Activating Heritage 2023 – March 6



Beatriz Cañas is a youth advocate and urban environmental educator working at the Chicago Botanic Garden as the Director of Equity, Diversity, Inclusion and Accessibility. Her work is centered on creating positive, safe, and culturally relevant environmental experiences for historically marginalized communities. Currently her work is rooted in organizational culture change including creating equitable decision-making frameworks and strategic planning for non-profits. She advises on several equity centered projects and programs in the Chicagoland area including serving on the Illinois Natural Resource Advisory Board and as part of the Board of Directors for Mujeres Latinas en Accion.

Gabrielle Lyon is a nationally recognized nonprofit leader, educator, and public speaker with experience in launching and leading award-winning social impact organizations and initiatives focused on leveling the playing field of educational access and opportunity. Lyon has extensive experience building sustainable cross-sector networks and leveraging data to inform community-centered program design and strategy.  

She joined Illinois Humanities as the Executive Director in June 2019. Prior to that she served as Vice President of Education and Experience at the Chicago Architecture Center and as a senior researcher at the Great Cities Institute at the University of Illinois at Chicago. She is the founding executive director of Project Exploration, a nonprofit dedicated to changing the face of science for youth and girls of color, recognized under her leadership locally and nationally, including with a Presidential Award for Excellence. Among her honors include being named a National After School Champion by the After School Alliance, Chicagoan of the Year by Chicago Magazine, and a Leadership Fellow with the Chicago Community Trust. Her current research and writing focus on the ways in which participatory humanities experiences impact civic identity and social change. Lyon is the author of No Small Plans, and Washington By and By, graphic novels that follow the adventures of teens work together to design the places they want, need and deserve. She is a writer and coeditor for A Simple Justice: The Challenge of Small Schools. @LyonGabrielle

Rob Fojtik is the Vice President for Neighborhood Strategy at Choose Chicago, promoting Chicago’s neighborhoods to visitors. Programs include the Neighborhood Content Creator that leverages resident-made digital content, and Chicago Alfresco, an initiative to transform public spaces into community plazas for outdoor enjoyment.

Rob has an M.A. from Georgetown University’s Center for Eurasian, Russian, and East European Studies. He was Senior Advisor to Mayor Lightfoot on economic development, international relations, and LGBTQ+ affairs.

Moderator: Dr. Nitha Nagubadi – Mango Networx