Who We Are

Senior Staff

13661850_10154461174789630_5880127723854168441_oChristian Diaz

Executive Director

Christian Diaz is executive director of Chicago Votes, a non-partisan civic engagement organization led by young people working toward transformative democracy reform in Illinois. In the last 4 years, Christian’s worked in coalitions to win driver’s licenses for undocumented people, to ban 10-day suspensions of high school students, and most recently to pass automatic voter registration with bipartisan support in the general assembly in Illinois. Christian graduated with a B.A. in Global Studies from Warren Wilson College in North Carolina in 2012. He has studied in northern California, New Mexico, India and Cambodia. In his spare time, Christian writes creative non-fiction, runs around with his little nephews and nieces and serves on the local school council of Nancy B. Jefferson Alternative High School in the Cook County Juvenile Detention Center. Christian was born in Mexico, but grew up in Logan Square on the north west side of Chicago.

Jen Dean 2Jen Dean

Director of Operations

Jen’s passion for human rights and systemic social change began where she grew up in Utica NY, which is home to one of the largest refugee resettlement communities in the US.  At 18, she moved to Tampa where she obtained a BA in Clinical Psychology and a Master’s in Sociology. She began organizing right away focusing on issues relevant to young people. During this time she became a founding member of STAND, an organization that aims to prevent genocide by getting students to organize, advocate, and educate folks on how to hold elected officials accountable for legislative action world wide. She is also a co-founder of Baby University in Tampa which is a program modeled after the Harlem Children’s Zone. During graduate school she moved to Chicago to study the growing violence epidemic, which resulted in a published book on activism highlighting the value of social capital and collective efficacy in violence prevention efforts. Jen is also certified in restorative justice peace circles for conflict resolution. After falling in love with Chicago she has since been a resident of the South Side and continues to mentor young people. When she is not organizing or keeping the office together, she is practicing yoga, chilling at “The Point”, cooking up something special or giving her dog Marley (named after Bob Marley) some lovin.

IMG_4445Rudy Garrett

Volunteer Coordinator

A Hoosier native, Rudy graduated from Denison University with a B.A. in political science and international studies. She moved to Chicago in August of 2013 to attend culinary school, but found her inner activist instead. She  completed the Chicago Votes Winter internship program in late winter/ early spring of 2014. After working at a law firm in the loop, she took a job as a Chicago Votes Field Organizer during the summer/ fall voter registration project and has been working with the organization ever since. Rudy is excited to show young Chicagoans that they can make a difference in their city and encourage the millennial generation to take an active role in the political system.

30Derek Elliot Bagley

Development Director

Derek Elliott Bagley is a lifelong Chicagoan who’s family has lived in and around the Chicagoland area for over 100 years. Due to his strong ties to the city, Derek has devoted his intellectual and professional career to bettering the civic process in his home town. He holds a BA in Government from Skidmore College in upstate New York, and is currently a candidate for his MA in Interdisciplinary Studies at DePaul University. On top of his academic pursuits, Derek is a seasoned veteran of the local non-profit, government, and political worlds, and has been spreading his message of fairer, balanced, and more effective civic action for the last 7 years. Recently, Derek was a Lead Field Organizer at Chicago Votes. Over his 4 month employment at the organization, his team registered 15,000 voters in Chicagoland – 1,100 of which Derek registered personally. He is thrilled to be serving in this new role as a member of Chicago Votes’ Board of Directors, because it allows him to continue his lifelong work of creating a more diverse, robust, and youthful voice in the city’s democratic process. Derek lives in Chicago’s Wicker Park neighborhood with his partner Hayley Allison Barber, and dedicates much of his personal time to furthering artistic and creative pursuits throughout the Midwest.

Chicago Votes Education

Fund Board Of Directors 

22Jauwan Hall

Born and raised on Chicago’s South Side, and a current resident of the Englewood community, Jauwan Hall is committed to becoming a change agent in civic engagement and corporate social After graduating from Leo Catholic High School, Jauwan served on active duty in the United States Marine Corps and deployed three times to Iraq and Afghanistan. Upon completing eight years of active duty service in the Marine Corps, Jauwan attended and graduated from Kennedy King College with his associate’s degree. He then enrolled at the University of Illinois at Chicago, where currently, he is a senior majoring in political science. At UIC, Jauwan serves as the Student Member of the University of Illinois’ Board of Trustees representing the Chicago campus. Since joining the University of Illinois’ Board of Trustees, he has been an advocate for making the University of Illinois more accessible and inclusive for underrepresented students, staff, faculty and administrators, as well as combatting sexual assault on campus. Jauwan works with the Resident Association of Greater Englewood (R.A.G.E), to educate Englewood’s community members about civic engagement and the political process. Jauwan currently serves in the Illinois Army National Guard.

