Participant Biographies

Cecilia Abundis, Assistant Attorney General in Consumer Fraud Bureau, Illinois Attorney General’s Office

Cecilia Abundis is an Assistant Attorney General in the Consumer Fraud Bureau of the Illinois Attorney General’s Office. Ms. Abundis has investigated mortgage lending institutions, mortgage brokers, for-profit schools, unauthorized immigration services providers or “notarios”, car dealerships, and auto financing companies, for violations of the state’s consumer protection laws. Prior to joining the Illinois Attorney General’s Office, Ms. Abundis was an Equal Justice Works Fellow at the Lawyers’ Committee for Better Housing, where she created the source of income project and represented tenants and fair housing organizations who were victims of housing discrimination, as well as tenants facing eviction. Ms. Abundis graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign with a B.A. in Political Science and earned her J.D. from DePaul University College of Law.

Alicia Alvarez, Clinical Professor of Law and Community and Economic Development Clinic, University of Michigan School of Law

Alicia Alvarez is a Clinical Professor at the University of Michigan Law School. She directs the Community and Economic Development Clinic, providing transactional legal services to community organizations and social enterprises in Detroit. Her area of interest is economic justice. Prior to teaching in Michigan, she founded and directed the Community Development Clinic at DePaul University College of Law. She has also taught in the Civil and Criminal Clinic at Michigan, and the Asylum and Immigration Clinic and the Civil Litigation Clinic at DePaul. Alicia currently serves on the Executive Committee of the Association of American Law Schools. Alicia is the coauthor (with Paul R. Tremblay) of Introduction to Transactional Lawyering Practice (West, 2013). Before teaching, she was a staff attorney at Business and Professional People for the Public Interest, where she worked on housing advocacy in the Latino communities of Chicago, and the Legal Assistance Foundation of Chicago, where she worked primarily on housing, employment, and family cases. Alicia served on the Board of Directors of Latinos United (now the Latino Policy Forum) until 2006.

Xóchitl Bada, Associate Professor, Latin American and Latino Studies Program, University of Illinois at Chicago

Xóchitl Bada earned her Ph.D. in Sociology from the University of Notre Dame in 2008 and is now an Associate Professor in the Latin American and Latino Studies Program at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC). Her research interests include immigrant access to political and social rights, Black-Latino relations, immigrant organizing strategies, and transnational labor advocacy mobilization in Mexico and the United States. She is a co-convener of De Aquí y de Allá. Jóvenes Sin Fronteras, the First Strategic Dialogue between Latino DACAmented leaders and young deported leaders to be celebrated in Mexico City in 2015. Her recent research has appeared in the journals Population, Space, and Place, Revista de la Asociación Latinoamericana de Sociología Rural, Migraciones Internacionales, Latino Studies, and The Latinamericanist. Her book, Mexican Hometown Associations in Chicagoacán: From Local to Transnational Civic Engagement (Rutgers University Press, 2014) demonstrates how and why emergent forms of citizen participation practiced by Mexican Hometown Associations (HTAs) engage simultaneously with political elites in Mexico and the US, and the ways they operate at multiple scales, from the local, to the state, national, and international. She is co-editor of Context Matters: Latino Immigrant Civic Engagement in Nine U.S. Cities, (bilingual edition, 2010) published by the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. She is currently analyzing the challenges Mexican citizens face for having access to birth certificates in Mexico´s rural areas and in consulates across the U.S. She is also engaged in two collaborative projects. With Jonathan Fox (American University), she is exploring continuities and changes in rural migration patterns in Mexico´s countryside between 2000 and 2010 to inform potential initiatives in favor of the right not to migrate. With Shannon Gleeson, she is researching the role of the Mexican Consulate in protecting the rights of Mexican workers in the United States.

Jazmin Beltran

Jazmin Beltran, a bilingual multimedia journalist, is a reporter for Univision Chicago and leads their consumer investigative branch. She is also an adjunct professor at the Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications at Northwestern University. Previously, Beltran was publisher for the Univision Chicago website and the four Univision radio station websites in Chicago. She produced and hosted weekly on-air programs for Univision Chicago and Telefutura Chicago, and co-hosted La Tremenda 1200 AM radio. In 2009, she produced “Challenge: Direct,” which at the time was the most successful user-generated video upload promotion in the history of Univision Communications Inc. Prior to this, Beltran was a writer and assignment editor for Univision Chicago and a reporter for KMID (ABC affiliate of Midland, TX), WHO Radio (Des Moines, IA), and WYCC PBS Chicago. Beltran began her career as a reporter and editor for The Journal Times in Racine, Wisconsin. She received both her master’s and bachelor’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University.

Kristi Bowman, Professor of Law and Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, Michigan State University College of Law

Kristi Bowman is a Professor of Law and Associate Dean for Academic Affairs at Michigan State University College of Law, and affiliated faculty with MSU College of Education’s Education Policy Center, in East Lansing, Michigan. In 2001, Bowman published “The New Face of School Desegregation” in the Duke Law Journal, the first major article to tracing the history of Latinos vis-a-vis school desegregation litigation. In 2009, she published “Pursuing Educational Opportunities for Latino/a Students” in the North Carolina Law Review and the following year she received the Education Law Association’s Steven J. Goldberg Award for Distinguished Scholarship in Education Law for that article. Most recently, her 2015 book Pursuing Racial and Ethnic Equity in American Public Schools: Mendez, Brown, and Beyond, includes an edited transcript of Bowman interviewing Sylvia Mendez and Gonzalo Mendez, whose parents were the named plaintiffs in Mendez v. Westminster, and others.  Bowman has edited or co-authored three books, published extensively in law journals, and also published book chapters and pieces for interdisciplinary audiences. She received a B.A. from Drake University and a J.D. and M.A. from Duke University, clerked on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, practiced law in Chicago at Franczek Radelet (then Franczek Sullivan) where she represented school districts, and is an elected member of the American Law Institute.

