Nancy Rotering, mayor of Highland Park, testifies during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing in Washington DC

Alumni News

Nancy Rotering

Rotering, Mayor of Highland Park, Illinois, and a SESP faculty member who teaches Women and American Political Leadership, was walking in Highland Park’s Fourth of July parade when a gunman opened fire, killing 7 and wounding 48.

I grew up in Highland Park, but my family has been here for about 85 years. A lot of people who were raised here left and came back to have kids and settle down. It’s a place with many multigenerational families, and at the July 4 parade, we had grandparents, parents, teens, and young children standing multiple rows deep along the parade route.

When the shooting started, the adults looked like they didn’t understand—like the reality of what was happening did not register. But the kids were screaming “Run! Hide!” because that is what we have trained them to do.

Afterward, kids told me they expected a shooting like this to happen at some point in their lives. But they thought it would happen at school. That is such a horrible reflection of our society, that we have raised a generation of children with that kind of expectation.

I have been working on common-sense gun legislation for more than a decade. When Illinois enacted its concealed carry law in 2013, the process included an option for local communities to introduce and pass local assault-weapon bans, but the window was only open for 10 days.

Highland Park was one of the few cities that did pass a ban, and we got sued by the National Rifle Association’s Illinois arm. We prevailed at the US District Court and the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals. The Supreme Court did not take the case, so our law is still constitutional. It’s still on the books. Since we passed the ban, I have been advocating for legislation that would allow any city, town, or county in Illinois to ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, even though the 10-day window has long since passed.

The pain, trauma, and death that the mass shooting caused are immeasurable. That has reenergized my effort to do whatever I can to get assault weapons and high-capacity magazines off our streets and out of the hands of the public.

I teach my students at SESP that the path to success may not be clear at the outset, but that does not mean you stop and that does not mean you lose hope. It means you keep trying. If one door shuts, then you find another door. Staying nimble in your advocacy is critical.

You can look at history and see times when the challenges seemed impossible, and you can find inspiration in those who continued to look for ways to make progress.

We need to pursue every avenue we can, whether at the state or federal level or through lawsuits. I won’t stop until we have success.

 --As told to Colleen McNamera



Elaine Grant-Bryan (BS80), Jamaica’s honorary consul in Atlanta, received the US Presidential Lifetime Achievement Award for her thousands of hours of service to the Jamaican diaspora, the Caribbean, and the US. She is president and CEO of Global Education Consultants, chair of the Elaine Bryan Foundation, and a real estate broker.


Ian Vásquez (BS90) is vice president for international studies at the Cato Institute and director of its Center for Global Liberty and Prosperity. He is coauthor of the Human Freedom Index, editor of Global Fortune: The Stumble and Rise of World Capitalism, and coeditor of Perpetuating Poverty: The World Bank, the IMF, and the Developing World. He has testified numerous times before Congress on economic development issues.

Amy Liu (BS93) was appointed interim president of the Brookings Institution. She was previously vice president and director of Brookings Metro (which she founded in 1996) and held the institution’s chair in urban and metropolitan policy.

Jennifer Aloe Kahler (BS97) is a licensed clinical psychologist and director of counseling and psychological services at George Mason University.

Carlee Alm-LaBar (BS98) was appointed executive director of the William C. Schumacher Family Foundation.

Marti (Mittman) McGuirk (MSED99) is assistant principal of Mountain View (California) High School, where she oversees student services and student and staff health and wellness. She was previously an English teacher, school counselor, department coordinator, and new-teacher mentor.


Monica Rani (BS01), a board-certified dermatologist and former Fulbright Scholar, is the founder of Advanced Dermatology & Aesthetic Medicine.

Ruby Mendenhall (PhD04), a professor of sociology and African American studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, is associate dean for diversity and democratization of health innovation at the Carle Illinois College of Medicine. Her research examines how living in racially segregated neighborhoods with high levels of violence affects Black mothers’ mental and physical health. 

Mike Stieff (PhD04) was named vice provost for faculty affairs at the University of Illinois at Chicago. He is a tenured professor of chemistry and codirector of the Learning Sciences Research Institute.

Darkhan Bilyalov (MSHE07) is president of Abai Kazakh National Pedagogical University, Kazakhstan’s oldest university.

Bill Healy (MSED08) has produced a new narrative podcast called Belonging, which explores the idea of inclusivity in school spaces through the eyes of a Black teacher, her family, and former colleagues. Like Healy’s previous podcast Somebody, which was a finalist for the 2021 Pulitzer Prize in audio, Belonging fosters conversations about social justice issues and can be used as a professional development tool. Healy, who freelances with the Invisible Institute, previously taught fifth grade on the South Side of Chicago and worked at a high school in Pilsen before transitioning to journalism. He teaches documentary radio at Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism and recently taught a class on oral history and podcasting at the University of Chicago.

