University of Illinois System

Member Bios: 2022

Rhea Ballard-Thrower, Dean and University Librarian, University of Illinois Chicago

Rhea Ballard-Thrower started as the Dean and University Librarian at the University of Illinois Chicago in February 2021. Prior to her appointment at UIC, Dean Ballard-Thrower was Executive Director of the Howard University Libraries and a tenured professor at the Howard University School of Law. She has also served as Director of the Howard University Law Library, Associate Director at the Georgia State University Law Library, and as a reference librarian for the Tarlton Law Library at the University of Texas-Austin. Ballard- Thrower has been a legal bibliography instructor, conference presenter, and author of many articles on law librarianship. Her current research examines how to direct libraries as campus change agents.

Ballard-Thrower holds degrees from the University of Cincinnati (BA), the University of Kentucky (JD), and the University of Michigan (MILS). At UIC, Ballard-Thrower also holds an affiliate faculty position at UIC Law, where she plans to teach Advanced Legal Research using the Inside-Out Prison Exchange Program pedagogy. In the program, she teaches law students and incarcerated students in the same classes at a correctional facility.


Shelby Bedford, Assistant Director, Access & Equity, University of Illinois Springfield

Shelby Bedford leads the Access & Equity Office at UIS and serves as Title IX, Title VII, and ADA/504 Coordinator. Although she is fairly new to this position, having started in late September of 2021, She is a proud alumna of UIS and is happy to be back with the UIS community. Before coming to UIS, she worked as the Title IX and Title VI Coordinator and sexual violence preventionist at a community college. She is currently completing a graduate certificate in Gender Based Violence and finishing up a book chapter on intersectional, survivor-centered approaches to creating holistic campus gender-based violence prevention and response programs.

Bedford has a BA in Sociology, Anthropology, and Global Studies from UIS and a MA in Human Rights from the University of Arizona.


Natalie Bennett, Director, Women’s Leadership and Resource Center, University of Illinois Chicago

Dr. Natalie Bennett is responsible for establishing the strategic, programmatic and operational direction at the Women’s Leadership and Resource Center; developing and administering public programs and campus-wide initiatives around gender equity, violence prevention and responses; spearheading educational programs and supportive spaces for faculty, staff, graduate/professional and undergraduate students; providing confidential advocacy for students, faculty and staff across Chicago, Rockford and Peoria campuses who are survivors of gender-based violence; and overseeing the Campus Advocacy Network (CAN), the university’s only violence prevention program which provides support, advocacy, resources and referrals for student, faculty and staff who are victims of sexual misconduct (i.e. sexual assault, domestic violence, stalking or hate crimes). Previous to being director of WLRC, she served as the Assistant Director of Gender and Women’s Studies Program at the University of Illinois at Chicago where she was responsible for supporting faculty searches, cluster hires, tenure and promotion processes, and faculty development; organizing visiting lectures; served director of undergraduate studies, and as lead instructor and organizer for Model World Conference for Women & Girls, a co-curricular project with high schools in Chicago Public Schools district.

Dr. Bennett’s research, teaching and activism centers the lives of black women and girls. Her interests are transnational in scope, located at the intersection of black feminisms, social policy and migrations in the African diaspora. Her publications focus on women of color feminisms, transnational migration and Caribbean immigrant women’s labor, racial and sexual identities among African American lesbians, and same-sexualities in Jamaica. Dr. Bennett has taught at Hunter College (CUNY), Long Island University, University of Nebraska, DePaul University and University of Illinois at Chicago.

Dr. Bennett received her Bachelor of Science (BS) in Biology and Sociology from Union College (Schenectady, New York) and her doctorate (PhD) in Sociology from University of Michigan.


Clara Bosak-Schroeder, Associate Professor, Classics Department, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign

In 2015, Clara Bosak-Schroeder (she/they) joined the Classics department of UIUC where she is also an affiliate of History, Medieval Studies, Comparative and World Literature, and the Unit for Criticism and Interpretive Theory. They received their PhD in Classical Studies from the University of Michigan, with certificates in Greek and Roman History and Graduate Teaching, and a BA in Classical Languages from UC Berkeley. Since joining UIUC, Bosak- Schroeder has won a Faculty Fellowship from HRI (2017-2018), a Junior Fellowship from the Unit for Criticism and Interpretive Theory (2018-2020), and has been recognized as a LEAP Scholar (2018-2020). She will be a junior fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in 2021-2022.

