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Herbert "Bert" Allen


7 years

Bert Allen is a senior human resources executive with a unique combination of corporate operations and entrepreneurial experience.  Mr. Allen has a breadth of experience including M&A, executive compensation, succession planning, global leadership development, employee productivity, and turnaround initiatives for Fortune 100, small and mid-cap companies.  Currently, he is the Senior Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer of JMC Steel Group, the largest independent steel pipe and tube manufacturer in North America. 


In his this role, Bert is responsible for the development and execution of strategic Human Capital initiatives, including organization effectiveness, talent acquisition, talent management, total rewards, labor relations, internal communications, and leadership development.  He also serves as an executive representative to the company’s Compensation Committee of the Board of Directors.


Prior to this position, he served in senior human resources and operations executive capacities at Express Scripts, InteliStaf, Exelon Enterprises, and ACNielsen.  Additionally, he served in human resources management roles at Quaker Oats, NutraSweet and Anheuser-Busch. 


In addition to his corporate executive experience, Bert was a founding partner of a business acquisition firm, which facilitated the acquisition of a $350 million chemical distribution business. 


Bert Allen is the Co-Chair for Alumni Giving on the Board of the National Hampton Alumni Association, Inc.  In this role he serves as a fundraising liaison between the Hampton University alumni association Board of Directors and the university’s Office of External Relations.  He is also a member of the Human Resources Management Association of Chicago, and a Life Member of the National Association of African-Americans in Human Resources.


Mr. Allen graduated from Hampton University with a B.A in Economics.  He has an M.B.A. from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University.  He holds the Senior Professional in Human Resources certification.

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Adrienne Jones


4 years

Adrienne Jones is an accomplished Integrated Media Marketing and Business Development Specialist. She is also an experienced Sales Strategist, Manager, and Brand Marketing Strategist with proven success rate.


Jones is highly proficient at Media integration and connecting brands with their target audiences. She helps businesses with revenue growth opportunities via an extensive network of influential local and national Media outlets and relationships. She also has extensive experience in negotiating strategies for a win-win outcome! Taking pride in being viewed as a Reliable Resource to her clients.

Lana Manson


9 years

As the Co-Executive Director of MAI, Lana Manson is a graduate of Fisk University having earned a Bachelor of Science Degree in Music Education. Lana holds a Masters of Music Degree from Northwestern University and a Masters in Business Administration with a dual concentration from the University of Illinois-Chicago as well.

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Derrick E. Buckingham


With more than 23 years of experience in business, Derrick has built an enviable track record of delivering results while developing strong, meaningful relationships via sales, executive search and nonprofit development.


Most recently, Derrick served as the Chief Development Officer for the Juvenile Protective Association (JPA), a $2 million Chicago-based non-profit organization that provides in-school therapeutic counseling services to children and families, conducting research, sharing knowledge, and providing expert consultation and guidance to others serving these children and families. Specific to the role, Derrick added value by establishing funding sources from Allstate Insurance Company, Wintrust Financial, and Turner Construction.


Prior to joining JPA, Derrick served as Partner for Jobplex, Inc., a DHR International company, specializing in client engagements within the nonprofit, education, and diversity sectors.


Prior to joining Jobplex, Derrick served as Senior Vice President and Managing Director for The Hollins Group, an executive search firm headquartered in Chicago. Derrick has worked closely with senior management to successfully execute search assignments for clients including Boeing, Microsoft, Illinois Tool Works, NAACP, Yale University, and the University of Chicago, among others.


Derrick began his professional career in the pharmaceutical and automotive industries as a District Sales Manager for Chrysler Corporation and as a Professional Sales Representative for SmithKline Beecham.


Derrick holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Manufacturing Management from Purdue University.

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Honorable Judge Sharon O. Johnson


4 years

A member of the judiciary since 2010, Judge Sharon O. Johnson currently presides over domestic relations cases in the Circuit Court of Cook County.


Prior to her current assignment, she presided over traffic and parentage and child support cases. She has served as a member of the Domestic Relations Alternative Dispute Resolution Exploratory Committee, collaborated with the Chicago Domestic Violence Initiative, collaborated with Cook County Works job training and placement, and moderated a forum entitled “Liberia: Restructuring of a Legal System in a Reemerging African Nation.”


