About WP+D

Women in Planning + Development is a professional development organization dedicated to advancing leadership, fostering relationships, and providing educational opportunities for women in the fields of planning and development.

Our Goals:
  • Offer services and programs to promote the professional advancement of our members and strengthen the fields of planning and development.
  • Foster meaningful connections among women in planning and development in the Chicago region.
  • Provide a forum to share knowledge, exchange ideas, and encourage dialogue on the advancement of women in the fields of planning and development.

2020-2021 Board of Directors (In Formation)

Janet Li - President

Janet Li is proud to serve as WP+D’s President. She collaborates with the Board of Directors to create professional development, networking, and engagement opportunities for members, coronavirus be damned. In her WP+D off hours, she is the Service Programs Analyst for Full Circle Communities and supports the Real Estate Development and Property Management teams in the research and analysis of current and proposed service provision at Full Circle’s properties.  Prior to Full Circle, she worked in the Office of Resident Services at the Chicago Housing Authority.

Like fellow Board member Sasha De La Cruz (fellow ‘08er!), Janet is a graduate of Barnard College. She received her master’s degree from the University of Chicago School of Social Service Administration. 

Fun Facts:

  • Janet is a pen snob; her longtime favorite pens are Uni-Ball Vision Elite.

  • She likes pretty much any band with the name Beach or Beaches in it. 

  • The last book that made her laugh was The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Cartoonist by Adrian Tomine.

Lenese Clark - Treasurer

After completing her Masters of Public Administration from the University of Illinois Chicago, Lenese Clark (she/her) continued her passion for socioeconomic impact within higher education. In joining the Rustandy Center of Social Sector Innovation at the Chicago Booth School of Business, Lenese supports the center’s internal operations and strategic initiatives. In her 6+ years of experience in higher ed, she has worked with three well-renowned institutions, leading the development and implementation of operational procedures related to human resources, financial management, strategic planning, and administrative support.

She was referred to Women in Planning + Development due to her unwavering interest in creating more access to professional networks for women of color.  In collaboration with the Board of Directors, Lenese strives to bring an operational approach to the needs of the secretary position for WP+D to promote efficiency and equity across the organization’s goals.

Fun Facts:

  • US Army Veteran

  • Loves live music

  • Volunteers with the Southside youth to teach the art of Double Dutch

Em Hall - Marketing

Em Hall (she/her) brings over a decade of award-winning experience to her role as Marketing Chair for WP+D.  In her day job as Communications Manager at Wight & Company, she takes an integrated approach to building a best-in-class communications strategy designed to elevate the brand and cultivate partnerships with industry influencers and the media. As a PhD student in Urban Planning at UIC, Em combines cutting-edge research with creative storytelling to convey her passion for building equitable spaces and places that are accessible to all.

Em also volunteers with WTS International’s Transportation YOU mentoring program, which introduces young women to careers in transportation. You can find her riding her bike around Pilsen or taking the Amtrak to destinations near and far.

Fun Facts:

  • Wrote a blog (Metro-Venture) where she documented my experiences in visiting all of the Metro stations and riding dozens of bus routes. This blog was featured on NPR and in the Washington Post.

  • Plays two percussion instruments: drums and piano.

  • Has five cats that are cumulatively 66 years old!

Mackenzie Drosd - Membership

Mackenzie Drosd is excited to serve as the Membership Co-chair WP+D and is looking forward to connecting with colleagues across the many industries that make up the WP+D membership. Mackenzie serves as the Manager of Programs & Membership at the Illinois Housing Council, working to increase the affordable housing stock across the state. 

Originally from San Francisco, CA, Mackenzie moved to Chicago in 2008 to attend college at Loyola University Chicago. She has a bachelor’s degree in Political Science with minors in Environmental Action and Leadership, and History. Mackenzie received her master’s degree in Urban Planning and Policy from the University of Illinois at Chicago. 

Fun facts:

  • She has 2 dogs named after musicians: Etta James and Ozzy Pawsbourne. Neither dog enjoys music.

