Alumni Association Board
The Alumni Association Board is dedicated to advancing the mission, vision, and values of the Crown Family School. We strive to build, strengthen, and maintain strong, mutually beneficial relationships between the alumni and all facets of the School. We connect with students and alumni across the country, advance the reputation of the School, and develop a pipeline to build capacity for student scholarships. The Alumni Association Board's main mission and purpose is to:
Alumni Association Board
Eugene Robinson Jr. is the Director of Postsecondary Support & Strategy for the Office of Innovation and Incubation (I&I) and the Options Schools (which is the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) network of alternative high schools). Prior to his current role he was the Manager of Postsecondary Initiatives for the Office of School Counseling and Postsecondary Advising (OSCPA). As manager, Eugene oversaw the district-wide implementation of the college and career enterprise tool, Naviance for over 500+ CPS Middle & High Schools, as well as senior seminar and other special district postsecondary initiatives. Eugene has over 13 years of experience in K-12 education, higher education and social work. Over the years, Eugene's passion for postsecondary has led to the successful implementation of both school-based and district initiatives. Eugene earned his undergraduate degree from the Chicago State University and a master's degree from the University of Chicago Crown Family School of Social Work, Policy, and Practice.
Peter has more than 25 years of experience in the substance use disorder treatment and recovery field. For the past seven years, Peter has played a key role in the development of federal drug policy and in coordinating its implementation across federal agencies. He has focused especially on policy development in relation to addiction treatment and recovery support, including the national opioid crisis.
Prior to his work with the federal government, Peter served as a Senior Associate at Altarum Institute, where he provided technical assistance to states and tribes implementing programs under the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Center for Substance Abuse Treatment (SAMHSA/CSAT) Access to Recovery Program, and at Abt Associates, where he served as Project Manager for the SAMHSA/CSATPartners for Recovery Initiative. Before moving to the Washington, DC area, Peter served as the Administrator of Program Development for the Illinois Division of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse (DASA). In that role, he was charged with improving systems and services, and overseeing a wide range of initiatives, programs and projects budgeted at approximately $30 million annually. He led a team of 10 who applied for and managed federal grants and who implemented and managed innovative projects funded by the state, such as the development of co-occurring mental health and substance use disorder treatment networks, compulsive gambling treatment, and cross-system, cross-agency teams to serve homeless people with substance use, mental health, or co-occurring disorders. He also served on the Executive Committee of the Chicago Continuum of Care. Peter’s service with the State of Illinois began in 1993, when he served as an analyst in the Illinois Bureau of the Budget (now the Illinois Office of Management and Budget), where he was responsible for the budgets of the Department of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse, the Department of Aging, and the Guardianship and Advocacy Commission. Before joining the State of Illinois, Peter served as a program director, family educator, and counselor in the addictions treatment field; as an English and French instructor; and, as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Burkina-Faso, West Africa, where he taught at the University of Ouagadougou.
Inspired to enter the addictions field by his personal experience of addiction to alcohol and recovery from it and his experience growing up in a family affected by alcohol addiction, Peter has worked personally to reduce the stigma and misunderstanding that surround addiction and recovery by educating the public and policy makers about the science and the experience of addiction and recovery. To this end, he speaks publicly and writes as a person in recovery from addiction.
Peter holds an AM from the University of Chicago School of Crown Family School of Social Work, Policy, and Practice and a BA in English from Marquette University. He also studied at the Université de Paris V (Académie Rene Descartes) and at the Université de Paris IV (La Sorbonne).
Prior to attaining her degree from the Crown Family School of Social Work, Policy, and Practice (hereafter called “the School”), Loretta had raised her two sons to young adulthood, and had built a successful 15-year career in social service management. Loretta, one of five in an Italian-American Catholic family, grew up with a brother who was born with Down Syndrome in 1951, which inspired her to serve the disability population for ten years. Before starting graduate school, Loretta had developed, implemented, and managed a Medicaid Waiver funded program, the Adult Home Based Support and Services Program, that grew to the largest of its kind in the state of Illinois. This program gives adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities, supports and services, to live as independently as possible in the home of their choice in the community. Her brother became a recipient of this program in his later years, as he led a rich, full, life in the home of his choice, his family home. Documented in his Chicago Sun-Times 2021 obituary, is a testament of that life:
Since receiving her AM degree, Loretta has transitioned to a career of healthcare social work. While working five years for the Ascension Living Resurrection Life Center skilled nursing facility, Loretta used both her micro and macro education as a social worker for the residents and patients of the facility, and eventually became the Director of Social Services during the pandemic. Currently, Loretta serves vulnerable populations within the context of her work as a social work case manager at Ascension Alexian Brothers Medical Center. In this role, she is a transition specialist in assisting the most complex of cases—the undocumented, the homeless, those suffering from substance abuse disorders and/or mental illness, and new stroke victims—to transition to the next step in their care.
