Third Annual STEM Employer Summit: Building IT Pathways

June 18, 2019 – Chicago, IL

Microsoft Technology Center, 2nd Floor of the Aon Building – 200 E Randolph St, Chicago, IL 60601

Join us

The Illinois Science & Technology Institute (ISTI), in partnership with NIU’s Education Systems Center, is hosting a half-day summit designed for businesses and education and community leaders to discuss programs and best practices to support IT pathways in Illinois.  

The event will specifically focus on the implementation of the state’s Postsecondary & Workforce Readiness (PWR) Act and the development of professional learning experiences connecting students with employers. Panels and group discussions will provide a unique opportunity for employers and communities to discuss common challenges and best practices/successful models among their peers.






8:00am – Breakfast & Networking


8:30am – Welcome

  • Adam Hecktman, Director of Technology & Civic Innovation, Chicago, Microsoft
  • Juan Jose Gonzalez, Pathways Director, NIU EdSystems
  • Mark Harris, President & CEO, Illinois Science & Technology Coalition/Institute


9:00 – 9:45 AM – Team-Based Challenges Panel

Moderated panel discussion on the features and implementation mechanics of team-based challenges
  • Larry Kuhn, Account Technology Strategist, Microsoft – Moderator
  • Rob Berg, Computer Science Teacher, Lane Tech College Prep High School
  • Madeleine Boesche, Project Manager, CME Group
  • Karan Patel, Business Data Analyst, Caterpillar Inc.
  • Adrianne Wheeler, Director of Programs, Project SYNCERE


9:50 – 10:35 AM – Career Development & Work-based Learning Experiences Panel

Moderated panel discussion on the features and implementation mechanics of work-based learning

  • Heather Penczak, Policy and Program Manager, NIU EdSystems – Moderator
  • Jami Becker, Technology Analyst, State Farm
  • Olga Gutierrez, Strategic Initiatives Manager, Apple
  • Joseph Tollefson, Director of Corporate Partnerships, GenesysWorks 
  • Dan Weidner, Director of Career and Technical Education, District 214


10 Minute Break


10:45 AM – 12:00 PM – Small Group Breakouts

Attendees will have the opportunity to ask questions and further discuss implementation of team-based challenges and work-based learning experiences in a small group setting.  Below is a list of individuals who will serve as table leads to provide additional information about their respective programs.

Team-based Challenges:

  • ISTI – STEM Challenge Program, Sarah Perret-Goluboff
  • Township High School D214 – Embedding team-based challenges in curriculum, Dan Weidner and Megan Knight
  • ProjectSYNCERE, Adrianne Wheeler
  • Lumity,  Pamela Johnson and Chuck Munro

Career Development & Work-based Learning Experiences:

  • GenesysWorks, Joseph Tollefson
  • Township High School D214 – Center for Career Discovery, Scott Gustafson
  • One Summer Chicago, Olga Gutierrez
  • State Farm – IT Cohort and Internship Program, Jami Becker
  • Chicago Public Schools – Early College STEM Schools, Allie Parker


12:00 – 1:00 PM Lunch – Student Panel

Grab boxed lunches and participate in an interactive panel of students that have taken part in team-based challenges and work-based learning experiences to share their first-hand perspective.


Speaker Bios

Microsoft/Aon Center

Spread the word

This event is open. Feel free to share with corporate peers/colleagues interested in talent pipeline development strategies and exploring new ways to support local high schools.

Jami Becker, Technology Analyst, State Farm

Jami Becker is an Intern and STEM Coordinator for the Enterprise Technology department at State Farm. In this role, Jami is responsible for partnering with Human Resources to develop, attract, and maintain a diverse candidate pool as a pipeline for entry-level hiring. She is responsible for preparing and hosting over 100 college and high school interns each summer, as well as, approximately 30 interns in the spring and fall. In addition to the internship program, Jami partners with school districts in Bloomington/Normal as a STEM engagement coordinator. Her role includes promoting IT engagement for K-12 students in technology, providing high school mentoring, and creating excitement around IT career opportunities. She does this by coordinating year-long challenge projects, creating and executing STEMposiums, and identifying ways to engage young students in STEM related activities.

