Meet the Team

Meet the Team

We are a 60-person professional staff dedicated to supporting all University of Chicago students, faculty, staff, alumni, and outside small business owners in navigating the complex process of creating and growing a startup or bringing their idea to market. We also serve as an important gateway for industry partners, helping them access new research and technologies from the University of Chicago.

Booth Entrepreneurship Program

Booth Entrepreneurship Program

Erika Mercer

Erika Mercer

Executive Program Director

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Erika Mercer

Executive Program Director

5807 S. Woodlawn Ave., Suite 207
Chicago, IL 60637
O: 773.834.1521
E: emercer@uchicago.edu

Erika Mercer serves as the executive program director of the Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation. In this role, she oversees all entrepreneurship programming within Chicago Booth, leading a team of staff in developing co-curricular programs and experiential learning opportunities for MBA students, alumni, and other related constituents. This includes managing the startup, private equity, venture capital, entrepreneurship through acquisition, and small business programs that serve the professional interests students and alumni. She has been with the Polsky Center since 2010 and, over that time, has led the development and growth of numerous Polsky Center offerings.

Erika brings close to 20 years of experience in higher education, having previously held roles in the international programming offices at the University of Chicago, Harvard University, and Brown University, where she managed, developed, and promoted study abroad programs worldwide, acted as the primary contact for students, faculty, and staff on site, and provided international training and advising to undergraduates. She served as a member of several international education organizations, including The Forum on Education Abroad and NAFSA: Association of International Educators; was published in Abroad View Magazine and the Bulletin of the American Research Center in Egypt; and presented at national conferences on the topic of cultural and citizen diplomacy. She also interned in the Academic Editorial Department at Oxford University Press, where she assisted editors with the review and preparation of manuscripts for production.

Erika earned a BA, magna cum laude, from Middlebury College and an EdM from Harvard University. She has studied in Spain, Germany, and Egypt.

Lucas Peralta

Lucas Peralta

Director, Entrepreneurship Programs and Data Strategy

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Lucas Peralta

Director, Entrepreneurship Programs and Data Strategy

5807 S. Woodlawn Ave., Suite 207
Chicago, IL 60637
O: 773.702.8310
E: lucas.peralta@chicagobooth.edu
Student office hours

Lucas Peralta serves as associate director for college and cross-campus programs at the University of Chicago’s Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation. Lucas manages the College New Venture Challenge, the undergraduate track of the Edward L. Kaplan ’71 New Venture Challenge, a nationally-ranked accelerator program. He also manages the operations of the Polsky Center’s NSF-funded I-Corps site program. In addition, he runs the Entrepreneurs-in-Residence program, Polsky Center Quick Pitches, and various speaker and pitch events. 

Prior to joining Polsky, while earning his master’s degree, Lucas worked as a program assistant for Harvard University’s Center for Education Policy Research Strategic Data Project, an initiative that helps connect schools and education agencies to emerging leaders in data science, to improve student outcomes. 

Lucas earned a master’s degree in education from Harvard University and a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of New Mexico. 

Lucas is interested in the intersection of economic opportunity and education. In his spare time, he enjoys cooking, eating (obviously), and running. 

Megan Fox

Megan Fox

Director, Svider Private Equity Program

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Megan Fox

Director, Svider Private Equity Program

5807 S. Woodlawn Ave., Suite 207
Chicago, IL 60637
O: 773.702.5926
E: megan.fox@chicagobooth.edu

Megan manages a suite of programming and events within our Svider Private Equity Program, including innovative experiential programs such as the Private Equity and Venture Capital Lab, which offers a firsthand look at private equity through an internship and academic course; the Sterling Partners Investment Thesis Challenge, which provides investment thesis training with mentors at private equity firms; the Private Equity Case Challenge, a global, intercollegiate case competition held in partnership with Oxford University; and networking opportunities with industry professionals at our annual Private Equity Conference. In addition, Megan supports the management of the Edward L. Kaplan, ’71, New Venture Challenge, a premier startup launch program, recognized as a top-ranked accelerator program in the nation.

Gorana Kolar

Gorana Kolar

Senior Associate Director

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Gorana Kolar

Senior Associate Director

5807 S. Woodlawn Ave., Suite 207
Chicago, IL 60637
O: 773.702.4073
E: gkolar@uchicago.edu

Gorana Kolar serves as the senior associate director at University of Chicago’s Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation. She oversees alumni initiatives – including the Alumni New Venture Challenge, the Alumni Entrepreneurs Growth Forum, Polsky Founders’ Fund Fellowship, and Startup Summer. Gorana also works with students to support and enable their venture creation and growth efforts. Gorana is a mentor to teams in the Polsky Accelerator program, as well as the Polsky Center I-Corps Site program. She has served as a business mentor for one national NSF I-Corps team from the University of Chicago.  

Prior to joining Polsky, Gorana was a manager, business development of licensing, at Carnegie Mellon University’s Center for Technology Transfer and Enterprise Creation (CTTEC). There she worked with faculty and graduate students on intellectual property protection, license negotiation, and startup creation. 

