Board of Advisors

Brian Looser – Advisory Board Chair

Brian was born and raised in Staunton, IL, graduating from Mt. Olive High School in 2001. He received his BA in Economics from UIUC in 2005, where he was also a member of Delta Tau Delta fraternity. Brian began working on Capitol Hill in 2006 as a Staff Assistant for then-Speaker Hastert (R-IL), and subsequently served in several policy advisor roles in both the public and private sectors.  In 2017, he began his current role as Legislative Director for Rep. John Shimkus (R-IL), where he focuses on issues related to health care and telecommunications.  He also serves as president of the University of Illinois Alumni Club of Greater Washington, D.C.

Jon Abdnor

Jon Abdnor is a 2009 graduate of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where he majored in news-editorial journalism, minored in political science, and was president of the Pi Kappa Alpha Fraternity. He currently serves as a legislative assistant for Senator John Thune (R-SD), covering energy, veterans affairs, and education. He interned for Senator Thune as a junior in 2008 through the Illinois in Washington program, and later came aboard full-time in 2009 after graduating. Mr. Abdnor is currently enrolled in the U.S. Naval War College’s Fleet Seminar Program in pursuit of a Master of Arts Degree in National Security and Strategic Studies. He has completed the USAF Air Command and Staff College, the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars’ Foreign Policy Fellowship Program, the Foreign Policy Initiative’s Congressional Scholars Program, Partnership for a Secure America’s Congressional Partnership Program, and several National Defense University courses.

Fil Agusti

Filiberto Agusti is a partner in the Washington office of Steptoe & Johnson LLP, where he has practiced law for over 35 years. Mr. Agusti has represented national governments, developers, major equipment manufacturers, major financial institutions, equity investors, and other participants in complex litigation and international arbitrations. In this capacity, he has obtained orders worth hundreds of millions of dollars for his clients. He is the co-author of International Business Law and Its Environment, a popular college textbook now in its ninth edition, used in over 100 colleges and universities around the world. Mr. Agusti has authored articles for the Harvard Law Review, International Finance & Treasury, Natural Gas, and other publications, and regularly speaks on legal issues. A native Spanish speaker, he is a frequent on-air legal commentator for the international networks Univision, Telemundo, and CNN en Español. A 1977 graduate of the Harvard Law School, Mr. Agusti served as Law Clerk to Judge Wm. H. Timbers, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. He is a 1974 graduate of the University of Illinois with a B.A. in Political Science.

Sam Boxerman

Sam Boxerman is a partner in the Environmental Practice Group of Sidley Austin LLP. Over the past two decades, Mr. Boxerman has defended clients in environmental litigation brought by the United States, by individual States, and by environmental advocacy groups under the major federal environmental laws, including the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, CERCLA and RCRA, as well as in private party disputes concerning contaminated property. A specialist in matters related to shale gas development and hydraulic fracturing, Mr. Boxerman assists clients with comments on agency regulatory proposals, handles regulatory litigation, and writes amicus briefs on behalf of interested stakeholders. He authors a weekly update, “This Week In Hydraulic Fracturing,” which summarizes key developments in shale oil and gas development. Mr. Boxerman also represents clients in arbitrations before the International Center for the Settlement of Investment Disputes. A 1986 graduate of the Harvard Law School, Mr. Boxerman has also been an adjunct Professorial Lecturer in Law at the George Washington University School of Law since 2003. He is a 1983 graduate of the University of Illinois with a B.A. in Economics.