Arianna Cisneros, Program Officer, McCormick Foundation

Arianna Cisneros is a Program Officer in the Communities Program. Her responsibilities include managing relationships with corporate partners and assisting them in developing, implementing, and evaluating grant strategies in their local communities. She also supports the Communities Program’s place-based initiatives in Chicago’s Little Village and Englewood neighborhoods.

Prior to joining the McCormick Foundation, Ms. Cisneros was a Program Officer at the Illinois Children’s Healthcare Foundation, focusing on the integration of children’s mental health services in community settings, and an Associate Director at Arabella Advisors, advising funders on grant-making, program implementation, and evaluation. Ms. Cisneros holds a Bachelor’s degree in Organizational Studies and Spanish Literature and Culture from the University of Michigan, and a Master’s degree from the University of Chicago’s School of Social Service Administration, where she was a McCormick Tribune Fellow in Urban and Community Leadership. She was also a 2009-2011 Illinois Early Childhood Fellow, serving two years at the Ounce of Prevention Fund

Peggy A. Davis

Peggy A. Davis is the Chief Officer of Programs and Strategic Integration for The Chicago Community Trust (CCT). She is responsible for programmatic leadership and grant making that follows CCT’s commitment to service. She provides leadership integrating services to better connect donors with expertise and local knowledge to motivate more meaningful philanthropy. Davis’ expertise comes from a range of experience across the private, public and nonprofit sectors. She has served as the executive director of the Chicago Committee, an organization that seeks to advance racial and ethnic diversity in the legal profession. She has been a key contributor to the ABF’s Research Group on Legal Diversity, a network of scholars dedicated to conducting empirical research on diversity in the legal profession, legal processes and institutions. Prior roles include general counsel for the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority in Chicago, vice president for diversity and staffing at Exelon Corporation, trustee of the Chicago Board of Education, chief of staff to former superintendent of Chicago Public Schools and U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, and partner at Winston & Strawn LLP.

Jesús del Toro, Editorial Director, Weekly Publications. Impremedia (La Raza, Chicago; La Prensa, Orlando; La Opinión de la Bahía, San Francisco; Rumbo, Houston)

Jesús Del Toro is a journalist, writer and media director. Currently is the Editorial Director of Impremedia’s Hispanic Weekly Publications (La Raza, Chicago; La Prensa, Orlando; La Opinión de la Bahía, San Francisco; and Rumbo, Houston), based in Chicago. Before, from 2004 to 2014, he had several leadership journalism roles in Texas: Del Toro was one of the founders of the RUMBO network of Spanish daily newspapers (Houston, San Antonio, Austin, McAllen) and held positions such as Page One Editor, Managing Editor, Editorial Director and General Manager.

During his tenure in Impremedia he was the lead editor for several key nation-wide communication initiatives devoted to inform and empower US Hispanic communities, among them:

  • 2015 Chicago Mayoral Election & 2014 Illinois Gubernatorial Election Coverage. Personally interviewed the main candidates in the gubernatorial/mayoral races from a Hispanic perspective.
  • 2012 US Presidential Election Eve Poll, a national survey of Latino voters by Impremedia/LatinoDecisions that shows opinions, political preferences among Hispanics.
  • México acá / Mexico is here (2012), a special news campaign and branded website to cover the 2012 Mexican Presidential Elections from a Mexican American perspective.
  • Mujeres Destacadas (2013-Today), a content/marketing program in Chicago and Houston to recognize successful Latinas and showcase their achievements.
  • The Future is Now / El futuro es ahora (2011), a national bilingual multimedia initiative that highlights the relevance of Hispanic communities in all 50 US states by illustrating 2010 Census data.
  • Piensa Digital / Club Digital (2010-2015), a special section and bilingual content/marketing initiative to increase digital literacy and internet broadband adoption for Latinos in key major DMA (Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, Chicago, Houston, Orlando).
  • NFL Special showcase page (2009-2014), exclusively branded NFL content for Impremedia’s Hispanic audiences in key major DMA (Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, Chicago, Houston, Orlando).
  • Por México / For Mexico (2009), a special crisis communication campaign to prevent misunderstandings and generate solidarity among Hispanics in Houston during the H1N1 flu epidemic in Mexico. Main Editor.

Del Toro is also a pro blogger for Yahoo! en Español, writing about US topics and issues, from the US presidential campaigns and immigration to breaking news and cultural and economic affairs. He is a political and technology columnist and writer, with awards granted by the Associated Press, the National Association of Hispanic Publications and the Mexican Fund for the Arts.

Additionally, publications led by Del Toro had won many editorial prizes, among them several NAHP Jose Marti Gold, Silver and Bronze medals and awards granted by the Associated Press, Editor and Publisher and Yahoo!.

Del Toro was born in Mexico City, has a Bachelor´s degree in Communications (Universidad Iberoamericana, Mexico) and is a Ph D Candidate in Journalism (Universidad Complutense de Madrid, Spain). He was a fellow of the National Endowment for the Arts Journalism Institute in Classical Music and Opera at Columbia University (New York City).

