Skip to main content

They heard from experts on issues such as the global economy, international diplomacy, energy, and the environment. In addition to meeting regularly as a class, they worked on individual projects with Council experts to examine key global challenges.

This cohort of leaders from around Chicago was chosen by an independent selection committee from a highly competitive pool of applicants.

Learn more about the Emerging Leaders Program.

Class of 2016
Steven Babitch
Associate Director, Research and Strategy, IA Collaborative
From his work at Monitor Doblin to his current position as an associate director of research and strategy at IA Collaborative, Steve Babitch works with Fortune 500 and other leading organizations to develop new products, services, and experiences. Examples range from helping the Mayo Clinic establish the Mayo Clinic Center for Innovation to defining the next generation digital ecosystem for United Airlines. He is a guest lecturer on design thinking and user-centered design at Northwestern University and CEDIM in Mexico. Babitch has a BS in mechanical engineering from the University of Michigan and a master of design from the Institute of Design.
Emma Belcher
President, Ploughshares Fund
Emma Belcher is the incoming president of the Ploughshares Fund, a public grantmaking foundation that supports initiatives to prevent the spread and use of nuclear weapons. Before this position, she was the director of Nuclear Challenges at the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, and published research on nuclear weapons at the Council on Foreign Relations as a Stanton Nuclear Security Fellow. She's worked as an advisor in Australia’s Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet on national security and international affairs, and as a public affairs officer at the Australian embassy in Washington, DC. 
Christian W. Fabian
Partner, Mayer Brown LLP
Christian W. Fabian is a corporate lawyer who focuses his practice on cross-border mergers and acquisitions. He has led M&A transactions involving Australia, South Africa, the United Kingdom, Russia, Mongolia, Germany, Latin America, and China, among other regions of the world. At Mayer Brown, he is part of a core group of M&A partners responsible for maintaining the excellence of the firm's global M&A practice. In addition to his professional work, Fabian serves as a member of the Dean’s Advisory Board for the University of Detroit, School of Law and the Chairmen’s Advisory Council of the Big Shoulders Fund in Chicago.
Alicia Farag
Senior Program Manager, Gas Technology Institute
Alicia Farag manages a portfolio of R&D projects developing new technologies for the energy infrastructure industry. She specializes in the development and commercialization of geospatial tools for collecting and managing large amounts of field data. Farag's career goals include turning Chicago into a hub for geospatial technology and innovation. She graduated from the University of Illinois-Champaign with a degree in civil engineering and recently completed her MBA with a focus on global energy from the University of Warwick in the UK.
Ravin Gandhi
Founder and Managing Principal, GMM Nonstick Coatings
Ravin Gandhi is the founder of GMM Nonstick Coatings, a global manufacturer of nonstick coatings used in the cookware, bakeware, and electrical appliance industry. GMM supplies nonstick coatings to clients such as Calphalon, George Foreman, Black and Decker, Wilton, Sunbeam, Farberware, Baker's Secret, KitchenAid, Nordic Ware, and Food Network. GMM operates manufacturing facilities in China and India, employs 250 people, and sells products in 15 countries. Gandhi is also the founder and chief investment officer of Glenborn Partners, an investment company that has diversified holdings in private equity, technology start-ups, hedge funds, and real estate.
Francisco Gonzalez-Pulido
President, JAHN
Francisco Gonzalez-Pulido has emerged as a young visionary architect, recognized for his unique design approach that has been defined as technological contextualism, which is driven by the belief that the architectural and engineering ideas and principles are equal in challenging—and ultimately transforming—a place or an experience. In his 15 years at the international architectural firm JAHN, he has designed and built projects on four continents. He currently shares the design leadership of the firm’s work with the internationally acclaimed architect Helmut Jahn. Gonzalez-Pulido is actively involved with numerous educational and cultural organizations worldwide in the fields of architecture, film, art, and design.
