We're All Interfaith Leaders.
IFYC works with leaders across the campus environment — faculty, staff, administrators, and students. We offer the tools, guidance, opportunities, and networks needed to bring interfaith engagement into their campuses, classrooms, research, and lives. Learn more about our team here.
“Peace is only found in yes.” - Anthony de Mello, SJ
Brian Anderson, Student Leadership Manager, oversees the Interfaith Leadership Institutes, the grant process for our Interfaith Leadership Labs, and the hiring of our Interfaith Coaches. Brian has a B.A. in Religious Studies and Psychology from Butler University, an M.A. in Student Development Administration from Seattle University, and an M.A. in Pastoral Studies from Loyola University Chicago. Brian comes to IFYC having worked in Higher Education in a variety of capacities for the past 10 years; most recently as an Interfaith Campus Minister. He is excited to bring a wealth of knowledge to share with our campus partners. When not at IFYC, Brian is involved with bringing arts and culture programs to his community. You can also find him spending time with his family or in his garden.
Mesha Arant, Campus Relations Manager, designs and manages Eboo Patel’s college and university programming and speaking engagements; she also manages evaluation for IFYC’s Campus Innovation Grants. Mesha received her B.A. in Religion from Wofford College in 2012 and her Master of Divinity from Yale in 2015. Although she now considers herself to be Agnostic and Humanist, she credits her Christian upbringing for her interest in religion. She is dedicated to making interfaith cooperation a social norm, which largely results from her desire to make the world more equitable and inclusive. Mesha, who is also a singer/songwriter, spends her time away from IFYC writing, recording, performing around Chicago.
Nasser Asif, Senior Director of Marketing & Communications, oversees outreach to new campuses and IFYC's engagement with the public. Nasser comes to the interfaith movement from a career in brand marketing, advertising, and nonprofit communications consulting. Most days you'll find him planning campaigns, managing creative projects, and thinking about the storytelling IFYC can use to inspire new leaders. On his own time, you'll usually find him reading about various obscurities and oddities on Wikipedia, cooking something spicy, and listening to vintage country music; often simultaneously. Nasser believes that America is more dynamic and diverse than ever before, and he sees the interfaith movement as an essential actor in shaping a civil society that is just, vibrant, and geared towards progress.
Tony Banout serves as the Vice President of Institutional Advancement, nurturing IFYC's philanthropic partnerships, leading a team responsible for revenue, and stewarding the Board of Directors. He has over 15 years of social sector leadership experience in fields such as human services, civil rights, and health care. Tony holds a Ph.D. in Religion from the Divinity School at the University of Chicago for a dissertation treating democracy and religious freedom. He also engaged Islamic Studies and Arabic, and was a Provost Dissertation fellow and junior fellow of the Martin Marty Center for the Advanced Study of Religion. His B.A. is in Business from St. John's University, where he developed a love for business strategy and found that the Vincentians of the Catholic tradition nourished his roots in the Coptic Orthodox faith of his birth, while shaping his belief in the socially transformative power of religion.
Bex Bates, Director of Marketing and Communications, manages our outreach strategy to new and existing campuses to deepen their engagement with IFYC and widen our reach. Her background has always centered around marketing and communications but has spanned several sectors - government, private and non-profit - and countries. She has worked with religiously persecuted communities in the UK, Malaysia, and continues this work in Chicago as a volunteer. Her time at IFYC is spent supporting the program teams in communicating with IFYC's various audiences about how we can assist them in their interfaith work, as well as looking at ways we can reach new audiences and campuses. She loves to read, do yoga, and paint protraits in her spare time. Bex's main motivation for being part of the interfaith movement is that she has seen the effects of religious intolerance around the world and the potential outcomes of what would happen if we weren't actively doing and encourgaing interfaith work.
Katie Bringman Baxter
Katie Bringman Baxter, Vice President of Program Strategy, guides IFYC’s programmatic initiatives to cultivate campus environments, develop interfaith leaders, and produce a knowledgebase for religious pluralism in higher education. Katie has been published in the Journal of College and Character and Liberal Education, and presents regularly to higher education audiences. Her interest in religion and her professional background in higher ed are rooted in an MA in College Student Personnel (BGSU) and a BA in Religion (Wittenberg University). Beyond IFYC, Katie enjoys venturing around Chicago with her family and serving on the board at her Lutheran church. Both her work experience helping students learn from those who are different and her personal religious convictions motivate Katie to work for a world where people of different backgrounds can live, work, and build community together.
