2015 Summer Teacher Institute Presenters

Irena Čajková

Irena Čajková, Lecturer and Course Coordinator

Irena Čajková is Spanish Course Coordinator for the Odyssey Project, and Lecturer and Assistant Coordinator in the University of Chicago Spanish Language Program. She received her B.A. in Spanish and German from DePaul University and her M.A. in Spanish and Latin American Literature from the University of Chicago. She currently works at the University of Chicago as a lecturer and assistant coordinator in the Spanish Language Program. She joined the Odyssey Project in the fall of 2007 as a coordinator of the Bard College Clemente Course in Spanish. Irena is a member of the Prague Committee of Chicago Sister Cities International and is very active within the Czech community – she teaches the Czech language to children at the T. G. Masaryk School in Cicero and often volunteers as a translator and interpreter.

Irena Čajková

Susan Dardar

Susan Dardar, Chicago Public Schools

Retired from full-time teaching, Susan Dardar continues to be an active art educator, and has most recently worked as a teaching artist, and as a substitute teacher. Before retiring, she served Chicago Public Schools as the curriculum coordinator for the Advanced Arts Education Program at Gallery 37, and for over three decades as a visual arts teacher.


Daniel Goldstein

Daniel M. Goldstein, Professor of Anthropology

Daniel M. Goldstein is Professor in the Department of Anthropology at Rutgers University. He is the author of three books: The Spectacular City: Violence and Performance in Urban Bolivia (Duke University Press, 2004); Outlawed: Between Security and Rights in a Bolivian City (Duke, 2012); and Owners of the Sidewalk: Security and Survival in the Informal City (Duke, forthcoming). He is the co-editor (with Enrique D. Arias) of the collection Violent Democracies in Latin America. A political and legal anthropologist, Prof. Goldstein specializes in the anthropology of security; his current research examines undocumented migrants’ use of the U.S. legal system in a context of securitized migration.

Daniel M. Goldstein

Chrissy Gray-Rodriguez

Chrissy Gray-Rodriguez, John W. Garvy School

Chrissy Gray-Rodriguez has been an art educator with Chicago Public Schools since 1995. Currently she serves as the "Art Liaison" and visual arts teacher at John W. Garvy School in Chicago. She has also taught art with Chicago’s Award Winning, Gallery 37/After School Matters and the Chicago Park District. She has also served on various Teacher Advisory Committees in the Chicago museum community. Her interest in curriculum design has rewarded her with numerous grants and fellowships that focus on developing arts curriculum that aligns to the CCSS and the new Core Arts Standards.

Chrissy Gray-Rodriguez

Izabela Grobelna

Izabela Grobelna, Community Engagement Coordinator, Chicago Cultural Alliance

Izabela Grobelna is a community engagement professional on her fourth year at the Chicago Cultural Alliance, who joined the Alliance in 2011 as an AmeriCorps Volunteer through the Uniting America AmeriCorps program launched by the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (ICIRR). In her current role as the Community Engagement Coordinator, Izabela has led the collaborative exhibit project, planned community discussions, and most recently devised a public tour program to grow it into 30 tours in one year with hundreds of new audiences. Before joining the Alliance, Izabela was a social researcher at The Field Museum working on the city-wide Chicago Climate Action Plan to present recommendations from Chicago residents on suitability strategies. Izabela has a B.A. in Sociology from North Park University.

Izabela Grobelna

Chris Guzaitis

Chris Guzaitis, Director of the Odyssey Project

Chris Guzaitis is Director of the Odyssey Project. She earned her BA in Feminist Studies with a minor in Health Care Studies from Beloit College (Wisconsin), her MA in Gender and Women's Studies from San Francisco State University, and did her doctoral work in Cultural Studies through the Department of Literature at University of California, San Diego. Before coming to IHC, Chris served as assistant professor in and department chair of the Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Department at Scripps College in Claremont, CA.

Chris Guzaitis

Sam Harris

Sam Harris, Mesopotamian archaeologist and PhD student

Sam Harris is a Mesopotamian archaeologist and PhD student in the Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations department of the University of Chicago.

