Alya Adamany Woods

Acting CEO & COO

LinkedIn Profile

Alya Adamany Woods has recently joined the leadership team of Intersect Illinois, an organization dedicated to driving statewide economic development and job creation.

She most recently served as the Executive Director of ChicagoNEXT, World Business Chicago’s initiative to drive growth and opportunity for Chicago’s tech economy, where she developed and led programs focused on access to capital and talent, driving industry innovation, and supporting inclusive entrepreneurship across the city.

Prior to her role at World Business Chicago, Alya was the Managing Director for Innovation Initiatives at the Illinois Science & Technology Coalition (ISTC), a member-driven organization dedicated to cultivating technology-based economic development in Illinois.

Alya began her career at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, where she served in many roles including as the Assistant Director for studies, and prior to that as the Interim Director for the Global Midwest Initiative. There, she managed initiatives tackled global policy issues including
energy, immigration, and agriculture.

A Rockford native, Alya received her bachelor’s degree in political science from Yale University and a master’s degree in international relations from the University of Chicago. She has lived in Chicago since 2002 and currently resides in the Logan Square neighborhood with her family.

Kaitlyn Ezeocha

Vice President, Administration & Operations

LinkedIn Profile

Kaitlyn Ezeocha is Intersect Illinois’ Vice President of Operations and Administration, leading the organization’s operations and human resources functions. Kaitlyn joined Intersect Illinois as Chief of Staff during the organization’s formation in 2016.

Prior to her roles at Intersect, Kaitlyn served as the Deputy Chief of Staff for the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO), the State agency focused on economic development. She started her career in economic development and communications as an intern for the State and has since excelled in multiple leadership roles.

Kaitlyn received her bachelor’s degree in communications from University of Illinois at Springfield. She currently resides in Berwyn with her family.

Conor McGowan

Graphic Designer

LinkedIn Profile

Conor is a graduate of Columbia College with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Graphic Design. He has also earned a certificate from Northwestern University in Web Development. As the leading “eye” of the organization he provides artistic direction & brand management for all things design including print materials, digital assets, and everything in between.

Paulina San Millan

Vice President, Business Development

LinkedIn Profile

Before joining Intersect Illinois, Ms. San Millan worked for Newmark Knight Frank as a Senior Consulting Analyst on their site selection team. Paulina moved recently from New Mexico where she worked in several positions related to economic development for the past 10 years.

Karley Sweet

Marketing & Communications Director

LinkedIn Profile

Karley brings a wide range of experience to Intersect Illinois, after working in communications at World Business Chicago for nearly 13 years. Prior to WBC, Karley worked for the City of Chicago, spearheading communications and marketing around the city’s marquee events. She also has agency experience, having worked at Edelman on major consumer, healthcare and technology clients. Karley holds degrees in Journalism and Political Science from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Josh Weidenaar

Senior Research Manager

LinkedIn Profile

Josh Weidenaar is a recent graduate of Michigan State University, with a B.S. in Environmental Studies and Sustainability with a minor in economics. At Michigan State, he became interested in community and economic development and with EDA funding was able to research economic development tools for focused cluster development around particle accelerator technology transfer businesses.

Michael Zell

Research Associate

LinkedIn Profile

Originally from the Minneapolis area, Michael graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2018 with his bachelor’s degree in political science and a minor in sociology. This spring, He graduated from the La Follette School of Public Affairs at the University of Wisconsin with his master’s degree in public affairs and a certificate in strategic innovation from the Wisconsin School of Business. Michael’s research experience includes working as the Office of Public Policy intern for the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation and as a graduate research assistant for the La Follette School.

Dustin Ingram

Business Development Director

LinkedIn Profile

Dustin Ingram is a development practitioner with experience in project management and building regional economies.  Before joining Intersect Illinois, he served as a director at the Ames Chamber of Commerce and worked with over a dozen communities to attract and retain residents, jobs, and businesses.  Prior to Ames, he was the Economic Development Director for Ackley, Iowa where he worked with neighboring communities on regional revitalization strategies.  He received his master’s degree in Community and Regional Planning from Iowa State University and bachelor’s degree in Philosophy & Religion from Piedmont College, located in his home state of Georgia.

Saar De Breij

Business Development Associate

LinkedIn Profile

Saar de Breij is a recent graduate from Northwestern University, with a B.A. in Political Science, minor in legal studies and a leadership certificate. At Northwestern, Saar was captain of the varsity field hockey team and led her team to the NCAA tournament twice. Growing up in the Netherlands, Saar has always been very interested in global development and international relations and was introduced to business development during her internship at Intersect Illinois. Business Development aligns perfectly with Saar’s interests and her personality: fast-paced, teamwork oriented, internationally connected, and driven towards a common goal. 

Merrill Holden

Business Development Associate

LinkedIn Profile

Merrill Holden is a Business Development Associate at Intersect Illinois. Before joining Intersect, Merrill worked for the Ames Chamber of Commerce as an intern project manager. Originally from Chicago, Merrill earned his master’s degree in Community & Regional Planning from Iowa State University and his bachelor’s from Louisiana Tech University in General Studies. Merrill also spent his time playing collegiate basketball at both universities and later went on to play professional basketball abroad in several different countries. During his time abroad he took a passion in global development and international relations, which he leverages in his position at Intersect.