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Our Staff

Forest Zafran Consulting LLC has two decades of experience in the nonprofit and public sector. 


Ilana Zafran Walden
CEO and Founder

Ilana Zafran Walden is a public sector and nonprofit executive leader with over 15 years of experience in developing and leading programs, initiatives, and strategies designed to alleviate poverty and increase educational equity.  

Most recently, Ilana served as the Director of the Chicago Student Success Initiative (CSSI) for Chicago Public Schools (CPS).  In this role she led a $9M district wide collaboration with University of Chicago Education Lab to identify how CPS could best serve students who face significant barriers towards high school graduation.  Ilana has catalyzed transformative change for students by identifying and scaling promising academic, engagement, postsecondary, and mental health interventions; developing policies and systems to support students who are highly mobile; and reenvisioning the infrastructure and support of the district’s 38 alternative high schools which serve approximately 10,000 students per year.  


She previously served as the COO at Umoja Student Development Corporation, where she was responsible for organizational strategy, human resources, financial oversight, and business operations.  During Ilana’s tenure as COO, Umoja nearly doubled its programming, staff, and budget.  As a key member of the executive team, Ilana identified innovative ways to scale and adapt Umoja’s programming so that it remained sustainable and relevant.   Additionally, Ilana served as an ambassador for the organization, regularly representing Umoja at events and on citywide committees.  Ilana also cultivated strategic relationships with Umoja’s corporate, individual and institutional donors and regularly worked with the Board of Directors.  


Prior to assuming the role of COO, Ilana lead the development, implementation and expansion of Umoja’s restorative justice programming.  Under Ilana’s leadership, Umoja’s restorative justice initiatives gained national attention for their cutting edge approach to the national school pushout crisis and the school-to-prison pipeline.


Throughout her career, Ilana has participated in numerous leadership development opportunities including Bonfire Women’s Leadership Program and The All-State Foundation Greater Good Nonprofit Leaders Program.  She received a B.A. in Sociology from the College of Wooster and an Executive Scholar Certificate in Nonprofit Management from Northwestern University – Kellogg School of Management.


Ilana has served on the Board of Directors for the Chicago Freedom School and Girl Forward and currently sits on the Board of Avodah: The Jewish Service Corps.  While she grew up in Boston, Ilana has for the past 15 years lived in Chicago, where she currently resides with her husband, 7 year old son, and 4 year old daughter.  She loves Peloton, Barre3, cooking, reading, and making spreadsheets to organize her personal and professional life!

Forest Zafran Consulting LLC is named after Ilana. Forest, honors Ilana's first name which means "tree" in Hebrew. Zafran is Ilana's maiden name. 

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