Our mission is to provide urban experiential education from a Christian perspective that equips students for integrated personal, professional and public lives.

Our Vision

Chicago Semester envisions a just, generous and hospitable world where individuals are invested deeply in place and with each other as they serve joyfully and fearlessly on their vocational journey.

Our Values

We strive to reach this vision through our mission and by living the following values:

CURIOSITY & WONDER

With a posture of curiosity and wonder we actively discover God’s continual work in the city. We marvel at the gifts we receive and gifts we contribute as we engage in life in the city.

Relationships & Partnerships

We believe in the importance of relational ways of learning and growing as urban professionals. Partnerships are life-giving and crucial for our work.

Imagination & experiential learning

We imagine possibilities for all to experience vocational flourishing through best practices in urban experiential education.

Community & Place

Anchored in community, we seek to be a dwelling place for one another as we share in the histories and realities of the city with our neighbors.

Courage & Hope

We pray for courage to challenge the injustices we see and perpetuate. We recognize, advocate for and work toward redemptive hope as we anticipate the coming of Christ.

Our History

1974

Originally called the Chicago Metropolitan Center, Chicago Semester is founded by six Christian colleges: Calvin College (MI), Central College (IA) Dordt College (IA), Hope College (MI), Northwestern College (IA), and Trinity Christian College (IL).

1992

The social work program is added to serve students from accredited BSW programs.

1994

The student teaching program is added allowing students to meet all student teaching requirements through placement in the Chicago Public Schools.

2002

The National Society for Experiential Education (NSEE) names Chicago Semester the Experiential Education Program of the Year.

2003

The nursing program is added.

2015

The Summer Program is launched.

2019

Chicago Semester celebrates its 45th anniversary.

Our Partner Schools

Our Staff

Becky Criollo, MA

Student Teaching Supervisor

Becky Criollo joined Chicago Semester as a Student Teaching Supervisor in January 2016. She is passionate about urban education and believes that a strong student teaching experience sets the foundation for a successful teaching career. She enjoys seeing the enthusiasm and excitement of the Chicago Semester student teachers.

Before starting at Chicago Semester, Becky taught kindergarten and first grade in a dual-language Chicago Public School for ten years. She has also taught high school and college students, as well as pre-service and practicing teachers. Becky has done some curriculum writing and provided professional development for teachers.

Becky lives on the northwest side with her family. She enjoys music, food, books, travel, and finding activities around the city to do with her young daughters.

Erik Nussbaum, MM

Faculty

Erik Nussbaum has taught the Arts & the City course since joining Chicago Semester in the fall of 2008.  His favorite part of teaching the class is discussing the many amazing art events they see together. He enjoys the different perspectives students bring to understanding their experience, and finds it fulfilling to witness the growth within each student as the semester progresses. Erik feels this embodies, in part, the mission of the entire program.

Born in Eureka, IL, Erik attended Knox College for his undergraduate degree and Westminster for his graduate work. He made the leap from small town to huge city when a job with the Chicago Children’s Choir led him to Chicago in 2000. Serving in several south and west side public elementary schools greatly expanded his understanding of life in the city.

When Erik isn’t teaching at Chicago Semester, you can often find him writing music for his church music ministry. He also enjoys spending time with his wife, whether making music together, playing Frisbee, watching movies or playing with their senior cat, Charlie.

312.922.3243

erik@chicagotemple.org

Hannah Kiefer

Coordinator of Internship Placements & Alumni Engagement

Hannah is excited to work with students one-on-one, providing support and mentorship as part of their internship experience. Before joining the Chicago Semester staff in January of 2018, Hannah worked as the Volunteer Services Manager at World Relief Chicago, directing the office’s 200-plus volunteer program, and equipping and training volunteers to support refugee clients.

Hannah developed her passion for working cross-culturally during her experience as a missionary in Hong Kong with LCMS International, where she taught English to local elementary students. She currently lives in the Albany Park neighborhood and spends her time outside work writing, performing, cooking and checking out different restaurants in the city.

312.922.3642

hannah.kiefer@chicagosemester.org

Jonathan Brooks, M.Div

Faculty

Jonathan Brooks joined the Chicago Semester program in 2016 as an adjunct professor for our Metropolitan Seminar: Urban Planning, Development and the Sustainable City. Pastah J, as he is affectionately called, is the senior pastor of Canaan Community Church in the West Englewood neighborhood on the south side of Chicago. He has been teaching and working with children, youth and young adults for over fifteen years. He began his career as an architect before becoming a youth pastor and an elementary and middle school art and architecture teacher. He also worked as the Chicago City Director for Mission Year, a one-year service-learning program for young people ages 18-30 whose mission is to see people fall in love with Jesus and the city and become advocates for God’s justice in our neighborhood and world.

Jonathan is excited about Chicago Semester’s desire to see students connect their vocation to their calling. The experiential learning component of CS is what drew him to the program as well as the opportunity to challenge students’ perceptions about urban life and the many incomplete narratives perpetuated about urban neighborhoods. He hopes to push students to ask hard questions about how places are created, see the everyday connections between place and purpose and the importance of actively practicing presence wherever you presently reside.

