Columbia Alumni Association & Network

National Alumni Board

Michael is a top fundraiser for the American Red Cross national office, serving as Sr. Director of Strategic Partnerships. Since joining the Chicago Red Cross in 2003, he has raised $150M for people in need. Now based in New York City, Michael facilitates complex global partnerships with the organization’s most significant corporate, foundation and individual donors. Legally blind since birth, Michael founded and serves as national co-sponsor of the American Red Cross Ability Network, a resource group for Red Cross staff and volunteers with disabilities. Prior to joining the American Red Cross, Michael raised funds for the medically underserved residents of Chicago’s Cabrini Green public housing development. He earlier worked in the alumni relations office at Columbia College Chicago and began his career in a small PR firm upon graduating from Columbia in 1996.

Michael holds a Master of Science degree in nonprofit administration from DePaul University. He currently serves on Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Jazz Pride Committee and formerly Co-Chaired The Chicago Community Trust’s Young Leaders Fund. He also helped to establish The Chicago Associate Board President’s Council. While a student at Columbia, Michael represented the College on the Illinois Board of Higher Education Student Advisory Council; served as president of the Hokin Student Advisory Board (a predecessor of today’s student government association); initiated and co-chaired the Class of 96 Gift Committee, which raised $100,000 to renovate the Underground Café in the 600 S. Michigan Ave., building; and he was the first student to move into Columbia’s first dorm at 731 S Plymouth Crt. It pays to arrive early. Michael’s father Mitchell “Mickey” Wojcik, attended what was then known as the Columbia School of Broadcasting in the 1950s, after his service in the Korean War.

Jeff Kinney is a 1987 Broadcast Journalism graduate of Columbia College Chicago. He attributes the outstanding teaching and internships he received at Columbia with preparing him for the opportunity to join a fledgling news organization known as CNN immediately following graduation. Kinney remains at CNN today as the Director of Field Production/Chief Photojournalist.

After joining CNN as an entry-level videojournalist, Jeff was immediately able to apply the knowledge that he had gained and Columbia, and soon had the privilege of covering countless historical news events around the globe in a variety of newsgathering and production roles. Kinney’s work has taken him from coverage of light-hearted feature stories to the battlefields of the Midde East, Africa, and Eastern Europe. Jeff’s work has been recognized by a variety awards organizations such as the Emmys, the Peabody Award, the Cine Golden Eagle, the Cable ACE Awards, and others. His career with CNN has also afforded him with the opportunity to live in Atlanta, Moscow, Chicago, Washington DC, and New York. Currently, he is based in New York City, where he leads a team of nearly 100 photojournalists and managers based in 11 US cities charged with covering all major US news events and many international news stories.

Just as he’s proud to wear the title of husband, father, journalist, and CNN employee; he is also honored to identify as a Columbia College Chicago graduate. Jeff embraces the privilege of serving on the CAAN board and strengthening the Columbia community so that students and alums can flourish in their chosen fields.

Jennifer Oliver O’Connell writes at As the Girl Turns™, is a senior political columnist for Communities Digital News, and maintained a column for 7 years on Los Angeles Faith and Community for Examiner.com.

Jennifer is also a contributor to the first of its kind women’s encyclopedia: Women in American History, A Social, Political, and Cultural Encyclopedia and Document Collection.

Jennifer is the Southwest Regional Representative for the Columbia College Chicago National Alumni Board. She graduated Columbia in 1987 with a Bachelor of Arts where she studied Commercial Art and Fiction Writing. Jennifer went on to get a Master of Arts in Screenwriting from the University of Southern California.

Along with her writing, Jennifer produces live events and coaches others on careers and reinvention, as well as teaches Yoga

Jennifer founded Tuesdays with Transitioners, a support group for those who have been laid off, downsized, entrepreneurs, and those looking to build their own business. Because of her work with job seekers, in May 2011 Jennifer was asked to be a part of a Jobs Club panel in Washington, D.C., hosted by the United States Secretary of Labor's Office of Faith-based initiatives and Neighborhood partnerships.

