Rachel Arfa, Staff Attorney, Equip for Equality
Rachel Arfa has long been involved in political issues. Her interest in politics began at an early age, when her mother would take her with her to work at City Hall and she learned first hand about the great potential of government to help make positive change. Currently, Rachel is a staff attorney at Equip for Equality, in Chicago, Illinois, where she litigates employment discrimination and civil rights cases on behalf of people with disabilities in Illinois. Previously, she was employed as a Staff Attorney at the Legal Aid Society of Milwaukee, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where she litigated consumer law and housing cases in state and federal court. Rachel holds a Bachelor of Arts in American Culture from the University of Michigan, and a Juris Doctorate from the University of Wisconsin School of Law. As a college student, Rachel was active in student government, community service organizations and disability awareness initiatives. While in law school, Rachel completed a legal internship at the Federal Trade Commission in the office of Commissioner Pamela Jones Harbour, and also at the University of Wisconsin Consumer Law Litigation Clinic. Before attending law school, Rachel worked for three years on Senator Patrick Leahy’s staff as the nominations clerk for the Senate Committee on the Judiciary. During her college years, Rachel was an intern in the United States White House, in First Lady Hilary Rodham Clinton’s Correspondence office, and also for U.S. Senator Carol Mosley-Braun. Rachel is profoundly deaf and communicates by talking and lipreading. She uses bilateral cochlear implants to hear. Rachel is active in organizations that advocate for deaf and hard of hearing individuals and issues. Rachel serves on the board of directors for the Alexander Graham Bell Association for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, as Chair of the board of directors for the Midwest Center on Law and the Deaf and on the Chicago Hearing Society Advisory Committee. Rachel is an avid traveler and the international destinations s she has been to include Galapagos Islands, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Cambodia, Israel, Italy, Spain, Poland, Great Britain and Ireland.
Kevin Borgia, Manager of Public Policy & Membership, Wind on the WiresKevin has over seven years of experience as an analyst and advocate in state and federal energy policy. He was founder and Executive Director of the Illinois Wind Energy Association, a non-profit advocacy group representing many of the largest firms in the wind energy sector. IWEA merged into the regional non-profit Wind on the Wires in late 2011, and Kevin continues to serve a key role promoting wind power in Illinois as part of the WOW staff. In his advocacy roles, Kevin has secured significant state policy victories for wind in Illinois, including new tax incentives and stable tax structures for wind development, improved markets for renewables under the Illinois Power Agency, new loan guarantees for clean energy sources, and better permitting regulations for wind farms in the state. He has raised nearly a half-million dollars to fund IWEA's operations, worked to champion wind power in local and national media, and helped to raise the profile of the wind sector in the Chicago area. Previously, Kevin worked as editor and analyst for the federal energy and environmental policy newsletters Energy Washington and Inside EPA. He is a central Illinois native and a graduate of Illinois State University. Outside the professional sphere, Kevin enjoys international and domestic travel, backpacking, hiking, Scuba diving, mountain biking, live music and Chicago.
Prentice Butler, Director of Policy & Communications, City of Chicago, 4th Ward, Alderman William D. BurnsPrentice Butler currently serves as the Director of Policy & Communications for Alderman William D. Burns, in Chicago's 4th Ward. He also serves as the Chicago Chair of Young & Powerful, a national organization dedicated to engaging young professionals in public service. Prentice has worked in the past for Attorney Ernesto D. Borges, where he provided bankruptcy consulting services for seven years to clients in financial distress, and he has also worked as a District Executive for the Boy Scouts of America. He also has been trained in community organizing from working as a community leader with SOUL (South-siders organized for unity and liberation).
Emile Cambry, Managing Director, CibolaEmile Cambry, Jr. received his Bachelor's degree in Economics from the University of Chicago and his MBA on Merit Scholarship from Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management. Emile is a Professor at North Park University. Emile was recognized as one of the Top 50 Business School Professors and Top 100 Web-Savvy Professors. Emile has experience in Investment Banking for J.P. Morgan Chase, was the Interim CEO of a Certified Public Accounting firm, and co-founder of MetroWorks, an award-winning film production company. Emile's films have been licensed by HBO and Cinemax, as well as Showtime. Emile is a Founding Board Member of the Chicago Comedy Film Festival and the American Chamber Opera Company. Emile is the Founder and CEO of social entrepreneurship projects, the 21st Century Youth Project and the Chicago Film Group. Emile is an Ideas Award Fellow, recognizing "leaders and change agents of the world tomorrow, who are making a huge impact on their local and regional communities today." Emile is a Gold Medal Edison Awards winner, recognizing “visionaries” and innovators who seek to “write a new chapter in American innovation history.” The 21st Century Youth Project was recognized as the most innovative educational program in America by the Edison Awards (2012). Emile is also a Board member of DePaul University's Social Enterprise Collective and Managing Director of the technology and entrepreneurship incubator, Cibola. Emile is also the Founder and Festival Director of the Chicago International Social Change Film Festival.