In Mexico he was an editorialist for La Jornada newspaper, editorial director of the news sites and and editor of supplements published by La Jornada and Milenio newspapers. Del Toro published the poetry book “Pequeñanatomía” (Second Prize, First Poetry Biennial, UAM-X, Mexico), the web publication manual “Marketing and Image for the Internet” (Mercadotecnia e Imagen en Internet) and he is currently working in a book about the perception of Mexican historic classical composer Silvestre Revueltas in the US musical scene.

Jaime Dominguez, Lecturer, Northwestern University

Dr. Dominguez is on the faculty in the Department of Political Science and Latina/o Studies Program at Northwestern University. His research and teaching interests include immigration, race and ethnic politics and is an expert on Latino and Chicago politics. He is the principal architect of the Chicago Democracy Project (CDP), twenty-five year (1975-2000) online political database that provides political information and analysis to civil society groups, intellectuals, and other researchers in a user-friendly, easily accessible format. Dr. Dominguez was instrumental in facilitating the only citywide political poll of Latino voters as it pertained to Chicago’s 2015 mayoral race. He was a recipient of the Public Voices Fellowship and is a frequent commentator for local and major news outlets including Chicago Tonight, NPR, WBEZ, Telemundo and the Huffington Post. He is currently examining immigrant integration efforts from urban comparative frameworks. Recent works include “Machine Matters” in Mollenkopf and Pastor’s Unsettled Americans: Metropolitan Context and Civic Leadership for Immigrant Integration (Cornell Press 2016). He is also Weinberg College adviser where directs the the Posner Undergraduate Research Program.

Kevin Escudero, Presidential Postdoctoral Fellow in American Studies, Brown University

Kevin Escudero is a Presidential Postdoctoral Fellow in American Studies and in July 2017 will begin his appointment as Assistant Professor of American Studies and Ethnic Studies at Brown University. He received his Ph.D. in Ethnic Studies from UC Berkeley and M.S.L. from Yale Law School. Kevin’s book manuscript, Organizing While Undocumented: Intersectional Immigrant Subjectivities in San Francisco, Chicago and New York City, is a multi-sited ethnography focusing on instances of racial/ethnic solidarity and coalition building in the immigrant rights movement.

Lilia Fernández, Associate Professor, Department of History, The Ohio State University

Dr. Lilia Fernández received her Ph.D. in Ethnic Studies at the University of California, San Diego, an M.A. from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, and her B.A. from Harvard University.   She is the author of Brown in the Windy City: Mexicans and Puerto Ricans in Postwar Chicago (University of Chicago Press, 2012) as well as numerous book chapters, journal articles, and essays on Latino/a community formation, immigration, and urban history.  She is currently Associate Professor in the Department of History at The Ohio State University. Beginning in Fall 2016 she will be the Henry Rutgers Term Chair in the Departments of Latino & Caribbean Studies and History at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey.

Wanda Figueroa-Peralta, Ed.D.

Wanda Figueroa-Peralta, Ed.D., is the President and CEO of ASPIRA, Inc. of Illinois. She is an experienced educator, clinician, healthcare administrator and advocate with more than 20 years of experience in education, health and social services. She has served as the Chief Operating Officer of the Association House of Chicago where she oversaw programming for behavioral and integrated healthcare and alternative education. As a teacher and school counselor for Chicago Public Schools, she created intensive school based mental health services at more than 14 elementary, high school, alternative, and therapeutic community schools in Chicago.

Under her leadership, ASPIRA has secured private funding and state and federal grants to implement and assess educational and evidence-based mental, substance abuse, and developmental disability services in predominantly low income, ethnic minority communities. Mental Health First Aid training program was implemented in Humboldt Park to help community members identify and respond to signs of mental illness. She helped create a comprehensive children’s mental health prevention program, collaborating with local community schools to reach over 1,000 children and their families. Through mentoring, clinical supervision and active participation in advisory committees, boards and community organizations, Dr. Figueroa has contributed immensely to the development of culturally competent healthcare professionals and the elimination of public health disparities. She was recognized by the University of Illinois at Chicago School of Public Health for her support of the Advanced Pathways for Healthcare Professions Program.

Luis Ricardo Fraga, Co-Director Institute for Latino Studies, Arthur Foundation Endowed Professor of Transformative Latino Leadership, Joseph and Elizabeth Robbie Professor of Political Science, University of Notre Dame

Luis Ricardo Fraga is Co-Director of the Institute for Latino Studies, Arthur Foundation Endowed Professor of Transformative Latino Leadership, Joseph and Elizabeth Robbie Professor of Political Science, and Fellow of the Institute for Educational Initiatives at the University of Notre Dame. His primary interests are in Latino politics, immigration politics, voting rights policy, and educational politics and policy. In 2016 he co-edited a special issue of the Journal of Catholic Education entitled “Latinos, Education, and the Church.” His most recent co-authored books are Latinos in the New Millennium: An Almanac of Opinion, Behavior, and Policy Preferences (Cambridge University Press 2012) and Latino Lives in America: Making It Home (Temple University Press 2010). He has published in the American Political Science Review, the American Journal of Political Science, and the Journal of Politics. In 2013 Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn appointed him to the Immigrant Voting Rights Task Force where he served as co-chair. In 2011 President Barack Obama appointed him to the President’s Advisory Commission on Educational Excellence for Hispanics where he co-chairs the Postsecondary Education Subcommittee. Hispanic Business Magazine named him one of the “100 Influentials” in the country in that same year. Also in 2011, Seattle Archbishop Peter Sartain appointed him to the Board of the Fulcrum Foundation. In 2008 Washington Governor Christine Gregoire appointed him to the Washington New Americans Policy Council. He has also served as Vice President and as Secretary of the American Political Science Association. He has served as President of the Western Political Science Association. He has received fifteen awards for his teaching, advising, and mentoring.   In 2012 he was named one of the Champions of Catholic Education for his work to establish the first Spanish-English, two-way immersion school in the Seattle Archdiocese. He was the first recipient of the Juan Diego Award for this work in 2013.

