Chicago 2016 Fellows

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Meet the 2016 Chicago Fellows

Brian Anderson, Student Leadership Manager, Interfaith Youth Core


Brian Anderson graduated from Butler University with degrees in Religious Studies and Psychology. After adventures in Anchorage, AK as a social worker at a homeless day shelter, Brian found his passion working in higher education. He obtained an M.A. in Student Development Administration and for nearly ten more years, Brian has worked at several institutions developing programs for students to engage in critical conversations across racial, religious, and cultural identities. Most recently, he served at Loyola University Chicago as the Interfaith Campus Minister where he developed an interfaith ally training which focused on developing religious literacy and advocacy skills for students. Additionally, he has completed an MA in Pastoral Studies where he focused his research on interfaith peacebuilding. This work has led him to taking a new position with the Interfaith Youth Core where he will continue to create programs for all to feel welcomed at the table. When not at work, Brian can be found helping at his local parish, St. Nick’s in Evanston, spending time with his beautiful wife and daughter, or tucked away in his basement writing the next great american novel!


Barbara Barreno-Paschall


Barbara R. Barreno-Paschall is a licensed attorney in Illinois and a first-year Master of Public Policy student at the University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy. She is a recipient of the Irving B. Harris Fellowship, a full-tuition scholarship plus stipend, and is one of two student representatives appointed to serve on the Diversity Inclusion and Advisory Board. Ms. Barreno-Paschall also is the Vice President of Operations for Students for Criminal Justice Reform, an organization she co-founded. Prior to attending Chicago Harris, Ms. Barreno-Paschall practiced employment law from 2011 to 2015 in the Chicago office of Sidley Austin LLP. At Sidley, Ms. Barreno-Paschall advised employers ranging from Fortune 500 companies to local nonprofit organizations on a variety of employment matters and represented clients in federal and state courts as well as before administrative agencies such as the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and Illinois Department of Human Rights. Ms. Barreno-Paschall was twice recognized by the Firm for her work on behalf of immigrants seeking asylum when she received the Thomas H. Morsch Award for outstanding pro bono service in 2012 and 2014. She also served on the Chicago office Associate Diversity Council. Ms. Barreno-Paschall is a native of Covina, California in Los Angeles County and is the third of five children. She graduated from Harvard College with honors in 2007 and from Vanderbilt University Law School in 2011. In law school, Ms. Barreno-Paschall served as Executive Editor of the Vanderbilt Law Review and as Chair of the National Latina/o Law Student Association. A lifelong sports fan, Ms. Barreno-Paschall cheers for the Los Angeles Lakers and Galaxy and the Chicago Bulls and Fire. She also enjoys listening to salsa and jazz, touring art museums, and exploring Chicago’s restaurant scene. Ms. Barreno-Paschall has served as a mentor to Latina/o youth with Mercy Home for Boys and Girls and Chicago Scholars and volunteers as a lector at Old St. Patrick’s Church. She lives in the Woodlawn neighborhood of Chicago with her husband.


Jeffery Beckham, President, Black Box Creative Inc.


Jeffery Beckham is a recognized technology and community leader known for his passion for service. He offers a unique blend of healthcare experience, community service, and technology savvy that builds communities and aids small business growth throughout the country. After working in the healthcare information technology sector, Jeffery founded Black Box Creative Incorporated in 2009. Black Box Creative is an information technology and innovation organization that consistently delivers results by aligning technology initiatives and marketing initiatives with customers’ business goals. Black Box Creative’s client list includes Tuskegee University, The Cook County Bar Association, Trinity United Church of Christ, Erica Campbell, and Oscar Winner Common as well as many other organizations and individuals throughout the United States A native of Chicago’s south side, graduate of the University of Missouri Columbia with a B.S. in business information systems, and candidate for DePaul University’s MBA/ Master’s of Business Information Technology Dual Degree Program, Jeffery began programming and building websites at the age of 12 at the encouragement and coaching of his father. More impressive is Jeff’s drive for healthcare and technology education in the low-income communities. He’s taught classes in web development, graphic design and social media to people seeking to build those skills in low-income communities in Illinois and Missouri. Jeffery led Black Box Creative’s efforts in serving as the provider of technology consulting services for companies enrolled in the Smart Communities Program in Greater Auburn Gresham and Englewood. Jeffery has been and instructor/consultant for numerous organizations throughout Chicago. He believes that we must educate our young people and find solutions for conquering the growing urban digital divide. WVON and Ariel Investments recently named Jeffery one of Chicago’s Top 40 Game Changers Under 40 years old. Jeffery lives by the quote, “to whom much is given, much is required” and he constantly finds opportunities to help people working to build community and develop our country’s youth. As a member of the 100 Black Men of America Jeffery has worked as a mentor and speaks to youth all over the city. Jeffery is also a mentor for Link Unlimited Scholars. In March of 2014 Jeffery ran for and was elected to serve as the Community Representative for the Local School Council at King College Preparatory High School furthering aspirations to serve the community as a policy maker. Community, technology, faith, and service are core foundations of Jeffery Beckham Jr.’s life.


