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.

2022-2023 Board of Directors

Brittanii’ Batts - President

Brittanii’ Batts (she/her) serves as the Community Organizing Manager at the Vietnamese Association of Illinois. She trains and oversees mutual aid volunteers and is the liaison with food pantry/food providers. She develops and implements outreach strategies and supports new and existing partnerships with community-based nonprofit organizations. Working collaboratively with organizers and manager, creates strategies to grow mutual aid.

Prior to VAI, she has experience with community organizing, community revitalization projects, and entrepreneurship. 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. She is an urban planner and creative artist. She is truly passionate about investing in communities through developing program strategies and arts to improve them holistically.

Fun facts:

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

Lenese Clark - Vice President

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 2019, Lenese joined the Rustandy Center of Social Sector Innovation at the Chicago Booth School of Business, where she supported the center’s internal operations, strategic initiatives, and community partnership efforts. Lenese now supports the official board and advisory council logistics for the Office of the President at the University of Chicago.

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, development, 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 a strategic approach to the needs of the Vice President position for WP+D to promote efficiency and equity across the organization’s goals.

Fun Facts:

  • US Army Veteran

  • Loves concerts and live music

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


Anna is excited to serve on the board as Secretary this year and looks forward to getting to know peers from across the wide range of industries and interests that make up WP+D membership. Currently, Anna works as a Project Associate at Greenprint Partners - a mission-driven green infrastructure planning, engineering, and design firm. In her role at Greenprint, she conducts desktop research, writes case studies and reports, and supports project management on planning and innovation projects to advance community-centered, multi-benefit green infrastructure. 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 has a personal goal of attempting a (at least partial) thru-hike of the Pacific Crest Trail some day.
  • Played on a rugby team for 3 years.
  • Every year on her birthday she creates a bucket list for the upcoming year.

Anabel Abaraca - Treasurer

Bio coming soon!

Yunni Tsai - Membership

Yunni Tsai is a recent UIC MUPP graduate and works as a development analyst in the affordable housing industry. 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).
  • Currently wanting to be a plant lover without having green fingers. 

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.

Ximena Castro - Fundraising

Ximena Castro is a land use and zoning law associate attorney at Acosta Ezgur, LLC.   Her practice centers on Zoning Board of Appeals cases and is known for her affordable housing community engagement in Pilsen.   Her land use work includes large developments to single family homes and small businesses.

Ximena brings a judicial and administrative law background to her work as she externed for the Illinois Appellate Court First District, the Circuit Court of Cook County, and for the Committee on Zoning, Landmarks and Building Standards.   Ximena graduated from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign with a bachelor’s degree in Communication.  She earned her J.D. from DePaul College of Law.

Fun Facts:

  • Ximena is a hiking aficionado
  • She loves kayaking
  • She seeks out and loves the Dolly Parton casino slots in Vegas

Traci Sanders - Fundraising

Traci Sanders is an urban planner with research interests in real estate and urban policy. She currently serves as Deputy Director of the Strategic Planning & Reporting (SPAR) department at the Illinois Housing Development Authority (IHDA). Over fifteen years she has cultivated cross-sector experience in Chicago and New York City, having worked in local government for Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito at the New York City Council; in academia for the NYU Furman Center; for not-for profits, including City Year Chicago and the Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law; and in the private sector for the land use practice at Kramer Levin, and most recently, as Director, Civic Impact, at the design practice, WXY architecture + urban design.

Throughout her career, Traci has been fortunate to be part of several notable projects across the country including the Downtown Davenport Master Plan (WXY), the East Harlem Neighborhood Plan (NYC Council), design and development of CoreData.nyc (NYU Furman Center), and LocalHousingSolutions.org (NYU Furman Center). These projects have deepened her understanding of the evolution of housing policy in the United States and the challenges faced by cities in addressing the growing affordability crisis. Specifically, her current work focuses on developing strategies that promote more equitable, inclusive, and sustainable communities, both environmentally and economically.

