The Strategy & Design Team Biographies

Education/Arts/Experiential Learning

Steve Bynum

WBEZ (Chicago’s NPR station’s) Sr. Producer, Worldview

Stacy Keach

– Actor

Neeta Kolhatkar

– Journalist, Mumbai, INDIA

Nissa Rhee

– Freelance Journalist

Frédérique Lehoux

Project Manager, Disaster Risk Reduction Pacific Islands Applied Geoscience Commission

Stephanie Pace Marshall, PhD

Founding President, Illinois Math Science Academy
Clinton Global Initiative

Wendy Sternberg, MD

Founder and Executive Director
Genesis at the Crossroads

Dr. Doris Sommer

Harvard Professor
Founder and Executive Director, Harvard-based Cultural Agents Initiative

Organizational Management and Development

Jean AbiNader

Owner/Principal, Jean AbiNader International Advisory Services
Executive Director, Moroccan American Trade & Investment Center

Wendy Sternberg, MD – as above


Ken Schroeder, FAIA, ALA

Founding Principal, SMNG A Architects

Todd Niemiec, AIA, ALA

Principal, SMNG A Architects

Chey Hsiao Taylor, AIA

Associate Principal, SMNG A Architects

Michelle Sakayan, FAIA, ALA

Principal, Sakayan, Inc.

Interior Design

Susan Fredman – CEO/Founder

Susan Fredman Design Group

Jennifer Sobecki, IIDA, Allied ASID

– Executive Director, Designs for Dignity

Sustainability and Regenerative Design Consulting

Helen Kessler, FAIA, LEED Fellow

Principal, HJKessler Associates

Michelle Halle Stern, AIA, PE, LEED Fellow

Principal, The Green Facilitator

LeeAnn Tomas-Foster

Associate Vice President, Arcadis

Urban Planning

Keith Campbell, AIA, LEED AP– VP CallisonRTKL


Rick Prohov

Lawyer, Prohov & Associates (Environmental Law)

George Vudelja

Harris and Held, LLP (Trusts and Estate Planning)


Ira Harkavy, PhD

Associate VP and Director
University of Pennsylvania Netter Center for Community Partnerships

Luca Mazzei

Management Consultant

Cathryn Taylor

Business Consultant; Senior Financial and Operational Executive; CPA with experience at 4 firms including Deloitte and Touche

Sports Program

Robin Monsky

Principal Round Robin Sports PR

Music Program:

Badi Assad

Musician, and Composer

Clarice Assad

Musician, and Composer


John B. Lazar

John B. Lazar and Associates

Communications and IT Team

Youtech & Associates

GATC IT Assistant and Genesis Intern

Ritika Dhawan, MD Class of 2020 (Rush Univ.)

Genesis Academy Summer Institute Student Graduates

Muhammad Faran

Student Team Lead (Pakistan)

Andelka Zivojinovich

World Press International Youth Journalist (Bosnia)

Victor Angel Araque Rangel


Mohadese Mirzaee


Sereimony Sek




Owner/Principal, Jean AbiNader International Advisory Services
Executive Director, Moroccan American Trade & Investment Center

Jean AbiNader is a management consultant, cross-cultural trainer, trade association and corporate executive, and human resources professional with more than three decades of experience in policy analysis and development, international business, intercultural training, and public affairs. He is a proven leader and communicator who has enabled corporate and government clients from the US, Europe, Africa, and the Middle East to define strategic options for growth and development and achieve results through integrated management and communications strategies.

As a management consultant, Jean focuses on strategies for companies, associations, and organizations in challenging domestic and international environments. His training/coaching programs include leadership and innovative management, dynamics of managing change, and strategic planning. Professional interpersonal skills mentoring include: negotiating across cultures, cross-cultural management, global project management, and a variety of communication skills.

Mr. AbiNader has a master’s degree in Public and International Affairs from the University of Pittsburgh where he also completed post-graduate study in Organizational Communications.

Jean AbiNader renowned for his weekly blog, Morocco on the Move, is a well-known speaker, university lecturer, and specialist on international policy issues, who advises clients on strategic growth strategies, international marketing business development, and project implementation strategies. He has lead a graduate seminar on US-Arab marketing issues at the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University in Washington D.C. and a senior level negotiations course for the Executive MBA program of Al-Akhawayn University’s campus in Casablanca. He lives in the metropolitan Washington D.C. area and is currently overseas transforming a workforce development project in Amman, Jordan.


Based in São Paulo, Brazil, virtuoso guitar player, singer, vocal juggler and songwriter, Badi Assad has emerged as one of the most versatile artists of her generation. In the words of the Los Angeles Times, Badi Assad redefines solo (guitar) performance! Revelatory, a brilliant display of innovation, imagination, and skill…almost hypnotically compelling!”

With more than 11 albums released worldwide, her 2006 CD Wonderland was selected among the 100 Best from the prestigious BBC London and was also included among the 30 Best on The US magazine, Guitar Player, selected her from a pool of artists (that included the likes of Ben Harper and Ani DiFranco,) as one of the guitar players that would revolutionize the world.

