Office of Governmental Relations Staff

Jennifer Creasey

Senior Director of State Relations

Jennifer Creasey joined the University of Illinois System in March 2014, stepping into the role of senior director of state relations. Previously, Jennifer was the associate state director for advocacy and outreach with AARP Illinois, and she also served as deputy director of Boards & Commissions/Economic & Environmental Affairs in the Office of the Governor. Jennifer has also worked in a number of political internships in both Washington D.C and Springfield.

Jennifer has a bachelor’s degree in both political science and speech communications from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and was selected for the James H. Dunn Memorial Fellowship Program after graduation in 2004. She earned her master’s in political science from the University of Illinois at Springfield. Jennifer represents the U of I System in both the Illinois State Capitol and the community to advance its priorities. She is also responsible for outreach, state legislative advocacy efforts, strategic partnerships, and management of relationships around the state. Through this work, Jennifer works closely with the U of I System legislative caucus and system alumni throughout the state.

In 2016, Jennifer was nominated to participate in the Edgar Fellows Program. Before coming to the U of I System, she was the AARP staff lead for state healthcare legislation and implementation of the Affordable Care Act for the AARP Illinois legislative office. Jennifer is a member of the Springfield YMCA board, and an active member of a number of community and professional development groups.

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Nolan Drea

Assistant Director of State Relations

Nolan Drea joined the University of Illinois System in February 2019 as assistant director of state relations. A graduate of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign’s Gies College of Business, Nolan previously worked on Illinois Senate President John Cullerton's staff for seven years. Nolan is based in Springfield.

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Angelica Alfaro

Associate Director of Local and State Relations

A proud alumna of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Angelica Alfaro joined the University of Illinois System in February 2020. Angelica spent almost ten years working across Chicago on improving access to high-quality education, summer college programs, and scholarships for thousands of families while leading policy, fundraising, community organizing, and advocacy efforts.

In 2016 she ran for State Senate, garnering 47% of her district’s votes. After a very close race, she drove cross country to work the 2016 presidential campaign in Nevada. After contemplating moving to the coasts, she decided to stay where her heart is — Chicago. She is a strong believer of the potential of black and brown communities. Angelica has dedicated her career towards ensuring equity and access to opportunities within education, public health, mental health, violence prevention, environmental advocacy and economic development.

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Paul Weinberger

Director of Federal Relations

Paul Weinberger, a veteran congressional staffer with two decades of experience on Capitol Hill and with federal agencies, joined OGR as director of federal relations in April 2017. Previously, Paul served as vice president of congressional and public affairs for the U.S. Government's Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), overseeing the agency’s communications, legislative and outreach team and strategies. Before joining MCC, he was director of congressional relations for the Peace Corps. Paul also served as legislative director for U.S. Senator Russ Feingold, as counsel for the House Committee on Government Reform, and as a staffer for U.S. Senator Robert C. Byrd. Paul is a graduate of Yale University and Harvard Law School.

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Melissa Haas

Associate Director of Federal Relations

A native of Illinois and a proud alumna of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Melissa Haas joined the federal relations team in May 2013 from the congressional staff of U.S. Representative Peter Roskam, former Chief Deputy Whip and a member of the House Ways and Means Committee. Melissa interned for Rep. Roskam during college, then after graduation, served as the front office ambassador, supervised the internship program, managed the congressman's large constituent mail operation, and ultimately advised Rep. Roskam on a variety of legislative issues important to the U of I, including higher education, agriculture, and immigration.

Melissa first joined the University of Illinois System’s federal team as a federal relations specialist, and has since served as an assistant director of federal relations, acting director of federal relations, and now in her current post as associate director of federal relations. Melissa spent her first three years working out of OGR's D.C. office, and has been based out of OGR's office in Chicago since spring 2016.

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Grace Hart

Federal Relations Specialist

Grace Hart joined the federal relations team in April 2020 as a federal relations specialist. Her current duties include helping the federal relations staff achieve its legislative goals, assisting university faculty and staff during visits to Capitol Hill, and planning and executing federal advocacy events for faculty and students. Before stepping into her role, Grace worked as a legislative intern in both the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate where she focused on education and healthcare issues. She is a passionate advocate for diversity and inclusion, and strives to make sure students’ voices are heard at the federal level.

Grace graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign with a bachelor’s degree in political science in May 2019. As a student, she worked as an undergraduate research ambassador and LAS 101 instructor, while also playing clarinet in the university’s Wind Symphony, Wind Orchestra and Clarinet Choir. Grace is based in Washington D.C.

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Marissa Brewer

Associate Director of Advocacy

Marissa Brewer leads the University of Illinois System’s grassroots advocacy program Illinois Connection. Originally from Texas, Marissa began her career as a legislative aide in Washington D.C. for now-retired U.S. Representative Randy Neugebauer, advising him on a variety of issues, including education policy. Marissa relocated to central Illinois in 2009 to work for Illinois State University as the Associate Director of Development and Governmental Relations. In 2013, Marissa joined the U of I System to work in legislative advocacy.

Marissa has a bachelor’s degree in public administration from Texas State University and a master’s in political science from the University of Illinois at Springfield. She also has a Certificate in PAC and Grassroots Management from the Public Affairs Council.

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Mitch Dickey

Advocacy Coordinator

Mitch Dickey joined the University of Illinois System in July 2017 to work in legislative advocacy. A 2016 political science graduate from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Mitch served two terms as student body president from 2014-16. After graduation, Mitch began working on Illinois House Speaker Michael J. Madigan’s staff as a communications staffer. He is based in Chicago.

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Theresa Thomas

Visiting Advocacy Specialist

Theresa Thomas joined the University of Illinois System in January 2020 as the Visiting Advocacy Specialist. A native Chicagoan, she graduated from the University of Illinois at Chicago in 2019 and has a BA in Anthropology.

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Taylor Holmes

Fellow

Taylor Holmes is a senior at the University of Illinois at Chicago studying political science and public policy. After previously serving as student body president at UIC, Taylor is the current president of the Chicago Chapter of the Student Advocacy Coalition. Taylor also worked on the policy team for former Kansas City Mayor Sly James, for the education team at the Kauffman Foundation, and as a finance assistant on a Secretary of State campaign in Missouri.


Connor Josellis

Fellow

Connor Josellis is a senior at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign studying journalism. Connor served as student body president his junior year at UIUC and is active in campus organizations such as Wishmakers and the Illini Media Company.