Sonny Garg

Chief Executive Officer and Co-Founder


Sonny Garg (he/him/his) serves as the CEO and Co-Founder of the Center for Expanding Leadership & Opportunity.  An experienced board member and former Fortune 100 C-Suite executive, Sonny has over 25-years of demonstrated experience in strategically examining conventional thinking to transform mature organizations and to create new enterprises within the private, public, and non-profit sectors. Sonny’s work is guided by a deep commitment to building values-based work environments and in a belief in taking his work but not himself seriously. 

Most recently, Sonny worked in seed-stage investments at DNS Capital, the family office for Gigi Pritzker, Michael Pucker, and their family, and immediately prior, launched and grew the Energy Division at Uptake Technologies, a venture-backed industrial AI software company, with a valuation over $2B.

Sonny spent thirteen years at Exelon Corporation leading various departments and divisions during periods of inflection, including retiring Exelon’s coal generating plants as the President of Exelon Power and transitioning into renewables; designing and executing Exelon’s cost management program during the Great Recession; and as the company’s first Chief Information & Innovation Officer, founding an Emerging Technologies department to systematically identify, pilot and scale innovative technologies within Exelon. He also served on the investment committee for Exelon’s venture fund.

Sonny began his career at The Chapin Hall Center for Children at the University of Chicago, where he conducted research on youth and neighborhood development programs in inner- cities. He later served as an Assistant to Chicago Mayor Richard Daley, leading the conceptualization and creation of World Business Chicago, the City’s public-private economic development organization, and was appointed a White House Fellow by President Clinton, where he served as a senior aide to the Deputy Director of the Office of Management & Budget.

Sonny has served as the President or Chair of nonprofits founded by social entrepreneurs, including the Chicago Children’s Theatre, the Interfaith Youth Core, the Invisible Institute, and Project&. Sonny has also published numerous editorials in the NYTimes, Chicago Tribune and Crain’s Chicago Business on topics varying from diversity, equity, and inclusion to civic leadership.

He currently is on the board of Verve, an OT/ICS endpoint cyber-security platform, and Creospan, an IT consulting firm, as well as working at the Institute for Nonviolence Chicago, a nonprofit focused on reducing gun violence in four of Chicago’s most violent neighborhoods. He is also an Distinguished Executive-in-Residence at University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business and an Aspen Institute Henry Crown Fellow.

Sonny earned a M.B.A. and a B.A. at the University of Chicago, and a M.P.P. from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government.

Sonny and his wife have two wonderful girls and are reluctantly adapting to being empty nesters.


Chief Research & Development Officer and Co-Founder


Dr. John Dugan (he/him/his) spent 20+ years working at the intersections of research, program design, equity, and human development. John currently serves as the Chief Research & Development Officer and Co-Founder at the Center for Expanding Leadership & Opportunity.  John previously served as the Executive Director of Youth Leadership Research & Impact at The Aspen Institute where he oversaw a portfolio of programs designed to (1) cultivate youth and educator capacities for values-based leadership, (2) improve pathways to degree completion, career readiness, and job placement, and (3) invest in local communities to transfer capital and enrich pipelines of talent across sectors. During John’s tenure, Youth Leadership Programs more than doubled its financial footprint, maintained full operations throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, and generated $20 million in capital through fundraising and the creation of revenue generating lines of business. 

John co-founded and is the principal investigator of the Multi-Institutional Study of Leadership (MSL), the largest international study of leadership outcomes. Launched in 2005, MSL adopts an entrepreneurial approach aligning the benefits of large-scale research datasets with individual organizational needs for assessment of learning and program design. 

John is the author of more than 60 publications (e.g., refereed academic articles, books, and book chapters) and more than 150 presentations at national and international conferences. His research is cited by over 6,750 scholars and his work honored for its contribution to knowledge in his field by ACPA: College Educator’s International. John’s most recent book is Leadership Theory: Cultivating Critical Perspectives.

John also reached the rank of full professor in the Higher Education graduate program at Loyola University Chicago, where he taught courses on leadership theory, human development, and social justice. Before that, he worked in leadership education at University of Maryland, College Park, and University of Nevada, Las Vegas. John earned his bachelor’s degree from John Carroll University. He holds masters and doctoral degrees in Counseling and Personnel Services from the University of Maryland, College Park.