Embraced by record companies such as Verve (Universal) and eDGe Music (Deutsche Grammophon,) she has played an array of international concerts over the past two decades, including innovative collaborations with Bobby McFerrin, Yo-Yo-Ma and Sarah McLaughlin, among others. She has performed in some of the most prestigious international festivals, including North Sea Jazz Festival (NE), Stimmen Festival (CH) and in theaters including Paris Opera (FR), Palais de Beaux-Arts (BE) and the Metropolitan Museum of New York. Badi also represented Brazil in the acclaimed festivals, Farm Aid and Lilith Fair/US. Some of her songs have reached the Top 10 in Europe. Her hit song, Waves was featured in the soundtrack of It Runs in the Family, featuring Michael and Kirk Douglas.
In 2004, with the project, Three Guitars, she toured the world with guitar legends, Larry Coryell and John Abercrombie. In 2006, she started a new project with her Brothers, the famous Duo Assad, masters of the classical guitar. In 2010, to celebrate her 20-year career, she released a commemorative DVD entitled, Badi Assad. Two years later, she went on to release her first independent and authoritative album on her own label Between Love and Luck, for which she was awarded Best Composer of The Year (APCA/BR) and was selected as among the Brazilian guitar masters of history by Rolling Stone Magazine.

In January of 2014, Badi was commissioned by The Guitar Film Festival Marathon in New York, to compose for the remake of the Chinese silent film, The Goddess (1934). Invited to also serve in the role of Festival Curator, she not only performed her composition live at New York’s Merkin Hall but also received a New York Times highlight as Best of the Festival. In July she released Casa de Cantos, her first CD dedicated to children, garnering Trophy Cata-Vento for Best CD of the year. In August, she began writing a weekly column about music for the online version of TOP Magazine.

She is the esteemed vocalist and guitarist in Genesis at the Crossroads’ Saffron Caravan and one of the composers for Genesis’ world tours.

Clarice Assad

Described by the San Francisco Chronicle as “a serious triple threat,” Brazilian-American Clarice Assad is a Grammy-nominated composer, performer, and educator of musical depth and ability. Carefully crafted colorful textures permeate her soulful and musical world, which embraces a wide variety of styles, from symphonic to chamber music, avant-garde to Brazilian genres and French chanson. As a performer, Assad often appears on piano and explores the voice as an instrument, creating a vast array of innovative textures and extended techniques into her music. An avid educator, she is the founder of VOXploration, an award-winning research-based outreach program which continuously touches the lives of many people. Clarice’s mission is to connect, inspire and empower people through music.


Senior Producer, Worlview, WBEZ, Chicago’s National Public Radio station
Steve Bynum joined WBEZ, NPR’s local station in Chicago in 1998.For over 15 years and counting, he has served as senior producer for Worldview, WBEZ’s weekday global affairs/news program. With Worldview, Steve’s responsibilities include the creation of in-depth stories, features, series, film projects and outreach events that mutually connect listeners to Chicago’s global community with those around the world. He has won numerous awards for editing and producing including:
1996: Gabriel Award winning segment for Sandy Rios Live (Producer) – honoring “works of excellence in broadcasting that serve audiences through the positive, creative treatment of concerns to humankind.”
2010: Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago’s Excellence in Media Award-winning series “Islamic Reform: Towards a Global Reformation Movement” on WBEZ (Producer and Editor)
2011: NABJ Radio Excellence Award (Worldview Race Series: “Black Images in film”) (Producer and Editor)
2012: Newswomen’s Club of New York’s 2012 Front Page Award in the radio feature category (Editor)
2013: Associated Press (Indiana) 1st Place-Best Public Affairs Program “Afternoon Shift: Live From Crown Point” (Producer)

Prior to joining WBEZ, Steve worked as the Morning Show Producer for WMBI 90.1 FM in Chicago, as Program Manager for WYLL 106.7 FM in Elk Grove Village, IL and as a freelance sports reporter for the Chicago Tribune. In addition, he worked in marketing for the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (now Joint Commission) in Illinois.

He currently serves as Program Committee Member for the International Network for Urban Agriculture and serves as a Board of Director for the organizations WorldChicago, Chicago Cultural Alliance, EcoMyths Alliance and is 2016 Board President for Evanston/Skokie Valley Metropolitan Family Services. Steve also serves as Advisory Committee Member for the Chicago Global Impact Network, connecting Chicago-based non-profits with each other to foster collaboration and donor awareness. She served as a past Executive Board Member of Genesis at the Crossroads and teaches in the Peace Journalism segment of the Genesis Academy Summer Institute.

An International Fellow at the Chester Ronning Centre for the Study of Religion and Public Life at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada, Steve is also near completion of his Master’s Degree in Public Policy and Administration from Northwestern University. His undergraduate degree in American Studies hails from University of Notre Dame.


VP CallisonRTKL
(Bio in pdf – getting word doc)


Founder & CEO, Susan Fredman Design Group
Interior Design

Creating designs of distinction for 35 years, Susan Fredman, one of Chicago’s most prominent residential interior designers, is founder and CEO of her namesake firm, Susan Fredman Design Group. As one of the largest residential design firms in the Chicagoland area, Susan Fredman Design Group has earned a national reputation and established full-service offices in Chicago’s River North and Michigan’s Harbor Country. The firm’s retail arm — Susan Fredman at Home –includes a distinctive collection of home décor items sold at stores attached to the design studios and via a robust Web site.

The recipient of numerous awards and honors, Fredman is widely recognized as a leader in the Chicago design community and beyond. Her work has garnered the attention of media outlets including Traditional Home, Chicago Tribune, Chicago magazine, Chicago Home + Garden, LUXE, CS, CS Interiors, HGTV, Fox-TV and NBC-TV among others.

As a result of her firm’s extensive pro bono projects, Fredman was motivated to create Designs for Dignity, through which existing non-profit spaces are transformed through pro bono design services and in-kind donations. Her dedication to the non-profit sector earned her national recognition by Traditional Home magazine, which honored her as one of six recipients of the 2009 Classic Woman Award. She was also recently honored by Today’s Chicago Woman as one of the 100 Making a Difference 2011.