Loretta has served eight years as a Board Officer of the Crown Family School Alumni Association Board of Directors, and has worked closely with fellow Board colleagues in collaboration with the School to: (1) develop an annual strategic plan that identifies main goals to assist the School in meeting its mission; (2) help create effective content in the 2016 “Voice of the Customer” survey to better serve the Alumni Board main stakeholders, its Alumni; (3) advocate to obtain a seat at the table for the Crown Family School Inclusion, Equity, and Diversity Committee; (4) recruit exceptionally talented Crown Family Alumni for Board Membership with a focus to creating a more diverse Board in all facets of diversity; and (5) amend Alumni Board Bylaws to focus Alumni Board work to meet its mission. Loretta’s main focus now is to facilitate broader, more effective, outreach to Alums to create greater opportunity for connection among Crown Family School Alumni everywhere, with each other, and to the School.
Paul W. Colson holds Masters and doctoral degrees in social work from the Crown Family School of Social Work, Policy, and Practice, University of Chicago. Following his doctoral work, he relocated to New York City where he worked for over 25 years for Columbia University, serving as the Program Director for the Charles P. Felton National Tuberculosis Center at Harlem Hospital and then as an Associate Research Scientist at ICAP, Mailman School of Public Health.
Dr. Colson has an overarching interest in the delivery of health and mental health services for disadvantaged populations, including behavioral and systemic issues which impact service use. With NIH funding, he has conducted studies of HIV Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis and of peer interventions to increase adherence among patients with HIV and with latent tuberculosis infection. Dr. Colson relocated to Chicago in 2018 where he continues to work on issues related to HIV/AIDS and peer workers.
Dana Franceschini is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who received her BS in Psychology (2014) from Michigan State University and AM in Social Services Administration (2017) from the University of Chicago in the Older Adult Program of Study. Her previous work experience was as the Transitional Care Supervisor at a non-profit, overseeing the coordination and implementation of two social work-led care management models. She is currently pursuing her PhD in Social Work at UIC. Her research interests include aging, social and structural determinants of health, social work in healthcare, and health equity. She is also a yoga instructor and a proud dog mom.
Ronda Franks has worked as both a clinical social worker and an English teacher over the past 40 years. She holds a B.A. in Psychology from the University of Wisconsin, a M.A. in Social Service Administration from the University of Chicago, and a M.A.T. from National Louis University with a certification in Secondary English. Most recently she taught Language Arts for 12 years to 7th and 8th grade students at Springman Middle School in Glenview. Prior to that she worked with adolescents and their families as a clinical social worker. Additionally, she was a member of the Northfield District 29 School Board for 8 years where she served as Vice-President and Chairman of the Education Committee and is currently a member of the Alumni Board at the Crown School of Social Work at the University of Chicago. Finally, she is thrilled to now blend her social work and teaching skills by co-facilitating parent discussion groups with a former teaching colleague.
Kai Guterman is the Senior Manager of Knowledge Management at the Child Welfare Information Gateway, a service of the US Children’s Bureau. With 19 years of experience in child welfare and human services, his work has ranged from the frontlines to conducting research and delivering technical assistance at county, state, and federal levels. His current work in knowledge management seeks to leverage the collective expertise, data, and insights of groups in order to solve systemic problems and rapidly spread ideas and innovation--in service of meeting the needs of vulnerable children and families.