Esther Boyd, Manager of Curriculum Development, supports faculty working to develop courses and programs related to the emerging field of Interfaith Studies. She also manages the online curriculum Introduction to Interfaith Leadership, and works on other Academic Initiatives programs such as the annual Teaching Interfaith Understanding seminars and IFYC's presence at the American Academy of Religion annual meeting. Esther holds an MA in Religion and Literature from Yale where she began exploring the role of storytelling in identity formation. When she isn't working, she loves to be outside, make music, and laugh. As a Secular Humanist, Esther is a firm believer in the service mantra "What I can, where I am, with what I have", and strives to apply that to her own interfaith and justice work.
Paula Carter, Editorial Manager, oversees IFYC’s digital magazine INTER. Paula holds an M.F.A. from Indiana University, where she was the Darrell Burton Fellow in Creative Writing and fiction editor for the Indiana Review. She is the author of the forthcoming essay collection No Relation and her work has appeared in many magazines and journals including The Kenyon Review, Salon and Creative Nonfiction. Some of her favorite things include pie, swimming, and cats—but not all at the same time. In love with all things storytelling, Paula is a company member with Chicago’s 2nd Story and frequents storytelling shows. She believes that stories can change the world and that by sharing and listening to each other’s experiences we can begin to understand and celebrate our common humanity.
Conway, Campus Stewardship Manager, has served as a higher education administrator in both student and professional roles for nearly 15 years. With experience in peer mentorship, leadership development, advising and diversity and inclusion, they bring a variety of resources and experiences to their coaching partnerships. Conway is a graduate of Loyola University Chicago’s Master’s program in Higher Education and a current student in Chicago Theological Seminary’s Religious Leadership for Social Transformation program. Since beginning their tenure at IFYC, Conway has been an on-campus consultant, content trainer and facilitator and a remote coach; helping campus partners assess and reflect upon their interfaith engagement and consider ways they might use their existing assets to plan well for the future. They are happy to connect with IFYC’s growing network of educators to promote engagement and leadership at both the individual and campus-wide levels.
Shannon Copp, Student Leadership Manager, heads up Better Together Day, oversees the student Campus Action Fund, and manages the operational needs of the Student Leadership team. Shannon graduated from Washington University in St. Louis with a degree in East Asian Studies & Religious Studies and her graduate work at the University of Chicago Divinity School focused on interfaith peacebuilding. Her mission as part of the student leadership team is to help interfaith conversations turn into action outside of the classroom. Outside of IFYC, Shannon volunteers for multiple education-focused organizations and is an avid board gamer.
Janett I. Cordovés
Janett I. Cordovés, Co-Curricular Partnerships Manager, equips and empowers campus professional staff to be interfaith leaders. Prior to joining the IFYC team, Janett worked in higher education for thirteen years, serving in various roles including student support services, such as residence life and crisis response, as well as in academic initiatives with first-year seminars, orientation, and senior experience courses. Janett has recently completed her doctorate in Ethical Leadership and successfully defended her research on the influence of spirituality on first-generation college students' level of grit and equanimity. In her spare time, she volunteers with Chicago Scholars, and the Food Pantry.
Ben Correia-Harker, Director of Assessment & Research, oversees the development of interfaith assessment services and resources, consults with campus partners on assessment practices, and manages research efforts and findings dissemenation. Ben has a B.A. in Religious Studies from the College of Idaho, an M.S.Ed. in Student Affairs Administration from Indiana University, and a Ph.D. in Higher Education from Loyola University Chicago; and he continues to conduct research on and teach about college student leadership development. Having held various professional roles in higher education administration, it is his commitment to fostering student leadership development, creating inclusive communities, and addressing society's most complex problems through collaborative endeavors that fuel Ben’s interest in advancing interfaith cooperation.
