Skip to main content

Global Voices, Local Action: Transportation and Infrastructure Speaker Information

Juan Sebastian Arias (presenter)
Deputy Director of Policy, Chicago Mayor’s Office
Juan Sebastian Arias works for the Office of Chicago Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot as a Deputy Director of Policy. There he manages strategic policy and place-based initiatives across housing, neighborhood development and food security – from equitable transit-oriented developments to vacant lots to fair housing. He has over 12 years of experience working to advance racial equity and social justice in cities through policy, research, community engagement, and cross-sector partnerships. 

Javier Matilla Ayala (panelist)
Chief Architect, Barcelona City Council
Xavi Matilla is an architect-urban planner graduated from ETSAV-UPC, born in Terrassa (Barcelona) in 1975. He has developed his professional career in different offices of recognized prestige in the field of urban planning, having won several awards and recognitions. 

He is an associate professor at the Department of Urbanism and Spatial Planning (DUOT) at the Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya UPC_BarcelonaTECH and at the Master Metropoli in Metropolitan and Urban Studies, The Barcelona Institute of Regional and Metropolitan Studies (IERMB). He is currently the Chief Architect of Barcelona City Council. 

Deputy Commissioner Jamie Simone (panelist)
Department of Transportation, City of Chicago
Jamie Simone has been with the Chicago Department of Transportation since March 2020, serving as Deputy Commissioner for Strategic Initiatives. Her team includes the Director of Public Affairs, Director of Policy, and the newly created position of Director of Outreach and Engagement. She led the Department’s Strategic Plan process and is now working on an update document to share progress toward the Plan’s implementation. Prior to CDOT, Jamie worked in the private sector at Sam Schwartz and Farr Associates as well as in the public and non-profit sectors at IDOT, The Trust for Public Land, and the Wicker Park Bucktown Chamber of Commerce.  

Jamie is a member of the American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP), is a LEED Accredited Professional
(LEED-AP), and is a member of Lambda Alpha. She previously served on the boards of the Illinois Chapter of the American Planning Association and the Friends of the Bloomingdale Trail.
Jamie holds a master’s degree in urban planning and policy from the university of Illinois at Chicago, and a bachelor’s degree from the University of Iowa.

Melvin Thompson, MBA (moderator)
Executive Director, Endeleo Institute 
Melvin Thompson, MBA is the executive director of the Endeleo Institute, the community development arm of Trinity United Church of Christ on the Far South Side of Chicago.  Melvin is charged with the successful integration of three former Trinity nonprofit corporations in Health, Education and Community Development. 

Under his leadership, Endeleo addresses a pressing need to advance the state of comprehensive community development with deeper effectiveness, due largely to its evolution beyond single issue, project-based strategies that fail to address the complex mix of challenges African-Americans face. 

As such, Mr. Thompson is committed to community-based participatory research, a process that positions Endeleo as a community liaison between academic research institutions and residents of Washington Heights. 

With a mission to revitalize the 95th street corridor, Melvin has strategically combined health and community development to build a more sustainable, health-conscious and vibrant neighborhood, leveraging a signature transit station as the nexus for economic development.

Audrey Wennink (emcee)
Director of Transportation, Metropolitan Planning Council
Audrey directs MPC’s transportation efforts and coordinates transportation initiatives with other facets of planning including affordable housing, land use, equity and the environment. She leads transportation research and advocacy efforts including pursuing sustainable funding for transportation in Illinois, integration of performance-based planning methods into transportation practice, and developing efforts to boost transportation equity. Under her leadership, MPC developed the Toward Universal Mobility report defining needed improvements to the region’s transportation system to benefit people with disabilities and seniors.   The Where the Sidewalk Ends report documents the state of municipal ADA transition planning in the Chicago Metropolitan Area.   Her work on transportation equity includes contributing to research on understanding mobility barriers for marginalized communities, studying how equity is used as a project prioritization criterion by metropolitan planning organizations, and development of a toolkit for employers to support transportation needs of workers in disconnected communities.   The Transit Means Business report she spearheaded highlights the need for transit investment to support jobs in the region.  She also leads the MPC Transportation Advisory Committee, comprised of regional business and public policy leaders.

Prior to MPC, Audrey was a transportation planning and policy consultant for 12 years with national expertise in transit, traffic safety, freight and performance based planning. Prior to her planning career she served in various communications roles in Washington, D.C. and Chicago. 

A Chicago resident for more than 20 years, Audrey is an advisory board member of the Greater Chicago chapter of WTS, a professional organization to advance women in the transportation industry. She also serves as member of the national advisory board of Young Professionals in Transportation.  Additionally, she is a member of Lambda Alpha International, an honorary society focusing on land economics and planning issues. Audrey also serves on the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning’s transportation committee. She holds a B.A. in English and Spanish from Colby College and a Master’s in Urban Planning and Policy from the University of Illinois at Chicago. She is a fellow of the University of Chicago’s Harris School’s Civic Leadership Academy