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Meet the Team

Meet the Team

The Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation team is paving the way for Chicago’s entrepreneurial spirit. Housed on a collaborative campus, we are a group of committed professionals dedicated to promoting and supporting students, faculty, staff, alumni, researchers and local entrepreneurs as they navigate the complex process of creating and growing a startup. To see a full list of Polsky Council members, click here. For general inquiries, questions, and feedback about the Polsky Center, please contact us at polsky@uchicago.edu.

We are hiring! View the job openings.      
Gorana Kolar
Gorana Kolar

Gorana Kolar

Senior Associate Director

5807 South Woodlawn Avenue, Suite 207
Chicago, IL 60637
773-702-4073

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

Mary Kay Loncar

Associate Director, Operations

5807 South Woodlawn Avenue, Suite 207
Chicago, IL 60637
773-834-4526

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. 

Hannah Mannino
Hannah Mannino

Hannah Mannino

Associate Director

5807 South Woodlawn Avenue, Suite 207
Chicago, IL 60637
773-702-4047

Hannah Mannino serves as the associate director of entrepreneurship programs at the University of Chicago’s Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation. She is responsible for leading and administering the Edward L. Kaplan, ’71, New Venture Challenge, one of the top-ranked accelerator programs in the nation. This includes oversight of all five tracks of the program, including coordination of marketing, fundraising, logistics, and strategic planning.  

Prior to joining Polsky, Hannah was a key contributor in the development of the business model, business plan, advisory board recruitment, and management of a Chicago-based nonprofit startup. 

Hannah earned her bachelor’s degree in sociology and entrepreneurship from Miami University. While at Miami, she helped develop the business plan for national scale of EDUN LIVE on campus – the sister brand of Bono’s clothing label Edun Apparel – which supports sustainable socioeconomic development in sub Saharan Africa. 

Hannah is driven by the impact the New Venture Challenge program has on every person involved. In her free time, Hannah enjoys exploring new restaurants in Chicago, completing jigsaw puzzles in record time, creating eclectic musical playlists, and spending time with her family. 

Nora Mansfield
Nora Mansfield

Nora Mansfield

Assistant Director

5807 S. Woodlawn Ave., 207
Chicago, IL 60637
773-834-9767

nora.mansfield@ChicagoBooth.edu

Nora Mansfield serves as the assistant director of entrepreneurship programs and the George Shultz Innovation Fund at the University of Chicago’s Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation. She is responsible for managing the Polsky Center’s portfolio of venture capital and entrepreneurship through acquisition programs, as well as the Innovation Fund Associates (IFA) program. This work spans a range of programs including VCIC, PE/VC Lab, PE/VC Lab: SFI, ETA Alumni Symposiums, recruitment and training of IFAs, and other strategic efforts for the George Shultz Innovation Fund. 

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

Erika Mercer

Director, Entrepreneurship Programs and the Svider Private Equity Program

5807 South Woodlawn Avenue, Suite 207
Chicago, IL 60637
773-834-1521

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. 

Cerise Miller
Cerise Miller

Cerise Miller

Associate Director, Global Engagement

168 Victoria Road
Mount Davis, Hong Kong
+852.2533.9568

cerise.miller@chicagobooth.edu

Cerise Miller leads the Polsky Center’s global initiatives and international partnership efforts. She is responsible for designing and implementing entrepreneurial programs in Hong Kong and across the globe. She helps drive the international strategy of the Polsky Center, while also serving as a key strategic relationship-builder, particularly in Asia and Europe. Some programs she manages include the CUPP Entrepreneurship Bootcamp – FinTech and BóLè Tech Investor Forum.

Prior to the Polsky Center, Cerise spent two years with the UK Department for International Trade where she was responsible for managing the commercial relationships with financial services and energy firms. She supported British companies entering the US market and worked closely with US firms to develop their international expansion strategy for the UK. She holds dual BA degrees in economics and international studies from American University.

Cerise is based out of the University of Chicago Francis and Rose Yuen Campus in Hong Kong.

Lucas Peralta
Lucas Peralta

Lucas Peralta

Associate Director

5807 S. Woodlawn Ave., Suite 207
Chicago, IL 60637
773-702-8310

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. 

Crissy Ritter
Crissy Ritter

Crissy Ritter

Assistant Director, Experiential Entrepreneurship and Venture Support

5807 S. Woodlawn Ave., Suite 207
Chicago, IL 60637
773.834.3064

crissy.ritter@chicagobooth.edu

Crissy Ritter supports the Polsky Accelerator, the Global New Venture Challenge, and additional programs for the Polsky Center. She is a contact and resource for teams, speakers, attendees, and more while managing these events.

