Meet Our Board
Having worked for social justice movements dedicated towards human rights, immigrant rights, and workers rights for over twenty years all across the world from Chicago to Guatemala to Honduras, Katherine Bissell Cordova has gracefully taken on the role as the Executive Director of Chicago Fair Trade. Her dedication to human rights and fair trade is reflected in her well rounded experience throughout the world and her receiving the Casa Guatemala’s Human Rights Award. She serves on the Board of Directors of Peace Brigades International-USA. Katherine currently lives in Chicago with her two children, Sofia and Mateo.
Abby is an elementary school teacher turned entrepreneur when her life took an unexpected turn and she found herself teaching at a school in Tanzania. This experience led her to explore East African culture, learn about craft and fair trade, and opened up a desire to connect women in the US to this very meaningful part of her story. In 2016, Abby began working with artisans and testing the market with an online store and launched her own brand, Abby Alley, in November, 2018. She has been a business member of Chicago Fair Trade for a handful of years and is excited to support CFT as a board member.
Bio: Bernadette is a Chicagoan (born, raised and still residing with her husband and son). She is a Home Health Occupational Therapist serving the South Side communities of the City. Bernadette first found out about the Fair Trade movement after attending Chicago's Green Festival at Navy Pier back in 2010. She has been a CFT member since 2015 and is excited to be more involved in the organization. Bernadette is passionate about environmentalism & fair trade, volunteering with her family through non-profits in the City as well as CFT. In her free time Bernadette enjoys sewing and photography.
Bethany Collins grew up in Southwest Michigan and moved to Chicago to study Communication at Loyola University, graduating in 2015. Since then, she has pursued a career with various nonprofit organizations, and currently works as a Development Officer for StrongMinds, an organization expanding mental health care access in Uganda and Zambia. She joined the board of Chicago Fair Trade in 2017, and became co-chair in 2020. In her free time, Bethany enjoys practicing yoga, cooking, pub trivia, and exploring Chicago's neighborhoods in search of art galleries and fair trade coffee shops. She also travels the world as much as life allows.
Chipo Nyambuya is a co-founder and Managing Partner of CZL P.C. She has twenty-five years of cross-sector experience as a lawyer and policy advisor advising Fortune 500 corporations, start-ups, international development agencies, and foreign governments. Her expertise ranges from negotiating multi-million dollar corporate deals to helping establish legal and judicial institutions in post-conflict countries. She continues to advise organizations and governments on policy and rule of law issues relative to energy, education, economic development, and technology. In recent years, she advises startup companies, social enterprises, technology law, and not-for-profit organizations.
Jerome spent 37 years in public broadcasting at WBEZ radio. He hosted the program Worldview from 1994 until October of 2019. As someone convinced that broadcastings highest calling is to bring people together to make a difference, McDonnell’s roots with Chicago Fair Trade run deep. Worldview featured Oxfam’s Make Trade Fair campaign that helped inspire the creation of Chicago Fair Trade, broadcast from CFT spring events, and interviewed countless fair-trade entrepreneurs about their amazing stories. Jerome is excited to serve an organization that gives Chicagoans a way to rally round ethical commerce and weaves together so many important issues he cares about. In his spare time Jerome grows native plants in his yard, bikes a lot, and tries to reduce his plastic consumption.
Jocelyn Leitzinger is an Assistant Professor in the Managerial Studies Department at the University of Illinois at Chicago. In her research, Jocelyn examines how social movements pressure firms and industries to change their socially and environmentally detrimental practices. She has studied activism in the areas of urban agriculture, electricity, water, and forestry products. In her teaching, Jocelyn educates undergraduate students about the intersection of business with civil society, the state, and the natural environment. Previously, she has taught courses on strategic management (University of Wisconsin, Madison), social entrepreneurship and innovation (McGill University), and organizational leadership (Kellogg School of Business, Northwestern University). Jocelyn holds a PhD in Strategic Management and Organizational Theory from UW Madison and a Master's in International Business and Bachelor's degrees in Advertising and Marketing from the University of Florida. In her free time, Jocelyn stays active with rock climbing and appeases her creative side though painting, photography, and cooking.
Maranda Leigh became an advocate of fair trade while studying at Indiana University, where a professor introduced her to the concept. Since then she has put her passion into practice, volunteering with fair trade retailers Global Gifts and Ten Thousand Villages; working on Fair Trade Campaigns for Indiana University Bloomington and the cities of Indianapolis, IN and Evanston, IL; and traveling to Ecuador with Minga Fair Trade Imports to see the impact of fair trade first hand. She has been a volunteer with Chicago Fair Trade since 2018 and serves as co-chair for CFT’s Conscious Closet Club. Maranda holds dual bachelor’s degrees in Apparel Merchandising and Spanish from Indiana University, and currently works in planning for a specialty food retailer. She lives in Chicago and enjoys spending as much time as possible outdoors and discovering new ways to practice zero-waste living.
