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Our Team

Staff

The current Spark Ventures staff works out of our Chicago office located on the 5th Floor of 134 North LaSalle Street. Coming from a variety of backgrounds and experiences, we are united in our commitment to Spark’s unique mission to help vulnerable children achieve their potential through grassroots partnerships around the world.

Richard Johnson
Chief Executive Officer

Richard Johnson
Chief Executive Officer

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With a business background in marketing, Rich Johnson cofounded Spark Ventures after a 2006 trip with two friends to Zambia. Through his leadership, the organization has raised over $4M to-date to fund partners and projects in Sub-Saharan Africa and Central America, piloting a unique business driven philanthropy model. Rich’s vision for impact travel has led to national coverage and more than 350 trip participants. He has spoken at SXSW’s entrepreneur’s conference, Chicago Ideas Week, Technori and other events. In his free time you’ll find him hiking, reading or running with his dog, Zambezi.

Arnold Duijzer
Program Manager

Arnold Duijzer
Program Manager

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Arnold Duijzer serves as Program Manager for Spark Ventures. He was born in the Netherlands, where he lived until he graduated from Tilburg University as a Master of Science in Leisure Studies with a specialization in Marketing Management in 2007. Before moving to Chicago with his wife Arnold lived and worked in New Delhi, India for five and a half years. He is experienced on a managerial level in travel management, event management, marketing communication, product management, sales and project management.

Stephanie Denzer
Marketing Manager

Stephanie Denzer
Marketing Manager

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Stephanie serves as Marketing Manager for Spark Ventures. She is passionate about innovative, sustainable poverty alleviation. She previously worked supporting microfinance institutions with the Grameen Foundation’s Human Capital Center. As an undergraduate, while living and studying in Buenos Aires, Argentina she worked for a social development organization called HelpArgentina. She has also worked supporting the international hub of Pro Mujer, a women’s development and microfinance organization. Stephanie received her BA in Hispanic Studies with a Specialization in Economics from Columbia University in New York City, a masters degree from the University of Chicago’s Committee on International Relations and is fluent in Spanish.

Volunteers, Interns and Pro-Bono Support

Spark Ventures is thankful to have the support of a number of talented individuals who dedicate their skills and time to help us move our organization forward.

Emily Fallon
Program Management Associate

Emily Fallon
Program Management Associate

Emily Fallon

Emily Fallon is the program management intern at Spark Ventures. She is originally from St. Louis, Missouri. Emily is one of five children in her family, and her experience growing up with a lot of siblings has fueled her involvement in organizations that support the health and education of children. Emily is currently studying Political Science and Business at Northwestern University.

Allison Pecorin
Marketing & Communications Associate

Allison Pecorin
Marketing & Communications Associate

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Allison Pecorin serves as the marketing and communications intern for Spark Ventures. She has been passionate about storytelling from a young age, and this passion has fueled her desire to amplify stories of impact through non-profit work. Allison is working toward degrees in convergence journalism and sociology at the University of Missouri-Columbia. On campus she serves as a state Capitol reporter and a Diversity Peer Educator, and she produces content for a journal on constitutional democracy.

Board of Directors

The Board of Directors provides broad oversight of the financial and organizational health of Spark Ventures. Specifically, the Board is involved in fundraising, setting policy and ensuring continued alignment to Spark’s mission, vision and goals. The Board meets quarterly and works closely with the CEO to accomplish these objectives.

Scott Barbeau

Scott Barbeau
Board of Directors

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Scott Barbeau is co-founder of Spark Ventures and has served on the board since its inception. He attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison where he received a Bachelors Degree in Business Administration. He spent the first 15 years of his professional career working at Lucent Technologies, Parson Group, and Hyperion Solutions in sales and management roles. He has been  actively involved with Mercy Home, Chicago for Boys & Girls, FFHM  Orphanage, and Songs of Love Foundation. He is currently employed as a professional musician.

Nancy O’Leary, Treasurer

Nancy O’Leary
Treasurer

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Nancy was born and raised in Chicago. She attended Bradley University where she received a BS in Psychology. Nancy has worked in finance and accounting throughout her career. She has spent the last 17 years in the venture capital industry, and currently is the CFO of JK&B Capital, a $ 1 billion venture capital firm located in Chicago. Nancy has been involved with various charities, including over 14 years as a volunteer at Children’s Memorial Hospital. Nancy first traveled to Zambia in 2008 and 2009 on Spark Ventures Partnership Trips, and has returned in the years after to assist with the organizational audit process.

Nick Schoewe

Nick Schoewe
Board of Directors

Nicholas Schoewe is a co-founder and Member Manager of CSS, LLC a Chicago based proprietary trading and investment firm. He has 30 years of experience in finance, holds an M.B.A. from the Booth School of Business at the University of Chicago and a B.S. in Electrical Engineering from M.I.T. He began his career at and became a partner of O’Connor and Associates in Chicago. When O’Connor and Associates was acquired by Swiss Bank Corporation he worked for 6 years as a Managing Director in Swiss Bank’s Tokyo, Hong Kong and London offices. He has previously served on the Boards of the Yampa Valley Bank (Chairman of Asset and Liability Committee), Yampa Valley Community Foundation (Chairman of Investment Committee), Caring for Colorado Foundation (Investment and Program Committees) and Winnetka Congregational Church (Treasurer). He lives in Winnetka, IL with his wife Robbin and 3 children who all hope to go on a Spark partnership trip sometime.