  • She has climbed Half Dome twice 

  • Her favorite pandemic activity is watching movies in the backyard

Chrissy Breit - Professional Development

Chrissy Breit (she/her) is excited to serve as WP+D’s Professional Development co-chair and to continue the tradition of providing sacred space for women to share knowledge, exchange ideas, and learn from one another. Throughout her time in Chicago, she has had the privilege of participating in the planning and development sphere from numerous angles. Chrissy has been an Urban Sociology graduate student, a volunteer community organizer working on affordable housing campaigns, a member of her ward’s zoning advisory committee, and a project manager for a transportation-focused public affairs and community engagement consulting firm. She is passionate about building community power and advancing equitable development without displacement. 

Fun Facts:

  • Has the goal to visit every presidential library. 

  • Favorite thing about Chicago is watching softball games at Humboldt Park.

  • Used to work at Recreational Equipment Incorporated (REI) where she earned the title of "footwear queen."

Sasha De La Cruz - Professional Development

As WP+D’s Professional Development Co-Chair, Sasha hopes to create connections that foster community and an exchange of ideas for women in all phases of their careers. While in graduate school at the College of Urban Planning and Policy at UIC, Sasha organized all of the professional development events for the Graduate Students leading up to and including Internship Connection, an all day event connecting over 20+ employers to 50+ participating students through a series of short interviews.  

Prior to returning to graduate school, Sasha spent 10 years working in real estate development, financing, and management. Sasha is currently a development associate with Preservation of Affordable Housing (POAH), in the Chicago office. She helps the Chicago team in all aspects of development from initial acquisition through stabilization and conversion. She also serves on the board of the Barnard College regional alumni club and loves connecting with alumni and WPD members.      

Fun facts:  

  • Loves playing ultimate frisbee and disc golf. 

  • Loves arranging flowers and maintaining plants. 

  • Has a dog named Taco and a turtle named Tyron.

Brittanii’ Batts - Programs

Brittanii’ serves as As Associate Manager of Projects and Research at National Main Street Center. She is a liaison with potential awardees and potential borrowers. She implements grant reporting schedules, tracks loan repayments, and reviews loan applications and their processes. Working collaboratively with the team, Brittanii’ vets potential revitalization related projects and tracks improvement in loan agreements.

Working closely with the Vice President of Revitalization Programs, Brittanii’ is helping to expand NMSC’s research objectives using GIS data analysis and visualization. Prior to joining 2019, she worked in telecommunication development and served as a community organizer for traffic-infrastructure improvements projects on the West Side of Chicago. Brittanii’ has a background in environmental biology and urban planning, earning an M.A. in Urban Planning and Policy with a Geospatial Analysis and Visualization Certificate from the University of Illinois at Chicago and a B.S. in Integrative Biology from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Fun facts:

  • Writing poetry
  • Singing
  • Being passionate about community organizing/preservation

Rachel Groat - Programs

Rachel Groat is pleased to serve her second term as Programs Co-Chair.

Originally from the Chicago area, Rachel moved to Houston to attend Rice University.  After graduating with degrees in Mechanical Engineering and Art she served in the aerospace industry as a project engineer.  Later she returned to school, attending the University of Houston and earning a M.S. in Construction Management.  While a graduate student, she joined the Houston Housing Working Group, advocating locally for affordable housing.  Additionally, Rachel spent time as a volunteer child advocate for children in the foster care system.

Recently relocating back to her hometown of Chicago, Rachel is pleased to be a part of the Walsh construction team.  She is now serving as the project engineer for a 70-unit, affordable housing building breaking ground this fall.  At Walsh, she plans to continue advocating for affordable housing.

3 facts (okay 4):

  • In her first career in the space industry, she collaborated directly with astronauts to design space hardware.
  • She double majored in engineering and art in undergrad.
  • She recently finished a suite of etchings which correspond to a poem by Nikki Giovanni - and she graciously autographed the artwork!
  • Her dog can fetch a newspaper!
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