"Sometimes, the bravest and most important thing you can do is just show up." - Brené Brown
Bri Crumbley, Student Leadership Associate, supports and energizes students as they build and sustain the interfaith movement across the country. A graduate of Meredith College, Bri is especially proud to have harmonized her passions for interfaith cooperation and female empowerment with her studies in Religion, Ethics, and Sociology, as a student and Better Together coach. It was as a student leader herself, that Bri found a desire to see students become the strongest versions of themselves possible, which was evident in her involvement with Cross Culture Student Ministries as an administrator, events coordinator and small group leader. As a social introvert who is fascinated by people and society, INFJ-Bri enjoys consuming media in the form of books, blogs and podcasts, and enjoys doing so with a cup of hot tea or an iced coffee, weather permitting.
Kristi Del Vecchio
Kristi Del Vecchio, Academic Initiatives Manager, supports scholars and educators across the U.S. who are building the field of interfaith and interreligious studies. She holds an M.A. in Theology with a concentration in Interreligious Dialogue from Catholic Theological Union (Chicago, IL), and B.A.s in Biology and Religion from Concordia College (Moorhead, MN). Kristi joined the IFYC team in 2013, and spends most of her time stewarding grant programs, managing faculty development seminars, and curating online educational materials. An interest in service and volunteerism throughout college led Kristi to the world of interfaith cooperation; she continues this work today by pursuing environmental projects with diverse groups of people in Chicago. In her spare time, you may find Kristi training – slowly but surely – for her next triathlon.
Cara Doidge Kilgore
Cara Doidge Kilgore, Special Events Manager, manages the logistics and production for IFYC's major events. Her work includes coordinating the Interfaith Leadership Institutes and higher education convenings related to interfaith studies and organizations in partnership with IFYC. Cara earned a BA in religion from Texas Christian University and a MTS from Vanderbilt Divinity School. Cara's interest in interfaith cooperation began as a teenager visiting houses of worship with her church youth group and grew as she found ways to combine her interest in religion with her passion for service and social justice. Outside of work, she can be found having family dance parties with her toddler, husband, and dog and devouring a good novel. Cara lives with her family in Nashville, Tennessee.
Mary Ellen Giess
As Senior Director of Co-Curricular Partnerships, Mary Ellen Giess oversees IFYC's strategy supporting campus staff committed to interfaith work. Mary Ellen has served a variety of programmatic and strategic roles at IFYC and continues to steward one of IFYC's highest programmatic partners in the White House through the President’s Interfaith and Community Service Campus Challenge. Mary Ellen joined IFYC in 2008 after completing her Master’s in religion and government at Harvard Divinity School. Mary Ellen earned her undergraduate degree at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and it was her personal on-campus experiences that inspire her to build interfaith cooperation in higher education. Outside work, Mary Ellen can be found chasing her family (husband, daughters, and dog alike) around town.
Josh Simon Goldman
Josh Simon Goldman, Institutional Advancement Manager, stewards IFYC’s community of supporters, offering opportunities for them to make interfaith cooperation the norm. A graduate of Denison University, he conducted research at the intersection of communication, education, and leadership studies, working with organizations such as Ashoka. Josh designs multi-channel storytelling campaigns, oversees collaborations with IFYC’s Alumni Relations, Communications and Marketing, and Information Technology teams, and sits down for in depth conversations about interfaith cooperation with supporters across the country. Interests in community service, democratic practice, and compassionate friendships get Josh going in the morning. The possibility of durable and supportive communities keeps him building bridges throughout the day.
Amber Jean Hacker, Vice President for Operations and Communications, oversees projects ranging from accounting, IT, and talent development to IFYC thought leadership, branding, and messaging. A leader on the IFYC team since 2007, Amber stewarded a variety of key programs prior to stepping into her current role, including the IFYC Alumni program, Days of Interfaith Youth Service, Fellows Alliance, Bridge-builders Network, and IFYC’s conferences. Amber also serves as Treasurer, working closely with the Board of Directors to ensure accurate and efficient financial processes. Outside of IFYC, Amber is pursuing her MBA to explore ways to apply best practices in business to nonprofit work, and maintains a passion for productivity tips. Amber and her husband Jason live with their three-year-old son Erik in Chicago. Amber’s commitment to interfaith cooperation is inspired by Jesus’ call to love to our neighbor.
