2024 Alumni Award winners

Roosevelt University announced today the 2024 recipients of its annual Alumni Awards. These awards recognize outstanding alumni for their accomplishments and commitment to Roosevelt University’s historic social justice mission. The honorees will be recognized on Thursday, April 25 at a reception at the Emily Hotel in Chicago’s West Loop.

Jared Fritz-McCarty (MM ’11), assistant vice president of advancement, says, “Our awardees have made a profound impact on their professions and communities. Their dedication and vision embody Roosevelt’s values, and their achievements inspire others to reach greater heights.” He continues, “We celebrate the rich diversity of this group—reflecting the people we have and will continue to serve.”

The 2024 Alumni Award recipients are listed below:

Dr. Peri E. Arnold ’64

Distinguished Alumni Award

In 1971, Dr. Peri Arnold became the first Jewish professor at the University of Notre Dame’s College of Arts and Letters, where he taught courses in political science. During his time at Notre Dame, his involvement in search committees was instrumental in expanding and diversifying the faculty. Arnold served three terms as department chair and six years as director of the Hesburgh Program in Public Service. He was also the founder and director of Notre Dame’s Washington Program. Notre Dame awarded Arnold the President’s Award in 1993 and the Kaneb Award for Teaching in 1999.

A multi-year grant from the Ford Foundation supported Arnold’s first book Making the Managerial Presidency, which won the National Academy of Public Administration’s 1987 Louis Brownlow Book Award. His second book, Remaking the Presidency, was published in 2009. It continues to be taught at the university level. 

Arnold retired in 2015 from Notre Dame as dean emeritus. He continues to volunteer in a program, organized by colleagues, offering classes at Indiana’s Westville Correctional Center. The values he discovered at Roosevelt helped him make the classroom a safe place for the incarcerated and transform their lives through education. 

Arnold graduated from Roosevelt University in 1964 with a bachelor’s in political science. He received his doctor of philosophy from the University of Chicago in 1972.

Dr. Peri E. Arnold ’64


Jennifer E. Boyd ’08, ’11

Distinguished Alumni Award

Jennifer E. Boyd currently serves as vice president of people and culture at Lyric Opera of Chicago. At the company, she serves as the lead architect for the design of world-class talent systems and as a champion for the organization’s diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility programs.

Prior to joining Lyric, Boyd worked in several senior-level human resource roles with leading nonprofit organizations for more than 15 years. She most recently was head of human resources for After School Matters, an organization that provides life-changing opportunities to nearly 19,000 Chicago high school teens each year. At YMCA of the USA, as senior director of talent acquisition and employee engagement, Boyd managed corporate talent acquisition and HR operations for more than 30 extension sites and roughly 5,000 employees. 

Boyd is a regular speaker at leadership and HR conferences. In 2020 she was named a Notable Leader in Human Resources by Crain’s Chicago Business. She holds a bachelor’s degree and master’s degree from Roosevelt University, formerly Robert Morris University Illinois.

Jennifer E. Boyd ’08, ’11


Andrés J. Fernández ’04, ’08

Distinguished Alumni Award

Andrés J. Fernández has worked in nonprofit and government for over 35 years. He began his career as an employment training specialist working with adults with disabilities in supportive employment sites. Fernández’s first 19 years in the nonprofit sector were focused on workforce development services with youth and adults with disabilities.

As director of youth services for the City of Chicago, Fernández oversaw grantmaking for youth servicing agencies across Chicago, specifically in out-of-school time, counseling, mentoring and workforce development projects. He also helped to implement special projects in the areas of violence reduction and summer jobs for youth.

Before joining the State of Illinois, Fernández was the Chief Operating Officer for a local nonprofit. He helped this organization expand services outside Chicago to other counties and Puerto Rico. Fernández’s leadership provided growth in several other areas, including early childhood programming and services for dually-involved youth in Illinois.

Fernández currently serves as executive director for Serve Illinois Commission on Volunteerism and Community Service. He grew up in Brighton Park and has lived in Chicago his whole life. He holds a master’s degree in history from Roosevelt University.

Andrés J. Fernández ’04, ’08


Ashley Austin ’08

Dean’s Award: Heller College of Business

Ashley Austin is a seasoned marketing executive with 16 years of demonstrated, influential leadership. Austin’s work spans across advertising, content creation, copywriting and other experiential disciplines—all with a focus on brand elevation.

Austin currently serves as global integrated marketing manager at WeightWatchers, where she leads multicultural marketing and enhances brand favorability. WeightWatchers is a worldwide community of more than three million individuals connected by healthy habits.

Previously, as media director at Designsensory, Austin executed media campaigns through traditional and digital channels, exponentially improving conversions and awareness for clients. Her former work for the NBA’s Phoenix Suns pioneered inclusive marketing initiatives, and her track record in team training, fiscal management and media planning is evident through her earlier work with Starcom Worldwide, Monster.com and TV One.

