Sonya Anderson has worked domestically and internationally to increase educational opportunity for underserved populations. She has designed and led programs to advance girls’ education in Africa; led federal policy and advocacy efforts to support early childhood education for at-risk youth in the United States; and worked throughout the nonprofit and philanthropic sectors to provide funding and other resources to support strong schools, families, and communities. Sonya’s professional experiences include serving as the Senior Vice President for Programs at Crown Family Philanthropies, the Vice-President for National Affairs at the Ounce of Prevention Fund, and as the Education Program Director at the Oprah Winfrey Foundations. Sonya holds an undergraduate degree from Yale University, a master’s degree from the University of Ghana, and a doctorate from Harvard University.
Iván Arenas is an Associate Director at the Institute for Research on Race and Public Policy at the University of Illinois at Chicago which supports engaged research that aims to increase society’s understanding of the root causes of racial and ethnic inequality and create research-based policy solutions and collective action. Trained as an anthropologist and architect, his research focuses on how social movements use creative art practices to establish solidarities beyond the state. Dr. Arenas is a practicing artist and has curated three yearlong exhibits at UIC that have mobilized and extended his research on the intersection between protest practices, social transformation, and aesthetics. Beyond the University, he is active as a member of Chicago Torture Justice Memorials, Chicago United for Equity, the Pilsen Housing Cooperative, and the Chicago ACT Collective. Dr. Arenas has an undergraduate degree from Columbia College of Columbia University and a PhD from the University of California, Berkeley.
Sherwin Bryant is Associate Professor of African American Studies and History at Northwestern University and serves as the Director of the Center for African American History. He teaches courses on the histories of colonial Latin America, the Early Modern African Diaspora, comparative slavery, and the politics of Afro-Latin America since 1800. As an historian of colonial Afro-Latin America and the Atlantic/Pacific Worlds, Bryant works at the intersections of cultural, legal, social history and political economy, with an emphasis upon Black life in the Kingdoms of New Granada and Quito (what is now modern Colombia and Ecuador). Dr. Bryant’s book, Rivers of Gold, Lives of Bondage: Governing through Slavery in Colonial Quito offers the first serious treatment in English of slavery and slave life in colonial Quito and challenges the narrower conceptualization of slavery as primarily an economic demand. Bryant holds an undergraduate degree
from North Carolina Central University and a Ph.D. from The Ohio State University.
Howard Conant is an architect and real estate developer. He is chairman and co-founder of Urban Innovations, a Chicago-based real estate developer that pioneered development of Chicago’s River North neighborhood. Urban Innovations also focuses on redevelopment of Section 8 affordable housing, providing units to organizations serving homeless women, families, and men. Howard presently serves on nonprofit Boards including Archeworks, Gilda’s Club, Homestead Development, WBEZ/Chicago Public Media, and the Chicago Council of Human Rights Watch. Howard attended Harvard College and the University of California at Berkeley.
Meggie Cramer is a Director of Philanthropy living and working in Northeast Wisconsin for one of the area’s premier hospital systems. She transitioned to fundraising full-time over seven years ago after starting her post-college career in film and television with roles at HBO, the Tribeca Film Festival, and Showtime, amongst other production companies and sets. After stints in Boston, Sydney AUS, Los Angeles, and New York, Meggie returned to her native Midwest and dove into nonprofit work, putting her skills to work developing relationships with donors to close high-impact gifts to organizations ranging from higher education, social justice media, and now healthcare. Additionally, she is currently pursuing her MBA at Boston University’s Questrom School of Business. When she’s not out pounding the pavement for philanthropy or trying to remember statistics, Meggie is an avid equestrian and a PATH International Certified Therapeutic Riding Instructor – so you can probably find her at the barn if she’s not at her desk.
Bekah Dickstein is a Director of Development at CARE, an international nonprofit that works to save lives, defeat poverty and achieve social justice. Based out of Brooklyn, Bekah works with individual philanthropists and family foundations in the Northeast who provide generous support in service of CARE’s mission to end global poverty. After graduating from Penn State University and spending almost a decade working with rare books and manuscripts, Bekah’s passion for global justice led her to the nonprofit sector. Working at international development and domestic nonprofits since, she is committed to supporting communities that are developing sustainable solutions to ending poverty.
