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Chad Thomas started his teaching career at an alternative school for teens in the juvenile system in Indiana and was awarded the Wal-Mart teacher of the year in 2001. After moving to Chicago, he became a Nationally Board Certified English and Reading teacher at Farragut High School. In 2009, he became one of the founding teachers at Talent Development Charter High School in the West Garfield neighborhood – and in 2010 he made his transition to leadership serving as assistant principal of Harper High School where he became a nationally certified “”New Leader,” a national leadership training program for principals. His work was featured in NPR’s podcast “This American Life: Harper High School”.
Chad took over as principal at Sullivan High School in Rogers Park in July 2013 – at a time when Sullivan had been on academic probation for 13 straight years. He dramatically transformed the lowest-performing high school on the north side of Chicago into a flourishing neighborhood high school. Through Thomas’ leadership, the school has seen its freshmen on track increase from 65 percent to over 97 percent (top ten in CPS), and the college enrollment increase over 20 percent. Sullivan serves as one of the most diverse schools in the country with over 35% special education and 65% bilingual students, and over 40 languages spoken in the school Recently, the book “Refugee High – Coming of Age in America” was released, the book documents a year in the life at Sullivan capturing Chad’s story of serving as the leader, and the journeys of students and their families from refugee camps to Sullivan. The book has received national reviews from the Washington Post and various media outlets.
Mr. Thomas is also a professor at Loyola University and served as principal fellow for the CEO office of Chicago Public Schools. He was also was the first principal to serve as a member of the Chicago Council on Global Affairs “Emerging Leaders” cohort. He earned his Bachelor of Arts in English Education from Quincy University and a Master of Arts in School Leadership from Concordia University.
Landon Campbell is a 24-year-old Podcaster and Media Executive based in Chicago, IL. He’s the Co-Founder and Host of two popular podcasts: inTheir20s and Venturing in VC.
Upon graduating from DePaul University during the pandemic, Landon created the popular inTheir20s podcast as a way to share the best advice with fellow twenty-somethings.
On the show, he interviews top business leaders and influencers to explore what they did in their 20s. His notable past guests include: Steve Wozniak, the Mayor of Miami, Ev Williams, Dr. Meg Jay, Guy Kawasaki, and Kat Cole.
Ivo H. Daalder is President of the Chicago Council on Global Affairs and host of World Review with Ivo Daalder. He served as the US ambassador to NATO from 2009 to 2013.
Prior to his appointment as Ambassador to NATO by President Obama, Daalder was a senior fellow in foreign policy studies at the Brookings Institution, specializing in American foreign policy, European security and transatlantic relations, and national security affairs. Before joining Brookings in 1998, he was an associate professor at the University of Maryland’s School of Public Policy and director of research at its Center for International and Security Studies. He also served as director for European affairs on President Bill Clinton’s National Security Council staff from 1995 to 1997.
Ambassador Daalder is the author and editor of 10 books, including The Empty Throne: America’s Abdication of Global Leadership (with James M. Lindsay). Other books include In the Shadow of the Oval Office: Profiles of the National Security Advisers and the Presidents they Served — From JFK to George W. Bush (with I. M. Destler) and the award-winning America Unbound: The Bush Revolution in Foreign Policy (with James M. Lindsay). Daalder is a frequent contributor to the opinion pages of the world’s leading newspapers, and a regular commentator on international affairs on television and radio.
Ambassador Daalder was educated at the universities of Kent, Oxford, and Georgetown, and received his PhD in political science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He is married to Elisa D. Harris, and they have two sons.
Dr. Courtney Wells received their BS in Psychology at John Carroll University, their MA in Community Counseling at John Carroll University, and their Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology at Texas Woman’s University. They completed their predoctoral internship at the Dallas Veteran’s Affairs and their postdoctoral fellowship at the Jesse Brown Veteran’s Affairs, specializing in Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, chronic pain, and substance use. Courtney was also the creator and Director of the Trauma Program at one of the largest Partial Hospitalization and Outpatient Programs in Chicago.
Courtney is a prolific reader of mystery novels and a tamer of two Pekingese.
David Hommy Gonzalez is Executive Director of Port Ministries, a 501(c)3 non-profit located in south side Chicago “Back of the Yards” neighborhood. As Director, David developed seven programs and services that holistically work together to address the ongoing needs of southside Chicago communities.
Before Chicago, David held the position of Program Director at AS220, a non-profit arts organization in Providence, RI. While there, David worked on the Broad Street Studio program which used various art forms to aid adjudicated young people transition back to their communities. He coordinated a dozen multidisciplinary Artist to mentor while leading his own youth-led Hip-Hop performance troupe.
