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New directors elected to Northwestern Alumni Association

The 21-member Board of Directors will ‘focus on being the community we want to be’
Larry Irving ’76 is elected president of the Northwestern Alumni Association Board of Directors.

A diverse and highly accomplished board of 21 new and continuing directors has been elected to the Northwestern Alumni Association (NAA) Board of Directors. The directors, who were slated at the NAA’s annual meeting Thursday, Sept. 17, represent significant experience in digital communications and operations, international business, corporate wellness, and branding and marketing.

Among the alumni leaders is new NAA President Larry Irving ’76, who has been an active volunteer leader with the University in a number of capacities including on the University Board of Trustees, which he joined in 2018. During the Clinton Administration, Irving represented the U.S. government in key fora, including the G-7 and the World Trade Organization. He is widely credited with coining the term “the digital divide” and sparking global interest in the issue, for which he was recognized in 2019 as the first African-American inducted into the Internet Hall of Fame. Irving has served on a number of boards, including the board of directors at the Public Broadcasting Service, Covad Communications, Worldgate Communications, Education Networks of America, ReliabilityFirst and the Texas Tribune.

Irving will lead the NAA Board as it embarks on a strategic planning process to ensure the NAA not only recovers from the pandemic environment, but thrives in a new virtual world in which shifting alumni demographics and expectations demand a new approach. Diversity, equity and inclusion efforts will be a primary focus of the NAA board. 

The NAA Board of Directors is composed of alumni leaders representing nearly every undergraduate, graduate and professional school from the University. It includes officers, directors at large, council directors and ex officio student directors who collectively serve as the strategic advisory body of the NAA, helping the organization fulfill its mission of fostering enduring relationships among alumni — and between Northwestern and its alumni and friends. The board continues to diversify to ensure its membership reflects today’s students. The NAA has increased Latinx, Asian and LGBTQ+ representation on the board, as well as members who graduated from every decade since the 1970s.

“Northwestern students don't look like they looked 40 years ago, or even five years ago. This change is empowering and invigorating us, and making us a stronger and more global institution. The NAA is initiating a strategic plan to better understand how to engage the changing demographics of our students and alumni to ensure the NAA remains relevant and vital for the future,” Irving said. “The NAA has a lot of work to do, and this is the time for all of us to come together. I am proud to be at the helm of that work. I am blessed to work with incredibly talented people on the most diverse board in the NAA’s history for gender, race, age, sexual orientation, geography and schools.” 

A full list of the 2020–2021 NAA board members is included on the NAA website. Read more about the executive committee and newly elected directors below. 

Executive committee, serving two-year terms until September 2022: 

Larry Irving ’76, Trustee (Washington, D.C.)


Larry Irvingis president and CEO of the Irving Group, an international telecommunications and information technology consulting firm. From 2009 to 2011, he was vice president for global government affairs at Hewlett-Packard. Irving served for almost seven years as assistant secretary of commerce for communications and information and as administrator of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), where he was a principal adviser to the president, vice president and secretary of commerce on domestic and international telecommunications and information technology issues. He received the University’s Alumni Merit Award for distinguished professional achievement. Irving is a member of the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences’ Board of Visitors and is an alumni regent emeritus.

Albert Manzone ’93 MBA (’18, ’22 P), Trustee (Kilchberg, Switzerland)


Albert Manzone is CEO and member of the board of Whole Earth Brands since June 2020 and Flavor Holdings since February 2016. He has more than 25 years of strategic and global operational experience in the consumer products industry. Albert previously worked at various blue-chip companies in food and beverage, including PepsiCo and W.M. Wrigley Jr. Company, and at McKinsey & Co.

Samir Mayekar ’06, ’13 MBA (Chicago)

Immediate Past President

Samir Mayekar serves as deputy mayor for the City of Chicago focusing on economic and neighborhood development. He was also co-chair for Better Together Chicago, the transition committee for Mayor Lori Lightfoot. Prior to his government service, Mayekar was co-founder and CEO of NanoGraf Corporation, a global manufacturer of advanced materials for the lithium-ion battery industry. He also served as an adviser at the Albright Stonebridge Group. A mentor to Northwestern students and alumni, he served on the University’s Board of Trustees from 2016 to 2020.

Carla R. Hightower ’85, ’87 MD, ’91 GME, ’02 MBA (Chicago)

Vice President

Carla Hightower is a physician, health coach and corporate wellness consultant. She is the founder of Living Health Works, where she specializes in health coaching services and helping companies support personnel with wellness programs. A member of the Council of One Hundred and the Northwestern University Black Alumni Association, she received an NAA Service Award in 2019.