Michael J. Hernandez, Equity Partner, Franczek Radelet P.C.

Michael J. Hernandez is an equity partner in the Labor & Employment and Education Law Practice Groups at Franczek Radelet P.C. and serves as the Firm’s Diversity Officer. Michael practices in the areas of education, labor and employment law. His experience involves litigation at all levels of state and federal courts and administrative agencies. He has a broad background in constitutional and civil rights law, including affirmative action and desegregation matters.

Prior to joining the firm, Michael served as general counsel of the Illinois State Board of Education, deputy general counsel for the Chicago Board of Education. and as an Assistant District Attorney in the Brooklyn DA’s Office.

Michael served as a legal advisor to the Classrooms First Commission created in 2011 by the Illinois legislature to research economic issues affecting school districts. He is a Fellow of the American Bar Foundation, is a member of the American Bar Association, Chicago Bar Association and the Hispanic Lawyer’s Association of Illinois. He is a board member for the National Latino Education Institute and the Arts Alliance Illinois, serving as the Chair of the Alliance’s Arts Education Committee.

Michael was named among the 2013 Business Leaders of Color by Chicago United. He was also chosen by Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez as one of two people to be honored during the 2009 celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month with the 2009 El Humanitaro Award.   He was a founding member of the Chicago Advisory Board of Teach for America.

Lilian Jimenez

Lilian Jimenez is the Policy Director for Cook County Commissioner Jesus G. Garcia (7th District). Jimenez specializes in public interest law, labor and employment, fair housing, juvenile justice, and immigrant and worker rights. Prior to working with the Cook County Board of Commissioners, she was the manager of the Fair Labor Standards Division at the Illinois Department of Labor. She has also held positions at Restaurant Opportunities Centers United, the Office for Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Legal Assistance Foundation of Metropolitan Chicago, Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF), and Association House of Chicago. She is a member of the Hispanic Lawyers Association of Illinois and the Puerto Rican Bar Association. Jimenez holds a J.D. from DePaul University College of Law.

Sonia Gonzales, Executive Director, California Bar Foundation

The Executive Director of the California Bar Foundation, Sonia Gonzales focuses on leveraging the philanthropic power of California’s legal community to expand access to justice for the state’s most vulnerable populations. As head of California’s only statewide legal foundation, Sonia has prioritized collaborative funding efforts to support increased diversity, equity & inclusion for a California justice system that better serves all Californians.

Ms. Gonzales gained broad legal, political, policy and management experience over the last decade working with both the grass-roots and the grass-tops from the private, public and not-for profit sectors building and maintaining coalitions of support amongst a diverse array of lawyers, elected officials, advocacy organizations, community leaders, donors, volunteers and voters.

Sonia Gonzales joined the Foundation from the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area, a nonprofit, nonpartisan legal organization that advances, protects and promotes the rights of communities of color, immigrants and refugees –  by leveraging the power of the private bar to support direct service, impact litigation and policy advocacy legal strategies. Ms. Gonzales was also Assistant Director of the ACLU of Northern California, where she partnered with the Executive Director in managing operations of the nation’s largest ACLU affiliate with a 60- person staff, 50- person Board of Directors and 53,000- person membership.

Prior to law school, Sonia served on Capitol Hill as a political director for a major presidential campaign in 2004, for the Democratic National Committee during the 2000 presidential election cycle, and as a legislative assistant and press secretary for a member of the U.S. House of Representatives.

Sonia received her J.D. from UC Berkeley School of Law (Boalt Hall) and her B.A. from Stanford University.

Miguel Keberlein Gutiérrez, Director, Immigrants and Workers’ Rights Practice Group

Miguel Keberlein Gutiérrez is the Director of the Immigrants and Workers’ Rights Practice Group and Client Support Services at LAF Chicago. He was formerly an Adjunct Professor of Law at Northern Illinois University College of Law. He has been litigating cases on behalf of migrant and seasonal agricultural farmworkers and other low-wage workers for over a decade.

Keberlein was named the 2016 Paul and Sheila Wellstone Award recipient for his work on anti-human trafficking issues by the Freedom Network USA. In 2014, Keberlein was named an Emerging Leader Fellow by the Chicago Community Trust. He was also chosen as one of the 40 under Forty Attorneys to Watch in Illinois for 2010. He was the 2007 Kimball and Karen Gatsis Anderson Public Interest Law Fellowship Award recipient, given out to one outstanding public interest lawyer each year. Keberlein received his J.D. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2002. He was a Graduate Fellow at the University of Iowa where he earned a M.A. in Third World Development. Keberlein has been featured in the Chicago Lawyer magazine and has done numerous presentations at both state and national trainings.

Sergio Lemus, Task Force Member, Center for Operational Excellence, City Colleges of Chicago

Dr. Sergio Lemus (Ph.D. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 2014) is an anthropologist, education, and researcher. His research focuses on examining the lives of Mexican immigrants in the City of Chicago to make critical interventions about the knowledge on Mexican immigrants, how power and capitalism produces class, labor, and color hierarchies across borders, and how understanding the lives of the Mexican immigrant working class offers a vital perspective to understanding modernity and late capitalism from below. His research is now moving towards examining organizing and political resistance by examining culture, power, and borders among documented and undocumented immigrants. Lemus has served as a task force member within the office of strategy at the City Colleges of Chicago to conduct research and develop new and innovative ways to change the way the organization does business and to improve bottom line results. Translated findings into well-synthesized recommendations and presentations for executive level leadership.

