Civic Leadership Academy Instructors

2023-24 Civic Leadership Academy Instructor Biographies

Allison Albrecht

Allison Albrecht, M.S

Allison Albrecht, M.S., currently serves as the Director of Communications & Outreach for the Village of Schaumburg and has performed communications for the village since August 2014. Prior to working in Schaumburg, Allison served as a communications specialist for the City of Naperville for three years. Allison also spent time as a communications analyst for the Illinois House of Representatives where she worked both in Chicago and Springfield with various members of the Illinois legislature to develop their communication plans and materials.

Aside from her time spent in the public sector, Allison has communications experience in the private sector, having worked as a public relations and account executive for a boutique strategic communications firm in downtown Chicago. There she created branding strategies and provided copywriting on web, identity, collateral, advertising and marketing projects for a variety of clients.

Allison’s passion for communications started when she worked as a general assignment reporter for Liberty Suburban Chicago Newspapers covering several towns in Cook County. As a journalist, she was a recipient of the NAACP Medal of Freedom for presenting fair and accurate coverage of diverse issues in Chicago communities. Allison holds a bachelor’s degree in communications from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and a Master of Science in communication from Purdue University. She lives in Bloomingdale with her husband of 15 years and two greyhounds.

 Headshot of Janelle Crowley
Janelle Crowley, Ph.D.

Janelle Crowley, Ph.D., currently serves as the Chief of Staff for Governors State University. She has served as the chief human resources officer (CHRO) for higher education in Wisconsin and Illinois, where she provided leadership and management for organizations from 1,200 to 3,400 employees. As a human resource professional, she also had oversight as the ethics officer for Emergency Preparedness and Law Enforcement. Janelle honed her craft in human resources at Northwestern University, Center for Public Safety, where she served as an adjunct faculty member for fifteen years. She has been recognized by the Woodstock Women’s Business and Professional Association as Woman of the Year, McHenry County College as a Distinguished Alumni, and served as an Ambassador for the eradication of Polio throughout India with Rotary International. Janelle was nominated and awarded the “Breaking the Glass Ceiling Award” by the National Center for Women and Policing in Los Angeles (CA), and she was the recipient of the prestigious “Doc Wilson” award for her vision of training through the University of Illinois, where she also served on the advisory board for the Police Training Institute.

Janelle holds a bachelor’s degree in business and public administration, two graduate degrees – an M.A. in human resources development and an MBA in finance, plus a Doctorate of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in applied management and decision sciences. She has completed all four Labor Relations Academies with the National Public Employers Labor Relations Association (IPELRA), is a certified senior professional with the International Public Management Association (IPMA) and holds numerous certifications through FEMA and Homeland Security, coupled with her certification of Conflict Resolution and Mediation through DePaul University.

Paul Denham

Paul Denham, J.D.

Paul Denham, J.D., is a partner with Clark Baird Smith LLP who represents management clients in all areas of labor and employment law, including collective bargaining negotiations, arbitration, federal and state litigation, appellate review, unfair labor practice charges and matters before administrative agencies. Prior to joining Clark Baird Smith, Paul most recently worked as an in-house labor and employment attorney for the City of Rockford and, ultimately, as the city’s director of human resources. His experiences in this context give Paul a unique perspective when advising and counseling clients over incidents related to discipline, workplace investigations, termination, potential accommodations, health and employee benefits, pension, labor disputes and other employment issues. Paul has briefed and argued cases before the Illinois Appellate and Supreme Courts. Paul earned his J.D. from Northwestern University School of Law and his B.A. in journalism and fine arts from The George Washington University.

Mim Evans

Miriam "Mim" Evans, M.S.

Miriam "Mim" Evans, M.S., joined CGS in 2013. Previously, she served as executive director of a nonprofit downtown development organization and consultant with a national firm evaluating the economic feasibility of real estate projects.

At the NIU Center for Governmental Studies, Mim’s projects include economic development for communities ranging from rural villages to mid-sized cities, downtown revitalization, housing, and tourism- and recreation-related growth planning. She leads projects based on pressing issues and trends, including planning for an older population, capitalizing on a growing interest in nature-based activities and developing viable futures for rural areas. In most cases, Mim works with residents, businesses, property owners and local officials to assemble a team and devise and implement meaningful projects. Her work often includes developing new resources for local community champions. Mim earned a B.S. in urban planning from Michigan State University and an M.S. in urban and regional planning from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

No Photo Available

James Ford

James Ford serves as a Protective Security Advisor (PSA) for the Northern District of Illinois within the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA). In this role, he supports homeland security efforts in Illinois by serving as the CISA infrastructure protection liaison between federal, state and local government agencies and the private sector. He assists with the identification, assessment and mitigation of risk to critical assets, and performs security surveys and trainings. He also supports preparedness initiatives for election security, soft targets and crowded places security, including commercial facilities, faith-based organizations and school safety partners. Prior to this position, he served in various roles supporting the national homeland security mission. Highlights include serving as a lead exercise planner and facilitator for the Office of Infrastructure Protection, sector outreach program analyst and senior executive briefer for CISA’s Infrastructure Security Division.

