Vanessa B. M. Vergara earned her B.A., summa cum laude, in Political Science and English from Hamline University and J.D., cum laude, from Northwestern University School of Law. She served as a law clerk to the Honorable Karen Nelson Moore of the Sixth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals. Vanessa practiced law at the Chicago law firms Goldberg Kohn and Grippo & Elden. She has extensive experience in the area of complex commercial litigation, including securities fraud, lender liability, insurance coverage disputes, class action defense, multidistrict litigation and mediation. Vanessa is proud to be a first-generation Filipino-American. She is honored to serve as a cultural heritage advocate working to support the critical mission of the Alliance to promote cultural equity and inclusion in the Chicago region.
Josey Nieto is a Principal Regulatory Specialist in ComEd’s Regulatory Strategies and Solutions department. Josey received her Bachelor’s in Electrical Engineering from the University of Central Florida and her MBA from DePaul University. Beyond managing regulatory commitments and proceedings, Josey is strong proponent of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). With previous experience in engineering, on the CEO staff, and in strategy, Josey uses her project management skills, keen eye for data, and strategic mindset to advance DEI in the workplace. Josey has served as an advisory board member for the Asian American employee resource group at ComEd, as host for ComEd’s “D+I Voices” video series, and as the lead mentor for ComEd’s Icebox Derby. Most recently, Josey founded a cross-departmental DEI Book Club to create a safe space that allows her fellow employees an opportunity to constructively talk about race and equity. When she’s not on her corporate grind, you can find Josey on her yoga mat or biking somewhere through the streets of Chicago.
Dr. Nitha Fiona Nagubadi graduated from the University of Chicago with a BA in Psychology and MS in Computer Science and an MBA from Loyola University Chicago focusing on International Business, Marketing, and HR. She completed her Doctorate in Business Psychology publishing research on cultural exposure and impact on creativity and innovation. Through her company, Mango Networx, she consults in project management, change management, agile coaching for executives and ecommerce teams in digital, technology, product and marketing departments. Focusing on leadership development programs, she develops events and panel discussions, with focus on ‘thinking out of the box’, diversity and innovation, and the global mindset. As she was raised in a multicultural environment, she is passionate about cultural psychology and practical applications. She is an entrepreneur and Founder of Ethnic Events, an app focused on creating opportunities for cultural exposure for individuals and organizations.
Jeremy Bucher earned his M.A. in 20th Century United States Urban & Labor History and Public History from Loyola University Chicago in 2018. He currently serves as the Collections & Archives Manager at the National Hellenic Museum (NHM). His work at the museum involves the accession and preservation of the various physical and digital objects in the museum’s collection, as well as making those objects accessible, especially the oral history collection. Through his work with the oral history collection, he has created presentations designed to assist individuals and members of other institutions in the creation of their own oral history projects. In collaboration with the Chicago Cultural Alliance, Jeremy facilitated an oral history workshop in April of 2020 to provide introductory knowledge and strategies to participants interested in capturing stories from family and community members related to their experience during the pandemic. In partnership with the Chicago Cultural Alliance, Jeremy worked on the first incarnation of the Stories of Im/migration: Chicago project, contributing NHM resources to the Chicago Collections Consortium Explore portal. To highlight the project, Jeremy and colleagues presented their work on the project at conferences in 2019 and early 2020.
Most recently, Jeremy participated in the Stories of Arts Resilience project, sharing his experiences adjusting to working during the pandemic and reflecting on his time participating in CCA projects and events.
Ms. Abercrombie has a financial and operational management background and was a management consultant for 15 years, until 2006 when she began at the Swedish American Museum. Ms. Abercrombie was involved with the Museum for about 10 years prior to her role as executive director, serving on the board’s exhibit committee during the creation of The Brunk Children’s Museum of Immigration. She was a board member between 2003 and 2006. Ms. Abercrombie was appointed Honorary Consul of Sweden in Chicago in 2019. During the 14-year period that Ms. Abercrombie has been the executive director, the Museum has strengthened its position in the community and work with the Andersonville Chamber of Commerce, SACC, SWEA, and many other Swedish-American local organizations. Her tenure has seen the renovation of the building’s lobby and façade, the purchase of a parking lot to increase ease of access to visitors, the replacement of the iconic Andersonville water tower, and the purchase of a neighboring building to expand the Museum’s cultural programming capacity. Ms. Abercrombie serve on the board of the Andersonville Chamber of Commerce as Treasurer, honorary board member of Swedish American Chamber of Commerce Chicago and is past board member of Swedish Council of America, SWEA Chicago and Chicago Cultural Alliance.