Joseph Clayton

Joseph Clayton is Chief Executive Officer of the International Food Information Council (IFIC), a nonprofit science, health and nutrition communications organization supported by the broad-based food and agriculture industries. IFIC’s mission is to effectively communicate science-based information on health, nutrition and food safety to consumers, the health and policy communities.  Prior to joining IFIC in 2016, Joe served as EVP & Interim President of the American Frozen Food Institute (AFFI), which represents the public policy and regulatory interests of the $70 billion frozen food and beverage market segment. Prior to AFFI, he served as Executive Vice President at Golin and led the Global Public Affairs practice and the Golin corporate team in Washington, DC. Joe has developed and led public affairs, communications and advocacy campaigns across a range of issues, including food and beverage, health care, energy and sustainability, transportation, financial services, and education. He has led teams on behalf of corporate and industry clients, trade associations, coalitions, governmental organizations and NGOs. His practices have included clients based in North America and Europe. Prior to joining Golin, Mr. Clayton was President & CEO of Widmeyer Communications (Finn Partners), where he led the independent firm’s growth and diversification in public affairs, health care and consumer research. He began his lifelong focus on communications and policy issues in the U.S. Senate, where he worked on the legislative staff of former Illinois Senator Alan Dixon. Mr. Clayton received a Bachelor’s degree from the University of Illinois and serves on the Board of Advisors of Illinois In Washington.

Dakota Jackson

Dakota Jackson is a Government Relations Associate at the Self-Insurance Institute of America. She specializes in political action committees, client services, and federal policy advocacy. Prior to this role, Dakota served as a congressional campaign field director in Tennessee. She graduated from the University of Illinois in 2016 with an undergraduate degree in Economics, and is currently a Master of Public Administration student at American University. Dakota began her career with the Illinois in Washington program, where she interned for the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives.

David Kunz

David Kunz directs the Washington operations for Arkema Inc., a chemical manufacturing company. In this role, he provides representation, advice and counsel on a range of legislative, regulatory and legal issues. Previously, Mr. Kunz served as Chief Counsel for an operating administration at a federal agency. He also served as a senior legislative aide/counsel to a U.S. Representative and as counsel in a state federal affairs office, where he handled environmental, transportation, energy and business issues. In addition, in the private sector, he was a Managing Director of a Washington-based government affairs and consulting firm, and he has directed environmental and energy programs for a large trade association. Mr. Kunz holds Master of Laws (Environmental Law) and Juris Doctor degrees from the George Washington University and a B.A. in Political Science from the University of Illinois.

Christine McDaniel

Ms. McDaniel is a Senior Economist in Sidley’s Washington, D.C. office, and a member of the firm’s International Trade and Dispute Resolution and Antitrust/Competition practice groups. Ms. McDaniel provides empirical and economic analysis to companies, associations, and governments in international economic, trade and competition policy issues. Prior to joining the firm, Christine worked as Deputy Chief Economist for IP Australia (Australia’s Patent Office), where she conducted economic analysis on potential effects of changes to the intellectual property rights regime in free trade agreements, and managed the National Patent Analytics Hub to produce patent and IP analytics reports for government departments and Australian research entities. Christine has also worked at the U.S. International Trade Commission, the U.S. Treasury Department, the White House Council of Economic Advisers, the U.S. Department of Commerce and the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative. In all these positions Christine provided economic expertise and advice, coordinated economic policy, and conducted analysis on domestic and international economic issues, including international trade and finance, intellectual property rights, foreign direct investment, and import safety and port and border security issues. Christine holds a Ph.D. in Economics from the University of Colorado. She received her B.A. in Economics and Japanese Studies from the University of Illinois.

Elizabeth Milnarik

Raised in Rantoul and Belleville, Ms. Milnarik had a high school internship at the Illinois State Historic Preservation Office in Springfield, which introduced her to the fascinating buildings of Illinois and the array of programs that support their preservation. Ms. Milnarik went on to earn a BS in History and a Master of Architecture from the University of Illinois. As an undergraduate, she held an internship with a cultural resource management firm in Washington DC, and enjoyed learning about how and why historians document the built environment. Specializing in the field of preservation architecture, Ms. Milnarik practiced in San Francisco for several years before returning to school. At the University of Virginia, she earned a M.A. and a Ph.D. in Architectural History, writing a dissertation on New Deal public housing in the United States. Following that last graduation, Ms. Milnarik became the associate architect for the properties owned by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, which range from Charleston SC’s Drayton Hall (constructed in 1738) to Plano, IL’s Farnsworth House (1951), presenting a broad array of interesting construction challenges. Ms. Milnarik is currently a Preservation Architect with the National Park Service.