Joe Carlasare, Associate, Smith-Amundsen LLC
Joe Carlasare is an associate in the Chicago law firm of SmithAmundsen LLC and a member of the firm’s Commercial Litigation and Insurance Litigation Practice Groups. Prior to joining SmithAmundsen, Joe spent years working at all levels of electoral politics. Joe gained valuable experience in constituent services while serving as an intern for U.S. Senator Richard J. Durbin. During college, he worked as Recruiter for People for the American Way helping to identify and train over 1000 college students to serve as Polling Place Administrators for the Chicago Board of Elections during the 2006 midterms. In recognition of those efforts, Joe was honored with a Young People For fellowship, which is a leadership development program focusing on identifying, engaging and empowering young progressive leaders. After graduating magna cum laude from Loyola University Chicago with degrees in Political Science and Philosophy, Joe worked as the Political and Finance directors for nationally targeted congressional campaigns. He also served as the Political Director for the Will County Democratic Party and Frankfort Township Democratic Organization in Illinois. During his time in law school at Chicago-Kent College of Law, Joe worked as an assistant to the Honorable David A. Erickson during Erickson’s time on Governor Quinn’s commission reviewing the Illinois Department of Corrections’ meritorious good time program. The commission conducted a top-to-bottom review of the prison system in Illinois and published a set of specific designed that to move the prisoner rehabilitation program to a rewards system meant to encourage good behavior, and not just a way to minimize congestion at prisons. At Chicago-Kent, Joe acted as captain of the nationally ranked Chicago-Kent trial team. He was the winner of the 2010 Ilana Diamond Rovner Appellate Advocacy Competition. Joe was named “Champion” and “Best Advocate” of the 2010 National Institute for Trial Advocacy’s (NITA) Tournament of Champions, one of the premier law school trial competitions in the country. In June 2011, Joe finished among as one top four student advocates in the Country at Baylor University School of Law’s “Top Gun” tournament. Graduating cum laude with a Juris Doctor degree from Chicago-Kent in May 2012, Joe is looking forward to staying active in progressive politics in Illinois while continuing his work as a young attorney. He is passionate about engaging all citizens to be active participants in their democracy.
Laura Garcia, Community Development Consultant, Immigration and Social Justice
Laura Garcia is an advocate for immigration and social justice who specializes in developing, implementing and managing programs that touch the lives of individuals and communities while also creating statewide and national impact. Laura has worked nationally and locally in various positions, most recently completing her term as the creator and Director of the Uniting America Integration Initiative at the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights. In this position, Laura was responsible for developing this statewide immigrant-focused initiative that incorporated program services, community organizing and community development. Prior to her work in Illinois, Laura worked for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services/Office of Refugee Resettlement where she managed national refugee resettlement programs. While in D.C., Laura also worked with the Department of Labor/Employment and Training Administration in areas of Workforce Development. Laura began her refugee work while working at World Relief International Development Corporation in Baltimore.
Allyson Gold, Supervising Attorney, Health Justice Project, Loyola University Chicago School of Law
Allyson Gold is an adjunct professor at Loyola University Chicago School of Law and a supervising attorney in Loyola's Health Justice Project, a live-client, medical-legal partnership law school clinic. As an adjunct professor, Allyson teaches courses that focus on housing, health, and healthcare systems. As a supervising attorney in the Health Justice Project, Allyson supervises law students engaged in direct client representation, policy advocacy, and collaboration with healthcare providers to identify and address social and legal issues that negatively impact the health of low-income patients. Previously, Allyson worked as a legal extern at non-profit organizations committed to mitigating substandard housing conditions for low-income tenants and exercising the rights of persons experiencing homelessness. Allyson received her J.D., with Honors, from Emory University School of Law. During law school, Allyson drafted legislation to protect the rights of Georgia tenants in foreclosure. Prior to becoming an attorney, she served as a Tenant Services Specialist at Housing Counseling Services. Allyson received her B.A., with High Distinction, in Political and Social Thought from the University of Virginia. Originally from suburban Washington, DC, Allyson currently lives with her husband, Steven, and their two cats in Lakeview East.
