GRADUCon 2021 - Careers in Social Justice and Advocacy


Social justice and advocacy organizations engage with communities to confront systemic inequity and drive change. Using knowledge and expertise to break down barriers, these mission-driven workplaces provide numerous opportunities to make an impact with academic training. Research skills could be used to draft policy priorities while writing skills could be used to craft a grant proposal that will one day fund new programs. Our panelists come from a variety of organizations throughout Chicago—ones focusing on health, youth education, community development, and much more. Drawing on their own experiences, the panelists will discuss the landscape of the social justice and advocacy landscape, the roles that exist within this space, and share how their graduate degree has proved invaluable in their work.


Kim L. Hunt, Executive Director, Pride Action Tank, AIDS Foundation of Chicago (Master’s in Public Policy, University of Chicago, 2004; Master’s in Urban Planning and Policy, University of Illinois-Chicago, 1986)

Kim L. Hunt is a lifelong learner who continues to hone her skills in organizational leadership, advocacy for Black and LGBTQ+ people, and storytelling. Hunt is the executive director of the Pride Action Tank (PAT), a project of AIDS Foundation Chicago, where she also serves as the Senior Director of Policy & Advocacy Operations. Hunt is the recepient of numerous honors and awards and serves on multiple boards and advisory councils. She is a facilitator for the Aspen Young Leaders Fellowship program and is also a founding co-host of OUTSpoken LGBTQ Storytelling, a monthly show in the Lakeview neighborhood of Chicago.

Stephanie Schmitz Bechteler, Vice President and Executive Director: Research and Policy Center, Chicago Urban League (PhD, Social Work, University of Illinois at Chicago, 2015; MA, Social Work, University of Chicago, 2006)

Stephanie Schmitz Bechteler, Ph.D., is Vice President and Executive Director of the Research and Policy Center at the Chicago Urban League. In this role, Schmitz Bechteler oversees all internal and external research and advocacy activities for the League and is responsible for aligning the League’s evaluation, research, advocacy, and community outreach activities with the vision, mission, and strategic goals of the organization. Schmitz Bechteler received her master’s degree in social work from the University of Chicago’s School of Social Service Administration in 2006 with a concentration in health administration and policy from the GPHAP program, and her PhD in social work from the Jane Addams College of Social Work at the University of Illinois in 2015 with a concentration in public health, mental health service use, and stigma. Her dissertation examined the role of perceived discrimination and as a barrier to community-based mental health service youth among people detained in jail.

Cynthia Alfaro, Chief Operating Officer, My Block, My Hood, My City (Master’s in Human Resources, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 2003)

Known to many for her calm and cool personality, Cynthia is a woman on a mission to help people live better lives. As a teenager, she was a nationally ranked tennis athlete. Since then, she has always been intrigued with “winning” on the court and off, specifically what works in helping people achieve their highest potential. She studied Finance and Human Resources from The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Cynthia transitioned into the education sector, stepping into her true passion for training and development. Cynthia joined the leadership team of a popular dual-language progressive school in Washington Heights and helped manage the school, while raising her two daughters in New York. Shortly after, her need to be closer to home and family, brought her to Chicago where she quickly applied her business and education skills to the Academy for Urban School Leadership (AUSL) as a School Finance Manager and then changed lanes to Development to gain exposure to non-profit fundraising. Cynthia is currently serving as the Chief Operating Officer at M3, where her HR, operations, finance and development experience are being fully utilizing and her dream of making Chicago a better place is being fulfilled. In her spare time, she teaches family fitness classes, volunteers with her daughters, supports moms through her Moms Winning empowerment blog and offers community workshops to help people live their best lives.

Katya Nuques, Executive Director, Enlace Chicago (Master of Science in Administration, Andrews University, 2001)

Katya Nuques began her career at Enlace in 2005 as the Director of Community Schools. She played a substantial role in the expansion of Enlace’s Community Schools network, significantly increasing staff and funding levels and diversifying revenue sources. As Director of Education, a role she assumed in 2007, she expanded the organization’s involvement in teacher preparation programs, internships and post-secondary access, and led Enlace’s participation in coalitions such as the Illinois Federation for Community Schools. In 2011, Katya became Associate Director, overseeing programs in the areas of immigration, education, economic development, health and community engagement, and providing direct support to department directors. In 2015, Katya became Executive Director of Enlace; in this role, she has focused on reinforcing organizational structure, high quality programming and financial sustainability. She is a member of the Board of Directors of the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, the Chicago Thrive Leadership Council, the Latino Policy Forum and its Illinois Latino Agenda, the Second Federal Bank Advisory Council, and the Board of Directors of Sinai Health System. She is also a Leadership Greater Chicago fellow, and she dedicates her personal time and resources to support undocumented students’ education.


Lisa Lynelle Moore, Senior Lecturer, Crown Family School of Social Work, Policy, and Practice, University of Chicago (PhD, Social and Cultural Anthropology, California Institute of Integral Studies; MSW, Smith College)

Lisa Lynelle Moore, PhD, LICSW is a Senior Lecturer and the Director of the Master of Arts in Social Work and Social Welfare Program at the University of Chicago Crown Family School of Social Work, Policy, and Practice. She has extensive teaching and administrative experience. Moore comes to Crown Family School from St. Olaf College, Department of Social Work and Family Studies where she was an Associate Professor and Director of Family Studies. She has also been faculty at the Boston University School of Social Work and an adjunct at the Smith College School for Social Work. Her administrative positions have included serving as Assistant Dean for Multicultural Affairs at Reed College, Assistant Director for the Women’s Community Center at Stanford University, and as the Director of the Mary McLeod Bethune Multicultural Center at Clark University. Moore earned her PhD in Social and Cultural Anthropology at the California Institute of Integral Studies; her MSW at Smith College School for Social Work; and her AB in Political Science at Davidson College.

Her current research includes two different projects. The first is the “Intersections of race, racism, and psychodynamic/psychoanalytic theories.” This work is a theoretical reflection and examination of public documents drawing on Fanon’s theory of phobogenesis to examine the ways major institutional systems (Law enforcement, Government, Education, and Healthcare) draw on constructions of fear to rationalize the dehumanization of Black and Brown bodies. Her second research project is “Exploring relationships in intentional housing communities in Minneapolis, MN and Chicago, IL.” This is a multi-year ethnographic endeavor, partnering with a minimum of three housing communities intentionally designed for LGBT seniors, to explore how relationships are developed and sustained and implications on quality of life. This work is grounded in relational cultural theory and Black feminist theory. Her past research has included studies examining intergenerational caretaking in public housing and community activism and psychological empowerment.