Rob Berg, Computer Science Teacher, Lane Tech College Prep

Rob arrived at Lane Tech in 2016 after ten years teaching mathematics and computer science in Plainfield, Illinois.  He came to Lane Tech because of a chance encounter with a bearded man, a dog, and some awesome people doing awesome things.  You can ask him for the full story.  Rob teaches or has taught Exploring Computer Science, Web Development, Programming 1, AP Computer Science A, and Intro to Artificial Intelligence.  He strives to have an equitable, inquiry driven classroom and will continue to participate in professional development in order to bring new techniques into the classroom.  He is always trying to stay up to date in this ever-changing field.  Rob sponsors the Lane Tech Ultimate Frisbee team and coaches the girls team.  He also sponsors Codelab, an environment for Lane Tech students to work on their own programming projects and compete in coding competitions.

Madeleine Boesche, Project Manager, CME Group

Madeleine Boesche is a Project Manager in the Office of the CIO at CME Group. She is responsible for managing many of the Technology Division’s community and educational partnerships. In addition to leading the division’s summer internship program, and she also coordinates with the company’s foundations to connect underserved students to job and internship opportunities at CME Group.

Boesche led a team of CME Group mentors in the 2018-2019 Illinois Science & Technology Institute STEM Challenge. She’s currently developing an apprenticeship program for CME Group.

Boesche earned a bachelor’s degree from Vassar College.



Juan Jose Gonzalez, Pathways Director, NIU EdSystems

Juan Jose Gonzalez began his career as an immigration rights organizer for the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, where he mobilized voters and lobbied. He then served as the Chicago Director for Stand for Children Illinois, where he managed their advocacy efforts in Chicago and then as the Director of Youth and Education policy for the Chicago Mayor’s office.

These work experiences led Mr. Gonzalez to his current role as the Pathways Director for the Education Systems Center. Mr. Gonzalez is heavily involved in the implementation of the Illinois Postsecondary Workforce Readiness Act, and the implementation of the College and Career Pathways Endorsements framework in school districts and communities across the state.

Mr. Gonzalez received his B.A. at Princeton University and a Master’s in Public Policy from the University of Chicago Harris School.


Olga Gutierrez, Strategic Initiatives Manager, Apple

Olga Gutierrez works for Apple Inc., as a Strategic Initiatives Manager for the Education Division. As a member of the Strategic Initiatives Group, she oversees and implements education policy across the Midwest and the Great Plains region including Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas and Missouri. The Strategic Initiatives Group manages high-level
relationships with elected officials, policymakers, and education thought leaders in ways that help champion education reforms which promote flexibility and innovation in the classroom enabled by digital tools. She came to Apple from the City Colleges of Chicago where she advised on financial, legal contract academic and other policy issues as the Policy Advisor to the Board of Trustees, who oversaw a half a billion dollar budget for 120,000 students on seven campuses and seven satellite locations. She also served there as the Executive Director of Legislative and Government Affairs. She managed an internal team as well as a team of lobbyists that represented the City Colleges of Chicago on a myriad of policy issues including funding, academic, pension, health care, and facility issues.

While Executive Director of Legislative and Government Affairs at the City Colleges she ensured the colleges received a yearly $15 million appropriation from the state government and worked closely with former Lieutenant Governor Sheila Simon on her community college white paper and college tour. She also worked on federal higher education issues including President Obama’s Graduation Initiative. Her other experiences working in government relations includes stints at the Chicago Public Schools, where she managed local government affairs and worked on issues such as school closings, budgets, bonds, and new school construction. During her time at the City of Chicago, Mayor’s Office of Intergovernmental Affairs, she oversaw nine city council committees on behalf of former Mayor Daley and his legislative team including committees on Licensing, Zoning and Special Events.

She earned her law degree at Chicago-Kent College of Law and served as a law clerk to the Honorable Maria Valdez of the Northern District Court of Illinois. Born in Colombia, raised in Chicago, Olga is a graduate of the Chicago-Kent College of Law and the University of Illinois.

Mark Harris, President & CEO, Illinois Science and Technology Coalition

Mark Harris has served as the President & CEO of the Illinois Science & Technology Coalition and Institute since June 2012. He has more than a decade of experience working in government, economic development and higher education. This includes serving as deputy chief of staff for the State of Illinois, working as associate director for the Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business and serving in senior positions at the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO).

Mark holds a BS from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and a MA from the University of Chicago. He currently serves on the board of Energy Foundry and mHub, is on the Steering Committee of the Illinois Business Immigration Coalition, and is a member of the City of Chicago’s tech council ChicagoNEXT and the Economic Club of Chicago. Mark is Chilean-American and is fluent in Spanish.



