Meet the Team
  • Abhishek Raman, campus engagement manager, develops new campus partnerships, implements campus engagements, and conducts strategic outreach to institutions in the U.S. higher education network. He joined IFYC in 2009, serving as the international partnerships associate, coordinating IFYC’s Interfaith Leaders for Social Action program in India. Abhishek graduated from Clark University in Worcester, MA with a double-major in Government and Sociology where he wrote his senior thesis on religious nationalism and the politics of identity formation in India. He later worked at the Pluralism Project at Harvard University on the Case Study Initiative and the World Religions in Greater Boston web resource portal. His passionate commitment for youth activism, social justice, and interfaith cooperation is highlighted through his involvement with the Chicago Council on Global Affairs and the Difficult Dialogues Initiative. Abhishek is the quintessential political news junkie and spends his free time rooting for the Boston Red Sox and the New England Patriots. You can follow him on Twitter: @Abhishek_Raman “History, despite its wrenching pain cannot be unlived, but if faced with courage, need not be lived again.” – Dr. Maya Angelou

  • Adam Garner is a leadership associate and regional contact for the Better Together campaign here at IFYC. A recent graduate of the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign where he studied Philosophy and Religious Studies, Adam ran the Better Together campaign for two years on his campus and is pumped to be working to make interfaith cooperation a social norm full time. At the office he can usually be found splicing semantics, pouring over social media analytics, and developing new resources for Better Together organizers. In his free time he moonlights as a philosopher, a David Hume scholar, and an urban explorer of Chicago’s used book stores. “Where men are the most sure and arrogant, they are commonly the most mistaken” -David Hume

  • Alana Kinarsky, manager of Assessment and President’s Challenge, supports colleges and universities as they assess and refine how students engage and navigate religious diversity. She also oversees a network of 400+ campuses who participate in the President’s Interfaith and Community Service Campus Challenge, a White House initiative inviting institutions of higher education to commit to interfaith service programming. Holding a degree in international relations from Loyola University, Alana studied in Beijing and spent a year working with a participatory media NGO in India. “What art offers is space - a certain breathing room for the spirit.” -- John Updike

  • Amber Hacker, director of alumni relations, oversees IFYC’s alumni program where she equips and resources hundreds of IFYC graduates to continue to support their interfaith leadership in higher education, religion, and civil society sectors. Prior to managing the alumni program, Amber channeled her passion for student leadership development and service through her work with IFYC’s international interfaith service campaign, the Days of Interfaith Youth Service, and the Fellows Alliance, an intensive interfaith leadership program for undergraduates. Amber founded the Bridge-builders Network, an online gathering place for the interfaith movement, drawing over 3,000 interfaith leaders, organized IFYC’s 2009 biennial conference at Northwestern University as well as the inaugural Interfaith Leadership Institutes hosted by Georgetown University and the White House. Amber founded IFYC’s Alumni Speakers Bureau, where alumni spread the message of interfaith cooperation to thousands every year all over the country through presentations to variety of organizations. As one of our Southerners in the office, Amber is our resident Martha Stewart when it comes to cooking and crafts, and she loves a good bargain. “How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world” Anne Frank

  • As VP of Leadership, April Mendez heads IFYC’s work to expand the student movement for interfaith cooperation. April joined IFYC as a volunteer in 2000 after extensive involvement in student leadership and cross-cultural work in the evangelical Christian community. Two years later, she became IFYC’s first full-time staff member and has done everything from designing and running programs to managing strategy and overseeing organizational operations. Her reflections on interfaith youth work have inspired young people across the world and have appeared in over a dozen publications. Prior to joining IFYC, she founded The Crib Collective, an organization focused on creating a culture of social entrepreneurship among Chicago youth. April has a B.A. in psychology from Carleton College. “Our purpose on earth is to make this world better than how we found it.”

  • Carr Harkrader, campus engagement associate, works with students, faculty, and university staff across the country. With a background in teaching and education policy, Carr focuses on creating and designing educational resources and curriculum for IFYC’s programs. A native of North Carolina, Carr also focuses on introducing wayward Midwesterners to the pleasures of grits, biscuits, and the use of the conjunction “y’all.” Carr enjoys watching his Tar Heels, reading big history books, and explaining to people that his name is spelled with two Rs.

  • Cassie Meyer, director of content, oversees training and curriculum development at IFYC. She also teaches courses on interfaith cooperation with Eboo Patel and researches and writes about IFYC’s work in publications like the Journal of College and Character, for which she has been a guest editor. She has a master’s degree from the University of Chicago Divinity School, has been adjunct faculty at several Chicago-area seminaries, and sits on a number of boards relevant to interfaith work in seminaries and faith communities. When not reading theology or throwing mutli-course dinner parties with her sous chef and fiancé, Mark, Cassie plays her guitar and sings old-timey hymns for the candlelit Eucharist service at Holy Covenant United Methodist Church. "I discovered later, and I'm still discovering right up to this moment, that is it only by living completely in this world that one learns to have faith. " -Dietrich Bonhoeffer