Dhathri Chunduru, Master of Public Policy Candidate, University of Chicago

chicago-chunduru.jpgDhathri Chunduru is currently a graduate student at the University of Chicago’s Harris School of Public Policy. Before graduate school, Dhathri served in a variety of leadership roles in the field of education. She was a special educator and an instructional coach with the Teach For America Metro Atlanta region. She later served as the region’s Managing Director, where she led a team of instructional coaches charged with the development of 250 novice teachers. During her time, she led organizational innovations in disability justice, diversity and inclusion, and culturally responsive pedagogy. She was also named a 2010 National Finalist for the Sue Lehmann Award for Excellence in Teaching, the highest award given to TFA teachers. Though her background is primarily in education, Dhathri is broadly interested in the promotion of systemic change and ensure opportunities for marginalized individuals, within a variety of fields. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Political Science and Economics from Vanderbilt University.


Antwan Dobson, Firefighter and Paramedic, Chicago Fire Department


Antwan's humble beginnings as a foster child on the westside of Chicago could've made him a statistic; yet his enthusiasm and inquisitiveness kept him alive, through the draw of the neighborhood firehouse. At the age of 8, Antwan's love affair with the fire service began, as he spent countless days at the firehouse, taking in the culture, the rhythms and the sounds of emergency management and he was hooked. After becoming a paramedic, Antwan applied and was called for his dream job as a Chicago Firefighter, a position he is held for over 10 years. In addition to his love for EMS, Antwan is also a history buff and political enthusiast, who has blogged about current events, in both arenas, for Chicago Now and other publications. Antwan has been a political contributor on Fox News Chicago and to several local and national campaigns for progressive candidates, in a variety of elections. Antwan holds a B.S in Fire Service Administration and a M.S in Public Safety Administration from Lewis University and a MA in Public Policy Administration from Northwestern University. Antwan is married to his wife, Rebecca, and has one daughter and two step-sons.


Jessica Dudley, Program Officer, The Joyce Foundation

chicago-Dudley.jpgJessyca Dudley, MPH, is public health practitioner, researcher, and non-profit leader. She is the Founder of The Building Fund, a non-profit organization dedicated to providing children with access to education in West Africa. As a researcher and public health practitioner, Jessyca has held positions with the Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago, the University of Illinois at Chicago, and the University of Chicago Medicine. With these organizations she has developed and implemented community-based prevention and outreach programs, and conducted clinical and social science research to improve the health of communities in Chicago. Jessyca currently serves as a Program Officer for the Joyce Foundation's Gun Violence Prevention Program. Through Joyce's grant making, Jessyca supports evidence-based policies and practices to reduce gun deaths and injury in the United States.


Fabian Elliott, Advertising Technology Consultant, Google; Founder, Black Tech Mecca


Fabian Elliott is a ‘Hybrid Entrepreneur’ as Founder & CEO of Black Tech Mecca Inc. and Advertising Technology Consultant at Google. He believes that the best way to change the world is through empowering yourself, family, and community. Fabian is also a lover of history, philosophy, art and a tasty dessert.






