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

Averie Wright

Coordinator of Recruitment & Strategic Initiatives

Averie is excited to join the Chicago Semester so that he can connect and talk with students about the wonderful opportunities they will in find the great city of Chicago. Averie is a Calvin graduate with a degree in Philosophy and Interdisciplinary Studies – though he did not take the chance to study abroad, Averie would admit that he is among the many college graduates who wish they could have taken advantage of the opportunity. Having recently moved to Chicago from Grand Rapids, Averie has loved being able to explore all the different areas of the city and has made the goal to try and visit all 77 of the official neighborhoods in Chicago.

When Averie isn’t connecting with students and sharing information about the Chicago Semester, he can be found exploring his new neighborhood in Hyde Park, taking the CTA (public transit) to find the best restaurants, coffeeshops, thrift stores, and parks in the city. Averie is looking forward to connecting further with his community here in Chicago by connecting with the local churches, community organizations and – very importantly – pick-up basketball crews. Averie is also an avid reader in a variety of topics spanning from critical literary theory or the institutionalization of psychology, all the way to surrealist fiction (and welcomes any book related conversations).

(636) 541-7911

Averie.Wright@chicagosemester.org

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

Evelyne Peterson, MA

Director of Academic Programs & Registrar

Evelyne comes to Chicago Semester after working at several liberal arts colleges throughout the Midwest. Her roles have included coaching basketball, recruiting in undergraduate admissions and working in career development. She has a B.A. in Psychology and Biblical & Theological Studies from North Park University (Chicago) and her M.A. in Educational Policy & Administration from Dakota Wesleyan University (South Dakota).

As a student-athlete in college, Evelyne never experienced an off-campus study opportunity, however, she is passionate about ensuring this opportunity is available for college students today. There is no better experience than hands-on learning in a world-class city like Chicago! She wants to ensure Chicago Semester students maximize the learning opportunities within a professional environment of interest, the classroom here at Chicago Semester and the city of Chicago.

Evelyne lives on the north side of Chicago where she enjoys running and walking, reading good books and hosting game nights when not exploring the city.

(312)922-3243

evelyne.peterson@chicagosemester.org

Frank Jones Jr.

Marketing & Communications Assistant

Frank is excited to join the Chicago Semester after recently graduating from Calvin University with a BA in Film and Media. While studying at Calvin, he discovered his love for using art to connect people from different backgrounds. He is the co-founder of OurCalvinSports, a student organization centered on the work student athletes put towards championships and social justice. During this time, he development a love for helping students and himself gain understanding about other cultures outside of their own. He hopes to continue this through his work with the Chicago Semester.

After graduating, Frank returned to the beautiful south side of Chicago where he was born and raised. He loves to relax with family members and babysit his six-month-old nephew after a great day of work. When he is not in the office, he can be found listening to music, playing basketball, or working on his personal projects.

(312) 777-5618

Frank.Jones@chicagosemester.org

Hannah Kiefer

Assistant Director of Corporate Engagement & Internships

Hannah is always excited to help students secure internships that will have a lasting impact on their careers and vocational journey, while at the same time strengthening Chicago Semester’s partnerships with companies and organizations across the city. She especially cherishes the opportunity to see students succeed, mature and grow into themselves during their time in the program.

Prior to joining the Chicago Semester staff in 2018, Hannah spent several years in the ministry and non-profit work, from serving as a missionary with LCMS International in Hong Kong to working in refugee resettlement at World Relief Chicago. She currently lives in the Rogers Park neighborhood and attends Park Community Church. She enjoys taking the red line, has two lovely cats and, when exploring some of the finer dining opportunities in the city, will always chooses anything on the menu that involves a croissant.

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 & College Relations

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

Social Work Program & Advancement Director

Kendra has always been passionate about city life and the rich history of community development and social change here in Chicago. She joined the Chicago Semester staff in July 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 their vocations, 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, her kids Naomi and Bennett, and their dog. Kendra lives in the Lincoln Square neighborhood and loves to explore parks and coffee shops.

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

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

Michael Pineda

Student Life & Operations Assistant

Michael joined the Chicago Semester in mid-2021 after having graduated from Hope College with a BA in Business Administration and a minor in Jazz Studies. During his time there, he found a strong passion for serving students through leadership capacities across campus and connecting with others through music, justice, and community building.

As an international TCK student from Honduras and study abroad alumnus with IES Vienna, Michael recognizes the value of global citizenship and experiential learning. He is excited to empower students in their personal and professional development journeys and accompany them in understanding what it means to live and learn in the city of Chicago.

Michael is residing in the Ravenswood neighborhood which is conveniently located near the Brown Line, which takes him right to the Merchandise Mart. He spends a lot of time composing and playing music in the Midwest area, collaborating with creatives, and working on entrepreneurial and philanthropic projects both here and in Honduras.

(312) 922-3884

michael.pineda@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

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

Tim Hoekstra, MDiv

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.

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