Adam Hecktman, Director of Technology and Civic Innovation - Chicago, Microsoft

Adam J. Hecktman is Microsoft’s Director of Technology and Civic Innovation for Chicago. In this capacity, Adam helps the cities’ civic leaders – and the communities they serve – use cutting-edge ideas around technology to solve the city’s biggest social challenges. He provides guidance on the key issues and opportunities facing neighborhoods and communities today and in the future.

Prior to this role, Adam was the Director of the Microsoft Technology Center – Chicago, helping organizations ensure long-term success when facing their toughest business challenges and opportunities. He has been with Microsoft in Chicago since 1991. Prior to Microsoft, Adam was a consultant at Accenture.

Adam received a Bachelor of Science in Commerce and Business Administration from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and is pursuing his Master of Data Science with a concentration on Computational Methods at DePaul University. Adam has served his community in various capacities and appointments at non-profit, civic, and professional organizations including:

  • Board of Directors of The Chicago Cook Workforce Partnership (workforce board)
  • Board of Directors of The Chicagoland Entrepreneurial Center (1871)
  • Board of Directors of The Chicago Public Library Foundation
  • Board of Directors of Genesys Works Chicago
  • Leadership Council of THRIVE Chicago
  • Leadership Council of Civic Consulting Alliance
  • Executive Committee of ADA25 Advancing Leadership
  • Founder of the Chicago City Data Users Group
  • Advisory Board of IT Knowledge Abilities Network
  • Editorial board of The International Journal of Innovation Science
  • Board of Directors of TechForward
  • Past Board Chair of The Family Institute at Northwestern

A lifelong Chicago resident, Adam lives with his family in the Old Town neighborhood. He can be found and

Larry Kuhn, Account Technology Strategist, Microsoft

Larry Kuhn is a Technology Strategist serving global enterprise customers of Microsoft in the Chicago area.  In this role, Larry guides Microsoft customers on how best to meet their business and technology needs through the application of Microsoft services and solutions. Larry joined Microsoft as an Enterprise Consultant in Microsoft Consulting Services in 2001. With over 25 years in the software industry, his experience spans areas of end user productivity, application development and project management. Larry has been volunteering to participate in Microsoft’s STEM partnership with Lake View High School since its inception in 2013 and involved with ISTI as a STEM Challenge Mentor at Lake View High School since 2015.


Allie Parker, Senior Manager of Early College STEM, Chicago Public Schools

Allie Parker serves as the Senior Manager of Early College STEM at Chicago Public Schools, where she works with a portfolio of district high schools on increasing post-secondary success through the implementation of a wall-to-wall STEM program model. While with CPS, Allie has also served as a second grade classroom teacher and worked on maximizing access to and quality of out-of-school time programs across the district. She holds a bachelor’s degree in sociology from the University of Pennsylvania and a master’s degree in elementary education from Northwestern University. She is currently pursuing a master’s degree in educational leadership through the Broad Residency.

Heather Penczak, Policy and Program Manager, NIU EdSystems

Heather Penczak has focused much of her career on ensuring students of Chicago Public Schools, in traditional and alternative high school settings, have the work development training and internships experiences necessary to succeed in college and professional settings. Ms. Penczak, in her current role as the Policy and Program Manager at the Education Systems Center, develops state-level supports for work-based learning and providing technical assistance for pathways implementation.

Ms. Penczak possesses a Master’s in Education Policy Studies from the University of Illinois at Chicago, a B.S. from Purdue University and is a certified teacher in secondary education.




Joseph Tollefson, Director of Corporate Partnerships, GenesysWorks

Joseph started with Genesys Works Chicago in 2011 as a Program Coordinator and has been a key contributor to the rapid growth that Genesys Works has achieved over the years. Joseph’s primary responsibilities are overseeing internship programming and student success, as well as managing, and expanding, Genesys Works’ portfolio of corporate partners.


Adrianne Wheeler, Director of Programs, Project SYNCERE

Adrianne Wheeler is a change agent, administrator, educator, and problem solver from the Chicagoland area. She received her Bachelors of Science in Civil & Environmental Engineering from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a Masters of City Planning, with a concentration in Community Development, from University of California, Berkeley.  As Director of Programs at Project SYNCERE, Wheeler focuses her work on building the organization’s capacity to sustain growth as they continue to strive to create pathways of opportunity for underserved students to pursue STEM careers.  Outside of Project SYNCERE, Wheeler has served on the Executive Board for the National Society of Black Engineers, as well as, currently serving as the Director of Youth Ministry at a faith-based non-profit in the Roseland community.



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