Adam Hitchcock
Managing Director, Guggenheim Partners
Before joining Guggenheim, Adam Hitchcock served as the chief of staff of the White House Council of Economic Advisers. In this role, he managed the staff and operations of the Council and was the principal adviser to the Council’s chairman on strategy and policy. Prior to that, Hitchcock served as a special assistant in the White House Office of the Chief of Staff, where he provided counsel and support to President Obama’s senior advisors. Before joining the Obama administration, Hitchcock was on the Obama-Biden White House Transition Project and the Obama 2008 presidential campaign.
Harley Jones
Regional Chief Operating Officer, The American Red Cross of Greater Chicago
Harley Jones spent eight years overseeing Red Cross Disaster Programs throughout Central Illinois where he was chosen as one of the "40 Leaders Under 40." Since 2012, Jones has been the COO at the Red Cross of Greater Chicago, leading all of the organization's community programs including Disaster Cycle Services, Services to the Armed Forces, and International programs.
Abigayil L. Joseph
Chief of Staff, Board of Education of the City of Chicago
In her position, Abigayil Joseph leverages over a decade of experience as a senior leader at the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) to advise on strategic, policy, and operational priorities. She serves as a liaison for the Board with the Mayor’s Office and the Chief Executive Officer of CPS, and approaches this role through the lens that equity and access to high-quality educational opportunities are critical for every child, in every school and neighborhood. Joseph has been particularly focused on expanding international programming such as the International Baccalaureate Programme and Critical Language Academies for the city of Chicago, while bringing new innovations such as STEM, Montessori, and audition-based fine and performing arts to the district.
Natasha Krol
Engagement Manager, McKinsey & Company
Natasha Krol's work has included facilitating collaboration across distributed higher education systems, supporting the government of Nigeria in reducing poliovirus cases, and designing innovation labs. Recently, Krol supported Chicago and UILabs in their winning bid to launch a $320M public-private "Digital Lab" to support advanced manufacturing technology research, development, and demonstration. In her role at World Business Chicago, she works with stakeholders across sectors to drive Chicago's economic growth.
Bela Moté
Senior Vice President, Learning and Evaluation, YMCA of Metropolitan Chicago
Moté leads the department at YMCA of Metropolitan Chicago responsible for developing and managing cross-functional learning, evaluation, and innovation. She also serves as interim senior vice president of Mission Advancement. In this role, she oversees all fundraising efforts, including annual campaigns, major gifts, planned giving, sponsorship, capital campaign planning, and stewardship programs. Prior to joining the Y, she held positions at the Ounce of Prevention Fund in Chicago, Teaching Strategies in Bethesda, Maryland, and the McCormick Foundation in Chicago.
Elizabeth Powley
Executive Director, Heartland Alliance International
As executive director of Heartland Alliance International (HAI) and a vice president of Heartland Alliance, Powley oversees HAI’s work in a dozen countries, which aims to secure the rights and well-being of marginalized people and communities. She's an expert in gender and post-conflict reconstruction, with more than 15 years of experience in non-profit leadership and program development. She's worked extensively on issues of governance and political participation in sub-Saharan Africa. Currenlty, Powley is an adjunct professor at several institutions, including DePaul University in Chicago.
Kathryn Reilly
Director, Public Affairs, Aon
Kathryn Reilly works to connect the worlds of commerce and public policy, shape business-related public policy, and create impactful communication campaigns. With more than 15 years of corporate experience, Reilly has led public affairs efforts at two Fortune 500 manufacturing and services enterprises. While on assignment in Washington, DC, with Caterpillar Inc., she played leadership roles in significant legislative activities including the Affordable Care Act and the Pension Protection Act. She currently leads engagement activities for Aon at the state, federal, and international levels.
Nicole Robinson
Senior Director, Community Involvement, Mondelēz International; President, Mondeléz Foundation
Nicole Robinson has spent her business career building a bridge between communities, individuals, and corporations. As senior director of community involvement for Mondelēz International and president of its foundation, she leads community programs designed to promote good nutrition, healthy lifestyles, and inspire volunteer service. These award-winning programs span the globe touching five continents, while reaching underserved and under-represented neighborhoods. Under Robinson's leadership, the Mondelēz International Foundation has received numerous honors for outstanding and innovative programming.
