Board of Directors

We are actively seeking talented, passionate and enthusiastic community professionals to serve on Board Committees. Please let us know if you are interested! Thank you.

Board_MichaelUMichael Ujcich, President
General Manager, Bergner’s at Market Place Mall

As a member of the business community, Michael feels it is important to share your skills of time and talent to coach and develop others to continue to build a vibrant, caring community. He brings this to life in leading the further development and improvements of the Connections Thrift Store in Lincoln Square Mall. He is currently the Store Manager of Bergner’s Department Store in Champaign, and chairs our Board’s Retail Store Committee. Michael has a Bachelors degree in Interior Design from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, and has enjoyed over 40 years of retail sales, merchandising, visual, marketing and management experiences in the Midwest and South East.

Board_BriceBrice Hutchcraft
, Vice President
Commercial Relationship Manager, Midland States Bank

Personally and professionally passionate about preventing homelessness and Domestic Violence along with affordable housing for all, Brice has been Board officers for the Urban League, the Urban League Development Corp, and 40 North/88 West Arts Council. He is currently the Chair of our Finance Committee. As the Commercial Relationship Manager for Midland States Bank in Champaign, Brice has a proven history of providing commercial and business advice and counsel. He is responsible for assisting clients in identifying their business’s needs and customizing financial business solutions unique to each customer. He was recognized as being one of our community’s “40 Under 40” in 2012, and has a BS in Finance from the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana.


Board_FranFrances E. Hacker, Secretary
Retired from the University

Fran was born and raised in Wisconsin but has lived in Champaign for 44 years. She is now retired, but was the Program Manager of TeleCare Senior Services at Family Service for 10 years, and has experience supervising staff, writing and monitoring grants, doing budgets and managing programs. She earned her Bachelors degree and continuing studies from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. A long-time advocate of advancing the mission of providing shelter, safety and support to women in our community, Fran was involved with A Woman’s Place for years before it merged with the Center for Women in Transition. Fran has been on the Board for 3 years, and serves on the Program, Advancement and Finance Committees.


Board_Richard-214x300Richard Ziegler, Treasurer and member of Finance Committee
Retired Assoc Professor of Accy Emeritus

Dick Ziegler is Associate Professor of Accountancy Emeritus in the College of Business at the University of Illinois. Prior to joining the Illinois faculty in l972, he was a senior associate on the staff of Price Waterhouse & Co.  He is a member of the Illinois CPA Society, from which he received the Lifetime Achievement Award in 2005. He is a member the American Institute of CPAs and it’s Not-for-Profit section.   Currently he serves as Chair of the Audit Committee of a professional association and is or has been a board member and volunteer at several other nonprofit organizations.    Dick holds degrees from William and Mary, Columbia University Graduate School of Business, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.


Gia Lewis-Smallwood
Professional Athlete; USA track and field, NIKE

Gia was born and raised in Champaign-Urbana; she is a huge advocate for social justice organizations that tangibly create safe and empowering places for local citizens to achieve their life goals. She graduated from the University of Illinois with a triple major in Political Science, Economics and Spanish. Gia competed in the 2012 Olympics, is the University of Illinois record holder in the discus, is ranked second in the world, and is currently competing globally and training locally for the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. Prior to going pro, Gia was the program Director of the YWCA of the University of Illinois, and organization dedicated to empowering women, eliminating racism, and promoting peace, justice, freedom and dignity for all.


Board_JennyJennifer Hall
Senior Customer Relations Coordinator, ISA

Jenny is a professional management executive with over 20 years of experience in customer relations, office and retail management. Jenny is a native of Urbana/Champaign with strong ties throughout the community. She developed an enduring sense of devotion for Courage Connection as a former client of nearly 18 years ago. This experience gave her a deep appreciation for how the organization helps to improve real lives of real people. She has a passion to inform and dig in to help make a difference in building a safer, healthier, connected community! Her connection with our mission, and her commitment to helping others in the community better understand the vital role of the agency, inspired Jenny to Co-chair the Courage Connection rebranding campaign.

Marietta Turner
Dean of Students, Parkland College

Brenda Mehnert
Research Civil Engineer, US Army Corps of Engineers (Engineering Research & Construction)

Board_VandanaVandana Patel
Business Operation Consultant, Maxput LLC

Vandana grew up in India in a predominately male dominated society. Historically women were often abused and subjected to violence but such cases were rarely reported because of severe stigma attached to the victim. She lost her mother very young age but was fortunate to have a wonderful father who always empowered her and all her siblings to excel in life. After getting her engineering degree in India, she moved to United States in early 90s. Being in professional engineering career of over 20 years, she never thought that there is much domestic violence that exists in a sophisticated modern society in the U.S. She has become increasingly aware of this problem. She educated herself about the complex psychology of victims of domestic violence which really opened up her passion to make a difference. She is proud to be a part of Courage Connection and the community that is making this world a better place.

Daniel Applegate
Co-owner & Therapist, Compass Counseling & Consulting
Daniel comes to us from Compass Counseling and Consulting, LLC, where is if Founder, Co-Owner, and Therapist. Additionally, Daniel is currently working on developing True North PTSD Center, the first such hyper-focused treatment center in the Midwest. Daniel’s educational background includes a BS from the University of Illinois Psychology department, and a MS in Clinical Counseling from Eastern Illinois University. Daniel’s primary specialty as a therapist is working with clients experiencing PTSD, not limited to combat exposure, including survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault and abuse. Although his practice is not exclusive to trauma, Daniel believes that his call to the field was to help people get through to the other side of their trauma, regardless of where or when it occurred. Daniel travels out west several times a year, and he never goes anywhere without a copy of Jack Kerouac’s Big Sur.


From the Board of Directors

I know from personal experience that no other organization in this community helps women and families as Courage Connection does. Their work is so vital, I feel compelled in helping the agency grow, and thrive so more lives can change for the better. I want the community to know the compassion and connection I felt!
–Jenny Hall

When Courage Connection strengthens and improves the lives of women and their families through the programs and services it offers, the lasting effects are life changing.  However, these results not only improving the lives of those directly served…it also makes our community a stronger and better place to live.  Courage Connection is improving lives and making our community a better place…that is definitely something I want to be a part of!
–Brice Hutchcraft

It is a joy to use my passion and talents to help others who have not been as fortunate as I have but who have had the courage to ask for help and resources for themselves and their families.
–Lynn Barnett Morris (former Board member)