Center for Effective Government debuts Civic Leadership Academy’s 2024 cohort

cla 2024

The University of Chicago Center for Effective Government (CEG) at the Harris School of Public Policy today announced its 2024 class of Civic Leadership Academy (CLA) fellows—30 of the area’s most promising government and nonprofit leaders—who make up the tenth cohort of the Center’s prestigious interdisciplinary leadership development program.

The 2024 cohort, which includes 15 fellows from nonprofit organizations, eight from City of Chicago government, and seven from Cook County government, joins a program that fuels an exchange of ideas across Chicago and Cook County that improves practices and civic outcomes while spurring greater collaboration and innovation across our institutions.

“In assembling each Civic Leadership Academy cohort, we bring together talented professionals situated to facilitate change in Chicago’s civic sector,” said William Howell, the Sydney Stein Professor of American Politics at the University of Chicago and director of CEG. “With the ongoing challenges to our democracy at all levels, it’s more important than ever to elevate the kind of rigorous and conscientious cross-sector discussion that’s essential for effective governance. “ 

“Through CLA, I aspire to become a more effective advocate for the communities we serve and an influential voice for change,” said Sali S. Mahgoub, CLA 2024 cohort member and Director of Development at the Barack Obama Foundation. “I am committed to leveraging this experience to effect broader institutional change, furthering the causes of social justice and community empowerment that are at the core of my mission. 

The new cohort joins a network of more than 270 CLA alumni integral to the civic infrastructure of Chicago. CLA fellows and alumni hold positions as change-makers across Chicago and Cook County, advancing reform and spurring progress on a number of critical policy issues.

Gabriela C. Jirasek, incoming CLA fellow and Assistant Commissioner of Community and Digital Engagement at the Chicago Department of Planning and Development, said “I'm thrilled to join a talented, diverse group of professionals at the Civic Leadership Academy. I look forward to collaborating with my cohort on community-based solutions to some of Chicago's biggest challenges.”

Last week, fellows began a rigorous six-month program that teaches essential leadership skills and provides the time and space to focus on a specific leadership skill that will directly benefit their work. In addition to attending classes and discussions with world-class University of Chicago faculty, fellows participate in a civic practitioner leadership series, closed-door discussions with key Chicago leaders and CLA alumni; and a week-long global practicum in Paris, where fellows engage with and learn from their counterparts in an international setting. A collaborative, culminating project leverages fellows’ cohort experience and the broader CLA network to envision meaningful opportunities for reform in Chicago. Upon completion of the program, they will receive a certificate in civic leadership from the Harris School of Public Policy.

“When we look at the 2024 cohort of the Civic Leadership Academy, we see a coalition that truly reflects Chicago,” said Sadia Sindhu, executive director of CEG. “This wide range of professional and lived experiences equips fellows to engage in the type of challenging, productive conversation that we need to solve the problems facing our institutions today. Through challenging assumptions, building relationships, and developing deeper understanding between civic leaders, our CLA fellows leave this program positioned to create lasting change in Chicago.” 

The 2024 Civic Leadership Academy fellows are:

  • Ponni Arunkumar, Chief Medical Examiner, Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office

  • Asia Canady (MPP’19), Program and Partnerships Manager, Hunter Family Foundation 

  • Quiana Chapple, Director of Program Operations (Amplify Chicago), The Academy Group

  • Benna Crawford, Managing Director, Legal Aid Chicago 

  • Aziza Darwish, Executive Director of Strategic Initiatives, City Colleges of Chicago, Olive-Harvey College

  • Delome Ostian Johannes Favi, Deputy Director, Illinois Community for Displaced Immigrants

  • Marcos Gonzales, Program Director, Corporate Coalition of Chicago

  • Laura Gutierrez, Program Officer, Builders Initiative

  • Amilcar Guzman, Program Officer, J.B. and M.K. Pritzker Family Foundation

  • Steven Hardiman, Sergeant, Chicago Police Department

  • Teena Lorie Harris, Executive Director, Chicago Public Schools

  • Caleb Herod (MPP’20), Program Manager, The Chicago Community Trust

  • Matt Hilitibran, Special Assistant for Legal Affairs, Cook County Bureau of Technolog

  • Sana Jafri, Executive Director, Chicago Learning Exchange

  • Gabriela Jirasek, Assistant Commissioner of Community and Digital Engagement, Chicago Department of Planning and Development 

  • Catherine Johnson, Executive Director, HCP of Illinois, Inc.