Theodore Gonder, Founder and Executive Director, MoneythinkTed Gonder is a social entrepreneur obsessed with supercharging the frontiers of human prosperity through education, transnational entrepreneurship, and cross-sector collaboration. Ted is the co-founding Executive Director of Moneythink, a White-House-recognized social venture helping millenials make and manage money. He is also an Entrepreneur-in-Residence at the Department of Homeland Security, advising the Obama administration on immigration policy for foreign entrepreneurs. He has worked with the Kauffman Foundation and the Chilean government on transnational entrepreneurship initiatives, and has published research on the topic through MIT Press. Previously, Ted led a number of climate-change-related initiatives, most notably being appointed and serving as the student advisor to The Climate Project, an organization founded by Al Gore. Ted has also been an active innovator, leader, and member in a number of global social entrepreneurship communities, including the Kairos Society, UChicago Entrepreneurship Society, and StartingBloc. Ted has spoken at the White House, UN, US Senate, NYSE, US Chamber of Commerce, StartingBloc, the Bold Academy, the Dell Social Innovation Lab, Ignited USA, the World Foresight Forum, and TEDx. His work has been featured on MTV, CNN, NPR, the White House blog, Forbes, U.S. News & World Report, the Chicago Tribune and Sun-Times, the Chronicle of Higher Education, Huffington Post, and GOOD Magazine. Ted is a born-again health nut, novice martial artist, and lover of puppies.
Ben Head, District Director, Mike Smiddy for State Representative
A lifelong resident of the area, Ben Head now splits his time between Chicago’s North Side, Springfield, and Illinois’ 71st House District as Rep. Mike Smiddy’s (D-Hillsdale) District/Political Director. Ben has worked political and issue-based campaigns for several years as a Field Director, Director of Communications, Community Organizer, Campaign Manager, and a general consultant for clients including Rep. Mike Smiddy, AFSCME Council 31, Personal PAC, Ilya Sheyman, and others. In addition to his political work, Ben provides communications and public relations for Charge Station Inc., a Chicago-based tech start-up, and serves as Director of Strategic Development for YCoalition, a youth advocacy group. His interest in politics took off while attending the University of Colorado at Boulder. Upon graduation, Ben returned to Chicago for his first campaign staff position and has been working in the political arena ever since. Ben has organized constituents for electoral or issue-based programs across Illinois, including the Illinois Quad Cities, Waukegan/North Chicago, Sterling/Rock Falls, Evergreen Park, Lincoln Park, Old Town, Lake County, West Suburban Cook County, and others.
Dennis Hughes, Jr.After graduating from the University of Notre Dame in 2008, Dennis moved on to Marquette University Law School where he worked with Legal Action of Wisconsin's Road to Opportunity program to remove barriers to employment for low-income families. During his final semester at Marquette in the Spring of 2011, he became actively involved with progressive politics as part of the protests against Governor Scott Walker in Madison, Wisconsin. Following law school, Dennis took a job with a law firm in Chicago, but soon began volunteering with Ilya Sheyman's campaign for Congress. He quickly became the Chicago field director and was responsible for hosting fundraising events and recruiting Chicago-area college students to the campaign. After a disappointing primary loss, he moved back to Wisconsin to organize for the recall of Scott Walker. As an organizer for We Are Wisconsin, Dennis managed three counties, including the Sheboygan, WI office that was the most productive individual office statewide. After a disappointing recall loss, he moved to Michigan where he became Regional Field Director for the Protect Working Families campaign, which was formed with a goal of enshrining the right to collective bargaining in the state constitution. As regional field director for Macomb County, Dennis recruited over 2,000 volunteer shifts prior to Labor Day, which generated an average of 7,000 doors knocked per week in the two months before the November election. He was promoted to Deputy Field Director and managed three of the four most productive regions statewide during the final month of the campaign. After a disappointing loss for his ballot initiative, Dennis moved on to become field director for the Working Michigan campaign during Michigan's lame duck legislative session. As field director, Dennis managed the second largest field campaign in Michigan history, which focused on lobbying targeted state senators to vote against Right to Work legislation. The campaign recruited thousands of volunteers to lobby their state legislators at the state capitol, thousands more to contact their legislator by phone, hundreds to write letters to the editor, and hundreds more to participate in earned media events imploring their legislator to reject Right to Work. As passage of the legislation became inevitable, the campaign recruited over 15,000 people to protest at the Capitol as Right to Work legislation was passed. Despite disappointing losses in labor battles over the last year, Dennis plans to continue organizing and fighting for working families in Chicago.