You can follow Jennifer on Twitter where she is known as a Voice among Black Conservatives. You can also keep abreast of her writing, public speaking, and reinvention work via her website, her YouTube channel, and on Facebook. Jennifer resides in Los Angeles with her husband and three dogs.

Regional Representatives

John started at CNN as a Video Journalist (VJ) 2 weeks after graduation. During the first 2 years at CNN John moved from VJ to doing audio, Master Control, graphics and floor directing. This was the basic path of gaining experience, taking skilled tests and proving that you can work in a 24/7 stressful news environment. The ultimate goal was to become a Technical Director (TD) then a Director. After taking the TD test, John was promoted to TD in 1990, and remained a TD at CNN for the next 6 yrs.

Highlights during this tenure were covering the Gulf War, the OJ Simpson trial, Oklahoma City, and the 1992 Election night. John was the main TD for the 1996 Election night coverage as well as DNC and RNC conventions.

John also traveled as a TD for Presidential and Vice Presidential debates.  The day after the 1996 Elections he took a position at CNNSI Sports network as a Director. It was a great experience but he quickly realized how much he missed news and especially the fast-past changing world of Breaking News.  

A management positioned opened with CNN International in 1998 overseeing the studios, control rooms and managing staff. John was offered the position, but little did he know that he was on a much different path than originally planned. With his technical background and directing leadership, it was a position in which he excelled, and he was given opportunity to constantly grow. John remained at CNNI and worked his way up from Supervisor to Manager and then Director of Operations. 

In 2006 John oversaw the London, Hong Kong and Abu Dhabi production centers. This allowed him to take many international trips, get involved in major projects linking CNN’s production centers together, and gain a higher profile within CNN management.  From 1998 to 2014, John’s time at CNN International gave him a lifetime of experiences, relationships and worldly ventures.  

In mid-2014 John’s boss came to him with the idea of moving to CNN domestic with a similar title and responsibilities, but much more exposure. He was excited about the challenge and has supported CNN and HLN networks ever since. The timing was interesting because of the looming 2016 elections and ever-changing cable news environment. Although John worked almost daily with his CNN Tech Ops teams in the other cities it was a different pace than CNNI. CNN International was a marathon and CNN was a sprint. John had the majority of 2015 to get acquainted with CNN’s workflows and programming direction. 2016 was the year of travel for John with political events all leading up to election night November, 2016.

“As far as I can tell the election is still on-going,” John says.  

On a personal note, John met his wife at CNN when they were both graphic operators in 1990. Aug 1st was their 25th wedding anniversary. They have a 22-year old daughter and 18-year old son, 2 horses, 3 dogs and 3 cats. John is an avid Cubs fan and still reeling over the 2016 World Series.

Braydan Hogue spent his final semester at Columbia College Chicago participating in the Screenwriting Semester in LA program. In a matter of days he nabbed an internship with the short-form content production company: Lut! Med!a Productions. This role transitioned into a full-time position working on the sets of music videos for superstars, such as Drake, Rihanna, & Zayn. Braydan loved the community of artists, the free-spirited people, and the sunny weather, but ultimately decided he needed a little more freezing-rain in his life and jumped the Hollywood ship before it sinks into the Pacific.  Braydan is currently a Creative Services Producer for KOMU8-TV: NBC Affiliate and Mid-Missouri CW.  

He eats, sleeps, and breathes video content: from waking up and having his morning cup of Snapchat and Instagram stories to attending at least two films a week at the cinema; Braydan LIVES video.

Marty Kane (BA '06, Instrumental Performance: Jazz Studies) is an arts and education advocate currently residing in Chicago. Marty serves as Senior Admissions Officer with Columbia College Chicago; he acts a resource to students and educators primarily from Illinois and California. Marty has been a steadfast alumni volunteer since completing his undergraduate studies.

Members at Large

Shani Black is currently a writer/producer on CBS Television’s #1 daytime talk show, Dr. Phil. As a member of the Writers Guild of America West and the Producers Guild of America, Ms. Black has produced both scripted and unscripted shows for MTV, OWN, Discovery, HGTV, Warner Brothers/Telepictures, NBCUniveral and FOX.