Sam Harris

Debora Heard

Debora Heard, Archaeology Ph.D. Candidate

Debora Heard is an Archaeology Ph.D. Candidate in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Chicago. Her dissertation research analyzes the inscriptions and iconography of the Kushite temples of Amun and Apedemak during Nubia’s Napatan and Meroitic periods. She has studied ancient Egyptian languages and history extensively in the Dept. of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations. She served as Curatorial Assistant for the planning and installation of the Oriental Institute’s Robert F. Picken Family Nubian Gallery. In 2007 and 2008, she excavated at sites along the Nile River’s 4th Cataract in Sudan as a part of the Oriental Institute Nubian Expedition. In addition to her archaeological and anthropological studies, Ms. Heard also has a degree in Political Science (B.S., Tennessee State U.) and African-American Studies (M.A., Temple U.)

Debora Heard

Tanika Island

Tanika Island, Director of UTEP

Tanika Island is the director of the Urban Teacher Education Program and a managing director of the Urban Education Institute. Previously, Island served as the UChicago Charter School's chief academic officer and served for six years as the director of the UChicago Charter North Kenwood/Oakland (NKO) Campus where she also taught and worked as a literacy coordinator. During her tenure as director, Island was recognized with a Community School Leadership Award in 2012 from the Federation of Community Schools and a Principal Achievement Award from the city of Chicago in 2013. Before joining NKO, Island was an adjunct faculty member at Northwestern University's Teaching Practicum and Field Experience Seminar and a lead teacher at Martin L. King Experimental Laboratory School in Evanston, IL. Island received a BA in education with a concentration in psychology from National Louis University in Chicago and an MA in literacy education from Loyola University.

Tanika Island

Larisa Kurtovic

Larisa Kurtovic, Postdoctoral Fellow

Larisa Kurtovic is currently the Postdoctoral Fellow in the Mellon-Sawyer Seminar on "Political Will" at Cornell University. She received her PhD in Sociocultural Anthropology from the University of California, Berkeley. Her ethnographic research in Bosnia-Herzegovina traces the transformations in activist politics and popular historical imaginaries that are arising in the aftermath of the collapse of state-socialism, nationalist wars and the unprecedented international postwar intervention. She is currently working on a book entitled Future as Predicament: Bosnia-Herzegovina and Political Action after Catastrophe. Her next project, tentatively titledFruits of War,​ explores the intersections between Bosnia's dramatic levels of unemployment and processes of political (de)mobilization.

Larisa Kurtovic

Jeff McCarter

Jeff McCarter, Founder & Executive Director of Free Spirit Media

Jeff McCarter is the Founder & Executive Director of Free Spirit Media. Jeff is a thought leader in the fields of youth media education, production, and journalism, and has presented at conferences including DML, NAMAC, and Media Rise. Jeff worked professionally (in production, camera, and editing) on feature and documentary films and television, earned a BA in Humanities and Film at CU-Boulder, and studied non-profit management at Harvard Business School, Kellogg-Northwestern, and UIC. Jeff was a founding co-chair of the Chicago Youth Voices Network, serves on Chicago’s Committee for Media Access, the Leadership Council of the Community Media Workshop, and the boards of Media Process Educational Films and Siskel/Jacobs Educational Films. Jeff is active in civic and community affairs, and serves on the Local School Council of STEM Magnet Academy, and the Douglas Park Advisory Council.

Jeff McCarter

Josephine McEntee

Josephine McEntee, Odyssey Project and Bridge Course graduate

Josephine McEntee is an Odyssey Project and Bridge Course graduate. She is a native Chicagoan – born at Provident Hospital and raised in the Englewood and Hyde Park communities on the South side. For the last 20 years, she has resided in Rogers Park (49th Ward), and is a champion and neighborhood representative for Participatory Budgeting (Arts and Innovation Committee). Her professional career in technology spans 25+ years as a corporate trainer and systems engineer. Her passions are writing (creative arts), baking and cooking (culinary arts) and urban agriculture (food justice); hobbies include sewing, fishing and traveling. Currently, Josephine is a docent at the Smart Museum on the University of Chicago Campus, and a volunteer for Growing Home, Chicago Architecture Foundation, Fearless Food Kitchen, Clark Street Festival, and Printer’s Row Lit Fest.