Pastah J is married with two beautiful daughters and still resides in the West Englewood neighborhood where he grew up, near the church campus.

Kelsey Brooks

Coordinator of Recruitment and Marketing

Kelsey is excited to join the Chicago Semester team and talk to students about off campus study opportunities, since she herself participated in an off campus study program while in college. Kelsey enjoys sharing her love of cities and learning experiences with others. After getting her BA in Communication Studies and Spanish at Indiana Wesleyan University, she moved back to the Chicago suburbs where she was born and raised. Before joining the Chicago Semester team, she was an Export Logistics Coordinator for a small company. 

Kelsey is passionate about education and is excited to connect with students about the opportunities that could await them in Chicago!

She currently lives in the western suburbs of Chicago and is enjoying the commuter lifestyle. In her spare time Kelsey loves eating good food, watching movies and spending time with people she loves. She is very active at her church ‘Wellspring Alliance’ in Wheaton.

312-590-9013

kelsey.brooks@chicagosemester.org

Kendra Wright, MSW, LSW

Director of the Social Work Program & Strategic Program Initiatives

Kendra enjoys supporting students as they build their careers while practicing urban values and their vocation in a city rich with culture and diversity. She joined the Chicago Semester staff in July of 2013 but initially became part of the CS family in 2010 when she participated in the program as a social work student from Trinity Christian College.

After completing the CS program, Kendra moved to the city permanently and completed her Master of Social Work degree at the University of Illinois–Chicago, concentrating in Community Health and Urban Development. Her experience in multi-cultural non-profit settings, preparing refugees and high school students for employment, equipped her for the good work here at Chicago Semester.

When Kendra isn’t collaborating with her CS colleagues and Chicagoland nonprofits, you can find her spending time with her husband, Mark, and daughter Naomi. Kendra lives in the Avondale neighborhood and attends Covenant Presbyterian Church.

312.922.3885

kendra.wright@chicagosemester.org

Lisa Hensey, PhD

Student Teaching Program Director

Lisa joined Chicago Semester in August 2005, the same month she moved to Chicago. She thoroughly enjoys working with student teachers at Chicago Semester because they are dedicated educators seeking to make a positive difference in their students’ lives.

Lisa was raised in a small central Illinois town but has traveled all around the world. Prior to coming to Chicago Semester, Lisa was a public school teacher, and taught at a small Christian college in eastern Iowa. She and her husband, along with their two children, spent 2000-2005 as ELCA missionaries in Tanzania, where Lisa served as the Education Department Chair at Tumaini Universtiy – Iringa (the country’s first private university).

After living abroad, Lisa is happy to have settled in a city that is a microcosm of the world. She currently resides in the south side Hyde Park neighborhood. When she’s not learning firsthand about social justice issues in education with her students, she enjoys spending time with her family.

312.922.6283

lisa.hensey@chicagosemester.org

Luiza Cliver, MPhil

Associate Director of Student Life and Registrar

Luiza looks forward to supporting students as they navigate the balance of professional, academic and personal life in the city of Chicago. Before joining the Chicago Semester staff in July of 2019, Luiza worked as the Assistant Director of International Student Programs at Messiah College where she supported 130+ international, MK and TCK students.

Luiza was born in Brazil and immigrated to the United States with her family when she was just a child. Having navigated American culture and spent time traveling around the world, Luiza understands what it is like to adjust to a new environment and values each individual’s story. While studying abroad to complete her Master’s, Luiza decided that she wanted to better understand grass-roots level conflict close to home. She returned to the Chicagoland to conduct her Master’s research on the food justice movement in Chicago, examining the how a lack of access to nutritious food contributes to conflict in different communities. Luiza’s research gave her a unique view of Chicago and sparked her love for the city.

Luiza and her family live in the western suburbs. She enjoys teaching spin classes, doing yoga and discovering new restaurants in her free time.

312-922-3243

luiza.cliver@chicagosemester.org

Mackenzi Huyser, PhD

Executive Director

Mackenzi has served as Executive Director of Chicago Semester since July 2014. Passionate about the program’s mission to provide experiential learning opportunities, rooted in a Christian perspective, she is constantly inspired by student and alumni stories about how the program has shaped their ideas regarding urban life and work.

Originally from western Michigan, Mackenzi is now deeply committed to living in the city and continually explores questions about what it means for Christians to engage in urban life. She is excited to lead CS as it seeks possible answers through working with students. Prior to joining the CS staff, she served as Dean for Faculty Development and Academic Programs and Professor of Social Work at Trinity Christian College’s Palos Heights campus.

Mackenzi lives in the south side Hyde Park neighborhood with her family. She enjoys spending time outdoors, visiting museums and neighborhood restaurants throughout the city, and attending LaSalle Street Church where she and her family are members.

312.922.3570

mackenzi.huyser@chicagosemester.org

Michelle McClure, DNP, FNP-BC

Nursing Program Director

Michelle decided to move from patient care into education because she believes that nurses are called to a profession and that by answering that call nurses are obedient to God. A lifelong resident of Chicago, she began teaching at Chicago Semester in fall of 2005.