Michelle Thomas is a social entrepreneur and former owner at Mata Traders, a social impact brand that produces apparel and accessories in social service based fair trade co-operatives in India and Nepal. With over a decade in the social impact space, she now does sales consulting, helping organizations to do two things: 1) ensure current and future sales are profitable and 2) develop and implement sales strategies for revenue growth. Michelle lives with her husband and daughter in Chicago, IL.
Rahel Mwitula Williams
Rahel Mwitula Williams is a nonprofit development executive who works with major donors within the United States and internationally. She has served the nonprofit sector for over 15 years and is an experienced fundraiser and social entrepreneur. Rahel is the founder of ILAVA, a CFT business member and socially responsible lifestyle brand that uses fashion to empower African women. In April 2018, she had an opportunity to represent ILAVA at Northwestern University through a TEDx Talk (Redefining Philanthropy: Faces of Change Makers). Rahel migrated to the US with her family when she was 12 years old and held her Tanzanian heritage near to her heart. She obtained her bachelor of science degree in psychology from Loyola University and went on to receive her Master’s of Science from DePaul University. Rahel believes that women entrepreneurs are key in enhancing both women’s and overall community development. She aims to incorporate her culture into fashion and give back to her native country every chance she gets. While popular culture may see African attire as a trend, Rahel sees it as a lifestyle.
Rene Edde, Sustainable Value Chain Manager, Trust and Transparency, in the sustainability division of the global tech and management consulting firm, Accenture LLC. Rene has over 15 years of experience in sustainable food and agriculture commodity supply chains from producer in origin country all the way through the value chain; in the scope of farm to table drawing from her experience in supply chain management, purchasing, store & division operations, program design & implementation focused on the natural food space. René attended Arizona State University for graduate studies in Executive Sustainability Leadership to elevate her career focus on responsible sourcing and procurement through commodity traceability, impact measurement, certifications and the protection of human rights in the sustainable value chain.
Robbie has served as a professional fundraiser and administrator in nonprofit spaces such as youth development, earth conservation and human rights for 15 years now, having spent the last decade focused on building the capacity of social justice movements organizing at the intersection of racial and economic justice nationally and at home in Chicago. She now leads her own consulting business, Social Change Fundraising- working with movement building organizations to advance their capacity building initiatives. Robbie has a BS in Psychology from the University of Toledo, loves to bike along the Lake Michigan bike trail, enjoys live music every chance she gets, and talking about ways we can sustain our wellbeing through such uncertain times. She is passionate about working behind the scenes to build a more just experience for all people and the planet, rooted in her values as a neurodiverse woman who understands that to get free means envisioning a world rooted in a collective love ethic, one where we are united in supporting each other to get free too. Only together can we build a world where all communities thrive and everyone belongs!💚 Robbie has also been a long time fair trade supporter, choosing to shop sustainably and fairly made goods thru artisan co-ops for more than two decades now-- well before she understood its connection to a then emerging global fair trade movement! Robbie has since become a supporter, low-key fan girl, and volunteer with Chicago Fair Trade for the last 8 years and is proud to be able to serve on its board of directors now, helping to support CFT through an exciting period of growth and development; but also in supporting its mission in spreading the word of fair trade, uplifting garment works and women of color owned co-ops around the world, fighting to pass legislation here in the US-- and doing so alongside this vibrant fair trade community here in Chicago. Join us!!
Sarah began volunteering with Chicago Fair Trade in 2018 and enjoyed it so much that she agreed to serve as the volunteer coordinator. She currently helps to connect volunteers with events and opportunities that support Chicago Fair Trade. Sarah has years of experience managing events, and genuinely enjoys leading people to work together toward a common goal. Her personal connection with fair trade values stems from her experience working in a social enterprise in Argentina and Colombia, where she equitably sourced products from local family businesses. It was during that time that she truly understood the living and working conditions of people without access to fair employment and education. Conversely, she also witnessed the empowerment that integrating fair trade values in a business created for the vendors and their communities.Sarah takes being called 'bossy' as a compliment, knows how to sew, rides her bike around town, and speaks fluent Spanish. She is excited to play a part in growing the Chicago Fair Trade community and promoting its mission.
Stacy Neier Beran, PhD joined the Department of Marketing faculty at Loyola University Chicago in 2008. Her courses focus on community-based experiential projects that connect students, clients, and consumers to problem-solve through design, research, and consulting. She is passionate about amplifying design leadership in business education, helping undergraduate students to discover design principles as early as possible in their careers. Stacy also studied textiles as an undergraduate, so the role fair trade plays in the fashion & apparel industries have always fascinated her. She is a longtime supporter of Chicago Fair Trade, inviting her students to the work of CFT over the years.