Associate VP and Director, Netter Center for Community Partnerships
University of Pennsylvania
Advisor, Genesis Academy Research Team

Ira Harkavy is Associate Vice President and founding Director of the Barbara and Edward Netter Center for Community Partnerships, University of Pennsylvania. A historian with extensive experience building university-community-school partnerships, Harkavy teaches in the departments of history, urban studies, Africana studies, and city and regional planning. As Director of the Netter Center since 1992, Harkavy has helped to develop service-learning courses as well as participatory action research projects that involve creating university-assisted community schools in Penn’s local community of West Philadelphia.

Executive Editor of Universities and Community Schools, Harkavy has written and lectured widely on the history and current practice of urban university-community-school partnerships and strategies for integrating the university missions of teaching, research, and service. His recent publications include Dewey’s Dream: Universities and Democracies in an Age of Education Reform (Temple Press, 2007), which he co-authored with Lee Benson and John Puckett, and The Obesity Culture: Strategies for Change. Public Health and University-Community Partnerships (Smith-Gordon, 2009), co-authored with Francis E. Johnston.

Harkavy also served as a consultant to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to help create its Office of University Partnerships and is a Senior Fellow of the Leonard Davis Institute of Health Economics. Harkavy is a member of numerous boards, including; the Advisory Committee of the Directorate for Education and Human Resources (EHR) and the Advisory Committee for Government Performance Assessment (AC/GPA) at the National Science Foundation; Widener University Board of Trustees; the International Consortium for Higher Education, Civic Responsibility, and Democracy (US chair); Coalition for Community Schools (chair); and Philadelphia Higher Education Network for Neighborhood Development (co-chair). He is the recipient of Campus Compact’s Thomas Ehrlich Faculty Award for Service Learning (2002), the University of Pennsylvania’s Alumni Award of Merit (2004), a Fulbright Senior Specialist Grant (2005), and the Historical Society of Pennsylvania’s Heritage Award (2006); and, under his directorship, the Netter Center for Community Partnerships received the inaugural William T. Grant Foundation Youth Development Prize sponsored in collaboration with the National Academy of Sciences’ Board on Children, Youth and Families (2003) and a Best Practices/Outstanding Achievement Award from HUD’s

Harkavy received his B.A. and his Ph.D. in history from the University of Pennsylvania.



A graduate of University of California, Berkeley, the Yale School of Drama, and England’s London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art where he was a Fulbright scholar. Stacy has won three Obies, Best Actor Tony nomination and The Helen Hayes Award, the prestigious Millennium Recognition Award for contribution to classical theater, A Golden Globe, Best Actor Emmy nomination for his TV performance in Hemingway and Lifetime Achievement Award by the San Diego Film Festival. Alongside Harold Ramis, he will narrate our human-interest documentary chronicling GATC’s Saffron Caravan ensemble’s journey and global impact. He also sits on the GATC Advisory Board as Artistic and Music Theater Consultant


Principal, HJKessler Associates
Sustainability Consultant

Ms. Kessler is President of HJKessler Associates, a sustainable design, LEED, energy efficiency and commissioning consulting services founded in 2003. With over 30 years experience in sustainable design, she has had a leading role on over four dozen LEED projects, including most of the LEED rating systems. Projects include K-12 schools, office, college, university and life safety facilities, commercial interiors and many other project types.

Ms. Kessler is a Board member of the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) Illinois Chapter, directs its education programs, was on the Greenbuild host committee and was a voting member of the national LEED for Commercial Interiors Core Committee. She is past co-chair of the AIA Chicago Committee on the Environment, chaired the Energy Code Committee, which created Chicago’s first energy code, and was a voting member on the ASHRAE committee that created Guideline 0 – The Building Commissioning Process.

Ms. Kessler is a frequent speaker and author on sustainability topics and regularly teaches various courses, including “Sustainability in Construction” at Northwestern University where she is an adjunct professor, “Green Building – The Nuts and Bolts for Contractors,” a program which she co-created for the USGBC Chicago Chapter and Wilbur Wright College, as well as lighting economics for IESNA Chicago. She has written hundreds of articles on green building, energy efficiency, and solar energy and has given hundreds of presentations on these subjects. Ms.Kessler has received several awards, including the USGBC Illinois Chapter Intent to Matter award, the Illinois Real Estate Journal Women in Real Estate Impact award and Alumnus of the Year, The University of Arizona Honors College. LEED/Sustainability consultant — selected projects:

Exelon Headquarters Project, Chicago, award-winning 250,000 sf commercial interior, LEED Platinum certified – both 10-floor initial project and 1-floor addition
Jewish Reconstructionist Congregation, Evanston, award-winning 30,000 sf new synagogue, LEED Platinum certified
Mark T. Skinner Elementary School, 100,000 sf prototype elementary school, achieved LEED for Schools Gold certification.
Westinghouse High School, 240,000 sf new high school for Chicago Public Schools, first Chicago high school to achieve LEED Gold certification.
Brighton Park I Elementary School, 100,000 sf elementary



