Staff


Image of Melissa Kaufman

Melissa Kaufman

Executive Director

Office Hours

As founding executive director of The Garage, Melissa leads the team and vision for the space, community, and programming. 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 (the mayor’s technology council), a member of P33 (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.

Hayes Ferguson Headshot

Hayes Ferguson

Associate Director

Office Hours

Hayes manages The Garage’s programs and resources, including Residency, Propel, Wildfire and mentorship. Additionally, she leads efforts to partner with the broader Northwestern community on entrepreneurial initiatives. Before joining the staff full time in 2018, Hayes was an EIR at The Garage, mentoring myriad student startup teams. A founding member of the management team at Legacy.com, Hayes has served in leadership and advisory roles at multiple digital companies. Earlier in her career, she taught journalism at Medill after several years as a magazine writer and foreign correspondent. Hayes has a BA from Vanderbilt University and did graduate work as a Rotary Scholar at the University of Perugia in Italy and as a Knight-Wallace Fellow at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor.

Image of Elisa Mitchell

Elisa Mitchell

Assistant Director of Operations & Finance

Elisa ensures smooth operations and finances to support The Garage’s programs, spaces and community. She 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.

Image of Benjamin Williams

Benjamin Williams

Senior IT Manager

Ben ensures The Garage has the right physical and digital technologies to support our space and community. He 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 Manager

Elisabeth oversees all of the marketing, branding, and communications for The Garage. She has worked in the public and educational sectors, and has special interests in international relations and social entrepreneurship. Elisabeth also has extensive experience in nonprofit marketing. She’s joined 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 Southeast Asian Studies and her Master’s of Public Administration in Nonprofit Management from Northern Illinois University.

Caleb Carpenter

Administrative Assistant

Caleb staffs The Garage in the afternoon and evening to keep the space open for extended hours. An alum of Northwestern, Caleb has served as a teaching and administrative assistant in the Bienen School of Music and the Deering Music Library. He has been a finalist and winner in many music competitions, including the Music Teacher’s National Association Young Artist Competition and the Boulder International Chamber Music Competition. With his background in music, Caleb is excited to help students of all disciplines benefit from the resources at The Garage. He received his BM from the UNC School of the Arts and his MM in Music Performance from Northwestern.

Mike Raab

Director, The Garage San Francisco

Mike is responsible for local operations, programming, and building a community of entrepreneurial focused Northwestern alumni, students, and faculty in San Francisco. Prior to The Garage, Mike was an investor at a venture capital firm founded by Northwestern alumni, where he provided support and mentorship. He began his career serving in a multitude of strategy-focused roles at one of the largest media companies in Los Angeles. Mike is a proud Northwestern alum, having graduated with a BS in Communication focused on TV & Film.

Student Aides and Interns

Samantha Aguilar

Samantha Aguilar

Journalism and International Studies, Class of 2023

Omaha, Nebraska

Favorite Thing About The Garage: The amazing technology, resources, and people!

Cooper Barth

Cooper Barth

Computer Science, Class of 2021

West Long Branch, NJ

Favorite Thing About The Garage: Access to a large community of people who share a passion for entrepreneurship.

Gabriel Caniglia

Gabriel Caniglia

Cognitive Science & Computer Science, Class of 2019

Chicago, IL

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

Samuel Crites

Samuel Crites

Electrical Engineering, Class of 2022

Shelburne, Vermont,

Favorite Thing About The Garage: All the fantastic technology that The Garage provides the residents and staff.

David Eng

David Eng

Communication Studies and Economics Major, Class of 2020

Montville, NJ

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

Evan Epstein

Evan Epstein

Chemical Engineering, Class of 2023

Seattle, WA

Favorite Thing About The Garage: The eclectic atmosphere that stimulates both productivity and creativity!

Yasmeena Faris Faycurry

Yasmeena Faris Faycurry

Computer Science & Economics, Class of 2022

Chicago, IL

Favorite Thing About The Garage: The bean-bag room!

Joshua Feist

Joshua Feist

Electrical Engineering, Class of 2023

Lafayette, LA

Favorite Thing About The Garage: I love that The Garage gives students access to the equipment and support that they need to make their ideas a reality - and does so for free.

Sebastian Granzio

Sebastian Granzio

Economics and Business Institutions (BIP), Class of 2022

Belleville, NJ

Favorite Thing About The Garage: Getting to see different startups get built from scratch!

Zander Haws

Zander Haws

Mechanical Engineering / Physics and Astronomy Minor, Class of 2022

St. Cloud, MN

Favorite Thing about the Garage: Both the extensive equipment that we are given access to use, along with getting to see all the different innovation and creativity from the student teams.

Andrew Johnston

Andrew Johnston

Math/Economics, Class of 2020

Wichita, KS

Favorite Thing about the Garage: The highly motivated Residents and staff, as well as the amazing hoodies.

Amy Luo

Amy Luo

Economics Major / Business Institutions and Asian American Studies Minor, Class of 2020

Columbus, OH

Favorite thing about the Garage: I love the innovative people and state-of-the-art equipment! (and the snack cart)

Beth Mallon

Beth Mallon

Computer Science, Class of 2021

Chicago, IL

Favorite Thing About The Garage: All the cool technology and all the really amazing people who work and hang out here!

Rory Nguyen

Rory Nguyen

Manufacturing and Design Engineering, Class of 2023

Toms River, NJ

Favorite Thing About The Garage: The access to cutting-edge AR and VR equipment that’s open to the public

Charlotte Oxnam

Charlotte Oxnam

Biomedical Engineering, Class of 2023

Easton, MD

Favorite Thing About The Garage: I love that The Garage is giving students the chance to really do something and take charge in an active way instead of the typical education format of college. Students are learning through trial and error, not textbooks.

Jennifer Ryu

Jennifer Ryu

Neuroscience, Class of 2020

Lincolnshire, IL

Favorite thing about the Garage: I love how the collection of art supplies in the Makerspace brings out one’s silly inner child.

Devon Spungin

Devon Spungin

English Literature and Cognitive Science, Class of 2022

Los Angeles, CA

Favorite Thing About The Garage: The Meditation Room