Speakers 2016

Our Speakers

amp-official-pixAurelia Pucinski

Judge Aurelia Pucinski was elected to the Illinois Appellate Court 1st District in 2010.

She served as a circuit court judge in Cook County from 2004 to 2010.

As a trial judge she heard more than 10,000 domestic violence cases, followed by an assignment to hear adoption, mental health, property tax and election cases.

She is particularly interested in the law as it affects senior citizens and the disabled and created the program to provide extra services to senior citizen victims of abuse.

She served as Clerk of the Court from 1988 to 2000 where two of her major accomplishments were getting child support checks processed in record time and computerizing courtrooms.

She started practicing law in 1976 in a neighborhood law office where she developed a reputation for pro bono work, including representing citizens who sued the Chicago Board of Education to keep a local school open, a case she won in the Appellate Court.

A native Chicagoan, Judge Pucinski is a graduate of DePaul College of Law.

erika-wozniakErika Wozniak

Erika Wozniak has been a Chicago Public School teacher since her graduation from DePaul University in 2004.

Wozniak was chosen as the American Federation of Teachers “Everyday Hero” Award winner this year, a national teaching award that is given out every two years to honor outstanding teachers throughout our country.

Wozniak co-hosts The Girl Talk with Jen Sabella at The Hideout which features Chicago women who are doing amazing things in Chicago. She also proudly serves on the Chicago Votes board of directors as the Action Fund’s president.

She sits on the State Educator and Preparation Licensure Board for the Illinois State Board of Education.

She has been a fierce advocate for fair funding and education equality for all students in Chicago and a dedicated public servant for the past twelve years.

She is firm believer in quality public education for public good.

Wozniak currently resides in Uptown with her husband, Brian.

monika-nalepaMonika Nalepa

Monika Nalepa is an Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Chicago, where she teaches a wide range of courses in Comparative Politics, Post-Soviet Europe and Formal Theory.

Her research interests span transitional justice, the study of comparative institutions such as legislatures, political organizations such as parties, and most recently authoritarian legacies.

She published published Skeletons in the Closet, Transitional Justice in the PostCommunist World with Cambridge University Press. This book received the Leon D. Epstein Award from the Political Organizations and Parties section of the APSA in 2012. It was also awarded the Best Book award by the Comparative Democratization section APSA in 2011.

Currently she is finishing a book with Royce Carroll (University of Essex) on the emergence of programmatic parties in PostCommunist Europe. The book focuses on the development of parties in the legislative arena, using the wealth of data on legislative voting that has become available since these countries transitioned from Communism in the late 80s and early 90s. She is also working on a series of papers with Grigore Pop-Eleches (Princeton University) on the dynamics shaping anti-authoritarian attitudes in Poland prior to 1989.

Before arriving in the US, Monika Nalepa was awarded her MA in Międzywydziałowe Studia Humanistyczne from the University of Warsaw. During her MA studies she published a number of articles in Polish, including in such periodicals as Studia Humanistyczne and Przegląd Filozoficzny.

diann-k-marsalekDiann K. Marsalek

Diann K. Marsalek’s educational background includes a JD from Northern Illinois University College of Law-1989; MA DePaul University-Sociology 1986; BA DePaul University-Political Science 1983 and Immaculata High School-Diploma 1979

Diann K. Marsalek is a Judge of the Circuit Court of Cook County and has held this position since 2011. She is the Supervising Judge of the First Municipal Traffic Court located in the Daley Center. She previously worked at the following positions: Illinois Secretary of State as a Legal Advisor, Office of the Illinois Attorney General, Assistant Attorney General-Policy Division, Illinois Department of Corrections- Chief Legal Counsel, Office of the Illinois Attorney General, Assistant Attorney General-General Law Division and Clerk of the Circuit Court of Cook County-Deputy Courtroom Clerk.

She is a member of the following Associations: Chicago Bar Association, Woman’s Bar Association, Advocate’s Society of Polish Lawyers, Board of Directors for the Justinian Society of Italian Lawyers, Polish Museum and the Polish American Police.

