Civic Leadership Academy Selects 30 Local Government and Nonprofit 
Leaders for 2017 Class

Four new University of Chicago professors join program’s faculty

On Wednesday, January 11, the Civic Leadership Academy at the University of Chicago announced the 30 government and nonprofit leaders selected for its 2017 class and welcomed four new faculty members to teach courses this year.

The new fellows, who represent the City of Chicago, Cook County, and citywide and community-based nonprofit organizations, were introduced at a ceremony at the Chicago Cultural Center that featured Chicago Deputy Mayor Steve Koch, University of Chicago Vice President for Civic Engagement Derek Douglas, Interim Dean of the University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy Kerwin Charles, Obama Foundation Vice President of Civic Engagement Michael Strautmanis, and Academy alumna Betsy Leonard, vice president of external relations for the Heartland Alliance.

More than 150 people applied for the 30 spots in the 2017 Civic Leadership Academy. Of that number, 55 candidates were interviewed for the program. The Advisory Council, which is composed of UChicago staff and faculty, representatives of partner organizations and funders, and civic leaders, selected the final group.

“We are very excited about this new class. They are working on some of our city’s most timely and challenging issues such as community health and safety, public education, and immigrants’ rights,” said Douglas, who co-chairs the Advisory Council. “The University is deeply committed to building the capacity of individuals and organizations striving to make Chicago a better place to live for all of its residents. Through the Civic Leadership Academy, we are developing a pipeline of talented nonprofit and city and county government leaders who share our commitment to improving our communities.”

The Office of Civic Engagement launched the Civic Leadership Academy in 2014, in partnership with the University’s five professional schools – Chicago Booth School of Business, Harris Public Policy, Graham School of Continuing Liberal and Professional Studies, the UChicago Law School, and School of Social Service Administration – and Institute of Politics, as well as Local Initiatives Support Corp. (LISC) Chicago, Civic Consulting Alliance, the City of Chicago, and Cook County.

William Howell, faculty advisor for the Civic Leadership Academy, said all of the partners contribute to the interdisciplinary curriculum, which is a hallmark of the program. “More than a dozen faculty and staff from across the University give their time to teach in the Civic Leadership Academy,” said Howell, who is also Sydney Stein Professor in American Politics at Harris, the program’s academic home. “We have an incredible group of faculty who have been involved from the beginning, and this year we welcome four more.”

The new UChicago faculty joining the Civic Leadership Academy are: Cathy Cohen, David and Mary Winton Green Professor of Political Science; Bernd Wittenbrink, Robert S. Hamada Professor of Behavioral Science at Chicago Booth; Alison L. LaCroix, Robert Newton Reid Professor of Law at the University of Chicago Law School; and Sabina Shaikh, Economics Lecturer in Public Policy and the Program on Global Environment.

The experience benefits both the fellows and the faculty members, said Kerwin Charles, who co-chairs the Civic Leadership Academy Advisory Council and teaches in the program. “As scholars, we collect and analyze data, identify trends, and develop theories. Being able to interact with individuals who are immersed in the issues we study adds invaluable depth to our work,” he explained. “At the same time, we are providing them with knowledge that deepens the impact of what they are doing in our communities.”

On Jan. 12, the fellows began a rigorous six-month program that will teach essential leadership skills and provide the time and space to collaborate on a capstone project that addresses a practical challenge facing each fellow’s organization. In March, the fellows will travel to the University of Chicago Center in Delhi, India, for a weeklong global practicum. Upon completion of the program, they will receive a certificate in civic leadership from Harris.

By bringing nonprofit and government professionals together, the Civic Leadership Academy fuels an exchange of ideas within the University community and across the city that will help improve practices and civic outcomes. The 2017 class includes 16 fellows who work for nonprofit organizations, eight from the city, five from the county, and one who works for the city and leads a nonprofit.

“I made sure to connect first, then listen, then speak. A lot of other people did that as well,” said Betsy Leonard, a member of the 2016 cohort. “What happened was that this group of leaders, all of whom occupy different space in the civic sector, moved not necessarily in agreement or direction, but closer to one another. And no matter what happens, our sector is stronger because of the respect and trust that we built.”

Fellows are nominated by their organizations, which pay the $6,000 program fee. The University, Searle Funds at The Chicago Community Trust, Microsoft Corporation, and JPMorgan Chase are underwriting the program for the third consecutive year. The Robert R. McCormick Foundation also provides financial support for the Civic Leadership Academy.

The 2017 fellows are:

  • Jaime Arteaga, Manager - Community Engagement, United Way of Metropolitan Chicago
  • Juliet Azimi, Director of Budget & Management, Chicago Park District
  • Alia J. Bilal, Director of Community Relations, Inner-City Muslim Action Network (IMAN)
  • Twania Brewster, Vice President of Marketing, Communications, and Guest Operations, Chicago Children's Museum
  • Jessica Bryar, Chief, Civil Division, Law Office of the Cook County Public Defender
  • Prentice Butler, Director of Constituent Services and Development, 4th Ward Service Office
  • Jessica A. Caffrey, Director, Real Estate Management, Cook County
  • Kathleen S. Caliento, Chief Program Officer, Spark
  • Ted Christians, Chief Executive Officer, Umoja Student Development Corporation
  • Ketsia Colinet, Director of Housing Policy & Occupancy, Chicago Housing Authority 
  • Amy Crawford, Deputy Director, Cook County Department of Human Rights & Ethics
  • Felicia Dawson, Director, Community Partnerships and Engagement, Preservation of Affordable Housing
  • Mollie Dowling, Executive Director, OAI, Inc.
  • Paul Fitzgerald, General Manager, Working Bikes
  • Theresa Gibbons, Director, Asset Building Programs, Heartland Alliance
  • Ana Guajardo, Executive Director, Centro de Trabajadores Unidos: Immigrant Workers' Project
  • Imran Khan, CEO & Co-Founder, Embarc
  • Peter Leonard, Director of Student Assessment, Chicago Public Schools
  • A.D. Sean Lewis, Director of Public Policy & Legislative Affairs, Civilian Office on Police Accountability
  • Chris Lipman, Program Coordinator, Cook County Department of Environmental Control
  • Jennifer O. Maddox, Police Officer, Chicago Police Department; and Founder and Executive Director, Future Ties
  • Laura Markin, Strategy Implementation Manager, University of Chicago Medicine
  • Jessica Marshall, Director of Social Science and Civic Engagement, Chicago Public Schools
  • Ellen Grace McCormack, Vice President of Purchasing and Supply Chain, Chicago Transit Authority
  • Jose M. Muñoz, Vice President of Community Ownership, The Resurrection Project
  • Daniella K. Pereira, Director of Regional Forestry, Openlands
  • Kelvin Pope, First Deputy Chief, Cook County Forest Preserve Police Department
  • Mark Sedevic, Lieutenant of Police, Chicago Police Department
  • Martin V. Torres, Associate Director, Latino Policy Forum
  • Carmen Vergara, Director of Quality and Practice Transformation, Esperanza Health Centers

For more information about the Civic Leadership Academy, visit

Originally posted January 20, 2017.

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