Dr. Teresa Leary Handy is an Assistant Professor at the University of Arizona Global Campus. Dr. Handy leads the ASH 101 course program. She is the former Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at an all-girl private school. She has worked in public, charter, and private schools as an early childhood and elementary educator and a learning specialist. She has presented at national and international conferences, serves as a journal reviewer, and is a published author. Her first children's book, "I Have an Elephant in my Ear,” tackles how to have courageous conversations with young children about the diversity of abilities. Finally, Dr. Handy is an active community volunteer where she lives in Memphis, TN, and she serves as a board member of a charter school. Teresa is married to Carl, a farmer and business owner in Mississippi. She is the proud mother of James, a senior at Arizona State University, and Phoebe, a sophomore in high school. In her spare time, she enjoys traveling, reading, knitting (scarves only), and planning a delightful retirement in Hampton, Virginia.
Youngjo Im, AM ’93, PhD ’13, is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Social Work at Chicago State University. She conducts research on child development and social policy, as well as studies the link between educational attainment and youth labor market outcomes. She teaches Social Science Research Methods I & II, and Capstone Seminar, in which students work on real-world projects to improve people’s lives and communities through critical analysis. She serves on the Diversity Network Committee (DNC) and Early Career Preventionists Network (ECPN) Steering Committee of the Society for Prevention Research (SPR). She is also involved in SPR’s Standards of Knowledge Update Task Force. Im received a PhD and an AM from the University of Chicago Crown Family School of Social Work, Policy, and Practice. She also received a SM in Data Science from the University of Chicago. She enjoys architecture, statistics, backlot coffee, and Korean calligraphy (seoye).
After graduating from the Crown Family School, Karen developed and directed one of the country's first psychiatric rehabilitation programs for deaf people while working at Thresholds, Inc. in Chicago. She has led in advocating for and helping create legislation in Illinois toward statewide mental health services for persons who are deaf and mentally ill and has consulted on similar projects in other states. In addition, Karen co-founded a sign language interpreter agency and an organization for families adopting children from the former Soviet Union. She is an active advocate in PFLAG, a support group for families of LGBTQ individuals, and is involved in promoting accessible mental health services.
While living in Seattle, Karen worked with several interpreters to start a woman and employee-focused for-profit sign language interpreter business as an alternative to the more corporate independent-contractor model. After that business, she worked with her husband to set up another for-profit service company providing captioning for deaf people (or anyone wanting to view the text of what was being spoken in real-time). Meanwhile, she has maintained a small private clinical psychotherapy practice to stay in touch with her passion for working with individuals and families.
Karen has won widespread recognition for her work, including an award from the American Psychiatric Association. But she is most proud of being the first recipient of the University of Chicago Crown Family School's Elizabeth Butler Award in 1992.
Tawakalitu J. Mitchell is a Senior Program Officer at the John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation where she has responsibility for grantmaking in the Chicago Commitment program.
Prior to joining MacArthur, Tawa spent thirteen years in a variety of education policy and program roles in city government, including the Offices of Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Mayor Richard M. Daley, the City Colleges of Chicago and Chicago Public Schools.
Tawa holds an M.A. from the Crown Family School and a B.A. from Spelman College. 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, organizations dedicated to community service.
Tawa is a Class of 2018 Leadership Greater Chicago Fellow, the region’s premier civic leadership development program.
is currently the Milieu Treatment Manager at Lawrence Hall's Child and Family Treatment Center, a residential treatment program for youth in care throughout the state of Illinois. After graduating from the Crown Family School in 2013, Liz worked as a Social Worker at a therapeutic day school for students who had been removed from their home schools due to emotional and behavioral challenges. Prior to the Crown Family School, Liz's previous positions included those with the Senate Office of Barack Obama, AmeriCorps, and Woodlawn Childrens Promise Community. Liz is currently a certified trainer of Therapeutic Crisis Intervention through Cornell University.
Liz graduated from the Crown Family School with a Social Administration concentration and she completed the Community Schools program of study. As a first-year student, Liz was chosen for the Social Innovation Fellowship, which she used to further her study on trauma during childhood and adolescence within a children's home in Johannesburg, South Africa. Liz holds a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology and English from Augustana College.
Liz is interested in examining the role that trauma plays in youths' development and their ability to successfully navigate multiple settings. She is passionate about developing capacity for school, home, and community-based settings to better respond to and support youth who have experienced significant and chronic trauma.
I used to think that the most important thing for people to know about me was my educational and professional achievements and accomplishments. Now I believe the most important thing to tell people is that I have a lifelong commitment to my family and community. I believe in God and the inherent goodness of mankind. I believe that character and integrity are uncompromising and it is important to stand up for what you believe to be right.