Carr Harkrader, Educational Resources Manager, writes and designs educational resources and materials for IFYC. Carr earned a BA in political science and history from UNC-Chapel Hill and a M.Ed from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Carr creates and develops many of IFYC's educational materials, everything from book discussion texts to training facilitation guides. He also co-hosts and produces "Common Knowledge," IFYC's podcast focusing on interfaith literacy. While he supports all campuses during work hours, he roots exclusively for his Carolina Tar Heels outside of the office. As an educator, Carr's interest in interfaith cooperation comes directly from his belief in the power of students, faculty, and education professionals to affect enourmous in the world around them.
Becca Hartman-Pickerill, Campus Stewardship Manager, liaises with college and university partners to vision, plan and evaluate their interfaith work on campus. Becca has a BA in Religion and Philosophy from Northwestern University and a Masters in Forced Migration from the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg. At IFYC Becca spends much of her time communicating with people leading the interfaith work on their campuses, brainstorming, sharing stories, and communicating promising practices to a network of diverse schools and higher education networks. Outside of work you will find Becca running with her toddler by Lake Michigan or enjoying a delicious meal. Inspired by the world’s diversity, Jesus’ radically simple abundant love, and the American Baptist commitment to freedom of and from religion, Becca feels blessed to pursue interfaith work as a career.
Megan Hughes Johnson
Megan Johnson, Senior Director for Campus Engagement, works closely with campus partners to develop and implement sustainable leadership practices for interfaith cooperation. Megan’s undergraduate work in culture and politics at Georgetown University and her graduate work in religion and conflict at the University of Chicago Divinity School sparked her interest in bridge-building and youth activism. Prior to IFYC, Megan worked for five years for Seeds of Peace where she developed leadership programs for young people from conflict zones. When not at IFYC, Megan spends time playing trains with her two kids and exploring new green spaces in Cincinnati. Megan’s commitment to religious pluralism stems from witnessing first-hand the cost of religious division and her experience building connections across lines of difference.
Michael Kendricks, Director of Salesforce and IT, administers Salesforce for IFYC and performs work on other IT projects. Michael graduated from Purdue University with a B.S. in Computer Technology. Prior to IFYC he worked in IT in the financial sector. In his current position, he manages IFYC's implementation of Salesforce and partners with IFYC leaders to improve operation and add features. He also performs project management for various IT initiatives at IFYC. In his free time, he enjoys listening to any new music he can find, sports, spending time with family, and engaging in city-focused discussion. Michael believes that IFYC's mission is of key importance to our growing multi-cultural society and higher education is an optimal place to reach and engage with future leaders.
Andy Kirschner, Director of Alumni Relations, oversees strategy for engaging alumni of IFYC programs and supporting them as interfaith leaders in their careers. He brings years of experience helping individuals change the world through coaching, community organizing and social entrepreneurship. Andy is responsible for making sure the Alumni Network has access to a variety of leadership and professional development opportunities by building partnerships with graduate schools and providing direct support through IFYC Alumni programs. Outside of work, he enjoys traveling with family to new destinations and long runs through the diverse Chicago neighborhoods. After years of involvement in the Jewish community, Andy feels called to interfaith leadership as a way to lift up his religious and civic values as a Jewish American.
LaTanya Lane, Campus Stewardship Manager, coaches campuses in their efforts to create opportunities for interfaith cooperation and builds infrastructure for her team to do the same. A graduate of Chicago Theological Seminary, LaTanya brings her experience as a community organizer and extensive work in non-profits to her work at IFYC. When not at IFYC LaTanya spends her time finding good stories to listen to, read, or write. LaTanya believes that most problems are best solved together and working with IFYC to bring folks together across differences for the common good is essential to building the kind of world she wants to live in.
Cassie Meyer, Faculty Partnerships Consultant, works with faculty engaging interfaith in the classroom. She develops online resources for the classroom, manages IFYC's Teaching Interfaith Understanding Seminars (in partnership with the Council of Independent Colleges), supports faculty developing courses and curricula in interfaith studies, and manages IFYC's work with the American Academy of Religion. She has an MA from the University of Chicago Divinity School and has taught at several universities and seminaries; she regularly writes about interfaith and higher education and is a contributing editor for the Journal of College and Character. Cassie lives with her family on top of a mountain in Sewanee, Tennessee; she is committed to interfaith work as a way to follow Jesus's commandment to love our neighbors.