Kathy Campbell Wolf

Kathy Campbell Wolf
Board of Directors

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Kathy Campbell Wolf joined the Spark Ventures Board of Directors in 2014. She brings over 20 years of experience in fashion photography where she worked both as a producer and an agent. She began her career at Elite, before successfully launching her own business. Kathy is the proud mother of two and has previously served on the Board of Directors for her daughter’s adoption agency – the Adoption Center of Illinois (formerly the Family Resource Center). She holds a BA in International Studies from Miami University in Oxford, OH. Kathy traveled to Zambia with Spark Ventures in January of 2014 and looks forward to returning with her family.

David Goldstein

David Goldstein
Board of Directors

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David was born and raised in New York. He attended college in Washington, D.C. and law school in Chicago, where he currently lives. He has worked in the Cook County Public Defender’s Office (Juvenile Division) and currently is a real estate attorney. He specializes in representing developers of affordable housing. David served as a board member of Open Hand Chicago (previously Vital Bridges) and as their Board President for more than three years. He has traveled to New Zealand, Brazil and throughout Asia and Western Europe. David traveled to Zambia with Spark Ventures for the first time in August 2008, and has returned every-other year since to volunteer and visit his friends at Hope Ministries.

Bill Romans

Bill Romans
Board of Directors

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Bill lives with his wife, Sue Barsamian, in Menlo Park, California and they have two daughters that now reside in Los Angeles. He brings to Spark more than 40 years of experience in marketing, sales, business development and executive management in fast growth, high technology companies. He has a solid record of planning, financing and building start-up companies and now provides his expertise primarily to non-profit organizations. Bill first traveled on a Spark Ventures Partnership Trip to Zambia in the summer of 2015 with his youngest daughter and to Nicaragua in 2016 with his older daughter. He enjoys skiing, cycling, hiking, sailing and experiencing all parts of the world!

Kathleen Jackson, Secretary

Kathleen Jackson
Secretary

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Since 2008, Kathleen Jackson has provided independent financial advice to businesses, senior executives, business owners and private clients. She earned her MBA from the Harvard Business School and her undergraduate degree in education from Portland State University. Prior to forming her private practice, she held senior management positions in banking, trust and investment management firms in and around the Chicago area. She is actively involved in the Harvard Business School Club of Chicago Charitable Fund which she founded in 2004. The Fund focuses on “improving leadership skills of non profit managers in the Chicago area” and has provided scholarships to 40+ local not-for-profit executive directors to attend a week long course at the Harvard Business School for leadership and business training. Kathleen is an adjunct professor at DePaul University where she teaches a sales leadership course in financial services.

Patti O'Neil, Chair

Patti O’Neil
Chair

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Patti was born and raised outside Boston, Massachusetts and made Chicago her home in 1989. She has a BA in Mathematics and Economics and a Master’s in Applied Economics from The University of Michigan. She is currently the Treasurer and an Assistant Professor at Rush University Medical Center. Previous to joining Rush, she worked as a banker at both Bank of America and First National Bank of Chicago. She is raising her three children in Chicago. Patti is involved in volunteer activities at church, Misericordia, and her children’s schools, and is on the Investment Committee of Saint Ignatius College Prep. She traveled to Zambia for the first time in 2013, and returned in 2014 with her daughter.

Daniel Marcus

Daniel Marcus
Board of Directors

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Daniel Marcus is co-founder of Spark Ventures and has served on the board since its inception. He was born in Santiago, Chile and immigrated to the United States at the age of 8 years old with his parents and two brothers. Dan attended the University of Wisconsin, Madison where he  received a BA in Economics.  He has worked in finance most of his career. He  worked at Bear Stearns and currently is an Investment Advisor at Marcus  Capital, LLC. Dan has been involved with various charities including 10 years as a Child Life Specialist at Children’s Memorial Hospital, Chicago and two years at The Night Ministry, working to serve homeless and runaway youth.

Julie Tafel Klaus

Julie Tafel Klaus
Board of Directors

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Julie, the proud mother of twin girls, lives in Rancho Santa Fe, California but was born in Pittsburg, PA and raised outside of Chicago. She attended the University of the Pacific where she received her BFA in Commercial Design and Business. She also did her post-graduate studies at The Art Institute of Chicago. After a successful sales career in high-technology publishing, Julie has spent the past 15 years focused on philanthropic efforts. In addition to being on several non-profit Boards, she has chaired numerous fund raising events for a variety of organizations. Julie has traveled extensively through Europe, Asia, the Middle East, India and South America. She and her daughter traveled to Nicaragua with Spark Ventures in early 2016 and now looks forward to a future trip to Hope Community School in Zambia.

Richard Johnson, CEO

Richard Johnson
CEO

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Rich Johnson is Chief Executive Officer and co-founder of Spark Ventures. He was born and spent his early childhood in Japan and California, prior to moving to northern Illinois. Rich received a BA in Communications and MA both from Trinity International University. His work experience has included business marketing and consulting, leadership and management for several nonprofits, and higher education administration. Rich is currently serving as an advisor and board member with several Chicago-area nonprofits and social enterprises.

Ross Parr

Ross Parr
Board of Directors

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Ross Parr knew little about Spark Ventures before coming across a Chicago Sun-Times article that lead him to join the 2011 Partnership Trip to Zambia. Shortly after returning from the trip he joined the Spark board, becoming a strong advocate for the impact of Spark’s work. As Vice President of Sales (for several companies) Ross has worked with start-ups and early stage companies for the last 20 years. Ross holds a Bachelor’s degree in Logistics, Materials, and Supply Chain Management from Michigan State University.

Christian Rath

Christian Rath
Board of Directors

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Christian Rath is a multi-lingual, cross-cultural, cross-border leader who has done business in the United States, Europe, West Africa, Latin America, Asia and the Middle East, including Oman, Namibia, Egypt, Ukraine, Ghana, Senegal, Nigeria, Kazakhstan, Morocco, Kenya, Nicaragua, Kazakhstan and Zambia. Originally from Europe, he possesses both the American ingenuity and the Old Continent sophistication of diplomacy and is passionate about enabling purpose-driven organizations become self-sustaining. He leverages his extensive experience working with Fortune 500 companies, NGOs, and government leaders around the globe to reach that objective.

