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 Rynell

Phone | 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 of 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, such as the United States’ Interagency Council on Homelessness Advocates Workgroup and Open Society Foundation’s Reentry Working Group. Melissa frequently partners with national policy leaders at the Center on Law & Social Policy, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, PolicyLink and many others. Most recently, she influenced the passage of the Workforce Investment and Opportunity Act to better serve harder-to-employ jobseekers. 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, loves to cook and travel, and is a devoted Wolverine football (Go Blue!) and Detroit Tiger baseball fan. Melissa received her Bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan and her Master’s from the University of Chicago.

Caitlin Schnur, Coordinator, National Initiatives on Poverty & Economic Opportunity

Caitlin Schnur HeadshotPhone | 312.870.4958


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Caitlin is the Coordinator of Heartland Alliance’s National Initiatives on Poverty & Economic Opportunity (National Initiatives). A social worker with an eye for systems change, Caitlin believes policies work best when they’re informed by the experience of practitioners and impacted populations. In her role, she helps make sure workforce development programs and policies account for the needs of the chronically unemployed.

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; and The Huffington Post. She’s presented at numerous national conferences and can frequently be found blogging and tweeting on behalf of National Initiatives. 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. 

Caitlin is obsessed with NPR, bakes a mean sticky bun, and is intent on making her cat 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.

Carl Wiley, Coordinator, National Center on Employment and Homelessness 
Carl WileyPhone | 312.870.4944


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Carl is the coordinator for the National Center on Employment and Homelessness (NCEH), where he works to find new ways to better serve homeless jobseekers through the Connections Project. 

For nearly ten years, Carl has been working with individuals experiencing homelessness and precarious housing situations. He spent several years working with youth experiencing homelessness at Heartland Human Care Services and Teen Living Programs.  Carl’s advocacy work is directly influenced by his past policy work on social justice campaigns for issues including the racial wealth gap, safer banking strategies, legislative work and youth homelessness. Other policy work includes creating the Racial Wealth Gap Timeline and partnering with the Woodstock Institute on a national study of financial disparities tied to race. His recent work includes collaborating with the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness, national partners, and field experts to shape innovative connections across the country through the Connections Project. 

Carl actively works in music studio recording and live performance, and has guided programs on establishing supportive services focusing on music based interventions. Carl has a background in sketch and improv comedy and, trust me, is really not as funny as he thinks he is. Carl holds a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from the University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana and a Master’s degree in Social Work, with an emphasis on community and urban development, from the University of Illinois at Chicago.  Carl is an auxiliary board member of the LYTE Collective 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. 

Kyle Pierce, Research and Policy Assistant

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Kyle is spending the year supporting the National Center on Employment and Homelessness’s (NCEH) Connections Project. Kyle studies spatial planning and community development at UIC as a Master’s Candidate in Urban Planning and Policy.

Kyle spent time in Scotland, staffing for a leading Member of Parliament and in D.C. as a fellow with HUD’s Office of Public Engagement. These experiences, along with a Bachelor’s Degree in American Policy at the University of Washington, have informed his enthusiasm to work in policy at the national level in order to find solutions to growing inequity and which more directly benefit underserved urban communities.

In addition to being passionate about social and economic justice, Kyle is a sports and outdoor fanatic. Whether it’s watching baseball on TV, scuba diving in the Puget Sound or trying to play golf, athletics and physical activity play an important role in his life.