Neeta Kolhatkar, a senior journalist, and columnist from Mumbai has over 23 years of experience across sectors including conflict, violence, policy, financial, national and international politics, infrastructure, and especially coverage of peripheral communities and groups. She has also worked in various media from television and print to social media and other diverse portals.
She strives to strike a balance by being current while adhering to the basic ethics, believing deeply that “in journalism, there has always been a tension between getting it first and getting it right,” as Ellen Goodman so aptly put it.
She has interviewed many powerful decision-making persons of national and international stature. The need to portray certain realities through different forms of story-telling in an ever-changing world motivates her to lend a platform to those whose voices need to be heard.
Neeta is the co-founder of an Indian youtube news channel and is active on social media for raising issues on critical global issues. In the past year, her columns and video stories have been selected by both and CNN International. In 2008, she won the Mumbai Mayor’s Award for bringing prestige to the city through journalism.
Neeta was selected for the US Ambassador’s Fellow program in September 2002 and completed the Rotary International Peace and Conflict Resolution certificate course at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok. With her unique perspective, equipped with her Masters in Social Work, Neeta has used media-advocacy tools in her journalistic profession. She has also worked with various non-governmental organizations in a voluntary capacity.
For the past two years, she has been teaching various aspects of journalism at the graduate level at St Andrew’s, Swami Vivekanand and Lalalajpatrai College. She has also conducted workshops on peace media and journalism and has educated herself more fully with workshops on peace journalism. A multi-faceted person, Neeta involves herself in numerous activities apart from academics including, social work. She has won many scholarships including the National Open Merit Scholarship and reached state level athletics in the field of javelin throw and basketball.


John B. Lazar has been a performance consultant and coach since 1983, including more than 20 years as an executive coach to CEOs and Presidents, business owners, executives, and senior managers through his company John B. Lazar & Associates, Inc. He works with individual leaders and their teams, expanding their awareness and altering their perspectives, skill sets, and performance to produce socially and emotionally intelligent leadership and management, breakthrough execution and better business results.

In addition to his leadership and executive coaching, he consults to companies on issues of improving leadership and management practices, communications, evaluation, executive team alignment, culture-strategy fit, and organizational change. Client organizations include AbbVie, Alcan, Boeing, CDK Global, Deloitte, E.ON Climate and Renewables, Google, Lee Health, KPMG, McKinsey and Company, NASA, National Starch, Nefab, Northern Trust, U.S. Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, PricewaterhouseCoopers, ReSource Pro, Rogers Wireless, Stericycle, Suncor and Tyco.

John continues to coach TED Fellows and Fellows from the Unreasonable Institute. He was a founding member and past President of the Board of Directors of the International Consortium for Coaching in Organizations (ICCO). He is a current Director on the Board of the Association for Redevelopment Initiatives. He is a co-founder, owner, and Executive Editor of IJCO The International Journal of Coaching in Organizations®. He has made more than 80 presentations to audiences in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, England, Belgium, Germany, Poland, Spain, Australia, New Zealand, Turkey, India, and China.

John has a master’s degree in clinical psychology from the University of Illinois at Chicago and a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Lake Forest College. He has been certified as a Master Coach by the International Coach Federation (ICF) since 1999. He received his coach training and certification from Newfield Network in 1992 and 2000 and from the Institute for Generative Leadership in 2010. He resides in Forest Park, Illinois, USA.


Project Manager, Pacific Islands Geoscience Commission
Experiential Learning Curriculum Development

Born and raised in France, Tunisia and Central Africa, Frédérique Lehoux is a graduate of the Lycée Bouchardon, University of Pennsylvania and the Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. Her 12 years of experience in the management and coordination of relief and development programs include 6+ years in field postings with sectoral expertise in disaster risk management and conflict resolution. She currently serves as the Pacific Islands Applied Geoscience Commission Project Manager supporting disaster risk reduction in the Pacific Overseas Countries and Territories.

From 2005-2009, she was the Oxfam Australia, Pacific Humanitarian Coordinator managing all of Oxfam’s Pacific human security program (budget of A$ 3 million) with a provision of technical advice to Oxfam’s Pacific country offices/head office and civil society organizations in disaster management and conflict resolution. Her frequent travels took her to the Pacific region, including Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and Fiji where she developed extensive networks and built partnerships with regional and national disaster and conflict management players, including governments and United Nations agencies. She focused on capacity building of local and international staff in disaster preparedness and response including governmental disaster agencies. Following the 2004 Sri Lankan tsunami, she contributed to the development of program strategies and project proposals for response in Sri Lanka and developed financial and activity monitoring systems to ensure adequate monitoring, reporting, and donor accountability.

Prior to that, she worked for CARE USA for the Congo in Action for Peace Program, in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo. In her capacity as Grants Manager for their peace and reconciliation program, she worked at removing obstacles to the reunification of DR Congo and facilitating the transition towards democracy. The program approach was to fund local, regional or national initiatives that showed strong potential for community integration, conflict resolution, and inter-ethnic reconciliation. Funded by the United States Office of Transition Initiatives, she managed a portfolio of grants totaling in excess of US $6 million grants to local and international organizations. She also provided training to beneficiary organizations in conflict analysis and resolution programming as well as project and organizational management to ensure good working relationships with key stakeholders (including Congolese civil society groups, donors, government officials, rebel movement leaders, and the private sector.)

From 2001-3, she functioned as the International Rescue Committee’s, Umbrella Grant Manager, in Bukavu, Democratic Republic of Congo, where she developed and managed a two-year war recovery & civil society strengthening program in South Kivu Province. Through the provision of sub-grants to local NGOs, this program responded to humanitarian/recovery needs in health, food security, and income generation, strengthening the capacity of civil society groups and leading them towards sustainability. Funded by the United States Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance for US$ 1 million, she was responsible for the development, start-up, planning and overall management of programs/ project design, including evaluation of the humanitarian situation and of needs of local NGOs. This not only included project staffing assessment and recruitment as well as direct supervision of 7 national staff and local/international consultants but also included participation in relief and recovery efforts following the 2002 eruption of the Nyiragongo volcano in Goma.