Over the last 25+ years, he has been successful in mature and entrepreneurial enterprises. He has served as a CEO, COO, SVP of Global Business Development, and Head of Applied Engineering in addition to his entrepreneurial ventures. Mr. Rath earned a Masters Degree in engineering & international relations. He is passionate about his engagements and is a tireless global ambassador for their causes. He holds a private pilot license.

Advisory Council

In 2011 Spark Ventures established an Advisory Council consisting of individuals with proven experience in an array of sectors. As it grows, this group will represent talent and experience in sectors including: business, child advocacy, international development, non-profit management, public relations, social enterprise, social media, technology and more. Members of the Council will serve as individual advisors to the Spark Staff and Board, strengthening the organization’s programming, fundraising and operational initiatives. We are grateful for these advisors who volunteer their time and support to Spark.

Katie Casey

Katie Casey
Advisory Council

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With over 17 years of Chicago-based business experience with The Clara Abbott Foundation and KPMG, Katie Casey now works as an independent consultant to NGOs in developing countries. She most recently completed an eight-month project in Tanzania, and has worked in program development in Europe, Asia and Africa throughout her career. Katie holds a B.S. in Accounting and a B.A. in French from Indiana University, Bloomington, and completed an Executive MBA at ESCP Europe in June 2010. She is also a Certified Public Accountant.

Darlene Fiske

Darlene Fiske
Advisory Council

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Darlene is the owner of the award-winning national communications firm in Austin, Texas, The Fiske Group: Public Relations and Marketing Strategies. Prior to starting her own business, Fiske worked as the Director of Sales & Marketing for Lake Austin Spa Resort where she was responsible for sales and marketing efforts targeting the top 1% of affluent consumers in the United States. Her firm handles a small collection of very exclusive clientele delivering big agency results with highly personalized public relations programs. Fiske has presented at universities and conferences on social media strategies and consults with businesses on how to maximize engagement in the online world. She has a Bachelor of Journalism in public relations from the University of Texas in Austin and her writing has been published in several hospitality industry trade publications. Her introduction to and intrigue into Spark Ventures was ignited through a friend who shared a video of the chicken farm launch in Zambia.

Todd Schultz

Todd Schultz
Advisory Council

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Todd Schultz is the Chief Operating Officer of Friends of the Orphans, a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the lives of orphaned, abandoned and disadvantaged children through the support of the Nuestros Pequeños Hermanos (NPH, Spanish for “Our Little Brothers and Sisters”) network of homes in Latin America and the Caribbean. Before assuming the role of COO, Todd worked as the CFO of the organization, where he lead all non-revenue generating functions including finance, HR, IT, warehousing and sponsorship communications. Prior to joining Friends of the Orphans, Todd worked as a Finance Director for PepsiCo and has also held positions at FMC Corporation and Grant Thornton. Todd holds a BA in Accounting from University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign’s College of Business and an MBA in Economics and Strategy from Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management.

Fred Cadena

Fred Cadena
Advisory Council

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Fred Cadena is recognized as an innovative, strategic  thinker with over a dozen years of experience in  the financial services industry.  Currently Fred works as  Vice President of Margin for optionsXpress, a subsidiary of  Charles Schwab. Fred also serves on the board of Chicago  Scholars and oversees web strategy and non profit engagement for Chicago Non Profit, a community of Chicago based non profit organizations. Fred is excited to work with Spark in developing its ongoing leadership strategy and is looking forward to his first partner trip in 2013.

Brady Josephson

Brady Josephson
Advisory Council

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Brady is passionate about ending poverty and changing charity. He is currently the National Director, Marketing & Communications for Opportunity International – a nonprofit organization providing opportunities for people in chronic poverty to transform their lives in over 20 countries around the world. Previously, Brady worked as the Director of Resource Development at Spark Ventures. He attended North Park University in Chicago, Illinois where he received a B.S. in Business & Economics and a Masters of Nonprofit Administration and is an adjunct professor at the School of Business and Nonprofit Management. Brady is the founder and Principle of The Josephson Group, providing support and service to nonprofit organizations, and the creator and author of re: charity, a blog discussing ideas, improvements and innovations in the charity sector.  He serves on the Diamond Club Executive Committee at his alma mater and is an active member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) in Vancouver where he lives with his wife Liz.

Princess Kasune Zulu

Princess Kasune Zulu
Advisory Council

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Princess (her given name) Zulu was born and raised in Zambia where she lost both of her parents to AIDS by the age of 15. She was left to care for her three younger siblings, and she herself tested positive for HIV in 1997. Princess moved to the United States in 2005 to work with organizations promoting HIV?AIDS awareness and prevention. She often travels back to Zambia to help with humanitarian efforts in her home country. Princess currently lives with her husband and two daughters in Chicago, where she serves as a national spokesperson and speaker for World vision on the global AIDS pandemic.

Heather Duncan

Heather Duncan
Advisory Council

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Heather Duncan is a Nurse Practitioner, educator, volunteer, investor and close friend of Spark. She is an Assistant Professor of Nursing at North Park University as well as the Faculty Liaison for North Park University’s annual Zambia trip and clinic. She has traveled to Zambia at least 5 times to facilitate the medical clinic, and has continued to develop innovative ways to share knowledge with Hope and the community they serve. In May of 2013 she led a team of local staff to launch our first Nutrition Training. Not only has she made friends with the children at Hope, but she also got to meet the first round of chickens at the poultry farm!