She credits Columbia College Chicago and the AEMM program with giving her the confidence and the tools she needed to complete with the industry’s best. While attending CCC, she was an RA and worked at the Portfolio Center.

Ms. Black currently resides in Los Angeles with her daughter and is also part owner of a health and beauty publication, Coverings Magazine.

Dennis Carlson transferred to Columbia College in 1995 as a recovering Business Econ major from Loyola Chicago. After graduating from Columbia in 1997 with a BA focused in Music Business Management & Marketing Dennis went on to a successful career in the music industry. Working in marketing positions for various independent and major record labels he’s worn multiple hats across the music industry eco-system. This diversity of knowledge also allowed him to maintain his “side hustle” via an artist management company, Ekonomisk Mgmt., which still operates today under the leadership of his co-founder.

In 2004, after he and his wife Steph welcomed their first child, they made a lifestyle choice to move from LA to Northern California. With few career options in the music industry, Dennis began consulting as a marketer for small businesses and eventually made a career change to the insurance industry. Working for a large regional insurance agency he quickly rose to a Director of Sales & Marketing position before founding his own insurance agency in 2009, Bespoke Benefits. Throughout his career he has held various board seats for the local chapter of his industry trade association, the National Association of Health Underwriters. He is also a Past President of the Sacramento Association of Health Underwriters, which has allowed him to advocate on behalf of his small business clients with Congressional leaders in DC as well as Legislators in Sacramento.

When it became apparent that technology was eating many of the functions typically handled by insurance agents Dennis developed the HR & benefits platform Benesnap in 2014.

Always interested in the intersection of art and commerce he remains actively involved in music and the arts via his consultancy Gaslight East and two local music and arts non-profits. Through Music Only Makes Sense, he helps present the Davis Music Festival each Summer. Dennis is also a founding member of the Davis Live Music Collective, a volunteer organization which brings world class music to downtown Davis, California throughout the year.

Ms. Castro has worked in the nonprofit sector for over 20 years. She has been employed by institutions including WBUR/NPR, the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum and St. Jude’s Recovery Center before moving into the independent school sector. Ms. Castro has served as an Advancement Services professional for Atlanta-area independent schools for the past ten years - including the Atlanta International School, The Paideia School and the Westminster Schools. She is currently the Data Manager at the Springmont School.

Ms. Castro has been active in the community. She served on the board of the local chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP). She was a member of the Atlanta Women’s Foundation Destiny Fund class of 2007 (which is a training ground for young Atlanta-area female philanthropists). Ms. Castro has been active with the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) as a Pre-Conference Co-Chair and faculty member. She has also been a faculty member for the Georgia Center for Non-Profits.

Her educational background includes a Bachelor's degree in Performing Arts Management from Columbia College Chicago and a Master’s degree in Arts Administration from Boston University. She resides in the Cabbagetown neighborhood of Atlanta where she lives with her husband Aras Petrulis.

Eight time Emmy Award winning producer Karen Lee Cohen lives and breathes television and health, wellness and positivity programming.

Since 1990 Karen has been President and Founder of Crystal Pyramid Productions Inc., a Los Angeles based corporation. The company provides pilot and series production and development for broadcast, cable and internet delivery; acquisition consultation; programming and channel development; program series budgeting; and station/channel operations. She is currently consulting for Sense of Agency, LLC on the launch of their Elixir Well Being Channel.

Karen’s most recent credits include Producer of: Vantage 2015 Keynote Event for AEI Live, “Beyond The Secret” live event at Royce Hall that played in 500 theatres nationwide; Conscious Entrepreneurial Experience Event at the Conscious Life Expo; and “Legends: Rodney Dangerfield” for Comedy Central.

Recruited by Paramount Television as Show Producer, she was responsible for the successful launch of the nightly reality magazine show “Hard Copy”. Prior to that Karen was Program Director at WNBC-TV for eight years, where she was responsible for a budget in excess of 75 million dollars per year, programming all non-news, non-network day parts and acquiring syndicated programming.

