Nicole Kelly stepped into the role of public figure after winning the 2013 title of Miss Iowa and going on to compete at the 2014 Miss America Pageant. She gained attention for being one of only a few competitors to have ever competed with a physical disability. After working for a year as Miss Iowa and traveling across the country to advocate for those living with a disability, Nicole transitioned into speaking professionally. Last summer Nicole completed her master’s degree in broadcast journalism at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. Now, she is an assistant production manager at Ravenswood Studio. Ravenswood is a Chicago-based custom fabrication company driven by passionate artisans creating world-class sets, scenery, and exhibits for opera, theater, museum, and corporate clients.
Jewel Holly Ware is the Owner and Founder of Jewels of Success with a personal mission to provide people with opportunities for personal and professional growth and success. Jewel is a leader in the areas of leadership and management and the interplay between beliefs and behaviors. Jewel earned an M.A. in Organizational Management from Ashford University and B.S. from Northern Illinois University.
Will Sitter currently works for Talent Hitch as a Senior Market Analyst. He started that job in July and help companies find key people for their open positions. He also helps the company new clients to grow the buisness.
Zully JF Alvarado is an educator, trainer, public speaker, entrepreneur and international leader and advocate on the rights of children, women, and persons with disabilities. Zully currently lives in Gary, Indiana and raises awareness on the importance of accessibility in infrastructure, transportation and outdoor recreation. Zully earned an M.Ed. from the Erikson Institute.
Pat Maher is a disability expert and consultant, serving on many boards and committees including the United Airlines Accessible Travel Advisory Board, and United Spinal Association Board of Directors, serving as the interim chair. Pat has served on the City of Chicago Mayoral Task Force on Disability and Employment. Pat has authored articles on disability and employment and co-founded the Information Technology Knowledge and Abilities Network. Pat received a B.A. from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.
Mark Williams develops and manages foundation and government grants at United Way of Metro Chicago. Mark has served the nonprofit and disability communities for many years and was a member of both the Statewide Independent Living Council of Illinois and the Illinois ADA Project Steering Committee. Mark earned his B.A. in American Studies from Lake Forest College and M.S. in Human Services Administration from Spertus College. He currently serves on the Boards of Directors at Blind Service Association, and Mental Health Association of Greater Chicago.
Brian Heyburn is a Ph.D. candidate in Disability Studies at the University of Illinois at Chicago, having first received an M.S. in Disability and Human Development. At UIC, Brian serves as a Graduate Assistant at the Disability Cultural Center assisting with the development disability culture events across campus. Brian earned a B.A. in Religion from Centre College.
Michele Lee is a diversity leader at Aon and founder of the Empowering Abilities Employee Resource Group. Michele is passionate about disability employment, universal access, and accessible transportation. Michele represents Aon on the Shirley Ryan AbilityLab’s Business Advisory Board. Michele earned a B.A. from the University of Arizona.
Chad Turner is the Vice President, Finance & Business Manager at JPMorgan Chase. Chad serves as a member of Chase’s Access Ability Business Resource Group’s national board as the liaison to the Midwest state chapters. Chad is an alumnus of the Alpha Phi Omega National Service Fraternity (APO). Additionally, Chad is a governing member ambassador for the Chicago Zoological Society, a former member of the Museum of Science & Industry’s Mission Accessible Task Force, and an incumbent member of Access Living’s finance committee. Chad received both an undergraduate and a graduate degree from Bradley University, where he serves on the Department of Accounting Advisory Council.
At Discover, Chaitanya Manchanda is the founder and co-chair of the Discover’s employer resource group, “Accentuating Discover Abilities.” Chaitanya is actively involved in spreading awareness, advocating for disability rights and representing the Deaf/Hard Of Hearing (HOH) Community. Chaitanya was an Executive Committee Member of the Hearing Loss Association of America in Chicago Lincoln Park for two years. Chaitanya earned a B.S. from the University of Windsor in Ontario, Canada.
Bill Bogdan is responsible for the coordination, development, and implementation of programs and services for persons with disabilities for the Illinois Secretary of State’s Office. In 2010, Bill was appointed by the Governor of Illinois to Chair the Illinois Council on Developmental Disabilities. In addition, Bill serves on the Illinois Elevator Safety Advisory Board, the Illinois State Library Talking Books and Braille Service Advisory Council, the Board of Directors for the Spinal Cord Injury Association of Illinois and the Diveheart Foundation. Bill graduated with honors from DePaul University, and is active in many sport and recreational programs offered through Adaptive Adventures and the Shirley Ryan AbilityLab Adaptive Sports & Fitness Program.
D. Erick Allen is devoted to increasing disability diversity in the workplace. Erick is a former Director of Inclusion Consulting & Training at Access Living. Erick serves on the Chicago Jobs Council Board of Directors and previously served on the Board of Commissioners for the Chicago Commission on Human Relations. Erick received a B.A. and M.S. from Loyola University of Chicago.