Sheena Kauzlarich, Founding Director, Southwest Suburban Immigrant Project
Sheena Kauzlarich is the Director of a suburban Chicago immigrant rights organization and believes that healthy communities are only possible when all groups are involved in the development of policies that affect its members. In 2010, then a campaign organizer at Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, Sheena founded the nonprofit organization Southwest Suburban Immigrant Project (SSIP) in Bolingbrook, Illinois. Ms. Kauzlarich lives on the south side of Chicago and divides her time between directing SSIP and studying for her Masters in Social Work at Loyola University. Her SSIP work involves organizing rallies; connecting immigrants with local mayors, law enforcement agents, and religious leaders; lobbying with immigrants and advocates at the capitol in Springfield; and assisting immigrants with legal and bureaucratic obstacles. Sheena hails from a small farming community in Iowa. She moved to Chicago at age 20 with no contacts and no connections, only a dream for new opportunities.
Connie Kresge, Associate Principal, Civic Consulting Alliance
Connie is an Associate Principal at Civic Consulting Alliance, a non-profit consulting firm that is reshaping the way the city of Chicago works. Prior to working at Civic Consulting, Connie was part of the team that launched the NOOK color for Barnes & Noble, worked at a hedge fund in Manhattan, and was a teacher in Latin America. Connie holds an MBA from the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan as well as a bachelor's degree in Government and Economics from the College of William and Mary in Virginia. While she is from Virginia, both of Connie's grandparents are from the Chicagoland area, and she is thrilled to call Chicago home.
D. Dona Le, Co-founder, Sibia Group LLC
D. Dona Le is the Co-founder and Director of Sibia Group LLC. The Web-based company offers education services: admissions consulting (SibiaAdmissions.com) and editing & proofreading assistance (SibiaProofreading.com). Le attended Harvard University, where she graduated in 2005 with a dual Bachelor of Arts degree in Germanic Languages & Literatures and Music. She was recommended for High Honors in her fields of concentration, and her senior thesis was awarded magna cum laude plus. After working at a New York City law firm for two years, Le earned her M. Phil with Distinction (Highest Honors) in Literature from Trinity College Dublin in 2009. Le’s primary interests are education and creative writing, specifically screenwriting. In addition to managing Sibia Group LLC, Le works as a freelance editor and writer, and she contributes regularly to Harvardwood Highlights, the monthly publication of Harvardwood, a non-profit organization aimed to support alumni in the arts, media, and entertainment. In December 2012, Le became co-chapter head of Harvardwood Chicago. She remains deeply involved with Harvard’s alumni network. Since 2010, Le has been a member of the Harvard Club of Chicago (HCC) Board of Directors and the HCC Decade Group committee. She regularly organizes events in support of the HCC’s young alumni, including the semiannual Global Networking Night event. Le is also the Chicago City Coordinator for The Ivy Plus Society. In Chicago, Le serves on the Board of Directors of the Westside Writing Project (WWP), a non-profit afterschool initiative that teaches area youth to use digital media and journalism to explore current events and local issues. WWP students regularly create and publish newsletters, podcasts, and videos about topics of their selection. They have also appeared on a news broadcast program on CAN-TV. A California native, Le currently resides in Chicago, where she will continue to pursue her community and alumni involvements and to explore her passion for screenwriting.
Morlie Patel, Deputy Director of External Affairs, Cook County Sheriff's Office
Morlie Patel currently works as Deputy Director of External Affairs for Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart's Office. At the Sheriff's Office, Morlie has the unique opportunity to couple her business skills with her passion for public policy to work on issues to help improve public safety and the lives of those impacted by the criminal justice system. Additionally, as a non-Muslim she founded the Sheriff’s Muslim Community Outreach Program (MCOP) to foster communication between law enforcement and the local Muslim community. Prior to joining the Sheriff’s Office, Morlie graduated from the University of Michigan with a degree in Economics and Political Science. She then completed her Master's Degree in Accounting at the University of Michigan's Ross School of Business. Morlie worked in the private sector at both PricewaterhouseCoopers and Deloitte before making the career change into public policy to follow her passions. Morlie is very passionate about social causes and she believes that good policy and implementation are the keys to lifting communities, beliefs which led her to her current role at the Sheriff’s Office. This past year, Morlie served as the VP of Political Awareness for the Network of Indian Professionals - Chicago Chapter. In that role, she worked on empowering the South Asian community to become more politically active by running political panels, meet-and-greets with political appointees, and by helping to organize a national conference in which she brought together South Asians in politics from across the country, including the White House, to inspire and motivate the community to actively engage in the political forum. Additionally, Morlie was recently elected to the board of the Indian-American Democratic Organization, a group that actively works to promote South Asian interests politically and helps South Asians get elected to office.
