Debra Kerr, executive director
Deb is executive director of Intuit: The Center for Intuitive and Outsider Art, the premier museum dedicated solely to outsider art. Intuit defines 'intuitive and outsider art' as the work of artists who demonstrate little influence from the mainstream art world, and who instead are motivated by their unique personal vision. This definition includes art brut, non-traditional folk art, self-taught art, and visionary art.
Deb is also founder and director of YouthMuse, which advocates for youth engagement and jumpstarts youth-led, museum-based campaigns for change. Campaigns include IntuiTeens, www.facebook.com/intuiteens, for which teens use art and making to help fellow teens explore their inner creativity; One With Nature, www.facebook.com/onewithnatureteenz, a joint project of Lincoln Park Zoo, Shedd Aquarium and Chicago Botanic Garden, which focuses on teens recommending appropriate environmental action in an urban setting; and Seattle Aquarium’s Puget Sound: We Love You, www.facebook.com/psweloveyou, inspiring love and conservation of Puget Sound.
Deb provides consulting in the areas of teen engagement and strategic planning for cultural organizations. Certified in Myers-Briggs personality type inventory, she facilitates interactive teen career and personal exploration group sessions.
During her 17-year career at the world-renowned Shedd Aquarium, she held progressively responsible roles, serving as executive vice president for 11 years. In 2013, she won a distinguished teaching award from Northwestern University’s School of Professional Studies, where she has taught museum management since 2005. She is a past board member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, and past chair and instructor for its Professional Development Committee and management courses, and past chair of the zoo and aquarium committee for the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions. She serves on the board for the Merit School of Music and on the National Wildlife Federation’s Great Lakes Leaders Council, and is a member of the American Alliance of Museums and a past board member of the National Veterans Art Museum. She is a frequent guest speaker on issues related to museum relevance, teen empowerment and activating the public for social good.
Kerr is pronounced car.
Merove Heifetz, marketing & business development consultant
As a mission-driven MBA, Merove's diverse areas of expertise include digital marketing, environmental education, ecotourism, nonprofit management and using technology as a tool to fulfill organizational goals. She has worked with a number of global organizations including Shedd Aquarium, ARKive.org, MissionFish (recently acquired by eBay and now called the PayPal Charitable Giving Fund) and Earthwatch Institute.
Jay Geneske, social media consultant
Jay is the Director of Online Communications at the Rockefeller Foundation. He's also worked for Echoing Green, Carnegie Hall, Shedd Aquarium and Steppenwolf Theatre on integrated brand communication, online marketing, e-commerce and fundraising, SMS/mobile, advocacy, new media, and social technology. He regularly presents at conferences, and his work has been featured in The New York Times, Chicago Tribune, AdAge, and Crain’s.
Jamie Loo, head writer
Jamie is a reporter and copy editor at the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin. She previously served as the online resources producer for the Robert R. McCormick Foundation Civics Program, where she developed educational resources connected to the nonprofit's First Amendment museum, the Freedom Express, and worked on youth civic learning initiatives, exhibits and social media strategy. Her journalism work has won awards from the Indiana Society of Professional Journalists, Associated Press Managing Editors and Hoosier State Press Association. Jamie has a master's degree in news/editorial journalism from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and holds a certificate in Museum Studies from Northwestern University.
Jenifer Forestal, social media opportunity coordinator
Jeni is a Ph.D. student in the Department of Political Science at Northwestern University, where she studies political theory and American politics. Her research focuses on the political potential of social media (such as Facebook, Twitter, Wikipedia, etc.), specifically the ways in which these technologies are changing the way we perceive and enact citizenship in the modern age. Originally from Indianapolis, she received a bachelor's degree in Political Science and Cultural Studies from the Ohio State University.
Erica Thompson, opportunity coordinator
Erica works at a Chicago high school, where she teaches English and writing. She received her bachelor's and master's degrees from Washington University in St. Louis, where she majored in English and education with a minor in linguistics. Erica enjoys learning new things and is constantly trying interesting recipes and visiting fun Chicago neighborhoods. She is looking forward to a career creating educational programs for young museum-goers.
Charmaine Butt, youth liaison
Charmaine is a graduate of the University of Chicago where she majored in Chemistry and Biology. She is a dabbler, having played on the women’s rugby team, served in the South Asian Student Association, worked for UChicago Pakistan flood relief and had a brief affair with hip hop dancing. This avid reader and movie lover expects to attend medical school next year.