Linda L. Darragh

Linda L. Darragh
Advisory Council

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Linda Darragh’s professional and volunteer experience has focused on enhancing entrepreneurship in Chicago for three decades. Two key areas of interest have been early stage financing and teaching. She currently leads Kellogg’s Innovation and Entrepreneurial Initiative (KIEI), and most recently, Ms. Darragh has focused her efforts on early stage financing in the realm of for-profit social ventures – impact investing. In collaboration with Professor Jamie Jones of Kellogg, they organized an ‘Impact Investing’ conference in 2011 and then launched Impact Engine, an accelerator for for-profit social ventures. Ms. Darragh is an active member of the Chicago entrepreneurial community. She has been a long-time board member of the Chicagoland Entrepreneurial Center/1871. She is also a member of the Illinois Science & Technology Coalition and a board member of the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE).

In her free time, Ms. Darragh will be on the golf course, tennis or paddle tennis court, skiing or in her garden.

Colleen Mitchell

Colleen Mitchell
Advisory Council

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Colleen Mitchell serves as the Founder and President of VENTURE3Philanthropy. Her work has spanned nearly three decades throughout the public, private and non-profit sectors, leading donor engagement and stewardship, family foundation and corporate grant making strategy development, organizational effectiveness and operational change-management, as well as brand marketing and sales leadership. Colleen has led several Foundations within the non-profit sector, worked in the public sector on Capitol Hill in research, and served within the private sector as a marketing and sales executive. She has presented before the UN Conference on Women in Beijing and numerous other global institutions. Colleen earned a B.A. from the Ohio State University, cum laude.

Pernille Spiers-Lopez

Pernille Spiers-Lopez
Advisory Council

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Pernille Spiers-Lopez worked with IKEA for 21 years and held several top executive positions. Most recently, Pernille was the Global HR Manager for the IKEA Group and its 135,00 employees. With her extensive business experience, she developed and implemented a new business focused HR Strategy, empowering the organization, its leaders and co-workers to grow business and people together. Prior to that, Pernille was President of IKEA North America for 8 years (2001-2009). Under her leadership, IKEA was named to Working Mother magazine’s list of 100 Best Companies and FORTUNE’S “100 Best Companies to Work For”® List. In 2007, IKEA was voted by Ethisphere, one of the 100 Most Ethical companies.  A native of Denmark, Pernille has lived in the United States for 28 years. She lives with her husband in Chicago and has 2 children. Pernille serves on the boards of Save the Children US and on the Harvard Women’s Leadership Board of the John F Kennedy School of Government.

Associate Board

The Spark Associate Board was founded in 2013 to provide support to Spark’s initiatives and goals. The Associate Board is made up of professionals from around Chicago who are committed to creating awareness and growth for Spark. The Associate Board meets monthly and works with the Spark staff and the Board of Directors to assist in fundraising efforts and as well as various programs with our international partners.

Aaron Chaiken

Aaron Chaiken
Associate Board

Aaron Chaiken

Aaron was born and raised in Atlanta, GA. He attended the University of Chicago where he received his BA in Law, Letters, & Society, and later his MBA from the University’s Booth School of Business. Since receiving his MBA, Aaron has worked as a Consultant in Bain & Company’s Chicago office. Aaron has been involved with Spark since 2010, when he helped found Spark’s YPS Leadership Council, and he and his wife travelled to Zambia to volunteer with Spark in 2012.

Mary McDonnell

Mary McDonnell
Associate Board

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Mary is a Midwesterner, born and bred who has called Chicago home since 2005. She graduated with a B.A. in Media Studies from Loras College in Dubuque, IA and has spent the past 10 years producing multi-media experiences for live events. She works with a diverse mix of agencies and her current client roster includes corporations, non-profits and associations. Mary is also involved in the Chicago-based non-profit Horizons for Youth, the Bonnie J. Addario Lung Cancer Foundation and the Loras Young Alumni Board.

Kelyse McKeon

Kelyse McKeon
Associate Board

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Kelyse is an Elk Rapids, Michigan native who came to Chicago in 2009.  She graduated from Northwestern University with a degree in Learning and Organization Change,  and currently works as a consultant in Deloitte’s Human Capital practice where she focuses on assisting global companies with improving the effectiveness and efficiency of their HR departments.  Additionally, she leads Deloitte Human Capital’s social impact program, People-to-People, which provides pro-bono consulting services to non-profit organizations in developing countries.  Kelyse is passionate about the business driven philanthropy model and loves seeing it in action on Spark trips.

Matt Freund

Matt Freund
Associate Board

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Matt is an East Lansing, Michigan native who has been on the Associate Board since 2013. He moved to Chicago after graduating from Miami University with a degree in Finance and minor in International Business, and currently works in the Corporate Finance group at NXT Capital, a middle market leverage finance firm. Previously, he worked at EY in the company’s Advisory practice. Matt most recently returned from travelling with Spark to Nicaragua, and looks forward to continuing to support Spark’s model of empowering its partner organizations.

Alison Heisner

Alison Heisner
Associate Board

Alison Heisner

Alison Heisner was first introduced to Spark Ventures when Rich Johnson was speaking on a panel at Chicago Booth in the fall of 2013. She went on the Nicaragua trip in April of 2014 and joined the Associate Board in July 2014. She works in the financial technology industry as a Senior Product Manager at Morningstar. She holds a BA in Economics from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, an MBA from Chicago Booth, and the CFA designation. She has a personal interest in scalable solutions that aid in poverty alleviation such as microfinance and Spark Ventures.

Doak Elliott

Doak Elliott
Associate Board

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Doak was a founding member of the Associate Board and currently serves as the Associate Board Chair.  He was born and raised in Sulphur, OK. He attended Oklahoma State University where he received his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Accounting. Doak works as a Senior Manager in the Advisory Practice of Ernst & Young. In addition to his client serving responsibilities he serves as the Central Region College MAP Program Director, a mentoring program aimed at helping underserved youth in the transition from high school to college. Throughout Doak’s educational and professional careers he has been involved with numerous community service organizations and initiatives.