Ellen A. Rudnick
Ellen A. Rudnick

Ellen A. Rudnick

Sr. Advisor for Entrepreneurship, Adjunct Professor

5807 South Woodlawn Avenue
Chicago, IL 60637
773-834-3781

Ellen Rudnick teaches the Entrepreneurial Internship Seminar and Developing a New Venture (New Venture Challenge). She is a successful start-up executive, having served as chairman of Pacific Biometrics and CEO of Health Care Knowledge Resources. She has held positions as corporate vice president at Baxter Healthcare and president of Baxter Management Services Division, which she founded. Her current board experience includes: Liberty Mutual Insurance, Patterson Companies (NASDAQ: PDCO), Health Management Systems (NASDAQ: HMSY), and First Midwest Bancorp (NASDAQ: FMBI). She was previously a venture partner for Inroads Capital.

See full bio

Heather Bakalyar, PhD, MBA
Heather Bakalyar, PhD, MBA

Heather Bakalyar, PhD, MBA

Assistant Director, Technology Commercialization

5113 S. Harper Ave., Suite 2C
Chicago IL 60615
773.702.8833

hbakalyar@uchicago.edu

Heather Bakalyar, PhD, MBA, serves as an assistant director of technology commercialization at the University of Chicago’s Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation. Heather works with faculty from a variety of departments across the University to advance their discoveries towards the market, and interfaces with legal counsel, prospective and current licensees, entrepreneurs, and Polsky Center colleagues to promote the mission of the University and the Polsky Center.

Prior to joining Polsky, Heather accumulated over twenty years of experience in the technology transfer, intellectual property, and commercialization fields. She headed a licensing team in the Technology Transfer department at Johns Hopkins University, closing hundreds of deals and coordinating several high-level, multi-departmental, R&D collaborations with industry partners. Her background includes focused responsibility in intellectual property, including work as a U.S. patent examiner and a director-level role in intellectual property management at the Henry M. Jackson Foundation. Heather has also worked in two clinical-stage biotechnology companies, providing market assessment, business development, and intellectual property support.

Heather earned both a PhD in molecular biology and an MBA from Johns Hopkins University. She is a registered patent agent and has held a licensing professional certification (CLP).

Heather is passionate about the transformation of discovery and invention into real world products that directly benefit the public, and is proud to be a part of that at Polsky. In her spare time, she enjoys the outdoors and feels particularly fortunate to be living next to one of the Great Lakes, which she believes are a true natural wonder of the world.

Carla L. Bradshaw-Murry
Carla L. Bradshaw-Murry

Carla L. Bradshaw-Murry

Project Coordinator, Technology Commercialization

5113 S Harper Avenue, Suite 2C
Chicago, IL 60615
773-834-3210

As Project Coordinator for the Polsky Center’s Technology Commercialization team, Carla supports several Project Managers in the management of their patent portfolios. Specifically, she handles patent docketing and event monitoring, license maintenance, financial review, government and private foundation compliance reporting, grant closeouts, as well as other intellectual property administrative matters. Carla plays a key role in organizing TCL events and has been a member of several teams assembled to implement office-wide initiatives.

Prior to joining the Technology Commercialization team, Carla spent several years in the banking industry and has also worked with the International Association of Assessing Officers (IIAO) in its Property Appraisal and Assessment Administration department, handling high volume inquiries, tracking progress and serving as liaison for different committees.

Carla has a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration. She is currently pursuing her Paralegal Certificate. She is a Chicagoan, born and raised in the Bronzeville neighborhood on the South Side of the city.

Brittany Butler, PhD
Brittany Butler, PhD

Brittany Butler, PhD

Associate Manager, Technology Commercialization

5113 S Harper Avenue, Suite 2C
Chicago, IL 60615

bbutler6@uchicago.edu

Brittany Butler, PhD, is an Associate Manager on the Polsky Center’s Technology Commercialization team at the University of Chicago. Brittany works directly with University researchers to evaluate, protect, market, and license technologies in the life sciences.

Prior to joining the University of Chicago, Brittany was a Patent Agent at McDonnell Boehnen Hulbert & Berghoff LLP, an intellectual property boutique law firm in downtown Chicago. She received a dual Bachelor’s degree in Biological Sciences and Chemistry from the University of Missouri-Kansas City. In 2015 she received her PhD in Neuroscience from the University of Florida where she published three first-author papers. She later obtained a MS in Patent Law from the University of Notre Dame where she also interned in their Technology Transfer Office. Brittany is a STEM volunteer with iBio Institute’s Stellar Girls program. She enjoys cooking and traveling.

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