For CARE USA In Port-au-Prince/Gonaives, Haiti, she served as Assistant Regional Director, managing and coordinating CARE programs in Northwest and Artibonite regions of Haiti, in conjunction with the Regional Director from 1999 – 2001. The regional portfolio included a mix of disaster and development projects in maternal and child health nutrition, infrastructure rehabilitation, education, and school feeding. (Regional annual budget of US$ 7 million with 250 staff and 8,000 metric tons of food.) As a member of CARE Haiti’s Senior Management Team, she led the development of CARE Haiti’s Disaster Preparedness Plan.

Prior positions included Fellow/Program Officer for CARE USA in Madagascar where she developed a 5-year food security/water & sanitation program, began a start-up of field activities which included the set-up of a sub-office in the urban slums of the capital city. She also coordinated gender training for CARE Madagascar staff with inclusion of gender-sensitive programs and contributed to the development of CARE Madagascar’s five-year strategic plan. Her earlier positions included: consultant to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Office of Evaluation and Strategic Planning in New York and research intern for the Office of the President of the Czech Republic, Foreign Policy Department in Prague.

She is bilingual in French and English and conversant in German with working knowledge of Haitian Creole and Swahili.


Founding President/President Emerita, Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy
Educational Consultant

Stephanie Pace Marshall is the Founding President and President Emerita of the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy®–the nation’s first three-year public residential institution for high school age students academically talented in science, mathematics, and technology. She was also the founding president of the National Consortium for Specialized Secondary Schools in Mathematics, Science, and Technology, and was a president of the Association of Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD), one of the world’s largest international education associations. Today she is internationally recognized as a pioneer and innovative leader and teacher and an inspiring speaker and writer on leadership, learning and schooling, STEM education and talent development, innovation, and the design of generative and life-affirming learning organizations.

Dr. Marshall has worked at every level of education: superintendent of schools, a district curriculum administrator, a graduate school faculty member, and an elementary and middle school teacher. She earned a B.A. from Queens College, M.A. from the University of Chicago, and a Ph.D. from Loyola University of Chicago, and she received four honorary doctorates in science and in arts and letters.

She is the author of over 35 published journal articles, an author for the Drucker Foundation’s series Organizations of the Future, an editor, and author of Scientific Literacy for the 21st Century, and a contributor to Learning and Understanding: Improving Advanced Study of Mathematics and Science in U. S. High Schools. She is featured in the book, Leaders Who Dare: Pushing the Boundaries and is the inspiration behind the novel, Smart Alex, a story of an adolescent girl talented in mathematics. Her book, The Power to Transform: Leadership That Brings Learning and Schooling to Life, received the 2007 Educator’s Award from The Delta Kappa Gamma Society International.

She is the recipient of numerous awards and recognition for her leadership, including the Distinguished Service Award from the U. S. Marine Corp, the Woman Extraordinaire Award from the International Women’s Association, the Distinguished Citizen of the Year Award from the Boy Scouts of America, the Distinguished Alumni Award from Loyola University of Chicago, the Damen Award from the Graduate School of Loyola University, and the Pioneer Award from the Board of Trustees of the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy.

Dr. Marshall received two resolutions from the Illinois General Assembly for outstanding contributions to Illinois education, and she was elected into the Illinois Hall of Fame and into the inaugural Hall of Fame of Chicago Women’s Today. The Chicago Sun-Times selected her as one of the ten most powerful women in education and one of the 100 most powerful women in Chicago. She was recognized by the R JR Nabisco Corporation as one of the nation’s most innovative educational leaders and by the National Association of School Boards as one of North America’s “100 Top School Executives.”

At the invitation of Mikhail Gorbachev, she became a member of the State of The World Forum, an international “think-tank” designed to study and resolve issues impacting global sustainability. President William Jefferson Clinton invited her to become a member of the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI), a non-partisan cadre of “the world’s most influential leaders committed to strengthening the capacity of people throughout the world to meet the challenges of global interdependence.” Her current CGI work involves a partnership with Toronto-based Free The Children to build and equip the first residential secondary school for girls in the Masai Mara in Kenya, which will open in 2011.

She is a fellow of the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures, and Commerce in London, England and serves on the board of the Queen Noor Jubliee School’s Foundation in Amman, Jordan, and several other foundations and corporate boards in the United States. She is a Trustee of the Society for Science and the Public, a member of the Advisory Board of Games for Change, and a charter member of the Advisory Board for AECT’s Initiative FutureMinds: Transforming American School Systems and The Innovation Council of Chicago. She serves as an advisor to The Thornburg Center for Space Exploration, the Chicago Metropolitan Agency’s Plan for Higher Education, and the American Psychological Association’s Study of the Impact of Specialized Public High Schools of Science, Mathematics & Technology.

Dr. Marshall is a member of numerous corporate and civic groups in Chicago including the Economic Club, The Commercial Club, The Executives Club, and The Chicago Network. She is a member of the Board of Directors of Tellabs, Inc. and Sentry Insurance, and is a member of the Tellabs Foundation, the IMSA Fund for the Advancement of Education, and is a Vice-President of The Fry Foundation in Chicago. She continues to consult with national and international foundations, policy leaders and practitioners as a “thinking partner”—helping to move possibilities to practice.

As a result of her achievements, she was inducted into the Lincoln Academy of Illinois and was designated a Laureate of the Academy, the state’s highest award for achievement that “contributes to the betterment of mankind.”


Principal, SMNG-A Ltd. Architects

Todd Niemiec is the president and principal of SMNG A, an award-winning architecture, planning and interior architecture firm which has served the Chicago area for more than 40 years. Since joining the firm in 1994 he has served as the lead conceptual designer and coordinator on a wide range of residential, institutional and educational projects in Illinois, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Indiana.

