Announcing Illinois Humanities’ New Board Members

By Hannah Kucharzak

Read Time 3 minutes
August 24, 2023

Illinois Humanities is pleased to welcome two new board members, Sylvia Ewing and Tawa Mitchell. Collectively, Ewing and Mitchell bring their focuses in communications strategy, grantmaking, youth education, and community service to the board’s comprehensive roster of expertise.

“The humanities are the connecting tissue between culture, science, and policy,” Ewing said.“ Audre Lorde said, ‘There is no such thing as a single-issue struggle because we do not lead single-issue lives. Our struggles are particular, but we are not alone.’ I am delighted to come on board at this time when talking with each other and taking coordinated action is essential for the generations to come.”

“Throughout my personal and professional life, I have tried to honor the South African principle of Ubuntu: I am because we are,” Mitchell said. “It brings me such great joy to join an organization that is dedicated to amplifying the humanity in all of us by making connections across disciplines and divides to create a better Illinois and a richer society overall.”

Read about their innovative contributions to the worlds of humanities, education, arts and culture, and more.

Sylvia Ewing serves as Principal Director, Strategic Partnerships and Communications with Elevate, a nonprofit focused on climate equity. Sylvia leads a team of innovative communicators enhancing internal and external communications for good at and partners on behalf of Elevate with various coalitions, nonprofits, foundations, governments, and global corporations.

Sylvia is also a certified meditation teacher who brings appreciative inquiry and restorative practices into all she does. In addition, she is an award-winning broadcast, theater, and virtual events producer with previous experience in successful political campaigns. Executive experience includes strategy, fundraising, professional development, narrative change, crisis response, and special events. On-air credits include national PBS specials as talent and other roles. She has taught mindfulness and meditation to corporations and government staff and developed a pilot meditation program used by children and families at a University of Chicago Children’s Hospital. She is a poet and part of the Emotional Historians collective.

Sylvia is a member of the Forbes Communications Council and a proud member of the Communications Network. Sylvia serves as the Immediate Past Board Chair of Kartemquin Films and on the Center for Performing Arts at Governor State University. She is the recipient of the 2020 Illinois Humanities Award along with her daughter Eve. The author of Comfort and Joy Stories of Hope Meditations for Happiness, Ewing is also a popular speaker and moderator, reaching thousands each year in collaboration with her network of partners. She is a proud grandma and wife and lives outside Chicago in the Southland.

Tawa Mitchell has responsibility for grantmaking in the Chicago Commitment program, a portfolio aimed at investing in people, places, and partnerships to advance racial equity and build a more inclusive Chicago.

Prior to joining MacArthur, Tawa served as the Director of Education Policy and Partnerships in the Office of Mayor Rahm Emanuel. In this role, Tawa focused on supporting educational opportunities across the K-16 spectrum. Tawa also served as the inaugural Interim Director for Thrive Chicago, a multi-sector collective that aims to increase equitable outcomes for Chicago’s youth. Previously, Tawa served as Executive Director of Strategic Partnerships at the City Colleges of Chicago. Prior to that, Tawa also served as Assistant to Mayor Richard M. Daley for Education and worked at the Chicago Public Schools as Senior Manager of the Community Schools Initiative.

Tawa holds a Master of Arts degree from the University of Chicago’s Crown Family School of Social Work, Policy, and Practice, a Bachelor of Arts degree from Spelman College, and she is a Class of 2018 Leadership Greater Chicago Fellow, the region’s premier civic leadership development program.

A native Chicagoan, Tawa dedicates much of her extracurricular time to community service. She currently serves on the Board of Directors for Chicago Women in Philanthropy, the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society of Illinois, and the Parks Foundation of Oak Park. Tawa is also a member of the Theta Omega Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated, and the Lake Shore Chapter of the Links, Incorporated, both of which are organizations dedicated to community service.