Bosak-Schroeder works in reception and museum studies, creative nonfiction, and at the intersection of classics and the environmental humanities. Her first book, Other Natures: Environmental Encounters With Ancient Greek Ethnography (UC Press 2020), demonstrates that ancient Greek authors cast humans and nonhumans in complex, interdependent relationships. A second project examines how modern and contemporary artists interpret ancient Mediterranean monuments. Bosak-Schroeder's essays have appeared in Avidly, Bellingham Review, Solstice Literary Magazine, and Zone 3. They also serve on the leadership team for CripAntiquity, an advocacy organization for neurodivergent and disabled students, instructors, scholars, and artists in ancient studies.


Jennifer Brier, Professor, Program in Gender and Women’s Studies, University Illinois Urbana-Champaign

Jennifer Brier directs and is a Professor in the Program in Gender and Women’s Studies at the University of Illinois Chicago, where she is also on the faculty in the History Department. She specializes in U.S. sexuality and gender history as well as public history. Brier is the author of Infectious Ideas: U.S. Political Response to the AIDS Crisis, published by the University of North Carolina Press. As a curator, Brier worked with Jill Austin to produce Out in Chicago, the Chicago History Museum’s award-winning exhibition on LGBT history. She also curated “Surviving and Thriving: AIDS, Politics and Culture,” a traveling exhibition for the National Library of Medicine. In 2019, a bilingual version (Spanish and English) of the exhibition was released and is beginning its tour around the country. Brier is at work on a major public history project called History Moves, a community-curated mobile gallery that will provide a space for Chicago-based community organizers and activists to share their histories with a wide audience. The current project, “I’m Still Surviving,” is a transmedia living women’s history of HIV/AIDS. She was named the 2018 UIC Distinguished Scholar of the Year in the Arts and Humanities and is an Organization of American Historians Distinguished Lecturer.


D. A. Briley, Associate Professor, Psychology, Affiliate with the Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Bology and Center for Social and Behaviourl Sciences, University of Illinois Urbana- Champaign

D. A. Briley’s research examines how individuals’ unique characteristics dynamically shape and interact with their environments to influence personality and identity development. Briley’s work takes a “deep phenotyping” approach in which many contextual, familial, peer, psychological, and biological measures are used to situate participants within their relevant context. Drawing on developmental behavior genetic perspectives, the research challenges ideas about genetic influences as fixed at birth and consistent across context. Biosocial processes shift genetic influences across the lifespan due to development, across chronological time due to cultural shifts, and across families due to differential access to economic resources. Recent work in the Briley lab focuses on gender identity development in children and adolescents and how supportive parents, peers, or teachers can buffer against negative outcomes.

Briley received their PhD in psychology from the University of Texas at Austin.


Sonya Chambers, Executive Director for Strategic Initiatives, Member of the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Diversity, Equity & Inclusion leadership team, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign

Sonya Chambers is the Executive Director for Strategic Initiatives and a member of the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Diversity, Equity & Inclusion leadership team. She collaborates with the OVCDEI leadership to evaluate and coordinate strategic projects, resource management, as well as oversee the execution of events, projects, and programs, and their related communications.

Chambers joined the University of Illinois in 2001, after working in industry for several years. She has decades of experience in finance, management, and operations. Over the years, she has provided executive leadership, oversight, and coordination to several units on campus. She began her university career as the Director of Financial Affairs for the Vice Chancellor of Administration and Human Resources and served as the Director of Procurement Services for Facilities & Services.

In 2016, Chambers helped to start and lead the administrative functions of an NSF Engineering Research Center for Power Optimization of Electro-thermo Systems (POETS) in the College of Engineering. Several years later, she became the Associate Dean for Administration in the School of Information Sciences, where she provided oversight and coordination for the school’s administrative units and worked closely with the dean and the other associate deans to advance the school’s strategic initiatives.

She holds an MBA from The Ohio State University and a BBA from the University of Cincinnati. Chambers is a Certified Management Accountant (CMA), Certified Financial Manager (CFM) through the Institute of Management Accountants, and a former Illinois Certified Research Administrator.


Kathryn Clancy, Associate Professor, Director of Graduate Studies, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign

Kathryn Clancy is a human reproductive ecologist who specializes in women's health, endometrial function and evolutionary medicine. Clancy's work challenges assumptions about what constitutes normal reproductive physiology, and clinical threshold hypotheses regarding health.

