About WP+D

Women in Planning + Development (WP+D) 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.

We welcome feedback from our members and the general public. If you'd like to reach out, please email us at info@wpdchicago.com.

2023-2024 Board of Directors

Lily brack, aicp - President

Lily Brack is a planner with the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP) where her work is focused on providing planning technical assistance to communities and building local government capacity. She leads several programs at CMAP including the Technical Assistance Call for Projects and the Local Government Network, and she’s heavily involved in the agency’s DEI initiatives. Lily prioritizes equity, inclusivity, and innovation in every aspect of her work.

Originally from Naperville, Lily moved to Chicago in 2018 to obtain her master's degree in urban planning from the University of Illinois at Chicago. During her time as a student, she gained municipal planning experience with the City of Evanston and the City of Des Plaines, which sparked her interest in local government capacity building. Before her time at UIC, she obtained a bachelor’s degree in landscape architecture from Purdue University and worked for a landscape architecture and planning firm in Austin, Texas.

Fun facts:

  • Has a green thumb and lives amongst more than 20 house plants

  • Loves March Madness, even though the Boilermakers disappoint her every year

  • One of those “it’s not that far, let’s just walk” people

    YUN-NI TSAI - Vice President

    Yunni Tsai is a development manager with Holsten Management Corporation. She came from a suburb with scarce resources facing housing, education and daycare issues, but was fortunate enough to surround herself in a small community with sufficient caring/love from each other.

    That being said, Yunni has always wanted to build her community and carry along all the kindness she received along the road. She is thrilled and also grateful to become part of the WP+D board this year. Please don't hesitate to reach out and discuss how we can build the community together!!

    Fun facts:

    • Absolutely a hot-pot lover! More than willing to eat a hot-pot at an outdoor area in Chicago's summer.

    • Originated from Taiwan! No one can argue with me that we are the first country to produce bubble milk tea. (being serious and jk at the same time).

    • Baby-sitting almost five cats in the past and has a lazy (cutest) cat called Simbai.

      Anna JentzSECRETARY

      Anna is a Senior Planning Associate at Greenprint Partners, a sustainable planning and civil engineering firm. At Greenprint, she works on projects that help bring the benefits of holistic, nature-based solutions to frontline communities. She is passionate about partnering with communities to build a more sustainable and resilient future in the face of the impacts of climate change. Some of Anna’s work has included collaborating with steering committee members to prioritize green infrastructure projects in their neighborhoods, facilitating an advisory group of urban ag organizations, and supporting the development of equity-related workshop content. Prior to her role at Greenprint, she served as an AmeriCorps Service Member coordinating community garden work for the Ramsey County Department of Public Health. Anna holds a B.A in Environmental Policy from Loyola University Chicago.

      Fun facts:

      • Loves backpacking and spending time outdoors!
      • Played on a rugby team for 3 years.
      • Every year on her birthday she creates a bucket list for the upcoming year.

      LIZ KERSJES - Treasurer

      Bio coming soon!

      Fun Facts:

      • Passionate about food - sourcing locally, cooking, and most importantly, eating
      • Loves live music, goes to as many live shows as possible (which, in Chicago, is a LOT), and plays mediocre folk fiddle through lessons at the Old Town School of Folk Music
      • Has been learning how to surf, plans to try surfing in Lake Michigan one day

      Kate Portillo, AICP - Membership

      Kate has a Master's degree in Urban Planning and Policy from UIC. She transitioned to the field of Planning from a diverse professional background working in Parks and Recreation programming, social work and retail management. Prior to joining the team in Brookfield, she worked as a planning consultant to numerous regional municipalities where her experience included zoning analysis, case preparation and public hearing oversight for Planning and Zoning Commissions, code amendment, data visualization and modeling, and work on Comprehensive Plan updates. She is dedicated to advancing new development, contemporary zoning practice, walkability and sustainability initiatives in Brookfield and has a passion for municipal planning work. In her free time she enjoys camping, live music and baseball games in the summer with her family.

      Fun facts:

      • After 19 years on a different career path I became a professional (urban) Planner.
      • Attending Chicago Gospel Music Festival annually brings me joy.
      • Catch me at the right moment and I'll go out dancing until dawn.

       TAYLOR GENDEL- Membership

      Taylor is a Senior Planner focused on sustainability initiatives for Lake County, IL. She graduated from UIC's Master of Urban Planning and Policy program in May 2021 with an environmental concentration. Prior to grad school, Taylor worked and volunteered with a number of environmental organizations in the Chicago region and graduated with a B.S. in environmental sociology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2013.

      Fun facts:

      • I didn’t own a car until 2023! Bought a car and a bike to balance that out.
      • I am a passionate environmentalist. Years ago I ran a program where I organized volunteers to pick up trash in different Chicago neighborhoods in exchange for concert tickets. We called it: Streets & Beats :)
        • I love seeing live music and I try to get to a show whenever I can. My favorite venues are Thalia Hall & Schubas.

