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Alumni University

What is Alumni University?

Launched in January 2021, Alumni University invited members of the Illinois Tech community to learn more about the work of—and virtually meet—some of our university staff, faculty, and researchers. This program was created in response to the COVID-19 pandemic as a way to keep the Illinois Tech community engaged and connected virtually.

We have since launched our online engagement platform for alumni, Illinois Tech Connect, and returned to in-person activities and gatherings. For information on upcoming events, please visit

Past Lectures

April 4, 2023, 5:30-6:30 p.m.

200x200 - Alumni University - Mohammad Asahi

Advanced Materials to Decarbonize Our Future?

Mohammad Asadi

Assistant Professor, Chemical Engineering

One of the greatest scientific and engineering challenges of the 21st century is to develop sustainable energy technologies to replace fossil fuels that are currently the main sources of global energy. Among various emerging technologies, energy conversion and storage systems have shown tremendous potential to be the alternative of fossil fuels due to their ability to harvest renewable energy. In general, energy can be stored or converted into chemical bonds through photo/electrochemical processes and utilized as the main energy source in the form of electricity or fuels. Recent scientific advancements and technological innovations have driven the rapid development of sustainable energy technologies. However, a real activity improvement for clean energy technologies requires novel and advanced materials with unique properties.

Dr. Mohammad Asadi joined the chemical engineering department at Illinois Tech as assistant professor in 2017. Asadi completed his Ph.D. in mechanical engineering at University of Illinois in Chicago (UIC) and received his Master of Science degree in chemical engineering from Sharif University of Technology. He spent seven years working in the oil and gas industry before joining UIC. He has authored and co-authored 20 peer-reviewed publications in journals such as Science, Nature, Advanced Materials, Advanced Energy Materials, ACS Nano, and Nature Communications, and has 10 U.S. patents and four patent applications. He has more than 4000 citations (h-index 15) in the area of advanced functional materials, catalysis science, electrochemical energy storage, and energy conversion systems.

Dr. Asadi’s research goal is to develop cost-effective and energy-efficient sustainable energy technologies to replace fossil fuels that are limited in source and have negative environmental impacts. The dual focus of his research group includes: fundamental research in the various aspects of advanced materials development and photo/electrocatalysis science along with (ii) leading innovation in the area of device fabrication.

February 8, 2023, 5:30-6:30 p.m.

200x200 - Alumni University - Julie Bruns

Enhancing Your Career Through Making the Right Connections

Julie Bruns

Senior Career Development Coach

Are you considering a career transition? Let's think strategically about the next steps in your career! Illinois Tech’s Senior Career Development Coach Julie Bruns will share how Career Services is dedicated to assisting Illinois Tech alumni enhance their careers in a variety of ways including career transitions, job search strategies, networking, résumé critiquing, and more. Join us to learn about the free and unlimited Career Services resources that are available to Illinois Tech alumni. Bruns will focus on how connections and taking risks play a vital part in success. She will also share her personal journey to success, and promises you’ll come away with new ideas and even be a little inspired!

Julie Bruns has worked in learning and development for over 20 years, in healthcare IT, consulting, and environmental health and safety, and considers herself a lifelong learner. She has a passion for teaching others what's possible and enjoys connecting with people to share tips on how to enrich their lives, no matter where they are. She recently joined Illinois Tech as a senior career coach and loves guiding students on their career journeys. Bruns found her passion and purpose through her personal journey to owning her own business and successful podcast, as well as becoming a best-selling author. Life and work can be wonderful, and she's here to show you how.

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October 4, 2022, 5:30-6:30 p.m.

200x200 - Alumni University with Margaret Power, Ph.D.

Solidarity across the Americas: The Puerto Rican Nationalist Party and Anti-imperialism

Margaret Power, Ph.D.

