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2017-2018 University of Chicago Alumni Club of Chicago Board Directors

Click on name for brief biography

 

Name     

Degree/Year 

Role 

Ronald Blumenberg

AM´74

 
Chastidy Burns

AB´08

Committee Chair, Governance/Bylaws 
David Burrus

MBA´92

President 
Jasmine Davila

AB´98

Committee Chair, Communications
Jessica Ekhoff   JD'12   
Ashlee B. Gabrysch AB'07, MPP'13 
Committee Chair, Governance/Nominations 
Kathleen Graham

MBA´02

Committee Chair, Alumni Engagement 
Helen Gregg

AB´09

 
John Kane
MBA'91
 
Douglas Kuzniar

AM´08

 
Kweli Kwaza   AM'11   
NaYoung Lee
AB'02
Secretary 
Ronald Michael  AB'81, SM'84   
Ramani Natarajan

AM´02

 
Chamaine Owens

MLA´98

Committee Chair, Programming
Jeremy Page
MBA'91
 
Marjorie Schwartz Poulos AB’97, MBA ’10   
Bernard Rodgers, Jr.   Ph.D ’75  
David Simmons

LAB´71, AB´75, AM´76  

President Emerita
John Smetanka

AB´71

Vice President         

Tomas Sutrinaitis   AB'15  
Hart Weichselbaum

AB´71

Committee Chair, Programming        

Marcus Wolfe

AM´13

Committee Chair, Hospitality        

Celia Yuen  AB'16   
Narni Ilagan Yoder

AB´98

President Emerita

  

 

   

Ron Blumenberg, AM´74 – Graduated from the School of Social Service Administration in 1974 with an AM. He also holds a BA from Loyola University of Chicago, granted in 1971. He is Chief Deputy Clerk - Circuit Court of Cook County - District 5, Bridgeview, Illinois and President, Cosmopolitan Detective Services. In his first year serving on the Chicago Alumni Club Board, he chairs the Nominating Committee, tasked with attracting and recommending new board members. He also volunteers as Chaplain with the Glenwood Illinois Police Department and at Cook County Jail.

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Chastidy Burns, AB´08 - Chastidy received her AB with Honors from the College in Political Science with a minor in English Language and Literature and Creative Writing. During her undergraduate career, she was Vice-President of Chapter Development of Alpha Omicron Pi’s Phi Chi Chapter and a member of the UChicago Cheer Team. In addition to being a new member of the Alumni Club of Chicago Board, Chastidy remains active in the UChicago community by volunteering with the Chicagoland Alumni Schools Committee.

Chastidy earned a Juris Doctor at DePaul University in 2012, with a focus on Public Interest Law. She is licensed to practice law in both the State of Illinois and the United States District Court Northern District of Illinois, and is currently an Assistant Public Defender with the Cook County Public Defender.

In her free time, Chastidy is very involved in the legal community, serving as the Corresponding Secretary of the Black Women Lawyers Association of Greater Chicago, a Special Project Coordinator of the Chicago Bar Association Young Lawyers Section, and a member of the Just the Beginning Foundation Associate Board. She also regularly volunteers with DePaul’s Neighborhood Legal Assistance Program where she assists homeless individuals with expunging and sealing their criminal records.

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David Burrus, MBA´92 - Received an MBA from the Chicago GSB (now Booth) in 1992. In addition to his current stint on the Alumni Club of Chicago Board, he has served on the Booth Alumni Club Board, acting as Secretary, Assistant Treasurer, and President, and also contributed to the school's Task Force on Alumni Engagement. His professional background spans a variety of functions, including corporate international finance, acquisitions, distribution and planning, industrial product development and product line management. David has worked for nearly the past thirty years in both start-ups and established organizations, spanning industries from pharmaceuticals to aircraft parts to manufacturing. He travels internationally throughout Europe and Asia and recently applied to patent a new product.

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Jasmine Davila, AB´98 - Jasmine studied film in the College, from which she graduated in 1998 with a degree in General Studies in the Humanities. Professionally, she has worked in IT in the financial technology and marketing services industries. She joined the Board in 2014. In her free time, she participates in Chicago’s live lit scene as a writer and performer, blogs (occasionally), and tweets (prolifically) at @jasmined.