Todd seamlessly incorporates his knowledge of code and regulatory requirements into the firm’s thoughtful design work including the concept design of over 30 new schools and major additions as Design Architect for the Public Building Commission of Chicago. In 2013 he supervised SMNG A’s role as design architect to the Public Building Commission overseeing 17 design-build teams engaged in summer-critical renovation work and program improvements to 98 schools that was completed in 3 months. For the past ten years he has led the firms’ technical detailing, code compliance and lessons learned efforts for all of the educational projects undertaken by the office with construction value in excess of $500M.

In addition Todd has been primarily or jointly responsible on numerous award winning projects including the Alexander Graham Bell Elementary School Annex (Association of Licensed Architects (ALA) Silver Design Award, 2014), Federico Garcia Lorca Elementary School (State of Illinois Daniel Burnham Award, 2013; Association of Licensed Architects (ALA) Merit award, 2012; Learning by Design Citation of Excellence Award, 2012; Chicago Building Congress Merit Award Finalist, 2011), Langston Hughes Elementary School (ALA Silver Design Award, 2010; Richard T. Driehaus Foundation Award for Community Design, 3rd Place, 2009), Mark T. Skinner Elementary School (ALA Gold Design Award, 2009), Tobacco Lofts at Findorff Yards (Madison Trust for Historic Preservation, 2006) and Rambler Lofts (AIA Merit Award, 2004).

Since 2013 Todd has been a guest lecturer for professional practice classes at Illinois Institute of Technology and has lectured on education design to the South Florida AIA in Naples Florida. Todd is a graduate of the UIC School of Architecture where he was awarded a John B. Wally Fellowship and was nominated for the Schiff Foundation and SOM Fellowships.


Founder, Prohov and Associates (Environmental Law)
Sustainability and Experiential Learning Curriculum Development
Bio currently being revised


, Freelance Journalist

Nissa Rhee is a writer who specializes in peace and justice issues. She is currently working on a book about American veterans who have returned to Vietnam to help overcome the legacies of the war, reconcile the past with the present, and turn enemies into friends. She speaks frequently about veterans’ issues and was a featured speaker at the National Veterans Art Museum in 2014 and the Veterans for Peace national convention in 2013.

Nissa’s work has appeared in a variety of print and radio outlets, including NPR, The Christian Science Monitor, Guernica, Narratively, and Radio Netherlands Worldwide. Her reporting has taken her across Asia and North America, including to the Korean demilitarized zone and a bomb demolition site in central Vietnam.

Previously, Nissa worked as a producer and director of Chicago Public Radio’s daily international affairs program “Worldview.” She traveled with the show to both Mexico and Canada to report on immigration issues. Nissa’s responsibilities on “Worldview” included producing the “Global Activism” series, which highlighted individuals that are working to make the world a better place. She also produced the audio component of DePaul University’s Iraq History Project and Current Violations Project – together one of the largest documentation programs of human rights abuses in the world.

In recognition of her work as a journalist, Nissa was awarded a 2011-2013 Rotary Peace Fellowship at the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia. Nissa received her BA from the University of Chicago with a focus in Human Rights, International Relations, and Creative Writing. She earned her MA in International Studies (Peace and Conflict Resolution) at the University of Queensland in 2013.

Nissa now lives in Chicago with her husband and infant daughter. In her free time, she likes to travel and read fantasy fiction. She bakes a mean oatmeal raisin cookie. You can read her work at


Architect, Sakayan, Inc.

A native of Washington, DC, Michelle has lived in Chicago for the past 18 years. She completed her architectural undergraduate degree at Miami University of Ohio in 1988 and went on to receive a Masters of Architecture from the Catholic University in 1993, after working for 3 years in Washington, DC for Angelos Demetriou Architects.

Michelle received her Masters of Architecture with an award of distinction for her Thesis titled “Place of Shelter for the Displaced”. This project challenged the architect’s role in the event of a natural disaster and launched her view of architecture as a social act. It has been a motivator in all her work since.

Michelle began working at Nagle Hartray Architects in Chicago in 1993 and became an Associate Principal in 1999, working there until February 2007. During her 14 years at NHA, Michelle managed and specialized in K-12 education projects fostering long-term relationships with top independent schools in Chicago; the culmination of her career at NHA was as the US architectural liaison and project manager for the 26-building campus of The Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls in South Africa.

Michelle’s extensive experience and passion for K-12 school design, community projects and socially responsible work resulted in the creation of the consulting firm Sakayan Inc. Sakayan Inc. opened in March of 2007 driven by a primary focus and commitment to creating inspiring learning environments for children and educators. Dedication to listen and understand the unique mission and needs of each school is at the core of Sakayan Inc. Offering a range of services tailored to the client, Sakayan provides support in design, programming, planning, development, feasibility, reorganization, management and realization of educational and socially responsible projects.


Founding Principal, SMNG A Ltd. Architects

Mr. Schroeder is the founder and senior principal of SMNG A. Prior to founding the firm in 1976, he was a partner at Hinds, Schroeder, and Whitaker where he participated as partner-in-charge of design on several award-winning projects. He oversees the creative direction of the firm’s design work in addition to developing new client relationships.

He is the founder of the loft movement in Chicago and has over 40 years of experience in award-winning renovation and adaptive re-use of historic buildings. His design skills encompass the range of the firm’s work. His design continues to focus on the intersection of the client program and design intent, with a specific interest on the impact of sustainability, lean design, and built form. Mr. Schroeder has lectured at numerous universities and his design work was recognized by his Fellowship in the AIA in 1991.

Under Mr. Schroeder’s leadership, SMNG A has moved to the forefront of sustainable educational design. Work of the firm includes award-winning adaptive-use and new construction projects and over 50 LEED-accredited buildings.