She earned her BS in Nursing from Chicago State University, her MS in Nursing from Saint Xavier University’s Family Nurse Practitioner program, and a Doctorate of Nursing Practice from Loyola University New Orleans. She has extensive experience in maternal and child health, women’s primary care, primary care in the retail health setting and nursing education. Her special interests include perinatal loss, childbirth and lactation education.

Michelle currently lives on the north side of Chicago. When she is not teaching at Chicago Semester, she enjoys being actively involved in Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. She also loves taking in music in the city, going to movies and trying one of the many local restaurants with friends.

312.922.8143

michelle.mcclure@chicagosemester.org

Mikal Rasheed, PhD

Faculty

Mikal Rasheed recently joined the Chicago Semester faculty as an adjunct instructor January 2018. Following his retirement as Professor and Director of the Graduate Social Work Program at Chicago State University, Mikal was excited to have the opportunity to participate in the Chicago Semester program. What he found particularly intriguing was the program’s emphasis on applying a Christian worldview incorporating the concepts of wonder, heartbreak and hope, to city life. Challenging students to encounter the racial and ethnic diversity in Chicago as well as the overall social and political complexities of Chicago really meshed with Mikal’s professional and personal interest. Over the course of his career he has taught, written, and have given presentations in the areas of racial and ethnic diversity and racial reconciliation from the perspective of the Christian faith.

In addition to his involvement with Chicago Semester, he is an adjunct professor at the Loyola School of Social Work, and has a private practice, along with his wife, conducting individual, couple and family psychotherapy in Oak Park, IL.

Though he is retired he is still working on his “bucket list” which now includes tai chi and archery. He is also a drummer with an African Dance and Drum group. He is a member of the St. Martin Deporris Parish on Chicago’s West side and is active in establishing a new couple’s ministry. While all his five children and five grandchildren live in other parts of US, he and his wife Janice, reside in Oak Park with their two cats, Corkie and Taylor.

Rebecca Burwell, PhD

Faculty

Rebecca loves Chicago Semester because of its potential to impact students as they transition from college to the real world. She also loves engaging students in learning about, and working with, urban communities.

Born and raised in New York and Pennsylvania, Rebecca lived on both the East and West coasts before finding a happy medium in Chicago. Prior to joining Chicago Semester in the spring of 2007, Rebecca worked extensively in the social justice realm, writing her dissertation in Cuba on the negotiation of motherhood, wage-earning and civic engagement in the Cuban context. She also spent several years studying the impact of Latino churches on Chicago communities through the Center for the Study of Latino Religion at the University of Notre Dame.

She earned her MA and PhD in sociology at Loyola University Chicago, and continues to research and write about issues related to race, inequality and social justice. Rebecca currently lives on Chicago’s northwest side and counts herself extraordinarily blessed with a close family, great group of friends and faith community she loves.

312.922.3568

rebecca.burwell@chicagosemester.org

Sara (Van Gorp) Chiang

Assistant Director of Recruitment, Communications & College Relations

Sara participated in Chicago Semester during the spring of 2014 as a communications student from Northwestern College. She loves that CS provides an opportunity for students to live in a setting that challenges them to step outside their comfort zone and fully immerse themselves in everything that the city of Chicago has to offer.

Prior to joining the CS staff in June 2017, Sara was an admission counselor for Central College in Pella, IA, her hometown. While she has a special fondness for small towns, she absolutely loves living in Chicago and currently resides in the Ukrainian Village neighborhood. Sara loves being outside and anything that involves the outdoors, attending concerts, experiencing Chicago’s unique festivals and events and attending church at Park Community Church- South Loop.

312.922.3884 C: 641-780-7712

sara.chiang@chicagosemester.org

Tim Hoekstra, M.Div

Faculty

Rev. Tim Hoekstra began teaching in Chicago Semester as an adjunct faculty member in 2016. He has been an ordained minister in the Christian Reformed Church of North America for over 33 years. He continues to serve as the pastor of Sub-Urban Life Community Church in the west suburbs of Chicago, a church he founded and has served for 28 years. He and the church are deeply involved in racial justice and equity challenges in the Austin Neighborhood of Chicago. He also serves as a Chicago urban leadership coach and mentor for his denomination seeking to walk with leaders who are developing creative and diverse ministries throughout various neighborhoods in Chicago.

Tim works part-time for Team World Vision, a ministry of World Vision. He has travelled extensively in many countries in Africa on behalf of World Vision. He has run 14 straight Chicago Marathons raising money for clean water in Africa through Team World Vision. He is the author of a book of devotions entitled “Miles to Run Before We Sleep” – a book of 26 meditations toward developing a lifestyle of justice – written after he had run 50 miles on the day of the 2009 Chicago Marathon in honor of his 50th birthday. Through that run he raised over $50,000 for clean water in Africa and an urban running partnership in the Austin neighborhood.

Tim has been married to Laura for 36 years and has three children and 7 grandchildren. He loves to read in order to inspire his passion to be a life-long learner. He also loves to travel, to investigate the neighborhoods of Chicago, and go camping for refreshment and restoration. While he loves running about 4-8 miles, he begins to hate running when he has to go any further.

Questions? We’d love to hear from you.

Contact Us