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   Jessica Ekhoff, JD'12 - Jessica received her J.D. from The University of Chicago Law School in 2012.  She has been practicing trademark, copyright, and advertising law at Pattishall McAuliffe, an intellectual property boutique, ever since.  In addition to serving on the Alumni Club of Chicago Board of Directors, Jessica stays involved in the UChicago community by counseling start-ups at the Polsky Exchange about developing and protecting their brands, and by performing with The Hutchins Plan, a Revival-based improv team founded and led by her former Law School professor.  Jessica is also active in the Chicago legal community, including serving on the Associate Board for Lawyers for the Creative Arts and the Associate Steering Committee for The Coalition of Women’s Initiatives in Law.  When she’s not solving the world’s intellectual property problems or improvising scenes, Jessica enjoys keeping up with an ever-increasing list of podcasts, working on her golf swing, and planning her next international adventure.  

 

Ashlee B. Gabrysch, AB´07, MPP´13 - Ashlee graduated with Honors from the College with a degree in Interdisciplinary Slavic Studies and then moved to New York to teach high school math. Her work for the NYC Department of Education sparked a passion for the civic sector, and from there she transitioned to working with school districts and state governments as a public sector consultant. In 2011, she returned to the University to pursue an MPP at the Harris School of Public Policy. While at Harris, she concentrated in public finance and social welfare policy and currently serves as a Financial Research Analyst for the Chief Financial Officer of Cook County. In her free time, she enjoys returning to the Seminary Co-op, throwing elaborate dinner parties and practicing hot yoga.


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Kathleen A. Graham, MBA´02 – Kathy Graham earned an MBA in Analytic Finance, Econometrics, and Statistics from The University of Chicago Booth School of Business.  She is the Founder of The HQ Companies, Inc., a group of four firms focused on positioning the right professionals in the right positions to enhance corporate growth and career progression.  

Kathy is a member of the Chicago Finance Exchange, an invitation-only organization comprised of women leaders in finance; a Partner and Co-Chair of the Workplace Initiative for the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago’s Money Smart Week (a national campaign to increase consumer financial literacy), and is the Chicago Steering Committee Chair for 2020 Women on Boards (a national education and advocacy 501c3 organization with the goal of increasing the percentage of women on U.S. corporate boards to 20% or greater by 2020).  She recently was appointed the Chief Marketing Officer for Private Directors Association (a national organization supporting best in class practices for privately held corporate board formation and governance) and is the University of Chicago’s Alumni Club of Chicago Chair of the Alumni Engagement Committee…and there are a lot of ways for alums to become more engaged with their University—contact Kathy at hqs1@juno.com for more information.


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Helen Gregg, AB´09 - Helen graduated with a bachelor's in English in 2009. Since then she has been working in publishing and editing. She has been on the board for three years, and focuses on young alumni activities. In her free time she enjoys seeing live music, practicing yoga, and volunteering. 

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John Kane, MBA'91 - John Kane is a graduate of University of Chicago Business School 1991 with an MBA in Finance.  John has worked in the financial industry for over 29 years. Currently, He is working at J.P. Morgan’s Private Bank.  John resides in Kenilworth with his wife Michele and their 4 children.

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Douglas Kuzniar, AM´08 - Doug graduated from Northwestern University in 2007 with a degree in Political Science and International Studies. He then joined U of C’s Committee on International Relations program, receiving an AM in 2008. For the last four years, Doug has worked for the British government’s commercial section, which is responsible for fostering transatlantic trade and investment flows. This isDoug'sfirst year as a Board member of the Chicago Alumni Club. In his free time, he enjoys running, walking his two dogs, and playing the saxophone.

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Kweli Kwaza, AM'11 - Kweli is the Founder and Executive Director of the Talented 10th College Prep and Career Mentoring organization. Since 1983 Kweli has led the effort in assisting inner city youth in navigating through the college admissions process.  Talented 10th uses college students to mentor high school students with the goal of college attainment.  It is estimated that over 2,500 students have graduated from college since the birth of the Talented 10th 

Kweli has also founded Club 21 (the 21st Ward Block Club Network) out of the need for neighbors to participate in reducing crime and beautifying their neighborhoods.  Club 21 also serves as a platform for the Talented 10th college students to perform community service.  To date, there are 120 Block Clubs participating in Club 21.