Wesley Epplin, Director, Health Equity, Health & Medicine Policy Research Group


Wesley is a social justice activist. He is the Director of Health Equity at Health & Medicine Policy Research Group, a 35-year old health policy think tank that advances health equity by promoting social justice. At Health & Medicine, he researches and advocates for a stronger health safety net, health workforce policies, and health-equity and public health planning and policy that advance health and healthcare as human rights. Wesley is also a co-founder of and facilitator for Radical Public Health (RPH), a group at the University of Illinois at Chicago School of Public Health that seeks to move public health learning, research, and practice to focus on solutions that get to the roots of health inequities (“radical” referring to “getting to the root”). Among other issues, RPH seeks to move the field of public health to use its influence to better address and redress: structural racism in policing, incarceration, and in other parts of public policy and practice; gender inequities; the inequitable concentration of wealth and power proliferated by market fundamentalism; and the need for a primary prevention of war approach in global public health. Wesley also engages in both electoral and issue-based political campaigns beyond his work with Health & Medicine and RPH. Outside of work and activism, he enjoys running, gardening, and traveling.


Caleb Gardner, Digital Director, Organizing for Action


Caleb is digital director at Organizing for Action (, where he oversees online content from one of the largest grassroots organizing groups in the country. He's also partner and head of strategy at 18 Coffees, a digital innovation firm that brings together digital creatives to tackle world-changing problems. Caleb Gardner has spent the last decade building social media strategies and developing successful content frameworks for a variety of different organizations in the public and private sectors, from startups to nonprofits to Fortune 100 companies. He's the father of three, and fancies himself a writer when he has the time.




Diamond Greer, Analyst, Grosvenor Capital Management; Founder, Let's Vibe


Diamond is a Southeast Side native who understood at an early age that sometimes one has to create the world in which she wants to live. Through her love of expression and impact, she is doing just that. Diamond is the co-founder of Let’s Vibe, a community focused on uniting diverse women embarking on their professional journey. Together, members spark potential, connect creative minds and develop their collective journey. Growth is actualized through innovative programming and collaborative community. During the day, she is an Analyst for GCM Grosvenor focused on Talent Development. Human capital strategy and designing inclusive experiences are at her core, in addition to shattering norms.



Colleen Harvey, Executive Director Chicago, Playworks


Informed by her upbringing, Colleen is passionate about education and equity. She grew up in the Midwest in a household anchored by her mother, a public school teacher for over 30 years. Colleen graduated magna cum laude from the University of Minnesota in the spring of 2006 with degrees in Global Studies and Spanish. She spent the last ten years serving in a variety of roles with Playworks, during which she developed a strong belief in the power of play to bring out the best in everyone. She currently serves as the Playworks Illinois Executive Director. In the fall of 2006, Colleen started with Playworks Maryland, serving as a program coordinator for one year and as a program manager the next year. She then moved to Playworks’ San Francisco office where she supported Playworks schools throughout the SF Bay Area. In 2011, Colleen launched programming and opened the Playworks Illinois office as the region’s program director. Colleen sees the value of youth empowerment and developing the whole child, striving to bring opportunities to more kids in Chicago to develop social and emotional skills necessary to succeed in today’s world. Colleen serves as a community representative on the Local School Council for Pulaski International School. She recently became a career coach volunteer with Posse Chicago, and is part of the Bucktown Community Organization. When she’s not fostering safe, healthy play on the 4-square court, you can find Colleen at a farmers’ market, traveling with her spouse Adam, walking her two puggles, and running on the 606.


Adrienne Irmer, Consultant, IRM Group


Daughter. Sister. Auntie. Friend. Adrienne brings to NLC over 14 years of experience across the public, private, and nonprofit sectors. As a native of Chicago's South Side, proud graduate of Kenwood Academy (2000), Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT; 2004), and the Baruch School of Public Affairs (2014) as a National Urban Fellow, Adrienne is thrilled to continue to build on her legacy of service and strengthen her knowledge base through the NLC Fellowship this year. Although a Biologist (by undergraduate degree) she has applied her highly-tuned critical thinking and analytical skills to the study of the dynamic and complex systems that are communities in the arenas of public policy, community & economic development, advocacy, community & government affairs, and urban planning. Her clients may span many sectors, but all of her work is done with the goal of leaving this city, this world, in a better plane of existence than when she arrived. Adrienne firmly believes that our collective success relies upon our ability and willingness to work together to achieve great things: "A blue fly, if it clings to the tail of a thoroughbred horse, can travel ten thousand miles, and the green ivy that twines around the tall pine can grow to a thousand feet." – Buddhist Parable


