Steven BabitchAssociate Director, Research and Strategy
Steve believes that systemic solutions can often come from simple ideas, rooted in human need. Using his expertise in design thinking, research, and innovation strategy, he identifies patterns of human behavior combined with broader trends to reframe problems, reveal insights and opportunities for design, and define new solutions.
From his work at Monitor Doblin to his current position as an associate director of research and strategy at IA Collaborative, Steve 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. Steve has a BS in mechanical engineering from the University of Michigan and a master of design from the Institute of Design.
Emma BelcherDirector of International Peace and Security Program
John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation
Emma Belcher is the director of the International Peace and Security program at the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. Prior to arriving at MacArthur, she was at the Council on Foreign Relations, where she was a Stanton nuclear security fellow. Emma has a background in international security [Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University, PhD and MALD; University of Melbourne, BA (Hons)]. While completing her PhD, she was a fellow in the International Security Program and Project on Managing the Atom at Harvard University's Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs. She has also worked as an advisor to the Australian 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
Mayer Brown LLP
Christian 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. Prior to practicing law, he held engineering positions with TRW Vehicle Safety Systems, Inc. in Detroit. In addition to his professional work, Christian 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. In 2008, Christian was recognized as an “Illinois Rising Star” by Law & Politics, and in 2013, he was recognized by the same publication as an “Illinois Super Lawyer.” He earned his BS in mechanical engineering from Oakland University and his JD from the University of Detroit.
Senior Program Manager
Gas Technology Institute
Alicia 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. Alicia’s career goals include turning Chicago into a hub for geospatial technology and innovation. Alicia 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.
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. Ravin 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. Mr. Gandhi holds a BS from the University of Illinois, an MBA from Northwestern University’s Kellogg Graduate School of Management, and is a Certified Public Accountant (CPA). Mr. Gandhi serves on the Board of Directors of Hester Biosciences, and is also a member of Young Presidents’ Organization (YPO). Ravin lives in downtown Chicago with his wife and two sons.
JAHN, an international architectural firm that, with over 75 years of experience, has achieved critical recognition as a leading firm in global design innovation. 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 firm, 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. He is actively involved with numerous educational and cultural organizations worldwide on the fields of architecture, film, art, and design.
Before joining Guggenheim, he 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, Adam 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, Adam was on the Obama-Biden White House Transition Project and the Obama 2008 presidential campaign. Previously, he worked for Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley. Adam is a fellow and member of the Board of Advisors at the Truman National Security Project. He is also a member of the Atlantic Council. He is on the board of Urban Initiatives, a nonprofit organization that runs health, education, and character development programming for kids in the Chicago Public Schools.
Regional Chief Operating Officer
The American Red Cross of Greater Chicago
Harley spent eight years overseeing Red Cross Disaster Programs throughout Central Illinois where he was chosen as one of the "40 Leaders Under 40" in 2009. Since 2012, Harley has been the COO at the Red Cross of Greater Chicago, leading all of the organizations community programs including Disaster Cycle Services, Services to the Armed Forces, and International programs. He leads a team of hundreds of volunteers and paid staff, from seven offices, focused on 24-hour a day support for disaster victims and military families as well as families separated by armed conflict and natural disaster around the world. Most recently, he has led the organization’s push to adopt a more data driven approach to community outreach for the most vulnerable citizens, focusing on meaningful outcomes and actionable intelligence. He has represented the organization at more than 10 national disasters and as a representative of the American National Red Cross at forums around the world. Prior to joining the American Red Cross in Chicago, he was an adjunct faculty member in history at Illinois Central College. He received an MA in history at Illinois State University in 2005 and now resides in Naperville with his wife and three children, staying active in their school and youth sports.
Abigayil L. Joseph
Chief of Staff
Board of Education of the City of Chicago
In her position, Abigayil 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 Office 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. Abigayil 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. Previous to this commitment, Abigayil has led transformational initiatives in private sector global e-learning, museum education, national service programs, and conducted research in Kenya, England, and Scotland. Abigayil is currently serving a four year term as an alumni council member for the Harvard Graduate School of Education, cochairs the Education Committee for the Harvard Club of Chicago, and is a mentor for the Harris School of Policy at the University of Chicago. Abigayil graduated Summa Cum Laude from Emory University with a BA in psychology, and holds an EdM in educational policy from Harvard University.
McKinsey & Company
Natasha's passion is driving economic growth and innovation across public, private and social sectors. Her work has included facilitating collaboration across distributed higher education systems, supporting the government of Nigeria in reducing polio virus cases, and designing innovation labs. Recently, Natasha 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. Natasha mentors graduate students in Kellogg's NUvention Impact program to address global challenges through social entrepreneurship. Natasha was a mayoral fellow for former Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley. She holds a bachelor’s degree in neuroscience from the University of Pennsylvania and a master’s in architecture from the University of Michigan.
Senior Vice President, Learning and Evaluation
YMCA of Metropolitan Chicago
Bela leads the new department 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, and 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. She began her career as a licensed, center-based early childhood educator in Chicago, and later served as a director of early childhood programs at the Infant Welfare Society of Evanston.
Heartland Alliance International
As executive director of Heartland Alliance International (HAI) and a vice president of Heartland Alliance, Elizabeth oversees HAI’s work in a dozen countries, which aims to secure the rights and well-being of marginalized people and communities. Elizabeth is an expert in gender and post-conflict reconstruction, with more than 15 years of experience in non-profit leadership and program development. She has worked extensively on issues of governance and political participation in sub-Saharan Africa. Elizabeth is an adjunct professor at several institutions, including DePaul University in Chicago. She is also the founder of a non-profit organization, Every Child is My Child, which provides scholarships for students in Burundi and Rwanda. Elizabeth earned her bachelor’s degree at Grinnell College in Grinnell, Iowa, and holds a master’s degree from American University’s School of International Service in Washington, DC.