Professor Emeritus, History
Director, Dual Admission Honors Law Program

Margaret Power, Professor of History, will discuss her upcoming book Solidarity across the Americas: The Puerto Rican Nationalist Party and Anti-imperialism. This history of the Puerto Rican Nationalist Party (PNPR) focuses on how it built a broad movement with active networks in virtually all of Latin America, much of the Caribbean, and New York City. This hemispheric view introduces a sprawling transnational network, nurtured by the PNPR from its founding in 1922, that included individuals, parties, organizations, and governments throughout the Americas, and it resituates the Puerto Rican nationalist movement as a transnational revolutionary influence.

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September 15, 2022, 12-1 p.m.

200x200 - Alumni University with Claudette Soto

Panel Discussion: Latinas in Architecture

Claudette Soto (ARCH '02, M.A.S. STE '05)

Founder and President, baso Ltd.

Join host Claudette Soto (ARCH '02, M.A.S. STE '05) and a panel of women in architecture and construction to talk about issues, challenges and opportunities related to being Latina in Architecture.

Gabriela Ceferin
Title: Manager - Global Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Strategy and Corporate Function Support
Brief Description: After completing B.Architecture and Master of Structural Engineering from IIT, Gaby started working at McDonald's as a structural designer in their US Restaurant Design Group. 23 years later, she has designed 1000's of restaurants in the U.S. and has remodeled and deployed multiple initiatives into these restaurants. Now as a project manager in their Global Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion team she supports the McDonald's DEI strategy and employees in the corporate functions. On a personal note, she married another IIT alum, has 2 children, 3 dogs and they love to travel the country in their RV. They have traveled to 31 states in the last 3 years.

Patricia Saldana Natke, FAIA
Title: Founding Partner of UrbanWorks
Brief Description: Patricia Saldaña Natke, FAIA is founder and Principal of Chicago-based UrbanWorks, an acclaimed architecture, planning, and interior design firm. The firm has won over forty-five local and national design awards for projects including the UNO Veterans Memorial Campus, West Pullman Senior Housing, Big Bold Visionary Groundplanes for Gary Indiana, La Casa Student Housing, and Galewood School.

Natke’s passion lies in the intersection of urban cities, social impact, innovation, and unwavering optimism. Her firm belief that well-designed spaces and places galvanize urban transformation imbues UrbanWorks with a strong civic design ethic.

Natke has taught and lectured in the United States, Europe and South America. She was named one of “Five 2014 Emerging Designers” in Crain’s Chicago, listed in “50 Designers Shaping Chicago” by NewCity in 2014, and named “2015 Outstanding Woman” by Chicago’s largest Spanish newsmedia La Raza. She was a TEDX University of Chicago presenter on “Architecture: The New Social Agenda”. Natke was elevated to the American Institute of Architects College of Fellows, the AIA’s highest membership honor, in Category One: Design, in 2018. In 2020 and 2021 she was recognized by Crains Chicago as one of 39 Notable Women in Design in Construction. In 2022 UrbanWorks was recognized by Negocios Now newsmedia as one of the “50 Most Powerful Hispanic Businesses in Illinois”. Natke teaches at the UIUC School of Architecture and the IIT College of Architecture. Her designs have been on exhibit at the Art Institute of Chicago and the National Building Museum in Washington DC.

Alicia Ponce, AIA, NCARB LEED BD+C
Title: Founder and Principal of APMonarch, a Chicago based Female and Latina owned Architecture firm
Brief Description: Under Alicia’s direction, the firm provides architectural services, community engagement and sustainability consulting for projects throughout the Midwest and Mexico. Her expertise and passion to design healthy buildings and equitable communities support many clients in creating architecture that is ambitious, thoughtful and healthy. APMonarch provides these services to a diverse group of sectors that includes Commercial, Higher-Education, Civic, Healthcare, and Non-Profits.

Alicia refers to APMonarch as the pollinator of the built environment designing healthy environments that look good, feel good and perform great. The firm’s promise is to build zero carbon architecture. Demonstrating that promise is Alicia’s recent architecture commission to design Centro Amazing, a civic youth center located in Aguascalientes, Mexico which is to be constructed from rammed earth. A registered architect in Illinois and Wisconsin, Alicia has over 20 years of architecture and sustainability experience. She earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign and studied at the Ecole d’Architecture in Versailles, France. Alicia currently serves on the Chicago Landmarks Commission and the United Way Metro Chicago Executive Board. Creator of the award winning book Latinas in Architecture, she is the founder and chair of Arquitina, a national non-profit organization with a mission to raise the fewer than 1% of licensed Latina architects in the U.S.