Enrolled Tribal Citizen of the Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwe Tribe (LCO) and of Polish Descent
Joseph Podlasek is a citizen of the LCO Ojibwe Tribe in Northern WI and is also of Polish descent. He is the father of three great children. Mr. Podlasek (Joe P), a fellow of the Leadership of Greater Chicago and FBI Citizen Leadership Academy, moved in July 2012 full time to establish the Trickster Cultural Center, a 10,000 sq. ft. facility and nonprofit organization in Schaumburg IL.
After 14 years of leadership services to the Native and cultural communities in Chicago and at national levels, his focus is on creating awareness and cultural education through education programs in the arts, support for veterans, community service, and producing educational films. He brings his 25 plus years of experience in community organization, development, and social justice issues to the Trickster Cultural Center. His experience also includes 15 years on the State of Illinois Veterans Council and 10 years of technology background in working with the Chicago History Museum, past board member of the Chicago Cultural Alliance and private technology firms as a technical system engineer.
Kay Kihwa Rho has a strong, deep history as a committed executive and community leader of the Chicago metropolitan area. Her professional background includes work as a Systems Engineer for Rockwell International and an Application Specialist in Education for Accenture. She oversaw operations as a managing director at ioTrio Co. for 8 years, and from 2015-2017 she served as Executive Director for the Global Children Foundation.Ms. Rho is currently the Executive Director of the Korean Cultural Center of Chicago (KCCoC). KCCoC is the leading destination where all people can participate in programs celebrating Korean culture and heritage. Under her leadership, Ms. Rho has significantly grown KCCoC’s organizational capacity, including securing a major $600,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities under her leadership.
Ms. Rho has also been actively involved with the Asian American Coalition of Chicago (AACC), an organization that promotes equal opportunity in government, education, economic development, and international affairs to increase Asian American involvement in Chicago’s civic leadership. With the AACC, Ms. Rho chaired multiple events that helped to raise the profile of the Asian American experience to a broader community as well as honored notable public officials, including State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez and former Governor of Illinois Pat Quinn.
Ms. Rho has been recognized for her commitment to community through awards from Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley and Asian American organizations. Ms. Rho was born in Korea and moved to the United States nearly 4 decades ago and has resided in the Chicagoland area for the past 24 years. She graduated from Cleveland State University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Information Science, and also holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Drama & Theater from Dong-Guk University in Seoul, Korea. She earned an MBA from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
Jean Mishima is a graduate of Northeastern Illinois University with degrees in elementary and special education and master’s degrees in special education, guidance and counseling and administration. She served over 20 years in Chicago Public Schools before retiring in 2001. Jean is one of the original founders of the Chicago Japanese American Historical Society, serving as its president since 1997. It was under her leadership that the Historical Society agreed to be one of eight originating partner organizations gathered to launch the Field Museum’s newly formed Cultural Connections program, which 10 years later evolved into the Chicago Cultural Alliance. Since 2008, Jean’s involvement with the CCA has been unabated, with her serving on different committees, councils and the board of directors. In 2017 Jean was presented with the Emperor of Japan’s Order of the Rising Sun, Gold and Silver Rays award. This is the third highest order bestowed by the Japanese government. She was also awarded CCA’s Outstanding Community Leader Award in 2018.
Heather Miller is an enrolled citizen of the Wyandotte Nation from Oklahoma as well as a daughter, sister, auntie, volunteer, executive director, and lover of Native American community development. She graduated from Miami University with a Bachelor of Philosophy and then received her Masters of Native American Studies from Montana State University. This education shaped her professional experiences in nonprofits and philanthropy. Her career began working for Hopa Mountain in Montana where she helped Native Nonprofit organizations develop their capacity. She then worked in Washington with Potlatch Fund and Colorado with First Nations Development Institute, Native American foundations that worked to educate other foundations about Indian Country. Most recently, Heather led Chicago’s American Indian Center as their executive director and currently is working as a consultant with foundations to implement American Indian perspectives into grantmaking practices. Heather volunteers as the Vice- President of the Board of the Chicago Cultural Alliance, a member of the city of Chicago’s Monuments and Memorials Committee, the Department of Culture and Special Events Cultural Advisory Council and the Native American Employment Advisory Council. She is also a graduate of the Leadership, Apprentice, Economic and Development program through First Nations Development Fund and a graduate of the Cascade Executive Program through the University of Washington. Additional recognitions include 2019 Leaders for a New Chicago Awardee, 2020 Promising Leader Award and 2020 Crain’s Business 40 under 40.
