Chicago skyline

Change Can’t Wait Chicago

Thank You, Chicago

On September 21, 2023, American University and AU President Sylvia M. Burwell hosted an evening of connection and conversation with our community of changemakers in Chicago to experience Change Can't Wait: The Campaign for American University.

About the Speakers

Learn more about our distinguished guests below.

AU Student Government President

Edwin Santos, from Northern Virginia, is a first-generation Salvadoran majoring in Legal Studies within the Politics, Policy & Law Scholars Program at American University. He is also in the Community-Based Research Scholars Program and the School of Public Affairs Combined Program concurrently seeking a Master of Public Administration. He is on track to graduate with his BA in 2024 and his MPA in 2025, completing both in just four years.

On campus, he co-founded Latinos En Acción, which is a chapter of United We Dream—the largest immigrant youth network. Off-campus, he has involved himself with different organizations centered around immigration, such as CAIR Coalition and KIND. He also has experience in state and federal government. 

Edwin has been selected to be part of nationally competitive programs, such as the Voyager Scholarship, the Henry Clay College Student Congress, and the PPIA Junior Summer Institute at UC Berkeley. He is also the recipient of numerous awards/recognitions for his dedication to social justice and public service.

Last April, he was elected American University’s Student Body President—the first-ever Latino to serve in this role! After graduating from AU, he plans to attend law school to become an attorney and support low-income families at the intersection of criminal and immigration law. Years later, he hopes to serve his community as an elected person in the legislature to create inclusive and representative policies.

President, American University 

Sylvia Burwell is AU's 15th president and the first woman to serve as president.  

Under her leadership, American University became the first carbon-neutral university in the United States and the first to launch an Antiracist Research and Policy Center.  

President Burwell has helped AU become a leading student-centered research university, more than doubling research funding from external organizations and helping to build a growing community of changemakers who are bold leaders, engaged scholars, innovators, and active citizens.  

She led the university through a historic pandemic, keeping the focus on our community of care. She also led the creation of AU’s comprehensive strategy, Changemakers for a Changing World, and launched the $500 million Change Can’t Wait campaign and the award-winning Plan for Inclusive Excellence to ensure all AU students thrive and reach their full potential.   

Before coming to AU, President Burwell held two Cabinet positions in the US government. She served as the Secretary of Health and Human Services and the Director of the Office of Management and Budget. She also held leadership positions at two of the largest foundations in the world – serving 11 years at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Walmart Foundation.  

President Burwell is the mother of two teenagers and hails from Hinton, West Virginia. 

Read her full biography here.  

Acting Provost and Chief Academic Officer
Professor, School of Public Affairs

Vicky M. Wilkins is acting provost and chief academic officer at American University and professor of public administration and policy. Before assuming this role, she served as the dean of the School of Public Affairs (SPA), overseeing its academic, administrative, and financial functions. During her tenure as dean, Dr. Wilkins demonstrated exceptional leadership, fostering growth and engagement within SPA and the wider community.

Under Dr. Wilkins' guidance, SPA experienced remarkable growth in undergraduate and graduate enrollments. She also implemented structures to effectively disseminate research to a broad audience, both within and outside academia. Driven by her commitment to innovation, she enhanced SPA's educational portfolio, introducing programs like the SPA Analytical & Management Institute, the Public Affairs Policy Lab, the Peace & Violence Research Lab, and the "Battleground" courses. These initiatives provided students with cutting-edge knowledge and practical experiences.

Dr. Wilkins' efforts extended beyond academic programs to create a supportive and engaging environment for students. Through initiatives such as Late-Night Breakfast, Thanksgiving Dinner, Pizza with Professors, Jumpstart, and the Policy Hackathon, she fostered a vibrant community where students could thrive.

Dr. Wilkins' research focuses on various aspects of public administration and policy, with particular emphasis on representative bureaucracy, bureaucratic discretion, gender and race issues, deservingness, political institutions, and human resource management. Her groundbreaking work in the field of women, minorities, and policy outcomes has significantly influenced the discipline of public administration and serves as a valuable resource for policy makers. Her research contributions have been featured in renowned scholarly journals, including the American Political Science Review, Public Administration Review, Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory, Governance, Review of Public Personnel Administration, Administration & Society, Policy Studies Journal, and Legislative Studies Quarterly. 