A. Mark Neuman

Currently an adviser on international trade and global strategy to retailer L Brands, Mr. Neuman played a key role in the creation and passage in 2000 of the landmark African Growth and Opportunity Act to open up trade with that continent. Mr. Neuman has provided economic counsel to presidents, trade ministers, and other African leaders, and has developed models of expertise and technology transfer which have helped create hundreds of thousands of jobs, especially for women. A champion of fair trade, Mr. Neuman helped bring together the team that formed Cottonline, a joint venture in Madagascar that is now the largest U.S. investment in the sub-Saharan African apparel industry, and also led efforts to assist women-owned cotton cooperatives in Burkina Faso. A 2011 recipient of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Alumni Humanitarian Award, Mr. Neuman earned his bachelor’s degree in economics from the University of Illinois in 1985.

Maria Otoo

Ms. Otoo was born and raised in Illinois except for a brief sojourn with her family in Colorado. Growing up in Springfield, Illinois imbued her with a tremendous admiration for Abraham Lincoln and love of cozy dogs, which are known to most of the world as “corn” dogs. Ms. Otoo attended the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Unable to make up her mind, she received two degrees, one in economics and the other in political science. She loved her time at the U of I and her only regret was that she could not cram more courses into four years. After graduation, Ms. Otoo headed to Georgetown University in Washington, DC where she received a Master’s degree and a Ph.D. in economics. Upon completion, she was hired by the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System and remains there to this day. Ms. Otoo holds the title of Principal Economist and currently works on the industrial sector, particularly the motor vehicle industry. Her work at the Board includes a mix of analysis, research, and forecasting. In her spare time, Ms. Otoo studies Object Oriented Programming (OOP) in Python. When not working on some OOP project, she is usually reading (science fiction or any fiction really), caring for her two corgis, trolling art museums, or binge-watching TV.

Jonathan Parker

Jonathan Parker has more than two decades of experience working in Democratic politics and campaigns. Jonathan spent the previous eight years as the political director and director of campaigns for EMILY’s List, the nation’s largest resource from women in politics. There, he led the department that works directly with pro-choice Democratic women candidates across the country and advised the EMILY’s List president on politics and strategy regarding these campaigns. Before joining EMILY’s List, Jonathan spent four years at the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), where he managed health care reform efforts for the union, including serving as the director of Americans for Health Care, a national grassroots advocacy campaign. Additionally, Jonathan served stints as the political director for Senator Tom Daschle’s DASHPAC and as a political advisor at EMILY’s List. He was a polling analyst with national Democratic polling firm The Feldman Group, and prior to that he worked at the AFL-CIO. Jonathan holds an M.A. in American history from the University of Maryland at College Park and a B.A. from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Douglas Pool

Douglas Pool is Senior Manager at IRG/Engility. He is a development professional and natural resource planner with more than 35 years of international experience in leading multidisciplinary field teams in Asia, Africa, and Latin America. His technical assistance activities have focused on the interaction of people with their resource base, leading design teams in integrated rural and agricultural development and environmental assessment at the river basin level. Mr. Pool has analyzed land use classification systems in Nepal and developed land use options and ecological suitability for forestry and agricultural development in Bolivia, Peru, Costa Rica, Honduras, the Eastern Caribbean, Sri Lanka, Venezuela, the Dominican Republic and the Philippines. He has worked extensively in coastal zone management planning in the Caribbean, Colombia, and the United States, and he has led several environmental assessments including the implications of land use options on watershed management in Peru. Currently Mr. Pool serves as the US-based program coordinator for the USAID-funded regional program – Initiative for Conservation in the Andean Amazon (ICAA II) assessing policy options for improved biodiversity conservation and improved forest management. With field teams in Colombia, Ecuador and Peru, the program works across boundaries to manage one of the world’s most biodiverse areas by strengthening indigenous groups, convening national and regional policy dialogues on the drivers of deforestation and empowering local organizations to manage new protected areas and indigenous territories. Mr. Pool holds an MS in Agronomy, Center for Tropical Agriculture, University of Florida and a BS in Agriculture, University of Illinois.

