Audra Wilson Named New President & CEO of the Shriver Center on Poverty Law

Wilson is a seasoned advocate for economic and racial justice in policy, political and legal arenas

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, May 13, 2020

CONTACT:
Ambar Mentor-Truppa, Vice President of Communications
312-809-8048: amentor@povertylaw.org

Audra Wilson Named New President & CEO of the Shriver Center on Poverty Law

Wilson is a seasoned advocate for economic and racial justice in policy, political and legal arenas

CHICAGO –Audra Wilson, an experienced policy and legal leader, has been named the Shriver Center on Poverty Law’s new President and CEO by the organization’s Governing Board. Wilson joins the Shriver Center from the League of Women Voters of Illinois, where she served as Executive Director. She will become the third leader in the last half of the organization’s 53-year history when she starts on June 1.

Wilson succeeds John Bouman, a tireless advocate at the Shriver Center for more than twenty years and President of the organization since 2007. This is a reunion for Wilson and the Shriver Center, as she started her career with the organization two decades ago as a staff attorney focused on welfare reform. Throughout her career, Wilson has focused on the voices and experiences of communities of color and communities most impacted by injustice. Shaped by her personal experience as a child of Jamaican immigrants, Wilson brings to the Shriver Center critical perspective on the intersection of race and poverty in policy development and politics, as well as diversity, equity, and inclusion in the legal and advocacy landscapes.

“I am grateful for the opportunity to return to the Shriver Center on Poverty Law and lead this critical force for justice and equity,” said Wilson. “At this unprecedented moment for our country, I am ready to jump in and support communities of color and those experiencing economic hardship to ensure not only immediate relief during this pandemic but the ending of structural racism and injustice that has long ailed our nation.”

Wilson brings more than 20 years of experience as a public interest lawyer and teacher, policy shaper, community mobilizer, and experienced executive manager. Prior to the League of Women Voters of Illinois, Wilson served as the Deputy Chief of Staff for United States Congresswoman Robin Kelly in the Second Congressional District of Illinois.

At the League of Women Voters, Wilson led critical change to expand the League’s mission as a 100-year old civic engagement organization with nearly 4,000 members and over 40 chapters statewide. She advanced the League’s advocacy on issues of race equity and voting rights and built organizational capacity for fundraising and communications. Wilson also serves as chair of the Cook County Commission on Women’s Issues, appointed by Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle.

During her tenure with Congresswoman Kelly, Wilson served constituents in a district covering much of Chicago’s South Side and South Suburbs.  She led a multi-state team and served as a de facto surrogate for the Congresswoman among key stakeholders, including as Illinois lead for the Congressional Caucus on Black Women and Girls.

Diversity and inclusion were the center of her work with Northwestern University’s Pritzker School of Law as she co-founded the first formal consortium of law school diversity professionals in Chicago, seen as a national model. Her early career, including a number of years at the Shriver Center, included several roles in policy shaping around economic and food security and early childhood education. She was tapped by then-state-Senator Barack Obama to serve as the Deputy Press and Policy Director on his U.S. Senate campaign and has served as a policy advisor for numerous federal and state candidates for elected office. 

“Audra is an experienced leader who has the steady hand needed to lead us during a tumultuous time in our nation, and the passion to advance our work when it is needed more than ever,” said Shriver Center Governing Board Chair Debbie Chizewer. “We are confident in this leadership transition because we know the organization is ready. The sharper focus in our work, our recent strategic plan, our 50th anniversary, our capacity-building efforts have all led to this moment.”

The Shriver Center’s Governing Board led a broad and inclusive nationwide search process. The national board has also grown and is energized by a diverse group of experts. The most recent appointments to the board include former Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan and foundation and civic leader Maria Pesqueira.

In the past several years, the Shriver Center has ushered in bold state and local policies, launched several multi-state networks, implemented a racial justice focus to its poverty work, and grown an outstanding team. Today, the Shriver Center is advocating on all fronts for systemic change to the COVID-19 pandemic and pushing for the necessary law and policy changes and budget allocations needed to sustainably bring this response to scale.

 “I am so delighted to welcome Audra back home to the Shriver Center. She understands the work and the organization,” said John Bouman. “Audra brings an impressive collection of advocacy and leadership experiences, all of them effective and aimed at the same mission the Shriver Center serves. Our work toward lasting systemic change has never been more critical. I am excited to see Audra’s leadership of the Shriver Center develop and flourish in the years to come.”

Wilson will be based at the Shriver Center’s headquarters in Chicago, Illinois.

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The Shriver Center on Poverty Law fights for economic and racial justice. Over our 50-year history, we have secured hundreds of victories with and for people living in poverty in Illinois and across the country. Today, we litigate, shape policy, and train and convene multi-state networks of lawyers, community leaders, and activists nationwide. Together, we are building a future where all people have equal dignity, respect, and power under the law. Join the fight at povertylaw.org.

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