Dr. Wilkins has developed and taught courses in human resource management, public management, policy implementation, political institutions, and women and politics. She has served on or chaired the dissertation committees of more than 20 Ph.D. students, in addition to advising master’s students and mentoring undergraduate students pursuing research projects. She has been recognized with several teaching awards.  

Dr. Wilkins' academic journey began as a first-generation student at Northern Michigan University, where she earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Political Science and History. She then pursued a Master of Science degree in Human Resource Management from Chapman University. Driven by her passion for political systems, she obtained a Ph.D. in Political Science from the University of Missouri. 

Outside of her academic pursuits, Dr. Wilkins is dedicated to her family. She is married to Chris Wilkins, and they have a daughter named Elizabeth Wilkins. Additionally, she is a proud rescue dog mom to Gitche.

Kogod Endowed Chair in Marketing, Kogod School of Business

Sonya A. Grier is a Professor of Marketing at the Kogod School of Business at American University. Her expertise spans issues of race, diversity, and equity in a variety of market domains at the intersection of business and society. A particular focus has been the impact of marketing practices on health disparities.  

Dr. Grier builds on her expertise to identify how inclusive marketing practices can enhance individual, community and societal well-being. She shares her research in academic journals as well as through photographic narratives and two award-winning documentary films

At American University, she teaches courses on “Marketing for Social Change” and “Race in the Marketplace” to graduate and undergraduate students and has also taught high school students, corporate executives, and non-profit leaders. She is a co-founder of the Race in the Marketplace (RIM) Research Network which works to advance our understanding of the role of race across diverse markets.

She received her Ph.D. in Marketing, from Northwestern University, where she also received her MBA and undergraduate degree. She is originally from Detroit, Michigan. Sonya loves learning and always strives to contribute to making the world a better place. 

Co-Chair, Chicago AU Alumni Chapter

Kim Quillen has been business editor of the Chicago Tribune since 2016. Earlier in her career, Kim held editing positions at The Arizona Republic and at The (New Orleans) Times-Picayune, where she was involved in that newspaper's Pulitzer Prize-winning coverage of Hurricane Katrina. Kim is past president of the Society for Advancing Business Editing and Writing, a national business journalism organization.

Anne Caprara has managed and consulted with Democratic Party candidates and elected officials at every level of state and federal government. She currently serves as the chief of staff for Illinois governor, JB Pritzker.

Caprara led the governor’s office during the historic 2019 Illinois legislative session, during which the governor passed a balanced state budget, landmark reproductive rights legislation, legalized recreational marijuana, implemented a multibillion-dollar infrastructure plan, and raised the state’s minimum wage to $15 an hour.

Caprara also oversaw the COVID-19 response effort for the entire state of Illinois, including testing capacity, personal protective equipment acquisition, and working with the Illinois National Guard to develop a vaccination distribution system for the state’s 13 million residents.

Prior to serving as Pritzker’s chief of staff, Caprara was the campaign manager for his successful gubernatorial campaign. Before that, she served as the executive director for Priorities USA Action, the main super PAC supporting Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign.

In 2014, Caprara was political director for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC), helping to oversee Senate races in 33 states. In 2011 and 2012, she served as the DSCC’s deputy political director.

In 2008, Caprara managed Betsy Markey’s successful campaign against a three-term Republican congresswoman in Colorado’s Fourth Congressional District. She subsequently served as Markey’s chief of staff from 2008 until 2010. Caprara also served as chief of staff for Ohio congresswoman Betty Sutton and as deputy research director at EMILY’s List.

Caprara holds a master’s degree from George Washington University. She continues to teach applied politics at both of her alma maters and has served as a program coordinator for American University’s Campaign Management Institute for more than a decade. She has been selected for several professional honors, including Politico Playbook’s Power List in 2019 and being selected as one of the 50 Most Powerful Women in Chicago by Chicago magazine in 2020.

A Philadelphia native, Caprara is an avid surfer and a tried and true Eagles fan.