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Operations and Program Leadership Team


Mark Rodriguez
Executive Director

Kay Berkson
Founder/Outreach Programs Support

Michael Driscoll
Manager of After-School and Community Outreach Programs

Indira Freitas Johnson
Peace and Arts Consultant

Myra Harden
Coordinator of Office Operations

Meida McNeal
Manager of Performance Arts Learning and Special Projects

Maria Miranda
Manager of Individual Giving and Communications

Patti Pangborn
Manager of Office Operations and Program Support

Karen Shifflett
Manager of Program Evaluation and Documentation

Joanne Vena
Program Director

Program Team


With an average of over 28 years of experience, program team members are veteran educators, artist and literacy leaders with a successful track record of working in public school or community-based settings. This diverse team has worked in various capacities to mobilize the arts as a social change strategy and improve student learning through teacher and student development programs and curricula that places students at the center of the educational experience. 

 Teaching Artists

 Education and Literacy Specialists

 
 Yaasha Abraham   Edith Armstrong (aka Mama Edie)
 Mary Ruth Albert   Roxanne Brown
 Richard Blakenely   Alice Collins 
 Margaret Bridger  Shana Cooper
 Jennifer Busch     Robyn J. Conner
 Rafael Casteneda   Karen Jaros-Doria
 Dominique Chestand   Gale Liebman
 Marie Cisco       Molly Moynahan
 Agnotti Cowie  Toni Murff
 Molly Cranch Cohlmia    Nina Sethi
 Nora Fiffer   Barbara Walsh
 Tonika Johnson   
 Lungelo Kuzwayo    
 Carron Little   
 Lamon Manuel   
 Amber Marsh   
 Sadira Muhammad   
 Jenkin Ng   
 Jean Parisi   
 Kelsa Robinson   
 Abby Schwartz  
 Kiara Sinclair   
 Elgin Smith   
 Nikki Smith   
 Diana Solis  
 Chris Terry   
 Nancy Vachon  
  


Mark Rodriguez, Executive Director  

As the organization’s first Executive Director, Mark Rodriguez has led Changing Worlds’ development from a small project at one school to a multi-faceted state-wide resource serving over 10,000 residents annually. Rodriguez has worked for over a decade to strengthen Chicago's nonprofits and communities in various roles such as program director, community organizer, education director, community relations manager and consultant through New Leaders for New Schools, National-Louis University, Business and Professional People for the Public Interest (BPI), the University of Chicago and the Boys and Girls Clubs of Chicago among others. 

In 2007, Rodriguez was selected as one of Chicago's "35 under 35" from the Community Renewal Society. In 2010, he was awarded an Emerging Arts Leaders of Color Fellowship through the Joyce Foundation.  Rodriguez currently serves on the board of the Crossroads Fund and is a co-founder of the Telpochcalli Community Education Project.

Mark Rodriguez graduated cum laude from Roosevelt University with a Bachelor of Arts in communications and holds advanced certifications in Philanthropy Management from Loyola University, Nonprofit Management and Human Resources from Roosevelt University and Adult Education and Literacy Best Practices from National-Louis University.

Michael DriscollManager of After-School and Community Outreach Programs 

Indira Freitas Johnson, Integration and Arts and Peace Consultant

Ms. Johnson is an award winning artist and the founder of the Shanti Foundation for Peace, which she established in 1993 in response to the rise of ethnic violence the world over. Johnson based Shanti's vision on her own artistic experience, namely that the skills necessary to, and gained through, art-making are inseparable from the skills needed for problem-solving and peace-making.

Since the merger of Shanti with Changing Worlds, Johnson has served as an arts and peace consultant to Changing Worlds. Johnson's work has been exhibited nationally and internationally and is represented in numerous private and public collections including the Chicago Museum of Contemporary Art, the Rhode Island School of Design Museum, Providence, RI and the High Museum of Art, Atlanta, GA. She has been the recipient of many grants and awards, including the prestigious Governor's Award for the Arts. In recent years, Johnson has been involved in many innovative community art projects and exhibits which have provided an opportunity for various marginalized groups to become civically engaged. In addition, Johnson is a founding board member of Marketplace; Handwork of India and serves as an advisory board member of Women Made Gallery.

Myra Harden, Coordinator of Office Operations and Program Support

Meida McNeal, Manager of Performance Arts Learning and Special Project

Dr. Meida Teresa McNeal (PhD, Performance Studies, Northwestern University) is Manager of Performance Arts Learning with Changing Worlds. A practicing artist and scholar of performance studies, dance and critical ethnography, she teaches at several Chicago area universities and colleges in addition to her work supporting Teaching Artists at Changing Worlds. Meida is Artistic Director of
Honey Pot Performance, a woman-focused collaborative creative community committed to chronicling and interrogating Afro-diasporic feminist and unconventional subjectivities amidst the pressures of contemporary global life. Her research combines performances and ethnography integrating interests in the Caribbean, African American vernacular performance, dance, race/ethnicity, class, gender/sexuality, creolization, diasporic cultural production and digital humanities. Combining her commitment to embodied performance with a love for scholarship, Meida is currently completing her first book-lengthen manuscript "Compromised Subjectivities: Constructing Trinidadian Nationhood and Navigating Postcolonial Caribbean Performance" based on more than ten years of ethnographic research with Afro- and Indo-Trinidadian dance and performance companies supported in part by a Fulbright Grant.

Maria Miranda
, Manager of Individual Giving and Communications

Patti PangbornManager of Office Operations, Finance and Program Support

Karen ShifflettManager of Program Evaluation and Documentation 

Karen brings over a decade of experiences in education. Her professional experience includes serving as a principal, curriculum specialist, dean of students, and classroom teacher. She has also served as an Adjunct Professional at Harold Washington College and VanderCook College of Music. Karen holds a bachelors degree in Geography from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Campaign and a masters' degree in International Relations from American University in Washington, D.C. Karen holds a Type 75 Illinois Administrative Certificate and is currently completing a doctorate degree in Urban Education Leadership at the University of Illinois at Chicago. 

Joanne VenaProgram Director

Joanne leads the in-school program development and supports the team of staff who coordinate the after-school and community programs.

Prior to joining Changing Worlds, Joanne Vena was the Director of School Partnerships at Columbia College Chicago's Center for Community Arts Partnerships and served as a consultant for several arts and education organizations to support their artists and staff in their strategic planning for curriculum and instruction.

Joanne and her husband are experiencing the life of empty nesters while their son Daniel attends the University of Southern California. She is a gardener and a practicing artist that works at Spudnik Press of Chicago. 

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