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Prior to joining the MacArthur Foundation, Tawa served as the Director of Education Policy and Partnerships in the Office of Mayor Rahm Emanuel. In this role, Tawa focused on supporting educational opportunities across the K-16 spectrum, with particular emphasis on high school and college. Tawa also served as the inaugural Interim Director for Thrive Chicago, a multi-sector collective that aims to align efforts with improved outcomes for all Chicagoans, from cradle-to-career. Previously, Tawa served as Executive Director of Strategic Partnerships at the City Colleges of Chicago where she established partnerships and programs to help support Reinvention, the District’s bold reform strategy designed to increase the number of graduates earning credentials of economic value and successfully transitioning to four year colleges and successful careers. Tawa served as Assistant to Mayor Richard M. Daley for Education and executed the Mayor's overall education vision for the City of Chicago. Prior to that, Tawa worked at the Chicago Public Schools in varying capacities including, as Senior Manager for the Chicago Public Schools Community Schools Initiative and as a project manager in the CPS Office of Planning and Development.
Tawa holds an M.A. from the University of Chicago’s School of Social Service Administration and a B.A. in English from Spelman College. She also received the University of Chicago’s Solomon O. Lichter Prize and the Mary H. Bachmeyer Award for outstanding academic achievement and leadership.
A native Chicagoan, Tawa’s dedication to community service, particularly in the fields of health care, education and youth services, has led to a diverse set of personal and professional experiences. Over the course of her career, Tawa has engaged in activities ranging from case management services for the mentally ill to the creation of a publication on HIV/AIDS among youth in sub-Saharan Africa. She also spent two and a half years with AmeriCorps, first as a VISTA member and later in placement and recruitment of new candidates for the Corporation for National and Community Service. Tawa currently serves on the Board of Directors for Chicago Women in Philanthropy, the Augustana-Henze Endowment Fund and the Iona Calhoun School of Ballet. She is also a member of the Theta Omega Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated, the Lake Shore Chapter of the Links, Incorporated and a former officer in the National Alumnae Association of Spelman College, organizations dedicated to community service.