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  • Writer's pictureNASW-IL Staff

2019 NASW-Illinois Chapter Election Results

Congratulations to the newest members of the NASW-Illinois Chapter Board of Directors! All new board members will begin their term on July 1, 2019. Thank you to all of those who participated in this year’s election!


VICE-PRESIDENT (Two-year term

Kenna Dunlap Johnson (MBA, University of St. Francis; MSW, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; LCSW) has worked since 2011 as director of behavioral health for Gibson Area Hospital and Health Services in east central Illinois. In addition, she teaches undergraduate and graduate level social work courses for the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Kenna has a long history of working in inpatient and outpatient psychiatric care, primarily with children, adolescents, and older adults. Kenna has served on the NASW-Illinois Chapter Board of Directors as East Central District Chair for two terms and was recently appointed as chair of the Social Work Workforce Development Initiative. In addition she serves as school board member for the Blue Ridge District 18 Board of Education. Kenna has a passion for leadership in the field of healthcare. She oversees a team of multiple clinicians and support staff. Her interests include geriatric behavioral health, telehealth, and integrated behavioral health in primary care.

MEMBER AT-LARGE (Two-year term)

Kristin Rubbelke (MSW, Loyola University Chicago; LSW) relocated to Illinois for graduate school and received a dual degree from Loyola University in social work and social justice. During her time at Loyola, she interned with the NASW-Illinois Chapter where she developed her interest in policy and politics. Kristin works full-time as lobbyist for a lobbying firm based in Chicago and holds the position of NASW-Illinois Chapter Political Action Committee Chair. She has years of experience as a hospital social worker and over ten years of experience working with people with disabilities. Her North Dakota roots and experience in the city of Chicago have given her the ability to understand the needs of both rural and urban areas. Her experience as a lobbyist also gives her a unique perspective on issues within the state of Illinois that may affect the profession. Kristin is an active advocate for democratic candidates. She holds the position of precinct captain in her ward organization and has canvased for many democratic candidates, including social workers.


Jennifer Plakut (MSW Student, University of Illinois at Chicago) is a first-year student in the master’s in social work program at the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Social Work program. Jennifer is enrolled in the part-time program and works full-time as director of development for the University of Illinois College of Medicine. Jennifer has spent most of her professional career and the past seventeen years working with not-for-profits and higher education institutions. She is a results-oriented professional and has a demonstrated ability and effectiveness in soliciting individual and major donors, managing relationships with corporate and foundation donors, building strategic partnerships with diverse internal and external constituent groups, assisting in the production of large and small scale fundraising events, and the implementation and management of eCRM systems and methodology. She has used her skill set in a volunteer capacity as well with several local not-for-profits that work with immigrant communities and homeless youth populations, providing counsel and guidance to these organizations to help drive mission objectives and strategies. Jenna is pursuing an MSW with a mental health concentration and a certificate in evidence-based mental health practice with children. She inspires to become an LCSW and work providing mental health services to families and at-risk children, having special interest in the LGBTQ communities.


Thomas Bates (BSW Student, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign) is interested in poverty, homelessness, community organizing, and legislative advocacy. He has provided case management in mental health and community agencies, and served as editor for UIUC’s Journal of Undergraduate Social Work Research.


Mary E. Garrison (MSW, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; LCSW; ACSW) is professor of social work at Millikin University, a licensed clinical social worker, and consultant with over 20 years of practice in mental health services, policy, and advocacy. Mary provides professional workshops, presentations, and trainings both domestically and internationally regarding ethics, cultural competence, homelessness, and mental health. Mary provides clinical supervision to MSW providers seeking licensure and is actively engaged in their professional development. Mary is active in addressing policy related to professional social work and areas of practice including mental health, homelessness, and poverty. Mary currently serves as representative for the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) Delegate Assembly, is a NASW-Illinois Chapter Ethics Committee member, a member of the governing board for the Macon County Continuum of Care, and serves as the Point-In-Time Homeless Count Coordinator for Macon County. Mary is currently a board member and leadership council member of Kennedy Forum Illinois, a board member for the Good Samaritan Inn and the Youth Advocate Program of Decatur. Mary advocates passionately and fights for social justice for individuals facing issues regarding mental health, poverty, and homelessness. Mary is past recipient of the NASW-Illinois Chapter Social Worker of the Year Award, the Cesar Chavez Social Justice Award (two times), Student Development Partnership Award, and the first ever recipient of the Macon County Continuum of Care Advocate of the Year Award. Mary has published a co-authored book titled, Your Playbook for Beating Depression: Essential Strategies for Managing and Living with Depression.


Lynn Zakeri (MSW, University of Illinois at Chicago; LCSW) began her career as a foster family worker for the city's hardest to place children. During her MSW schooling, she interned at both Cook County Hospital and a school. She was then hired as case manager at Chicago Public Schools where she brought her school into compliance for the first time. She continued her career as school social worker for ten years (six of those spent as lead school social worker) in Evanston while beginning her private practice. Her private practice continued to grow, and Lynn developed expertise in motivational interviewing, trauma, addictions, personality disorders, ED, anxiety, and depression. She never tires of finding resources for those in need. She has led several groups (social skills, transition to college, and Brené Brown's Daring Way and Rising Strong), and has been featured in numerous online and paper publications. She continues to look for ways to impact others and add to her own professional knowledge. Her recent term as Northeastern District Chair brought in several CEU events and a feeling of community amongst some of the regular attendees. Lynn thinks this role would continue to provide her with the opportunity to advocate for our district to bring in new relevant speakers as well as be a communicative liaison between the NASW-Illinois Chapter Board of Directors and the northeastern Chicago district.


Diana Alejandro (MSW, Dominican University; LCSW; CDWF) has been working in community mental health for over twelve years as both clinician and supervisor. She began her career in Los Angeles working with children and adolescents who experienced trauma. Diana is also a veteran and spent time helping homeless veterans through the VASH Program within the Veteran’s Administration. Committed to helping others, Diana returned to Illinois and became a registry clinician at Riveredge Hospital working with adolescents and adults in an in-patient setting. She also became a board member of NAMI – Metro Suburban, advocating to help break the stigma surrounding mental health. Her passion for the field of mental health also led her to become a Certified Daring Way™ Facilitator (CDWF) based on The Daring Way™ curriculum by Dr. Brené Brown which explores the topics of vulnerability, courage, shame, and worthiness. She currently has a private practice in Oak Park providing services in both English and Spanish.


Laura Kessel (MSW, Washington University in St. Louis) currently works for Southern Illinois University (SIU) School of Medicine providing outreach to twenty counties in western Illinois. In her role with SIU, her responsibilities include partnering with local stakeholders in order to address community health issues, supporting the associate provost of external relations in regional health efforts, and supporting the interdepartmental efforts that expand the school's programs in population health and regional services. In addition to her role with SIU, Laura is involved in her community and was recently elected to continue serving on the Fulton County Board. In her county board role, Laura serves on the finance and insurance committee, executive committee, and is chair of the health committee. She previously worked at the Illinois State Board of Education for Illinois Lt. Governor Sheila Simon and as a community organizer in southern Illinois.

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