Our Team

HERO Our Team 090223

Illinois Humanities is powered by a dedicated team of Board and staff members whose care and commitment have helped to increase our impact across the state. Get to know the people who make our work possible and browse available opportunities at Illinois Humanities below.

Board Members

Jai L. Winston, Chair
Program Director, St. Paul
John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

Rikeesha Phelon, Vice Chair* 
Director of Marketing and Communications
SIU School of Medicine

Mea Konopasek, Treasurer
Vice President, Commercial Banking
BMO Harris Bank

Bridget Hayman, Secretary
Communications Director
Access Living

Antoinette Burton
Maybelle Leland Swanlund Endowed Chair, History Department
University of Illinois at Champaign Urbana

Teresa L. Córdova
Director, Great Cities Institute and
Professor, Urban Planning and Policy
University of Illinois at Chicago

Sylvia Ewing
Principal Director, Strategic Partnerships and Communications 

Juana Guzmán
I Juana Know, Inc.

Erica S. Hubbard*
Director of Chicago Programs at the Obama Foundation

Susan Manning
Professor of English, Theatre, and Performance Studies
Northwestern University

Tawa Mitchell*
Senior Program Officer
John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation

Julio Paz
Chief External Affairs Officer
Chicago Commons

Laurence (Larry) Sophian
Director Ostrow Reisin Berk & Abrams (Retired)

Debra Yepa-Pappan*
Director of Exhibitions and Programs
Center for Native Futures

*Gubernatorial Appointee


Life Board

Deborah Epstein [Life Director]
Consultant to
Foundations and Not-for-Profit Organizations

Alton B. Harris [Life Director]
Nixon Peabody

J. Paul Hunter [Life Director]
Professor Emeritus
The University of Chicago


Gabrielle Lyon
Executive Director
Illinois Humanities

Staff Members

Contact Illinois Humanities staff by emailing
[first name].[last name]@ilhumanities.org.

Fairouz AbuGhazaleh
Director of Statewide Programs

Rebecca Amato
Director of Teaching and Learning

Jane Beachy
Artistic Director

Alyssa Bierce
Senior Manager of Marketing and Communications

Madeline Cruz
Administrative Coordinator

Michael Foley
Manager of Operations and Human Resources

Vicki Garza
Director of Finance

Mark Hallett
Director of Grants Programs

Morven Higgins
Director of Development and Communications

Joanne Hsu
Grants Programs Manager

Kurt Kindt
Staff Accountant


Martin Matsuyuki Krause
Special Projects Manager

Karen Loda
Development Manager

Gabrielle Lyon
Executive Director

Matt Meacham
Program Manager, Statewide Engagement

Willy Palomo
Program and Events Coordinator, Envisioning Justice

Hannah Sugarman
Foundation and Corporate Relations Coordinator

Zerline Thompson
Programs and Grants Coordinator

Robert White
Senior Director of Programs

Tia K. Williams
Digital Communications and Database Manager

Contact Us

General Information


Staff Retreat Karen Zerline Natl Mm Puerto Rican Arts Culture

Staff members share ideas at a retreat in Chicago.

PHA23 Fairouz

Board member Rikeesha Phelon (left) and Director of Statewide Programs Fairouz AbuGhazaleh present an award at the 2023 Public Humanities Awards (Photo by Glitter Guts Photography).

EDI Committee

The purpose of the Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) Committee is to guide and support Illinois Humanities in its efforts to integrate the ideals of EDI into its daily work, workplace culture, and relationships with our partners statewide. We strive for equitable representation and access to opportunities with regard to our staff, our communities, and the people and organizations we serve. We aim to examine and recognize Illinois Humanities’ role in perpetuating historical trauma, and we commit to dismantling systems of oppression. Contact the EDI Committee at edi@ilhumanities.org.

Committee Members

Jane Beachy
Artistic Director

Madeline Cruz
Administrative Coordinator

Karen Loda
Development Manager

Martin Matsuyuki Krause
Special Projects Manager

Zerline Thompson
Programs and Grants Coordinator

Robert White
Senior Director of Programs