T.E.A. Director’s Institute

About the T.E.A. Director’s Institute

Since its founding in 1987, the Black Women Lawyers’ Association of Greater Chicago, Inc. (BWLA), has been devoted to empowering its members to achieve professional success. In that vein, BWLA offers forums designed to build the skills and enhance the brand of its members. In 2017, under the leadership of the BWLA President, the T.E.A. (Train, Excel, Appoint) Directors Institute was created. This is the first Directors program in Illinois exclusively dedicated to training female attorneys of color for board positions. We are confident that because of the learning sessions, the Institute Fellows are better prepared to embark upon prestigious board positions. The institute focuses on increasing the presence of female attorneys of color on the boards of government entities, nonprofits, and private and publicly traded companies. This highly selective engaging Institute trains and prepares a select group of BWLA members for corporate, government, and nonprofit board roles. The Institute adds value to our members’ careers and to our business, civic, and legal community.

The Faculty for the Directors Institute includes current members of government, nonprofit, private, and public boards; leadership consultants; board recruiters; corporate governance professionals; and business and financial services professionals. The 2018& 2019 Faculty included the following professionals: Sam Scott, Lead Director at Motorola Solutions Inc., Charles Tribbett III, Co-Director Board and CEO Advisory Group at Russell Reynolds, Sharon Fairley, Faculty at University of Chicago Law School, Dorri McWhorter, CEO of YWCA Metropolitan Chicago, Paul Williams, Partner Emeritus and Advisor at Major Lindsey Africa, Andrea Zopp, President/CEO of World Business Chicago, Jonathan Swain, CEO Kimbark Beverage Shoppe, Lisa Harrell, Chief People Officer at Cleveland Avenue, Amy Singh, EVP/General Counsel/Secretary at Cameo, JD Gershbein, CEO of Owlish Communications, Yolanda Daniel, VP of Finance at Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, Z Scott, President of Chicago State University, Patricia Brown Holmes, Managing Partner at Riley Safer Holmes & Cancila LLP, Cindy Burrell, CEO of Diversity in the Boardroom, Sangita Kasturi, CEO of Action Inclusion, Cornelius Griggs, CEO of GMA Construction Group, Perri Irmer, CEO of Dusable Museum and Billy Dexter, Managing Partner at Heidrick & Struggles.

Our Founder and Past Program Directors


  • Erica Kirkwood
    Vice President & General Counsel at GMA Construction Group

Past Program Directors

  • Candace Jackson Akiwumi
    Attorney at the Federal Defender Program for the Northern District of Illinois
  • Elsa Andrianifahanana
    Labor & Employment Associate at Jones Day
  • Nakhia Crossley
    Regulatory Counsel & Midwest Director of State Affairs at Solar Energy Industries Association
  • Lora Whitticker
    Manager of Alumni Relations & In House Opportunities at Jenner & Block
  • Drahcir Smith
    Partner at Riley Safer Holmes & Cancila LLP.

2020 T.E.A DI Session Summaries

Session 1
Are you Board Ready? Essential Leadership Skills that Build Careers. Speakers provide an overview of the lack of diversity in board service and educate them on the skills and traits of a competent board member.

Session 2
Are you the One? Building a Board-Ready Resume. Writing a resume for board recruitment can be different from writing your typical professional resume. This session will explore how to draft the most effective resume that highlights specific and targeted skills to make your resume stand out to any board recruiter.

Session 3
Networking and Branding as a path to board membership. Speakers will discuss networking for board membership and how to be intentional about fostering meaningful connection.

Session 4
Finance and Business: Let’s Talk Numbers and The Finances of Non- Profit Boards. Speakers will discuss basic business principles; reading budgets and the fundamentals of balance sheets. What a board member needs to focus on when the CEO or the CFO are addressing the board.

Session 5
EQ-Do you have the Right Attitude for a Board? Brand and Reputation Management. Speakers will offer a look inside of our fellows EQ/ Emotional Intelligence. This will include an introduction to EQ: Eye contact, when to listen, hand gestures, leaning in and EQ in leadership. How you should use your feet, voice, your pen, your glasses, your wardrobe to communicate with other board members and staff. Speakers will address how your EQ impacts your brand and reputation.

Session 6
Ethics and Compliance and basic principles of corporate governance: Speakers will discuss corporate governance and ethical issues facing executives, boards, and, at times, individual board members. Speakers provide an overview of best practices and corporate governance initiatives, and address various policy measures organizations and corporations have introduced to avoid the governance and ethics pitfalls that abound.

Pinning Ceremony and VIP Board Member Reception
Fellows will mingle with corporate, non-profit and local board members as they receive their lapel pin at the culmination of the Director’s Institute.

2019 TEA Fellows

  • Erika Gilliam Booker
    Assistant State’s Attorney
    Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office
  • Alice V. Brathwaite
  • Pamela Euring
    Transaction Contracting Counsel
  • Jasmine Fannell
    Winston & Strawn, LLP
  • Allison N. Glover
    Litigation Department Counsel
    Jenner & Block
  • Natalie Howse
    Regional Counsel
    Illinois Department of Children and Family Services
  • Simone Jones
    Sidley Austin LLP
  • Era Laudermilk
    Deputy of Policy & Strategic Planning
    Law Office of the Cook County Public Defender
  • Robbin Perkins
    Administrative Law Judge
    Village of Matteson
  • Renai Rodney
    First Assistant Corporation Counsel
    City of Chicago Department of Law
  • Steffany Williams-Cunningham
    Vice President – Assistant General Counsel Contracts
    National Express Group

2018 TEA Fellows

  • Elsa Andrianifahanana
    Labor & Employment Associate
    Jones Day
  • Dorothy Capers
    Executive Vice President and Global General Counsel
    National Express Group
  • Djenne Clayton
    VP & Assistant General Counsel Contracts & Corporate Governance
    National Express Group
  • Nina Fain
    General Counsel
    The Janet Sugarman Family Schirn Trust
  • Constance Faith Wright
    Assistant Dean of Academic Standing
    Northwestern University
  • Andrea Flynn
    Deputy Director
    Cook County Department of Risk Management
  • Danisha Hall
    Director, Corporate Communications
    Peoples Gas
  • Shenita Johnson
    General Counsel/Executive Director
    Illinois State Charter School Commission
  • Monica Lowe
    Associate Chief Labor Counsel
    City of Chicago Department of Law
  • April J. Morgan
    Acting Chief of Staff, Office of the Chairman
    Chicago Transit Authority
  • Melanie Patrick Neely
    Senior Counsel
    City of Chicago Department of Law
  • Markena Peavy
    VP Compliance Advisor
    MB Financial Bank
  • Lauren Robinson
    Assistant General Counsel
    American Medical Association
  • Sheila S. York
    Assistant State’s Attorney
    Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office