Before joining CISA, he served as a field artillery officer in the U.S. Army and completed tours of duty in Iraq and the Republic of Korea.

Paula FreezePaula Freeze, MUPP

Paula Freeze, MUPP, has been a research specialist with NIU’s Center for Governmental Studies since January 2017. Prior to that, she was employed as an urban planner with the city of Chicago, Knight Engineers & Architects, Metra and as a self-employed consultant. At the Center for Governmental Studies, Paula works with the Association Management and the Community and Economic Development teams. Through CGS, she serves as the executive director of the American Planning Association - Illinois Chapter (APA-IL), a statewide professional association for urban planners with over 1,500 members. Paula holds a B.A. in urban and regional planning from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a Master of Urban Planning and Public Policy from the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Julie Gommel Bailey

Julie Gommel Bailey, MPH

Julie Gommel Bailey, MPH, has been a research specialist with NIU’s Center for Governmental Studies for 17 years, and she has 20 years of survey research experience, designing and managing custom research projects with governmental and public service organizations, including schools, libraries, park districts and health organizations. Her projects provide actionable information to be used in organizational decision-making and planning. She has expertise with multiple modes of survey research, including telephone, internet, mail, focus groups and multi-modal research. Ms. Gommel Bailey holds a Master of Public Health with a focus in health promotion from Northern Illinois University.

Melissa Henriksen

Melissa Henriksen, MPP

Melissa “Mel” Henriksen, MPP, has a diverse background including economic and community development, technical assistance, strategic and comprehensive planning, rural health care research and grant writing. She is a specialist in the areas of strategic planning, conducting focus groups, needs assessments, community and economic development and rural health research. Mel has led or co-facilitated strategic planning efforts for municipalities, non-profits, school and other districts, boards of directors and institutes of higher education. For the past 16 years, she has managed funded projects for the Illinois Critical Access Hospital Network (ICAHN), the National Association of Development Agencies (NADO), the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA), and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), as well as state and local organizations focused on economic and community development and health care. These projects included coordinating surveys, community focus groups, strategic planning to identify potential challenges and solutions, demographic analysis and distilling themes and findings from a variety of qualitative information to share with key stakeholders.

Mel holds a B.A. degree in political communication/public relations and a master’s degree in public policy, both from the University of Northern Iowa. Mel is a former board member for the Illinois Rural Health Association and was the chair of its Research and Education and Conference Committee. In addition, she is a former Kettering Foundation Research Fellow and received the ICAHN Service Award for her research in rural health care and its economic impact on rural communities. Mel has been a speaker for several Civic Leadership Academy (CLA) classes and has taught courses at NIU and Kishwaukee College, including strategic performance management and American government.

Alli HoebingAlli Hoebing, MPA

Alli Hoebing, MPA, is a research specialist focusing on strategic and community planning as well as association management. She first joined CGS as a graduate assistant and has served as a research specialist with expertise in focus group facilitation, quantitative and qualitative analysis, project management and stakeholder engagement. In addition, Alli also serves as the Executive Director of the Illinois Local Government Lawyers Association (ILGL), and she works closely with the Illinois City/County Management Association (ILCMA), the Wisconsin City/County Management Association (WCMA), and the American Planning Association’s Illinois Chapter (APA-IL). In her work with associations, Alli assists with conferences, committees, financial reports, research, and analytics and strategic planning.

Alli graduated from NIU’s Master of Public Administration program with an emphasis in local government administration. As an undergrad at NIU, Alli was a member of the Pre-Law Honors Society and collegiate Mock Trial team, majoring in political science, public law and communication.

Greg Kuhn

Gregory T. Kuhn, Ph.D.