Tom Kim

Tom Kim
Associate Board

Christina Le

Christina Le
Associate Board

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Christina was born and raised in Grand Rapids, MI. She graduated with a Masters in Analytics from the University of Chicago and a BA from the Johns Hopkins University. Christina currently plays an internal consulting role on the Strategic Initiatives team at the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business. She plans on pursuing her MBA in a couple of years with a focus on Social Entrepreneurship.

Hannah Prevost-Schultz

Hannah Prevost-Schultz
Associate Board

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Hannah is a Chicagoland native who graduated from North Park University. She is a life-long learner whose educational experience ranges from the fields of Psychology to Conflict Transformation. She is currently completing a Master’s degree in Organizational Leadership with a certificate in Non-Profit Board Governance. Her professional experience has been focused in the non-profit sector and most recently she returned to her alma mater, North Park University, to work as an Undergraduate Recruiter in the Office of Enrollment. Hannah traveled with Spark Ventures to work with our partners in Zambia in 2007 and 2008. Since her travels, she has been involved extensively as a volunteer, event attendee, and an investor. Currently, she is excited to bring her extensive experience and passion for Spark to contribute in a new capacity as an Associate Board member.

Casie Gambrel

Casie Gambrel
Associate Board

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Since graduating from Maryville University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in political science and international studies, Casie Gambrel has pursued a far-flung career in international affairs that has taken her to Japan, California, Australia and Chicago. She currently is a multinational account manager for MetLife International in Chicago, managing employee benefit portfolios for such clients as Abbott, Coca-Cola and American Airlines, and facilitating cross-cultural communications within a global benefits network spanning more than 100 countries. Casie earned a master’s degree in Public Administration in International Management from the Monterey Institute of International Studies in California in 2005. Since that time, she has served as a consultant to McDonald’s Corporation and has helped revitalize the Chicago Sister Cities International Program. During her time living abroad, Casie spent two years in rural Japan teaching English to middle school students and promoting cultural ties with the US. She also spent over three years in Australia, where she worked as an English teacher and as an administrator in the department of international studies at Macquarie University in Sydney. In 2012, she raised $20,000 and co-founded the Sweet Life School in Kampong Speu, Cambodia. On September 27th, Casie was awarded the 2013 College of Arts & Sciences Dean’s Award in recognition of her outstanding service to women and community. In her spare time, she enjoys spending time with husband and daughter.

Derek DeJesus

Derek DeJesus
Associate Board

Julie Zeitler

Julie Zeitler
Associate Board

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Julie Zeitler graduated from Indiana University in  Bloomington, IN and currently resides in Chicago, Illinois.  With more than a decade of experience in the  pharmaceutical industry and sales management, she  currently works at Gilead Sciences as a Sr. Therapeutic  Specialist in the Ischemic Heart Disease division.  Her passion, being international travel, has become a cornerstone to Julie’s personal and spiritual growth.  Having visited more than 70 countries and 7 continents, she has volunteered with several non-profit organizations within Africa and most recently returned from traveling with Spark Ventures to Nicaragua. She looks forward to visiting Zambia with Spark in the coming year.

Roberto Icaza

Roberto Icaza
Associate Board

Roberto Icaza

Roberto is an Ann Arbor, Michigan native who recently joined the Associate Board in September 2015. He moved to Chicago after graduating from the University of Michigan with a degree in Political Science. Roberto works as a Strategy and Operations Manager for Coyote Logistics in their Mexico division, where he is focused on establishing a streamlined process and strategy to grow their Mexico business. Throughout his life he has traveled to Nicaragua to visit family and volunteer for Surgical Medical Mission trips. Roberto is passionate about giving back to his family’s native country and looks forward to visiting Nicaragua with Spark in the coming year.

Young Professionals of Spark

The YPS Leadership Council exists to support Spark Ventures initiatives and spur on growth by connecting with young professionals primarily through Young Professionals of Spark (YPS). Meeting every month, members work closely with Spark staff to raise funds and awareness, put on events and provide strategic guidance.

“Our mission is to connect young professionals to the Spark Ventures community and encourage long-term and growing engagement.”

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Tricia Smith

Tricia Smith
YPS – Chicago

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Tricia graduated from Lehigh University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Marketing. During her time at Lehigh, Tricia participated in Lehigh’s Management Assistance Counseling program, where she worked with local businesses and nonprofits on developing their business models and implementation into the market. She was a member of the Leadership Academy and captain of the women’s basketball team. Tricia currently works for Northwestern Medicine in Real Estate Administration. Her philanthropic passions lie in health equity and education. In her spare time she enjoys volunteering as a youth mentor and coach, running, and spontaneous adventures.

Brittney Jenneford

Brittney Jenneford
YPS – Chicago

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Brittney Jenneford graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Elementary Education from the University of Florida in 2011. She immediately began working with children having intellectual and developmental disabilities after receiving a Master of Arts degree in Special Education. During her time in the classroom, her love for children increased thus prompting her decision to volunteer both her time and services to orphans and vulnerable children in Chinsta, South Africa. Her experience there manifested the devastating effects that occur when a person is not provided with their basic human rights. She believes that through education orphans, vulnerable children, and communities in need can become empowered and their lives forever changed. This conviction ultimately led her to Spark Ventures.

