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8th Annual Breaking Barriers Awards

Asian American Women Transforming Education

Awards Ceremony and Cocktail Reception, with emcee Kaberi Banerjee Murthy

Thursday, April 14, 2011
6-8 p.m.
Holiday Inn Chicago Mart Plaza
Wolf Point Ballroom, 15th floor
350 West Mart Center Dr.

Online Registration is now closed.  Tickets will be available at the door for $60, or 4 for $220.
If you cannot attend and would like to make a donation click here.

Sponsorships are also available: Download sponsorship information (PDF) or the in-kind form (PDF) and contact Marisol Ybarra at (312) 577-2836 or

8th Annual Breaking Barriers Honorees
Vicki Chou - Dean, University of Illinois at Chicago College of Education
Tammie Ismail - Principal, Aqsa School
Sonia Mathew - Network Manager, Urban Teacher Residency United
Bela Moté - Vice President of Bounce Network, LLC, Ounce of Prevention Fund
Joyce Nakamura - Principal, Stone Scholastic Academy

Thanks to our emcee:
Kaberi Banerjee Murthy

Thanks to the community members who nominated this year's honorees:
Venu Gupta * Mark Hallett * Rabya Khan * Sendhil Revuluri * Sharmila Rao Thakkar

About Breaking Barriers
On Thursday, April 14, 2011, Chicago Foundation for Women's Asian American Leadership Council will honor Asian and Asian American women who are leaders in education at the 8th Annual Breaking Barriers Awards. The honorees were selected based on community nominations. Kaberi Banerjee Murthy, a program director at Crown Family Philanthropies, will emcee the event.

Honorees have had an impact on education in numerous ways, from teaching to policy advocacy to mentoring--and much more. 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. 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

Event parking will be available for $10 with validation.

The Holiday Inn Chicago Mart Plaza is wheelchair accessible. If you have accessibility questions or requests, please contact Marisol Ybarra at or (312) 577-2836, TTY (312) 577-2803.

Meet the Honorees
Victoria (Vicki) Chou Vicki Chou headshothas served as dean of education at the University of Illinois at Chicago since 1996. She has led a sustained faculty effort to demonstrate how an urban land grant research college of education can be responsive to Chicago's neighborhood schools. The college has been recognized among U.S. News and World Report's Best 50 Graduate Schools of Education and has been honored with three American Association of Colleges of Education Best Practice Awards. Chou has served as co-chair of the Steering Committee of the Consortium on Chicago School Research, chair of the Governing Board of the National Teachers Academy-Professional Development School in Chicago, and co-chair of the Council of Chicago Area Deans of Education. She currently serves on a number of boards and advisory councils, and is directing or co-directing five funded education capacity-building projects. She co-edited a section of the recent Handbook of Research on Teaching Literacy through the Communicative and Visual Arts: Volume II (2008). She has contributed recent publications to the Handbook of Research on Teacher Education: Enduring Issues in Changing Contexts (2008, 3rd edition) Partnering to prepare urban teachers: A call to activism (2008) and Teacher Education Quarterly (2008). A former classroom teacher and reading specialist, Chou received her Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Tammie Ismail,Tammie Ismail headshot principal of Aqsa School and proud mother of four girls, received her bachelor's degree in Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations from the University of Chicago in 1998. While pursuing a master's, she helped found the Inner-city Muslim Action Network (IMAN), one of the most prominent faith-based service groups in the nation, focusing her efforts on tutoring programs and mentorship of young women. Her commitment to service has resulted in multiple recognitions including The President's Award for Community Service. She then worked at the University of Chicago hospitals as a patient-educator in the departments of obstetrics and gynecology, teaching infant and prenatal care to pregnant teens. Recognizing that her true passions lay in teaching and empowering young women, Tammie returned to her alma mater, a small all-girls school with limited resources, with a vision of transforming the school. She began her involvement in Aqsa School as a high school history teacher but quickly transitioned to administration, having served for the last nine years as the Dean of Students, Associate Principal and now Principal. As such she has pushed for curricular reform by introducing honors and advanced placement (AP) classes. She has implemented extensive college-preparatory, career-building and mentorship programs, which has lead 100% of Aqsa graduates in the last nine years to go on to college. She created and integrated student leadership and community service learning programs into the curriculum. She has vastly expanded extracurricular activities, to assure that self-empowerment and leadership skills as well as bridge-building abilities are acquired by her students as young American-Muslim women in a post-9/11 world.

