For general inquiries, please contact Jean Lam at 312.870.4949 or email ni (at)

For media inquiries, please contact Amber Cason at acason (at)

 Amy Rynell, Senior Director of Research & Policy

6/27/16 Heartland Alliance headshot with Amy RynellPhone | 312.870.4944
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Amy has worked for Heartland Alliance since 1997 and currently oversees Heartland Alliance’s Research & Policy Division which is comprised of the Social IMPACT Research Center, Heartland Alliance’s National Initiatives on Economic Opportunity, and the Heartland Alliance Policy and Advocacy Team. She provides external and internal policy and thought leadership, strategic direction and planning, financial management, and oversight of the projects throughout the division. With the Social IMPACT Research Center, best known for its reports on poverty, Amy guides dynamic research and analysis on today’s most pressing social issues.  In her role with Heartland Alliance’s National Initiatives, Amy supports policy change, research, and field building to advance and strengthen employment programs and policies that address chronic unemployment. Finally through the Policy and Advocacy Team, Amy supports the creation of state policies designed to end poverty.

With over 20 years’ experience in the nonprofit human services sector, Amy has devoted her career to  ending  poverty, homelessness and chronic unemployment and as such has developed unique expertise in these areas. Amy has in-depth knowledge of poverty and homelessness through providing direct services within a homeless system in a range of interventions, through leading the creation of plans to end homelessness, through leadership positions within the Chicago Continuum of Care and coordinating the Regional Roundtable on Homelessness, and through documenting and evaluating best practices in addressing poverty and homelessness, including having overseen the most comprehensive study of homelessness in northeastern Illinois. In addition, Amy has been involved in multiple studies of unemployed adults with multiple employment barriers, helped advise on the design and roll-out of large scale employment initiatives, and served on the boards of workforce development organizations.

Amy has the honor of holding external leadership positions including being appointed to the State of Illinois Hunger Commission and Human Services Commission, serving on the national technical working group for USDHHS’s Subsidized and Transitional Jobs Demonstration, being a leader within the National Responsible Fatherhood Roundtable, a member of the Chicago Foundation for Women Academic Advisory Council, and a member of the Chicago Alliance to End Homelessness Employment Task Group.   She is a frequent presenter at National Alliance to End Homelessness conferences, and the Welfare Research & Evaluation conferences, among others. Amy is also an adjunct professor at the University of Chicago.

Amy received her BA from University of Notre Dame and her AM from the University of Chicago’s School of Social Service Administration.

Chris Warland, Associate Director, Field Building 
Chris WarlandPhone | 312.870.4959
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Chris Warland works to support chronically unemployed people across the country by developing resources, offering trainings, facilitating peer learning, and consulting with employment initiative programs at the local, state, and federal levels. Before getting involved in workforce development, Chris worked for several years as an adult education teacher for detainees at the Cook County Jail.

Chris regularly speaks at national conferences, and has provided consultation on national demonstration projects with the US Department of Labor and Department of Health and Human Services, as well as guidance on statewide initiatives for multiple state governments. He has authored or co-authored numerous papers on effective employment programming published by organizations such as the University of California, Berkeley’s Institute for Research on Labor and Employment and the US Department of Health and Human Services’ National Resource Center for Healthy Marriage and Families.

Chris enjoys playing the saxophone, record collecting, vintage motorcycle maintenance, and bicycle commuting. He holds a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Michigan and a Master of Arts from the School of Social Service Administration at the University of Chicago.

Melissa Young, Director, National Initiatives on Poverty & Economic Opportunity  
Melissa YoungPhone | 312.870.4944
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Melissa is the Director of Heartland Alliance’s National Initiatives on Poverty & Economic Opportunity. She steers the team’s policy and systems change efforts by advancing solutions to the systemic issues that drive chronic unemployment.
Melissa’s work has shaped the national discussion and awareness of employment interventions as a key solution to fighting poverty. Melissa shepherded the National Transitional Jobs Network from a small coalition of stakeholders to a nationally recognized project made up of partners in over 36 states and cultivated the transitional jobs strategy into a federally recognized employment solution for addressing the employment needs of men, women, and youth facing chronic unemployment. Her work has grown from leading a single national coalition to developing and leading multiple initiatives. Her expertise has landed her a seat on several national coalitions and she’s written extensively about a range of federal policy and system drivers of chronic unemployment and poverty. Melissa influenced the passage of the Workforce Investment and Opportunity Act to better serve harder-to-employ jobseekers and has worked to shape implementation of the legislation in several communities nationwide. Most recently, Melissa helped to develop the Creating Pathways for Youth Employment Act which supports the planning and implementation of intensive employment interventions blended with therapeutic approaches in order to support pathways to employment and opportunity for youth most likely to experience trauma and violence in communities. She frequently works alongside federal agencies such as the United States Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Labor, and Department of Justice to advance policy and systems change.

