About WP+D

a group of eight woman in business and cocktail attire stand together in a hallway; high rise buildings are behind them, with their lights on because it's dark outside

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.

2020-2021 Board of Directors

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.

Haley Cannon - Vice President

Haley Cannon is a  Program Associate in Property Preservation at Neighborhood Housing Services (NHS) of Chicago’s Redevelopment Corporation. She assists in NHS’s neighborhood revitalization efforts through vacant property stabilization and occupied property preservation by working closely with the city and other local community stakeholders in programs like the Troubled Building Initiative and the Micro Market Recovery Program.

Prior to starting with NHS, Haley obtained an MA in Sustainable Urban Development at DePaul University. During her academic career at DePaul, she worked with the Congress for the New Urbanism coordinating programs in urban planning and design, and then later worked with the Chaddick Institute for Metropolitan Development organizing and moderating events in community development for the Chicagoland area. 

Before coming to Chicago, Haley graduated in Environmental Studies from Central College in Pella, Iowa and then worked for a year at Green Iowa AmeriCorps in Des Moines, Iowa. During her time in Americorps, she worked with public and private partners and community organizations to develop and implement residential energy efficiency educational programs. Haley can be found with coffee in one hand and a map in the other, exploring a nature trail or strolling the city streets.

Fun Facts:

  • Can be described as a city living tree-hugger

  • Bucket List Item: Travel to Hobbiton & walk the path to Mordor 

  • Cursed and blessed with coffee know-how #FormerBaristaLife

Lenese Clark - SEcretary

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

EstEFAny Noria - Treasurer

Estefany is a Project Analyst at Full Circle Communities, where she supports the real estate development team in all stages of housing development. Prior to joining Full Circle Communities, she was an Associate at S.B. Friedman Development Advisors, where her work focused on financial and spatial analyses related to public-private partnerships.

Estefany holds a Master of City and Regional Planning degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a B.A. in Environmental Sciences and Policy from Duke University.

Fun Facts:

  • Spanish is her first language.
  • She WWOOF-ed at an ecological preserve in Ecuador.
  • She hiked Crater Lake in Oregon.

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 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 four cats that are cumulatively 52 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.

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 project manager 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 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 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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