Five years ago, Kweli started up the Young Inventors Program for 4th to 8th grade students. Although, the Young Inventors utilizes S.T.E.M. projects, the goal is to develop participant’s leadership skills. 

 Kweli is also an entrepreneur with his company Life Savin Water, a filtered, clean, drinking water point of use cooler company.  

Kweli is a Fulbright Scholar to Kenya, when he attended Northern Illinois University for a BA in Political Science. While at Northern Illinois University he served two terms as the President of the Black Student Union when he was acknowledged for Who’s Who on College Campuses and many other leadership awards. 

Kweli has recently the 21st Ward Service Award for Exceptional Leadership in 2016 On July 9, 2017 he will be presented with another community service leadership award.


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NaYoung Lee, AB’02 – NaYoung graduated from the College with a degree in history with honors. She also earned MSt in Oriental Studies from Oxford and MPH with a focus on healthcare management and health policy from Dartmouth. In the fall of 2008, she joined the Alumni Schools Committee in Northern New England and continued her journey to Chicago. She became more active with the Alumni Club of Chicago and was elected to the Board in May 2016.

NaYoung supports the Alumni Careers Committee in creating career networking opportunities for the UChicago alumni and friends in the Chicago area. She enjoys theatre, travels and swimming with a strong interest in helping alumni in career transitions.    

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Ronald Michael, AB ’81, SM ’84 - Ron entered the college in 1977 through the early admission program, a pet project of controversial president Hutchins, after his third year in high school. Ron went on to graduate from the college in 1981 with an AB in Biological Sciences. He then earned a Master’s degree in Biochemistry at the University. Though asked to stay on for the PhD, he went on to medical school, and ultimately, a residency in neurological surgery at cross town rivals Illinois and Northwestern, respectively.  He is a practicing neurosurgeon, restricting his practice to complex spine surgery and interventional pain management.  Ron remains involved in University activities, especially lectures and events at the Oriental Institute.  His interest in ancient history goes beyond the fact that beer was discovered by the Sumerians, in ancient Mesopotamia.

 

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Ramani Natarajan, AM´02 - Ramani is proud that for the rest of his life, he will be colored Maroon. After graduating with an SM in ComputerScience, he found himself in the throes of the globalized BPO driven world. After spending three plus years in Bangalore where he helped startupan outsourced operations center catering to clients in the US and Western Europe, he returned home to Chicago to work for IRI. After leaving the US shores again for another short stint in the startup world, he is now finally back re-watering his roots in Chicago.

Before attending Chicago, he got his BA in Physics and minored in English Literature from Illinois Wesleyan University. Admittedly, he had more fun reading and criticizing the English Romantics in the English House. His Physics classes consisted largely of research projects focused on theory. After his undergrad, he spent time in store management in the retail worlds of Marshall Field and Carson Pirie Scott.

Currently, he is with West Monroe Partners as a Principal Consultant working to grow their Analytics & Data Science practice. In his spare time, Ramani kayaks, swims, plays chess, explores history and philosophy, and practices Muay Thai. His sports world begins with the Bears, Cubs, Bulls, Blackhawks, and Fire. He is a vegetarian except for Chicago style hot dogs and an infrequent Mcdonalds cheeseburger!

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Charmaine P. Owens, MLA´98 - Professionally, Charmaine is a Project Manager at Verizon.  She graduated from the Graham School with a Master of Liberal Arts degree. Charmaine joined the Alumni Club Board in 2009, serving until 2015, and holding the positions of Volunteer Committee Chair & Programming Co-Chair.  Rejoining in 2016 as Programming Co-Chair, Charmaine will continue to organize programs and help others in our continual quest to keep alumni, family & friends engaged.  She is extremely passionate about volunteerism, especially youth based organizations. Charmaine is looking forward to continuing to work with University and other resources to build new partnerships across other University Alumni Club Boards and mentorship programs with the University Charter & neighboring CPS schools. If you have an interest in being a mentor or want to share volunteer ideas, you can reach Charmaine at charowens1101@gmail.com.