Clancy has a lab that is an intersectional feminist biology research playground that critically engages with questions around the influence of environmental stressors on the life history and reproductive physiology of women and gender minorities. Her main goals are to create opportunities for diverse research questions within this biocultural space, engage our STEM colleagues with our social science perspectives, and train the next generation of badass feminist researchers.

Clancy has a BA cum laude in Biological Anthropology and Women’s Studies from Harvard University and a PhD in Anthropology from Yale.


Lan Dong, Louise Hartman and Karl Schewe Endowed Professor and Interim Dean, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, University of Illinois Springfield

Lan Dong has taught Asian American literature, world literature, comics and graphic narratives, and children’s and young adult literature, and has published numerous articles and essays in these areas. She is the author or editor of several books, including: Reading Amy Tan, Mulan’s Legend and Legacy in China and the United States, Transnationalism and the Asian American Heroine, Teaching Comics and Graphic Narratives, Asian American Culture: From Anime to Tiger Moms, and 25 Events That Shaped Asian American History.

Dong has a master’s degree in comparative literature from Dartmouth College and her doctorate from the University of Massachusetts Amherst in comparative literature.


Elena Rebeca Gutiérrez, Associate Professor, Gender and Women's Studies and Latin American and Latino Studies, University of Illinois Chicago

Elena Rebeca Gutiérrez is a scholar of reproductive justice, Chicana studies and feminist activism. Her book publications include Undivided Rights: Women of Color Organize for Reproductive Justice with Jael Silliman, Marlene Gerber Fried, and Loretta Ross (recipient of the 2005 Gustavus Myers Outstanding Book Award in the area of bigotry and human rights and reprinted by Haymarket Press in 2016) and Fertile Matters: The Politics of Mexican-Origin Women's Reproduction with University of Texas Press. Her analysis in this text is the basis for the documentary No Mas Bebés, which documents the targeted sterilization abuse of Mexican origin women in Los Angeles, California, and the law suit and activism that followed. She also directs Chicana Chicago, which documents the work of women identified leaders in the city’s Mexican-origin communities.

Gutiérrez is the curator of the Reproductive Justice Virtual Library, an online research hub that connects organizers and academic scholarship. She has also written academic articles, book chapters, policy reports and blogs regarding abortion access, social networks in contraceptive usage, and a range of reproductive justice issues. Her research and writing played an essential role in eliminating family caps from state welfare laws in California, and the granting of reparations to victims of sterilization in the state. She has also served on the board of directors of the National Latina Health Organization, SisterSong Women of Color

Reproductive Health Collective, the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, ACCESS Women’s Health Justice, the Chicago Abortion Fund and Mujeres Latinas en Acción.


Elizabeth Hamilton, Associate Provost and Chief of Staff, Provost Office, University of Illinois Chicago

Elizabeth Hamilton is the Associate Provost and Chief of Staff in the Office of the Provost at the University of Illinois Chicago and manages the short- and long-term critical priorities, initiatives, and activities that relate to academic affairs, including the university’s accreditation by the Higher Learning Commission.

Hamilton’s career in higher education began in 2003 and includes progressively responsible roles in teaching and central administration in both academic affairs and administration and finance. Before coming to UIC, she was the Assistant Vice President for Strategic Planning in the Division of Administration and Finance at the University of Central Florida, where she advanced strategic goals and initiatives that were aligned with the university’s strategic plan and acted as the liaison to two Board of Trustees committees. Prior to that, she was the Assistant Vice President for Strategic Action in the Office of the Provost at West Virginia University where she planned and executed university-wide strategic and operational priorities and oversaw all matters related to regional accreditation.

Hamilton received her Bachelor of Arts degree with honors in philosophy from Northwestern University, and Master of Arts and Doctor of Philosophy degrees in philosophy from the University of California, Riverside. Hamilton has research interests in ethics and social and political philosophy, focusing on theories of autonomy, moral responsibility, and coercion.


Wendy Heller, Professor, Psychology, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign

Wendy Heller is a Professor in the Psychology Department and is affiliated with the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology, Women and Gender Studies, and the Carle-Illinois College of Medicine at the University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana.