Heavily influenced by his love of art, David Hommy Gonzalez is always trying to create out-of-the-box projects that aim to educate, inspire, engage and empower.
Mia Saini Duchnowski is a journalist, engineer and a successful entrepreneur who sold her first VC-backed company, Oars + Alps, to SC Johnson. Currently, she is an Entrepreneur-in-Residence at University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business, where she teaches workshops on entrepreneurship, serves as a mentor to start ups, and judge for the New Venture Competitions.
She is the Co-Founder and Board Member of Oars + Alps, after serving as CEO for six years.
Oars + Alps is a digitally native skin care brand for people who lead an active, on-the-go lifestyle. The products are made with naturally-derived, premium ingredients and are sold on Target and Amazon to name a few. The company launched in 2015 after Mia quit her high-profile job as a TV Reporter/Anchor with Bloomberg TV, one of the largest financial TV networks in the world.
Mia spent over three years with Bloomberg TV in Hong Kong and in New York City where she was responsible for global economic, political and business coverage. She was the first person at the network to interview the Chairman of Microsoft, John Thompson, after he became Chairman. She’s interviewed hundreds of CEOs and heads of states including the former CEO of
Burberry, Angela Ahrendts, and Virgin founder, Sir Richard Branson. She’s routinely covered breaking news stories, such as the disappearance of MH 370, Nelson Mandela’s death, and Steve Job’s passing.
Prior to joining Bloomberg in June 2011, Mia served as an Anchor and Reporter for Forbes TV.
She reported from the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland as well as interviewed prominent business leaders including Warren Buffett, former FDIC Chairman Sheila Bair, Blackstone co-founder Pete Peterson, former Bear Stearns CEO Ace Greenberg, SAP CEO Bill McDermott and more. Earlier in her career, Mia was a financial analyst at Goldman Sachs, working in hedge fund sales and marketing. There, she helped establish strategic relationships
with hedge funds representing over $1.2 billion in portfolio value.
Mia holds an MBA from the Harvard Business School. She has a double major from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in neuroscience and media studies, and a double minor in civil engineering and management science. While at MIT, she interned at NASA Ames Research Center doing artificial intelligence research. She was featured in Glamour Magazine as
one of their Top Ten College Women in 2004.
Mia was named as one of Crain’s Magazine 40 Under 40 in 2020. She sits on the Women’s Board of the Chicago Lincoln Park Zoo. Mia actively interviews high school seniors looking to study STEM subjects at MIT. She is also active in the Chicago startup ecosystem as an angel investor. She loves cycling and watching film noir movies and lives in Chicago with her husband
and their five kids.
Dr. Jessica Esquivel is an Associate Scientist at Fermilab where she works on the Muon g-2 Experiment which recently announced its exciting Run 1 results, increasing the experiment/theory tension from 3.7σ to 4.2σ. She is one of ~100 Black women with a Ph.D. in physics in the country, the 2nd black woman to graduate with a Ph.D. in physics from Syracuse University, and the 3rd Black woman to hold an Associate Scientist position at Fermilab. Her graduate research focused on studying ghostly particles called neutrinos interacting in the MicroBooNE Experiment using innovative machine learning techniques like those used in facial recognition software. She received her bachelor’s in electrical engineering and applied physics from St. Mary’s University in San Antonio, TX. She identifies as female, Black, afrolatinx, lesbian, neurodivergent, physicist, and Texan. Dr. Esquivel is a recognized advocate for creating just and equitable spaces in physics and focuses on the intersections of race, gender, and sexuality in her community engagement efforts. She is an organizer of APS-IDEA and a co-founder of BlackInPhysics and the Change-Now collective. Dr. Esquivel’s accomplishments include spearheading the sponsorship of Fermilab at Wakandacon, a 3-day afro-futuristic convention that strives to create a safe space for the black community to explore their interests from comic culture to STEM. Dr. Esquivel has also been selected as a AAAS IF/THEN Ambassador, appeared on CBS’s Emmy nominated educational program Mission Unstoppable where she discusses the physics behind makeup, and appeared on the Science Channel’s How the Universe Works discussing how neutrinos could be the key to the mysteries of our universe. Dr. Esquivel is a Texas transplant living in Chicago with her wife and three furbabies.
Jesse Ilhardt co-founded VOCEL in 2013, and was named the Executive Director in 2021. Prior to co-founding VOCEL, she worked for six years as a pre-K teacher and teacher coach at Teach For America. Across these roles, she has combined intellectual horsepower, creativity, and business acumen to develop innovative early education programs, lead high-impact teams, and cultivate champions. She is a member of the National Association for the Education of Young Children, and has presented at Harvard University’s Center on the Developing Child, the Austin Early Childhood Symposium, the Collaboration for Early Childhood Symposium, and the Illinois Association for Infant Mental Health Spring Seminar Series. As a teacher, leader, and mother of two young children, Jesse believes deeply in the extraordinary capacity of young children, the power of play and relationships, and the importance of investing in the adults who nurture young children’s development.