“You don’t make progress by standing on the sidelines, whimpering and complaining. You make progress by implementing ideas.” - Shirley Chisholm
Ms. Murray’s commitment to the well-being of children and families has spanned over 35 years. She attended Illinois State University where she received her Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology and the University of Chicago School of Social Service Administration, where she received a Masters degree with a concentration in Social Service Administration. She is a Certified Trainer in Psychological First Aid, received a Certificate in Mediation Skills Training from Northwestern University and is a Fellow of Georgetown University’s Center for Juvenile Justice Reform. Ms. Murray has held executive level positions in child welfare, in both the public and provider sectors including; Chief of Staff at the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, CEO at Chicago Child Care Society and Associate Executive
Director at The Child Care Association of Illinois (now Illinois Collaboration On Youth).
She is a Lecturer, in the Social Sector Leadership & Nonprofit Management Masters Degree Program, at the Crown Family School of Social Work, Policy and Practice. She was previously appointed to the Governor’s Child Welfare Workforce Crisis Taskforce (2020) and currently serves on the Governor’s Advisory Commission on Reducing the Disproportionate Representation of African-American Children in Foster Care.
More about Jesus Palafox Valdovinos AM ’17 to come.
John Tropman grew up in Buffalo, NY and then, Pittsburgh, PA. His father (now deceased), brother and wife are social workers. He got a BA from Oberlin College (where he worked in the Alumni Office), then an AM from the Crown Family School of Social Work, Policy, and Practice (formerly SSA), followed by a Ph.D. in Social Work and Sociology. His career is in Macro practice, and he has two articles included in the recent publication Encyclopedia of Macro Practice, Teaching Policy, Community Organization, Leadership, Management, and Evaluation. In addition, he has taught courses in Management and Total Compensation at the Ross School of Business and in their Executive Education Program as well. Over his career, he has taught at University of Southern California, University of Notre Dame, University of Houston, and has enjoyed teaching Fulbright Scholars in Japan and Australia. In addition to his scholarly work, he has been Interim Dean at the School of Social Work at Michigan, Associate Dean, Head of the Doctoral Program, and has chaired many advisory committees at the University level. He is a member of the Academy of Social Work and Social Science and Past President of the Network for Social Work Management.
More about Briahna Williams AM ’21 to come.
is the Managing Director of Blackbird. She is also on their Board of Directors and is President. Caitlin, who is from South Bend, Indiana, counsels nonprofits, small businesses, and political campaigns on strategy related to marketing, fundraising, communications, philanthropy, grant writing, and social enterprise. Since 2006, she has worked on over 25 political campaigns at all levels of government and is an active member of her community as a volunteer for several organizations focused on economic empowerment. As a professional fundraiser, Smith has worked with nonprofit leaders to return $4 million dollars investment in human services organizations in Northern Indiana over the last eight years. She serves on the Board of Directors for a national organization that educates women leaders on issues related to foreign policy, nuclear arms, and defense. Smith holds an AM from the University of Chicago Crown Family School of Social Work, Policy, and Practice where she focused on Social Welfare Policy and Management and a BA in Political Science from Indiana University.
Emeritus Alumni Association Board Members
is the Program Manager for the Violence Intervention and Prevention Services Department for UCAN. He has been working in the field since 1991 and for UCAN since 1994. Currently, Jacob manages programming of UCAN's violence intervention and prevention services department in the North Lawndale community. In this role, Jacob develops and coordinates a range of mentoring, youth leadership, and mental health and family-related services through engagement and collaboration with North Lawndale community organizations and various departments of UCAN.
Jacob actively works to address levels of violence in North Lawndale through supervising and administering a unit of assigned youth development coaches. The coaches direct, guide, and support youth in becoming more involved in outside-of-school activities such as counseling, employment, and recreation as well as working with youth on violence prevention skills (i.e., anger management, conflict resolution, life skills). Jacob also supervises and administers clinicians providing a wide range of therapeutic services to participants in community-based outpatient counseling settings.
Jacob plays an integral role in establishing and maintaining beneficial partnerships with community organizations in order to facilitate learning and growth opportunities for youth at risk for becoming victims of and/or committing crimes. Dancer drives these opportunities through training North Lawndale social service agencies to help them become model trauma-informed agencies.