Ms. Cohen's first Emmy was for producing the ninety-minute music variety fashion extravaganza “NBC Salutes Chic Chicago” and the eight Regional Emmy awards are among the many industry awards she has won to date.

Ms. Cohen served was a member of the Board of Trustees of Columbia College Chicago from 1993 through 2004 and was Co-Chair of the Academic Affairs Committee for 3 terms. She was also a founding member of what is now the LA chapter of CAAN. She is a 2016-2017 member of the CAAN National Board. She is an active member of the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, where she has served on the Rewards Committee and on the ATAS Foundation’s Educational Programs and Services Committee. She has been a consultant to Columbia College Chicago and recently taught a course on Producing Television Talk and Magazine Shows for UCLA Extension.

After graduating from Columbia College Chicago, Rebecca began her career in television working for: ABC-7 Chicago (writing in their community service department), as a producer and on-air talent for WEB-FN (a Chicago Financial News network) and as an Associate Producer for The Jenny Jones Show.

After the cancellation of Jenny Jones Show, while waiting to get placed at another show, she ran in to a friend who worked in radio and said if she got bored she could come by and help him write news for the station…and when she took him up on that opportunity she never looked back.

Beginning her radio career in 2003, Rebecca started off as the Promotions Director at a small suburban station called STAR 105.5FM in Crystal Lake, IL and shortly after began voice-tracking overnights.

A year later she was doing Morning at their sister station WXLC 102.3FM where she stay for 4 ½ years as, “The Joe and Rebecca Show”. Following that, other stations she worked for were: 97 ZOK in Rockford, 100.3 LOVE FM in Chicago, Q101 (guest spot on “Mancow’s Morning Madhouse” as ‘Juanita the Hot Latina Bombshell’), FRESH 105.9FM, and then in 2008 landed a job at WBBM-FM B96 in Chicago, where she still works.

Some of her B96 accolades include hosting the weekly 1-hour community service show, “Chicago Connection” (which airs on B96 and 104.3FM KHITS) for the last 5 years, representing B96 backstage at the 2017 Grammys in Los Angeles and the 2017 Billboard Music Awards in Las Vegas.

Aside from radio, Rebecca began doing voice over work in 2017. She was the live voice over at the NHL Draft in Chicago in June, and has been voicing audiobooks with 8 titles published to-date ranging from cookbooks, young adult books and mysteries.

Hilary grew up in Michigan and went to high school in Costa Rica. When she returned to the States she went to college at Saint Mary's Notre Dame and then transferred to Columbia College Chicago. After graduating with her Bachelor's in Arts, Entertainment, Media Management in 2010 she did a year of service with AmeriCorps VISTA in Albany, NY. Upon completion of her year, she went to graduate school at New York University and graduated with her Master's in Arts Administration. She took on jobs with renowned arts organizations working in their Development departments. She worked in Major Gifts with the American Ballet Theatre, Individual Giving with The Actor's Company Theatre, Special Events with The Kitchen and with Art in General and was the Development Manager of Individual Giving with the Brooklyn Center for Performing Arts at Brooklyn College. 

She left the fundraising world to work at a booming tech start up in NYC, ClassPass, for a year before relocating to Salt Lake City, UT. She is now a Partnership Director at the United Way of Salt Lake where she works to ensure all families are healthy, have access to education, and can achieve financial stability regardless of circumstance. 

Brittany Steiger graduated with a degree in Arts, Entertainment, and Media Management, focusing on the Performing Arts. She currently serves as a Business Representative in the Chicago office of Actors’ Equity Association, supporting Actors and Stage Managers working in professional theatre across the Central Region, with assigned territories in Chicago, Ohio, Kentucky, New Orleans/Louisiana, Oklahoma, and the Dakotas. In addition to her work with AEA, Brittany served as a founding company member and Development Coordinator for The Agency Theater Collective, studied the Meisner acting method at Green Shirt Studio, and worked as a retail buyer and business consultant. Brittany is excited to give back as a member of the CAAN Board to contribute fresh ideas for networking events, post-grad activities, and continuing education programs.