Jenan Mohajir, Leadership Curriculum Consultant, oversees the overall strategy, development and implementation of the Interfaith Leadership Institutes (ILIs). Jenan received her B.S. from DePaul University in elementary education and Islamic studies. Over the last decade, she has led skills-based trainings on interfaith service and cooperation here in the United States and around the world. Jenan spends her time designing IFYC’s interfaith leadership curriculum and managing the ‘look and feel’ of the ILIs, spearheading what has become a truly holistic interfaith leadership experience at the institutes. In her personal life, Jenan also serves on the steering committee for the Hyde Park Muslim Family Circle, which fosters the social and spiritual growth of Muslim families and individuals within the robust cultural setting of Hyde Park, Chicago. On weekends, Jenan enjoys spending time with her family and playing 'chef' with her rambunctious toddler. Jenan is a committed Muslim, and is deeply inspired by the Quran and teachings of the Prophet Muhammad to build a world where we can live together in equal dignity and mutual harmony.
As the Director of Academic Initiatives, Carolyn works with faculty across the country to develop, support, and sustain innovative interfaith studies curriculum. Carolyn has a Ph.D. in Theology, Ethics, and Human Culture from Chicago Theological Seminary. She has taught and wrote for a number of academic institutions and religious organizations. When not working, Carolyn is hanging out with her husband and son, enjoying the lake, playing in the park, and eating delicious Chicago food. Carolyn’s Christian faith calls her to work for healing, peace, and justice and she has learned that one of the most powerful ways to do this is to build relationships with, learn from, and work alongside those from different religious and non-religious traditions who share these same values.
Rebecca Russo, Director of Campus Stewardship, supports and builds relationships with campus partners who want to prioritize interfaith cooperation in various aspects of campus life. Rebecca comes to IFYC with professional experience in Hillel, student leadership training, organizational development, and non-profit management. Rebecca graduated from Brown Unversity with a B.A. in Middle East Studies and is an MBA candidate at Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management. In her free time, Rebecca loves singing, traveling, hiking, cooking, and spending time with her family. Rebecca's interfaith experiences while living in Morocco and Israel inspired her to join the interfaith movement, seeing religious and nonreligious identity as a basis for common understanding and action.
Nadia Salam, Accounting Manager, oversees accounting and budgeting, tracks revenues and expenses, and prepares financial reports to ensure compliance and transparency. She comes to IFYC with 22 years of accounting experience at various nonprofit organizations. She earned her M.Phil degree in Economics from Quaid-i-Azam University, and she is pursuing her Master’s Degree in Accounting and Financial Management from DeVry University. She lives in Carol Stream with her husband and a son. Interfaith work is Nadia’s personal passion. Being a member of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, Nadia fully recognizes the importance of religious pluralism, religious freedom and the strength of interfaith knowledge. Nadia is also a cake decorator who enjoys baking and decorating cakes for weddings, birthdays, baby showers, and all occasions.
Mat Schramm, Graphic and Web Design Manager, oversees all media production at IFYC (print and digital design, video, and the Common Knowledge podcast). Mat spends most of his time managing team projects, upholding IFYC's visual brand in print and on the web, and maintaining relationships with vendors and external designers. When he's away from his desk, you can probably find him tweaking his latest graphic design project, watching Purdue basketball, or planning his next gym workout. As a Christian, the spark for Mat's inspiration to become an interfaith leader came from a bumper sticker he saw when riding his bicycle in traffic: it read, simply, "Jesus was radically inclusive."
Noah Silverman, Senior Director of Learning and Partnerships, works with faculty and senior administrators to think holistically about interfaith cooperation across their campuses. He holds an MA in religious studies from New York University and has been professionally involved in interfaith work for over a decade on three continents. In conversation with campus partners, Noah spends his time at IFYC exploring the contours and implications of the academic study of interfaith cooperation. When not at work or improvising his way through new parenthood, Noah loves going to the theatre, traveling, and rethinking Jewish communal education. Noah became interested in the fields of young adult leadership, interfaith understanding, and conflict resolution while living in Jerusalem.
