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.

Education and Programs

Education and Programs

Dan Sachs

Dan Sachs

Executive Director, Education and Programs

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Dan Sachs

Executive Director, Education and Programs

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

Dan Sachs serves as the executive director of the Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation. In this role, he oversees the education and programming functions for the Polsky Center, leading a team in developing co-curricular programs and experiential learning opportunities for students, alumni, faculty, and community entrepreneurs. He is also responsible for developing and nurturing relationships with key stakeholders across UChicago and in the business community.

As a seasoned business executive and entrepreneur in the hospitality industry, Dan has strong ties to Chicago. He recently served as president of Meerkat Advisory, an A-list hospitality and leadership development advisory group, and was a professor of management and entrepreneurship at DePaul University. Before that, he was the founder and owner of BIN 36 Restaurant Group and grew the company’s wine brand domestically as well as to international acclaim. With 25 years of operating experience in the restaurant and service industry, Dan has become a trusted expert for private equity firms, large hotel corporations, and owners of live entertainment venues. He published the book The Million Dollar Greeting, which provides insights on how to apply hospitality industry best practices to strengthen company profit, customer retention, and employee morale.

Dan earned a bachelor’s degree in government from Harvard University, a doctorate in business administration specializing in organizational behavior from DePaul University, and a grand diplôme from École de Cuisine La Varenne.

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, Entrepreneurship Through Acquisition

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Paul Cavalieri

Associate Director, Entrepreneurship Through Acquisition

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

Paul Cavalieri serves as the Associate director, entrepreneurship through acquisition at the University of Chicago’s Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation. Paul manages and builds the educational and experiential offerings in Polsky’s ETA portfolio, expands the network of ETA alumni and practitioners, and supports students as they plan for careers in ETA.

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 communications and government from American University. In his spare time, Paul enjoys spending time with his wife and daughter and riding mountain bikes (slowly), playing drums (loudly), and learning Italian (parla un poco).

 

Megan Fox

Megan Fox

Associate Director, Svider Private Equity Program

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Megan Fox

Associate 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.

Kyla Hill

Kyla Hill

Assistant Director, Operations

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Kyla Hill

Assistant Director, Operations

5807 S. Woodlawn Ave., Suite 207
Chicago, IL 60637
O: 773.834.1522
E: kyla.hill@chicagobooth.edu

Kyla Hill is the first point of contact for inquiries about the Polsky Center and its work at is Harper Center location. Kyla works on Polsky Center operations, accounting and budgeting, vendor relationships, and stewardship.

Kyla was previously an executive administrative assistant at Village Leadership Academy, where she held a variety of responsibilities, interacting daily with students, parents, teachers, community members, and donors. Previously, while a student at the University of Missouri, she worked in the Department of Residential Life and Career Center. In these roles, she advised students, planned workshops, and presented on career-related topics. Kyla holds a BS in Business Administration from the University of Missouri.

Kim Kieras

Kim Kieras

Associate Director, The Compass Accelerator

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Kim Kieras

Associate Director, The Compass Accelerator

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

Kim Kieras serves as the associate director for the Compass accelerator and science programs. In this role, Kim oversees the programming, education, and operations of the Compass deep tech accelerator. Kim’s work focuses on connecting the Chicago Booth community to research-based science and technology ventures launching out of the University of Chicago. In addition to her role with the Compass accelerator, Kim supports educational and experiential programs for faculty, students, and alumni interested in science and technology entrepreneurship.

Prior to joining Polsky, Kim worked at Northwestern University McCormick School of Engineering where she supervised a portfolio of six professional STEM master’s programs overseeing all operations and logistics. Kim’s oversight included program policies and procedures, budget maintenance, staffing, ensuring student satisfaction, and collectively creating and implementing best practices. In her previous role at McCormick, she assisted in the launch of a new program, the Master of Science in Artificial Intelligence, where she served as lead administrator. Kim worked on the design and implementation of the program, oversaw admission and student recruitment, advising, and worked closely with faculty and other university constituents. Through corporate outreach and engagement efforts, Kim managed the program’s professional speaker series where she sourced industry partners and solicited real-world AI use cases for practicum and Capstone projects where she facilitated student and team matches. Kim also organized and facilitated events that included training, demonstrations, and hackathons.

Kim earned a master of science in learning and organizational change from Northwestern University School of Education and Social Policy, and a bachelor of science in business administration from Argosy University.

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

Associate Director, Operations

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Mary Kay Loncar

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. 

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.

Erika Mercer

Erika Mercer

Director, Entrepreneurship Programs and the Svider Private Equity Program

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Erika Mercer

Director, Entrepreneurship Programs and the Svider Private Equity Program

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

Erika Mercer serves as the director of entrepreneurship programs and the Svider Private Equity program at the University of Chicago’s Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation. In this role, she oversees several major areas of educational and experiential programming, including private equity, venture capital, and entrepreneurship through acquisition. She has been with the Polsky Center since 2010 and, over that time, has led the development and growth of numerous Polsky Center offerings for both student and alumni audiences. She manages the Polsky Center’s Private Equity Council, a 50-member advisory group to the Svider Private Equity Program. 

Prior to joining the Polsky Center, Erika worked 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. 

Isra Omar

Isra Omar

Program Manager

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Isra Omar

Program Manager

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. 

 

Lucas Peralta

Lucas Peralta

Associate Director

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Lucas Peralta

Associate Director

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

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.

Anna Wislocki, PhD

Anna Wislocki, PhD

Senior Program Manager, Sciences

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Anna Wislocki, PhD

Senior Program Manager, Sciences

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

Anna Wislocki, PhD, serves as the senior program manager, sciences at the University of Chicago’s Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation. She supports the Duality quantum accelerator program where she is responsible for managing a portfolio of new and existing programs, events, and scientific initiatives. Anna joins the team of individuals working on programs and partnerships at the intersection of deep tech and entrepreneurship.

Prior to joining Polsky, Anna was a lead researcher for a number of STEM projects focused on education, diversity, equity, and inclusion. She collaborated with both the University of Illinois at Chicago and Chicago Public Schools to build chemistry curriculum that helps students learn chemistry through building connections between the subject matter and their daily lives. Anna has experience working closely with faculty, researchers, graduate students, college students and high school students through her professional and academic work.

Anna holds a PhD in chemistry from the University of Illinois at Chicago. She holds a master of science in chemistry from University of Illinois at Chicago and a bachelor of science in biology from University of St. Francis.

Anna is dedicated to fostering and engaging the community in science while facilitating a path of learning which generates and proves opportunity that will lead to the successful fulfilment of one’s professional goals in life. In her spare time, she enjoys camping, exercising and spending time with family and friends.

Ellen Zatkowski

Ellen Zatkowski

Assistant Director

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Ellen Zatkowski

Assistant Director

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

Ellen Zatkowski serves as assistant director at the University of Chicago’s Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation. She manages the operations for the NSF-funded I-Corps program and the Collaboratorium. Ellen also focuses on developing other programs to support the scientific community.

Prior to joining Polsky, Ellen managed the college success program for a Chicago non-profit serving low-income students. In this capacity, she supervised a team of AmeriCorps members and full-time staff who advised students as they navigated colleges and universities. Ellen got her start in higher education at Babson College where she worked in the undergraduate admissions office.

Ellen earned a master’s degree in education from the University of Michigan and a bachelor’s degree in history from Boston College.

Ellen is energized to share the power of entrepreneurial thinking with audiences who have not traditionally had access to entrepreneurship and innovation programs. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, exercising, and exploring Chicago’s neighborhood bookstores and restaurants.

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