Josephine McEntee

Pete Moore

Pete Moore, Professor in Politics at Case Western Reserve University

Pete Moore is the Marcus A. Hanna Associate Professor in Politics at Case Western Reserve University. He has held previous positions at Concordia University in Montreal, Dartmouth College, and the University of Miami in Coral Gables. His research focuses primarily on issues of political economy, state society relations, and sub-state conflict in the Gulf and the Levant. His second book is entitled Beyond the Arab Spring: Authoritarianism and Democratization in the Arab World published by Lynne Rienner in 2012). In 2008-2009 he was a Senior Fulbright Fellow at Zayed University in Dubai, UAE. Currently he directs the Northeast Ohio Consortium for Middle East Studies (NOCMES), a collaborative initiative of several local universities.

Pete Moore

Dorian H. Nash

Dorian H. Nash, Odyssey Project & Bridge Course graduate

Dorian H. Nash is an Odyssey Project & Bridge Course graduate. She provides administrative support to the Senior Program Manager for Adult Education and Odyssey Project Alumni at University of Chicago’s Civic Knowledge Project. Dorian is a native Chicagoan, married for 15 years and a mother of 2 beautiful girls. Dorian has worked for almost 2 years as a Docent at The Smart Museum while also being a student of the Humanities through the Odyssey Project program. Dorian’s goals include finishing her degree in Humanities in order to be an example to her girls that you never stop learning and it is never too late to get an education.

Dorian H. Nash

Michele Nowak

Michele Nowak, Mother Teresa Catholic Academy

Michele Nowak is a language arts teacher at Mother Teresa Catholic Academy in Crete, IL. Michele serves on the Teacher Advisory Council at the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago. In this capacity, she has developed lesson plans which are aligned to the museum’s exhibits. Additionally, she is a docent at the Field Museum in the Ancient Americas exhibition and contributes as a Field Ambassador. In her spare time, she enjoys outings with her family, and attending the opera and theatre as well as various musical events. 

Michele Nowak

Virginia Parks

Virginia Parks, Associate Professor, SSA

Virginia Parks ( Ph.D., Geography, M.A., Urban Planning, UCLA) is an Associate Professor in the University of Chicago School of Social Service Administration. She researches the patterns and ramifications of spatial inequality, particularly as they manifest in urban environments at the intersections of race, ethnicity, and gender. Her primary interest is in how space and place bring about and mediate labor market outcomes for immigrants, native-born minorities, and women. A central concern informing Professor Parks's research and teaching is how local communities can respond to these patterns of inequality through various organizing, policy, and development efforts. Her published papers consider issues such as the variation of racial wage inequality and rates of low-wage work across cities, African American employment in the public sector, the role of unions in protecting the rights of immigrant workers, and the relative positions of immigrant and African American workers in the workforce. Before her life as an academic, Professor Parks worked as a community organizer. 

Virginia Parks

Janet Roller Schmidt

Janet Roller Schmidt, Hindsdale South High School

Janet Roller Schmidt has a BS from Northwestern University, an MA from New York University, an MAE from Concordia University and a Professional Certificate in Art Education from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She has taught at Hinsdale South High School for 28 years where her courses include AP Art History and Photography. Ms. Roller Schmidt also taught drawing and painting for the Division of Continuing Studies at the School of the Art Institute for twenty years. In addition to teaching Janet is involved with the College Board and is an AP Advocate for the state of Illinois. She is also a member of the Teachers Advisory Council at the Oriental Institute. When not involved in educational pursuits she freelances as an illustrator, artist and photographer.

Janet Roller Schmidt

Tola Ros

Tola Ros, Volunteer Management Coordinator, Cambodian American Heritage Museum

Tola Ros is an AmeriCorps VISTA member working as the Volunteer Management Coordinator at the Cambodian American Heritage Museum. She obtained her B.A. in Cultural Anthropology from the University of Illinois at Chicago in 2012. Tola started at Cambodian Association of Illinois and the Museum as an intern in 2011 and has since volunteered her time working on various projects. She is currently working on getting her certificate in Artifact Collection Care from the University of Illinois Graham School. She is a co-founder of Chicago Khmer for Change, a local community group made up of young professional Cambodian and non-Cambodian Americans. Tola was born in a refugee camp in Thailand and came to the United States with her mother in 1982. She lived in Chicago for 5 years before moving to North Carolina.