24Sam Spitz

Sam is the Vice President of Business Development for a local education technology (EdTech) company and an Associate Producer at Groundswell Educational Films, a nonprofit production company that specializes in impact filmmaking for social justice. In his professional career, Sam builds strategic partnerships between industry leading education technology firms to promote more open, interoperable software systems for schools. In addition to his work in the EdTech industry, Sam is also the writer, director, and co-producer of The Greens, a crosscultural documentary and storytelling workshop about race and place in urban America. He and coproducer Teddy Williams have presented the film at dozens of institutions from the University of Oxford in England to the Juvenile Temporary Detention Center in Chicago, and been featured twice on CNN as part of the Chicagoland series. Sam is also active in Chicago politics as a fundraiser for progressive candidates like Carlos Ramirez-Rosa, Sue Sadlowski Garza, Tara Stamps, and Harish Patel. Prior to his professional career, Sam earned his Masters Degree in American History at the University of Oxford. He graduated Summa Cum Laude from Colgate University in 2013. Sam began his college career as a football player at the University of Wisconsin Madison. Laura Garcia is an advocate for immigration and social justice who specializes in developing, implementing and managing programs that touch the lives of individuals and communities while also creating statewide and national impact. Laura has worked nationally and locally in various positions focusing on immigration and social justice. Laura is currently working with the City of Chicago in the Mayor’s Office of New Americans. In this position she manages the Cities for Citizenship program in partnership with the Chicago Public Libraries. Prior to her work with the City of Chicago, Laura directed statewide integration programs for the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights and the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition. In these positions, Laura developed statewide immigrant-focused initiative that incorporated program services, community organizing and community development. Laura worked for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services/Office of Refugee Resettlement prior to her time in Chicago where she managed national refugee resettlement programs. While in D.C., Laura also worked with the Department of Labor/Employment and Training Administration in areas of Workforce Development. Laura began her refugee work while at World Relief International Development Corporation in Baltimore.

Brian Miller - HeadshotBrian Miller

Brian Miller is Alderman of the 9th Ward of Evanston, Chief of Staff to Cook County Commissioner Larry Suffredin and Immediate Past President and Treasurer of the Democratic Party of Evanston. Brian has experience running a legal aid agency, practicing at a large law firm working for a federal judge and with the City of Chicago Department of Law and Illinois Attorney General. Before attending law school, Brian was a community organizer in Evansville, Indiana, worked for a soup kitchen, a national network of community organizations and a public policy research organization. He graduated from the George Washington University and the Northwestern University School of Law. Brian lives in Evanston with his wife Anna, son Carter and soon arriving son Jackson. Although very progressive, he has an unusual affinity for all things Texas including good barbecue, hold ‘em poker and naming his children with “Dallas” like initials including “C.J.” and “J.R.”

veerVeer Kothari

Veer is currently financial analyst and consultant. With a background in accountancy, Veer advises socially conscious and civically minded organizations in all financial related matters. In the past, Veer has organized around labor and income inequality, but he plans on increasing his scope to include education and campaign finance reform. A Chicago native, Veer currently lives in Logan Square and holds a B.A. from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He is an avid reader, budding cook, and life-long flâneur.


19Erana Jackson

A native Chicagoan, raised in the Bronzeville neighborhood. Erana has worked in political organizing for over twenty five years, serving on numerous grass roots organizations in Hyde Park, Washington Park, and Bronzeville. Erana is an Urban Farm Educator teaching how we are connected to the environment around us and climate change. Getting the message to the people how voting connects everything in our neighborhoods: how we live, where we go to school, and how we feed ourselves is my passion for what I do.


imanIman Kort

Iman was born and raised in Bridgeview, a Southwest suburb of the city. She is currently a senior at DePaul University, studying Peace, Justice and Conflict Studies. Iman is the president of UMMA-United Muslims Moving Ahead-a student organization on DePaul’s campus that fosters community through spiritual, social and service-oriented events.  Iman is committed to a path of social change, one that involves organizing community members around issues most relevant to them. Her passion lies in being an activist and fighting injustice in its many forms. Iman is an alum of Democracy Corps 2014, a ten week political training for young leaders. This past summer, she organized alongside 12 of her peers, registering voters, launching an Elected Representative School Board campaign, and planning a fundraiser.  Iman is an obsessive organizer, keeping her planner with her at all times. When she has time to herself, Iman enjoys taking long walks, sipping cups of tea, reading thought-provoking texts and spending quality time with friends.

amyAmy Hermalik

Amy was born into a military family and spent her childhood moving around the country. She chose Chicago as her home after law school and has lived and worked here ever since. She unabashedly believes in the power of people coming together to work towards making the world a better, more just place and thinks government and politics, at their best and loftiest, are examples of this. However, she believes achieving ideal outcomes in a democracy requires robust, broad, and active participation from everyone and sees multiple ways people are excluded and disempowered in the current system.  Currently a corporate attorney at Kirkland & Ellis LLP, Amy focuses her practice on mergers and acquisitions and capital markets transactions. She also has a robust pro bono practice in which she assists U-Visa and DACA applicants, non-profits, veterans applying for benefits related to their service, and people with Social Security Administration and food stamp related matters. Previously, Amy worked at the United States Commission on Civil Rights in Washington, D.C., a legal clinic serving low-income entrepreneurs on the South side of Chicago, a teacher policy organization in Chicago, and a middle school in South Los Angeles. She was a Teach for America corps member and teacher prior to law school, received a Symantec Award for Innovation in Education, and remains actively engaged in K-12 education issues in Chicago.  Amy earned a B.A. with honors in Political Science and Sociology from the University of Arizona, a Master of Education from the University of California, Los Angeles, and a Juris Doctorate with honors from the University of Chicago Law School.