Aparna Mehra

Aparna Mehra
YPS – Chicago

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Aparna is currently a Senior Associate Consultant at PricewaterhouseCoopers within the Finance, Strategy & Ops Management Consulting practice where she has had the opportunity to work with clients across the retail, healthcare, technology and nonprofit sectors. Aparna graduated with a B.A. in Economics & Spanish from Emory University where she was involved in starting a 501 (c) 3 nonprofit and held the position of Philanthropy Chair for her sorority. Aparna enjoys tennis, traveling and dancing.

Alex Braun

Alex Braun
YPS – Chicago

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Alex is the marketing director for Imagination, a content marketing agency in Chicago’s River West neighborhood. In 2008, he graduated from the University of Missouri with a bachelor’s degree in news-editorial journalism and has since worked in Louisiana, California, and Illinois as a designer, copywriter, and marketing strategist. Alex enjoys photography, music, blogging, cycling, and deriving emotional satisfaction from other people’s dogs.

Jessica Dangles

Jessica Dangles
YPS – Chicago

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Jessica is currently an Operations Coordinator for the National Council of State Boards of Nursing, a not-for-profit organization. She graduated with a B.A. in Women and Gender Studies from DePaul University in 2008 and completed her M.S. in Human Resources from Loyola University in 2009.  After graduation, she accepted a position managing an Age Management medical practice at Cenegenics Medical Institute. Jessica has a passion for travel and has studied abroad in Australia and spent time teaching English at an all girls school in Thailand. Jessica has worked with such organizations as Planned Parenthood of Illinois, Horizons for Youth, and Chinese Mutual Aid Association. In her free time she enjoys volunteering with seniors, dinner parties, traveling, and taking entirely too many photos of her cat.

Samantha Loeffler

Samantha Loeffler
YPS – Chicago

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Samantha Loeffler graduated from the Kelley School of Business at Indiana University in 2013 with a B.S. in Marketing and International Business and a minor in Spanish. During her time at IU she was a member of Compass Fellows- a two-year program focusing on social entrepreneurship across several college campuses- which inspired her to produce a fashion and music event for Operation Smile. In addition, Samantha has worked with organizations such as the American Red Cross, Big Brothers Big Sisters, Dreams for Kids and Meals on Wheels. She now works in Chicago for Hitachi Consulting, a global technology and management consulting firm, and enjoys traveling, trying new cuisines and staying active.

Steven Fry

Steven Fry
YPS – Chicago

Steven Fry
Steven Fry went to Santa Clara University in California, and then took a year off to backpack Australia and South East Asia, which is where his interest in economic development really took hold. Since moving to Chicago two years ago, he has been working in finance, currently at Northern Trust in their Hedge Fund Services department. Steven can always be found dancing to live music and planning his next trip.
Rachel Brandenberger

Rachel Brandenberger
YPS – Chicago

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Rachel graduated from the University of Notre Dame with a degree in Visual Communication Design and Anthropology, and through her travels to Europe, Central America, and Nepal, acquired a passion for cultural understanding and international development. She is interested in the way design and creativity can be used as a tool to empower people to grow, flourish, and rise above situational, emotional, or physical turmoil. Currently, Rachel works with a social enterprise in Chicago—Piece & Co.—that partners fashion brands and retailers with artisan cooperatives in the developing world. At Piece & Co., she works on the research & development team, communicating with artisan cooperatives directly and finding ways their traditional designs can be reinterpreted and shared in a global marketplace. Through this lens, she sees the way an authentic supply chain and sustainable employment can have a positive impact on the lives of both individuals and communities.
Krystal Hentges

Krystal Hentges
YPS – Chicago

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Krystal graduated from the University of Notre Dame in 2013 with a degree in American Studies and Spanish. During that time, she had the opportunity to study abroad in Toledo, Spain, which cultivated her already growing obsession with travel and being immersed in other cultures. While very passionate about the work she had done at educational non-profits during her internships, she knew she wanted to live in Chicago after graduation and explore the business world for a change. In fall of 2013, she started as a salesperson at Nordstrom in order to learn their business from the ground up. She has been with Nordstrom for almost two years, working in Department Management and now Human Resources. She loves acting as a strategic business partner to the store, as well as training and developing people. With Spark Ventures, she is hoping to get back in touch with her education roots and become a part of the global Spark community. She also is excited for a chance to use her Spanish skills.

Lesley Brindle

Lesley Brindle
YPS – Chicago

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Lesley Brindle graduated from Vanderbilt University in 2010 with a Bachelor of Science in Economics and a concentration in Corporate Strategy. Lesley’s participation in Vanderbilt’s Initiative for Scholarship and Global Engagement – a yearlong program through which she spent a summer studying and volunteering in Cape Town, South Africa truly “Sparked” her interest in economic development and poverty alleviation. Lesley received a Master of Accountancy in 2011 from Vanderbilt’s Owen Graduate School of Management and currently works at PepsiCo in their finance department. Lesley’s passions include good music, great conversations, delicious food, and spending as much time as possible outdoors.

Chelsea Zhang

Chelsea Zhang
YPS – Chicago

Chelsea Zhang

Chelsea Zhang graduated from the University of Chicago in 2014 with a B.A. in Economics. During her time at UChicago, she was involved with the International Leadership Council, a business and finance organization, and worked on many entrepreneurial projects on-campus. Chelsea took time off from UChicago to worked for Hullabalu, an entertainment tech start-up based in NYC that is telling stories for the next generation. She is currently an Associate at L.E.K. Consulting, an international strategy consulting firm, and enjoys reading fiction, eating burgers, and buying aesthetically pleasing shoes.

Bingkun Zhao

Bingkun Zhao
YPS – Chicago

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Bing graduated from the Kelley School of Business at Indiana University in 2014 with a Bachelor of Science with honors in Finance and Business Economics. During his time at school, he co-founded a non-profit venture called CareerifyU to help international students to get jobs in US. He was also an avid volunteer for Habitat for Humanity by participating in different Alternative Spring Break programs to assist in building houses for local families in Florida. He is now working as a Management Consulting Associate for PwC Advisory LLC specializing in strategy and operations. Outside of his professional career, he backpacked around Europe by himself in the past summer and continues to travel around the world during his spare time. He also likes to read social scientific books and play tennis with his friends.

