doing his grocery shopping and driving him to meetings. She also met songwriters and artists.

“But little by little, I learned about music publishing,” she said.

Katie Mitzell Fagan ’06, head of artists and repertoire for Prescription Songs, talked to CGA students about the importance of taking care of themseles. (Photo by Tom Coyne)


Luke eventually gave her a shot at A&R, or artists and repertoire. She now works with songwriters, introducing them and matching them with other songwriters to work together to craft songs and then find artists to perform those songs.

She has helped build its rosters of songwriters from 12 to more than 180. That includes Doja Cat, Emily Warren, who has written hits for Dua Lipa and Chainsmokers, and Benny Blanco, who has written songs for Katy Perry, Halsey and Justin Bieber. 

In 2016, she and Luke opened an office in Nashville, where she lives today. She runs a staff of seven and they have 30 songwriters.

Fagan became emotional when she told the girls about becoming a mother in 2018 to her son James, who was rushed to the hospital unconscious and not breathing at 6 months old. After a series of tests, they discovered he had a brain tumor.

After four brain surgeries, many seizures, two strokes, radiation and chemo, James is a happy kindergartner and older brother to 2-year-old Jack-Jack, who has been diagnosed with cystic fibrosis but is doing well.

 “The reason I am sharing this is it’s real, it’s part of my story because it’s part of who I am. And I want you to see that even on your darkest days, even when you think literally nothing can go right, you can still come out on top,” she said.

She said one important lesson she’s learned is the need to take care of herself.

“I learned that the hard way after long nights in the hospital. Once I realized I couldn’t take care of my child, my employees, or my husband, unless I took care of myself first – I started prioritizing me,” she said.

Marisa Comella Alvarez, executive director of Los Cabos Children’s Foundation, encouraged CGA students to get in the driver's seat.. (Photo by Tom Coynel)

Comella, mother of Victoria Herrera ’25, encouraged the girls to “take the reins, get in the driver’s seat and lead yourself through the decisions of your life.”

She said it’s a lesson she learned 11 years ago after she and her older sister traveled to Cuba after the death of their father to spread his ashes in the country he had fled when Fidel Castro took over. But her sister, who was born in Cuba, wasn’t allowed in the country, leaving Comella to navigate the trip alone.

She said that’s when she realized she needed to take charge. She said, up until then, her life had been on “autopilot.” That changed when she returned home to Cabo San Lucas.

“I started on a self-discovery journey, began taking care of myself and making decisions – some of them hard ones. But that was the result of me leading myself for the first time,” she said.

She told the girls she was offered the position as executive director of a nonprofit focused on improving health and wellness of children even though she had never worked for a nonprofit, had never raised any funds and she hated sales. Since then, she’s raised more than $20 million.

“Every day, I feel fortunate to have the opportunity to work in changing the world, one child at a time,” she said.

She told the girls it is up to them to decide what opportunities they will take advantage of at Culver and “how you define yourself at Culver and beyond in life.”

“Take advantage of this time and place to broaden your horizons, challenge yourself with the unknown, and collect passions. Pay attention, connect with your inner voice, and start defining yourself,” she said.

Life coach Marta Brummell conducted a workshop on "Relationship with Self) for CGA students. (Photo by Sloan Losch)



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