Teri Simon, Executive Assistant/Office Manager, provides administrative support for the Executive Team including Eboo Patel, Founder and President. In this role, she works closely with individual donors, high-level campus and higher education stakeholders. She also coordinates the general operations of IFYC by managing our office while providing general support for team-wide functions. Teri holds a B.S. in Business Education and prior to joining IFYC, she was at the University of Chicago as an executive assistant to a Nobel Laureate Professor of Economics. In her free time, you might see her biking along the lake shore, exploring the back roads or on a century ride somewhere in the Midwest. Teri is passionate about the IFYC mission as she sees knowledge and understanding of religious pluralism as the path to a peaceful and enriching existence.
Julia Smith, Director of Online Content & Community, manages projects and cultivates relationships with new-to-IFYC campuses, leaders, and networks. She has experience in community organizing, writing, events, and education, having worked with Idealist.org, NTEN, Pipeline Fellowship, 826DC, and others. If you’re brand new to IFYC, odds are you’ll chat with Julia; she'll ask to hear your story first, as she's endlessly inspired by the leaders whose hard work IFYC lifts up. Still need an icebreaker? Ask about her hometown, nieces, or social media lightbulb moments. Julia believes that colleges are uniquely positioned to make positive change, and feels lucky to work with a team that creates spaces for folks on campuses to ask big questions, build skills, leverage privilege, share food and laughter, and work for peace and justice.
J.T. Snipes, Campus Assessment Manager, develops interfaith assessment services and resources and coordinates IFYC's dissemination of research data and findings. J.T. has a B.A. in Biology and a MSEd in Higher Education and Student Affairs from Baylor University. He is currently completing his Ph.D in Higher Education at Indiana University. In his free time, J.T. loves to travel to new locations (both domestic and international) with friends making new memories. Relationships are vitally important to him, and the opportunity to build relationships across different worldviews is the type of work that brought J.T. to IFYC. He believes strongly in the words of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther, Jr. that "An injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere" and interfaith cooperation is a key strategy to help eradicate social injustices.
Slavica Sudar, Accounting and Advancement Administrator, oversees daily bookkeeping activities of the organization and is also assisting Institutional Advancement Team with donor stewardship and fundraising activities. Slavica has worked in the nonprofit sector for six and a half years, focusing on accounting. Slavica graduated from Loyola University Chicago with B.S. in Anthropology and still maintains her love for history and different cultures by traveling and often visiting museums. She strongly believes in the beauty of a multi-cultural society and feels an interfaith cooperation is a key step to achieving it.
Susan Vernon, Director of Foundation Relations, oversees all aspects of IFYC’s relationships with foundations and their funding. She leads her team in strategic planning, identifying, cultivating and securing funding from foundations to support all of IFYC’s crucial programs and wonderful teams. Susan holds a BS in social work from the State University of New York – College at Buffalo and MSSW from the University of Wisconsin – Madison. She brings with her years of experience in social service programming and fundraising in the nonprofit sector, plus business skills from her work with major corporations. A former thespian, she enjoys going to plays, movies and dance performances, and music and writing are her creative outlets. Walks in nature and meditation bring her back to Spirit and the wonders of the Universe. Susan strongly believes that pluralism is what makes America great and that interfaith cooperation is the path to peace.
Hannah Willage, Alumni Relations Manager, supports IFYC alumni to use their interfaith skills in their careers, personal lives, and civic areas they feel passionate about. She worked for 15 years as a community organizer on a variety of issues with Russian-speaking refugees and students experiencing homelessness. Hannah earned her Bachelor’s degree from Knox College majoring in Mathematics and Russian. She supports the Alumni team in keeping track of our more than 1300 alumni and how they are continuing to develop as interfaith leaders in their lives after college. She enjoys playing and reading with her two children, and exploring all of the Chicago neighborhoods. To Hannah, interfaith leadership means being a good listener, being able to take risks, and having a genuine love of people.
Angela Zonderman, Director of Human Resources, supports IFYC and its dedicated staff in all realms of HR. Angela graduated from University of Michigan and has since honed her operations and human resources skills in national and international organizations in the US and abroad. She spends most of her time looking for qualified candidates who are passionate about IFYC's mission and supporting the day-to-day needs of IFYC’s current staff. Angela considers herself to be ‘crafty’ and dabbles in photography and knitting. Angela is honored to be contributing to IFYC’s work as she sees the interfaith movement as the foundation for building peace in the world.