Monday, September 27, 2010

New staffers bring decades of experience

From left: DeShana Forney, Katherine Laing and Lisa Troyer.

Three new staff members who report to University of Illinois President Michael J. Hogan bring decades of experience in government, business and higher education.

Katherine “Kappy” Laing, executive director of governmental relations, has 27 years of experience working with local, state and federal governments. Before joining the university, she was the Chicago Public Schools’ chief government affairs liaison.

DeShana Forney, associate director of governmental relations, is former executive director of the Illinois Housing Development Authority. She served on the staff of Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan.

Lisa Troyer, chief of staff and Hogan’s executive assistant, was his chief of staff at the University of Connecticut, where he was president before coming to the U of I July 1. She is a former interim associate provost at the University of Iowa.

All three fill vacant existing positions.

Despite differences in their new roles, Troyer, Forney and Laing said a priority will be learning more about the effects of the university’s financial challenges on instruction and research.

“Everything that we do at the university on all of the campuses is affected by the budget,” Laing said.

“That’s definitely been clear as we introduce ourselves to employees in Urbana, Chicago and Springfield.”

Laing earned a B.A. from Northwestern University and a J.D. from the Illinois Institute of Technology Chicago-Kent College of Law.

She has spent most of her career in Springfield and Washington, D.C., monitoring legislation related to local governments and businesses.

She was a lobbyist for AT&T, directed intergovernmental affairs for the Chicago Transit Authority and worked as a legislative liaison for Chicago in the administration of the late Mayor Harold Washington.

Outside work, she enjoys canoeing and bird watching in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

Laing succeeds Richard Schoell, longtime governmental liaison to Springfield and Washington.

As executive director of the Illinois Housing Development Authority, Forney worked to gain the support of Illinois legislators and the state’s congressional delegation on affordable housing issues.

“Because I attended college and worked in Washington and Springfield, I’ve seen the inner workings of government and can bring that experience to my role at the university,” said Forney, who earned a bachelor’s in political science from Howard University and master’s in political studies at UIS.

Forney enjoys boot camp-style exercise and reading political novels in her spare time.

Troyer, a sociology professor at the University of Connecticut and University of Iowa, spent more than a decade researching innovative problem-solving in groups and organizations.

A classically trained pianist and jazz keyboardist, she earned a master’s and Ph.D. in sociology from Stanford University.

One of her primary responsibilities is to coordinate with the president’s senior team, including vice presidents and university officers, to implement various initiatives. She also ensures follow-through as Hogan meets with faculty, alumni and business leaders.

“Being a part of such a community is exciting,” Troyer said.

“We face daunting challenges because the entire landscape of public higher education is changing.

“Those challenges, however, are opportunities to re-shape public higher education, become even better at what we do, and ensure that the University of Illinois continues to be one of the world’s best universities.”

Article by Patrice Relerford, University of Illinois Office for University Relations

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