Sonia Mathew Sonia Mathew headshotbegan her career as a Director of Education and Program Manager with Public Allies Chicago, where she trained, supported and managed a diverse group of young adults apprenticed to local community organizations. After Public Allies, Mathew designed and facilitated teacher training on utilizing a public policy curriculum focused on developing student activism and advocacy for the Mikva Challenge. She then transitioned to the classroom, working as a social studies teacher at North Lawndale College Preparatory Charter High School, where she created and implemented new core courses for freshmen and sophomore students. Currently as Network Manager for Urban Teacher Residency United (UTRU), Sonia connects UTRU partners and works to build a strong, nationwide network of high quality teacher residency programs. Mathew has a Bachelor of Arts in political science from the University of Michigan and a Master of Arts in education from DePaul University.

Bela Moté Bela Mote headshotis the vice president of Bounce Network, an LLC of the Ounce of Prevention Fund. In this role, Moté works to cultivate and sustain relationships with various stakeholders, including philanthropic partners, to ensure strategic and successful expansion of the Educare model. Prior to joining the Ounce of Prevention Fund, she worked as the Director of Government & International Programs at Teaching Strategies where she led all statewide and international business development initiatives. Moté has extensive experience in philanthropic grantmaking and worked as a Senior Program Officer at the McCormick Foundation. She also has experience as an infant/toddler and preschool teacher and administrator in early childhood programs for low-income children, including Early Head Start, where she developed and implemented multiple research-based, innovative teacher and parent training programs. In addition to her role at the Bounce Network, LLC, Moté works closely with diverse early childhood stakeholders as part of the Global Leaders for Young Children project and was the chair-elect for the National Association for the Education of Young Children's (NAEYC) Council on Accreditation. Moté holds a Masters in Early Childhood Education from the Erikson Institute.

Joyce Nakamura is Joyce Nakamura headshotcurrently principal at Chicago Public Schools' Stone Scholastic Academy, a magnet school located in West Rogers Park. An educator for 34 years, she attributes her success as a leader to the integration of the fine arts, increased usage of technology and collaboration with students, parents and the community. Under her leadership, Stone has been recognized as a Spotlight School from 2004-2009 and one of the top 25 elementary schools in the city. During her tenure she has held many roles including a special education teacher, teacher in the Home-Hospital program, education administrator for the summer special education camp and assistant principal. She was awarded The Outstanding Arts Principal Award by CPS Office of Arts Education in 2009. In addition to her ongoing commitment to education, she is committed to giving back to the community in Chicago. She began her involvement in the Japanese American Service Committee (JASC) by volunteering Saturday mornings to work with a group of Asian developmentally delayed children. She also served as a JASC Executive Board Member. She holds a Masters in Supervision and Administration from Roosevelt University. She plans to retire this year and take time to enjoy traveling, spending time with her family including her two sons and to pursue other interests in the arts.

Meet the Emcee
Kaberi Banerjee Murthy Kaberi Banerjee Murthy headshotmanages the Education, Arts and Culture and Civic Affairs portfolios for Crown Family Philanthropies as a program officer. Spending nearly a decade as a grantmaker, she served as a senior program officer at the Picower Foundation in New York, a program officer for Jane's Trust and the Cox Trust in Boston, and a program officer at the Lloyd A. Fry Foundation in Chicago. Prior to entering philanthropy, she was an advertising account executive at Leo Burnett. She holds a BA in History and Women's Studies from Carleton College, a Minnesota teaching certificate for high school Social Studies and a Master of Education from Harvard University. Kaberi is on the Board of Directors of the Crossroads Fund in Chicago and Resource Generation in New York. She was a founder of the Saffron Circle in Boston and a founding member of the Asian Giving Circle in Chicago. She has served on several boards including Casa Myrna Vazquez and Sakhi, and several advisory boards including the Carleton College's Alumni Council and Chicago Foundation for Women. She has also served as a philanthropic consult for Ford Foundation's GrantCraft, Grantmakers for Education and Council on Foundations.

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 2010 we honored seven Asian American women working toward environmental sustainability: Sumita Goel, co-founder of Ineeka Inc.; Terry Guen, president and principal of Terry Guen Design Associates; Neena Hemmady, director of environmental health and safety at ComEd; Leanne Mai-ly Hilgart, founder and creative director of Vaute Couture, Inc.; Dr. Swati Vilas Pol, researcher at Argonne National Laboratory; Rashmi Ramaswamy, LEED AP, an activist and co-founder and architect at SHED Studio; and Tipawan Truong-Quang Reed, founder and president of OAI, Inc.
  • 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.

8th Annual
Breaking Barriers
Venu Gupta
Lisa Thakkar

Host Committee
Anita Banerji
Alexandra Jusino
Julie Nakagawa
Sheena Panoor
Sendhil Revuluri
Aparna Sharma
Sharmila Rao Thakkar
Christine Wu

List in formation

Event Sponsor
The Ounce: Ounce of Prevention Fund logo

In-Kind Sponsors
Nikhil Trivedi logo
Organizing With You logo
Hotel Palomar Chicago logo