William Bartels

William Bartels
YPS – Chicago

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William graduated from Notre Dame with degrees in Biology and Biotech Entrepreneurship in 2011. He currently works at PwC as a Financial Services consultant, in complete disregard for his college education. He has his parents to thank for a strong appreciation for volunteering and service, and has yet to find an organization as intriguing as Spark. When not near North Avenue Beach in Chicago, he can be found in a sand trap or the woods amazed at another errant tee shot.

Abbey Vanderwoude

Abbey Vanderwoude
YPS – Chicago

Abbey Vanderwoude

Abbey Vanderwoude is a Senior Analyst with BTS where she focuses on the people side of strategy, creating powerful experiences that help the world’s leading companies turn strategy into action and results. This perspective of enabling and empowering people to execute on their goals aligns strongly with the values of Spark, which first drew her to the organization. Her expertise lies in the industries of CPG, retail, IEO, professional services, hospitality, and industrial manufacturing. Previously, Abbey earned her BS in Marketing and a Certificate in Professional Selling with honors from Northern Illinois University. She now lives in Lincoln Park and spends her free time enjoying the lakefront, attending unique events in Chicago, and experimenting with new restaurants. A couple of short-term goals include completing a sprint-triathlon and improving her foreign language skills, starting with Spanish.

NEW YORK CITY
Ayan Kinger

Ayan Kinger
YPS – New York City

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Ayan graduated from The Ohio State University with a B.S. in Accounting & Finance. Post graduation, he moved to New York City as an Associate at PwC and currently works at Credit Suisse within their Valuation Risk Group, covering Leveraged Finance Trading. Ayan is also a mentor in the Big Brothers Big Sisters program and is a member on the board of the Next Generation Network at Credit Suisse.

Ken Kamentsev

Ken Kamentsev
YPS – New York City

Ken graduated from Duke University with a MS in Management and currently works as a broker covering Fixed Income products. He grew up in Wheeling, IL but is originally from the Republic of Georgia and has also lived in Israel. As an immigrant, he is a strong believer in education and has focused his volunteering efforts in guiding underprivileged kids with college/career mentorship through focus on education and athletics primarily in high school.

Jon Mehta

Jon Mehta
YPS – New York City

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Jonathan Mehta is an associate in Alston’s New York office and a member of its Government & Internal Investigations and Litigation & Trial Practice Groups. His practice is focused on market regulation and compliance, government and internal investigations and white-collar criminal defense. Jon received his J.D. from Cornell University in 2012 with a concentration in Business Law and Regulation. During law school, he served on the Cornell Journal of Law and Public Policy as a general editor and interned for the Honorable Nicholas G. Garaufis of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York. He earned his undergraduate degrees in 2009 in political science and international studies, summa cum laude, from North Carolina State University, where he was elected to Phi Beta Kappa.

Blake McKay

Blake McKay
YPS – New York City

Bio coming soon.

Dennis Smith

Dennis Smith
YPS – New York City

Dennis is originally from New Jersey, but he lived in Chicago for a summer, and graduated University of Notre Dame in 2013. Dennis majored in Marketing and Environmental Science. Since his graduation, Dennis has been working in New York at Guy Carpenter where they place marine and energy reinsurance (insurance for insurance companies/corporations). He learned about Spark through his friend Katie Melloh, who interned at Spark at the time. His interest in Spark Ventures stems from a personal interest in international development, which has largely been supplemented by constant reading and documentaries.

WASHINGTON DC
Amanda Monroe

Amanda Monroe
YPS – Washington DC

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Amanda Munroe is fascinated by how being a conscious member of one’s local community can impact the global community. Currently the Social Justice Curriculum and Pedagogy Coordinator at Georgetown University’s Center for Social Justice Research, Teaching, and Service in Washington, DC, Amanda works with students, faculty, and community partners on global engagement and community-based teaching and learning on and beyond campus. A 2012 graduate of the MA program in Conflict Resolution at Georgetown and a 2008 graduate of North Park University, Amanda’s graduate and ongoing research concerns sport and peace education and the quest to sustain social activism. She likes to travel, swim, cycle, and make friends.

Tim King

Tim King
YPS – Washington DC

Timothy serves as the Chief Strategy Officer for Sojourners and farms part time with his brother in New Hampshire. Straddling the world between raising livestock and herding politicians on issues of poverty, immigration and the environment, he spends a lot of time thinking of analogies between the two kinds of work. Shoveling manure is shoveling manure whether on a farm in New Hampshire or the halls of Congress, after all. At Sojourners, the country’s best known progressive Christian advocacy organization and magazine, Timothy has held a variety of positions including overseeing all advocacy and communications work. He has been a guest on many TV, radio shows and podcasts and has been interviewed for various print and online publications including ABC News, the BBC, TIME, CNN, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, and the Daily Beast. He blogs regularly about the intersection of faith and politics and farm life. He loves to sit on the back porch with his banjo and playing accordion at speakeasies with the Mudpatch Family Band. He graduated in 2006 with a dual degree from North Park University in Philosophy and Biblical and Theological Studies.

SAN FRANCISCO
Ethan Steinberg

Ethan Steinberg
YPS – San Francisco

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Ethan is a startup veteran who is focused on growing ideas into reality. He has helped scale ventures both domestically and internationally in industries such as the sharing economy, consumer packaged goods, and B Corp businesses. He works at in/PACT, a tech platform for social good that activates purpose for people, brands and causes.
Ethan holds a B.A. in Social Justice & Sustainability from Miami University. He is passionate about building purpose-driven businesses and enjoys living at the intersection of sustainability and technology.