Rebecca Reynolds, Interim Executive Director, Chicago Votes
Rebecca is Program Director at Chicago Votes, a non-partisan, way awesome, civic organization created for and by leaders from the city’s Millennial and Hip Hop Generation which aims to engage Chicagoans in the political process. An experienced campaign manager who specializes in field work, volunteer organizing and youth engagement, her passion is finding innovative and fun ways to make democracy hands-on. She has served as the director of citizen outreach with the The Fund for the Public Interest Research Groups in Chicago and Washington, D.C., where she worked primarily with college students advocating and fundraising for issues ranging from gay and consumer rights to environmental protections. She has run competitive electoral campaigns for candidates running for alderman, state representative and committeeman. She is on the board of the Dill Pickle Food Co-op, Chicago’s only cooperative grocery store and Progressive Alliance PAC, a political action committee working to elect progressive candidates to office.
Courtney Rowe, Development Coordinator, Girls in the Game
Courtney is a Development Coordinator with Girls in the Game working on private foundation, corporate and government grant relations, and is in the process of completing her M.S. in Leadership and Policy Studies at DePaul University and holds a B.A. in International Affairs from the University of Colorado, Boulder. She has a passion for research and her areas of interest include wartime sexual violence and its effects during the transitional and post-conflict phases, the role of women in peace building with a focus on civil society, the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR) of women and former child soldiers, and intimate partner violence in the United States. Courtney has combined her education and passion for international travel to engage in professional development and research experiences abroad. During her undergraduate experience, Courtney interned with a nonprofit organization working with Liberian refugees in Ghana’s Buduburam refugee camp. More recently, she joined DePaul’s School of Public Service in Pune, India, where she looked at the impact of watershed development on the lives of women in rural villages. In 2011, Courtney's chapter "The Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration of Former Child Soldiers" was published by the National Defense University Press in The Monopoly of Force. Courtney recently worked on Department of State grant-funded projects in Iraq with DePaul University's International Human Rights Law Institute (IHRLI). Courtney is committed to ending violence against women and currently serves as the Communications Chair on the Connections for Abused Women and Their Children (CAWC) Junior Board in Chicago. In her free time, Courtney enjoys traveling, snowboarding and trying new restaurants in Chicago.
Sufyan Sohel, Deputy Director, CAIR-Chicago
Sufyan Sohel is the Deputy Director at CAIR-Chicago. Sufyan earned his undergraduate degree from Tulane University and holds a Masters of Science in Finance (M.S.) and a Juris Doctorate (J.D.) from DePaul University. Prior to law school and CAIR-Chicago, Sufyan worked in the financial industry but realized that he was not passionate about his work and wanted to work towards creating positive change. Sufyan has spent some time volunteering in post-Katrina New Orleans where he helped displaced residents seek and gain the necessary aid to rebuild their lives. He also served as an intern at the Egyptian Center for Women’s Rights in Cairo, Egypt where he researched gender violence and worked towards improving the legal and political status of women in Egypt. Sufyan currently sits on the Boards of the Indian-American Bar Association and the Chicago Chapter of The Tulane Alumni Association.
Pamela Villa, Analyst, Corporate Banking,
Pamela graduated from The University of Chicago with a degree in Political Science in June of 2012 and subsequently joined PNC Bank as a Corporate Banking Analyst. In tandem with working full-time, she spends her time strategically developing the non-profit she co-founded during her college years. The Community Change Project is a college mentoring organization that aims to inspire high school students in the South Side of Chicago to use their interests and talents to improve problems in their communities. College mentors encourage high school students to identify issues and take action to improve those issues they are most passionate about. Since its inception, the Community Change Project completed a full successful year at Hyde Park Academy. The Hyde Park Academy juniors enjoyed being a part of the program so much they asked their teacher if we could return for a second year of the program. Although it was originally intended to be a one year program, the leadership team ended up developing a curriculum for a second year once we saw the positive reaction and influence the program was having on students. This academic year the program mentors both a new junior class, as well as the senior class that asked us to return for another year. Although her busy work schedule keeps her from mentoring since graduating college, Pamela is committed to seeing the impact of the non-profit continue to grow in coming years. Having moved from Mexico City to the the U.S. at age nine, she is deeply interested in a wide base of issues from international relations and economics to poverty and how and why it manifests itself in entirely differently in neighboring countries. Pamela hopes to use her experience working in finance and in the non-profit sphere to help find long-term solutions to closing the absurd inequality gap in the U.S. She has a lifelong appreciation for the arts. She recently started taking financial accounting classes, as well as acrylic painting and yoga.