Guadalupe Luna, Professor of Law, Indiana Tech Law School

Guadalupe Luna is an internationally-recognized scholar whose areas of expertise include Agricultural Law, Jurisprudence, Immigration Law, Property, and Remedies Law. She joined the Indiana Tech law faculty after twenty-two years on the faculty of the Northern Illinois University College of Law. Professor Luna has written more than forty law review articles, and book chapters, including important entries in “The Encyclopedia of Latina/o Politics and Social Movement,” which is published by Oxford University Press. She is an elected member of the American Law Institute, an American Bar Association Fellow, and a member of the American Association of Law Schools. Professor Luna received both her B.A. and her J.D. from the University of Minnesota.

Honorable Patricia Mendoza, Associate Judge, Circuit Court of Cook County

Judge Mendoza is an Associate Judge for the Circuit Court of Cook County. She earned her B.A. at DePaul University in Chicago in 1981 and her J.D. at DePaul University College of Law in Chicago in 1984. She is currently assigned to the Juvenile Justice Division – Delinquency section where she presides over matters involving minors 18 years of age and younger who have been accused of committing a crime. Her previous judicial assignments have included Domestic Violence court and the First Municipal Division’s Traffic Court Section. She was appointed to the bench in June, 2005.

Ricardo Meza, Officer, Greensfelder

Ricardo Meza’s background as an assistant U.S. attorney and Illinois executive inspector general gives him a deep context for his litigation work, which includes internal investigations, white-collar criminal defense and government interaction. His experience with high-level investigations lends a unique perspective for corporations, universities or public entities who may find themselves in need of an external investigation. Those situations may include allegations of fraud, conflict of interest or financial or personal improprieties. Rick also advises those who are facing inquiries from federal agencies regarding allegations of wrongdoing.

As Illinois’ executive inspector general from 2010 to 2015, Rick led his office in hundreds of investigations related to waste, fraud and abuse. He had investigative authority over the office of the Illinois governor, 40 state agencies, 250 boards and commissions, nine Illinois public universities and four regional transit boards, as well as private vendors that conducted business with those entities. His investigations have covered employment, official misconduct, hiring improprieties and procurement, and his knowledge of compliance, audit and internal control issues gives him depth in investigating potential fraud or financial improprieties. Rick’s reputation for fair and thorough work benefits clients who may need to get to the bottom of a difficult situation while undergoing an objective investigation.

Before his tenure as executive inspector general, Rick spent five years as Midwest Regional Counsel for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, a Latino civil rights organization. He led the office’s litigation and public policy matters in 10 states, working on high-impact cases regarding the rights of Latinos in the U.S. to employment, education, political access, immigration and housing.

In addition to his experience with investigations, Rick has spent significant time in court. He has tried more than 30 federal criminal trials, nearly all to a jury, and has argued before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. He spent more than 10 years as an assistant U.S. attorney, working in the Northern District of Illinois and the Western District of Texas. In that role, he led grand jury investigations, prosecuted federal criminal violations and directed special agents from agencies including the FBI, DEA, IRS and U.S. Postal Inspection Service.

Rick has also served as an assistant attorney general II in Texas, taught trial advocacy at the John Marshall Law School and presented at numerous continuing legal education seminars.

Alfonso Morales, Professor, Urban & Regional Planning, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Alfonso Morales, PhD (Northwestern), is Professor and Vilas Midcareer awardee of Urban and Regional Planning (College of Letters and Sciences) and of Civil Society and Community Studies (School of Human Ecology) at the University of Wisconsin at Madison. He is originally from rural New Mexico with roots in family farming there and in West Texas. He has established a nationally and internationally recognized and policy-relevant program of research on street vendors and marketplaces that has described the organization and consequences of marketplace processes historically and across populations. His research examines the intersection of these markets with various modalities of identity including gender and race. He has also contributed to our understanding of business organizations, public health, and food systems. This latter work joins his interests in street commerce to food distribution, production and formal organizations (like Housing Authorities). His broader intellectual agenda includes basic and applied research of the social processes relating how people think and behave to interaction and organization and back again. He has extensive experience with students in community-based outreach and research.

Jocelyn Munguía Chávez, Co-Founder Fearless Undocumented Alliance, University of Illinois of Chicago-Illinois

Jocelyn Munguía Chávez is a Mexican, undocumented, queer, dancer, runner, and activist. While pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology at UIC, she is involved with several on-campus and community organizations that focus on education, empowerment, and social justice. She is a student educator at the Rafael Cintrón Ortiz Latino Cultural Center at UIC. Jocelyn is one of the co-founders of the Fearless Undocumented Alliance (FUA) at UIC and of the Latin@ Youth Action League (L@YAL) of DuPage County, was previously the President of Mexican Students de Azlán (MeSA), an organizer with Undocumented Illinois and Organized Communities Against Deportations (OCAD), and is a current board member, Secretary of Dare to Dream: Get Educated!

Jesse Mumm

Jesse Mumm is a cultural anthropologist who teaches at Northeastern Illinois University and for the Latin American and Latino Studies Program at DePaul University. He is also an instructor for the Chicago Field Studies Program at Northwestern University.

Mumm studies gentrification and issues of race and racism in Chicago, where he works directly with a wide range of community organizations and on ongoing research projects on forms of coerced movement. He grew up in Chicago in the Logan Square neighborhood and taught high school at the Puerto Rican Cultural Center for a decade. He has been involved in critical pedagogy, solidarity work, education reform, immigrant rights advocacy, and community development for over twenty years, and has worked in Ireland on refugee rights, and researched British state collusion in human rights abuses.