Gorana holds a BA, MS, and MBA from Carnegie Mellon University. 

In addition to spending time with her family, Gorana enjoys traveling, running, hiking, yoga, and book club. 

Mary Kay Loncar

Mary Kay Loncar

Senior Associate Director, Operations

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Mary Kay Loncar

Senior Associate Director, Operations

5807 S. Woodlawn Ave., Suite 207
Chicago, IL 60637
O: 773.834.4526
E: mloncar@uchicago.edu

Mary Kay Loncar serves as the associate director at the University of Chicago’s Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation. Mary Kay manages the day-to-day operations of the Polsky Center from budget reporting, gift, sponsorship and investment processing, contracts, and logistics. She maintains internal relationships with University of Chicago departments and external partners and considers herself a generalist committed to making sure the students the Center serves and her colleagues have the information and resources they need to do their job. 

Prior to joining Polsky, Mary Kay was an assistant director of marketing at UChicago Medicine, where she did similar work. Having spent time on the other side of the University, she was able to transfer her institutional knowledge to her current role and maintains relationships with former colleagues and contacts across campus. Prior to working the University of Chicago, she worked in advertising, marketing, and corporate communications/production. 

Mary Kay earned a B.S. in journalism from the University of Kansas.  

Born and raised on the south side of Chicago, in her spare time Mary Kay is interested in travel and spending time with family and friends. She is also working on becoming a much better cook with the support of her ‘foodie’ colleagues. 

Amber Bradley, Ed.D., PPS

Amber Bradley, Ed.D., PPS

Associate Director, New Venture Challenge

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Amber Bradley, Ed.D., PPS

Associate Director, New Venture Challenge

5807 S. Woodlawn Ave., Suite 207
Chicago, IL 60637
E: amber.bradley@chicagobooth.edu

Amber Bradley, Ed.D., PPS, serves as the associate director, New Venture Challenge (NVC) at the University of Chicago’s Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation. She oversees and grows the NVC and its tracks, expanding the nationally recognized program and the resources available to University of Chicago entrepreneurs.

Amber has come to Chicago from Los Angeles, where she spent the past nine years working at the University of Southern California. Most recently, she held two positions: as assistant director of inclusion, diversity, equity, and access (IDEA) initiatives and as senior academic advisor at USC’s Jimmy Iovine and Andre Young Academy for the Arts, Technology and Business of Innovation. In this role, she supported the recruitment and admission initiatives of the Academy, including communication, outreach, interviews, and group presentations, and advised on the school’s recruitment and retention of underrepresented groups at the student, faculty, and staff levels.

Amber is a native of Southern California. She holds a doctorate in education with an emphasis in higher education administration, as well as a master of education in educational counseling and a Pupil Personnel Services Credential in school counseling from the USC Rossier School of Education. She also earned a bachelor of arts in psychology from California State University, Los Angeles (CSULA) and an associate of arts in liberal arts from Santa Monica College.

Outside of work, Amber loves the beach, dancing, all things Disney, and is a huge foodie. She is looking forward to exploring the food scene in Chicago and welcomes any recommendations!

Paul Cavalieri

Paul Cavalieri

Associate Director, Small Business Operations

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Paul Cavalieri

Associate Director, Small Business Operations

5807 S. Woodlawn Ave., Suite 207
Chicago, IL 60637
E: paul.cavalieri@chicagobooth.edu

Paul Cavalieri serves as the associate director, small business operations at the University of Chicago’s Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation. Paul manages and builds the educational and experiential offerings in Polsky’s small business portfolio, supports students interested in closely held and family business, and serves as a resource to local businesses on a variety of operations topics.

Prior to joining Polsky, Paul gained expertise managing a medium-size enterprise at Race Pace Bicycles, a chain of seven bicycle shops in Maryland. Along with running the day to day operations, Paul focused on developing the company’s human resources system and bringing customer relationship management approaches to the marketing communications strategy. Before Race Pace, Paul worked as a third grade teacher at a public elementary school in Brooklyn, NY.

Paul earned an MBA from the University of Colorado, a master of science in education from Long Island University, and a bachelor of arts in journalism and government from American University. In his spare time, Paul enjoys spending time with his wife, daughter and son and riding mountain bikes (slowly), playing drums (loudly), and learning Italian (parla un poco).

 

Nora Mansfield

Nora Mansfield

Associate Director, VC Programs and Startup Engagement

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Nora Mansfield

Associate Director, VC Programs and Startup Engagement

5807 S. Woodlawn Ave., Suite 207
Chicago, IL 60637
O: 773.834.9767
E: nora.mansfield@chicagobooth.edu

Nora Mansfield serves as the associate director of VC programs and startup engagement at the University of Chicago’s Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation. She manages the Polsky Center’s portfolio of venture capital programing—including the VCIC, PE/VC Lab, San Francisco Initiative, and SeedCon. In addition, she is responsible for initiatives to engage and track startups as they move between and graduate from Polsky Center programs. In this “startup engagement” role, she provides support to startups, helping them identify needs, connecting them with Polsky Center resources, and serving as a consistent point of contact for them as they transition between and out of programs.

