moderated by Dr. Teresa Córdova
Rodney Brown, Brenda Palms Barber, Richard Townsell, Debra Wesley
Monday, Apr 25, 2022
Rodney Brown is the Executive Director and CEO of the New Covenant Community Development Corporation (NCCDC). With more than 30 years of business experience and a long track record of providing strategic oversight and tactical support as a board member of multiple non-profit organizations, Rodney Brown is an established, globally minded, yet locally focused change agent.
Currently, he serves as the Board Chair of Kids Above All. In this capacity he provides governance and developed an evidence-based program model designed to help young adults get into college. He is also a Co-Founder of the North Lawndale Community Coordinating Council (NLCCC) where he serves as a member of the Executive Committee and Chair of the Economic Development Committee. Rodney is the Executive Director of the North Lawndale Chamber of Commerce.
Teresa Córdova is the Director of the Great Cities Institute (GCI) at the University of Illinois at Chicago. She is also Professor of Urban Planning and Policy in the College of Urban Planning and Public Affairs (CUPPA). Professor Córdova received her Ph.D. in Sociology from the University of California, Berkeley in 1986.
Dr. Córdova sits on the Cook County Economic Development Advisory Committee (EDAC) and The Cook County Small Business Advisory Committee. She was Chair of the Chicago Plan Commission from 2018-2022 and served on the transition committee for Governor J.B. Pritzker on Job Creation and Economic Opportunity. She is a member of The Board of Directors of the Illinois Humanities Council and The Kennedy-King College Community Advisory Committee (CAC). She is an Associate Editor for Economic Development Quarterly, sits on the inaugural editorial board of Local Development and Society. She is an affiliate faculty of UIC’s Departments of Sociology; Gender and Women Studies; and Latino and Latin American Studies. She is also a member of the Executive Committee of UIC’s Institute for the Study of Research on Race and Public Policy (IRRPP).
Brenda Palms Barber
Brenda Palms Barber, Chief Executive Officer of the North Lawndale Employment Network, an urban workforce development agency, and founding social entrepreneur and CEO of Sweet Beginnings, LLC, a social enterprise using urban beekeeping to create jobs for those with significant barriers to employment, has served as President and CEO of NLEN since its founding in 1999. She launched NLEN’s wholly owned subsidiary social enterprise, Sweet Beginnings, in 2004 to ensure its hardest to employ clients could get jobs and gain a history of employment. Under Brenda’s leadership, NLEN has grown from two to 61 employees and generates an annual budget in excess of $5.5 million. Today, NLEN serves nearly 2,000 people per year.
Brenda is a graduate of Harvard’s Strategic Perspectives in Non-Profit Management program and the Chicago Urban League’s nextOne entrepreneurship program, which included classes at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management. She holds a Master of Science in Nonprofit Management from the Spertus Institute in Chicago.
Richard Townsell is a Chicago (North Lawndale) native and thought leader in community development. In Richard’s 20+ year career in community development, he has developed nearly 500 units of residential and commercial properties (which have totaled over $100 MM in total development cost) and helped to design comprehensive community plans for affordable housing, education and economic development initiatives.
Richard is the Executive Director at the Lawndale Christian Development Corporation. Richard has taught community development courses at Northwestern University's Asset-Based Community Development Institute as well as with the Chicago Rehab Network’s Urban Developer’s Institute. He holds a Bachelor of Science from Northwestern University in Mathematics Education and a Master of Science from Spertus College in Nonprofit Management. Richard has received many awards for the work including the Fellow of the Year at Leadership Greater Chicago’s 20th anniversary and a Leadership for a Changing World Award from the Ford Foundation.
Debra G. Wesley serves as the founding President of Sinai Community Institute established in 1993. Ms. Wesley also serves as Executive Vice President for Community Outreach on behalf of Sinai Health System. Sinai Community Institute is a health system-based human and health services organization that has touched over 565,000 individuals through its 70 plus programs since its creation. She is a social entrepreneur, leader and
Ms. Wesley, a masters-trained social worker, has a deep understanding and appreciation of “community” at microand macro-levels. As a 4th generation “preacher’s daughter” and resident of Chicago’s West side as a child, she can feel the pride and pain of neighborhoods that faced social economic and environmental challenges that impact ones overall state of wellness.
Ms. Wesley has developed innovative, community-based programs that have received national recognition. These programs have helped to: Develop the potential of children and youth; Build strong community partnerships; Support strong healthy families; Improve community health outcomes; and Enhance economic opportunities.