  • Claire Albert, executive office associate, assists in the logistics of many of IFYC’s external engagements. A native of Dallas, Texas, she graduated from Northwestern University in 2010 as a human development and psychological services major and with a minor in global health. During her final quarter in college, she was lucky enough to take a class taught by Eboo Patel and Cassie Meyer, which inspired her to join the interfaith movement. Claire loves cooking and sports and is always in the mood for a fierce game of Scrabble. “Yesterday is not ours to recover, but tomorrow is ours to win or lose.” –Lyndon B. Johnson

  • Gautam Srikishan, communications associate, operates IFYC’s social media platforms and blog. He is a recent graduate of the University of Illinois, where he studied music composition and led student groups like the Jain Students Association and Interfaith in Action (mostly by heckling poor, unsuspecting students with countless newsletter emails). In his spare time, you will likely find him engaging in one of his many geeky interests including, but not limited to: world music, algorithmic sound design, ping pong, and watching the Daily Show obsessively. "The press can hold its magnifying glass up to our problems, bringing them into focus ... Or they can use that magnifying glass to light ants on fire." -Jon Stewart

  • Jenan Mohajir, international projects manager, oversees IFYC’s international programs and serves as a senior member of the training team. In this role, Jenan has led intensive interfaith leadership training programs in the United Kingdom, Qatar, Australia, and India. Jenan is a committed Muslim, and received her B.S. from DePaul University in Elementary Education and Islamic Studies. In 2007, she received the Young Alumni Spirit Award from her Alma Mater, DePaul University, for her work as a young leader in the field of building interfaith cooperation among diverse communities in Chicago and around the world. Jenan is originally from India and grew up in Qatar and the United States, and speaks fluent Hindi and Urdu. “Whatever pearl you seek, look for the pear within the pearl!” – Maulana Rumi

  • Joan Peterson, director of human resources, oversees IFYC’s growing people programs and systems. Joan enjoys using evidence-based management tools to improve squishy HR processes. She recently returned home to the Midwest after spending 25 years in Alaska as an employment law attorney and HR leader. Joan earned her B.A. from Luther College and her J.D. from Northwestern University School of Law. Joan is passionate about the outdoors and wildlife, and is becoming known as “The Bird Lady” in her Lakeview neighborhood. Her favorite recreation includes hikes, bikes, and wildlife watching with family and friends, especially at her cabin in the Driftless Area of southwestern Wisconsin. “Peeps is peeps.” -- Mom

  • Katie Bringman Baxter, director of campus engagements, facilitates partnerships and coordinates engagements with campuses across the country. Prior to joining IFYC, Katie worked in higher education and student affairs. She earned a BA in religion from Wittenberg University and an MA in College Student Personnel from Bowling Green State University. IFYC allows her to connect her personal belief that religion shapes our world with her passion for developing the capacity of college students and creating change through higher education. Before and after work she can found jogging around her neighborhood, or scouting local restaurants or her own kitchen for a great meal. "The sacred is in the ordinary...it is to be found in one's daily life, in one's neighbors, friends, and family, in one's own backyard." — Abraham H. Maslow

  • Kyle Anderson, campus engagement associate, works with campuses throughout the country, helping them to build and sustain interfaith cooperation. Kyle first experienced the power of bringing together people from different backgrounds for an important cause in Washington, DC, where he worked in development for N Street Village, an organization that supports homeless and low-income women. Kyle earned a BA in Political Science from Gettysburg College and a M.Ed. in Higher Education from Loyola University Chicago. Outside of IFYC, he can be found spending time with his lovely wife Keira, and rooting loudly for the New York Giants and San Francisco Giants. Kyle is also a big fan of live music, highlighted by an open obsession with singer/songwriter Josh Ritter, who he has seen ten times (and counting) in concert. "We don't have to engage in grand, heroic actions to participate in the process of change. Small acts, when multiplied by millions of people, can transform the world.” - Howard Zinn

  • Laura Hollinger, campus engagement manager, works with college campuses to help cultivate interfaith cooperation. Laura comes to IFYC after working for seven years in university chaplaincy and spiritual life. Her post-college years were spent living and studying in Thailand where she was inspired by Buddhist monks who had opened care centers for people living with HIV/AIDS. This experience led her to Divinity School at the University of Chicago and instilled in her a firm belief in the power of interfaith cooperation to make each corner of the world a little brighter. To this day, she remains a devoted fan of Thai market food, especially sticky rice, and looks forward to international travel. Closer to home, she loves exploring the food, museums and architecture of Chicago’s neighborhoods. “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.” - Margaret Mead

  • Mary Ellen Giess is IFYC’s vice president of campus partnerships, developing new campus partnerships, implementing campus engagements, and conducting strategic outreach in the higher education network. She spends a lot of time on the phone, irritating her co-workers with her loud and impassioned explanations of the importance of interfaith work in the world today. Mary Ellen grew up Unitarian Universalist in Pennsylvania and is die-hard East Coast. Her abiding love for democracy and justice led her to study the intersection of religion and government at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Harvard Divinity School. Mary Ellen is best known at IFYC for her ever-growing rubber duck collection. “Change is inevitable. Change for the better is a full-time job.” ––Adlai Stevenson