Claudette Soto
Title: President and CEO of baso, LTD
Brief Description: Claudette Soto is the President and CEO of baso, Ltd., a construction management/owner representative firm in the Chicagoland area whose mission is to elevate equitable procurement and meaningful minority and woman owned business participation while delivering projects on time and on budget. She has been working in the construction management, architectural, and engineering field for over 19 years. In 2001, while an undergrad at IIT, she started a grassroots organization named VAMOS, that introduced STEAM fields and the language of higher education to underserved middle school students. VAMOS has evolved to also include mentoring and career guidance for first generation university students and architects and engineers who identify as people of color.

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June 8, 2022, 5:30-6:30 p.m.

Alumni University with Oscar Juarez, Ph.D.

The Antibiotic Resistance Pandemic is Already Here: Causes, Challenges & Solutions

Oscar X. Juárez, Ph.D.

Associate Professor, Biology

Antibiotics are widely used to treat and prevent infections. Antibiotics are used in most common medical procedures and treatments and our medical system could not be functional without them. Many human pathogens have developed the ability to resist antibiotic treatment. Antibiotic resistance is now a widespread phenomenon that severely complicates medical treatment, especially because we now have infections that are untreatable, which are being spread at a global scale. In this talk, we will go over the causes of antibiotic resistance, the challenges that we are facing and solutions that we are working on to help solve this looming crisis.

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April 21, 2022, 5:30-6:30 p.m.

200x200 - Alumni University with Lulu Kang, Ph.D.

Fair and diverse allocation of scarce resources

Lulu Kang, Ph.D.

Associate Professor, Applied Mathematics

We aim to design a fairness-aware allocation approach to maximize the geographical diversity and avoid unfairness in the sense of demographic disparity. During the development of this work, the COVID-19 pandemic is still spreading in the U.S. and other parts of the world on large scale. Many poor communities and minority groups are much more vulnerable than the rest.

To provide sufficient vaccine and medical resources to all residents and effectively stop the further spreading of the pandemic, the average medical resources per capita of a community should be independent of the community's demographic features but only conditional on the exposure rate to the disease.

This prevention-centered strategy seeks a balance between geographical coverage and social group fairness. Lulu's presentation will talk through proposed principles to be applied to other scarce resources and social benefits allocation.

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March 23, 2022, 5:30-6:30 p.m.

200x200 - Alumni University with Kim Erwin

Human-centered healthcare: using design to create the care people want and can use

Kim Erwin

Associate Research Professor for Healthcare Design, Institute of Design

Healthcare is one of the largest, most complex sectors with a target market of all of humanity—but few would claim it is a people-centered industry. This presentation shares how human-centered design, coupled with the deep expertise of medicine, can promote more interpersonal models of care and improve healthcare delivery for patients, caregivers, and providers.

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February 22, 2022, 5:30-6:30 p.m.

200x200 - Alumni University - Smriti Anand, Ph.D.

Leading a Multi-Generational Workforce

Smriti Anand, Ph.D.

Associate Professor of Management, Stuart School of Business
Co-Editor, Human Relations

Contemporary organizations have employees from multiple generations with a wide range of values and needs. To be effective organizations need to understand and fulfill the unique needs of each generation. In this presentation I will discuss how to successfully manage these differences and improve communication, engagement, and productivity.

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January 31, 2022, 5:30-6:30 p.m.

200x200 - Alumni University - Joseph Orgel, Ph.D.

The Road Less Traveled Might Be Innovation

Joseph Orgel, Ph.D.