Wendy Heller has published over 150 scholarly articles on the nature of cognition, emotion and risk/resilience in anxiety and depression and has been funded by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) almost continuously throughout her career. In 2009 she was appointed a Fellow of the Association for Psychological Science. Over the course of her career, Professor Heller has mentored many students, postdocs, and junior faculty, and has won teaching and mentoring awards. In 2010 she was honored by the University of Illinois for two decades of accomplishment in promoting diversity at the department, college, university, and national levels by receipt of the Larine Y. Cowan Making a Difference Award. In 2014, she served as a Provost Fellow with a focus on campus diversity and has chaired the UIUC drive (diversity realized at illinois through visioning excellence, focused on faculty hiring and retention) committee for the last 5 years. She served as Head of the Psychology Department from 2015-2021 and in 2019 was awarded the Executive Officer Distinguished Leadership Award by the University of Illinois. She was selected for the President’s Leadership Program (PELP) for 2019-2020. She is currently the past President of the Society for Research in Psychopathology, Presidential Fellow of the University of Ullinois System, a Public Voices Fellow of the OpEd project, and Vice-President of the Mindful Teacher Foundation.

Heller holds a BA in Spanish and Psychology with Honors from the University of Pennsylvania and an MA and PhD in Biopsychology from the University of Chicago.


Emily Knox, Associate Pprofessor in the School of Information Sciences, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign

Emily Knox research interests include information access, intellectual freedom and censorship, information ethics, information policy, and the intersection of print culture and reading practices. She is also a member of the Mapping Information Access research team.

Her book, Book Banning in 21st Century America (Rowman & Littlefield) is the first monograph in the Beta Phi Mu Scholars’ Series. Her next book, Foundations of Intellectual Freedom (ALA), will be released in Fall 2022. Knox’s articles have been published in the Library Quarterly, Library and Information Science Research, and the Journal of Intellectual Freedom and Privacy.

Knox serves on the boards of the Beta Phi Mu and the National Coalition Against Censorship.

Knox holds a BA in Religious Studies from Smith College and an AM in the same field from The University of Chicago Divinity School. She received her master’s in library and information science is from the iSchool at Illinois and her PhD from the doctoral program at the Rutgers University School of Communication & Information.


Mariselle Meléndez, Professor of Spanish American Literatures and Cultures, LAS Alumni Distinguished Professorial Scholar, University of Illinois Urbana- Champaign.

Mariselle Meléndez research focuses on issues of race and gender in colonial Spanish America with special interest in the eighteenth century, the cultural phenomenon of the Enlightenment, food studies, environmental studies, as well as visual studies. She is the author of Deviant and Useful Citizens: The Cultural Production of the Female Body in Eighteenth-Century Peru (2011 & 2021); Race, Gender, and Hibridity in El lazarillo de ciegos caminantes (1999) and co-editor of Mapping Colonial Spanish America: Places and Commonplaces of Identity, Culture, and Experience (2002). Dr. Meléndez is currently LAS Dean’s Fellow for Faculty Development and chair of the Campus Promotion Committee. She has also served the UIUC community in several roles, including Head of the Department of Spanish and Portuguese, Director of the Campus Research Board, chair of the LAS Humanities Council Committee, and LAS Executive Committee member. Her national academic service includes being a review panelist for the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and service on the Executive Committee of the Division on Literature of Colonial Spanish America for the Modern Language Association of America (MLA). She has been also the recipient of the NEH Summer Stipend Award.

Meléndez holds a BA from the University of Puerto Rico and a MA and PhD from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.


Yamilé Molina, Associate Professor, Division of Community Health Sciences, School of Public Health, Faculty Affiliate for the Center for Research on Women and Gender, Associate Director of Community Outreach and Engagement for the Cancer Center, and Associate Director of Community Engaged Research at the Mile Square Health Center, University of Illinois Chicago

Yamilé Molina serves as a scholar activist focused on promoting the voices and agency of marginalized and resilient populations, including communities of color, LGBTQ communities, and communities living with chronic conditions. Since joining UIC, Yamilé Molina and community partners have been successful in obtaining multiple competitive grants (>$740K), publishing >30 peer-reviewed articles, and >25 national conference presentations focused on health equity. Further, Yamilé Molina is committed to the next diverse generation of scholar activists, having mentored >30 undergraduate, postbaccalaureate, graduate, and medical students who identify as ethnic, sexual, and gender minorities. An overarching theme in their work is recognizing and leveraging the assets of underserved individuals, social networks, and communities toward health equity, with a focus on breast cancer and HIV. Specifically, individuals do not represent only “data points” in scientific studies, but also have the potential to become messengers/interventionists that diffuse and act upon evidence.