  • Mat Schramm, institutional advancement associate, drives donor support for IFYC through direct mail initiatives and communicates regularly with philanthropic partners to share inspiring stories about IFYC’s work. Mat grew up in a small town in Indiana and graduated from Purdue University, where he studied industrial design and was a huge band nerd. He is also the chair of the missions team at Holy Covenant United Methodist Church in Chicago and has just as strong a passion for serving in the community as he has for making interfaith cooperation a social norm. When he’s away from his IFYC desk, you can probably find Mat jogging alongside Lake Michigan, exploring every corner of Chicago on his bicycle, or watching Purdue basketball. “If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people together to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.” –Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

  • Megan Lane, campus engagement associate, is a native of North Carolina, Megan holds a B.A. in philosophy and religion from Appalachian State University, in addition to an M.A. in religion from the University of Georgia and an M.Ed. in higher education from NC State. As a graduate assistant, she advised and trained the executive officers of around 600 student organizations, many of them faith-based, in best practices for leadership. Megan was exposed to IFYC and its efforts during graduate school, and vowed that she would jump at any opportunity to involve herself in the movement. “If you want one year of prosperity, grow grain. If you want 10 years of prosperity, grow trees. If you want 100 years of prosperity, grow people.” – Chinese Proverb

  • Neha Singh is a leadership associate at IFYC. She is a graduate of The George Washington University where she majored in International Affairs with concentrations in International Politics as well as Conflict and Security and minored in Religion and Political Science. As a part of a politically active and globally aware campus, Neha realizes the necessity of understanding differences in order to cultivate a respectful, diverse and dynamic culture. Despite being a recent college graduate, Neha has had experience working and interning with many different organizations and companies. In her free time, you can usually find Neha getting ready for a Bhangra performance as she has danced competitively for the past four years and continues to do so. “Great thoughts speak only to the thoughtful mind, but great actions speak to all mankind.” - Theodore Roosevelt

  • Pete De Kock, VP of Operations and Communications, guides the team’s day-to-day operations and collaborates on IFYC’s branding, thought leadership, and storytelling initiatives. He is a graduate of Grinnell College and Harvard Divinity School. Prior to joining IFYC Pete directed in-state operations for U.S. Congressman Bruce Braley and engaged communities throughout the Midwest on critical public policy issues. That experience gave him amazing opportunities to help people and communities adapt and thrive amidst rapid economic and social change. Pete is a proud Iowan. He loves rock and roll, fishing, and barbeque, but his greatest love is his family. He and his wife Jen have one son. “Loyalty to petrified opinion never yet broke a chain or freed a human soul.” - Mark Twain

  • Rachel Breck, leadership associate, supports students across the nation as they work toward social change through interfaith action. Coming from a student-activism background in fair trade, Rachel brings knowledge and experience organizing youth. She studied sociology and political science at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and studied abroad in Cairo, Egypt despite a serious lack of knowledge regarding the region and Arabic. After graduation she meandered about serving as a substitute teacher, interning for Latin@ youth, acting as an election judge, working in a college bookstore, studying Spanish in Guatemala, and swimming. Now you might find her playing Ultimate Frisbee, biking on perilous Chicago streets, weeding in a community garden, cooking vegetables, or baking cookies and the occasional cake. "If you really want to make a friend, go to someone’s house and eat with [her]...the people who give you their food give you their heart." - Cesar Chavez

  • Tony Banout, VP of institutional advancement, leads IFYC’s development program and manages relationships with IFYC’s Board of Directors. Tony’s decade of experience in nonprofit management and fundraising includes work in the fields of social services, civil rights, and public health. Born to Egyptian parents and raised in New York, Tony received a Ph.D. in Religion from the Divinity School at the University of Chicago for a dissertation treating democracy and religious freedom. He is also a graduate of the Washington Theological Union, where he completed a Master’s in Theology, and received a Bachelor’s in Business Administration from St. John’s University. Tony brings both deep academic and professional commitment to interfaith cooperation. “Commitment without skepticism perpetuates mediocrity; but skepticism without commitment is paralysis.” – Stephen Raudenbush

  • William Campbell, Campaign Operations Manager, spends his time overseeing many of the strategies for supporting Better Together campaign organizers. He likes to think about both strategy and theology that led him toward completing coursework for dual masters degrees in Theological Studies and Nonprofit Administration. Additionally, William comes to IFYC with 5 ½ years of experience organizing students in faith communities and developing student leadership programs. When William discovered The Sword of Shannarra at age 12, he fell in love with fantasy and science fiction books and has never stopped reading since. This led him to study English and Creative Writing in undergraduate school where he encountered W.E.B Dubois, Jane Addams, Henry Nouwen, Thomas Merton, and Dorothy Day. He likes to believe that science fiction led him toward a commitment to diversity and justice, but Jane Addams's Hull House is a more likely source. “Either America will destroy ignorance or ignorance will destroy the United States.” – W.E.B. Dubois