Charna Epstein is the Chief Operating Officer (COO) and a managing director of the University of Chicago Urban Education Institute
As COO, Epstein provides day-to-day oversight of operations throughout UEI’s multi-faceted operations and works across domains to improve the function of core operational units to support UEI’s work. Epstein builds, refines, and implements strategy and policy in finance, human resources and technology in all areas of UEI; she supports design and implementation of metrics to measure UEI impact and effectiveness, and spends a significant portion of her time leading operations in the UChicago Charter School.
Prior to joining UEI, Epstein served as the Chief of Staff to Alderman Ameya Pawar in Chicago’s 47th Ward, successfully leading the work on over $250 million in development initiatives and driving core legislative, policy, strategic planning, and external communications projects. Prior to her work with the City, Epstein led emergency work with evacuee, refugee, and immigrant populations for 10 years at the international NGO Heartland Alliance for Human Needs and Human Rights. For the majority of her time at Heartland Alliance, she served as the Director of Crisis Prevention, Resettlement, and Disaster Recovery; during her tenure in this position she was the recipient of numerous awards. Epstein was selected for a 2011 Red Cross Hero Award for relief efforts in the wake of Hurricane Katrina and the Haitian earthquake, as well as the National Hazards Center’s 2008 Mary Fran Myers Award, presented to individuals poised to make lasting contributions to reducing disaster vulnerability. In 2013, Epstein traveled to South Central Asia on a U.S. State Department legislative fellowship. Early in her career, Epstein worked as a teacher in both elementary and high school.
Epstein is the author of the book, Emergency Management and Social Intelligence: A Comprehensive All Hazards Approach (December 2014). Epstein holds an M.A. in Social Service Administration and an M.S. in Threat and Response Management, both from the University of Chicago, and B.A. from Brandeis University.