Ravi Kasi, Attending Physician & Assistant Residency Program Director, RUSH University Medical Center

chicago-Kasi.jpgRavi Kasi is currently an Attending Physician and Assistant Residency Program Director at RUSH University Medical Center. He specializes in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation (PM&R) working with patients with Traumatic Brain Injury, Spinal Cord Injuries, Stroke, Parkinson's Disease, and Chronic Pain. He is also active in academics at the medical center currently conducting research in addition to lecturing & creating educational curriculums for medical students, physician assistant students, and PM&R residents. In addition, Ravi is involved with disability advocacy serving as the co-president of the Young Professionals Council at Access Living since 2014.



Abin Kuriakose, Deputy Chief of Staff, Cook County Board of Commissioners

chicago-Kuriakose.jpgBorn and raised in Chicago, Abin serves as Deputy Chief of Staff for the Cook County Board of Commissioners (Bridget Gainer - 10th District). He also volunteers as Executive Director for the Chicago City Council Asian American Caucus and as Policy & Special Projects Coordinator for Raja Krishnamoorthi's congressional bid for Illinois' 8th District. He also serves on the advisory boards of the Chicago South Asian Film Festival and Heartland Health Center (Wilson) in the Uptown neighborhood. Beyond public policy and politics, Abin mentors startups at 1871 Chicago, The Impact Engine accelerator program for social-impact ventures and a member of the Chicago Innovation Exchange (CIE), University of Chicago's incubator located in Hyde Park. Abin's current CIE project is exploring how to mobilize millennial leadership to support startup ecosystems in emerging markets.


A.D. Sean Lewis, Public Sector Analyst & Auditor, City of Chicago Inspector General's Office


A.D. Sean Lewis is a Chicago-based young professional collaborating to create a more just world. Professionally, Lewis works for the City of Chicago's Office of Inspector General Audit and Program Review section as a performance analyst. Lewis primarily audits and researches the police department, the fire department, and the emergency communications center. Lewis has researched and assessed the risk of the City's police oversight structure and related processes and also helped to develop the audit section's method of prioritizing and choosing audit projects.  
Outside of the 9-5 grind, Lewis recently co-founded the Chicago Community Bond Fund, a revolving and sustainable bond fund that bonds pre-trial detainees out of Cook County Jail, the largest jail in the United States. Lewis also co-founded Love and Protect, an organization that supports those who identify as women and gender non-conforming persons of color who are criminalized or harmed by state and interpersonal violence through direct service as well as advocacy work. Lewis writes to incarcerated trans and queer people and volunteers with young people, including providing free childcare to community organizations through the Chicago Childcare Collective and mentoring college-bound students through the Posse Foundation. 
In the summer of 2015, Lewis successfully petitioned the City of Chicago to change its trans-exclusionary healthcare policy, resulting in Chicago providing healthcare coverage to all employees and dependents for the City and its sister agencies. 
Outside of all of that, Lewis is an avid power lifter, runner, athlete, and vegan cook.




Ruth Lopez, Independent Consultant to NPOs


Ruth Lopez was born and raised on the Northwest Side of Chicago. From an early age Ruth believed in the importance and the power of family, community, and social justice and has strived to make an impact through her life and career. Ruth holds over 13 years of local and national experience in community organizing and issue campaigns in immigration. After graduating from the University of Illinois, Ruth returned to Chicago and developed as an organizer at the Northwest Neighborhood Federation. She earned a law degree from Chicago- Kent College of Law with a certificate in Public Interest/ Immigration Law. Ruth then moved to Washington D.C. where she served as a Deputy Field Director with the Reform Immigration FOR America Campaign, as the Coalition Coordinator for the Northern Borders Coalition and then as the Deputy Legislative Associate/Legislative Liaison for Field for the Alliance for Citizenship Campaign. In 2013, Ruth and her family moved back to Chicago and she joined the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights as the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Implementation Director and built the IL is READY Campaign in preparation for implementing possible immigration relief. In March of 2015, Ruth began consulting and has partnered with national immigration advocacy organizations to move forward immigrant focused programs across the country. Ruth lives on the Northwest Side with her husband and two sons.