  • Elliot Gary Karl (MPP’20), Assistant Deputy Bureau Chief, Cook County Bureau of Economic Development

  • Sali Mahgoub, Director of Development, The Obama Foundation

  • Gina Massuda Barnett, Deputy Director (Public Health Programs), Cook County Department of Public Health

  • Josh McGowan, Program Officer, Circle of Service Foundation

  • Mary Nicol, Director of Policy, Chicago Department of Transportation

  • Eugenia Orr, Chief of External Affairs, Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office

  • Matthew Peterson, Assistant Commissioner, Chicago Department of Transportation

  • Kaitin Powell, Assistant Public Defender, Law Office of the Cook County Public Defender 

  • JuanPablo Prieto, Diversity Programs Director, Chicago Transit Authority 

  • Vanessa Sanchez, Director of Education and Yollocalli Arts Reach, National Museum of Mexican Art

  • Aditi Singh, Illinois State Director, Alliance for Safety and Justice

  • Katie Thiede, Cofounder and Executive Director, ICAN! (Illinois Contraceptive Access Now)

  • Brian K. Thompson Jr., Executive Director, Student Protections, Chicago Public Schools

  • Cara Yi, Deputy Director of Communications and Public Affairs, Cook County Office of the President

The 2024 cohort of CLA fellows was introduced at a ceremony with remarks from CEG Director William Howell; CEG Executive Director Sadia Sindhu; Ethan Bueno de Mesquita (AB’96), Interim Dean and Sydney Stein Professor at the University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy; and Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle (BA'69, MAT'77). Lanetta Haynes Turner (CLA’16), Chief of Staff for Office of Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, delivered an alumni address on behalf of the broader CLA community. The incoming cohort was welcomed at the event by Mayor Brandon Johnson. The ceremony was held January 11th, at 5:30pm at the Chicago History Museum. 

“In their time at the Civic Leadership Academy, these 30 new CLA Fellows will think critically and intentionally about applying new leadership skills to the challenges facing our county and our city,” said Bueno de Mesquita. “Over the last ten years, CLA alumni have had an outsized impact on the civic framework of our city, and through this lasting network, they continue to extend Harris’ mission of policy engagement throughout Chicago.”

“The Civic Leadership Academy Fellows are exemplary leaders in their fields who are working to improve our civic organizations, our public institutions, and ultimately, our democracy," said Mayor Brandon Johnson. "I commend the Harris School of Public Policy and the Center for Effective Government for continuing to develop new leaders who will make important contributions to our great city for years to come."

“The Civic Leadership Academy (CLA) provides our civic leaders with an environment that facilitates critical thinking, robust dialogue and healthy debate. Programs like CLA prepare our public servants for the future and are vital incubators for our communities,” said Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle. “CLA is also proof that civic leadership isn’t limited to political office or military service. Solutions to our problems won’t originate in D.C., or City Hall, or Springfield alone. Each level of government, every sector and every community must play a role. I extend my heartfelt congratulations to the latest cohort of this esteemed program.”

The Civic Leadership Academy is made possible through generous support from the Harris School of Public Policy, Harris Family Foundation, Searle Funds at the Chicago Community Trust, Walder Foundation and Waraich Family Fund, and has presented named fellowships to the following individuals: The 2024 Walder Foundation Fellows are Johannes Favi of the Illinois Community for Displaced Immigrants and Sali Mahgoub of The Obama Foundation, and the 2024 WF Fund Fellow is Sana Jafri of Chicago Learning Exchange. Additionally, Aditi Singh of Alliance for Safety and Justice is the recipient of the Jessica Bryar Scholarship, named in honor of CLA 2017 alumna Jessica Bryar, who passed away in 2019. 

This article originally appeared at the Center for Effective Government

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