  • 2011 Chicago Building Congress Merit Award Finalist for New Construction Chicago
    Federico Garcia Lorca Elementary School
  • 2010 Association of Licensed Architects Silver Design Award
    Langston Hughes Elementary School
  • 2009 Association of Licensed Architects Gold Design Award
    Mark T. Skinner West Elementary School
  • 2009 The Richard T. Driehaus Foundation Award for Community Design, Third Place
    Langston Hughes Elementary School

Ken continues the award-winning design work on the Firm’s projects of all scales and sizes.


Executive Director, Designs for Dignity

Jennifer Sobecki joined Designs for Dignity in 2004. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Interior Design and concentrations in communications and marketing. Her experience includes residential showroom management, working as an independent interior designer, and most recently nonprofit management. As Executive Director, Jennifer oversees the fiscal aspects of the organization such as grant writing, event management, and donor solicitation. Additionally, Jennifer works in conjunction
with the marketing committee and board development committee. Over the past five years, Jennifer has increased the operating budget of this organization threefold. It is her hope along with the board of directors that Designs for Dignity will continue its reach on a national level in the near future. In her spare time, Jennifer works with several organizations including The Human Rights Campaign, and The Greater Chicago Food Depository. Her passion for design and giving back to the community make her role as Executive Director a perfect fit.


Artworks Community Art Studio—Community Art Studio
Gilda’s Club—Counseling Center for individuals affected by Cancer
Boys & Girls Club of Benton Harbor—Afterschool program for youth
Jazz on the Boulevard—Mixed income development with affordable housing
The Leland Apartments—Affordable Housing development 157 units
Neon Youth & Residential Services—Shelter for formerly homeless youth
Zacharias Center—Sexual Abuse Center


Doris Sommer, Director of the Cultural Agents Initiative at Harvard University, as well as Harvard’s Ira and Jewell Williams Professor of Romance Languages and Literatures and of African and African American Studies. Her academic and outreach work promotes development through arts and humanities, specifically through “Pre-Texts” in Boston Public Schools, throughout Latin America and beyond. Pre-Texts is an arts-based training program for teachers of literacy, critical thinking, and citizenship. Among her books are Foundational Fictions: The National Romances of Latin America (1991) about novels that helped to consolidate new republics; Proceed with Caution when Engaged by Minority Literature (1999) on a rhetoric of particularism; Bilingual Aesthetics: A New Sentimental Education (2004); and The Work of Art in the World: Civic Agency and Public Humanities (2014). Sommer has enjoyed and is dedicated to developing good public school education. She has a B.A. from New Jersey’s Douglass College for Women, and Ph.D. from Rutgers University.


Michelle Halle Stern has been partnering with organizations to co-create improvements to their triple bottom line of people, planet, and profit since the late 90s. Prior to launching her own firm, Michelle held sustainability leadership roles in architecture, engineering, and non-profit organizations, where she orchestrated the development of green building strategy for operations and building projects. As the founding Director of Sustainability at OWP/P, she built one of the country’s first in-house green building initiatives from the ground up, by cultivating leadership support for new green policies, while rallying core practitioners to integrate sustainable strategies into projects. At that same time, she convened a group of local environmental advocates to establish the Chicago Chapter of the US Green Building Council, one of that organization’s first chapters. During her career, she has led visioning and strategy workshops, as well as implementation for dozens of green building certification projects. This work gained her a reputation as an outstanding convener and consensus builder.
Building on this expertise, she trained in the Technology of Participation (ToP™) Facilitation Methods and designs and facilitates engaging workshops, meetings, and discussions that spark creativity so that groups move collaboratively to inspiring, shared solutions. She works with a variety of organizations to clarify their strategic visions and put them quickly into practice, specializing in teaming with organizations from technical fields. As a licensed architect and engineer with a Masters in environmental and occupational health science, she is adept at communicating across disciplines.
When not biking the neighborhood with her 3 girls, or negotiating whose pick it is for movie night, she is singing jazz standards or dreaming about skiing in the Rocky Mountains.


Founder & Executive Director, Genesis at the Crossroads (GATC)

Wendy is the founder and creative engine behind GATC’s mission and vision. She designed all programs to date and oversees production and implementation of performance/artistic programs, arts-education, and humanitarian initiatives worldwide. She forged national/international partnerships with well over 45 institutions on five continents and founded Saffron Caravan, uniting professional musicians from Iran, Afghanistan, Cuba, Morocco, Israel, India, Brazil and the United States for cross-cultural collaborative performance and educational programs under the aegis of Genesis. She masterminds the creative development/management of the current Genesis Academy Summer Institute and future Genesis Academy for Global Leadership, an academically-rigorous boarding high-school, which embeds art throughout an inter-disciplinary curriculum to foster humanism and deepen critical thinking. (Opening slated for 2020.) Towards that end, she has created a body of inquiry-based salon programs on the intersection of human rights/development and the role of the arts to help shape and inform a humanistic society.

Under her leadership, Genesis boasts over 100 award-winning programs, internationally-acclaimed by the United Nations, The Kennedy Center, Rotary International, The King of Morocco, the British Council, the US Institute of Peace and the US State Department. She was featured as a Woman to Watch in Today’s Chicago Woman Magazine, named one of the 10 Jewish Chicagoans of the Year and was a 2011 Charles Bronfman Prize Nominee. Rotary International selected her as one of 22 world leaders for their 2009 Peace Fellowship at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok, Thailand. In 2014, marking the 100th anniversary of World War I, she was selected along with 59 other global activists, to be a Salzburg Global Seminar Fellow and participate in an international consortium on the power of arts and culture to transform our world.

