Meet our team
We share a deep commitment to making Chicago a more equitable city where all children, particularly Black and Latinx youth, can thrive. Our shared values are reflected in our relationships with each other, with our grantees and stakeholders, and with our community.
Colin supports A Better Chicago’s efforts to build and maintain deep relationships with grantees and drives A Better Chicago’s management support work. He joined A Better Chicago in 2016 and has held several different roles supporting the organization’s fundraising and communications efforts. He has worked in education in various capacities over the years, from teaching elementary school in Chicago to assisting school board election campaigns in Nashville, TN. He has also taught middle and high school students in France. Colin received his AB in public policy from Duke University.
Domonique is A Better Chicago’s portfolio director. She is a proud Chicagoan, product of Chicago Public Schools and a passionate, results-oriented nonprofit leader. Prior to joining A Better Chicago, she was the executive director of Foundations of Music and held various roles, including managing director of people and operations, during her ten years with City Year Chicago. Domonique specializes in HR strategy, operations management, leadership management, teambuilding and employee engagement. She holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration from National Louis University and an master’s of science in nonprofit management from the Spertus Institute for Jewish Learning and Leadership. Domonique volunteers at the Museum of Science and Industry in her spare time.
Chief Marketing and External Affairs Officer
Becky Betts is the chief marketing and external affairs officer at A Better Chicago. In this role, Becky leads the organization’s marketing and communications, strategic partnerships, and development work. She seeks to elevate A Better Chicago’s brand at the local and national levels while maintaining and cultivating relationships across sectors to garner the resources required to achieve A Better Chicago’s mission to fight poverty with opportunity.
Becky’s track record for developing and implementing innovative social impact initiatives includes launching Chicago CRED—a foundation focused on reducing gun violence through philanthropy, direct service programs, community engagement, and advocacy—with former United States Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. As chief of staff, Becky led the creation of a direct service, anti-violence program and established collaborative partnerships with city agencies and community-based nonprofits to enable rapid expansion, including employment of more than 5,000 high school students each summer through the One Summer program. On the advocacy side, she led initiatives to engage young adults from Chicago’s South and West side neighborhoods in local and national conversations around gun violence prevention. Prior to her time at Chicago CRED, Becky provided strategic guidance to a wide variety of Fortune 500 companies as a management consultant with PwC and A.T. Kearney.
Becky is on the board of directors for Advance Illinois, a nonprofit policy and advocacy organization that works towards building a healthy public education system for Illinois. She also serves on the board of Fishtank Learning, a national nonprofit focused on providing high-quality instructional content for K-12 educators. Becky holds a bachelor’s degree from Princeton University and a master’s of business administration from Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management.
External Affairs Coordinator
Blair joined A Better Chicago in 2020 as the external communications intern and transitioned into her current role as the external affairs coordinator. She is a Michigan State University graduate with a bachelor’s degree in communications with a concentration in intercultural communications and a minor in public relations. At Michigan State, she spent three years working as an intern within the athletics department, working large scale events and engaging Spartan fans though sponsorship activations. She has spent most of her life as a competitive figure skater, mentoring younger skaters of color and promoting diversity within the sport. This led her to combine her passions for digital media and storytelling into a volunteer role with Get it Called, a platform dedicated to promoting synchronized skating and connecting skaters throughout the country. Although she is new to the nonprofit sector, Blair has always had a passion for helping others however she could.
Portfolio Manager, Venture Fund
Samantha is the Portfolio Manager for A Better Chicago’s Venture Fund. Her background is in nonprofit program management at organizations focused on college and career success. She helped to launch the Illinois site of America Needs You and implemented all career development workshops and case management for the program’s first-generation college students and volunteer mentors. Previously, she worked at One Million Degrees advising community college scholars, overseeing volunteers, and leading recruitment efforts. Samantha has a BA in political science from Baldwin Wallace University and an MBA from Duke University. She is a proud first-generation college graduate and alumna of Amate House, AmeriCorps, and Education Pioneers.
