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The Urban Innovation Symposium (UIS) brings together planners, policymakers, academics, and students to explore topics in urban planning and policy in Chicago. This year's event will be virtual, free, and open to the public. 


The 11th Annual Urban Innovation Symposium is presented by the student organizations in the UIC College of Urban Planning and Public Affairs: Latinx Planning Organization for Development Education and Regeneration (LPODER), Women in Planning and Public Affairs (WPPA), Society for Black Urban Planners (SBUP), and Urban Planning and Policy Student Association (UPPSA).

Keynote Presentation 2021: Katanya Raby, Urban Dreams, LLC & Al Raby Foundation

Event Schedule

Friday, March 12, 2021 | 12 pm - 5 pm

4 APA CM Credits available

1CM Credit per session

12:00 - 12:15 pm

12:15 - 1:15 pm

1:15 - 1:25 pm

1:25 - 2:25 pm

2:25 - 2:35 pm

2:35 - 3:35 pm

3:35 - 3:45 pm

3:45 - 4:45 pm

4:45 - 5:00 pm

Welcoming Remarks

Erin Ludwig, UPPSA President

Opening Keynote

Katanya Raby, Urban Dreams, LLC & Al Raby Foundation


Panel #1: Prioritizing Racial and Gender Equity in Planning

Norma Hernandez, UIC Great Cities Institute

Laura Pinzon, CDM Smith

Lynda Lopez, Active Transportation Alliance

Edith Portales, MUPP Student

Moderated by Jazmin Vega, MUPP Student


Panel #2: Addressing Global Environmental Issues at the City Level

Angela Tovar, City of Chicago

Mary Nicol, NRDC & City of Chicago

Moderated by Michael Sewall, 47th Ward Alderman Matt Martin


Panel #3: Envisioning Creative Urban Policies for Cities, Regions, and States

Nina Idemudia, AICP, City of Chicago & APA-IL
Lindsay Bayley, CMAP

Traci Sanders, IL Housing Development Authority

Moderated by Nicholas Zettel, 1st Ward Alderman Daniel La Spata

Closing Remarks


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Lindsay Bayley

Senior Planner, Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP)

As a senior planner at CMAP, Lindsay Bayley focuses on equitable transportation and parking policy. She has managed a variety of community planning projects from an award-winning downtown master plan for Illinois’ 2nd largest city to UIC’s Multimodal Transportation Plan, as well as local active transportation plans and parking management studies. Lindsay is co-founder of the Parking Reform Network, a public benefit non-profit organization with the goal of educating the public about parking policy and assisting others with parking reform. She is co-chair of the Chicagoland Complete Streets Coalition. She earned her Master of Science degree in Geographic Information Systems from the University of Redlands in 2004, after spending two years as a Municipal Development Peace Corps Volunteer in Guatemala. Her undergraduate degree is in Urban and Regional Planning from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Evisioning Creative Urban Policies for Cities, Regions, and States

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Norma Hernandez 

Urban Planner, UIC Great Cities Institute

Norma Hernandez, MUPP, is a former social worker and urban planner at UIC Great Cities Institute. Her work focus is on Participatory Budgeting Chicago, an initiative that works with Alderman, their staff, community leaders, residents, and schools around community planning, direct democracy, and civic engagement. She has dedicated her work as a community planner, activist and researcher to address the disparities in our communities by developing meaningful civic engagement in local government and empowering people, especially our youth to take control of the issues that affect them and their future.

Prioritizing Racial and Gender Equity in Planning

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Edith Portales

Master's Student, UIC Masters of Urban Planning and Policy (MUPP)

Edith Portales is a current graduate student in UIC’s Masters of Urban Planning and Policy program where she focuses on transportation and economic development. Edith has several years of experience working to catalyze a more innovative economy in Illinois. She is currently a graduate assistant at UIC, where she works with the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity to evaluate Rebuild Illinois initiatives.

