Staff


The Garage Team

Melissa Kaufman

Executive Director

Office Hours

Melissa Kaufman is the executive director of The Garage at Northwestern. She is a former Googler, startup veteran, and entrepreneur with a decade of experience at consumer technologies companies in Silicon Valley. Currently, she is a committee member of ChicagoNEXT (Mayor Emanuel’s technology council), a member of the Chicago Technology Initiative, and a venture partner at Chicago Ventures. She was named to Chicago Inno’s 50 on Fire in 2017 and Crain’s Tech 50 in 2018. Melissa received her BA in computer science from Dartmouth College.

Billy Banks

Associate Director

Office Hours

Billy began his career in his family business—a diversified forest products and steel manufacturer. He launched his first startup, M-Tec Corporation, in 2003, and a second one, Reach360, in 2007 after leading the successful sale of his family business. Billy works with Design For America, advises numerous startups and was an adjunct professor at Northwestern prior to starting at The Garage. Billy received his BA in history and political science from Northwestern in 1998 and his MBA in finance and strategy from Indiana University in 2003.

Elisa Mitchell

Assistant Director of Operations & Finance

Elisa Mitchell is an accomplished attorney and CPA with 18 years of experience in the financial securities industry, bringing new investment products to market. As a team member at Allstate, Van Kampen, Morgan Stanley, and Invesco, Elisa helped business leaders navigate a complex competitive landscape and a challenging regulatory framework. She brings strong organizational skills, attention to detail and a can-do attitude to every project. She is thrilled to be the Assistant Director of Operations and Finance at The Garage and enjoys helping each student start a unique entrepreneurial journey.

Benjamin Williams

Senior IT Manager

Ben Williams is a lifelong technology enthusiast, AV systems whiz, and US Army veteran. While deployed to Balad Air Base, Ben assisted as security escort for the ASV fielding and recovery services. During his career, Ben has provided AV/IT services at sites such as The Pentagon, Securities and Exchange Commission, Scott and Nellis Air Force Base, Chevron Headquarters, and ExxonMobil’s Houston campus.

Elisabeth Wright

Marketing Specialist

Elisabeth is a marketing pro with experience in the public and educational sectors, with a special interest in international relations and social entrepreneurship. She joins The Garage with a passion for work in higher education and a love of all things student centered. Elisabeth received her BA in anthropology and her MPA from Northern Illinois University.

Patrick King

Administrative Assistant

Patrick King has spent his career working in higher education at Loyola University, Tufts University and Northwestern. In addition to his work in university administration, he has extensive experience as an educator and a practitioner of theatre. He has worked as a literary manager and actor in Chicago and as a graduate instructor and writing/public speaking tutor at Tufts in Boston. He holds a BS from Northwestern, an MA from Tufts, and is currently writing his dissertation in pursuit of a PhD in Theatre and Performance Studies at Tufts.

Student Aides and Interns

Michael Benimovich

Michael Benimovich

Senior, Computer Science & Kellogg CPU in Managerial Analytics

North Brunswick, NJ

Favorite Thing About The Garage: It's a place where ideas come to life!

Akash Borde

Akash Borde

Senior, Computer Science

Iowa City, Iowa

Favorite Thing About The Garage: Northwestern's smartest students come here to build some impressive ideas.

Gabriel Caniglia

Gabriel Caniglia

Senior, Cognitive Science & Computer Science

Chicago, IL

Favorite Thing About The Garage: The technology: 3D Printers and Oculus Rifts and drones, oh my!

David Eng

David Eng

Junior, Communication Studies and Economics Major

Montville, NJ

Favorite Thing about the Garage: Amazing people, cool high-tech equipment, and startups galore!

Ryan Miller

Ryan Miller

Senior, Computer Science and Theater

Seattle, WA

Favorite Thing About The Garage: I love how you can come in here at any given hour and people are inventing things.

Michelle Nguyen

Michelle Nguyen

Senior, Biomedical Engineering

Sugar Land, TX

Favorite Thing About The Garage: Access to technology, like the 3D printer.