Mumm holds a doctorate in anthropology from Northwestern University. In his dissertation, “Report from the Field: Redoing Chicago: Gentrification, Race, and Intimate Segregation,” he argues that “gentrification represents a ‘racial fix’ in the speculative housing market, deriving from and building on racial inequities and local racial histories, and becomes a site for the social production of flexible racism based on what he calls ‘intimate segregation.’” He speaks widely for universities, community organizations, and public debates on gentrification, the racial displacement of Latino and black residents, and the history of race in urban development in Chicago.


Amalia Pallares, Professor and Director of Latin American and Latino Studies and Professor of Political Science, University of Illinois at Chicago

Amalia Pallares is Professor and Director of Latin American and Latino Studies and Professor of Political Science at the University of Illinois at Chicago. She teaches courses on social movements, immigrant activism, Latin American and Latino politics, race and ethnicity, and qualitative research methodologies. Her books include “Family Activism: Immigrant Struggles and the Politics of Non-Citizenship”; Marcha: Latino Chicago and the Immigrant Rights Movement” (co-edited with Nilda Flores Gonzalez) and “From Peasant Struggles to Indian Activism: the Ecuadorian Andes in the Twentieth Century.” She was born in Ecuador and has also written extensively on Ecuadorian ethnic and regional politics.

Sylvia Puente, Executive Director, Latino Policy Forum

In January 2009, Sylvia Puente began serving as Executive Director of the Latino Policy Forum, the only public policy and advocacy organization in the Chicago metropolitan area working to improve educational outcomes for children, make housing accessible and affordable, promoting just immigration reform, and building the influence and leadership of the Latino community. She is the convener of the Illinois Latino Agenda where her collaboration and consensus building skills are highly valued. Through the Forum, she works with more than 100 organizational leaders in the Chicago metropolitan region. She has been recognized as one of the “100 Most Influential Hispanics in the U.S.” by Hispanic Business magazine.

As a highly respected and thoughtful policy analyst, she is regularly called upon to provide perspective on the implications of the nation’s changing demographics; at conferences and meetings she often serves as keynote speaker. Puente is frequently cited in the media as an expert on Latino issues and has published numerous reports that articulate the vital role Latinos play in society.

Puente founded the Latino Leadership Council of the Chicago Foundation for Women, which has raised thousands of dollars to support organizations that provide services to women and girls. Along with many other civic organizations in which she is active, Puente serves as a board director of Advance Illinois, a public policy agency working to improve education in the State, and was appointed by Governor Quinn to serve as chair of the Education Funding Advisory Board.

In 2007, Puente was invited by the US State Department to study Muslim immigrant integration issues in Spain. In 2008, she was asked by the Israeli government to participate in discussions about the country’s immigrant integration policies. She has been invited three times to Mexico to increase understanding of Mexican immigration to the United States. In 2009, she was awarded a leadership fellowship by the Chicago Community Trust to continue her global work in this field.

Puente’s twenty-five year career serving her community spans a wide range of experiences: from 2001-08 she served as director of the Center for Metropolitan Chicago Initiatives for the University of Notre Dame’s Institute for Latino Studies. While at the Institute, she was the driving force behind convening a regional dialogue on the suburbanization of the Latino community. Her work also included the publication of Bordering the Mainstream: A Needs Assessment of Latinos in Berwyn and Cicero, Illinois, and Forging the Tools for Unity: A report on Metro Chicago’s Mayors Roundtables on Latino Integration.

As Director of New Community Initiatives for The Resurrection Project, Puente expanded the agency’s outreach efforts in health, education, parental leadership, and economic development. At the Latino Institute – a prominent think tank on Latino issues during the ‘90s – she served as director of research, public policy, and advocacy, overseeing the development of analyses on issues such as immigration, workforce development, and education. Puente also gained broad experience in policy, legislative, and decision-making processes while holding a variety of positions with the State of Illinois.

In 2011, Puente received a leadership award from the League of United Latin American Citizens. Since 2003, she has received the Jane Addams award from Hull House; a leadership award from the Illinois Latino Legislative Caucus Foundation; the Community Service award from the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund; the Sor Juana Women of Achievement Award for Community Service by the National Museum of Mexican Art; and was one of 25 Chicago area women named a “Pioneer for Social Justice.”
Sylvia was introduced to her life’s work as an advocate, policy analyst, and activist for Latino issues at age thirteen when she joined her mother on picket lines in support of the United Farm Workers.

Puente began her master’s degree studies at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government and received her M.A. from the Harris School of Public Policy at the University of Chicago. She holds a B.A. in Economics from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Rachel Ramirez, Senior Community Organizer, Reentry Project & Latino Organizing, Chicago Coalition for the Homeless

Rachel Ramirez is a community organizer with the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, where she organizes with people experiencing homelessness around issues of Latinx homelessness and job and housing opportunities for people with criminal records. Her organizing practice is heavily influenced by her time with Midwest Academy, as a student in Chicanx/Latinx Studies at Pomona College (as a Posse scholar) and her experiences as a mixed-race womyn in Chicago. Rachel is also a yoga teacher and practitioner, guitarist and singer, and Master’s student in Public Policy and Administration at Northwestern University. Her Master’s thesis entitled “The community organizing model of organizational leadership: A value- and power-driven model of leadership” was recently accepted in partial fulfillment of her Master’s program.