Aaron Rudberg
Partner, Baird Capital
Aaron Rudberg is a partner with Baird Capital, a venture capital and private equity firm that invests in the US, Europe, and Asia. He oversees the firm’s relationships with current and prospective investors globally, as well as its business development, communication, sales, and marketing activities. Rudberg is also involved in broader strategic and new product development initiatives. He joined Baird Capital in 2007 and has 16 years of private equity and entrepreneurial experience. Prior to Baird Capital, Rudberg was a principal at a private equity fund-of-funds manager, where he was a member of the firm’s investment team.
Mark Schneider
Assistant United States Attorney, Northern District of Illinois
Mark Schneider is an assistant United States attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, where he now serves as chief of appeals. A federal prosecutor based in Chicago, he's also served as deputy chief of financial crimes and special prosecutions, handled a multi-year national security investigation that resulted in the first successful prosecution for a violation of the Intelligence Identities Protection Act in 27 years, and served on detail for a year in Baghdad, Iraq. Prior to joining the Justice Department, Schneider clerked for the Honorable Diarmuid F. O'Scannlain, US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.
Aisha Sethi
Assistant Professor Dermatology, Infectious Diseases and Global Health, University of Chicago, Pritzker School of Medicine
Dr. Aisha Sethi serves on the steering committee as an assistant director of outreach for the Center for Global Health at the University of Chicago. After attending medical school in Pakistan, she completed her post-doctoral fellowship, internship, and residency in dermatology at Yale University where she also served as chief resident. Her interests in tropical medicine, immigrant minority and refugee populations, and global infectious diseases with dermatologic manifestations have led her to field work in Pakistan, Malawi, Hospital for Tropical Diseases (HTD) in London, and Tanzania.
Sean Shelby
Vice President, Isobar
Sean Shelby is a vice president at Isobar, a global digital marketing agency, where he partners with clients to create solutions integrating strategy, design, and technology into digital experiences. As a member of the Isobar US management team, he helps lead an agency powered by over 3,000 people in 63 offices, across 37 markets. He has advised and created digital products for organizations such as the US Army, the US Air Force, the Centers for Disease Control, Healthways, and Royal Caribbean. Before joining Isobar, Shelby was a consultant with Deloitte Consulting.
Jordan Stark
Vice President, Resolute Consulting
Working at the intersection of business, government and public interests, Jordan Stark counsels clients on communications, coalition building, and crisis management. He formerly served as communications director for Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel during his tenure in the United States Senate. In that capacity, Stark worked on a wide range of issues associated with Hagel’s activities as a senior member of the Senate Foreign Relations, Banking, and Intelligence committees.
Amy Stoken
Regional Director, American Jewish Committee
At AJC, Amy Stoken manages AJC’s largest regional office including overseeing advocacy efforts with diplomats and faith-based leaders visiting or stationed in Chicago. She is also responsible for all Chicago-based programming and for the coordination of lay leader participation and activism. Previously, she worked as an aide in the Supreme Court of the United States while in law school. After graduating with honors and as managing editor of the Georgetown Journal of Legal Ethics, Stoken clerked for a federal district court judge in Southern California and then litigated for two large international law firms.
Robert Taylor
Principal Transmission Strategy Specialist, Exelon Corporation
Robert Taylor leads initiatives and advises senior Exelon leadership on broad energy issues including electricity generation, efficiency, finance, markets, transmission, regulatory affairs, strategy, and policy development. Prior to joining Exelon, he was an energy policy and programs manager with the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and also has a background in radiation health physics. Taylor has a BS in nuclear engineering technology from Thomas Edison State College, and a master of public administration from the University of Missouri’s Truman School of Public Affairs.
John Trainor
Publisher and General Manager, Hoy
With a unique multicultural upbringing and an extensive entrepreneurial background, John Trainor was named publisher and general manager of the Chicago Tribune's Hoy newspaper to oversee the publication's editorial, circulation, operations, sales, marketing, and financial functions. Trainor has led the organization through a complete transformation, not only by converting Hoy into the leading, most awarded and most profitable Spanish-language daily newspaper in the United States, but also by effectively converting the Hoy brand into a multiplatform Hispanic content and entertainment enterprise.