Sara Cohen, youth liaison
Sara is a senior at Northwestern University studying biological sciences. She is very interested in the visual arts and the learning that takes place at museums, so she’s thrilled to be working as part of the YouthMuse team. At Northwestern, Sara is an Arts Editor for PROMPT literary magazine; a volunteer at Mather Pavilion, a senior residence; and an active member of her sorority, Alpha Chi Omega.
Marc Deheeger, youth liaison
Marc is a graduate of Lawrence University in Appleton, Wisconsin, with a major in environmental studies and biology with a focus on conservation. Marc is a diver and participated in a two-week research trip to Grand Cayman to study coral and reef fish diversity. As part of an internship at Shedd Aquarium, he helped facilitate beach cleanups and outreach events, and researched Great Lakes topics. Marc works at the University of Chicago.
Claire Fassnacht, youth liaison
Claire is a graduate of Lawrence University with a degree in percussion performance and a religious studies minor. After a five month stint studying gamelan music and Indonesian dance in Bali, Claire is back in Chicago teaching Indonesian music and dance and interning at WFMT classical radio. She has held internships at the Lyric Opera of Chicago and the Game Changer Chicago Design Lab at the University of Chicago. Claire is a recipient of the 2014 Darmasiswa Scholarship and is studying Balinese gamelan at the Cudamani Institute.
Ronnette Hope, youth liaison
Ronnette received her bachelor's degree at Northwestern University and her master's degree in library science from Pratt Institute in New York. After completing a fellowship with the Brooklyn Museum, she now works as a Library Associate at Chapin School in New York City. In the future, she's looking to incorporate informal spaces such as libraries and museums into traditional curriculum development.
Natasha Kallish, youth liaison
Natasha is a senior at Oak Park & River Forest High School in Oak Park, a suburb west of Chicago. She has been a member of YouthMuse's OWN: One With Nature campaign for two years. Natasha was selected to participate in Shedd Aquarium's work/study program, and she interned at the Center for Neighborhood Technology. In the future, Natasha plans to pursue environmental studies.
Victor Lau, youth liaison
Victor is a Sophomore at Oberlin College in Ohio. While at the Whitney M. Young Magnet High School in Chicago, he served as a teen work study participant and interpretive volunteer at Shedd Aquarium and a zoo intern program participant and endocrinology volunteer at Lincoln Park Zoo. He also volunteered with the Key Club and One with Nature campaign.
Veronica Lee, youth liaison
Veronica is a graduate of Northwestern University with a major in Psychology and minors in Business Institutions and Environmental Policy and Culture. She has a passion for sustainability and has held internships at the City of Evanston Office of Sustainability, The 1:1 Movement, and Goby. Originally from San Diego, she enjoys all things outdoors and looks forward to a career in the environmental field.
Kathleen Russell, youth liaison
Kathleen Russell is currently pursuing a degree in natural resources and environmental science at the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign. Most recently, Kathleen has been involved in the aquatic biology research dissection lab and data collection. In the lab, she focused on the diet of the predator and prey in simulated freshwater ecosystems. As a Hall council representative, she has organized dormitory activities such as food drives, sporting events and holiday gatherings. An experienced nature camp counselor, Kathleen enjoys working with young people by raising their environmental awareness and serving the community.
Jessica Smasal, youth liaison
Jessica is a graduate at Northwestern University studying history and sociology. She is excited to be a member of the YouthMuse team where she can apply her passion for youth advocacy through projects and campaigns. At Northwestern, Jessica is a co-president of Inspire Media, an organization that produces and funds socially conscious media on campus and around the globe. Jessica works at development at the Chicago Architecture Foundation
Jack Stohlquist, youth liason
Born and raised in the south loop of Chicago, Jack is a junior at the University of Miami (Florida) majoring in marketing and minoring in Economics and Sports Administration. He loves traveling, playing sports and getting involved in the community.
Geonhee Lee, youth liason
Originally from Gunsan, South Korea, Geonhee attended the Foreign Language Highschool where he majored in Japanese. In 2013, he studied at Walter Payton College Prep as a foreign exchange student for one full academic year. During this time, he worked with YouthMuse, OWN, and the Burberry project at Intuit. He hopes to pursue his interests in global issues and film-making in the future.