meet our staff
From left to right: Gwen Jessen, Sara Schastok, Rebecca Cacayuran, Amy Monday, Marybeth Schroeder, Jan Fischer, Julie Villagomez, Artishia Hunter
Sara L. Schastok, PhD
President and CEO
Sara joined the Community Foundation as its first full-time employee and first executive director in February 2001, charged with separating ECF from Evanston United Way, building assets to sustain independent operations, and building the Foundation’s visibility. Having grown ECF assets from $3 million to $9 million, she was named President and CEO in 2008. ECF’s assets today total more than $17 million.
Sara brought her knowledge of major gifts, foundation relations and publications to the Foundation from positions at the University of Chicago and The Rotary Foundation. She served as assistant to the dean and assistant dean in Northwestern University’s College of Arts and Sciences from 1987-1993, where her work ranged from curricular policy matters to liaison to the offices of development, admissions, and alumni relations. Between 1977 and 1986, she pursued her first career via visiting assistant professor positions at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Amherst College, and University of California-Berkeley. Sara earned a BA at Cornell, and her MA and PhD in South Asian Art History at the University of Michigan.
Sara was on the leadership team for the Grand Victoria Foundation’s Communiltyworks initiative and now serves on the community advisory committees of St. Francis Hospital and the Center for Civic Engagement at Northwestern, and on the steering committees of the Illinois Early Learning Fellowship, Evanston150, and the Pioneering Healthy Communities Initiative. She was named Community Leader of the Year by the Evanston Chamber of Commerce in 2011.
As Program Officer, Becca oversees the Foundation's grants programs and provides ongoing learning opportunities for Evanston's nonprofit community. She also works to ensure that the Foundation has up-to-date knowledge of the nonprofit community and issues to guide board-led policy making, guide donors and the Foundation's own grantmaking.
Becca rejoins the staff after serving first as ECF's Assistant Director and then as Director of Development and Communications from 2005 to 2009. During this time she represented the ECF in the launch of the Evanston's Women's History project, a collaborative project involving 12 local organizations. From 2009 to February 2013, she served as Planned Parenthood of Illinois (PPIL) Director of Major and Planned Gifts, and was a steering committee member of the Collaborative Fundraising Initiative. During her tenure at PPIL, she also served as Interim Vice President of Development and as a member of PPIL's Senior Management Team. Becca earned her Bachelors at the University of Illinois in Urbana/Champaign, with a major in Sociology and a minor in Gerontology.
Chief Financial Officer
Jan joined the Evanston Community Foundation in October 2005. During her tenure, the growth in ECF's funds, from roughly thirty in 2005 to more than 80 today, has expanded the scope of Jan's responsibilities beyond accounting and finance. She assists donors in establishing funds, facilitates grant requests, and calculates annual fund distributions. Jan takes on other projects as they arise, such as administering our fiscal sponsorships. She staffs our investment, audit and executive committees.
After receiving a BS in Accounting with high honors from the University of Illinois and passing the CPA exam, Jan began her career at Price Waterhouse. After four years in audit, she joined Boyden Global Executive Search, assuming increasing responsibilities as a search consultant and office director over the next twenty-five years.
Jan served on the United Way board, 1984–1987, during the exciting period when ECF was created, and was a member of the executive committee; she also served on the board of Chicago Commons. She has been very active in School District 65 issues, serving on the D65 citizen’s budget review/recommendations committee and Council for Excellence in Learning, as well as on numerous school board campaign committees.
Director, Two-Generation Initiative
Artishia joined the Evanston Community Foundation as director of the Evanston Two-Generation Initiative, a program staff contract position funded by a planning grant from Ascend at the Aspen Institute. Artishia comes to the three way partnership between Evanston Community Foundation, Northwestern University, and Ascend at the Aspen Institute most immediately from her two year, 2011-2013, term as a Fellow of the Illinois Early Childhood Fellowship program. Her Fellowship placement was with Positive Parenting DuPage. Artishia provided technical assistance to community collaborations to strengthen systems supporting young children and families, staffed the Community Systems Development Subcommittee for the Illinois Early Learning Council and collaborated with multiple early childhood experts in the planning and development of the Illinois Birth to Age Three Guidelines, which will become part of Illinois statewide standards.
Artishia is an Evanston resident and an educator with fourteen years of experience in elementary and early childhood education. She taught elementary school in Evanston/Skokie CC School District 65 in Illinois, provided Head Start consulting for Chicago Public Schools, and was a preschool teacher in Bloomington, IL. Artishia graduated from Illinois State University in Normal with a BA in Elementary Education and received a M.Ed. in Early Childhood Administration from National Louis University.
Vice President for Philanthropy
Gwen assumed her new role at the Evanston Community Foundation in October 2013 and is responsible for all asset development activities to advance ECF'S strategic initiatives. She looks forward to developing relationships with our donors and expanding our fundraising programs in support of ECF's mission to help Evanston thrive as a vibrant, inclusive, and just community.
Gwen has over 25 years of professional experience in fundraising, having spent her career at the University of Chicago. In her last role there, she launched the first major gifts program for The College, which she directed for 15 years. During this time Gwen managed the University’s capital campaign for the College, which exceeded its goal of $250,000,000 to support financial aid for undergraduates and student programs. Volunteers played a significant role in the College’s successful campaign through their work on the College Campaign Committee and the College Visiting Committee. Gwen and her husband live in Evanston.
Amy Monday joined the Evanston Community Foundation in 2008. In the newly-created position of development officer, she manages the Foundation’s direct mail fundraising appeals and publications, and is increasingly involved in working with donors. Amy also serves as the Foundation’s special events coordinator. Amy’s focus and dedication in support of our Celebrate!Evanston committee was key to the event’s record breaking revenues and attendance in 2013.
Before her time at ECF, Amy was executive assistant to the director of the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University, and major gifts assistant at Lincoln Park Zoo during their My Kind of Zoo campaign. For 12 years, Amy served as the volunteer development director of BackStage Theatre Company, an off-Loop theatre company she co-founded in Chicago in 2000. Amy has a B.A. from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee with a major in Mass Communication and a minor in French as well as a certificate in Philanthropy and Non-Profit Fundraising from Northwestern University’s School of Continuing Studies. She lives in Chicago with her husband and their two young children.
Vice President for Programs
Marybeth Schroeder became part-time Director of the Foundation’s Leadership Evanston program in 1999, adding additional community programs responsibilities in 2002 as the Foundation gained momentum and now has responsibility for the Foundation’s grants and programs as vice president. Marybeth has a background in nonprofit management, community development and adult education.
Prior to her work at ECF, she served as Project Director for Urban Libraries Council, reference librarian at Evanston Public Library and Chicago Municipal Reference Library, aldermanic chief of staff in the City of Chicago, and Curriculum Coordinator at DePaul University’s School for New Learning. She holds a B.A. in history from University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and an M.A. in library science from the University of Chicago. Marybeth serves on the Evanston150 Steering Committee and represents the Foundation in community groups in the areas of workforce development, health, and early childhood education. In her nearly 21 years in Evanston, Marybeth has been involved in a wide variety of community activities, including serving as President of the Evanston Public Library Board. She and her husband raised three sons in Evanston schools and have two grandchildren currently living in Evanston.
Julie's primary responsibilities include gift processing and donor correspondence, and assisting the president and CEO. Julie has a long background in administrative support services. Prior to joining ECF this past summer, she spent seven years at the Pritzker Group and New World Ventures in a wide range of administrative roles, including reception and executive administrative assistance, database management and maintenance, accounting and office services. Julie is bilingual in English and Spanish. She lives in Evanston with her son who attends Evanston Township High School.