Molina has both a MS and PhD in Psychology and MPH, in Epidemiology from the University of Illinois Chicago.


Pattie Piotrowski, University Librarian and Dean of Library Instructional Services, University of Illinois Springfield

Pattie Piotrowski is University Librarian and Dean of Library Instructional Services at University of Illinois Springfield, and sits on the Board of Directors for the Consortium of Academic and Research Libraries in Illinois (CARLI). Previously she served as Assistant Dean for Public Services at Illinois Institute of Technology. As President of the Illinois Library Association in 2016, Piotrowski advocated for libraries in Washington D.C. and Springfield, and has a long history of service with library organizations.

Dean Piotrowski currently chairs the Core Committee for a new library building on campus, with ground to be broken in 2023. Her research centers on international students, leadership, and library impact on student graduation and retention. She participated in Synergy: Illinois Library Leadership Initiative and has served as a founding member and facilitator for Elevate Illinois Libraries Leadership Program, which has developed three programs since 2018. In her time at UIS, she has participated in University of Illinois system initiatives including the Inclusion, Diversity, Equity Alliance and the Leadership Initiative for Women Faculty.

Piotrowski graduated summa cum laude from Rosary College, earned her MLIS at Dominican University, and earned her MBA at Illinois Institute of Technology.


Rebecca Rugg, Dean of the College of Architecture, Design, and the Arts, University of Illinois Chicago

Rebecca Rugg is dean of the College of Architecture, Design, and the Arts (CADA) at the University of Illinois Chicago. Prior to this position, Dean Rugg served as director of the Conservatory of Theatre Arts at Purchase College, State University of New York, and before her academic career she advocated for and advanced the arts right here in Chicago, where she held leadership positions at Steppenwolf and Redmoon theatre companies. For both these iconic Chicago companies, Rugg forged multilayered, interdisciplinary artistic and community partnerships, an expertise she brings to CADA. At Redmoon, she was the founding producer of The Great Chicago Fire Festival, developed in partnership with the City of Chicago.

Before Dean Rugg’s move to Chicago, she served as dramaturg and director of new projects at The Public Theater under George C. Wolfe. At The Public Theater, she was dramaturg on the original productions of Caroline, or Change; Harlem Song; Radiant Baby; and Elaine Stritch at Liberty, and she commissioned Passing Strange with Joe’s Pub Director Bill Bragin. She is coeditor, with Harvey Young, of the anthology Reimagining A Raisin in the Sun: Four New Plays (Northwestern University Press, 2012). Her criticism and translations have been published in American Theatre, Theater magazine, and Performing Arts Journal.

Rugg holds a DFA and an MFA from the Yale School of Drama, where she has taught since 2005.


Rosa Milagros Santos, Professor, Associate Provost, Faculty Development, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign

Rosa Milagros Santos assists with campus-level processes and policies related to faculty development and success, including faculty mentoring, support for pre-tenure and mid-career faculty, career paths for specialized faculty, and leadership development. Associate Provost Santos also oversees the new faculty orientation, mid-career faculty programming, and the dual-career academic couples program. Prior to her appointment as Associate Provost, she served as Interim Head of the Department of Special Education in the College of Education in 2016-17, and was a Provost Fellow for Faculty Development and Diversity in 2015-16.

Santos has a BS in Family Life and Child Development, University of Philippines, a MS in Special Education from Emporia State University, and PhD in Special Education from the Utah State University.


Lucía Vázquez, Associate Vice Chancellor Research and Innovation, DPI Affiliate Professor, University of Illinois Springfield

Lucía Vázquez serves as the Associate Vice Chancellor for Research and Innovation at the University of Illinois Springfield (UIS); also, she holds a professor appointment in the Biology Department. She chaired the Biology Department from 2007 to 2013 and implemented programs to improve the recruitment and retention of undergraduate and graduate students. She also provided mentoring for junior faculty and coordinated the departmental efforts on assessment. For six years, Vázquez served as the Associate Dean for the College of Liberal Arts in Sciences at UIS.