Melissa is an avid runner, spends far too much time in vintage thrift shops, is a #bigfan of twitter, and is a devoted Wolverine football (Go Blue!) and Detroit Tigers baseball fan. Melissa received her Bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan and her Master’s from the University of Chicago.

Caitlin Schnur, Policy Associate

Caitlin Schnur Headshot@schnurtles
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Caitlin is the Policy Associate for Heartland Alliance’s National Initiatives on Poverty & Economic Opportunity. A social worker with an eye for systems change, Caitlin believes policies work best when they’re informed by the experience of impacted populations and practitioners. Working out of Washington, D.C., she helps make sure workforce development programs and policies account for the needs and interests of people who face significant barriers to employment.

Caitlin has published on topics including employment, asset building, homelessness, reentry, and the federal budget with the National Health Care for the Homeless Council, the Institute for Children, Poverty, and Homelessness, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, The Huffington Post, and Spotlight on Poverty and Opportunity. She’s presented at numerous national conferences to advance employment solutions for adults and youth facing significant barriers to employment and brings a focus on economic opportunity to national coalitions such as the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness’ Advocates Roundtable and the Open Society Foundation’s Reentry Working Group. Prior to Heartland Alliance, Caitlin investigated police misconduct for the City of New York and worked in communications at the American Civil Liberties Union and the National Partnership for Women & Families. She also worked to help people experiencing or at-risk of homelessness in Chicago become stably housed.

Caitlin is obsessed with NPR, likes testing out new recipes, and thinks her cat should internet famous. She received her Bachelor’s in English and Gender Studies from Haverford College and her Master’s in Social Service Administration from the University of Chicago.

Quintin Williams, Field Building Project Manager

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Quintin Williams is a Field Building Project Manager at Heartland Alliance and a part-time instructor and Ph.D student in Sociology at Loyola University in Chicago.  His research interests include the Sociology of Race and Ethnicity, Social Inequality, and Crime and Punishment. Quintin works with the Restoring Rights and Opportunities Coalition of Illinois (RROCI) working with people with records and advocating for the expansion of their opportunities and for broader criminal justice reform in Illinois. He believes in the inherent worth of all people, the urgency of expanding opportunities for the most marginalized, and the paramount role of lived experience in creating strong and sustainable policies. Quintin currently holds an Associate in Arts from Malcolm X College, a Bachelor’s Degree in Sociology from Concordia University Chicago, and a Master’s Degree in Sociology from Loyola University Chicago.

Amber (Cason) Crossen, Communications and Content Manager
Phone | 312.870.4960
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Amber is the Communications Coordinator for Heartland Alliance’s Research & Policy Division. As a social media, content, and communications strategist, Amber works to promote the work, goals and accomplishments of the Social IMPACT Research Center, along with rest of the Research & Policy staff, through various forms of communication.

Amber hopes to use her expertise to create a conversation around social justice, employment opportunities, criminal justice reform, and creating more equitable society.

Amber received her bachelor’s degree in Multi Media Journalism from Southeast Missouri State University and has a background in internal communications and journalism. In her free time, Amber can be found listening to NPR, going for runs, and discovering new coffee spots in Chicago.

Jean Lam, Program Coordinator 
Jean LamPhone | 312.870.4949
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Jean Lam is the Administrative Coordinator for Heartland Alliance’s Research and Policy Division. Jean provides specialized clerical support and administrative assistance to the three teams that make up Heartland Alliance’s Research and Policy Division. Jean enables the staff to achieve their goals of greater social change and make a difference.

Jean’s educational background is in programming, along with her past experiences in information services support and database management, has given her the technical skills and knowledge to deepen her role on the team.

Jean’s interests include reading biographical literature, cooking, taking online courses, and watching Chicago Bulls games. She supports the nearby school youth group and she volunteers in local community housing assistance services.