Dr. Kashif Ahmad
Dr. Ahmad is a founding faculty and professor at Carle Illinois College of Medicine at University of Illinois Urbana Champaign. He has thirteen years of experience in higher education that includes being at a medical school, health sciences school and liberal arts college. He also has been teaching online with UC Berkeley extension for the last eight years. He is a medical doctor with a PhD from National University of Singapore, and a Masters from Kings College, London.
He has two daughters, older in college at UIUC and a younger one in 7th grade.
“I feel that Academy High can set a model that builds on compassion and intellectual curiosity, providing a curriculum that promotes critical thinking and life long learning”.
Charles Burton, Jr.
Charles Burton, Jr. is the Director of Operations/Chief Operating Officer of Don Moyer Boys and Girls Club in Champaign. Prior to joining the Boys and Girls Club, Mr. Burton served as Park Manager/Director of Douglass Park for the Champaign Park District- providing leadership for two of the most notable recreational and child service organizations in the State. Charles holds a B.S. degree in Leisure Studies and a M.S. in Recreation, Sport & Tourism from the University of Illinois.
Charles has established an exemplary career of working with children and families and has received regional and national recognition for program development and administrative achievement. His work on behalf of youth in the Champaign/Urbana community has impacted services to at risk youth, scholarship funds to minority and low-income college students, mentoring services, outreach to minority youth through scouting, and more. Charles currently serves as Co-Chair to the Program Committee Illinois Alliance of Boys & Girls Clubs and serves as a Board Member to the Illinois AfterSchool Network. Charles also serves on many national committees for Boys & Girls Clubs of America.
“Innovation is the key to sustainability. I am honored to be a part of Academy High and look forward to the great things our students will achieve!”
Jonathan Freund is Head of Aerospace Engineering at the University of Illinois, having joined Illinois as an assistant professor in 2001 upon leaving a similar position at UCLA. His university degrees are from Stanford University.
He is a father of four — two biological sons and two adopted daughters — and he is excited about the broadening education opportunities in our community afforded the student-adaptive environment of Academy High.
Bhavna Hirani works at the University of Illinois as a research development professional in the College of Engineering. Dr. Hirani holds an undergraduate degree in engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi and a PhD in Chemistry from USC, Los Angeles. She has lived in Tokyo, Japan for over 2 years where she earned a master’s degree in Polymer Chemistry from the Tokyo Institute of Technology.
Dr. Hirani is a mother of three, is active with engagement of the University with local organizations, identifies learning opportunities for both members of the University and the community, and enjoys healthy cooking for family.
“I believe in the mission of Academy High to inspire students to discover and pursue their passions. I like the existence of modules as a means to supplement the core curriculum. This allows the students to have an opportunity to learn many different applied areas that deepens their basic knowledge and helps them pursue their interests. I am happy to see the school so committed to each individual student and engaged with the community in the interest of students.”
Beth Hogan teaches 7th grade English at Campus Middle School for Girls and works as an instructional coach and consultant for The Regional Office of Education in Champaign. Ms. Hogan taught at Centennial High School and Urbana High School from 1995-2015 with one break for a return to graduate school. She is certified in both English Language Arts and TESOL. She earned her undergraduate degree from The University of Illinois in Rhetoric and Women’s Studies, her TESOL certification from The University of Illinois, and her teacher certification and M.S. Ed from ISU. She is a Great Books-trained teacher and in 2003, she became a National Board Certified Teacher. Ms. Hogan lives in Champaign with her husband and twin boys.
“I admire Academy High’s commitment to small classes, indexed tuition, nimble curriculum design, and student-centered instruction. Many teens thrive within the affiliation and attachment available at a small school. That, along with later start times, can increase the health and well-being of students during adolescence.”
Jeffrey (“Jeff”) Jones is Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer of First Busey Corporation, parent company of Busey Bank. Prior to joining First Busey Corporation, he spent nearly 20 years in investment banking, most recently as Managing Director and Co-Head of US Depository Institutions in the Chicago office of Stephens Inc. Mr. Jones resides in Champaign with his wife and two children. He received his MBA from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University and his Bachelor of Science degree with majors in Finance and Marketing from Indiana University.
“I believe Academy High’s innovative approach – a student-influenced curriculum that prioritizes collaboration and experiential, hands-on learning, engagement with the community and connection to the real world balanced with an emphasis on character and compassion – is the model of the future in exceptional education. The school sets an example by immersing students in a learning environment that marries education with preparedness, experience with development, and passion with personal growth. I am excited to play a supporting role in Academy High’s future.”
Sarah Laufenberg holds degrees in Kinesiology and Health Management and Informatics from the University of Illinois and the University of Missouri, respectively. She utilizes her leadership and project management skills and passion for educating and empowering others through her volunteer commitments in the community.
Laufenberg believes passionately in student-centered education. She believes that Independent Schools are nimble in applying evidence-based approaches to an array of learning styles. She is excited about the prospect of Academy High students conducting deep dives into areas of interest via project-based learning and internships, which fosters passion and engagement in the educational process.
Elissa Libman is an attorney who performs legal research and writing for a suburban-based firm, and she formerly practiced Labor and Employment Law for Sidley & Austin in Chicago. Ms. Libman, mother of three, is active in the community, supporting education, athletics, and charitable organizations. She holds a degree in Finance from the University of Illinois, and a law degree from Northwestern School of Law.
“I am honored to be involved with this new, forward-thinking school that helps students connect their work with the outside world. The shared commitment to character, compassion, and community is evident at all levels. The future of education is Academy High, and it is inspiring to be part of it.”
Duane Nelson is Executive Vice President of Westchester Group Investment Management, Inc. Prior to joining Westchester, Duane was Associate General Counsel in the Asset Management Law area of TIAA and general counsel for real estate investments at Citigroup Alternative Investments. He previously served on the Westport, CT Planning and Zoning Commission and Zoning Board of Appeals and the Newtown, CT School Building Committee. Duane earned a J.D. from Georgetown University Law Center and a B.A. in Economics from Yale University.
Donna Pittman is the Director of the Champaign Public Library. In addition to building partnerships over the years with educators related to library services, she has volunteered in classrooms and served as a mentor in Champaign Unit 4 School District.
“New, innovative approaches to education are of interest to me due to my work as a librarian and my efforts to help young people enjoy learning. I support Academy High’s focus on real world experience, creative thinking, and individual interests.”
Tracy Sulkin is a Professor of Political Science and Dean of the College of Media at the University of Illinois. Her research and teaching focus on American politics and political institutions, particularly the U.S. Congress. Dr. Sulkin has been a part of the Champaign-Urbana community since 2002, and is the parent of two sons, currently in kindergarten and fourth grade.
“I am excited by the work Academy High has done to establish a new and creative secondary school option. The focus on individualized education to cultivate students’ passions and interests, the commitment to experiential learning and internships that integrate them into the community and the world beyond, and the preparation for meaningful participation in an increasingly global and diverse society are innovative and timely.”