Vice Provost of Academic Affairs
Professor of Biology & Biomedical Engineering
Associate Director of BioCAT

A background in several areas of professional development and scientific research is leading to basic and applied science and engineering advancements in heart disease, neurological conditions such as TBI, and leadership training not previously imagined possible. Much of the underlying research and practice involves cartilage, heart valves, brains, professional skill development, change management, student success, and dinosaurs. Yes, there is a logical connecting theme. There is a continuum of practice, both science and art, in hard computations, soft-observations, critical-analytical thinking, resonance leadership, and setting people up for success to be the best versions of themselves they can be. We are powering much of this effort through the Empowerment Mentorship and Leadership (ELM) program at Illinois Tech, which is connected to student worker training, professional preparation, support of student leaders, staff, and faculty. Illinois Tech is a maturation house for our students, where they choose (knowingly or not) to invest themselves for a time to become the independent and mature expert professionals the school is known for. This talk will present some cross-disciplinary research and also describe some of the work and thought processes behind it, in helping our current students become their best future selves.

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November 17, 2021, 5:30-6:30 p.m.

200x200 - Alumni University - Calvin Nobles, Ph.D.

Hacking the Human: Exploring the Human Factor

Calvin Nobles, Ph.D.

Chair and Associate Professor,
Department of Information Technology and Management

This presentation explores human limitations and why cybercriminals and hackers continue to outmaneuver and deceive end-users and employees into cognitive attacks. Cognitive attacks are increasing daily because employees are underprepared and outwitted due to poor security awareness, biases, and heuristics. The presenter will explore human factor engineering solutions to address human performance issues to reduce human-enabled cybersecurity risk.

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October 19, 2021, 5:30-6:30 p.m.

200x200 - Alumni University - Nancy Kim

How Terms of Service Control Modern Society

Prof. Nancy Kim

Michael Paul Galvin Chair in Entrepreneurship and Applied Legal Technology
Professor of Law, Chicago-Kent College of Law

Professor Kim's research explores how digital adhesive terms, often labeled “wrap contracts,” or “Terms of Service,” became instrumental in shaping the online environment and how they have had a paradigm-shifting impact upon the marketplace and society. In her presentation, she will explain how adhesive terms became so foundational to today’s Internet, discuss the ways in which they have changed society and the economy in harmful ways, and explore what the future might look like if we continue to view Terms of Service as legitimate vehicles for contracting and obtaining consent.

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September 16, 2021, 5:30-6:30 p.m.

Alumni University Mindy Pugh

Before IIT there was Jazz on State: Buildings and Stories from Bronzeville's Jazz Era

Mindy Pugh, Ph.D.

University Archivist

Join university archivist Mindy Pugh as we kick-off our fall Alumni University sessions. Mindy will discuss the history of Bronzeville and the area around Illinois Tech’s campus as well as highlights from her Homecoming trolley tour.

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July 7, 2021, 5:30-6:30 p.m.

Alumni University - Carly Kocurek

Dolly Ludens: Why American Girl Dolls Play Video Games

Carly A. Kocurek, Ph.D.

Director of Graduate Studies, Lewis College of Science and Letters
Associate Professor, Digital Humanities and Media Studies

American Girl presents dolls with often lavish accessories -- the catalog includes doll kitchens, bedroom sets, and even a bowling alley - and Courtney, the brand's most recent historical doll, is no exception. The character's Pac-Man obsession is a fun bit of nostalgia for classic arcade games, and the doll-sized arcade cabinet certainly made a splash. But, why, exactly, is a doll playing video games? Join humanities associate professor Carly Kocurek for a talk about dolls playing games and what American Girl's vision of the 1980s can tell us about our past and present.

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June 14, 2021, 5:30-6:30 p.m.

Alumni University - Patrick Corrigan

Beating the Stigma of Mental Illness

Patrick Corrigan, Psy.D.

Distinguished Professor, Psychology

Research at Illinois Tech has shown that the stigma experienced by people with mental illness can be as troubling as the illness itself.  In this presentation, Professor Patrick Corrigan will review his research describing the impact of mental illness stigma and effective ways to combat it.  One such way is to promote interaction among people with lived experience of mental illness and the rest of the population.

