Six Indian-Americans selected as fellows of the University of Chicago Civic Leadership Academy



2018 Civic Leadership Academy Welcome Reception, January 10, 2018 at Harold Washington Library.(Photo by Jean Lachat)

Six Indian-Americans were selected as government and nonprofit leaders for the Civic Leadership Academy at the University of Chicago on Wednesday, Jan. 10.

They include:

  • Ali Abid, program coordinator, Cook County Justice Advisory Council
  • Kulsum Ameji, senior attorney at Legal Assistance Foundation of Chicago
  • Seemi Choudry, director, Office of New Americans, City of Chicago Office of the Mayor
  • Avik K. Das, acting director and chief probation officer, Circuit Court of Cook County
  • Abin Kuriakose, program manager, ChicagoNEXT, World Business Chicago
  • Hilesh Patel, deputy director, Hyde Park Art Center

On Jan. 11, the fellows began a rigorous six-month program that will teach leadership skills focusing on specific skills needed to further the work of those selected. In March, the fellows will travel to the University of Chicago Center in Delhi, India, for a week-long global practicum and upon completion of the program, they will receive a certificate in civic leadership from Harris.

“The University of Chicago has a longstanding commitment to urban scholarship and to civic engagement. We created the Civic Leadership Academy with the goal of bringing our focus on those two areas together to develop nonprofit and government leaders who will work to find solutions to the challenges affecting our communities,” Derek Douglas, the University of Chicago’s vice president for civic engagement and external affairs who chairs the Civic Leadership Academy Advisory Council, said in the press release.

“I had done a lot of leadership education, but what is so special and transformative about the Civic Leadership Academy is that it focuses on the next generation of civic leaders,” Daniel Diermeier, who was the dean of Harris Public Policy and is now the University of Chicago’s Provost, is quoted saying in the press release. “It is a testament to what makes Chicago unique, the sense of civic engagement that brings together higher education, the business community, nonprofits, philanthropy, and the government side to work in partnership,” Diermeier added.

The Office of Civic Engagement and Harris launched the Civic Leadership Academy in 2014, in partnership with the University’s other professional schools – Chicago Booth School of Business, Graham School of Continuing Liberal and Professional Studies, UChicago Law School, and School of Social Service Administration – and the Institute of Politics, as well as Local Initiatives Support Corp. (LISC) Chicago, Civic Consulting Alliance, the City of Chicago, and Cook County.

“I want to thank the University of Chicago for the investment it is making in effective leaders in government and our nonprofit sector,” said Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle.

“As an advisory council member, I had the opportunity to be involved in the selection process and to meet many of this year’s fellows. They are an unquestionably talented and passionate group, from an impressive diversity of backgrounds,” said Chicago Mayor Robert Rivkin.

“The University of Chicago and the Harris School have long prided ourselves on giving all of our students the analytical tools, the data tools, and the clear-eyed analysis we think is necessary for good public policy out in the world. The tools are great, but the tools don’t change the world, it’s the people using them, who deploy them on our thorniest problems and biggest challenges,” said Harris Dean Katherine Baicker.

Academy alumna Jessica Marshall, the director of Chicago Public Schools’ Department of Social Science and Civic Engagement, praised the program. “Maximizing your experience in CLA is about the possibilities that will emerge while you engage these next six months. It is about this precious, unique opportunity to deeply reflect, challenge your long-held assumptions, question the impact you are making, and think about the partnerships and relationships that you value most,” Marshall said.



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