Rafael Robles, Berkshire Hathaway Home Services and Ranquist Development Group in Chicago

Born and Raised in San Luis Potosí, Mexico, Rafael moved to the United States when he was 13 years old. As an undocumented student, he attended Harper College and later the University of Illinois at Chicago, where he obtained a Bachelor of Science degree in architecture. Rafael worked for the award winning architecture firm, Studio Gang Architects for over 4 years and is currently working in the field of real estate and development, working for Berkshire Hathaway Home Services and Ranquist Development Group in Chicago. In 2010 he started advocating for immigrant’s rights as a spokesperson for the National Immigrant Justice Center and the office of Senator Dick Durbin. Rafael is one of the first recipients of DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) and continues to advocate for comprehensive immigration reform. Currently, Rafael is working towards better urban development, by promoting better design, conscious environmental practices and socially responsible building of communities.

Michael Rodríguez-Muñiz, Assistant Professor, Sociology and Latina/o studies,Northwestern University

Dr. Michael Rodríguez-Muñiz is an Assistant Professor of Sociology and Latina/o Studies at Northwestern University. Currently, he is a Provost’s Postdoctoral Scholar at the University of Chicago. Michael is preparing a book manuscript based on his dissertation that investigates the production and mobilization of demographic projections and imaginaries among national Latino civil rights organizations and leaders. His work has been published in the American Journal of Cultural Sociology and Qualitative Sociology, as well as several edited volumes.

Jesse H. Ruiz, Partner, Drinker Biddle & Reath

Jesse H. Ruiz is a partner at the law firm of Drinker Biddle & Reath where he focuses his practice on business transactions, including mergers and acquisitions, venture capital and private equity investments, equity and debt offerings, financings, the purchase and sale of assets from bankruptcy estates, and a variety of commercial transactions.  Since 2006, Jesse has also served as a member of the board of directors of Commonwealth Edison, an Exelon Company.

In May 2011, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel appointed Jesse the Vice President of the Chicago Board of Education, where he served until January 2016 when Mayor Emanuel appointed him president of the Chicago Park District Board of Commissioners. From April to July of 2015, Jesse also served as the Interim CEO of the Chicago Public Schools. Jesse also serves on the Public Building Commission. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan appointed Jesse to serve on the U.S. Department of Education Equity and Excellence Commission from February 2011 to February 2013. Prior to serving on the Chicago Board of Education, Jesse served as chairman of the Illinois State Board of Education from September 2004 to May 2011. He had also previously served on the Chicago Public Schools Desegregation Monitoring Commission.

Jesse serves as secretary of the Chicago Bar Association and is a past president of the Chicago Bar Foundation, past president of the Hispanic Lawyers Association of Illinois, past chairman of the Hispanic Lawyers Scholarship Fund of Illinois, and past Chairman of the Chicago Committee on Minorities in Large Law Firms.

In September 2014, Jesse received the Hispanic National Bar Association’s Latino Lawyer of the Year award. In 2011, the Walmart Legal Department awarded Jesse its inaugural Walmart Legal Spark Award for “outstanding client and community service and dedication to diversity in the legal profession.”

Jesse received his Juris Doctorate from The University of Chicago Law School, where he served as an editor of the University of Chicago Law School Roundtable, and studied under then-professors Barack Obama and Elena Kagan. He received his Bachelor of Arts in economics from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Juan Salgado

Juan Salgado is the President and CEO of the Instituto del Progreso Latino. He works with members of the the low-income, Latino immigrant communities on Chicago’s southwest side to help them overcome barriers to success and upward mobility. Salgado is a 2015 MacArthur Foundation Fellow.

Under Salgado’s leadership, Instituto has become nationally recognized for its best-practice educational and workforce models. Salgado helped pioneer an education program that adapts the principles of contextualized learning to help individuals acquire the skills required for higher-paying jobs in manufacturing, healthcare, and other sectors with a growing demand for a diverse, multilingual workforce. Instituto’s Carreras en Salud program helps meet the need for bilingual health care by preparing limited English-proficient individuals for careers as Certified Nursing Assistants (CNA), Licensed Practical Nurses (LPN), and Registered Nurses (RN). In 2010, Salgado opened the Instituto Health Sciences Career Academy, a charter high school aimed at preparing Chicago’s youth for success in the growing healthcare industry.

Prior to becoming the CEO of Instituto in 2001, Salgado was programs director of The Resurrection Project, a community development organization in the Pilsen neighborhood of Chicago. He is a member of the Chicago Park District Board of Commissioners, Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, Chicagoland Manufacturing Renaissance Council Executive Board, Leadership Greater Chicago Board of Directors, and the Adler School of Professional Psychology Board of Trustees. He holds a master’s degree in urban planning from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a bachelor’s degree in economics from Illinois Wesleyan University.

Sonia Soltero,Associate Professor, Department Chair (Leadership, Language and Curriculum), College of Education, DePaul University

Sonia W. Soltero received her PhD from the University of Arizona and is currently Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of Leadership, Language, and Curriculum in the College of Education at DePaul University. Soltero’s publications focus on bilingual/dual education, English learners, and Latino education in the US. She has authored three books: Dual Language Education: Program Design and Implementation; School-Wide Approaches to Educating English Language Learners; and Dual Language: Teaching and Learning in Two Languages. Soltero has been involved in the field as a public school bilingual teacher, university professor, researcher, and professional developer. She co-founded and currently co-chairs the Illinois English Language Advocacy Council in Higher Education (ELACHE) and serves on a number of statewide education commissions and councils.

