7th Annual Breaking Barriers Awards: Asian American Women Go Green!

Cocktail reception benefiting the Asian American Leadership Council's Silk Fund

Thursday, April 22, 2010
6-8 p.m.
Uncommon Ground
1401 W. Devon Ave.

Please support Breaking Barriers by making a donation to the Silk Fund.

7th Annual Breaking Barriers Honorees
Sumita Goel - Co-Founder, Ineeka Inc.
Terry Guen - President and Principal, Terry Guen Design Associates
Neena Hemmady - Director of Environmental Health and Safety, ComEd
Leanne Mai-ly Hilgart - Founder and Creative Director, Vaute Couture, Inc.
Dr. Swati Vilas Pol - Researcher, Argonne National Laboratory
Rashmi Ramaswamy, LEED AP - Activist as well as Co-Founder and Architect, SHED Studio
Tipawan Truong-Quang Reed - Founder and President, OAI, Inc.

Thanks to the following people for nominating this year's honorees: 
Cheryl Valdez Barsanti * Carol E. Becker, executive director, Midwest Ecological Landscaping Association * Bindu Ganga, Psy. D. * Shashank Goel, Co-Founder, Ineeka Inc. * Aparna Katre * Aparna Keskar * Rima Malhotra * Nancy Nguyen, MBA * OAI, Inc. Staff * Dr. Vilas G. Pol * Edward Shurna * Linda Xóchitl Tortolero

This Earth Day, April 22, help us honor Asian American women who make our communities sustainable by joining us at the 7th Annual Breaking Barriers Awards. The awards honor Asian and Asian American women leaders in the metropolitan Chicago area who have made an outstanding and lasting impact in their fields. This year, we recognize Asian American women who promote environmental sustainability through architecture and design, community organizing, social enterprise, science, policy advocacy and more. The awards will be presented by Chicago Foundation for Women's Asian American Leadership Council. All event proceeds will benefit the council's Silk Fund

Meet the Honorees
Sumita Goel photoSumita Goel,
a Chicago native since 1993, is the co-founder of Ineeka Inc., an environmentally and socially responsible producer of 100% Organic Biodynamic® Teas that is a world-recognized brand. Born and bought up in India, Ms. Goel moved to Chicago to complete her studies at the Art Institute of Chicago. Initially trained as a painter and a printmaker, she progressed into the world of visual communication and graphic design. After a brief stint at the Field Museum of Natural History, Ms. Goel joined hands with her husband, Shashank Goel, to start Ineeka, which means "little earth" in Sanskrit. With 15 years of experience she has a true understanding of design, brand building, marketing and promotion within the international food and beverage marketplace. As Ms. Goel always says, "I cannot change the world, but I am doing whatever I can in my own little way to make a difference in my little earth."

Terry Guen photoTerry Guen is president and principal of Chicago-based Terry Guen Design Associates, Inc., Landscape Architecture and Urban Design. From her 25 years of professional practice, Ms. Guen is known for a creative, energetic and thoughtful ecological design approach, one which spans large scale visioning, to local community based design, and the aesthetic sustainable design of public landscapes and urban sites. Ms. Guen was designer for many Chicago signature public spaces, including North Avenue Beach, 63rd Street Beach, DuSable Harbor, and was the Master Landscape Architect for Millennium Park. She serves as chairperson of the Mayor’s Public Open Space Review Committee, Architecture/Engineering co-chair of Chicago Sister Cities China Committee, and teaches the Master’s Level Fall Studio in Landscape Architecture at the Illinois Institute of Technology. For her professional contributions in design, Ms. Guen was recently inducted as a Fellow of the American Society of Landscape Architects.

Neena Hemmady photoNeena Hemmady is the Director of Environmental, Health, & Safety for ComEd. She manages a team of 40 professionals who work together to green the company and ensure no one gets hurt. Ms. Hemmady has a B.S. in Civil Engineering from the University of Illinois (Urbana-Champaign) and a Master of Science in Environmental Engineering from the Illinois Institute of Technology. She and her partner of 10 years, Joy Wright, have two young children, ages 6 and 7. Her parents are amongst the first Indian immigrants who settled in Chicago in 1964. Ms. Hemmady is active in her community and has been actively engaged in issues impacting the South Asian community, as well as the LGBT community. She is the co-founder of Khuli Zaban, an organization for LBT South and West Asian women in Chicago. She has also served on the Advisory Council on Gay and Lesbian Issues (ACGLI) as part of Chicago Commission on Human Relations and on the board of the Crossroads Fund for 10 years, including two years as co-chair.

Leanne Mai-ly Hilgart photoLeanne Mai-ly Hilgart has been an animal and environmental activist since age 8. At 17, she fought for dissection alternatives, helping to bring support to a bill turned law requiring them in all Illinois public schools. Ms. Hilgart was on a modeling contract in Hong Kong on her MBA summer break when she launched Vaute Couture, an outerwear label born to develop the first winter dress coat that was at once ethical (vegan, eco-conscious and ethically produced), chic and warm enough for a Chicago winter. Alicia Silverstone said, "I love what this company stands for, Leanne cares so much." Ms. Hilgart can be seen speaking at Harvard Business School this spring, and she has been named one of seven Best Emerging Green Designers of 2009 by Ecouterre and one of the "20 Under 30" by VegNews Magazine.