Professor Uysal’s earned his B.S. in mathematics from the Bilkent University and M.S. degree in economics from the University of Texas at Austin. He received his Ph.D. in Finance from the University of Texas at Austin (UT). His research interests include capital structure, mergers and acquisitions, corporate social responsibility and payout policy. He has been published in major journals including a single-authored paper in the Journal of Financial Economics, a paper in the Journal of Finance, a paper in the Information Systems Research, and in the Journal of Financial Intermediation. His papers have been presented at premier meetings hosted by the American Finance Association (AFA), the Western Finance Association (WFA) and the Academy of Management. He is the recipient of several research and teaching awards.
Chelsey M. Thomas is the Marketing Coordinator for the Chicago Cultural Alliance. As a second generation college graduate, Chelsey proudly celebrates their own identity as a Queer, Black and Dominican multimedia professional and recognizes the importance of highlighting underrepresented and minority voices. Before working for the Alliance, Chelsey held a diverse career in media, including projects with ABC, PBS, Broadway in Chicago and Live Nation Entertainment. Their professional experiences range from video production, graphic design, and technical writing for small businesses and tech companies to flying circus artists and stage managing professional theater for Teatro ZinZanni. Their main professional goal is to diversify popular media and to facilitate the creativity of under-represented and minority media makers through collaboration. They hold a Bachelor’s of Arts from Emerson College with a concentration in Writing and Producing for Television.
Ivonne Romo is a self-proclaimed lover of the arts, coming to ArtCore as a past member of the Arts & Business Council of Chicago’s Business Volunteers for the Arts program, where she served on a pro-bono consulting project to investigate potential revenue opportunities for ArtCore.
Ivonne was a guitarist in a Mexican mariachi band for half her life, and her work includes auditing future/options traders as a regulator, as an external auditor/public accountant for hedge funds with millions or billions in revenues, and as a public accountant/book-keeper for small to medium family owned businesses. Other experience she brings is gained either through volunteering on her church’s finance council for two years or via founding student groups in college where she reviewed and approved budgets, made recommendations, and raised questions about finances or efficiencies.
Teresita Avilés Bailey is the Membership & Development Associate at the Chicago Cultural Alliance. Growing up in Nicaragua, Teresita speaks both English and Spanish fluently. She completed a Bachelor of Arts in History from Purdue University in 2012 and a Master of Arts in Museum Studies from Johns Hopkins University in May 2017. Prior to working at the Alliance, Teresita held positions at Adler Planetarium, Lincoln Park Zoo, Kohl Children’s Museum, and the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis.
Andrew is a fifth generation Chicagoan with an education and professional experience in historical archaeology and museum anthropology. He completed a master’s degree in historic preservation from the University of Texas at Austin and worked for nearly ten years in the Anthropology Collections Center at the Field Museum of Natural History. Andrew is interested in material culture, heritage studies, memory, and community engagement. His most recent work involves the study, interpretation, and preservation of ruins.
He joins us after completing research on grass roots preservation of the built environment at the Falmouth Heritage Renewal in Jamaica for US/ICOMOS. He is very excited to be a part of the Chicago Cultural Alliance team as Conservation and Collections Program Manager.
Peter Vega is the Executive Director of the Chicago Cultural Alliance. Before working at the Alliance, Peter worked in various roles within the museum industry, including at Museum Hack, The Guggenheim Museum, the Intrepid Museum, the Jewish Museum, and more. His experience extends to visitor services, marketing, and education. Peter holds a Bachelor of Arts in Social Studies Education from Manhattanville College and a Master of Arts in Museum Studies from New York University.
As Senior Vice President, John Russick oversees the departments of Exhibitions, Education, Publications, Collections and Curatorial Affairs, Information Technology, and the Research Center on behalf of the Chicago History Museum. Since 2008 he has organized the American Association of Museum’s annual Excellence in Exhibition Label Writing Competition. Among many other contributions to the Chicago History Museum and to the museum field, Russick served as vice chair for the Museum’s Visioning Committee, chair of the Digital Future Committee, and chair of the Anti-Racism Task Force. He has won awards for both his preservation and exhibition work.
Randy Adamsick is currently a non-profit consultant and Co-chair of the Board at Facets Multi-media. In 2018, he retired as the Director of Institutional Advancement at the Chicago History Museum, and previously served the Development Director at the National Museum of Mexican Art. Randy has also served as Executive Director of the Gene Siskel Film Center (2001-2002), the Minnesota Film Board (1990-2001), Minneapolis Office of Film, Video & Recording (1986-199), Minnesota Film Center (1980-86). He studied Art History at the University of Chicago, and received a B.A. in English from the University of Minnesota.
