Announcing the 2016 Edgar Fellows

Friday, July 29, 2016

Announcing the 2016 Edgar Fellows

Forty emerging leaders from throughout Illinois have been selected as 2016 Edgar Fellows in the fifth year of an initiative to inspire bipartisan, inter-regional cooperation in addressing major challenges for the state in the years and decades ahead.

The women and men, chosen from nearly 150 nominees, reflect the regional, political, racial and ethnic diversity of Illinois. They include elected and appointed officials from all levels of government as well as individuals who have made their mark in the business world and civic engagement. 

“Since we launched this initiative in 2012, we have seen Democrats, Republicans and independents, from the neighborhoods in Chicago to the rural areas of deep southern Illinois, discover they have much in common even as they develop an appreciation for other viewpoints,” former Gov. Jim Edgar said. "I am confident this class of fellows also will form bonds that will serve them and our state well as they climb the leadership ladder.”

The fellows will gather from July 31 through August 4 in Urbana-Champaign for an intense executive training program fashioned and hosted by Edgar and the University of Illinois Institute of Government and Public Affairs (IGPA). The fellows will engage with each other, experienced practitioners, and policy experts in areas such as health care and economic development.

Subsequently, they will join the Edgar Fellows classes of 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015 and future years in gatherings designed to further their education and build their professional networks.

The program is funded primarily by donations from a diverse group of individuals, organizations and companies interested in promoting competent, ethical and solution-oriented leadership in Illinois. 

“There is no question that Illinois will progress only with leaders who know their colleagues and have an understanding of opposing perspectives,” said IGPA director Christopher Z. Mooney. “The program’s focus is to bring our future leaders together to forge relationships now that can lead to a better future for our state. IGPA and the University of Illinois are very proud to host the Edgar Fellows.”      


Edgar Fellows Class of 2016

Angelica Alfaro, Chicago, former manager of government affairs for Noble Network of Charter Schools and candidate for Illinois state senate district 2 in March, 2016

Grant Anderson, chief executive officer, Boys & Girls Club of Bloomington-Normal

Todd Belcore, Chicago, co-founder and executive director of Social Change and member of Mayor Emanuel’s Policy-Community Relations Working Group

State Senator Scott Bennett, Champaign

Katie Blakeman, circuit clerk of Champaign County

Steven Bost, Murphysboro, Jackson County board member

Laura Calderon, Chatham, executive director for the Illinois Public Transportation Association

Nicholas Colvin, Chicago, attorney and former personal aide to then-Senator Barack Obama

Jennifer Creasey, Springfield, director of state relations for the University of Illinois’ Office of Government Relations

Joseph “J. D.” Dalfonso, Peoria, communications director for Congressman Darin LaHood

John Donovan, Palos Park, special assistant and counsel to the Cook County Sheriff

Michael Dropka, North Riverside, compliance manager in the Local Government Division for the State of Illinois Comptroller

Nyota Figgs, city clerk of Calumet City

Andrew Freiheit, Wheaton, chief of staff for the office of Illinois House Minority Leader

State Representative Randy Frese, Quincy

Ryan Gammelgard, Bloomington, counsel for State Farm Corporate Law Department

State Representative Will Guzzardi, Chicago

Ranjit Hakim, Chicago, executive director of Cook County Department of Human Rights and Ethics

Blake Hudson, Zion, deputy political director for Congressman Robert Dold

Bryen Johnson, Springfield, legislative director of the Illinois Federation of Teachers

State Senator Emil Jones III, Chicago

Jacqueline Lacy, Hoopeston, public defender and candidate for state’s attorney of Vermilion County

Era Laudermilk, Chicago, deputy director for Illinois Justice Project

Juan Carlos Linares, Chicago, executive director of Latin United Community Housing Association

Caitlyn McEllis, Springfield, senior legal counsel for Office the Senate President

Megan McKenna Mejia, Waukegan, executive director and chief executive officer of Mano a Mano Family Resource Center

Erin O’Brien, Chicago, vice president, state legislative affairs for Illinois State Medical Society

Andrew Quarnstrom, Champaign, supervisor, City of Champaign Township

Carlos Ramirez-Rosa, Chicago city council member

Nancy Rotering, mayor of Highland Park 

Anel Ruiz, Chicago, chief executive officer of Innovation Illinois 

Rebecca Shi, Chicago, executive director of Illinois Business Immigration Coalition 

Juliana Stratton, Chicago, director of Center for Public Safety and Justice at University of Illinois Chicago and candidate for state representative

Gilbert Villegas, Chicago city council member

Dr. Sameer Vohra, Springfield, assistant professor of clinical pediatrics at Southern Illinois University School of Medicine and trustee of Sangamon County Medical Society

Sheldon Watts, Bolingbrook, DuPage township trustee

State Representative Emanuel “Chris” Welch, Hillsdale

Acasia Wilson Feinberg, Chicago, executive director of Educators 4 Excellence

Sarah Wochos, Chicago, Assistant Vice President, BMO Financial Group

State Representative Michael Zalewski, Chicago