Kady McFadden, Deputy Director, Sierra Club


Kady McFadden is a professional organizer with expertise in crafting environmental campaigns that build and leverage grassroots power, tell compelling messages, and strengthen partnerships. Kady is the Deputy Director of Sierra Club Illinois. In this role she sets strategy for Sierra Club’s conservation campaigns, leading staff and volunteer teams that advocate for renewable energy policies, carbon pollution standards, environmental justice, clean water investments, open space, sustainable transit, and more. Kady also runs Sierra Club Illinois’ political team and Political Action Committee to endorse pro-environment candidates and help elect those environmental champions to local, state and federal office. Growing up in a union household, Kady has always been an advocate for progressive politics. After spending a brief time working on Capitol Hill she determined that she would rather be on the outside building people and community power to advocate for change. Kady’s passion for climate action, building community, and uniting a powerful progressive movement led her to pursue a career in organizing. Immediately prior to her role as Deputy Director Kady was an organizer with Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign, which was described by Politico as the most "effective campaign in the [Sierra] Club's 123-year history, and maybe the history of the environmental movement." A native of St. Charles, Kady graduated from Washington University in St. Louis with a dual degree in Political Science and Environmental Studies. Kady loves traveling (preferably by bicycle - she once biked across Montana), women in leadership, running, and going on outdoor adventures.


Ellie Ramel, Urban Computation Lead, PositivEnergy Practice

chicago-Remel.jpgElle Ramel is head of Urban Computation at PositivEnergy Practice. She seeks to incorporate data and new software into contemporary land-use and urban planning practices on both domestic and international projects. Before PositivEnergy Practice, Elle worked for Mayor Rahm Emanuel at the City of Chicago in economic development and economic policy. She helped to catalogue and strategize for both the manufacturing and technology communities of the city. She completed her bachelor's degree at Yale University and her master's degree at Cambridge University. She is involved with the World Economic Forum's Global Shapers, the Young Professionals group at the Chicago Council of Global Affairs and the Ambassadors Board of the Chicago Children's Choir. During her free time, Elle is involved with the choir at Old St. Patrick's Church and runs the Chicago Urbanists group to unite city-loving individuals. She is an avid traveler and aims to visit 50 countries by the age of 30.  Elle is a native Chicagoan.


Abdelnasser Rashid, Policy Director, Cook County Clerk David Orr

chicago-Rashid.pngAbdelnasser is the Policy Director for Cook County Clerk David Orr. He works on the Clerk’s policy and legislative agenda, as well as on various projects throughout the Clerk’s office. Prior to that, Abdelnasser served as Field Director to Cook County Commissioner Jesus “Chuy” Garcia’s campaign for mayor. He also worked for over two years at the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, where he oversaw policy, advocacy and civic engagement programs. Abdelnasser is also passionate about technology and innovation and spends his free time working on projects in the tech industry. Abdelnasser was raised in the Ukrainian Village/Wicker Park neighborhoods of Chicago and in the Ramallah-area of Palestine. He received his bachelor’s degree in Social Studies and Computer Science from Harvard University.


