Timothy Knowles

John Dewey Director, Urban Education Institute and John Dewey Clinical Professor, Committee on Education, University of Chicago

The Urban Education Institute (UEI) is dedicated to creating knowledge to produce reliably excellent schooling for children growing up in urban America. UEI addresses this in four ways: by undertaking rigorous applied research lead by the University of Chicago Consortium on School Research; developing urban teachers and leaders through the University of Chicago Urban Teacher Education Program; operating and supporting the four campuses of the University of Chicago Charter School; and designing scalable tools and ideas to improve teaching, learning and leadership, primarily through UChicago Impact.

Prior to coming to Chicago, Knowles served as deputy superintendent for Teaching and Learning at the Boston Public Schools.  While in Boston he created two organizations devoted to building the pipeline of high quality teachers and school leaders for Boston Public Schools and served as co-director of the Boston Annenberg Challenge, a nationally recognized effort to improve literacy instruction.

Prior to his work in Boston he founded and directed a full-service K-8 school in Bedford-Stuyvesant, New York City.  He also served as the founding director of Teach for America in New York City, and a teacher of African History in Botswana.

He has written and spoken extensively on the topics of school leadership, teacher quality, school reform, and accountability in public schools.

He received his B.A. in anthropology and African history from Oberlin College and an M.A. and doctorate from the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

Veenu Verma

Director of Career and Technical Education (CTE), Chicago Public Schools

Veenu Verma leads the district’s portfolio of career–related high school programming serving 18,000 students in 60 high schools. Prior to joining CTE, she led the district’s Human Resources Employee Service Center where she focused her efforts on improving customer service and decreasing turnaround time. She also served as a project manager for the district’s PeopleSoft implementation. Veenu participated in The Broad Residency in Urban Education Cohort 2005, completing her two-year Residency in Chicago Public Schools.
Before the Residency, Veenu spent six years in management consulting at Arthur Andersen and Protiviti Consulting. Her projects focused on designing and implementing strategic, operational and compliance-driven solutions for a diverse mix of clients ranging from the retail, utility and manufacturing sectors to corporate legal departments and higher education.
Veenu holds a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree in economics from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and a master’s degree in public policy from the University of Chicago.

Jarrett Royster

The National Director for Urban & Educational Development at YMCA of the USA

As National Director for Urban & Educational Development, Royster leads the YMCA’s strategic direction in better meeting the needs of some of the nation’s more distressed urban communities, and in particular, providing opportunities and access to help youth succeed in education.  The YMCA of the USA is the national resource office for the nation’s 2,686 YMCAs, which serve nearly 21 million people each year, including 9.4 million children under the age of 18.

Prior to joining YMCA of the USA in September 2009, Royster served as Vice President of Urban Development & Eastside Operations for the YMCA of Greater Charlotte. There, Royster successfully worked with community leaders and members to revitalize the East Corridor, a struggling neighborhood in East Charlotte, by increasing economic development, re-engaging its community and advancing education opportunities in neighborhood schools. Royster also advanced the Charlotte YMCA’s diversity and inclusion efforts, grew Hispanic membership, and increased contributed income.

A 21-year YMCA veteran, Royster has served as the Charlotte YMCA’s Community Vice President and has held many roles as Regional Director and Executive Director at YMCAs in Philadelphia, Pa., Birmingham, Ala., Oklahoma, Okla., and Providence, R.I.

Demonstrating his commitment to advancing opportunities in urban communities, Royster developed a YMCA Urban Institute to build awareness of the work needed in distressed and struggling communities. While with the Charlotte YMCA, Royster traveled to Central America in 2007 to study issues related to immigration in order to better serve growing Hispanic communities.

Royster is a native of Providence, R.I., and holds a bachelor’s degree in sociology from Springfield College in Massachusetts. He is co-chair of the Eastland Area Strategies Team, a volunteer board in East Charlotte, and serves on the board of the East Charlotte Chamber of Commerce. Royster is also the co-founder and past president of the YMCA African American Executive Forum, black professionals committed to the upward mobility of people of color.

urban education and chicago’s workforce



Tuesday, June 19, 2012


Reception: 7:30 a.m.
Program: 8:00 a.m.
Adjourn: 9:00 a.m.

Urban Education and Chicago’s Workforce


 Kate Coleman, Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer, YMCA of the USA


Jarrett Royster, National Director of Urban and Educational Development, YMCA of the USA


Timothy Knowles, John Dewey Director, Urban Education Institute, and Clinical Professor, Committee on Education, University of Chicago

 Veenu Verma, Career and Technical Education Director, CPS Office of Pathways to College and Career

Join Jarrett Royster for an engrossing conversation with Timothy Knowles and Veenu Verma concerning urban education and Chicago’s workforce.  News headlines have been full of stories about schools, education and jobs, e.g., the length of school days, school closings, school turn-arounds, students graduating who cannot read, and graduates who cannot get jobs.  Tim Knowles will bring us his perspective on policy, research and the challenges for developing tools and ideas to improve teaching and leadership in order to provide excellent schooling for children in urban environments.  Veenu Verma brings to the conversation her “on-the-ground” perspective on urban education design and implementation aimed at preparing Chicago students to enter the local workforce with the skills needed to gain entry to good-paying jobs and economic development.


YMCA of the USA
101 North Wacker Drive
Chicago, IL 60606

RSVP to Colleen Coughlin by Friday, June 15 at colleen@crgroup.org, or by calling 312-666-2776.