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Jeremy Page, MBA, '91 – Serving his first two-year term on the Board, Jeremy is an attorney in private practice, concentrating his work in the field of international trade law.   A Political Science major destined for a legal career, Jeremy realized at an early point that knowing more about "business" was essential to his success in his chosen career path.  The University of Chicago and its evening MBA program beckoned and Jeremy has repeatedly put those many lessons learned to great use in supporting his clients in their global compliance needs.

Illinois born (well, essentially) and bred, Jeremy is also a graduate of the University of Illinois's Urbana Campus (BA in Political Science, 1983) and the IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law (JD, cum laude, 1986).  In addition to spending time with his family, traveling, buying (not so much reading unfortunately) books, discovering new music and supporting his favorite teams (Go Cubs, Hawks and Bears!) are his passions.

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Marjorie Schwartz Poulos, AB’97, MBA ’10 - Marjorie graduated from the college and Booth with concentrations in Economics.  She recently served as an engagement chair for her 20th college reunion.   Marjorie has resided in Chicago since her college days, 8 of them in Hyde Park with her husband and two children.  Marjorie is the Head of Compliance and Internal Audit for Enova International, an analytics and financial services company headquartered in Chicago.

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Bernard F. Rodgers, Jr., PhD ’75—After earning his Ph.D. in Literature, Bernie spent forty years as a college professor and administrator.  For eight years he was a teacher, department chair, and Special Assistant to the Chancellor at the City Colleges of Chicago, and for two was an assistant director of the Commission on Higher Education of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools. He was also involved as a scholar in programs of the Chicago Public Library, the Illinois Humanities Council, and the Society of Midland Authors.  He spent 1979-1980 away as a Fulbright Senior Lecturer in American Literature in Lublin, Poland.  In 1985 he left Chicago for Bard College at Simon’s Rock in Great Barrington, MA, where he served as Dean of Academic Affairs for two years and as a Vice President of Bard and Dean of the College at Simon’s Rock for the next seventeen.  He taught throughout his administrative career, and left those roles to return to the classroom full-time as the Emily H. Fisher Professor of Literature for eleven years before retiring and returning to Chicago in 2015.

In MA, he was a member and officer of the boards of the local hospital, United Way, and Chamber of Commerce, of Simon’s Rock, and of the MA Foundation for the Humanities.  He is the author or editor of six books, including a volume of his selected essays and reviews on modern and contemporary American and European literature, and of studies devoted to Philip Roth, John Updike, and Salman Rushdie.  Returning to Chicago has been all he expected it to be, and he spends his time on the beach and bike paths of the Lake, strolling the city and never ceasing to admire its architecture, and taking advantage of its rich offerings in theater, films, art, lectures, jazz, and other performances—as well as enjoying the luxury of having no homework for the first time in his life and reading when and what he pleases. 


David Simmons, LAB´71, AB´75, AM´76 – Earned his bachelors’ in political science, and his masters’ in urban studies. He also has a master's in city planning from Harvard. He has spent his professional career in public transportation planning and capital budgeting, including twenty-five years at Chicago Transit Authority. His last ten years there he was capital budget director. He now manages capital grants at Metra, the Northeastern Illinois region’s commuter rail agency. After spending many years away from the University (except for annual giving), he became reacquainted through helping plan his thirty-fifth college reunion. That led to serving on the Alumni Club of Chicago Board, where he is currently in his fifth year.

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John A. Smetanka, AB´71 – Received his AB in Psychology with Honors. He also earned an MA´74, and PhD´77 in Social Psychology and Organizations from Harvard University.  This is his second year as a Board member of the Chicago Alumni Club and chairs the Careers Committee.  Previously, he has been active in the alumni club in Hong Kong, and worked with Stephanie Veit (International Alumni Relations) and local alumni in setting up a College alumni club in Singapore.  He has participated in alumni events in London (International Day), traveled with University Alumni Travel to Japan with Professor James Ketelaar, and attended local events (e.g., Pritzker Military Library tour, reunion events).

John pursued an international banking career for more than 20 years and lived and worked in several countries in Asia and the Middle East including Hong Kong, Indonesia, Singapore, Bangladesh, Egypt and Dubai.  Prior to moving to Asia, he held banking positions in the U.S. and was a university professor before embarking on his banking career.  He is currently “retired.”