Sarah Saheb, Midwest Organizing Coordinator, SEIU


Sarah Saheb is a union organizer with the Service Employees International Union. For nearly a decade, she has organized mostly low-wage, immigrant workers in the private and public sectors, and worked in progressive electoral politics. Her time at SEIU has taken her across the country. She began organizing in Cincinnati, Ohio, where she helped build the city's first janitors' union, win a first contract, establish the union as a political powerhouse in the city, and force Fortune 500 companies to the negotiating table over subcontractors' treatment of workers. In Los Angeles, she helped lead a contract campaign and prepare for the implementation of the Affordable Care Act at the country's largest public hospital. In SeaTac, Washington, she worked on the $15 minimum wage campaign and led a successful organizing drive among low-wage, immigrant airport workers. Sarah has also worked in progressive electoral politics. Working for SEIU's political department, she helped build one of the largest PACs in the country funded by recurring small donations, and aided in implementing union field plans for major electoral campaigns. She was a field organizer for SEIU's campaign for President Obama in Ohio 2008 and supported the SEIU Illinois State Council's efforts for Obama in Wisconsin in 2012. After the 2008 election, she was a regional field director for the Ohio Democratic Party, running local elections and developing candidates. Before that, while in college, she was the Midwest Regional Director for Rock the Vote. Sarah is also passionate about urban farming and food security. She helped to develop the city of Cincinnati’s carbon reduction plan, and also lead a committee that successfully passed legislation to expand urban farming in the city. She was a founder of OTR Homegrown, an urban farm in the middle of downtown Cincinnati that repurposed blighted land and involved community and union members in the farming. She won several awards and received attention from National Public Radio for her work. She is currently the Midwest Organizing Coordinator of the union's property services division, leading another airport organizing drive. When she isn't on a picket line, Sarah can be found traveling, cooking, playing tennis, and falling asleep while watching Netflix.


Dave Sargent, Instructor, Loyola University Institute of Environmental Sustainability

chicago-Sargent.jpgDave is an environmental attorney based in Chicago, Illinois specializing in renewable energy. He is accredited as a Green Associate for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) by the U.S. Green Building Council and also completed professional training at the Environmental Law Institute in Washington, D.C. Throughout his career Dave has served global clients including Fortune 500 companies, governmental organizations, and non-profits. He received degrees in Business Management and Political Science from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he co-founded, an education technology company now serving over 10,000,000 students globally. Dave earned his J.D. from the University of Illinois College of Law and currently serves as professor of Environmental Law at Loyola University's Institute of Environmental Sustainability.


Blair Schoell, Teacher/Assistant Athletic Director, Grant Community High School


Blair has been driven by public service since graduating high school in the northwest suburbs of Chicago in 2002. Learning many valuable lessons from his coaches, teachers, and mentors at Prospect High School, he realized that he wanted to pass those lessons on to improve the lives of others. Serving as an educator for the past ten years, Blair has served as a classroom teacher, coach, and Assistant Athletic Director. He earned his district’s highest honor, Educator of the Year, in his third year of teaching. While teaching Government, Blair established an internship program pairing students with local elected officials, so that his students might better understand the power of being active within our communities. Inspired to make a greater difference in his community, Blair became involved with 10th District Democratic Organization in 2010. Feeling that he could not sit out the 2012 election cycle, Blair earned a position as an Organizing Fellow for Obama for America. He worked with fellows to establish teams in Lake and McHenry County throughout the campaign. Blair led canvassing trips to Iowa and assisted in running phone banks. Invigorated by this experience, Blair was inspired to explore options to expand the scope of his career and returned to school to earn his second Masters’ Degree, in Public Policy and Administration. While earning his degree at Northwestern, Blair served as an Advance Fellow in the Office of Mayor Rahm Emanuel and served as a District Associate for State Representative Ann M. Williams, during his summers off from teaching. Since moving to Chicago, Blair has dedicated himself to becoming involved in his new community. Arriving from the suburbs this past summer, Blair was voted onto the Oscar Mayer Magnet School’s Local School Council as a Community Representative and was also voted onto the Wrightwood Neighborhood Association Board, in the role of Parks Chair. He has already successfully administered the WNA’s annual holiday event for children in the neighborhood. Blair is looking forward to working more closely with the community and building more relationships in Chicago. He is excited to join the 2016 NLC class and expand his network of colleagues and friends!