Austin was recognized as one of Upscale Magazine’s 40 under 40 leaders in 2023. She remains dedicated to community service through her involvement with Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.

Ashley Austin '08


Samantha Reid ’14

Dean’s Award: College of Humanities, Education & Social Sciences

Samantha Reid is a digital strategist, writer and disability advocate based in Chicago. Diagnosed with Crohn’s disease in February 2010, she has spent the past 14 years advocating for a better and more equitable U.S. health care system.

Reid currently serves as senior director of digital engagement at the Center for American Progress, one of the nation’s largest think tanks. She has spoken at the White House and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and in front of the United States Congress on the financial burdens faced by patients with autoimmune diseases.

Reid has written about disability and health care policy for Teen Vogue, Allure and Ms. Magazine. She completed her bachelor’s in English at Roosevelt University in 2014.

Samantha Reid ’14


Raji Shyam ’09

Dean’s Award: College of Science, Health & Pharmacy

Dr. Rajalekshmy “Raji” Shyam is an assistant professor at Indiana University, where her research group is pursuing several projects focused on corneal endothelial homeostasis and dry eye disease. Shyam is the recipient of several grants: the Indiana University Faculty Research Support Program (2022–23); the National Institutes of Health K99/R00 Pathway to Independence Award (2021–26); the Knights Templar Career Starter (2019–21); the Indiana Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute TL1 Post-Doctoral Fellowship (2018–20); and the National Institutes of Health T-32 Vision Training Grant (2016–17).

Shyam began her vision research at Roosevelt University with Dr. Kelly Wentz-Hunter. She continued this work as a lab technician in trabecular meshwork biochemistry at University of Illinois Chicago. Her doctoral and post-doctoral work focused on cell biology of the retina and the corneal endothelium. Her work has resulted in 18 publications cited over 1,000 times in literature.

Shyam earned her bachelor’s degree in biology from Roosevelt University in 2009. She then received a PhD in neurobiology from the University of Utah in 2017.

Raji Shyam ’09


Alexa Smith ’08

Dean’s Award: Chicago College of Performing Arts

Alexa Smith is the inaugural senior director for anti-racism, equity and belonging at The Public Theater. In this position, she is the EDI director for Broadway’s Hell’s Kitchen —a new musical by Alicia Keys and directed by Michael Greif. Smith is the host of WQXR’s “Young Artist Showcase” and is a frequent guest of the Metropolitan Opera’s “Quiz Show” on Met Radio.

Smith previously served as associate vice president for strategic innovation and special initiatives at the Manhattan School of Music. She oversaw the creation of and led the school’s Cultural Inclusion Initiative that fosters diversity, equity and inclusive practices. She also served as interim dean of performance and production, overseeing all performances and stage productions. 

She is the 2021 recipient of the Sphinx Venture Fund Award for developing the Duncan Williams Voice Competition in partnership with Manhattan School of Music and New York City Opera. The competition serves Black and Latinx singers and aims to eliminate barriers by providing funds to create audition materials, fully fund travel expenses and offer cash awards. 

She holds degrees in voice from Roosevelt University and the Manhattan School of Music, as well as an MBA from Boston University.

Alexa Smith '08


Rashad Robison ’21

Young Professional Achievement Award

Rashad Robison is a strategy & operations lead at Google. During his tenure he has successfully built a Project Management Office, established steering committees, governance practices for innovation, and built strategic roadmaps for multiple product portfolios. He also helped launch the Chicago chapter for a Google work study program which provides high school seniors with real-world work experience as they prepare for college.

Prior to Google, Robison built a 13-year track record of leading several program, product and project management functions with Discover Financial Services, Grainger, C&W Communications and U.S. Cellular. He is passionate about leveraging technology and innovation to drive progress while prioritizing the human experience.

Robison was a founding board member with Lorde, Rustin & Bates: a civic engagement, social justice and public policy organization centering the lives of traditionally marginalized communities. He also served as a board member with Howard Brown Health, where he supported strategic planning and diversity, equity and inclusion.

Robison received his bachelor’s in political science from Roosevelt University in 2021.

Rashad Robison ’21

Related News ...

Particiapants in the 3rd Mayor Harold Washington Legacy Brunch, April 2024

Attendees were treated to student performances, an award presentation and the rousing remarks of featured guest Julieanna L. Richardson.

Roosevelt University Seal

The Roosevelt University Board of Trustees elected six new board members at its March 2024 meeting who will begin their three-year terms in June.

Honors Program students stand in Grant Park with a partially illustrated Chicago skyline behind them

Learn about the incredible accomplishments of current Roosevelt Lakers and alumni in the Winter 2024 edition of the Roosevelt Review.