She received the following awards: Person of the Year from the Polish American Police Association, Person of the Year from the Chicago Society of Polish Businessmen, Alumnae of the Year-NIU College of Law 2004, Winner Best Brief Moot Court 1988, Winner Best Oral Advocate Moot Court 1988 and Winning Team Moot Court 1988

Diann Marsalek is active in numerous neighborhood community activities including working on local schools, parks and neighborhood safety.

karla-knorowskiCarla Knorowski

Carla Knorowski, Ph.D., is Chief Executive Officer of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library Foundation. Previously, she served as Executive Director of the Northeastern Illinois University Foundation and Vice President of Institutional Advancement also at Northeastern Illinois University. Also, she has served as a Managing Director of the Chicago Humanities Festival and has held many leadership positions at the University of Illinois at Chicago, where she developed and advanced many collaborative relationships with institutions in Poland and Polonia.

In 2013, she was selected as an Outstanding Pole Abroad by the Pangea Alliance. In 2012, she was selected presenter of the Lincoln Leadership Prize to Nobel Peace Prize recipient and former President of Poland Lech Walesa.

She is the editor of and a contributor to the top selling, Gettysburg Replies: The World Responds to Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address (Lyons Press, 2015). Also, she conceived and co-curated The Power of Words (2013), an exhibit at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum that commemorated the 150th Anniversary of the Gettysburg Address.

A writer, her work appears in Lincoln: An Intimate Portrait (Life Books, 2014) and in Under Lincoln’s Hat: 100 Objects that Tell the Story of His Life and Legacy (Lyons Press, 2016). The Points of Light Foundation, founded by President George H. W. Bush, named her a Daily Point of Light for her work and commitment to civic engagement and active and purposeful citizenship.

Dr. Knorowski serves as a Regional Director of the Naval War College Foundation Board of Directors and a board member of the Society of Midland Authors. She also is a member of the Economic Club of Chicago and the University Club of Chicago and received her Ph.D. in public policy from the University of Illinois at Chicago in 2000.

She resides in Chicago.

maureen-c-pikarskiMaureen C. Pikarski

Maureen C. Pikarski, is a partner in the law firm of Gordon & Pikarski.

Ms. Pikarski’s practice focuses on commercial and industrial property tax reductions. She is experienced in managing real estate tax appeals at all levels of the appeals process and advising clients as to the best methods of appealing their cases.

Ms. Pikarski is Co-Chair of the Democratic National Committee’s National Democratic Ethnic Coordinating Council (NDECC) and Co-Chair of its Women’s Committee.

Prior to her NDECC appointment, Ms. Pikarski served in President William J. Clinton’s White House Office of Public Liaison. In that capacity she was a liaison for the White House in their outreach to national ethnic constituencies. Ms. Pikarski also worked for Vice President Al Gore, serving on his National Performance Review Committee. Ms. Pikarski began her community and political involvement with former Congressman Dan Rostenkowski (D-IL), when she worked on the House Ways and Means Committee, Health Subcommittee. Later, she was appointed by Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley to serve on his 21st Century Leadership Council.

Ms. Pikarski received her B.A. from Bryn Mawr College, her M.A. from Villanova University, and her J.D. from the Catholic University of America’s Columbus School of Law. Ms.

Pikarski is past President of the Chicago Advocates Society and is a board member of the Illinois Business Immigration Coalition. She is a member of the Women’s Bar Association of Illinois and the Illinois Bar Association, where she was elected by her peers to serve on its General Assembly. She is also on the board of the Chicago Sister Cities Warsaw Committee.

She, her husband Kris Murphy, and their children currently reside on the northwest side Chicago.

mirowskaLucja Mirowska-Kopec

Dr. Lucja Mirowska-Kopec is an effective leader with 34 years of experience in education. Since 1992, she has been employed at the Chicago public elementary and high schools. She has performed 26 years in a number of leadership positions, utilizing expertise and interpersonal skills along with current research, to empower and motivate students, parents, and teachers to build a community of learners.

She is a focused planner and forward thinker, who is able to identify objectives and achieve results within the school and beyond. As a result oriented individual, who is enthusiastic and dedicated to the educational field she has always been striving for high level of student achievement. Her strong organizational and exceptional team building skills as evidenced by the ability to implement and monitor projects and programs foster positive school climate and reach all students’ needs.

During her tenure at Chicago Public Schools and prior, Dr. Mirowska-Kopec was able to develop leadership skills through education and practice. She has graduated with M.A. in German Philology from the University of Wroclaw, M. A. in Urban Teaching at Columbia College in Chicago, M. A. at the Northeastern Illinois University in Educational Leadership, and a doctorate from the Nova Southeastern University in Educational Leadership. In her professional work, she haspracticed leadership skills in many capacities: team leader, department chair, bilingual lead teacher, assistant principal and, for the last ten years, principal.

