Advisory Board

The Playworks Illinois Advisory Board is a group of change-makers who believe in the power of play and are active ambassadors for Playworks. These playful professionals contribute their personal time to share the mission of Playworks: to improve the health and well-being of children by increasing opportunities for physical activity and safe, meaningful play.


Justin Phillips, Chair

Senior Program Manager
Google Cloud

Justin manages Professional Services for Google Cloud Operations focusing on enabling enterprise customers to meet their computing needs with Google Cloud solutions.  Justin has been an advocate for the relationship between Google and Playworks hosting many events on Google campus and even leading the Google kickball team to victory (2 years in a row!).

Justin has a Mechanical Engineering degree from the University of Michigan and an MBA from Villanova University. In his spare time, Justin can be found hiking, woodworking, cooking, and being a human jungle gym for his 2 sons (3y and 6mo).


Mir Ali, Vice Chair

Senior Associate
Schiff Hardin, LLP

Mir Ali is an Associate with the law firm of Schiff Hardin, LLP in Chicago, focusing his practice on general litigation. He earned his law degree from University of Michigan Law School where he was an associate editor for the Journal of Law Reform and worked for the University of Michigan Child Advocacy Law Clinic. Prior to his law career, he served for seven years in the United States Army as an infantry officer and Special Forces Detachment Commander. He is a founding member of Team Red White & Blue, an organization that helps veterans connect to their communities through different physical and social activities. Mir and his wife, Huma, are proud parents of their baby daughter, Yasmeen. Mir is excited to join Playworks and be part of an organization that improves children’s lives both in and out of the classroom and promotes their physical and mental health.


Chris Renn, Chair Emeritus

SVP of  Strategic Communication Solutions
RR Donnelly

As Senior Vice President of Strategic Communication Solutions, Chris leads business development and consulting services efforts to architect communications management and supply chain management solutions for the Fortune 1000.  Prior to his professional career, he graduated from Ball State University and earned an MBA from the University of Notre Dame. Chris has been involved in several non-profit activities including President of the Lexington Musical Theatre and many governance roles at the Union League Club of Chicago.  He learned the importance of structured play through involvement in numerous high school athletics, the YMCA and coaching youth basketball. Today he enjoys intramural sports, squash, a variety of outdoor activities and is a dedicated supporter of the arts. He believes fully that children need the opportunity to develop all aspects of their lives to become well-rounded adults and is excited to join an organization that shares these beliefs by focusing on healthy fair play.


Deneen Akture

Chief Marketing and Communications Officer

Deneen has more than 25 years of experience encompassing brand, marketing, lead generation and corporate communications.  As Chief Marketing and Communications Officer for BDO USA, LLP she is responsible for the firm’s brand and marketing strategy, go-to-market programs, and internal communications. She also represents BDO USA on the International Brand and Marketing Committee of the BDO global network.


Chris Glad

Houlihan Lokey

Chris grew up in northwest Indiana with Chicago as his backdrop and immersion into cultures and arts. He attended Indiana University, studying accounting and finance, and has been living in downtown Chicago for the past 15 years. Chris and his wife currently live in Roscoe Village with their two daughters and Airedale Terrier and plan to raise their children in the city where they can have opportunity for the best in world arts, museums, and diversity. You can usually find them at a park, zoo, or conservatory on the weekends.

Professionally, Chris is a CPA and director at Houlihan Lokey, an international investment bank, and focus on corporate valuations for regulatory reporting and compliance. He has been with Houlihan Lokey for the past 10 years, starting his career at KPMG’s M&A group before a short stint in private equity.


Joel Graves

Senior Manager
West Monroe Partners

Joel is a Senior Manager within the Financial Services Practice at West Monroe Partners. He has a decade of experience helping banks navigate complex changes to improve performance, create a competitive advantage, and grow profitably. Joel earned an MBA from DePaul University in Chicago and an undergraduate degree from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. He is a CFA charter holder.

Joel believes there is no greater cause than investing in the future of our children, which is consistent with the mission of Playworks.

He lives with his wife Karen and their two young children. In his free time, he enjoys spending time with his family, reading, golfing, and playing the guitar and piano.


Naufal Khan

McKinsey & Company

Naufal Khan is a Partner in the Chicago office of McKinsey & Company. He serves leading organizations across a wide range of industries including retail, transportation & logistics, financial services, and the public sector. Naufal also leads McKinsey’s IT Strategy & Organization practice, and in that capacity, advises senior management and executives on a broad set of strategy, technology, and operations topics. Prior to McKinsey, Naufal launched and scaled a software start-up, and held other senior leadership roles in R&D, engineering, and operations.

Naufal has a B.S in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science from University of California, Berkeley, and an M.B.A from Northwestern University. Naufal lives in the western suburbs of Chicago and has four children. With two boys in elementary school, he understands and is inspired by Playworks’ mission of using healthy, inclusive play at school for a greatly enhanced learning experience that develops leadership, conflict-resolution, and social and emotional skills.


Matt Loria

Director of Sales Development

Matt Loria is a Director of Sales Development at Salesforce, responsible for developing sales talent for a successful career in tech sales.  In being a part of an organization that champions the 1:1:1 model, philanthropic work has been at the forefront of his career and only heightened since joining Salesforce & Playworks.

Loyola of Chicago’s MBA program brought Matt to Chicago where he has resided for approximately the last 10 years.  Throughout that time, he has held senior sales leadership positions at Groupon, VividSeats, and Salesforce. He’s a strong advocate for being a community champion for where your passion lies and that corporate responsibility must intersect with community involvement to make a difference.  Having 2 kids has brought him closer to to the vision of Playworks, making him a passionate advocate in his professional network.


Adam Parrott-Sheffer

Senior Director of School Leadership
New Teacher Center

Adam Parrott-Sheffer is a Senior Advisor of School Leadership for the New Teacher Center and a doctoral candidate at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Under the name “Mr. P,” Parrott-Sheffer was a Chicago Public Schools principal at Mary Gage Peterson School, one of Playworks’ three initial sites in Chicago. Parrott-Sheffer’s passion for the power of play to enhance school culture and expand learning was further strengthened through his experiences partnering with Playworks from 2011 to 2014. In 2013, his commitment to play and student leadership was recognized nationally when he received Playworks’ Most Valuable Principal Award.

Parrott-Sheffer is a strong advocate of social emotional learning and the complementary role organizations such as Playworks can have in youth development. He has spoken and written on the positive impact supporting student emotional development can have on each child’s overall success.

Parrott-Sheffer holds an M.S.Ed. in School Leadership from the Harvard Graduate School of Education—where he also serves on the advisory board of the Principal’s Center; a M.S.Ed. in Education Policy from the University of Pennsylvania; and a B.A. in Humanities from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. He and his wife, Chelsey, can usually be found chasing after their two boys near their home in Hyde Park.


Illinois Emeritus Board

Playworks Illinois has been running programs across the region for the last 8 years. Our organization has benefited tremendously from the efforts of former board members. Today these individuals still provide support and advice as members of the Emeritus Board.


Emma Adam

Professor of Human Development and Social Policy
Institute for Policy Research at Northwestern University




Beth Birnbaum

Vice President of Product




Bess Cummings

Chief Information Officer




Greg Healy

SVP & Chief Product Officer
Encyclopedia Britannica




Steve Tennessen

Senior Manager, Talent Acquisition 




Manika M. Turnbull, PhD

Chief Diversity Officer
Health Care Service Corporation


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