Prior to joining Polsky, Nora was on the marketing team of a buy-one, give-one brand based out of Los Angeles that provided school supplies to classrooms in need in the U.S.

Nora earned her bachelor’s degree in psychology and studio art from Loyola Marymount University (LMU). While at LMU, Nora was actively involved in service and social justice organizations and worked for various social enterprises in the Los Angeles area.

Nora is driven by fostering connections to help both students and startups succeed. Nora enjoys all things related to food – exploring new restaurants, testing recipes, and striving to find the perfect balance of salt, fat, acid, and heat. When she’s not thinking about food, you can find her practicing yoga or creating art.

Kate Turvy

Kate Turvy

Associate Director, Entrepreneurship Programs and Engagement

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Kate Turvy

Associate Director, Entrepreneurship Programs and Engagement

5807 S. Woodlawn Ave., Suite 207
Chicago, IL 60637
E: Kate.Turvy@chicagobooth.edu

Kate Turvy serves as the associate director, entrepreneurship programs and engagement at the University of Chicago’s Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation. She manages a portfolio of entrepreneurship programs and events, including the Entrepreneur- and Investor-in-Residence programs, and works together with the education and programming team to drive student, alumni, and external engagement in Polsky’s programming.

Prior to joining Polsky, Kate worked at the Chicago Public Education Fund (The Fund), where she served on the Data & Policy team. In that role, she analyzed program and system wide school performance data, as well as broader education research that helped inform The Fund’s program and policy strategy to retain and support school leaders in all of Chicago’s 650 public schools. She helped facilitate several citywide working groups and committees, including the Education Transition Committee for Mayor Lori Lightfoot in 2019. Before joining The Fund, she served as a data manager at Akili Academy of New Orleans, where she supported overall school operations and analyzed student data to support teachers and school leaders. Earlier in her career, Kate played professional tennis and competed against players in tournaments across the globe.

Kate earned a BS in education and social policy from Northwestern University. In her spare time, Kate enjoys doing anything active outdoors, baking, and reading.

Isra Omar

Isra Omar

Assistant Director

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Isra Omar

Assistant Director

1452 E. 53rd Street, 2nd floor 
Chicago, IL 60615
E: iomar@uchicago.edu

Isra Omar manages the Polsky Small Business Growth program, which supports small business owners on the south and west side of Chicago to help them grow and scale their businesses through consulting work completed by top student talent.

Isra has a strong passion for helping small businesses and the local Chicago community. She is a volunteer for the Muslim American Leadership Alliance (MALA) where she manage the oral recording sessions of its storytellers in partnership with StoryCorps. In recognition of her hard work, Isra was named the first recipient of the Emerging Young Leader Award presented during the 2018 Annual MALA Gala. She previously worked for Studio Gang Architects. Isra is a graduate of DePaul University with a degree in accountancy and a minor in Arabic studies. 

 

Makaia Smith

Makaia Smith

Assistant Director, Events

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Makaia Smith

Assistant Director, Events

5807 S. Woodlawn Ave., Suite 207
Chicago, IL 60637
O: 773.702.9108
E: makaia.smith@chicagobooth.edu

 

Makaia Smith serves as the Assistant Director of Events at the Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation. She will be supporting the Education and Programs team with the planning and execution of a broad range of in-person and virtual events. Makaia will play a critical role in streamlining the events process as we continue to improve our operational efficiency.

Prior to joining the Polsky Center, Makaia was the Events Coordinator for the Kankakee Public Library and Spotlight Meetings and Events, Inc. In this role, she coordinated in-person and virtual community programs and events with 3,500+ attendees.

Makaia’s education background includes a bachelor’s degree in Fashion Merchandising and Design with a minor in Event Management from Central Michigan University.

Isabelle Schellenger

Isabelle Schellenger

Assistant Director, Student Programs

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Isabelle Schellenger

Assistant Director, Student Programs

5807 S. Woodlawn Ave., Suite 207
Chicago, IL 60637
E: isabelle.schellenger@chicagobooth.edu

Isabelle Schellenger serves as the Assistant Director, Student Programs at the University of Chicago’s Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation. Isabelle manages a portfolio of programs under the Svider Private Equity Program suite, with a specific focus on Polsky’s Entrepreneurship through Acquisition and Venture Capital programming.

Prior to joining Polsky, Isabelle worked at the Aspen Institute, a nonprofit think tank in Washington, DC, where she managed and supported an innovative portfolio of projects relating to global development, public health, and leadership. Her work at Aspen included the development of the Aspen Institute’s first all-women fellowship and training program on leadership as well as a microloan program for female artisan entrepreneurs around the globe.

Isabelle recently graduated from the Master of Arts Program in the Social Sciences (MAPSS) at the University of Chicago and, for her thesis, designed and conducted an independent qualitative research project on alternative models of public, single-sex schooling for girls. In addition to her MA from UChicago, Isabelle holds a bachelor’s degree in Sociology and Spanish, magna cum laude, from Franklin & Marshall College.

In her spare time, Isabelle enjoys painting, taking care of her plants, and keeping up with all things Marvel.

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