Cayla Weisberg is partner at InvestHER Ventures, a Chicago based venture capital fund that invests in female entrepreneurs with early stage companies. She is focused on investing in technology enabled business services, data driven products, and disruptive solutions for large markets. Cayla's enthusiasm for entrepreneurship began young, having launched a concierge shopping business at 17 years old. At 19, she joined forces with a fashion wholesaler, winning the business of national retail conglomerates throughout undergrad. Post grad, Cayla worked for one of Fortune's "100 Fastest-Growing Companies" as assistant director. Following this success, she transitioned into the startup ecosystem, leading business development initiatives for two fast-growing tech companies at a venture capital incubator. Having built a plug-and-play sales roadmap throughout her career, Cayla shares her thought-leadership on start-up scaling, pivoting & fundraising through: speaking, teaching and consulting engagements across the US.

Chicago Alumni Chapter

caanchicago

Marty Kane (BA '06, Instrumental Performance: Jazz Studies) is an arts and education advocate currently residing in Chicago. Marty serves as Senior Admissions Officer with Columbia College Chicago; he acts a resource to students and educators primarily from Illinois and California. Marty has been a steadfast alumni volunteer since completing his undergraduate studies.

Jane Bishop Lillegard is a native Chicagoan currently working and living in Roscoe Village with her husband and two children. Jane previously lived in Lincoln Square, where she is still involved in the community, the schools and Queen of Angels Church. She is also active within fundraising and events through the Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts of Chicago as well as the German American Children’s Chorus. Jane received her Bachelor of Arts degree in Television (communications) from Columbia College Chicago and for the past 3+ years has been a member of the Chicago Alumni Chapter. When Jane is not working she enjoys golf, sailing, music, travel, performing arts and spending time with her family and friends. Jane works in real estate to not only help people find a property they can call home but to also utilize their investment wisely. She has been licensed since 2004 and services the City of Chicago and local northern suburbs.

As a graduate of Columbia College Chicago’s marketing communications program Emory Brown found his niche in advertising as a copywriter and creative director. Working with many esteemed clients, his portfolio of work ranges in genre from conservative to ultra-modern including American Family Insurance, United Airlines, Mazda 6 and RX-8, Illinois Lottery, Tyson, Miller Genuine Draft, Nike Air Force 1 and Mercedes Benz to name a few. He also earned some of the industry’s most prestigious awards while at E. Morris Communications: 7 Telly Awards (3 Bronze and 4 Silver) for work done on Wal-Mart, a silver ADDY Award for work done on Wal-Mart’s Voices of Color campaign and a gold Service Industry Ad Award for work done on IDOT. His ultimate dream is to foster creative talent. Whether it’s helping creative people become more business savvy or giving children an outlet for self-expression, Brown will continue to amaze the industry with his artistic flair and ability to push the outer limits of creativity.

Shannon Amoako '98 Barbara Keaton Stubblefield '87
Katherine Bailey '95 Ron Lawless '82
William Basil Lillian Maldonado '82
La Toia Brown '03 Sarah Matheson '16
Stephen Charles-Kendall '09 Danielle Metzler '14
Mina Choe '07 Mary Mitchell '91
Cherisse Ciangi '09 Mike Mosely Jr. '10
Lindsey Davis '10 Megan Mueller '13
Janelle Dowell MFA '15 Alexandra Parisi MAM '10
Jill Egan '99 Jennifer Perkins
Dustin Erikstrup '12 Michael Pryzbylski '10
Michael Fischer '13 Debby Rabeor '85
Daphne Francois-Torres '09 Allyson Ratliff MAM '11
Trudi Gentry '95 Chris Richert '99
C. Dallas Golden Erik Schmudde '05
Aaron Hilliard '09 Angel Simmons '09
Samreen Imami '98 Art Stein '66
Vincent Johnson '99 Stephen Vallera '09
Kendall Williamson '13

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