Special Assistant to the CEO
Emily joined A Better Chicago as the external relations coordinator in 2019, she now supports our organization as the special assistant to the CEO. Previously, she served as deputy campaign manager for Derek Lindblom’s 43rd Ward Aldermanic campaign. Prior to joining the campaign, Emily was a special education aide at Oak Lawn Community High School. She has spent most of her life being a part of a nonprofit children’s theater in her hometown in the southwest suburbs. At the theater, she helped mentor low-income and first-generation students from elementary school through college. She was the first in her family to graduate from college, earning a bachelor’s degree from DePaul University, majoring in Spanish and Psychology as well as a minoring in Latin American and Latino Studies.
Chief Investment + Strategy Officer
Kelly joined A Better Chicago in 2016 and serves as its chief investment + strategy officer. In this role, Kelly is responsible for leading organizational strategy and annual planning and oversees all investment work. Previously, Kelly was the chief external relations officer and a portfolio director at A Better Chicago. Prior to joining A Better Chicago, Kelly spent seven years at Teach For America-Chicago, most recently as the senior managing director of partnerships. In this role, Kelly was responsible for managing relationships with key stakeholders, including district, charter and community partners. Earlier in her career, Kelly was a middle school teacher in North Carolina through Teach For America. Kelly holds a BA in history from Indiana University Bloomington and is currently pursuing a MBA at University of Chicago Booth School of Business where she is a Neubauer Civic Scholar.
Melanie is A Better Chicago’s development associate. In this role, she manages a growing portfolio of donors and helps drive overall donor engagement strategy and analytics. Before joining the A Better Chicago team in 2019, Melanie was a senior consultant in Deloitte’s Business Risk Advisory practice. At Deloitte, she also served as the operations and logistics lead for the Deloitte Education Consulting Cooperative. Melanie received her bachelor’s degree in finance from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
Danisha is A Better Chicago’s communications associate. She leads our external communications team’s efforts to build brand awareness and maintain internal communications. Additionally, she supports our director of communications and engagement in strategic communications, media relations, and digital marketing efforts. She joined A Better Chicago in 2019 from Target, where she worked on brand management and guest satisfaction. Danisha earned her bachelor’s degree in fashion business and public relations from Columbia College Chicago in 2016, and received her master’s degree in public relations and advertising from DePaul University in 2020. Although she is new to the nonprofit sector, Danisha is extremely passionate about using her skills in social media and communications to connect people to A Better Chicago’s mission and work.
Marshana Roberts Pace
Portfolio Growth Manager
Marshana Pace leads the critical work of growing A Better Chicago’s portfolio of grantees that help create equitable opportunities for Black and Latinx youth. Marshana has spent nearly a decade in the education and youth development nonprofit field. She most recently served as Impact Director at City Year Chicago where she implemented strategies aimed at supporting student attendance, social-emotional learning skill development and academic progress for a cohort of Chicago public schools. Marshana holds a bachelor’s degree in sociology from DePauw University, is a proud 2021 Surge Institute Fellow and home décor enthusiast. A Chicago native from the beautiful neighborhood of Bronzeville, Marshana is fiercely dedicated to her city and creating sustainable change for youth and communities of color.
Impact and Innovation Associate
As an Impact and Innovation Associate, Gabe supports the evaluation of candidate, grantee, and portfolio impact, as well as strengthening A Better Chicago’s organization-wide data-related capacity and infrastructure. Before joining A Better Chicago in 2021, Gabe was a communications and marketing consultant at Vested where he supported financial services clients with strategic media planning, market research and content development. Prior to his time as a communications consultant, he interned at Morningstar within their Indexes department. Gabe graduated from Yale University earning his B.A. in both Sociology and Economics with a rigorous background in quantitative and qualitative academic research. He currently holds a position in the Emerging Leadership Council at Matriculate.
Portfolio Manager, Catalyst Fund
Vaish joined A Better Chicago in 2020 and serves as the portfolio manager for the Catalyst Fund supporting grantees on the South and West side of Chicago. Prior to joining A Better Chicago, Vaish worked as an investment banking associate on the Consumer & Retail team at William Blair. She also has served as Executive Director of the Sunflower County Freedom Project, a civil-rights-based education nonprofit in the Mississippi Delta. Earlier in her career, Vaish worked at KIPP: New Jersey as a data analyst and as a middle school math teacher in Greenwood, Mississippi through Teach For America. Vaish holds a bachelor’s degree in Information Systems & Information Technology from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign and a MBA from the University of Michigan Ross School of Business.