Kristan Skendall

Chief Operating Officer and Co-Founder


Dr. Kristan Cilente Skendall (she/her/hers) serves as Chief Operating Officer and Co-Founder of the Index and also holds an appointment as an affiliate assistant professor in the College of Education at the University of Maryland. With more than 20 years of experience in the higher education sector, Dr. Skendall received her B.A. degree in Sociology and History from the College of William & Mary (VA), her M.A. degree in Higher Education Administration from the University of Arizona, and her Ph.D. in College Student Personnel at the University of Maryland.

Dr. Skendall most recently served as the Associate Director of the Gemstone Honors Program in the Honors College at the University of Maryland and has previously served as the Assistant Director for Orientation and Leadership Programs at Georgetown University and Senior Coordinator for Community Service-Learning at the University of Maryland, where she oversaw the development of the Alternative Breaks program on campus from 2005-2008. Additionally, Dr. Skendall has worked with the National Clearinghouse for Leadership Programs, ACPA-College Student Educators International, and the U.S. Department of Education with the Committee on Measures of Student Success.

Dr. Skendall’s research focus is primarily related to college student leadership and service-learning where she has published several articles and book chapters related to college student leadership, multiple identity development, and undergraduate research. Dr. Skendall has taught graduate-level courses on research methods, leadership, and student development in addition to undergraduate leadership courses and Gemstone courses. Dr. Skendall recently co-edited the special symposium issue of the Journal of Leadership Studies focused on the National Leadership Education Research Agenda 2020–2025 and has co-authored two chapters in the forthcoming Research Agenda for Learning and Developing Leadership through Higher Education (Komives & Owen, editors) published by Edward Elgar Publishing (EEP). 

Sydnee Patterson

Senior Program Manager, Director of Communications, and Co-Founder


Sydnee Patterson (she/her/hers) serves as the Senior Program Manager, Director of Communications, and Co-Founder for the Center for Expanding Leadership & Opportunity. Patterson received her B.A. degree in Psychology with a minor in African American Studies from the University of Texas at San Antonio, and her M.Ed. degree in Higher Education, Student Affairs, and International Education Policy from the University of Maryland – College Park.

Patterson’s background has spanned across functional areas, with her most recent experience serving as a Senior Program Coordinator for the Youth Leadership Research & Impact program at the Aspen Institute. Prior to that role, Patterson served as Program Manager for the Center for Diversity and Inclusion at the University of Houston. She has also served in multiple program advising and marketing roles within institutions of higher education. Patterson has taught undergraduate-level courses on intergroup dialogue facilitation and leadership in a global context.

Patterson’s research agenda has primarily explored monoracial and multiracial Black student experiences in higher education. She was a Mellon Humanities Research Pathways Fellow and Institute of Education Sciences (IES) Education Research Pathways Fellow. Patterson recently co-edited two publications for the Aspen Institute focused on youth leadership development and is co-authoring a forthcoming article for New Directions for Student Leadership in collaboration with Dr. Kristan Skendall and Jasmine Adams focused on socially responsible leadership and the Social Change Model. 


Chief of Staff, Youth Advocate in Residence, and Co-Founder


Jasmine Adams (she/her/hers) serves as the Chief of Staff, Youth Advocate in Residence, and Co-Founder for the Center for Expanding Leadership & Opportunity. Adams is a student with a passion for social change, financial literacy, and equal access to opportunity. As a young woman, she realizes the importance of education, fellowship, and autonomy. Jasmine has been a member, facilitator, and co-designer of several youth & engagement programs in Saint Louis Missouri.

Most notably, Adams is an inaugural fellow to the Aspen Institute’s Aspen Young Leaders Fellowship (AYLF) and as an inaugural Aspen Index Impact Fellow. With Kriste Dragon, Jasmine co-moderated Youth Lead Now! Hope, Education, & Pathways to Progress: A conversation with Arne Duncan in April 2020.

Jasmine is a full-time undergraduate student at University of the Health Sciences and Pharmacy in St. Louis studying data science and has co-authored two forthcoming publications focused on youth leadership development. As a St. Louis native Jasmine has had the opportunity to learn from and grow with her community. She enjoys finding innovative ways to engage people in current issues and strives to make data driven decisions that incorporate the perspectives of those with lived experience. Over the past 7 years Jasmine has built her portfolio as a data analyst, creator, and change agent all while pursuing her dream of cultivating a more just society through leadership development.

Please contact info@expandingleadership.org, and a representative from CELO will reach out as soon as possible.