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Tomas Sutrinaitis, AB'15 - As a first generation citizen of the US, Tom is a proud graduate of The University of Chicago, where he studied Economics and Psychology.  He was very involved on campus during his time at UChicago, having participated in Varsity Football, Greek life, UChicago Careers in Business, and acting as the President & Treasurer of the UChicago Sports Business Team.  He also studied abroad for a quarter in Athens, Greece.  Because of his commitment and dedication to his alma mater, Tom wanted to continue his involvement in the school by joining the Board of Directors of the Alumni Club.

Tom currently works in the financial industry for J.P. Morgan, where he works in their Asset Management division.  He is also a Co-Chair of the Midwest Committee of Hope for the philanthropic organization Help For Children. 

Tom spent his entire life in the Chicagoland area, having grown up in the northwest suburbs of Chicago.  In his spare time, he enjoys being physically active, watching sports, traveling, dining out, listening to alternative rock, and watching TV & film.  His favorite sports teams are the Cubs, Bulls, and Bears.  Tom also enjoys frequenting the various art museums & exhibits that the city has to offer.  He enjoys being a perpetual student of life.

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Hart Weichselbaum, AB´71 – Says that he went to the College in the bad old days but had a pretty good time and learned a lot. After graduation, he left for grad school, picked up a PhD in Social Psychology, and stumbled into a career in advertising. He returned to Chicago in 2000 and decided that he’d like to live in Hyde Park as an adult.  It was a wonderful decision.  

 For the past 15 years, he’s had a consulting practice focused on consumer insight and brand strategy. Hart’s in his second stint on the Board of the Chicago Alumni Club, has worked with Development on communications for the Odyssey scholarships and Booth, facilitated various meetings of the College Visiting Committee, and has been a first round reviewer for the New Venture Challenge. His wife is a member of the University’s Women Board and his children are proud graduates of the Lab School.

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Marcus Wolfe, AM´13 - This is Marcus' second term as a board member. He graduated from SSA in 2013 an is currently working, toward his PhD, in Gerontology. He is working on research projects, with The University of Chicago Medical Center, University of Michigan, Rush Hospital/University and The University of Connecticut - Hartford. 

Marcus serves a the hospitality chair, because of his extensive networks throughout the city, state and country.

He endeavors to help increase volunteering and giving among minority alumni.

 

Celia Yuen, AB'16 - Celia still introduces herself sometimes as "I'm Celia, and I just graduated from UChicago", even though it has been a while, because she had such a fantastic time in the College. While she can't hang out at the Halperin house table anymore without finagling someone to swipe her in, she is very happily involved with the Alumni Club of Chicago Board, specifically the Alumni Engagement Committee. During her time on campus, she completed her degree in Linguistics with a Minor in Statistics, was a Board Member of the UChicago chapter of Smart Woman Securities, a designer for MODA, and a volunteer serving North Korean defectors at ENOK. Now, besides serving on the Board, she is a software developer at McMaster-Carr, an avid traveler (20 countries and counting), a garment designer and maker, and working on her MS in Computer Science at DePaul. She is also busy trying to hoodwink her friends with cars to drive her to "hiking" spots nearby because this proud Bostonian misses topographic variety. Ask Celia about her playlist, her reading list, and her thoughts on public transportation.        

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Narni Ilagan Yoder, AB '98 – While a student at UChicago, Narni spent hours deep in research and immersed in books at the Reg & Harper.  At one point, she checked out all the books related to a final paper. She had classmates queued outside her second floor apartment waiting to grab books as she was done with them.

As President Emerita of the Alumni Club of Chicago, Narni has learned to share as she enthusiastically shares all the great University activities, news and resources with the 60,000+ area alumni.  

For Narni, it all began when she was wrangling events as programming chair for the Alumni Club of Washington, DC.  One of her first events was the inaugural Phoenixphest, which required tracking down a venue that satisfied both sides of the hill. (They settled on margaritas.) Chicago’s events are almost as contentious when having to plan events in the city vs. suburbs, The Federal Reserve vs. the CBOT, Argonne vs. Fermi, etc.

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