Sarey is A Better Chicago’s Portfolio Coordinator. She joined A Better Chicago in 2018 and has held several roles supporting the executive team, office operations and program team support. Prior to joining A Better Chicago, Sarey spent three years as an AmeriCorps member at Girls in the Game, working with elementary, middle and high school girls to help them find their confidence through fun and active sports, health and leadership programs. Sarey holds a CNP certification and a BS in Nonprofit Management from North Park University. Sarey is also on the Noble Alumni Association board.
Elizabeth (Beth) Swanson is the CEO of A Better Chicago. In this role, she leads the organization’s work to change how Chicago fights poverty by investing in organizations and leaders that are creating opportunity for youth. Upon taking the helm at the venture philanthropy nonprofit in May 2019, Beth expanded the team, inspired new major donors to invest in A Better Chicago’s work and launched the development of the organization’s updated strategic direction.
Prior to joining A Better Chicago, Beth was vice president of strategy and programs at the Joyce Foundation. At Joyce, she helped guide an annual grant portfolio of $50 million, providing strategic direction to all programs and working on foundation-wide innovation initiatives. She also directed the Special Opportunities Fund and the Education & Economic Mobility Program at the foundation.
Before her position at Joyce, Beth served as deputy for education in the administration of Mayor Rahm Emanuel, working collaboratively with education and community leaders to define the city’s education policy agenda from birth through college. She served as the Mayor’s point person in expanding early learning opportunities, achieving a full school day, bringing quality school options to families and launching the city’s Summer of Learning initiative. Beth also worked closely with Chicago’s business community to ensure that City Colleges of Chicago, a network of seven community colleges, helped students learn skills relevant to the local job market.
Beth had previously served as executive director of the Pritzker Traubert Family Foundation, and worked for Chicago Public Schools with CEO Arne Duncan, serving as director of the Office of Extended Learning Opportunities and then leading the District’s Office of Management and Budget.
Beth is currently vice chair of the City Colleges Board of Trustees, board chair for The Partnership for College Completion, and was appointed to the Illinois P-20 Council. In 2014, she founded Thrive Chicago—a collective impact initiative working to align efforts by service providers, city agencies and funders to help children succeed from cradle to career—and serves on the organization’s board. Additionally, Beth was the first and only female board chair for City Year Chicago (2009-2011).
Beth was a Leadership Greater Chicago Fellow in 2006 and Crain’s Chicago Business named her to its list of 40 Under 40 in 2013. She holds a bachelor’s degree in English and American Studies from Amherst College, and a master’s in public policy from the University of Chicago. Beth, her husband, and their three children live on Chicago’s North Side.
Director of Communications + Engagement
Danielle leads the strategic communications, media relations and digital marketing efforts at A Better Chicago. Prior to joining the team in 2018, Danielle spent over a decade in Washington, D.C. working in nonprofit and advocacy communications. She has held positions at the American Diabetes Association, United States Senate, global think tanks, and boutique strategic communications firms. Danielle serves on several volunteer boards and is often invited to speak on panels about strategic communications and storytelling, health and education disparities, as well as diversity, equity, and inclusion. She is the executive director for the Chicago chapter of ColorComm, Inc., a global business community for women of color in the communications industry. She is also on the local advisory board for iHeartMedia Markets Group’s Chicago region, is a member of Ragan’s Communicators Roundtable Advisory Board, and serves on the advisory board for Prosper Strategies, a nonprofit consulting firm working to build a more effective and impactful social sector. Additionally, Danielle recently joined the board of directors for The ZAC Foundation, a national grantmaking foundation with a mission to empower Black and Latinx families to be safe in and around the water. Prior to leaving the nation’s capital, Danielle was honored by her peers in the communications and public relations industry for the fifth year in a row with an appointment to the Washington Women in Public Relations board of directors and was elected to be the organization’s first Black president in 2018.
Danielle received her bachelor’s degree from Emory University, where she majored in sociology and minored in political science.
Impact and Innovation Manager
Laura leads A Better Chicago’s data and analytics, working to advance decision-making, continuous improvement, and efficiency in efforts across investments, external relations, and organizational strategy. Prior to joining A Better Chicago in 2018, Laura launched her career as a strategy and operations analyst at Deloitte Consulting and subsequently as a process innovation advisor at CVS Health. Laura received her bachelor’s degree from Vanderbilt University, where she majored in public policy and minored in economics.