Our Team

The Garage Staff

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 technology companies in Silicon Valley. Currently, she is a committee member of ChicagoNEXT (the mayor’s technology council) and a member of P33 (the Chicago Technology Initiative). 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.

Mike Raab

Associate Director

Office Hours

Mike is responsible for overseeing key programs and initiatives, developing relationships with the Northwestern and Chicago entrepreneurial communities, and building new communities around the world to support Northwestern student founders. 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.

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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.

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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, educational, and nonprofit sectors and has a special interest and social entrepreneurship. 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 Cum Laude in Anthropology and Southeast Asian Studies and her Master’s of Public Administration in Nonprofit Management with honors from Northern Illinois University, and her Advanced Graduate Certificate in Information Design & Strategy and Content Strategy from Northwestern University.

Michelle Bautista

Administrative Assistant

Michelle is currently working on getting her bachelors degree in Business Administration at DePaul University. She started working at Northwestern University last year as a coordinator for Quarantine and Isolation at Foster Walker. Her goal is to become a director for higher education. Michelle is also a small business owner and does anime embroidery designs on t-shirts, hoodies, shorts, etc. She is very passionate about working with students and is excited to be a part of The Garage team.

Alicia Ross

Evening Administrative Assistant

Alicia received her BS in Communication Studies with a minor in Sociological Studies from Northwestern. During her time as an undergrad at NU, Alicia worked as a resident assistant, conducted a Summer independent research project on “Bookstagram,” and completed internships with Women Entrepreneur Global Studios and Jana-Marie Hartmann Literary Scouting. Her interest and experience in social media, publishing, and entrepreneurship led her back to Northwestern as a team member at The Garage.

Katherine Lewis

Medill / Garage Fellow

Office Hours

Katherine Lewis has 20 years of experience as a journalist and author, writing frequently on parenting, education, careers, diversity, and social justice. She lives in Washington DC and received her BA in Physics from Harvard.

Chandra Whitfield

Medill / Garage Fellow

Office Hours

Chandra Whitfield is an award winning, freelance multimedia writer and reporter. She has covered many topics ranging from diversity to travel to mental health for publications ranging from The New York Times to People. Chandra lives in Denver and received her BA in Journalism from Clark Atlanta University.



Please contact us at thegarage@northwestern.edu