Saskia Sassen

Saskia Sassen, The Committee on Global Thought, Columbia University

Saskia Sassen is the Robert S. Lynd Professor of Sociology and Co-Chair, The Committee on Global Thought, Columbia University. Her recent books are Expulsions: Brutality and Complexity in the Global EconomyTerritory, Authority, Rights: From Medieval to Global Assemblages and A Sociology of Globalization. Among older books is The Global City (Princeton University Press 1991/2001). Her books are translated into over 20 languages. She has received diverse awards, from multiple doctor honoris causa to being chosen as one of the Top 100 Global Thinkers by Foreign Policy in 2011, Top 100 Thought Leaders by GDI-MIT 2012 and 2013, Top 50 Global Thinkers Prospect Magazine 2014, and receiving the 2013 Principe de Asturias Prize for the Social Sciences.

Saskia Sassen

Bill Singerman

Bill Singerman, Ancona School

Bill Singerman serves as 7th & 8th grade humanities teacher and Diversity Symposium Coordinator at the Ancona School. He received his M.Ed. from Bank Street College of Education, with a focus on museum education. In the past, he has worked for The Field Museum, American Museum of Natural History, and Spertus College. Bill's work on the use of improvisational comedy to teach in museum settings has been noted in Exploring Museum Theatre by Tessa Bridal. He was honored to be named a Golden Apple Teacher of Distinction in 2014.

Bill Singerman

Meghan Thomas

Meghan Thomas, Von Steuben High School

Meghan Thomas is a social studies teacher at Von Steuben High School in Chicago. For the past two years, she has taught U.S. history at the regular, honors, and Advanced Placement levels. Meghan is interested in engaging students in the study of history through the use of storytelling, oral history, and technology. She believes that the practice of writing and studying oral histories helps build empathy in young people, and it also allows them to form a deeper understanding of their world.

Meghan Thomas

Kayla Vigil Nuguid

Kayla Vigil Nuguid, Namaste Charter School

Kayla Vigil Nuguid is the Manager of Literacy and Enrichment at Namaste Charter School in Chicago’s McKinley Park neighborhood. She earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in anthropology from the University of Chicago in 2005, as well as a Master of Arts degree in teaching in 2006. Prior to her work at Namaste, Kayla taught for five years in Chicago and Boston Public Schools. Upon returning to Chicago, Kayla continued her career as a teacher in middle school classrooms, where she continued encouraging students to think critically of their communities and become advocates for change.

Kayla Vigil Nuguid

Hope Williams

Hope Williams, Student Support Specialist for the Odyssey Project.

Hope Williams is Student Support Specialist for the Odyssey Project. She earned her BA in English from San Diego State University and her MSW from the University of Illinois, Chicago. She is an avid knitter, quilter, and collector of oddities, I believe in applied arts as a medium for healing and transformation. With a penchant for advocacy and community organizing, The Odyssey Project combines my interests of education and social justice and allows me to practice with creativity and fully operate from a humanistic perspective.

Hope Williams

Ryan Yokota

Ryan Yokota, Ph.D. Candidate

Ryan Yokota is a current Ph.D. Candidate in East Asian (Japanese) History at the University of Chicago. His dissertation and research is focused on "Postwar Okinawan Nationalism(s): Independence, Autonomy, and Indigenousness." Previously he had received his M.A. in Asian American Studies at UCLA. Past academic journal articles have dealt with the Okinawan indigenous movement; the history of Okinawan Peruvians in Los Angeles, CA; the history of Japanese and Okinawans in Cuba; and an interview with Pat Sumi, seminal figure in the Asian American Movement of the 1960s and 1970s.

<< Return to 2015 Summer Teacher Institute menu

Ryan Yokota