      ABIGAIL ROSE - Marketing

      Abigail is a Senior Planner and Designer at All Together, a women-owned creative placemaking agency in Chicago, Illinois. She masterfully communicates the big picture by distilling complex issues into simple messaging and clean visuals. Her experience in graphic design, urban planning, and community engagement drives her passion to better inform policy and create authentic, viable places and solutions. As a painter and muralist, Abigail loves creatively capturing the energy of a place and its community through placemaking. As a planner, she works side-by-side with the community to bring designs to life.

      Fun Facts:

      • Abigail absolutely adores cold weather. The colder, the better she says.
      • She has an obsession with gifting hand-drawn cards. Don’t be afraid to ask for one, because she has probably already started it.
      • One of her favorite pastimes is searching for vintage/used items on eBay, some even call her the eBay Queen.

      IRENE HENRY - marketing

      Irene is an urban planner with Confluence, a landscape architecture and planning firm, and graduated in 2022 from the University of Illinois-Chicago with a Master’s of Urban Planning and Policy. Irene is passionate about getting people out of cars and into the public realm for connection, collaboration, and community. She has a background in music, studying French horn at St. Olaf College and learning how to build bridges across divergent backgrounds and beliefs through shared musical experiences. Irene loves discussing bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure and cool public spaces and how they’re part of the solution to climate change, systemic inequity, and social isolation.

      Fun Facts:

      • Went to a circus camp every summer for five years and did the flying trapeze
      • Loves photography; recent projects include a 35mm camera and polaroid
      • Helped edit the book “Winning the Green New Deal” with other Sunrise Movement activists (a movement of young people striving to stop climate change and create millions of good jobs in the process)

      mercedes miley, AIA, CPHC, NCARB, LEED Green Associate - professional development

      Mercedes has a background in architecture, development, and urban design—leading to a comprehensive approach to problem solving that touches on all aspects of the built environment. She is an Associate Principal at Farr Associates, a sustainability-focused firm striving to advance green infrastructure across communities, and the Co-Founder of Home 42, a development company focused on equitable and compassionate landlordship. Her practice includes the advancement of women, especially young women and girls, into design spaces.

      Throughout her career Mercedes has promoted women and girls to reach for their dreams. She has 23 years of service to the Girl Scouts of America and a long-history of tutoring and mentoring young women with similar organizations. She would love to connect with you wherever you are on your journey to great things.

      Fun Facts:

      • Mercedes acts as a Dungeon Master for D&D campaigns for her family.
      • She loves to quilt and has recently discovered garment making.
      • Mercedes has been self-learning Japanese and needs a speaking buddy!

      Kelsey zlevor - professional development

      Bio coming soon!

       Rashanah Baldwin- PROGRAMS

      Bio coming soon!

      Fun Facts:

      • I love doing community engagement/revitalization, running marathons, and traveling.
      • Rashanah’s work has been featured in the New York Times bestseller “Broadcasting Happiness” and the best-selling book “The Future of Happiness.”

       DIANE BURNHAM - programs

      Over the past ten years, Diane Burnham has become a familiar face in the midsouth region of Chicago serving as a community leader and public figure in her role as the Executive Director of the South East Chicago Commission (SECC). In 2013, Diane began her journey working at SECC focusing her efforts on community-based initiatives, such as arts/culture, business district improvement programs, and community beautification, placemaking and sustainability.

      In 2017, Diane was named the sixth Executive Director in the organization’s 70+ year history. She successfully transitioned the SECC in financially divesting from the University of Chicago, rebranding the organization, and leading the organization into a new path and future. As of 2023, Diane has doubled the organization’s budget, diversified funding streams, grown the staff team and focused on the organization’s infrastructure. She has been described as both genuine and authentic in her approach to leadership and community engagement.

      Diane holds a Master of Management and Nonprofit Administration from North Park University in Chicago and a Master of Science in Urban Studies from the University of Wisconsin. 

      • Diane has a famous last name! She is often asked if she is related to Daniel Burnham, the world-famous American Architect and Urban Planner, that is most notably known for The Burnham Plan, a popular name for the 1909 Plan of Chicago, co-authored by Daniel Burnham and Edward H. Bennett and published in 1909. It recommended an integrated series of projects including new and widened streets, parks, new railroad and harbor facilities, and civic buildings. Though only portions of the plan were realized, the document reshaped Chicago's central area and was an important influence on the new field of city planning.

      • Diane has a soft heart and has two adopted pets: 1.) Lil Byt a 3-year old Chihuahua Mix and 2.) Flash, a Russian Land Tortoise. 

      • Diane is an avid tennis player, loves yoga, ethnic foods and music. In Diane’s past life, she worked with a Booking Agent, supporting international hip hop tours such as Rock the Bells.

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