Kristin Asleson McDonnell ’85 (’21, ’23 P) (Menlo Park, Calif.)

Vice President

Kristin Asleson McDonnell is managing partner of Menlo Group, an investment and advisory firm that invests in tech companies and venture capital funds. A technology industry innovator, she has held executive positions at Fortune 100 corporations and Silicon Valley startups. McDonnell serves on the San Francisco Northwestern University Leadership Circle Regional Board.

AnneMarie Suarez-Davis ’92 (Indianapolis)

Vice President

AnneMarie Suarez-Davisbecame vice president of U.S. snacks marketing at the Kellogg Company in 2017. She joined Kellogg in 2000. Her Northwestern volunteering has involved talking with prospective students and parents about the benefits of a Northwestern education. 

Laura Wayland (Evanston, Ill.)

Secretary/Treasurer; NAA Executive Director

Laura Wayland, executive director of the Northwestern Alumni Association, joined the University in 2013. A career professional in alumni relations, she came to Northwestern from Georgetown University. 


Board of Directors:

Andrea Chen ’07 (Hong Kong)

Council Director

Andrea Chen is a senior manager for corporate strategy and new business development for a health technology company, Philips (Royal Philips), focused on Greater China. She currently resides in Hong Kong. She previously worked in management consulting at Monitor Group (later Monitor Deloitte) in Beijing and Shanghai. She serves on the NU Club of Hong Kong executive board and is emerita advisor for the NU Club of Shanghai. Chen will serve a one-year term, ending in September 2021.

Carlos Paret ’13 MBA (Long Beach, Calif.)

Council Director

Carlos Paret is the Medical Affairs, U.S. Operations leader for Transcatheter Heart Valves at Edwards Lifesciences. In this role, he is transforming the impact of the company’s U.S. physician proctor program and introducing teleproctoring. A Northwestern volunteer since 2014, he received the Northwestern Alumni Association’s Club Leader of the Year Award in 2018. Paret will serve a three-year term, ending in September 2023.

Faiza Seth ’99 (Hong Kong/London) 

Director at Large

Faiza Seth, along with her husband, Pallak Seth ’98, cofounded PDS Multinational, a global conglomerate managing the supply chain of major retailers and brands around the world in various consumer goods including apparel, footwear, home and beauty products. She received her bachelor’s degree in economics from Northwestern’s Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences. Seth will serve a three-year term, ending September 2023.

Patti Solis Doyle ’90 (Washington, D.C.)

Director at Large

Patti Solis Doyle is a CNN political commentator and a nationally recognized political organizer and campaign strategist. In nearly 30 years of politics, she’s helped manage campaigns for Bill and Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and Joe Biden. She speaks regularly on the rise of women and minorities in politics, presidential campaigns and issues affecting Latinx Americans. Solis Doyle will serve a one-year term, ending September 2021.

Florencia Son (Chicago)

Student Director

Florencia Son is a third-year PhD candidate in the chemistry department. She joined Northwestern’s Graduate Student Association (GSA) in 2019 and is currently the GSA president. Son graduated from Georgetown University in 2018 with a bachelor of science in chemistry and a minor in mathematics. As part of the Farha group at Northwestern, she studies metal–organic frameworks for the purpose of the detoxification of chemical warfare agents. She is a Department of Defense National Defense Science and Engineering Graduate Fellow. Son will serve a one-year term, ending September 2021. 

Shreya Sriram ’22 (Buffalo Grove, Ill.)

Student Director

Shreya Sriram is a third-year student at Northwestern, where she is majoring in economics and communication sciences and disorders (CSD) on the pre-medicine track. She is currently editor-in-chief of the Northwestern Undergraduate Research Journal, where she leads a team of over 50 students in creating and releasing online content and producing a full-length print edition. As president of the Arch Society, she volunteers at NAA events with a passion for enhancing student-alumni relationships. Sriram will serve a one-year term, ending September 2021.

Chris Taylor ’07 (Pittsburgh, Pa.)

Director at Large

Chris Taylor serves as the president of a multi-line staffing firm in the United States. Previously, he was the managing director of the Philippines for Grab Holdings Inc., based out of Manila, an early employee at Uber, and also worked at The Boston Consulting Group in Chicago. He became the president of the NU Club of Boston in 2016 and now serves as an NAA board director. Taylor will serve a new three-year term, ending September 2023.