Prioritizing Racial and Gender Equity in Planning

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Katanya Raby

Founder and President, Urban Dreams, LLC & Al Raby Foundation

Katanya Raby, is an urban planner, artist, and activist. Granddaughter to Civil Rights Leader, Al Raby, Katanya, along with her family, founded the Al Raby Foundation to honor his legacy. As one who strives for equity across all that she does, focuses on equitable planning in Chicago. She is an alum of the Chicago United for Equity Fellowship, co-founder and former president of Society of Black Urban Planners at UIC, and serves as board director with American Planning Association Illinois Chapter, Public Narrative, and Territory Chicago. She is an alum of AmeriCorps VISTA and City Year. Katanya is committed to planning for equity, providing service to underserved communities, and encouraging youth to consider their roles in the future of their own communities. She is the mother of two and is a proud graduate of Chicago Public Schools, holds a Bachelor’s degree in Sociology and a Master’s in Urban Planning and Policy from the University of Illinois-Chicago. She formerly served as a policy advisor to the Lightfoot Administration, City of Chicago and recently launched her own planning consulting firm, Urban Dreams, LLC.

Keynote Address

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Nina Idemudia, AICP 

Assistant Commissioner, City of Chicago Department of Planning and Development

As a native Detroiter, Nina Idemudia, AICP, understands firsthand how the built environment shapes the lives of society’s most vulnerable populations. This fuels her passion for empowering people to be change agents through planning. Prior to moving to Chicago, Nina was a planner for the City of Los Angeles where she worked on current planning, long-range planning, and performance management. She specializes in equitable community development, inclusive outreach strategies, and organizational innovation for large metropolitan areas. Nina currently serves as an Assistant Commissioner for the City of Chicago's Department of Planning and Development. Nina is a graduate of the University of Michigan and the University of Southern California. Nina has two awards from the APA, is Vanguard Fellow, and a New Leaders Council Fellow. She was also honored with a SHEro award by Los Angeles Councilmember Curren D. Price, Jr. for her community leadership. Nina was recently elected the first Black President-Elect for the Illinois Chapter of the APA.

Evisioning Creative Urban Policies for Cities, Regions, and States

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Lynda Lopez 

Co-Chair, Transportation Equity Network & Advocacy Manager, Active Transportation Alliance

Lynda Lopez is a writer and transportation advocate in Chicago. She is an advocacy manager at the Active Transportation Alliance and recently co-authored a report on fair equity in the Chicagoland region. As an avid cyclist, she is the Southwest Side representative for the Mayor’s Bike Advisory Council. Regionally, Lynda serves as a co-chair for the Transportation Equity Network. Lynda was part of Transit Center’s inaugural Women Changing Transit Mentorship Program this past year.

Prioritizing Racial and Gender Equity in Planning

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Mary Nicol 

Climate Advisor to the City of Chicago, Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC)

As the Climate Advisor to the City of Chicago, Mary advises the City on how to reduce emissions from the transportation sector and lower the energy consumption of buildings. She recently led the policy development of the City’s Request for Proposals to power all municipal buildings and operations with 100% renewable energy by 2025. Mary draws on 15 years of experience in designing environmental policy at the municipal, state, national and global levels, previously serving as a Deputy Policy Director in Chicago’s Office of the Mayor and working as a Senior Climate Campaigner with Greenpeace. She received a Master’s in Urban Planning and Policy from the University of Illinois-Chicago and a B.A. from Emory University.

Addressing Global Environmental Issues at the City Level

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Traci Sanders

Deputy Director, Strategic Planning & Reporting, Illinois Housing Development Authority (IHDA)

Traci Sanders joined IHDA in January 2021 as the Deputy Director for Strategic Planning & Reporting (SPAR). IHDA finances the creation and preservation of affordable housing, and SPAR supports realization of this goal through data-driven comprehensive planning. Traci is also Founder and Principal of Pax Design Lab, a Chicago-based collaborative planning practice. Pax focuses on stimulating transformative dialogues within organizations and communities; designing inclusive space; and, elevating the culture, racial and ethnic histories of a place through preservation and public art. Prior to Pax, she was Director, Civic Impact, at WXY architecture + urban design where she contributed her expertise to a range of projects from master plans, feasibility studies, stakeholder engagement and urban design. Prior to WXY, Traci was Policy Associate at the NYU Furman Center, a center focused on real estate finance and urban policy; an Associate Analyst for the NYC Council Office of the Speaker under Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito; and a Planner at Kramer Levin, a Land Use law practice based in New York City. Traci attended the University of Chicago, where she received a bachelor’s degree in Political Science, followed by receipt of her Master of Urban Planning from NYU’s Wagner School of Public Service.