Martine Granby is a visual storyteller. She has worked as a documentarian, producer, editor, video journalist and educator for The New York Times, Kartemquin Films, Kindling Group, City Bureau, BRIC TV and Global Girl Media, an organization empowering young women with the tools for visual journalism to tell their own stories. As a Producer with the Brooklyn-based BRICTV, Martine co-produced and directed the Emmy-winning #BHeard documentary series, #BHeard Town Halls covering timely issues from #MeToo, Islamophobia to mental health as a civil right. She is currently the Producer of Workshops & Labs at UnionDocs; a non-profit Center for Documentary Art dedicated towards collaborating with activist artists, experimental media-makers, and journalists creating urgent expressions of the human experience, practical and compelling visions for the future. Martine is a part-time lecturer at The New School’s Eugene Lang College of Liberal Arts, where she teaches Ethics & History of Journalism to undergraduate students.As a fellow with Kartemquin Film’s Diverse Voices in Docs program, she started production on her current film THE MASK THAT GRINS AND LIES ; a meditative documentary feature that uncovers the intergenerational silence shrouding black women’s mental illness. Martine attended Mount Holyoke College where she received her bachelor’s degree in Sociology and Film Studies. She holds an M.A. from Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism, and is a proud member of Brown Girls Doc Mafia.
Alexandra von Hoffman
Alexandra von Hoffman has worked as a medical writer and a lab instructor and has designed and renovated several houses while raising three children–with all the associated projects and crises. She sits on the boards of St. Andrews Sewanee School, Linden Waldorf School, the Nashville Shakespeare Festival, and the Arcana Foundation in Washington D.C. She has lived in West Africa, Germany, France, and UK, and traveled in East Africa, India, and Iran. She speaks German, French, and a smattering of Spanish. She has a B.S. in entomology from Cornell University, an M.S. in human physiology from Georgetown University, and an M.Arch from Columbia University.\
Chad Sawyer graduated from Ringling School of Art and Design with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Graphic Design & Interactive Communications in 2004. Upon graduation, Chad co-founded The Compound Advertising and Design, where he worked as the Creative Director for seven years. He parted ways with the company to start his own independent firm SAWYER Agency in 2012. Chad has more than 12 years of professional design and creative direction experience and has had the opportunity to work and develop relationships with organizations that value their craft as much as he values his, including: The GRAMMY Museum, The Recording Academy, UCLA, The Ray Charles Foundation, NRDC, Hyland’s Baby, Los Angeles Dodgers Foundation, and the Woody Guthrie Center, among others.
Leslie Thomas is the co-founder of MIRA and LARC Architecture and Design, the founder of ART WORKS Projects, an Emmy-award winning art director, and mom. Recent film projects include The Prosecutors and Thursday’s Child, co-editing a book of photography on the impact of war on children, and designing a variety of buildings in the Midwest and California. Leslie’s multi-media human rights focused work has toured across five continents and been the recipient of grants from The National Endowment for the Arts, the MacArthur Foundation, the Open Society Foundations, and many other major philanthropic institutions. She is a graduate of Columbia University and the Georgetown University School of Foreign Service and is committed to the use of art and design for public good. Leslie proudly sits on the board of Congo Kids Initiative.
Franco Turrinelli’s career has spanned consulting, financial analysis, and corporate strategic development roles, primarily focusing on business-to-business technology companies. Following his MBA, he joined William Blair and Company as a sell-side Equity Analyst, focusing on business-to-business technology services companies, which a particular emphasis on payments and financial services providers. After 15+ years in this role, and having become a Principal and Head of Technology Research, he decided to try his hand at helping actually run a company, joining Textura, a software company focused on the construction sector, in a strategic development role. The company grew more than ten-fold during his tenure. After Textura, he filled a similar role at Signal, a software company providing digital marketing enablement tools. He is currently enjoying deciding whether he is retired or not, and finding new challenges and ways to impact his community. Franco holds an Meng In Chemical Engineering from Imperial College, London, and an MBA from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business.