Tracey Suppo is the CEO and co-founder of Book+Main, an online platform that connects authors and readers. Since launching in November ’17, Book+Main has more than 50,000 registered users, including 3,500+ published authors, in over 150 countries. Tracey’s 25-year marketing career spans many industries including fashion, cosmetics, live entertainment, and real estate. Prior to co-founding Book+Main, Tracey held the position of vice president of marketing at a national commercial real estate firm for 18 years. Clients included General Electric, British Petroleum, 7-Eleven, and more. She also owns a book review blog and reader group with more than 25k followers and a cooking Instagram feed with 7.5k followers. She is an avid traveler and has visited 44 states within the US and 18 countries worldwide, a voracious reader that often reads 150+ books each year, and is a proud foster failure mom to two cats from PAWS Chicago. She graduated from Boston University in ’95 with a BS in Business Administration with a concentration in marketing.
CCA’s former Interim Executive Director Suzanne Franklin is a dynamic executive manager with more than 25 years of proven leadership and management in the not-for-profit community. She is skilled in working with culturally diverse communities and has extensive knowledge of fundraising, program development, and strategic planning. She served as senior manager of community programs, planning and development at Jewish Child and Family Services and previously for 15 years as executive director of HIAS Chicago, an immigration service agency. She is a well-respected leader in the immigrant and refugee world in Chicago and nationally, and knows many of the Alliance’s Core Members, as well as Chicago neighborhoods and the policy environment.
Jessica Miley is a Principal Business Analyst at Exelon Corporation in the strategic planning department supporting Exelon’s utility business. Trained as a tax accountant, with a B.S. from the University of Illinois and a MPA from the University of Texas, Jessica has honed her skills at both Ernst & Young and the Exelon tax department in the areas of finance, effective communication, efficient processes, and adherence to deadlines. Her love of project management grew when she was nominated to take a temporary role to help lead the finance department during merger integration. In her current role, she coordinates and facilitates enterprise risk management projects, regulatory/legislative projects, and various strategic projects across Exelon’s fleet of utility companies. In addition to CCA, Jessica supports the United Way, Special Olympics, and the Network of Exelon Women. She can currently be found either facilitating a conference call or partnering with her husband, Jason, as they try to keep up with their daughter, Cassie, as she enters her toddler years. In addition, you may see her in attendance each Spring at the Roger Ebert Film Festival in Champaign, Illinois.
Vandita Garg is an interdisciplinary artist and writer. As a part of the Advisory committee for the Singapore Art Biennale in 2015-16, she started a panel discussion on the shared histories of South East Asia and the various demographic which passed through, formed and dwell in Singapore. This dialogue guided the selection of the works of art for the Biennale, and helped illustrate their connection to the community. She has written articles about fostering creativity and building a positive society through art. Vandita has developed and forged partnerships for private and corporate giving at the Singapore Art Museum. She was also a part of the docent training program and mentored new docents in the program. As the Auction Chair for the Ronald McDonald House Charities, Singapore, from 2012-16, Vandita was instrumental in driving fund raising efforts, and in materially increasing the visibility and impact of the charity. She was a part of the team that planned the inaugural RMHC gala in Singapore and channeled the profits towards setting up the first Ronald McDonald House at National University Hospital, Singapore. Vandita holds a Masters of Business Administration in Marketing and Finance from Fairleigh Dickinson University.
Demetrio P. Cardona-Maguigad is a strategist and educator in the areas of communication, design, and web technologies. As the director of strategic design at LimeRed Studio, he leads collaborative and process-driven methods between clients and design teams to uncover insights and align organizational goals towards innovative design solutions. Cardona-Maguigad is an adjunct faculty in the Communication & Media Innovation Department at Columbia College Chicago. He is also a multimedia producer whose work has focused on cultural diversity, social justice, and community development. He is also the former host and executive producer for Chicago is the World, a weekly on-air radio program on WHPK where he curated and featured music, voices and stories from around the globe.
Jacob Campbell is a Cultural Anthropologist with the Keller Science Action Center at The Field Museum, where he leads the social science team for the Chicago region program. His applied research, pedagogy, and collaborative programming has focused on cultural connections to the natural world in cities. He works with partners across Chicago to create more equitable city institutions and green spaces that help communities thrive. Jacob also co-directs the Urban Ecology Field Lab undergraduate summer course at the Field Museum, and is adjunct professor of environmental science at DePaul University. Previously, he worked for five years with artists, organizers and educators on Chicago’s West Side as program manager with the Center for Community Arts Partnerships at Columbia College Chicago. He earned an M.A. and Ph.D. in Anthropology from the University of Arizona.