Some of her achievements include the development of a Teaching Academy, the establishment of Brown Bag research seminars, the management of faculty support programs, and the development of programs to support the academic success of underrepresented students in STEM fields. Also, she was actively involved in student recruitment and retention activities. For the 2016-2017 academic year, she served as the Interim Dean in the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences at UIS. Since July of 2020, Lucia has been serving as the Associate Vice Chancellor for Research and Innovation. In this role, she oversees Human Subjects Research, Research Administration, Internal and External Faculty Grants, Conflicts of Interests, Foreign Influence Prevention, Programs to Support Underserved Students, and Research Innovation.

Vázquez has a BS in Biology from the Universidad Autónoma de México, and a PhD in Plant Biology from Cornell University.


Haley West, Persuing PhD in Psychology - Cognitive Neuroscience, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign

Haley West’s research centers on emotion processing and cognitive influences. They are a first-generation college and graduate student, as well as a member of the Psychology Diversity Committee. West has worked in leadership roles in psychological research for 6 years, including The Human Connectome Project, and Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development study. They mentor undergraduate students in research skills and scientific career development. West carries both passion and skill for advocacy surrounding underrepresented communities in academia and leadership at large.

West has a BA in Neuroscience and Spanish from Augustana College.


LaTonya Wilkins, Founder of Change Coaches, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign

LaTonya Wilkins is the founder of Change Coaches, where she partners with executive leaders and their teams to build cultures of belonging through one-one-one and team coaching, as well as Culture Academies, where assessments, customized workshops, and coaching are combined to address client cultural challenges. Wilkins is also the author of Leading Below The Surface: How To Build Real and Psychologically Safe Relationships With People Who Are Different From You, and is a sought-after keynote speaker who has inspired audiences around the world. Wilkins seeks to challenge leaders at every level to disrupt the way we think about leadership, and to create cultural change where it truly happens: below the surface. She built her career working in HR, talent management, and learning & development at Fortune 500 companies before teaching and taking on progressive leadership roles at the University of Illinois’ Gies College of Business. She is on the advisory board of Women of Color in the Workplace, a strategic partner of Lean In, and has been featured in publications including Well + Good, NPR, Inc Magazine, and Fast Company.

Wilkins has a a BA in Psychology from the University of Iowa and a MBA from the University of Manchester – Manchester Business School, and a MBA in Strategic Management Consulting from the Indiana University – Kelley School of Business.


Xuehua Xiang, Associate Professor of Linguistics, Department of Linguistics, University of Illinois Chicago

Xuehua Xiang research interests include Intercultural Pragmatics, discourse analysis, Chinese linguistics, and second language learning. Her work has appeared in journals such as Journal of Pragmatics, Text & Talk, Lingua, Written Communication, Chinese Language and Discourse, Language Sciences, Names, Discourse, Context & Media. Her first co-authored book, “Grammar, meaning, and concepts: A discourse-based approach to English grammar,” was published with Routledge in 2018. Her second book, “Language, multimodal interaction and transaction: Studies of a Southern Chinese marketplace,” was published with John Benjamins in 2021. She has been teaching courses in general linguistics, discourse analysis, pragmatics, second language learning and courses on Chinese language and culture. Her research, while diverse in focus, centralizes on her conviction of the importance of naturalistic data for linguistic theorizing and viewing language as a meaning-making system situated in multimodal systems and sociocultural contexts.

Xiang directs the interdisciplinary program BS in Computer Science and Linguistics at UIC. Xiang has a PhD in Applied Linguistics from the Pennsylvania State University.


Sarah Zehr Gantz, Senior Assistant Vice President for Academic Initiatives and Policies, University of Illinois System

Sarah Zehr Gantz is Senior Assistant Vice President for Academic Initiatives and Policies within the office of the Executive Vice President and Vice President for Academic Affairs in the University of Illinois System. In this role, she works with academic programs and activities for the three system universities. Previously, Sarah held various roles at the Urbana-Champaign university, including admissions and career services within academic units, and public engagement, international relations, and corporate relations at the campus level. She also worked in consulting and nonprofit roles prior to joining the staff at the university.

Zehr Gantz’s research interests include experiential learning programs such as internships, cooperative education, and apprenticeships, as well as higher education policy and international issues. In 2009, she completed the Leadership Illinois program, a women’s leadership development curriculum, and currently serves on the board. She was nominated Vice President of the Executive Club of Champaign County, another professional women’s organization. Outside of work, Sarah enjoys community service and works closely with the United Way of Champaign County and serves as the 2022 Chair. She also enjoys reading and traveling.

Zehr Gantz earned a BS in finance from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, an MBA from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, and a PhD in higher education from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.