Gregory T. Kuhn, Ph.D., is the director of the Center for Governmental Studies at NIU. He has over 40 years of combined experience in government administration, consulting and academics. In addition to serving at CGS for much of his career, Greg has also served in city management assignments as village manager in Clarendon Hills and assistant to the manager in Skokie, both Illinois communities in the Chicago area. Greg has also provided services to governments on a consulting basis as director of local government management services at Sikich, LLP, managing vice president of the PAR Group, and senior associate in governmental services at Korn-Ferry International. Dr. Kuhn specializes in organizational development, design and training, strategic planning, leadership, urban management and public policy formulation. He serves as a lecturer/adjunct faculty member in NIU’s Department of Public Administration and Northwestern University’s graduate program in public policy and public administration. He earned a bachelor’s degree in political science from Marquette University and an MPA and a Ph.D. in public administration and political science from NIU.

Judy Santacaterina

Judy Santacaterina, M.A.

Judy Santacaterina, M.A., has served as the coach of the award winning NIU Forensics team for the last 42 years. In that time, she coached numerous national and state champions. Ms. Santacaterina holds both a B.A. and M.A. in communication education from Northern Illinois University. She has conducted workshops for students, faculty and staff on the NIU campus as well as other universities throughout the country and has served as a communication consultant for both public and private businesses and organizations. She is the current executive director of the Illinois Intercollegiate Forensics Association as well as a past president of the Illinois Communication and Theatre Association. She is the recipient of numerous awards, including NIU’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Golden Alumni Award, the American Forensics Association’s Distinguished Service Award and the Illinois Communication and Theatre Association’s Lifetime Achievement Award. Ms. Santacaterina also serves as the director of NIU’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Bachelor of General Studies degree program.

Melanie Santostefano

Melanie Santostefano, B.A.

Melanie Santostefano, B.A., is Founder and President of Arlington Heights-based Vicarious Multimedia (VM), a marketing communications firm, and St. Steven Public Relations (SSPR), which manages an array of PR and crisis communications projects. Both firms have served local government organizations and elected officials since 2015, as well as nonprofits and professional associations. Through VM and SSPR, Melanie and her team become valuable partners and trusted advisors through the development of robust communication strategies – whether they be through daily messaging, special projects, or PR/crisis communications support. Prior to founding VM and SSPR, Melanie’s first career in communications was in radio where she was a writer, reporter, broadcaster and editor for news outlets including Newstalk 1340 WSOY (Decatur, Illinois), along with Shadow Broadcast/Metro Networks,, WLS 890 AM and News Radio 780 WBBM – all of which serve the Chicagoland area.

Melanie leverages her more than 23 years of passion and expertise working in communications to guide organizational leaders on how and where to share their stories and other vital messaging through a range of communication channels. These include newsletters (E- and print), social media, graphic design, websites, videos and public relations/crisis communications. She is thrilled to be a CLA instructor, and to have the opportunity to provide education and inspiration for local government leaders focused on establishing and/or strengthening their relationship and connection with stakeholders. Melanie’s overarching goal is to assist local government to “tell its story” and communicate the value that these organizations provide for the communities they lead – as they continually strive to strengthen and improve quality of life.

Melanie holds a Bachelor of Liberal Arts degree from the University of Illinois at Chicago with a focus in Communications and Psychology.

Mindy Schneiderman

Mindy Schneiderman, Ph.D.

Mindy Schneiderman, Ph.D., is an assistant director of the Center for Governmental Studies (CGS) and is responsible for the survey research and data visualization team. Mindy has over 30 years of survey research and quantitative and qualitative data analysis experience. She has experience managing projects using publicly available data, internet, mail, telephone and multi-mode surveys, as well as focus group and in-person interviewing. She has managed survey and focus group projects for local governments, libraries, park districts, nonprofit organizations, county health departments and mental health boards. She was the associate director of NIU’s Public Opinion Laboratory from 2008 to 2013. Previously she worked at the American Medical Association for 18 years, the last 11 years as the director of survey research and analysis. Mindy started her career as a program evaluation specialist working in a psychiatric hospital. She has numerous publications on survey research methodology. Her survey research has been cited in the New York Times and Wall Street Journal and has been used in U.S. congressional testimony. Dr. Schneiderman received her Ph.D. in cognitive psychology from Rutgers University.

 Kate Schultz

Kate R. Schultz, M.S.

Kate R. Schultz, M.S., is the Senior Communications Specialist for the City of Naperville. Born and raised in rural northern Wisconsin, Kate Schultz has been writing since age two. (Fortunately, she’s moved past the early days of one-page handwritten neighborhood newspapers where she struggled to spell the word construction.) She pursued her dream of moving to Chicago and obtained her master’s degree in journalism in 2005 from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. Following this, she spent two years honing her skills as a general assignment and city reporter at the Naperville Sun newspaper in Naperville, Illinois.

