Sheila Katz is the co-founder of Ask Big Questions, a national initiative of Hillel that brings diverse college students together for conversations that help people understand themselves and others. She is an expert in facilitating reflective conversations and creating multi-channel technology campaigns that lead to in person action. Sheila was Hillel International's first Vice President for Social Entrepreneurship, working to engage Jewish students on the periphery of Jewish life and now serves as the Vice President for Student Engagement and Leadership. An activist and community organizer, Sheila has served on multiple White House Committees under the Obama administration focused on higher education and women’s rights. She has a B.A. in Politics from Ithaca College and a M.S. in teaching from Pace University. Sheila is a proud alumna of the Wexner Foundation Field Fellowship and Teach for America.
Margie Cook is the Director of Training for Ask Big Questions based in our Chicago office. Margie comes to Ask Big Questions with more than 20 years experience in higher education, where she has pursued her passion for creating greater understanding and justice through roles across Student Affairs, Academic Affairs, and Employee Development and Training. Margie's career has been rooted in lessons of inter-cultural exchange and community empowerment learned during her service as a Peace Corps volunteer in Thailand.
Most recently she was the Associate Director of the Center for Student Diversity at the College of William & Mary, where she developed a Diversity Peer Education Program and a campus dialogue initiative. Previously, at Northern Illinois University, she was the inaugural Director of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Resource Center, guiding its development from inception to its status as a nationally-recognized program. At NIU she pioneered the campus Ally Program, which was looked to as a model by colleges and universities nationwide. Also at NIU she put her Master’s Degree in instructional design to work in a groundbreaking initiative to support faculty in diversifying their course content and pedagogical approaches.
Margie is an Illinois native, an avid bird watcher and photographer, and a sometimes poet. As a lifelong Chicago Cubs fan, she is excited to be living and working near the friendly confines of Wrigley Field.
Michael Hahn is an intern at Ask Big Questions whose education and professional life have taken an unusual path. After sojourning as a guitarist in a rock band for a few years, he began his higher education experience at a community college where he was determined to study science. As his academic interests developed, and hopes of stardom abated, he shifted course to the humanities to discover new work. In 2016, he uprooted from his native Los Angeles and moved to Chicago for its culture and history.
In the spirit of wearing multiple hats, Michael also works as an architectural historian at the Graham Foundation in Chicago. He holds a master’s in history from Claremont Graduate University and bachelor’s from the University of California at Berkeley. In his spare time, he enjoys building community in Chicago’s eclectic Ukrainian Village neighborhood which he now calls home.
Pablo Rangel, Ask Big Questions's Director of Assesment, is a data research analyst with a background in the social sciences, and work in various fields including construction, museum, education, and digital humanities. Pablo’s interests center on charting transformations in the human condition. He is currently pursuing a PhD in the Department of History at the University of Chicago. He holds a Masters Degree in Social Sciences from the University of Chicago as well as a MA and BA from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with emphases in History and Ethnic Studies and is based in our Chicago office.
Bethany Sharp is the Lead Designer for Ask Big Questions and has worked as a Graphic Designer with clients large and small. Bethany is a graduate of Boston University and has studied design in four countries. She has brought her communications skills and love of typography with her from Texas to Chicago and is jumping into non-profit work with both feet.
Outside of Ask Big Questions, Bethany is a singer, artist, and lover of languages with a sizeable perfectionist streak.
Whitney Waara joined Ask Big Questions in 2017 as the Senior Director of Operations, bringing extensive non-profit management experience and many years working in public media and community engagement. Whitney was a consultant to public radio and television stations for Public Media Company and spent a decade at the Corporation for Public Broadcasting in Washington, D.C., most recently serving as Vice President of Operations. She also served as the Executive Director of Land Information Access Association, a Traverse City, Michigan-based nonprofit that works with municipalities and NGOs across Michigan to improve civic engagement and develop community plans that focus on maintaining strong cultural and natural resources to support resilient, sustainable communities. Her professional expertise includes communications, strategic planning, grants, project and financial management, operations, and organizational development.
Whitney earned her MBA degree from Kent State University and has a BA in Economics from Kalamazoo College. She is a Certified Grants Management Specialist by the National Grants Management Association and has credentials as a facilitator, community planner, and chef. She and her husband keep busy raising three athletic and fun-loving boys, two cats, and lots of kale and tomatoes.
In 2005, when he was Campus Rabbi at Northwestern University Hillel, Josh founded Ask Big Questions along with students Allie Gross and Lexie Komisar. In 2011, Ask Big Questions became a national initiative of Hillel, and Josh became its Educational Director, working with Sheila Katz to launch and scale the program. He has served as Director of Ask Big Questions from 2013 to 2017, guiding the development of our educational theory, approach to training, educational resources, and overall strategy. A leading thinker and writer in both the Jewish and higher education communities, Josh holds a PhD from Northwestern in Religious Studies, as well as ordination from YCT Rabbinical School, and a BA from Yale University in music. Josh is a Wexner Graduate Fellow and served as founding co-chair of the Wexner Fellowship Alumni Committee. He is the now the Dean Of Students at The University of Chicago Divinity School lives in Skokie, IL with his wife Natalie Blitt and sons Jonah, Micah and Toby.
Philanthropic Advisor and Consultant
Vice President for Academic Affairs, Clarke University
Rebecca Halpern Productions
Senior Vice President for Student Affairs - Yale University
Professor of English - Goucher College
Ellen Weiss has been Chief of Washington Bureau and Vice President of The E. W. Scripps Company since February 11, 2013. She oversees a multimedia national investigative team and in 2015 received her forth Peabody Award for the “Under the Radar” investigative series exposing problems when convicted military sex offenders return to civilian life. In 2014, she launched DecodeDC, a weekly podcast and multimedia blog aimed at explaining Washington’s people, culture, policies and politics.
Weiss joined Scripps from The Center for Public Integrity where she was Executive Editor. She served as Senior Vice President of News at National Public Radio until January 2011. At NPR, she oversaw global expansion of NPR News, the creation of award-winning programs and news coverage, the creation of an investigative unit, podcasts and the digital integration of the newsroom. In this role, Weiss led NPR's worldwide journalism operations, including 17 domestic and 17 foreign bureaus; more than 400 staff members and more than 40 hours of news programming weekly. Under her leadership, NPR experienced significant audience growth and numerous awards for journalistic excellence.
Weiss joined NPR News in 1982. For 12 years, she was Executive Producer of the daily NPR newsmagazine All Things Considered. From 2001 to 2006, she was Senior Editor of the National Desk, managing 80 reporters, editors and producers covering all national issues. Weiss edited many of NPR News' investigations including award-winning reports on abuses that led to changes in U.S. government detention center policies and reports on soldiers with PTSD that sparked Senate and Pentagon investigations.
Weiss is a graduate of Smith College with a B.A. in international relations. She and her family live in Washington, D.C.