Director, Public Affairs
Katie 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, Katie has led public affairs efforts at two Fortune 500 manufacturing and services enterprises. While on assignment in Washington, DC, with Caterpillar Inc., Katie 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. In addition to degrees in communication studies, Katie earned an MBA from Georgetown University, having studied at both the McDonough School of Business & Walsh School of Foreign Service in Washington, DC, and the ESADE Business School in Barcelona, Spain. Katie resides in Chicago.
Senior Director, Community Involvement
Nicole R. 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 Nicole’s leadership, the Mondelēz International Foundation has received numerous honors for outstanding and innovative programming. She has worked with a variety of multinational NGOs, including CARE, Save the Children, INMED Partnerships for Children, and the World Food Programme. In May 2011, she was appointed by Governor Quinn to the Illinois State Commission to end hunger. Nicole is a member of the Corporate Committee for Council on Foundations, serves on the Donor’s Forum of Chicago and Chicago Foundation for Women board. Most recently she was named the 2013 Emerging Leader in Philanthropy by the Association of Black Foundation Executives.
Aaron is a partner with Baird Capital, a venture capital and private equity firm that invests in the US, Europe, and Asia. Aaron oversees the firm’s relationships with current and prospective investors globally, as well as its business development, communication, sales, and marketing activities. Aaron is also involved in broader strategic and new product development initiatives. Aaron joined Baird Capital in 2007 and has 16 years of private equity and entrepreneurial experience. Prior to Baird Capital, Aaron was a principal at a private equity fund-of-funds manager, where he was a member of the firm’s investment team. Previously, Aaron spent time with two venture capital firms and a venture-backed software company. Aaron began his career as a James H. Dunn Fellow in the press office of former Illinois Governor Jim Edgar. He received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and received his MBA from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. He is a member of the board of The Civic Federation and the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Wisconsin.
Assistant United States Attorney
Northern District of Illinois
Mark E. 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, Mark has 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, Mr. Schneider clerked for the Honorable Diarmuid F. O'Scannlain, US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, worked as a business consultant with The Boston Consulting Group, Inc., and served on the staff of US Senator Richard G. Lugar. He studied at Indiana University, Oxford University (as a Marshall Scholar), and Harvard Law School, where he was an editor of the Harvard Law Review. He is an elected member of the American Law Institute and a lecturer in Law at the University of Chicago, where he teaches a seminar on the grand jury.
Assistant Professor Dermatology, Infectious Diseases and Global Health
University of Chicago, Pritzker School of Medicine
Dr. Sethi serves on the steering committee and serves 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. She is especially interested in addressing global access to medical care, medical diplomacy programs, and improving medical training and dermatologic therapies in developing countries. In 2010, Dr. Sethi was chosen for the leadership program sponsored by the American Academy of Dermatology. She has set up a dedicated dermatology elective exchange program with Kamuzu Central Hospital in Lilongwe, Malawi for medical students and dermatology residents since 2007. Her albinism awareness work in Malawi has been featured by national media in the country several times and has been positively recognized and supported by the Malawian government. In 2010, Dr. Sethi was awarded the Presidential Volunteer Service Award from the White House Council on Service and Civic Participation for her volunteer efforts.
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, Sean was a consultant with Deloitte Consulting. He has over 14 years of experience in digital technology and has traveled extensively in Europe, Asia, Africa, and the Middle East. He earned a BA in history with honors from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Working at the intersection of business, government and public interests, Jordan counsels clients on communications, coalition building and crisis management. Jordan formerly served as communications director for Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel during his tenure in the United States Senate. In that capacity Jordan 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. Previously, Jordan worked at a leading Washington, DC, crisis communications firm and on numerous state legislator, gubernatorial, and US congressional races across the country. Jordan holds a BA in political science and history from the University of Iowa, with an emphasis in government institutions. He also studied international affairs at Charles University in Prague, Czech Republic.
American Jewish Committee
At AJC, Amy 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. Amy grew up in the Chicago area and received her law degree from Georgetown University and a masters in public policy from George Washington University. 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, Amy clerked for a federal district court judge in Southern California and then litigated for two large international law firms. Amy went to Israel for the first time in 2006, at the beginning of the Israel-Hezbollah conflict. She returned several times, including a trip to volunteer, assisting individuals moving to Israel. Amy returned from Israel and joined the American Israel Public Affairs Committee as the Chicago Area Director where she was responsible for AIPAC activity and activism in the Chicago area. After over six years in that capacity, Amy joined AJC as Chicago Regional Director.
Principal Transmission Strategy Specialist
Robert 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. Robert 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.
Publisher and General Manager
With a unique multicultural upbringing and an extensive entrepreneurial background, in July 2008 John Trainor was named publisher and general manager of 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, among others producing a daily TV newscast “Hoy Noticias MundoFox13”, a strong mobile-web platform, award winning video documentaries, as well as grassroots activations and events. Before joining Tribune, John was cofounder of Hispanic Solutions LLC, a Chicago-based holding company whose various businesses on US Hispanic and Latin American advertising, promotion and media. Trainor holds a bachelor's degree in international business administration from US International University and an MBA from Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management. John has been active and engaged in several boards such as the Kellogg Alumni Council, the US Mexico Chamber of Commerce, as well as several other philanthropic activities mostly though his participation in Tribune’s Foundation.