The experience covering the City of Naperville’s local government, coupled with a love of political science developed while obtaining her Bachelor of Science in mass communication and American political studies from the University of Wisconsin-Superior, led her to become a communications specialist at the City of Naperville. Now one of the City’s first Senior Communications Specialists, she’s written 12 State of the City speeches, launched Naperville’s mass notification system Naper Notify, leads the Communications Department’s social media team, and provides strategic communications guidance as part of Naperville’s Budget Team.

Kate lives in Oswego with her husband of 10 years, Carl, and their senior rescue cat, Aslan. Kate enjoys reading, volunteering at a local animal shelter, and taking nature walks.

Jacob Seid

Jacob Seid, AICP, MUPP

Jacob Seid, AICP, MUPP, is the Founding Principal of Sightline Planning and Zoning. For more than 15 years, Jake has partnered with communities large and small on a wide array of planning and zoning projects. Jake’s work focuses on zoning ordinances, land use planning, and authentic community outreach and engagement.

During the course of his career, Jake has honed unique skills and abilities in zoning and land use regulations. He has made a significant impact by crafting easy-to-use zoning codes that implement community goals and provide greater land use flexibility and housing choice. For a decade, he teamed with municipal and county partners in the Chicago area as a regional planner with the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP). Prior to that, Jake worked on a variety of zoning and planning projects with clients nationally for five years at Camiros.

Jake is dedicated to his community and to his profession, serving for ten years on the Executive Board of the Illinois Chapter of the American Planning Association, including two years as president. Throughout his career, he has been a frequent speaker on topics around modernizing and improving zoning with engagements at the national, state and local level. Due to his combination of expertise, experience and civic engagement, Jake was named a Notable Leader in Community Development by Crain’s Chicago Business in 2022.

Jake earned a Master of Urban Planning and Policy from the University of Illinois Chicago and a Bachelor of Arts in history and art history from Rutgers University.

Thomas Skuzinski

Thomas Skuzinski, Ph.D.

Thomas Skuzinski, Ph.D., is Director of the Institute for the Study of Environment, Sustainability, and Energy, Acting Director of the School of Public and Global Affairs, and Associate Professor of Public Administration, all at Northern Illinois University. He is also a faculty affiliate with the Northern Illinois Center for Community Sustainability, and chair of the Illinois Innovation Network's Research and Collaboration Working Committee. He regularly works with state agencies and local governments on issues relating to sustainability and is a lead investigator on over $4 million in grants and contracts supporting use-inspired sustainability research. Dr. Skuzinski studies collaborative governance among local governments, especially in sustainable infrastructure systems.

Photo of Patti Treibel Leeds

Patti Treibel Leeds, M.S.

Patti Treibel-Leeds, M.S., is a C3 De-Escalation Master trainer. She’s instructed over one thousand participants in C3 De-Escalation, including those in public service on the city, county and state-wide level.

Patti worked in county government for the past 18 years, retiring as Planning and Development Officer for a 15-county mental health region in Central Iowa. She has worked in human services for over 30 years, in countless situations that required de-escalation.

Patti is also certified to teach Mental Health First Aid, Trauma 101 & Recovery, Compassion Fatigue, Cultural Competency, and other wellness trainings.

Robert Williams

Robert Williams, Jr., MBA

Robert Williams, Jr., MBA, currently works as a member of the Sycamore Police Department as a patrol officer where he will continue to positively shape the police profession. Robert is from the south side of Chicago and had various encounters with police. Rob decided to become a police officer after eight years in corporate America and higher education. These experiences helped shape how he interacts with the community.

Rob believes that law enforcement consists of many components with actual enforcement of the law being a small portion. Rob understands that the perception the community has of law enforcement is shaped by the interactions of both parties involved. He knows that situational awareness is important in his profession, and treating each circumstance separately is paramount. Robert became an officer with NIU in 2012, and prior to joining the Sycamore Police Department, he worked as a patrol officer and member of the C.O.P.S Unit for 11 years at NIU. Robert is a certified R.I.T.E (Racial Intelligence Training and Engagement) instructor, R.A.D (Rape Aggression Defense) instructor, A.L.I.C.E (Alert Lockdown Inform Counter Evacuate) instructor, Defensive Tactics instructor, Use of Force instructor, TASER instructor and ASP instructor.

Rob holds a Bachelor of Science in accounting and MBA in Financial Fraud Examination and Management both from Saint Xavier University.

Contact Us

Civic Leadership Academy
Northern Illinois University
Monat Building
148 N. Third St.
DeKalb, IL 60115

Phone: 815-753-1907

Join Our Email List

Back to top