Nick Shields, Director of Communications, Cook County Clerk David Orr


Nick Shields currently serves as Director of Communications for the office of Cook County Clerk David Orr, joining the staff in January 2016. Nick most recently served as Communications Director for Navy Pier, the Midwest’s largest leisure and tourist destination, where he led the development, production and dissemination of all internal and external communication materials and served as the Pier’s official spokesperson. Shields is also the founder of the Green Balloon Foundation, a non-profit created to inform, inspire and impact families struggling with the costs and burdens associated with Alzheimer’s Disease and other forms of dementia. Additionally, the Green Balloon Foundation seeks to donate funeral services to assist families in need as well as provide additional education and support services to aid in the understanding of their loved one’s ailment. Ultimately, the Green Balloon’s vision is to offset the significant costs of care and other expenses while the loved on is living with the disease. Nick was first introduced to the field of communications through the Chicago Tribune where he wrote freelance articles from his freshman through senior years in high school. After graduating from the University of Illinois in Champaign with a degree in Print Journalism, he cut his teeth as a journalist and would later receive his Master’s degree in Public Affairs Reporting from the University of Illinois in Springfield. Before joining Navy Pier, Nick worked for Chicago’s PBS station WTTW where he served as a producer and reporter for the nightly newsmagazine program Chicago Tonight. In his spare time Nick loves talking about Major League Baseball.


Rendel Solomon, Vice President, Muller & Monroe Asset Management


Rendel L. Solomon is a Vice President with Muller & Monroe Asset Management ("M2"), a Chicago-based private equity firm and has been with the company since 2008. Rendel focuses primarily on sales & marketing, helping to raise assets from public pension plans, foundations, and endowments. He is also a member of the investment section. Rendel received his B.S. in Electrical Engineering from Tulane University in 2000 and his MBA from Columbia Business School in 2005. He began his professional career as a project engineer for The Procter & Gamble Company. Rendel also worked as an entrepreneur in the music business in New York prior to joining M2. Rendel was raised in a rough neighborhood on the Westside of Chicago known affectionately as “K-Town” due to the various street names starting with the letter K in the area. He attended Chicago Public School’s Hefferan Elementary before heading to The Latin School of Chicago for high school. Rendel is the oldest of three children and his parents always instilled the value of education. One of the keys to Rendel’s progression is mentorship. He met a key mentor, who happens to be his current boss, as a senior in high school. This individual provided Rendel with advice, guidance, and even financial support along his journey. When Rendel once asked him how he could ever repay him, his mentor simply responded, “Do it for someone else.” Rendel is passionate about youth education and financial literacy. He dedicates a considerable amount of his time, talent, and treasure toward supporting these critical areas. Rendel serves on the Board of Trustees for the Latin School of Chicago and most recently served as President of the Associate Board for LINK Unlimited Scholars, a mentoring and scholarship organization. Rendel is actively involved with the National Association of Securities Professionals (NASP), National Association of Investment Companies (NAIC), and Sponsors for Educational Opportunity (SEO). In October 2014, Rendel was recognized as a Rising Star in private equity by the NAIC. He also leads a course on stock investing with high school students through the Chicago Urban League’s Youth Investor & Entrepreneurship Project and does various speaking engagements with Chicago youth discussing the importance of financial literacy.


Emily Williams, Associate Director, University of Illinois at Chicago


Emily is the Associate Director of the Social Justice Initiative (SJI) at the University of Illinois-Chicago. She has been central to the planning and implementation of SJI which is a campus- wide project that creates new inroads to the university, creates space for the development of new knowledge through collaborative thinking, and advances social justice as a valid and rigorous field of academic inquiry. Emily has been with SJI since its inception. Prior to her time at SJI, Emily served as the Program Coordinator for the Community Service Scholarship at DePaul University, a civic-engagement and academic program with nearly 100 students. In this position, Emily led an overhaul of the curriculum, content and structure of the program to strengthen community partnerships and foreground the relevance of social justice to community engagement and the curricular components of the program. In addition to her experience in higher education, Emily has a background in primary education and social work. She taught 5th grade English Immersion at the American School of Reynosa in Reynosa, Mexico and taught students with special needs in the U.S. public school system. Emily has worked in a variety of capacities to increase diversity, strengthen programs, and design curriculum for schools, organizations, and grassroots groups, including designing a one-day diversity conference model utilized in four schools across the Midwest in 2014. Emily has also worked with girls in juvenile detention and her Master’s thesis research at DePaul University explored the lives and experiences of incarcerated women. She is on the Board of Directors for Woman Made Gallery and a member of the Coordinating Committee of the US Africa Network where she participated in the development of the organization and has been involved in multiple consciousness raising efforts about the links of foreign policy in Africa and problems in the U.S. Emily participated in delegations to South Africa and Venezuela which resulted in lasting relationships and unparalleled political education on struggle and social transformation.