A participant in the Clinton Global Initiative since 2012, she configured the Genesis Academy for Global Leadership as a scalable global model for peace education (her CGI commitment.)

She received her BA and her MD degree from University of Pennsylvania and completed her Internal Medicine Residency Program at the University of Chicago. Affectionately called a Doctor without a Border, her medical career informs the healing aspects at the heart of Genesis at the Crossroads.


Associate Principal, SMNG A Ltd. Architects

Chey Hsiao Taylor joined SMNG A in 2007 and was named Associate in 2014. She has served as the project architect, sustainability manager, and construction administrator on many educational projects, early childcare centers, and public housing facilities. As part of SMNG A’s role as Design Architect for Elementary School Design, she performed and assisted in numerous peer reviews of other AOR work in the PBC Modern Schools program. Her knowledge and experience of both theoretical and applied design and construction strategies helped to facilitate a program-wide level of parity, a consistency of design and technical quality, and helped meet user expectations.
Ms. Taylor is committed to strengthening communication between professional organizations and the communities that they work within. She has held various positions with AIA Chicago and the United Way Young Leaders Society focusing on community outreach. She most recently has helped develop the AIA Chicago’s Architect in Schools initiative which, through hands-on tasks and projects, introduces students to design thinking, teaches them how to communicate their ideas and work in groups, and seeks to instill a sense of ownership and agency in their community.
Recent Projects:

  • Altgeld Gardens Carver Fieldhouse, Chicago Housing Authority
  • Gage Park Early Childhood Center, Metropolitan Family Services
  • Southeast Area Elementary School, Public Building Commission
  • Durkin Park Elementary School Annex, Public Building Commission
  • Near North Montessori Gymnasium, Near North Montessori School
  • Mark T. Skinner West Elementary School, Public Building Commission


After earning her certified public accountant credentials, Cathryn oversaw tax and audit work at Price Waterhouse Coopers. She continued her education in the MBA program at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and returned to business as chief financial officer for Sheridan, where she established the financial organization, systems, and structure to support stand-alone stores, leased departments and catalog distribution channels. Under her direction, Sheridan expanded from a single location in the U.S. and Canada to 48 over three years.
As chief financial officer for The Disney Store – Europe, she assembled a team to manage finance, information services, and accounting. The number of retail stores grew from four to 28 across Europe and generated $35MM in new revenue.

At Deloitte, she was a senior manager in the retail consulting practice, covering family-owned businesses to large publicly held companies. Clients included Cartier, Amoco, Fleming, International Franchise Association, Wizards of the Coast (now part of Hasbro), and Moo & Oink.

In 1998, Cathryn became senior vice president of strategy & operations of Moo & Oink, and later chief operating officer. Under her leadership, revenues at this privately held specialty food retailer, wholesaler, and private brand operation expanded from $42 million to $70 million. She focused on re-launching the private branded product line, developing an updated, modern logo, redesigning packaging and negotiating new distribution channels. Moo & Oink products were introduced to over 100 additional stores, including Wal-Mart, Target, Jewel, and SuperValu independents.

At Chromatin, Cathryn led the team to develop accounting approaches and processes to restate financial results and complete 5 years of previously contentious and incomplete audits. Chromatin successfully achieved additional rounds of financing based upon completed audits.
Cathryn currently provides outsourced Chief Financial Officer and Merger and Acquisition consulting to entrepreneurial companies in various industries.

In addition to her business success, Cathryn has attended the Harrington School of Design and become a real estate investor. She was the managing partner of a 93,000 square foot shopping mall and owns two apartment buildings, developing these properties while pursuing her business career.
Cathryn serves as President of the Wharton Club of Chicago and on the Wharton School Alumni Board of Directors and the De La Salle Institute Board of Directors. Her husband, Charles, owns a computer consulting business, and her son, Chase, attends The Latin School of Chicago.


George N. Vurdelja, Jr., J.D. currently holds the position of Partner at Harrison & Held, LLP with areas of practice including both business and estate and trust litigation. In his career spanning 35 years, he has handled a wide variety of litigation matters, first as an associate and partner at Mayer Brown, then as a sole practitioner, then in a small firm, and for the last ten years, at Harrison & Held, LLP. He is a member of the applicable state and federal bars, including the trial bar of the Northern District of Illinois. He received his Bachelors from James Madison College at Michigan State University and His JD degree from the University of Chicago Law School. In addition to the Illinois Supreme Court, he has admissions to both the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals and the Northern District of Illinois (Member of Trial Bar.) He is a member of the American Bar Association, the Illinois State Bar Association, and the Chicago Bar Association.

Information Technology Team

Youtech & Associates

GATC IT Assistant and Genesis Intern

– Ritika Dhawan, MD Class of 2020 (Rush Univ.)

GATC was invited to participate in a DePaul University Graduate School Practicum on User Experience Design. With the brilliant work of Carl Duffield, Sravan Kachavarapu, Pradeep Nayar and David Prahl, our Academy now has a social media strategy roadmap to raise 21 million over the next three years. It is a multivariate analysis of all of the potential end-users of GATC and our future Genesis Academy, their likely technology habits and their country/region-specific IT issues along with an overlay of an implementation guide to put it all into practice with our current technology team.

Student Staff from Prior Genesis Academy Summer Institute

Muhammad Faran (Pakistan) – GATC Student Lead
Andelka Zivojinovic (Bosnia)
Mohodese Mirzaee (Afghanistan)
Victor Angel Araque Rangel (Venezuela/Colombia)
Sereimony Sek (Cambodia)

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