Outside of her professional responsibilities, Lucja Mirowska-Kopechas been involved in many Polish organizations where she serves in leadership positions as well as volunteers. She is involved in the Alliance of Polish Clubs, May 3rd Constitution Day Parade Committee, Council of Educators in Polonia, Legion of Young Polish Woman, St. Francis Borgia Parish Pastoral Council, Ella Flagg Young, Delta Kappa Gamma Society International, and many more. For her dedication to the Polish Community she was awarded with the highest awards by the President of Poland and the Polish National Department of Education. She has received awards form the Mayor of Chicago, Chicago Public Schools, and from the Northeastern Illinois Alumni Organization, to name a few.

prusek-dorothyDorothy Prusek M.D

Born in Chicago Illinois.

Undergraduate – University of Illinois Chicago.

Graduate school – Medical Academy of Gdansk in Poland.

Residency training – Ravenswood Hospital Internal Medicine.

Private practice in internal medicine in Elmhurst area. On staff at elmhurst memorial hospital for 25 years.

Special interests in women’s health, diabetes, thyroid disease, allergy and asthma.

Lucyna MigalaLucyna Migala

Lucyna Migala is a broadcast journalist, impresario, arts administrator and Polish-American cultural activist well known in the Chicago area.

Born in Krakow, Poland, she came to America as a young child with her family. Her parents, Joseph and Slawa Migala became very active in Polish-American community affairs as well as prominent in Polish-language broadcasting.

Ms. Migala holds a degree in journalism from Northwestern University and was a fellow at the Washington Journalism Center in the nation’s capital. She spent 13 years as a writer, reporter and producer for NBC News – based in Chicago, Cleveland and Washington, DC – and covered news events around the US and in Poland. She resigned from NBC to help create WCEV/1450am, one of Chicagoland’s major multi-ethnic radio stations, along with other members of her family. Ms. Migala serves as vice president and program director in a part-time capacity, but is still heard on the air in WCEV ethnic reports and public affairs programming.

Ms. Migala is co-founder, artistic director and general manager of the Lira Ensemble, the nation’s only professional performing arts company specializing in Polish music, song and dance. She,sang as a soprano with the Lira Singers for more than 25 years and is now Lira’s very popular concert narrator, in addition to producing Lira concerts. The company, which includes the Lira Symphony as well as dancers and singers, regularly performs around the Midwest and has made six concert tours of Poland. The Lira Ensemble is artist-in-residence at Loyola University Chicago.

Active in the Polish-American community since her college days, Ms. Migala has served on the national board of the Polish Women’s Alliance of America, as a board member of the Polish American Leadership Initiative, and as co-founder and officer of the Chicago Chapter of the Kosciuszko Foundation. She founded the chapter’s Chicago Chopin Competition. In addition, Ms. Migala has served on the board of the Illinois Humanities Council and the Illinois Arts Alliance, was a founding member of the Ethnic and Folk Panel of the Illinois Arts Council, and served on many arts panels for the City of Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs, now known as the Department of Cultural Affairs & Special Events. She has participated in many inter-ethnic groups, such as the Illinois Ethnic Coalition, Chicago’s Polish-Jewish Dialogue, and Chicago’s Catholic-Jewish Dialogue.

She has produced and narrated hundreds of concerts in theaters, concert halls, churches and synagogues. In 1989, in cooperation with Carlos Tortolero of the then Mexican Fine Arts Center Museum (now the National Museum of Mexican Art), she initiated a series of innovative Mexican-Polish concerts which continues until today and which inspired an equally successful series of African-American/Polish-American concerts. In 2007, the National Museum of Mexican Art presented her with its Sor Juana Award in recognition of her inter-ethnic initiatives.
In 1995, she was chosen as one of the Most Important 100 Women in Chicago History. Most recently, in 2015, Ms. Migala was named an “Outstanding Pole Outside Poland.” She was eligi-ble because she was born in Krakow, Poland.

In private life, Lucyna Migala is the recent widow of Frank A. Cizon, Ph.D., professor emeritus of sociology at Loyola University Chicago, Indiana University and the University of Chicago, and former CEO of Talman Home Federal Savings.