Erin Dickerson Davis (BS09) was named head women’s basketball coach at the College of William & Mary. She was previously associate head coach at Wake Forest University, where she helped lead the team to the program’s first NCAA tournament appearance in 30 seasons. At Northwestern, she was team captain all four years.

Ray Mitic (MSHE09) is assistant professor of higher education at the University of North Dakota. He received a seed grant from the Inclusive Graduate Education Network to study the development of science identity and the career pathways of space-science students from racially diverse backgrounds. 


Halle Anne Bauer (BS10) married Stephanie Schulter in New York City. Bauer teaches history at the Dwight School in New York.

Katherine Mallon (BS10) joined the complex commercial disputes group at the Nixon Peabody LLP law firm. She was previously an associate at another firm and a judicial law clerk for the US district courts for southern New York and Connecticut as well as for the New York State Supreme Court.

Alex Sims-Jones (BS10), president of APS and Associates, was appointed to the Greater Chicago Food Depository’s board of directors.

Fatima Varner (PhD11) received a College Teaching Excellence Award from the University of Texas at Austin. She is assistant professor of human development and family sciences at its College of Natural Sciences.

Mary Gardner Burrelle (MSLOC12), senior director, head of legal operations, and chief of staff at McDonald’s, received the annual Women of Achievement Award from the Anti-Defamation League Midwest. Burrelle is a faculty member for SESP’s Executive Learning and Organizational Change program. 

Alyssa Lloyd (BS13) is coordinator of the overdose prevention program at Allegheny County Health Department in Pittsburgh. She works with 20 partner organizations across the county to reduce stigma around opioid use disorder, promote harm reduction strategies, and increase connections to treatment.

Johnny Buse (MSED17) teaches English and coaches the chess team at Chicago’s Mather High School. In July he and his wife welcomed their second child, Evangeline, sister to Ruby.

Godwin Igwebuike (BS17) recently produced a minidocumentary that uses film, animation, commentary, and his original music to chronicle his experience in the National Football League. Though still in the NFL, he hopes to pursue music, film, and writing.

Mason Rocca (MSED17), a math teacher and basketball coach, is interim head of school at Baker Demonstration School in Wilmette, Illinois. Having previously played professional basketball in Italy, he now gets his competitive fix through cycling and has won master’s races and the Illinois Masters Criterium State Championship. He is also the 2022 USA Cycling Esports (indoor cycling) national champion.

Foram Sheth (MSLOC17), cofounder and chief coaching officer of Ama La Vida, gave the talk “Take Off Your Blinders and Forge Your Own Path” at TEDx Wilmette.

Cesar Almeida (BS18) is program coordinator at Faith in Place, which brings diverse faiths together to advance environmental and racial justice initiatives. He is a member of the Chicago Botanic Garden’s first Community Advisory Board

Imani Wilson (BS18) is a social worker at Evanston Township High School. She received her master’s from the University of Chicago’s social work and policy school in 2020.

Abbey Kutlas-Prickett (BS19, MSED19) teaches 9th-grade dual-language US history and 11th-grade world history at Omaha South High School. She previously worked with middle schoolers at the Bloomington Project School in Indiana.

Christian Reyes (BS19) is an analytics and data integrity contractor at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business.


Alisha Gomez-Shah (WCAS17, MSHE20) is director of operations for Northwestern’s fencing program. Gomez-Shah was an All-American saber fencer at Northwestern from 2013 to 2017 and a three-time NCAA competitor.

Tommy Vaughan (BS20) is social media manager for LUDEX, a sports and trading­card scanning app.

Anna Bethune (PhD21) is chief strategy officer for EduFocal Limited.

Samira Asseh (BS22) received a 2022–23 Project Horseshoe Farm Fellowship, a rigorous and intensive year of volunteer service and learning in the community health field. Asseh is working with the community health service team in Pomona, California.

Akie Kadota (BS22) is a music teacher for kindergarten through eighth grade at Distinctive Schools in Chicago.

Frances Poe (MSLOC22) received the 2022 Association of Change Management Professionals Independent Research Award.

Ruby Scanlon (BS22) is an antitrust specialist with the US Department of Justice. Last summer, she was one of 16 undergraduates selected to participate in the Trial by Combat mock-trial national championship.

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