Volunteer Spotlight: Drew Rubin and Leanne Wagner

At Heartland Alliance’s Research & Policy division, we have the opportunity to work alongside talented and dedicated participants, staff and volunteers. Without them , our work would not be possible. That is why, this volunteer appreciation month, we want to take the time to lift up two volunteers who have given their time and talents towards helping our mission of ending poverty: Drew Rubin and LeAnne Wagner. We are so thankful for their time, efforts and dedication to Heartland Alliance!


Drew Rubin

“Volunteering for Heartland is a win, win opportunity. I get to do things that I like to do, work on skills that I need to develop, while also helping other people”

That is what Drew Rubin, a self-proclaimed data geek, says he feels about being a volunteer Analyst with Heartland Alliance’s Social IMPACT Research Center. As a volunteer, he provides his expertise in data analysis to help the IMPACT team look at data, evaluate outcomes, and any other work the team may need

After graduating from Northwestern University in 2016, Drew’s passion for math led him to The Cambridge Group where he worked as a Business Analyst. This work required him to synthesize extensive databases into actionable growth strategies and to structure complex models to help clients make key business decisions.. For the past two years, Drew has done similar work with Heartland Alliance, but he recognizes that there are some major differences.

“Creating data in the corporate world is very straight forward and money focused, whereas with non- profits the end goal is not as clear.” Drew said. “Ending poverty is a huge task and the hardest part is figuring out what needs to be done. Personally, the most challenging part for me is defining clear objectives and understanding which projects I can and cannot help with because there’s always a lot of work that needs to be done.”

Drew is drawn to Heartland Alliance because of its mission to address a widespread problem, and he recognizes that change is not made in one simple swoop. He believes that all the programs provided by Heartland make a significant impact across a variety of issues which allows for greater change to be made.

Heartland Alliance’s Research & Policy team is so grateful to Drew for his time, dedication and support! It is amazing volunteers, like him, that help create a major impact in the fight to end poverty.


LeAnne Wagner

As a lecturer at DePaul University’s, School of Design, LeAnne Wagner teaches students how to apply human centered design to new media and technology. She also runs her own design and consulting business where she works with teams to tackle complex problems in the digital design space. With experience in both brand design and experience design, Leanne feels comfortable working in a wide variety of settings and thrives off of seeing a project from inception to final delivery. Her skills and experience have made her a leader in her field, but Leanne is not only applying her expertise to her professional life, she is using it to help fuel the work being done at Heartland Alliance.

Outside of her professional work, LeAnne is passionate about working on projects that focus on education and social impact. She is always working with other organizations in the community to learn new ways to use design. So when she heard that Heartland Alliance had volunteer opportunities available, Leanne knew she wanted to help.

“It’s always great when you can use your professional skills for good, instead of just traditional marketing, which is what I do a lot of.”

For the past 3 years, LeAnne has assisted with designing Heartland Alliance’s annual poverty report. And in addition to her passion for using her skills for good, she says that she enjoys taking part in the project because of what she is able to learn about the different themes introduced each year because it gives her an opportunity to expand her knowledge on how poverty uniquely impacts certain populations in Illinois. This year’s report, The Gender Disadvantage: Why Inequity Persists, exposes how gender, gender identity, and gender norms shape experiences of poverty for women and gender minorities – and how women who have other marginalized identities experience even more inequity.

“The poverty report is really important, so anything that I can do to help visually communicate the material, especially materials that contain a lot of people, numbers, and abstract concepts, I’m really excited to help.”

LeAnne believes it is important to set an example for her students so that they can see that there are ways to incorporate your skills into the community through volunteering. She is always trying to find new ways to connect her passion for design and her desire to make an impact, and hopes that her work with organizations like Heartland Alliance, will encourage her students to do the same.

We are extremely grateful to Leanne for her time, partnership, and hard work and thank her for being such a wonderful volunteer!