Dr. Swati Vilas PolDr. Swati Vilas Pol is a researcher at Argonne National Laboratory in Illinois. She is currently involved in the fundamental studies of rechargeable lithium ion battery materials by employing synchrotron X-ray source at Advanced Photon Source of Argonne. Dr. Pol has an MSc from Pune University in India and a PhD in Nanoscience from Bar-Ilan University, Israel. To date, Dr. Pol has published more than 40 high impact research articles in leading chemistry, nanotechnology and materials science journals. She has done an extraordinary job of initiating and exploring environmentally benign research efforts to synthesize nanomaterials. The escalating volume of waste plastic is causing stern negative environmental and human health impacts as it requires hundreds of years to degrade in the atmospheric conditions. Dr. Pol has developed a solvent free, green process for the conversion of used plastic bottles into technologically important carbonaceous products.  

Rashmi RamaswamyRashmi Ramaswamy has been an architect in Chicago for 16 years. She is a LEED Accredited Professional with a diverse background in architecture and education and a strong personal interest in public housing and environmental issues. She is principal and co-founder of SHED Studio, an architectural partnership with a commitment to sustainability, social justice issues and innovation in design. Ms. Ramaswamy has done several projects in Chicago for nonprofit clients, including an affordable housing project for women, an urban farm and job-training center, a legal aid clinic and a daycare facility. She also co-founded ModFarm, a think-tank that develops innovative solutions to food access issues in urban areas, as well as Converge:Exchange, a platform for communities, activists and practitioners in Chicago to engage in a dialogue about the social issues and their relationship with the built environment. She is personally committed to women's issues and affordable housing, serving on the boards of the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, Faith in Place and ReBuilding Exchange.

Tipawan Truong-Quang ReedTipawan Truong-Quang Reed
is the founder and president of OAI, Inc., a not-for-profit organization that for 33 years has provided jobs skills training, job placement, and academic upgrade and life skills training to underserved adults who often haven’t completed high school and frequently have personal, family or societal barriers to employment and a sustainable life. Prophetically, Ms. Reed led OAI in a new "green" direction in 1995 with a 5-year grant from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences to provide environmental remediation job skills training to underserved minority populations. Fifteen years later, funding from government and private sources support OAI job training programs in environmental-related fields such as Brownfields cleanup, lead and asbestos removal, green construction, deconstruction, weatherization, recycling, landscaping and, recently, urban agriculture. Prior to establishing OAI, Ms. Reed was the Statewide Coordinator for the Illinois Adult Indochinese Refugee Consortium, which served more than 8,000 refugees and placed more than 1,000 Indochinese refugees in unsubsidized employment.

History of Breaking Barriers Awards
Since 2004, Chicago Foundation for Women's Asian American Leadership Council has been part of an annual event held to honor Asian and Asian American women in the Chicago area who are breaking barriers in their fields. The event began as a partnership with the Chicago Chinatown Chamber of Commerce. Over the years, it has become a staple celebration of the accomplishments and advances of women in our community, as well as one of the key gatherings of Asian business and community leaders in Chicago and statewide.

Previous celebrations have included the following themes and honorees:
  • In 2009 we honored Asian American women in the creative arts: Cheryl Hamada, stage and screen actress; Mary Anne Mohanraj, writer and literary activist; Julie Nakagawa, dancer and creative director; Yoko Noge, band leader/singer/pianist; and Nancy Tom, academic and philanthropist.
  • In 2008 we honored Asian American women in science and technology: Yin Kean, president, Real Estate Channel, Suncast Network Inc.; Alaka Wali, PhD, John Nuveen Curator of Anthropology and director of the Center for Cultural Understanding and Change at the Field Museum of Natural History; Christine Wu, PhD, professor and director of cariology research in the Department of Pediatric Dentistry, University of Illinois at Chicago; and Jinhong Zhu, PhD, assistant professional scientist, Illinois State Water Survey, Illinois Department of Natural Resources.
  • In 2007 we celebrated Asian American women in Illinois: Tammy Duckworth, director of the Illinois Department of Veterans' Affairs; The Honorable Sandra R. Otaka, judge of the Circuit Court of Cook County; and Alpana Singh, director of wine and spirits at Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises, Inc. and host of the restaurant review show “Check Please!” on WTTW 11.
  • In 2006 we recognized the achievements of Asian American women entrepreneurs: Alison Chung, TeamWerks; Tiny Chung, Horizon Contractors, Inc.; Mabel Moy, Four Seasons Travel and Services, Inc.; and Smita Shah, SPAAN Technology, Inc.
  • In 2005, we honored Chinese American women who are leaders in the media: Judy Hsu, co-anchor of ABC Chicago 7 Morning News; Nesita Kwan, HealthWatch reporter and co-anchor, NBC Chicago 5; Joanie Lum, general assignment reporter, CBS Chicago 2; Nancy Loo, reporter, Fox News Chicago; Judy Wang, anchor, CLTV Chicago; and Linda Yu, co-anchor, ABC 7 Chicago weekday news.
  • In 2004, we honored female Chinese American business leaders: Alison Chung, founder and president of TeamWerks; Rita Ho, director of Short Term Trading and Sales, Bank One; Sue Ling Gin, chairwoman and CEO of Flying Foods Group, Inc.; Amy Tu, assistant corporate secretary and counsel, Boeing Co.; and Julia Zhu, vice president of Commercial Market Group, Citigroup

Uncommon Ground is wheelchair accessible. If you or a guest have accessibilty questions or requests, please contact Marisol Ybarra at mybarra@cfw.org or (312) 577-2836, TTY (312) 577-2803.

Breaking Barriers
Mae P. Hong
Maya Omar

Host Committee
Ranjana Bhargava
Malik Gillani
Radhika Sharma Gordon
Venu Gupta
Rajya Karipineni
Julie Nakagawa
Aparna Sharma
Sharmila Rao Thakkar
Lee-Lin Wang, MSW
Christine Wu

Green Sponsor
Silk Road Theatre Project logo

In-Kind Sponsors
Chicago Gateway Green logo

MarketPlace Handwork of India logo

Tzen Boutique