Open Positions

Spark Ventures is always looking for talented interns to support our team. We accept intern applications on a rolling basis. When applying, please specify the time period during which you are looking to work with us (minimum 3 month commitment, 4+ month commitment preferred).

 

Please see the listings below for specific position descriptions and for detailed information on how to apply.

Marketing and Communications Intern
Marketing and Communications Intern

 

Description of the Internship

The Spark Ventures Marketing and Communications Intern will work with a small team and gain valuable insight into the marketing and communications and PR needs at a small and growing nonprofit. The majority of his/her responsibilities will include writing for print and web, researching and pursuing press leads, updating Spark Ventures’ website and blog, managing Spark Ventures’ social media presence, as well as designing graphics and marketing materials.

 

Responsibilities May Include

 

Website/Online Presence

  • Draft content for online communications to include: email newsletter articles, blog posts, web page content, etc.
  • Review current web presence and provide and execute recommendations for areas of improvement
  • Perform regular site updates including content, images and other document uploads

 

 

Social Media

  • Maintain and promote the Spark Ventures online presence via: Facebook, Twitter, blogs and other online marketing vehicles

 

Public Relations

  • Assist in the design and creation of marketing and promotional campaigns to increase outreach
  • Research and refine database of pertinent media outlets and industry publications in which Spark might be featured
  • Develop a prioritized strategy to increase outreach to potential targets
  • Develop and draft potential content for external use

 

 

Office Management

  • Serve as primary organizational contact for printing vendors; coordinate receipt of price quotes and execute print orders for all printed materials

 

Qualifications

 

  • Previous work experience in a marketing or communications position is preferred but not required
  • Strong writing and communication skills
  • The ability to work independently on projects
  • A high level of computer proficiency
  • A familiarity with non-profit usage of social networks like Facebook and Twitter
  • Basic familiarity with graphic design software preferred but not required
  • Basic HTML experience preferred but not required

 

Dates

Minimum 3 month commitment, 4+ month commitment preferred

Compensation

This is an unpaid internship

Time Commitment

15 hours per week minimum

Reports to

Stephanie Denzer
Marketing Manager

To apply

Email resume, cover letter, and a writing sample (maximum 2 pages) to careers@sparkventures.org. Please put “Marketing and Communications Intern” in the subject of your email.

Program Management Intern
Program Management Intern

 

Description of the Internship

The Spark Ventures Program Management Intern will work with a small team and gain valuable non-profit management experience through direct involvement in the planning and coordination of Spark Ventures Trips to Zambia and Nicaragua, as well as engagement and fundraising events in Chicago. The majority of his/her responsibilities will include coordinating trip logistics, and events planning and coordination, event related PR, and donor cultivation. The Program Management Intern will also be responsible for trip promotion, process documentation and knowledge management.

 

Responsibilities May Include

 

Logistics Coordination & Promotion

  • Coordinate all in-country logistics with travel service providers
  • Maintain and update trip budgets based on anticipated expenses
  • Conduct research on alternative travel service providers as necessary
  • Assist in the design and content development of marketing and promotional materials

 

Event Planning

  • Implement event promotion schedule and expand reach of promotions
  • Manage volunteer recruitment and coordination for fundraising & education/awareness events
  • Manage tracking of tickets and correspondence with attendees for fundraising & education/awareness events
  • Coordinate event logistics with vendors (i.e. catering & AV)

 

Knowledge Management

  • Maintain and update relevant portions of the corresponding Program Management project plans
  • Expand existing organizational documentation

 

Qualifications

 

  • Exceptional organization skills and high attention to detail
  • The ability to work independently on projects
  • Strong writing and communication skills
  • Previous international travel experience preferred but not required
  • Spanish fluency preferred but not required

 

Start Date

Minimum 3 month commitment, 4+ month commitment preferred

 

Compensation

This is an unpaid internship

 

Time Commitment

15 hours per week minimum

 

Reports to

Arnold Duijzer – Program Manager

 

To apply

Email resume and cover letter to careers@sparkventures.org. Please put “Program Management Intern – Fall 2015” in the subject of your email.

Philanthropy and Development Intern
Philanthropy and Development Intern

 

Description of the Internship

The Philanthropy and Development Intern will gain valuable insight into the environment at a small and growing nonprofit organization. The intern will be responsible for assisting the CEO with resource development research, fundraising events and donor database management.  On the same note, s/he will have opportunities to gain exposure to areas of nonprofit management and operations that s/he feels are of special interest.

 

Responsibilities May Include

 

Philanthropy and Development

  • Conduct prospect research for review by CEO, staff and board members
  • Assist with donor communications and drafting letters
  • Support team in executing solicitation and stewardship mailings
  • Assist with fundraising events and programs
  • Manage tracking of event ticket sales and correspondence with attendees
  • Perform donor analysis and research on giving behavior, insights and trends

 

Database Management

  • Learn basic functions of Salesforce, one of the most popular customer relationship management (CRM) platforms
  • Assist with entering donor information and tracking effective communication

 

 

Qualifications

 

  • Strong research, writing and communication skills
  • Strong attention to detail
  • Ability to complete projects independently
  • A high level of computer proficiency. Experience with Salesforce or other CRM database is a plus.

 

Dates

Minimum 3 month commitment, 4+ month commitment preferred

Compensation

This is an unpaid internship

Time Commitment

15 hours per week minimum

Reports to

Rich Johnson
CEO

To apply

Email resume, cover letter, and a writing sample (maximum 2 pages) to careers@sparkventures.org. Please put “Philanthropy and Development Intern” in the subject of your email.