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Chief Operating Officer
University of Chicago Urban Education Institute

Charna Epstein is the Chief Operating Officer (COO) and a managing director of the University of Chicago Urban Education Institute. As COO, Charna provides oversight of strategy and operations throughout UEI’s multi-faceted work. She builds, refines, and implements strategy and policy in finance, human resources, technology, communications, compliance, and risk in all areas of UEI; she supports design and implementation of metrics to measure UEI’s impact and effectiveness. Prior to joining UEI, Charna spent almost two decades in emergency and disaster management, in the public and private sectors.

She has led emergency work with evacuee, refugee, and immigrant populations and spent 10 years at the international NGO Heartland Alliance for Human Needs and Human Rights as the Director of Crisis Prevention, Resettlement, and Disaster Recovery. During her tenure in this position, she was the recipient of the 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 Scholarship Award, presented to individuals poised to make lasting contributions to reducing disaster vulnerability. Charna 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.