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The Making of CASE: A Fellowship Story

The Making of CASE: A Fellowship Story

How WBC Fellows Drive Inclusive Economic Growth Through Chicago Anchors for a Strong Economy (CASE)

Chicago Anchors for a Strong Economy (CASE) helps local, highly-qualified small and medium-sized businesses connect with Chicago’s most prominent universities, health systems, private corporations and public agencies – anchor institutions – for procurement and contract opportunities. These connections support the vitality of Chicago’s neighborhoods and promote inclusive economic growth.

As a data-driven organization, CASE works to understand the needs of its 16 anchor institutions and match them with local businesses. Focusing on the high volume of procurement opportunities at these anchors can strengthen local small and medium businesses, increase community and neighborhood growth and generate jobs to foster a more inclusive economy.

CASE’s growing team has been instrumental to its development and maturation over the past few years, with inimitable support and insight provided by eight participants of WBC’s ongoing Fellowship Program.

Fellows serve “on loan” at WBC for four to six months, providing strategic support, guidance, and expert direction in conceptualizing and implementing project work. They arrive back to their sponsor companies with an increased understanding of Chicago’s public sector and economic landscape, having worked closely with major corporate and civic leaders to implement large-scale, highly visible projects. Following are profiles of the fellows who have helped make CASE what it is today:




May – August 2013

Wes Prato, an audit senior manager at CohnReznick, served as CASE’s first fellow. He supported the research and discovery phases of the project’s development.

“Much of what I did focused around understanding what educational and medical institutions were doing currently with their procurement dollars and how they are leveraging the local communities in which they reside,” Prato said. He joined multiple meetings with the University of Chicago specifically to understand their procurement process and determine opportunities to involve small businesses. Prato added that his fellowship experience was “eye opening” and allowed him to realize how “an entire community is so dependent on one employer.”


Wells Fargo

October 2014 – April 2015

CASE’s second fellow, Christine Rodos, served at Wells Fargo as a relationship manager, and was heavily involved in onboarding CASE’s executive director. Her strong experience in finance led her to take on a major project assessing CASE’s overall opportunity for economic impact. Her research eventually determined that CASE had the potential to return $80 million in revenue to the local economy and create 250 full-time and 125 part-time jobs annually.

“It was very gratifying to know I was involved in leading such a substantial and sustainable project,” Rodos said. “The WBC Fellowship Program as a whole provided me an opportunity to step back, learn, and think differently about the problems our city and region face.” Rodos also experienced the transformation of the CASE program from a startup to an ambitious growth engine that required leadership, resources, and ongoing community support.


DeVry Education Group

May – September 2015

Matt Kinnich, Vice President of International & Business Development at DeVry Education Group, joined the CASE team next. He helped define the CASE vision, performance objectives, and the organization’s original value proposition to its diverse stakeholders. Additionally, he led discussions about which strategies would be best to achieve these goals and drive value. His leadership allowed CASE to identify challenges and barriers to success, such as redundancies in services from community partners and stakeholder mobilization to make transformational impact in distressed neighborhoods. As a direct result of Kinnich’s contributions, CASE built a strategic plan that was simultaneously visionary and immediate in its approach to gaining traction, showing results, and creating a sustainable growth model.

“I am very proud to have served on the CASE team, especially because we achieved significant results, such as driving $49.4 million in small business revenue, creating 180 jobs, and training over 230 small businesses,” Kinnich said.


Avison Young

May – September 2016

An associate broker at Avison Young, Cathriona McGuire joined the CASE team as it began adjusting to a demand-driven program. She was responsible for cultivating CASE’s proprietary “Diagnostic Tool” to determine if interested local businesses were “CASE-ready” and prepared to work with large anchor institutions. She also provided critical support to the creation of new marketing materials which included clear and consistent brand messaging for CASE.

“I focused on operationalizing the ‘Diagnostic Tool,’ evaluating it, and making adjustments ahead of a larger rollout in 2017,” McGuire said. “I am grateful that my fellowship experience brought me to CASE. This has been a highlight of my career. I look forward to applying what I learned to my work in commercial real estate and watching CASE grow and improve neighborhoods throughout Chicago.”



September 2016 – March 2017

Michelle Miller, a consultant at KPMG, joined CASE during the twelfth wave of the WBC Fellowship Program.

“CASE is uniquely positioned to serve as a direct facilitator of select, high-impact projects to produce quality jobs in distressed neighborhoods,” Miller said. Her background in change management provided an ideal foundation for actively assessing critical steps for CASE to grow in fiscal 2017.

In preparation for CASE’s third anniversary, Miller focused on elevating the program’s brand and greatly enhanced the team’s marketing capabilities. Additionally, she assisted with the transition of the relationship business manager in preparation for the digital conversion of the CASE Diagnostic Tool. “[The] fellowship experience was beyond belief,” and provided a unique opportunity to learn and grow in ways that will “invariably impact her career and leadership,” Miller said.



September 2016 – January 2017

Sean Bullman, a consultant with EY, joined CASE at the same time as Miller. “I really valued the opportunity to step away from my job for a few months and experience something so completely different,” Bullman said. “It has been rewarding working closely with each member of the CASE team and working on such an impactful initiative.”

Sean’s work concentrated on building more holistic anchor strategies and designing a framework for understanding and calculating the return on investment anchors realize through their partnership with CASE. Bullman said the most significant benefit of his fellowship was “the constant [stream of] opportunities to network with former fellows and a wide range of senior business leaders in Chicago.” 



January 2017 – June 2017

Eddie Clopton joined CASE as a fellow and leveraged his skills as an attorney to explore the clean energy industry in Illinois and the potential impacts of the Future Energy Jobs Act.

“One of several projects that I led involved convening CASE anchor institutions, non-profit organizations, clean energy tech accelerators and venture funds, among others, to discuss clean energy in Illinois and the impact of the Future Energy Jobs Act. The convening highlighted incentives, such as the ‘Solar for All Program’ and how these incentives can be leveraged by businesses and communities to assist with inclusive job creation,” Clopton said.



June 2017 – September 2017

A manager within EY’s Transaction Advisory Practice, Matt McGee joined CASE during the fourteenth wave of WBC’s Fellowship Program. McGee’s work concentrated on analyzing CASE’s value proposition, fundraising, and operations to develop a 3-5 year growth strategy. McGee led discussions with key stakeholders to test a redesigned model for CASE’s interactions with its anchor-members.

“The opportunity to own a project with such a strong emphasis on corporate strategy was both challenging and rewarding given how different it was from anything I have done before,” said McGee. He also leveraged his background working on transactions to build a financial model for CASE, which captured his project findings.

“This fellowship opportunity has been an unbelievable experience not only because of the project, but also because of the people I had the chance to meet and work alongside. I can’t wait to see how CASE continues to develop into the future; it is uniquely poised to do great things for the Chicago economy,” said McGee.

The continued success of CASE demonstrates the value of  WBC’s Fellowship Program. Thanks to the hard work of these eight fellows, CASE is not only greatly impacting Chicago and its neighborhoods, but it is also providing each fellow a unique opportunity for personal, professional, and leadership growth.

“Since its inception, CASE has assisted more than 440 businesses resulting in new contracts between businesses and anchors and jobs for Chicagoans,” said CASE Executive Director Nitika Nautiyal. “We would not have been able to make such an impact were it not for our talented Fellows. We can’t thank our Fellows and their supporting companies enough for lending us their expertise and helping to bring purchasing power and jobs to our communities.”

For more information on lending or being a fellow, visit

For more information on CASE visit

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