Professor Lebowitz studies and treats childhood and adolescent anxiety at the Yale Child Study Center. His research focuses on the development, neurobiology, and treatment of anxiety and related disorders, with special emphasis on family dynamics and the role of parents in these problems. Dr. Lebowitz is the lead investigator on multiple funded research projects, and is the author of research papers, books and chapters on childhood and adolescent anxiety including the bestselling ‘Breaking Free of Child Anxiety and OCD’. He is also the father of three great boys.
Dion Dawson is a philanthropic leader who founded Dion’s Chicago Dream, a nonprofit with a mission focused on food insecurity and inequality through an innovative and transformative lens. Dawson’s goal is to challenge the traditional idea of solving food insecurity through the stabilization of quality and access. With transparent operations, consistent quality, and a deep commitment to a resident-informed process that meets residents and recipients where they are, he prioritizes the end-user experience. Dawson is an award-winning military journalist, communications specialist, philanthropist, and son of Chicago’s Englewood neighborhood. His philanthropic achievements include being named an Echoing Green Fellow and American Express NGen Fellow.
Chef Carlo Lamagna is a Philippine-born, Detroit-raised, CIA- and Chicago-trained chef. Lamagna is the chef-owner of modern Filipino restaurant, Magna Kusina, located in Portland, Oregon.
In the city of Lamagna’s early childhood, Detroit, he grew up amongst Midwestern sensibility and genteel, gained a strong sense of family and an understanding that food was from farms, not grocery stores.
His mother Gloria sent young Lamagna and his elder siblings to the Philippines to live with their father, Wilfredo. Gloria and Willie wanted their children to be in touch with their culture. From his father, cooking and eating in the way that he himself grew up was a key point in Carlo’s understanding and appreciation of Filipino food and culture.
Lamagna began a pop-up dining series, Twisted Filipino, in 2013 in Chicago and continued them in Portland with great success.
While Lamagna cites respected chefs influential in his career, philosophy, and leadership style, the chef he most reveres is his late father, Willie, who, alongside his mother Gloria, serves as a major influence of his modern Filipino restaurant, Magna Kusina
Angela Ford is the Founder and Executive Director of The Obsidian Collection Archives, a nonprofit 501c3 organization focused on reclaiming the Black Narrative. This effort includes getting the images and articles of Black newspapers, photographers, organizations, community and privately-owned archives into the marketplace and on the Internet. Today’s effective journalism in the Black Diaspora depends heavily on access to accurate history of the past. For decades, Black history was only recorded by Black legacy newspapers and photojournalists. Once hidden for generations, OCA is making available images and other information to the public from American archives with the UK and Kenya soon to follow. Obsidian is not only telling the stories but building platforms to help global Black Media tell the stories. Angela conceptualized the platform WROTE for Black writers and will soon publish the digital outlet, Obsidian Magazine.
Not only passionate about the Black narrative, Angela cares about the Black community. As a Community Philanthropist, she’s created the program that contributed 500 bicycles in one day, twice. With 30 years’ experience as an entrepreneur, she has the skills and fortitude to bring this cultural history to the world. She has a B.S. in Management from Illinois State University and an adult son who speaks 3 languages and has lived in three other countries.
Dr. Alberto Espay is Professor and Endowed Chair of the James J. and Joan A. Gardner Center for Parkinson’s disease at the University of Cincinnati. He has published over 300 peer-reviewed research articles and 8 books, including Common Movement Disorders Pitfalls, which received the Highly Commended BMA Medical Book Award in 2013 and Brain Fables, the Hidden History of Neurodegenerative Diseases and a Blueprint to Conquer them, coauthored with Parkinson patient and advocate Benjamin Stecher, selected by the Association of American Publishers for the PROSE Award honoring the best scholarly work in Neuroscience published in 2020. He has served as Chair of the Movement Disorders Section of the American Academy of Neurology, Associate Editor of the Movement Disorders journal, and on the Executive Committee of the Parkinson Study Group. Among other honors, he has received the Cincinnati Business Courier’s Health Care Hero award, the Spanish Society of Neurology’s Cotzias award, and honorary membership in the Mexican Academy of Neurology. He currently serves as President-Elect of the Pan-American Section of the International Parkinson and Movement Disorders Society. With colleagues at the University of Cincinnati, he recently launched the first biomarker study of aging (CCBPstudy.com), designed to match people with neurodegenerative disorders to available therapies from which they are most biologically suitable to benefit, regardless of their clinical diagnoses.