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May 4, 2021, 5:30-6:30 p.m.

Alumni University - Ali Cinar

Developments & New Research on Diabetes

Ali Cinar, Ph.D.

Director, Engineering Center for Diabetes Research and Education
Hyosung S. R. Cho Endowed Chair in Engineering
Professor, Chemical Engineering

Diabetes is a chronic disease that affects millions of people around the world and causes many co-morbidities ranging from cardiovascular diseases to kidney failure and blindness. The presentation will focus on recent developments for treatment to keep the blood glucose concentration of people with diabetes in a desirable range with smart insulin pens and artificial pancreas systems and on new research on curing diabetes by islet transplantation and regeneration.

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April 13, 2021, 5:30-6:30 p.m.

Alumni University - Phil Troyk

Illinois Tech and the Intracortical Visual Prosthesis (ICVP) - a 20-Year Quest for a Wireless Brain Interface

Philip Troyk, Ph.D.

Robert A. Pritzker Endowed Chair in Engineering
Executive Director, Pritzker Institute of Biomedical Science and Engineering
Professor, Biomedical Engineering
Affiliate Professor, Stuart School of Business

For the past 20 years, Illinois Tech has led a multi-institutional team for developing a fully wireless brain interface for communicating image information from a video camera directly to the brain for individuals with profound blindness.  This presentation will discuss the implantable system and the interactions of the team institutions that are making this novel project possible.

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March 30, 2021, 4:00-5:00 p.m.

Alumni University - Maryam Saleh

Town Hall with Maryam Saleh, Executive Director of Ed Kaplan Family Institute for Innovation and Tech Entrepreneurship 

Maryam Saleh, Ph.D.

Executive Director, Kaplan Institute

Maryam is currently executive director of the Ed Kaplan Family Institute for Innovation and Tech Entrepreneurship at Illinois Tech. She has held leadership roles at several startups including Machinify, a venture-backed startup that's applying AI to bend the cost curve in healthcare and Cyberkinetics Neurotechnology Systems, a medical device company that used brain implants and machine learning to restore movement in quadriplegic individuals. In this town hall, she will introduce herself, her work and upcoming plans for the Kaplan Institute.

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March 18, 2021, 5:30-6:30 p.m.

Alumni University - Ken Christensen

Town Hall with Ken Christensen, Dean of Armour College of Engineering

Kenneth T. Christensen, Ph.D.

Carol and Ed Kaplan Dean of Armour College of Engineering
Professor, Department of Mechanical, Materials, and Aerospace Engineering
Professor, Department of Civil, Architectural, and Environmental Engineering

Kenneth T. Christensen joined Illinois Institute of Technology in November 2020 as the Carol and Ed Kaplan Dean of Armour College of Engineering. He holds a joint appointment in the Department of Mechanical, Materials, and Aerospace Engineering and the Department of Civil, Architectural, and Environmental Engineering. Christensen came to Illinois Tech from the University of Notre Dame. In this town hall, he will introduce himself, his work and upcoming initiatives and plans for the Armour College of Engineering.

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February 16, 2021, 5:30-6:30 p.m.

Alumni University - Sarah Hanson and Matt Callone

Environmental, Economic and Social Performance of Regional Landscapes

Sarah Hanson (M.L.A. + U '15)

Adjunct Professor, Master of Landscape Architecture

Matt Callone (M.L.A. + U '20)

Participating in the Landscape Architecture Foundation's Case Study Initiative, Sarah and Matt’s research investigated the environmental, economic, and social performance of three regional landscapes including the Chicago Riverwalk, Chicago Botanic Garden Regenstein Learning Campus and the Argyle Shared Street in the Uptown neighborhood; they will share and discuss their research and findings.

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January 26, 2021, 5:30-6:30 p.m.

Alumni University - Britt Burton Freeman

Fermenting for Life

Britt Burton-Freeman, Ph.D.

Director, Center for Nutrition Research
Chair, Department of Food Science and Nutrition

Join Britt and learn about fermentation in your everyday life and new information about how fermentation effects health, products and the world around us.

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