Skip to Main Content

The Discovery Partners Institute (DPI) has hired six tech leaders to develop promising and diverse tech talent and increase funding for research and development projects.

Michael G. Bennett, J.D., Ph.D., Director of Student Experiential Immersion Programs (Connect on LinkedIn)

Bennett is responsible for directing and overseeing DPI’s growing portfolio of academic and informal learning programs, and leading a team that implements and manages them. Bennett will also focus on developing and maintaining relationships with Chicago-based employers through which many of DPI’s job creation ambitions will be realized.

Prior to joining DPI, Bennett was arts and culture commissioner for the city of Tempe, Ariz., and a professor in the School for the Future of Innovation at Arizona State University.

Jennifer Foil, Ph.D., Director of Workforce Education (LinkedIn)

Foil’s work is focused on increasing Chicago’s digital talent supply and driving representative economic growth in the region.

Prior to joining DPI, Foil led workforce development initiatives for the State of Illinois at Northern Illinois University’s Center for Governmental Studies as a senior research associate.

Eric B. Lugo, Director, External Relations (LinkedIn)

Lugo leads DPI’s efforts to build partnerships with business, workforce systems, civic initiatives, and community-based organizations with the aim of developing job-ready technology talent and an inclusive tech ecosystem.

Prior to DPI, Eric served as executive vice chancellor and chief of staff at City Colleges of Chicago. He’s also held roles as vice president, philanthropy at JPMorgan Chase & Co., and senior development officer at Instituto del Progreso Latino.

Michael Fitzsimons, Ph.D., Associate Director of Research and Development Programs (LinkedIn)

Fitzsimons will work with the R&D science teams to support them in acquiring new funding, finding academic and industrial partners, and generally supporting their research goals.

Before joining DPI, Fitzsimons was associate director for research development in the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research at the University of Illinois Chicago.

Charity Freeman, Associate Director of Teacher Training (LinkedIn)

Freeman is responsible for the implementation of teacher training programs within DPI’s community education unit, focusing on computer and data science/analytics at the high school and community college levels. This includes supporting the implementation of the computer science endorsement for teachers.

Prior to joining DPI, Charity was a computer science teacher at Lane Tech College Prep High School, the largest of the Chicago Public Schools. She currently serves as an appointed member of the Computer Science Teachers Association’s Board of Directors.

Gina Grant, Associate Director of K-12 Student Programming (LinkedIn)

Grant leads DPI’s K-12 programming for middle and high school students, to help them start careers in computer science and related fields.

Previously, Grant was director of community and director of programs for Chicago Learning Exchange (CLX). She also spent several years as a district administrator for Chicago Public Schools (CPS), leading training and strategic planning in the offices of mathematics and science, e-learning, and teaching & learning.

About DPI
The Discovery Partners Institute empowers people to jumpstart their tech careers or companies in Chicago. Led by the University of Illinois System in partnership with top research universities, it does three things: Train people for high-demand tech jobs; conduct applied R&D; and support Chicago’s tech community. With state investment and a new innovation district in development, DPI has the resources to attract, develop, and leverage the most ambitious people and companies the region has to offer — and keep them here.