Jerry Role

Jerry Role graduated from the University of Illinois in 1979.  From 1978 through 1984, he engaged in a series of entry level positions, which included: teaching high school in Eugene, Oregon; assistant managing a McDonald’s in suburban Chicago; driving a school bus in Normal, Illinois; and performing various on-air duties at radio stations in downstate Illinois and Indiana.  He picked up a Master’s degree at Illinois State in 1983, and tiring of the low-pay, low glamour, and low security of broadcasting, he threw in the towel and went to law school.  He received his J.D. from Indiana University – Bloomington in 1986. A short stint at a temp job at a D.C. law firm (which will go unnamed) confirmed his suspicions that he was not big firm material.  He then embarked on a 30-year career as a lawyer for the Federal government, all but two years of which were spent at the Department of Justice, from which he retired this past spring.

Scott Shearer

P. Scott Shearer has extensive trade and agricultural policy expertise. As co-chairman of the Agricultural Coalition for U.S.-China Trade and co-chairman of the Agricultural Coalition for Trade Promotion Authority (TPA), Mr. Shearer was instrumental in the successful passage of permanent normal trade relations for China, TPA, and the U.S.- Australia Free Trade Agreement. In 1999, Mr. Shearer was named a private sector member of the U.S. delegation to the World Trade Organization (WTO) Ministerial Conference in Seattle. Prior to joining the Bockorny Group in 2003, Mr. Shearer was Director of National Relations for Farmland Industries, Inc. He also served as Deputy Assistant Secretary of Agriculture, directing the agency’s legislative efforts, including the 1996 Farm Bill, trade policy, USDA reorganization, crop insurance reform, food safety, and nutrition. In the mid-1980s, Mr. Shearer was executive director of the National Corn Growers Association after serving as a legislative assistant to Senator Alan J. Dixon (IL). He is a past president of the Washington Agricultural Roundtable and a member of the St. Louis Agri Business Club, the Illinois Group, the Illinois State Society, and the Missouri-Kansas Forum. In 2009, Mr. Shearer was awarded the University of Illinois College of Agriculture, Consumer and Environmental Sciences (ACES) Alumni Association’s Award of Merit. This is the association’s highest honor given to an alum. In 1997, Mr. Shearer received Alpha Zeta’s Centennial Award, which recognized the top national leaders of agriculture. He received his B.S. and M.S. degrees from the University of Illinois.

Chip Walgren

Since 1999, Chip Walgren has served with the Appropriations Committee,and since its creation in 2003, with the Homeland Security Subcommitteethat handles the agencies responsible for all customs and immigration issues (including border security, visas, and trade), as well as the Secret Service and law enforcement training. Mr. Walgren began his Senate career in 1985 working for then-Senator Dennis DeConcini (D-AZ), initially as a legislative correspondent and later as the Senator’s foreign policy and defense legislative assistant. Mr. Walgren served with the Senate Intelligence Committee when DeConcini was the chairman. After the Senator’s retirement in 1995, Mr. Walgren worked at the State Department, handling Senate appropriations issues in the legislative affairs office under Secretary Madeleine Albright. Mr. Walgren returned to the Senate in 1999 to be Senator Byron Dorgan’s (D-ND) appropriations lead staff person. Later that year, he became Dorgan’s clerk on the Treasury Appropriations Subcommittee, an assignment which led to his current Committee position. Mr. Walgren grew up in Rockford, IL, and graduated from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign in 1984 with a B.A. (LAS – Political Science).