Denise is the founder and president of the marketing and communications firm, DRA Strategic Communications. The Phoenix-based agency, founded in 1986, serves clients in a variety of fields including real estate, economic development, health care, education, hospitality and entertainment.
Denise also serves as a member of the Arizona Community Foundation Board of Directors and member of the Arizona Advisory Board of BBVA Compass.
The mother of a 24-year-old son with autism, Denise is also the founder, president and board chair of First Place AZ, a nonprofit dedicated to developing new, innovative housing options for adults with autism and related disorders, and the co-founder and board member emeritus of the Southwest Autism Research & Resource Center (SARRC), an internationally recognized nonprofit organization dedicated to autism research, education and community outreach and the support of individuals with autism and their families throughout their lifetimes. The supportive community facilitated by SARRC is making First Place AZ possible.
Set in the heart of Greater Phoenix, the 6th largest metro area in the U.S., First Place offers an innovative mixed-use residential prototype for adults with autism and other special abilities. Backed by 15 years of research and led by market principles, First Place aspires to be a replicable national model promoting collaboration among the private, public and nonprofit sectors, and a catalyst for advancing federal public policy focused on housing solutions for special populations.
First Place celebrates neuro-diversity, independent living and a path toward opening doors for more real estate options.
Other nonprofit leadership includes serving as a member of the Autism Speaks Family Housing Committee, Advancing Futures for Adults with Autism (AFAA) Leadership Council, National Association of Residential Providers for Adults with Autism (NARPAA) and the National Autism Transition Research Network Advisory Panel. Denise also served as a federally appointed member of the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee (IACC) of the National Institutes of Health.
Denise is the editor of Opening Doors: A Discussion of Residential Options for Adults Living with Autism and Related Disorders, a collaborative study by SARRC, the Urban Land Institute (ULI) Arizona, the Arizona State University (ASU) Stardust Center for Affordable Homes and the Family and the ASU Herberger Institute School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture.
She graduated from Arizona State University cum laude and received her bachelor’s degree in business. Denise’s greatest accomplishment is her family—her husband Rob of 32 years, and adult children Matt, Ally and Whitney.