The Illinois Supreme Court has appointed her to the faculty of the Judicial Continuing Legal Education Conference for three consecutive terms. Judge Johnson was also appointed and continues to serve on the Illinois Supreme Court Committee on Professional Responsibility.


Additionally, she has served as a panelist on numerous family law symposiums, committees, and workshops. As past chair of the Illinois Judicial Council, her theme was “Courts Connecting with Communities.” As such, Judge Johnson serves on the board of The Musical Arts Institute, has participated in programs with the Prairie State College Women Veterans and Single parents panel discussions, and is a frequent speaker at numerous churches, schools, and community organizations. Most importantly, she strives for continued adherence to her faith walk and thoroughly enjoys traveling with her husband and two intelligent and beautiful daughters.

Michael Manson


9 years

As the Executive Director of MAI, Michael Manson is also a graduate of Chicago State University having earned a Bachelor of Science Degree in Music education. Michael holds a Master of Music Degree from Northwestern University as well.

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Erick Nickerson


2 years

Erick is an experienced senior consultant with 9 years and 11 months as a proven history in the environmental services industry. He is professionally skilled in negotiation, organizing and analytical problem solving for nonprofit institutions, business planning, and mayoral leadership in local government.


He has worked for the Illinois State Treasurer’s office as a liaison between the offices of FDIC, HUD, FEMA, FBI, DHS and the IRS for undeserved communities in Chicago and others throughout the State of Illinois. He was instrumental in the coordination of sustainable community programs and events that provided exposure to state, county, and federal offices for those who otherwise would not have access or knowledge of the assistance these offices offer to the public and small businesses across the state. This experience has been instrumental in his efforts to help others create sustainable communities.


Finally, his more than twenty-four years working as an employee for the State of Illinois, as Mayor of the Village of Dixmoor, an active member of the Priory of St. Norbert, Chicago Chapter, former Executive Board member of InfraGuard Chicago 2010 thru 2017, Chicago Chapter, as a member of the U.S. Department of Justice Federal Bureau of Investigation Chicago Division FBI Citizens Academy June 2015, and after successfully completing, the U.S. Department of Justice April 2016, FBI Chicago Division Community Relations Executive Seminar Training and demonstrating a commitment to the FBI mission.


He attend Arkansas State University at Pine Bluff. Throughout his professional life, he has mastered his negotiating and organizing skills, and clearly, he has taken advantage of every opportunity to become a leader.

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Delvert Cole


Delvert Cole was born November 1, 1962 in Gary, Indiana. He graduated in 1981 from Gary Roosevelt High School and entered the United States Navy in 1984 as a Cryptologic Technician in the (I-Branch) US Naval Security Group. He also graduated from North Carolina A&T State University with a B.S. in Economics. From 1991-1997 Cole served as an Indiana State Police an then went on to be a  Credit Analyst from 1997-2004 at American National Bank. He has a MPP from University of Chicago (Harris School of Public Policy). Currently he serves as an Administrator to the Lake County Board of Commissioners since 2006.

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Damon Thompson


1 year

Damon Thompson is a Project Manager and Civil Engineer experienced in leading project teams to efficiently deliver projects considering safety, compliance, operability, quality, cost and schedule. He has extensive oil and gas experience and has developed a solid track record in delivering refinery capital projects meeting business objectives.


He is passionate about working with project teams in solving unique challenges, mitigating risks and developing sound execution plans to drive safe and efficient construction. Thompson communicates openly and honestly with gatekeepers, stakeholders and contractors to leverage their expertise and support for delivering a successful project. He motivates and inspires others to succeed by fostering effective teamwork. 


Debra Eldridge, D.D.S.


1 year

Debra Eldridge, D.D.S., has practiced dentistry for nearly 40 years in the Chicago area. As co-owner of a private practice, she and her partner, Dr. Ronald Eldridge, have consistently made innovations in patient care in the African-American community a priority. Dr. Debra is an avid learner, and patron of the arts. She enjoys reading, gardening, and the decorative arts, and counts her three children, three grandchildren, and beloved dog Sheba among her many blessings. She is a graduate of the Howard University School of Dentistry, and a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.

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