In September 2021, Traci began as an Adjunct Professor at the Illinois Institute of Technology’s College of Architecture co-teaching a 5 th -year Studio that focuses on design and policy issues raised at the intersection of race, gentrification, and historic preservation.

Traci holds an A.B. in Political Science from the University of Chicago, and a Master of Urban Planning from NYU’s Wagner School of Public Service.

Fun facts:

  • Watches some part of the Star Wars or Marvel Universe every day.
  • Could eat tacos for every meal, forever.
  • Would eventually like to bike some part of the Great Allegheny Passage.

Em Hall - Marketing

Em Hall (she/her) brings over a decade of award-winning experience to her role as 30th Anniversary Marketing Chair for WP+D.  In her role as Owner of Em+H Chicago, LLC, she takes an integrated approach to building effective marketing and  communications strategies for clients working in transportation, infrastructure, tech, and higher education. 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 watching Law & Order (all of 'em).

Fun Facts:

  • Wrote a blog (Metro-Venture) where she documented her 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 three cats that are cumulatively 42 years old!

Taylor gendel - marketing

Taylor is a Senior Planner focused on sustainability initiatives with Lake County. 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 have never owned a car. I try to get by on public transit, bike and the occasional uber!
  • I love seeing live music and try to get to a show whenever I can. My favorite venues are Thalia Hall & Schubas.
  • I am a passionate environmentalist! Years ago I even ran a program where I'd organize volunteers to pick up trash in different Chicago neighborhoods (in exchange for concert tickets!)

Lily brack, aicp - Professional development

Lily Brack is a planner with the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP) where her work is focused on providing planning technical assistance to local governments and building local government capacity. She leads several programs at CMAP including the Technical Assistance Call for Projects, the Local Government Network, and an initiative focused on integrating equity into CMAP’s planning practices.

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.

Lily is excited to serve as the Professional Development Co-Chair to promote peer-to-peer learning amongst women in planning and development. She’s passionate about connecting with women that work in all areas of the field and believes that there’s a lot to learn from others’ experiences.

Fun facts:

  • Lily has been fascinated by the built environment since she was a kid. In high school, she went to architecture camp and was a tour facilitator at the Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio in Oak Park.
  • She loves to cook and try new restaurants.
  • She enjoys exploring her neighborhood by going on long walks. She’ll walk just about anywhere!

mercedes miley - professional development

Mercedes Miley is an architect and urban designer for Farr Associates, a Chicago-based firm focused on sustainable design. She leads projects of varying scales, complexities, and industry types but has a passion for housing. Outside of her main position, Mercedes co-owns and operates with her husband an affordable housing development organization, Home 42, on Chicago’s Southside. Their goal is to provide quality housing opportunities to working class families. Mercedes’ equity-based mindset, coupled with an understanding of development and finance, bring a unique experience to her projects and clients.

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!

evans debeza - programs

Evans Debeza is a licensed Project Architect at BKV Group's Chicago practice site. She has nine years of experience in affordable, assisted living, and market-rate housing coordinating with design teams to guide projects from the early design phases through construction. Her career focus is affordable housing where she can best utilize her expertise to provide safe, quality, and equitable housing for communities. Evans is Vice-Chair of Chicago Common’s Emerging Leaders Council (CELC) and a member of the non-profit organizations ULI and CWA.

Evans holds a bachelor’s degree in architecture from University of Arkansas, Fay Jones School of Architecture & Design. She is originally from the Mississippi Delta and moved up to Chicago nearly nine years ago to follow her passion in architecture.

Fun Facts:

  • Grew up surrounded by the blues and frequented many blues festivals. Her most favorite blues moments were getting to see BB King multiple times at his annual homecoming concerts in Indianola, MS and becoming fully immersed in the heart and soul of the music.
  • Worked for 5 summers at a USDA Catfish Farm & Research Facility during highschool and college.
  • An avid (though amateur) bread baker, griller and cook. I love challenging myself in the kitchen with new recipes, ingredients and techniques.
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