Introducing the Urban Initiatives Advisory Board!

In 2020, Urban Initiatives will be launching a new board to stand alongside our other existing boards. This newly created Advisory Board is a unique place where key partners of UI are charged with advising, advocating for, and being ambassadors of our work. This dynamic group of influencers come from a wide range of backgrounds and fields, but have all gathered together with the purpose of strategic advising on various projects and content areas. They will be advising on campaign pitches, speaking at UI events with stakeholders, sharing the most up to date research on child development and social capital building, as well as introducing us to new partnership opportunities. Each individual advisor has a set of exciting tailored goals based on their expertise and capacity.

When thinking about the creation of this Advisory Board, we thought about the partners who have already made a tremendous impact on Urban Initiatives and have known our work for years. For example, Jen Axelrod first got involved with UI as early as 2008. She stayed connected through her time at CPS, the Department of Family and Support Services, and is now the Senior Director of Learning and Impact at The Chicago Community Trust. Jen has used her considerable expertise to consult on data and program evaluation projects in the past and she will continue this work as a member of the Advisory Board.  

Christian Gordon is a past UI participant and his unique perspective on programming is vital as we continue to develop and build upon our programs. He explained, “I have been a part of UI team for a very long time now transitioning from being a teammate, to team captain, to CFS student, to now being apart of the newly found Advisory Board. It is such an honor and I can’t wait to help give my input and start my new role!” 

As Urban Initiatives only continues to grow, there is a deep need for partners who know our work intimately and are passionate about our vision. Megan Bartlett, founder of WeCoach who is a well regarded expert in the Sports Based Youth Development world explained, “It’s an honor to be asked to serve on UI’s Advisory Board with so many thought leaders and experts in the space. I’m particularly excited about the ways that UI can help create a more just Chicago by using sport and play to help kids heal, grow and thrive”. We know how crucial it is to have advisors, like Megan, who are the pioneers in their field and can help guide us in our work.  

Lastly, our Advisory Board members are some of our greatest advocates for our work. Eduardo Bustamante, Assistant Professor of Kinesiology at the University of Illinois at Chicago, has partnered with UI in his research around physical activity and it’s neurocognitive effect. After engaging with our students he writes,The kids are so impressive and hearing about their UI experiences—the new things they’ve seen, the connections they have made, and the confidence they have built—gives me a sense of pride and purpose”. As Eduardo continues to engage with our youth in this Advisory board position, he will be speaking to our stakeholders about his research as well as his experience with our dynamic students. 

We are excited to include members of the larger CPS community on the Advisory Board. Jasmine Thurmond is the principal at King Elementary, our partner school with the highest level of UI program dosage. King has our continuum of programming and both of our Culture & Climate programs. She is excited to join the Board because “is a great opportunity for [her] to be more involved with an organization that has contributed immensely to the success of [her] students and school.” 

We know that a space like the Advisory Board is necessary to recognize the work that each and every one of these advisors has already done and to mobilize the great impact we know they will continue to make. ME Girgenti is a Board member who has served on our Board of Directors in the past and has been incredibly generous with her time, energy, and expertise over the years. She joined the Advisory Board because “While starting with the child, UI programming constructively influences the schools, families and neighborhoods that it serves.  Who wouldn’t be excited to work with UI?” 

We love everyone’s enthusiasm and are so grateful for their brilliant minds, passionate spirits, and lasting impact. We are so excited to see everything this board will do in the New Year! 

Current Advisory Board Members 

  • Jen Axelrod, Sr. Director of Learning and Impact at Chicago Community Trust
  • Megan Bartlett, Founder at WeCoach
  • Eddie Bustamante, Assistant Professor of Kinesiology at the University of Illinois at Chicago
  • Felicia Davis, President and CEO of the Chicago Foundation for Women
  • ME Girgenti, Civic Leaders and past UI Board Member
  • Alicia Gonzalez, Executive Director of Cubs Charities
  • Christian Gordon, Student at DePaul University and UI Program Alum
  • Kate McAdams, Managing Director of Arabella Advisors and past UI Board Member
  • Nelson Padilla, Youth Development Worker 
  • Cedric Thurman, Senior VP/Chief Diversity Officer at Federal Home Loan Bank of Chicago and past UI Board Member
  • Jasmine Thurmond, Principal at King Elementary
  • Lisa Wiersma, Executive Director at IMC Chicago Charitable Foundation
  • Nancy Sullivan, CEO and Managing Director at Illinois Ventures

Questions about the Advisory Board? Reach out to 

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