During her long career, Louise Doss-Martin, AB ’59, AM ’63, has been a clinician, administrator, researcher, policy and program developer, and international consultant. She made history as one of the youngest members of her Crown Family School class and was one of the first African American women to receive a graduate degree at the University. Louise’s career also includes numerous federal awards, and accolades from the American Public Health Association.
Examining black maternal mortality and black infant mortality has been a focus for much of Louise’s work. Her research at the US Public Health Service (USPHS) in Chicago generated attention and spurred the creation of comprehensive prenatal care in Illinois. That work led to a position in Washington, D.C. during the crack cocaine epidemic where she helped create programs for addicted women and their infants. Louise retired in 2006 after a 30-year career working in the USPHS and National Health Service Corps, where her efforts in integrating mental health services with primary medical care benefited more than 12 million people nationwide.
After graduating from Crown Family School in 1965, Marshall served in the Jewish Community for over 40 years. He began as the Assistant Director of the Kansas City Jewish Federation. After learning the intricacies of working in the Jewish community and further developing his leadership skills, Marshall was selected as the Executive Director of the Louisville Jewish Federation. In 1974, he became the Associate Director and Director of Fundraising for the Jewish Federation of Cleveland where, with the help of great volunteers, he raised nearly $180 million dollars over a 10-year span.
He moved with his family to New York in 1984 to become a Vice President of the national United Jewish Appeal (UJA) and was instrumental in the effort to rescue both the Soviet and Ethiopian Jews and led the effort to raise several hundreds of millions of dollars for their resettlement. Marshall finished his career in Chicago serving as the regional Director for the Midwest for the UJA, which had just merged with the Council of Jewish Federations. His final work before retirement was serving as an American representative of the Jewish Agency for Israel.
In 2005, Marshall retired. He is currently a volunteer for the Executive Service Corps of Chicago consulting with non-for-profits; a student at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at Northwestern; and owner and president of Tours R Us Chicago LLC, a touring company he began in 2007. He was very pleased to serve on the Crown Family School Board of Directors for the School which gave him the opportunity (in some small ways) to help repair the world!
Joanne Medak AM ’74 is a clinical social worker with more than 40 years of experience in the field. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Grinnell College and a Masters of Arts degree from the University of Chicago Crown Family School of Social Work, Policy, and Practice. Most recently, she worked for 18 years in a public high school where she led a team of teachers charged with early identification of students at risk and active intervention for students and their families. Her team also established training programs for teachers to address social-emotional learning and adolescent mental health concerns, and established a partnership with agencies in the surrounding community to provide services to students, regardless of their ability to pay for treatment. Joanne has also maintained a private practice for 35 years; she continues to work with individuals and couples. She has supervised and mentored counseling and social work interns and served as a field work supervisor for the Crown Family School.
As a board member Joanne would like to increase communication between Crown Family School students and alumni to support active mentorship and to introduce more opportunities for life-long learning to Crown Family School alumni. Joanne loves Chicago Theater and reading, and she is a long distance runner and hiker.
is a Performance Improvement Consultant at Rush University Medical Center where she leads projects to improve healthcare quality and patient outcomes. Prior to her work at Rush, Alison was an Analyst in the Community Health Department at FirstHealth of the Carolinas, where she helped realigned departmental strategy to better meet the needs of low-income and disparate populations. Prior to FirstHealth, Alison was the Health Policy Coordinator at the American Lung Association where she advocated for the successful Smoke Free Chicago and Smoke Free Illinois campaigns.
Alison graduated from the University of Chicago Crown Family School of Social Work, Policy, and Practice in 2008 with a Master of Arts in Social Service Administration. While at the Crown Family School, she studied administration and participated in the Graduate Program in Health Administration and Policy (GPHAP) as a Brown Fellow. Alison holds a Bachelor of Arts in Communication and a Bachelor of Science in Psychology from Loyola University Chicago, a certificate in Epidemiology from the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, and a Master of Healthcare Administration from UIC.
Alison joined the Crown Family School alumni board in 2012. Alison is committed to promoting networking among social workers to strengthening our partnerships with each other and improve our collective ability to serve our communities and clients.