John Slocum, Director, Migration Program Area, The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation

John Slocum is Director of the MacArthur Foundation’s Migration program area, which seeks to improve conditions for vulnerable migrants while laying the groundwork for fundamental improvements in migration policies and practices at the national, regional, and global levels. He serves on the board of Grantmakers Concerned with Immigrants and Refugees, and previously directed the MacArthur Foundation’s Higher Education Initiative in Russia. John has a PhD in political science from the University of Chicago and has published research on philanthropy, migration, and Russian studies. He has been a visiting fellow at the Maecenata Institute for Philanthropy and Civil Society (in Berlin), and a visiting practitioner at the Blavatnik School of Government (at the University of Oxford). Prior to joining MacArthur in 1997, he taught political science at the University of Oklahoma.

Layla Suleiman González, Director, Program in Human Services, Loyola University Chicago

Dr. Layla P. Suleiman Gonzalez, J.D, has been an advocate, policymaker, professor and evaluator, advancing access and equity for Latinos and other minority groups for almost 30 years. Throughout her career in government, consulting, and higher education, Dr. Suleiman Gonzalez has dedicated her life to serving others –students, nonprofits, and the community at large. Her practice and scholarship focus on capacity building, performance management, and human/civil rights approaches to health and human services.

In 2007, she wrote legislation to establish the State of Illinois Latino Family Commission and in 2013 she became its founding Executive Director. In this role, she has been a fierce advocate for Latinos in state government, writing several pieces of legislation and promoting equity in state programs, employment, grants and contracts. She represents the Latino community on numerous Boards, Commissions and Task Forces. She previously served as the Federal Court Appointed Monitor for the Burgos Consent Decree which demands fair treatment of Latino families in IDCFS.

As a consultant, she has worked with nonprofits, foundations and government to build capacity and deepen understanding of the Latino community. She has provided training and technical assistance, to facilitate growth and sustainability, through strategic planning, change management, performance and outcome measurement and monitoring, collaborative facilitation, policy development and evaluation. She is an expert in aligning mission and vision with outcomes, and served as the Director of Strategic Planning/Chief Results Officer (CRO) for the Illinois Department of Human Services where she led the Budgeting for Results implementation efforts for a 6 billion dollar state agency with over 200 programs.

Dr. Suleiman Gonzalez is the director of the Human Services interdisciplinary undergraduate program at Loyola University Chicago and previously taught in its School of Education. She also served as faculty at DePaul University for ten years. In the classroom, Dr. Suleiman Gonzalez is grateful for the opportunity to inspire students to commit to social justice and to realize their professional goals through advocacy, policy and service provision.

She has received several awards in recognition of her work including the “Cook County 7th District Women’s Recognition” from Cook County Commissioner Garcia, “Distinguished Alumna” award from the DePaul University Latino Law Student Association, “Community Advocate” from Healthcare Alternative Systems, “Community Advocate for Renewal and Empowerment” Award from Rincon Family Services, the Celeste Peña “Beacon of Light” award from the IDCFS Latino Advisory Committee, and the “Si Se Puede: Por Los Niños Award” from the CWLA National Council of Latino Executives.

Dr. Suleiman Gonzalez received her degree in Applied Developmental Psychology at Loyola University of Chicago and her J.D., with a certificate in International Law and Human Rights, from DePaul University.

Beth Swanson,Vice President of Strategy and Programs, Joyce Foundation

Beth Swanson is Vice President of Strategy and Programs at the Joyce Foundation, where she provides strategic direction and leadership for its policy-focused grant making and institution-wide special initiatives. Beth also directs the foundation’s Joint Fund for Education and Employment, which supports students from cradle to career with a special focus on partnerships between high schools and postsecondary institutions to help students succeed in education, careers and life.

Before joining Joyce, Beth served as Deputy for Education in the administration of Mayor Rahm Emanuel, working collaboratively with education and community leaders to define the city’s education policy agenda from birth through college. She served as the Mayor’s point person in expanding early learning opportunities, achieving a full school day, bringing quality school options to families and launching the city’s Summer of Learning initiative.  She also worked closely with Chicago’s business community to ensure that City Colleges of Chicago helped students learn skills relevant to the local job market.

She holds a bachelor’s degree in English and American Studies from Amherst College, and a master’s in Public Policy from the University of Chicago.

Thomas K. Thornburg

Thomas K. Thornburg is managing attorney for Farmworker Legal Services (FLS) of Michigan. FLS is a legal aid office that provides free representation to migrant and seasonal farm workers (MSFWs) in Michigan, assisting with legal problems in employment, benefits, housing, education, and immigration. In 2012, Thornburg received the Champion of Justice Award from the State Bar of Michigan, and was nominated by the Michigan Department of Civil Rights for his dedication to MSFWs. He is chair of the State Bar of Michigan Migrant Enumeration Task Force, and a member and former acting chair of its Interagency Migrant Services Council. Thornburg received his law degree from University of Minnesota Law School.

Daniel P. Tokaji, Professor of Law, The Ohio State University

Daniel P. Tokaji is the Charles W. Ebersold & Florence Whitcomb Ebersold Professor of Constitutional Law at The Ohio State University, Moritz College of Law, where he teaches Election Law, First Amendment, and Federal Courts. He is co-author of Election Law: Cases and Materials (5th ed. 2012) and author of Election Law in a Nutshell (2013). He has published numerous law review articles concerning political equality, racial justice, and the role of the federal courts in American democracy. Recent publications include The New Soft Money (2014), Responding to Shelby County: A Grand Election Bargain, 8 Harvard Law & Policy Review 71 (2014), and Applying Section 2 to the New Vote Denial, 50 Harvard Civil Rights – Civil Liberties Law Review 439 (2015). A graduate of Harvard College and the Yale Law School, Professor Tokaji clerked for the Honorable Stephen Reinhardt of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.