Evisioning Creative Urban Policies for Cities, Regions, and States

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Michael Sewall

Director of Constituent Services and Community Outreach, 47th Ward Alderman Matt Martin

Michael Sewall is a 2017 MUPP and the incoming president of the CUPPA Alumni Association. He currently works at the constituent services director for Alderman Matt Martin in the 47th Ward of Chicago, where he lives in Ravenswood with his wife, Rae. Michael grew up in the western suburbs of Chicago and got his bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri. He ran community news websites throughout the Chicago suburbs before returning to school at UIC. He’s previously held positions at the Greater Ravenswood Chamber of Commerce, CMAP, and the Village of Brookfield.

Addressing Global Environmental Issues at the City Level

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Angela Tovar

Chief Sustainability Officer, City of Chicago

Angela Tovar is the Chief Sustainability Officer for the City of Chicago and was appointed to her role in 2020 by Mayor Lori Lightfoot. Prior to that, Angela served as a Program Manager for the Cook County Department of Environment and Sustainability and has also worked in the South Bronx as a Director for two local nonprofits focused on environmental justice. Angela’s passion for social and environmental justice stems from her experience growing up on the industrial waterfront of Lake Michigan on Chicago’s South East side.

Addressing Global Environmental Issues at the City Level


Laura Pinzon

Transportation Planner, CDM Smith

Laura is a Transportation Planner at CDM Smith, with a focus on Traffic Engineering and Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS). Laura is passionate about promoting road safety for all users, improving traffic conditions, and studying the deployment of disruptive technologies to help improve traffic operations across the country. When she is not working on traffic (or sitting in traffic), Laura likes to stay active or take naps (balance!!).

Prioritizing Racial and Gender Equity in Planning

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Jazmin Vega

Master's Student, UIC Masters of Urban Planning and Policy (MUPP)

Jazmin Vega is a current MUPP specializing in transportation and interested in mobility justice and advocacy. She is the current President of LPODER and a graduate assistant at the Women's Leadership and Resource Center.

Prioritizing Racial and Gender Equity in Planning

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Nicholas Zettel

Policy Director, 1st Ward Alderman Daniel La Spata

Nicholas currently works on zoning, policy, and City Council support for Alderman Daniel La Spata. Current areas of policy research include fair housing zoning reform, progressive revenue reforms, municipal banking, and cooperative economics. He recently worked as a Chicago United for Equity fellow in 2020, and moderated a panel on Aldermanic Prerogative and fair housing for the 2020 IL-APA conference. Nicholas is a 2018 MUPP graduate and AICP candidate.

Evisioning Creative Urban Policies for Cities, Regions, and States

Land Acknowledgement

We would like to acknowledge that the University of Illinois at Chicago resides on the traditional Territories of the Three Fire Peoples - the Ojibwe, Odawa and Bodewadmi, purchased after two-and-a-half years of open warfare, decades of violent encroachment, and the defeat of a pan-Indian movement to keep settlers out of the Great Lakes region at the Treaty of Chicago in 1821, receiving their final payment before moving westward in 1835. The area was also a site of trade, gathering, and healing for more than a dozen other Native tribes.


The state of Illinois is currently home to more than 75,000 tribal members and the Chicagoland area is currently home to one of the largest and most diverse urban Native communities in the U.S. Illinois is also the territory of Ho-Chunk, Miami, Inoka, Menominee, Sac, Fox, and their descendants.

By making a land acknowledgment, we recognize that Indigenous peoples are the traditional stewards of the land that we now occupy, living here long before Chicago was a city and still thriving here today. As we work, live and play on these territories we must ask what we can do to right the historic wrongs of colonization and state violence, and support Indigenous communities' struggles for self-determination and sovereignty.