About Us

Who We Are

We are a team of people who are passionate about bringing communities together to empower young people to change the world. 

“Service is at the core of humanity. It creates empathy, compassion, self-esteem, greater human connection – and a shared sense of responsibility for one another.”   – The Humanity Rising Team

 

Our Team


Debbie Ferruzzi, Founder/CEO


Debbie has been passionately involved in entrepreneurism and socially conscious activities for most of her professional life. She enjoyed a 25-year career working for legendary real estate entrepreneur Sam Zell, and in her role as Executive Vice President of Corporate Strategy, Debbie developed and led the company’s first social impact programs that engaged employees across the country.  Believing that “one story can change the world,” Debbie steered the BeCause Foundation, a Chicago based nonprofit, as it produced five independent documentary films and related strategic impact campaigns. The theatrically released film “Bully” helped shine national attention on the bullying crisis in America. Debbie was also the driving force that led to 121help.me, the new North American crisis helpline for at risk children. A Chicago native, Debbie obtained an MBA with a concentration in finance from the University of Chicago and a BS in business from Eastern Illinois University.
“I am grateful for the opportunity to bring people together through Humanity Rising. I believe that young people truly have the power to change the world and I’m inspired daily by the acts of service and volunteerism performed by students who have become part of the Humanity Rising Movement.

 


Cheryl Romanowski, Director of Development


Cheryl Romanowski has dedicated both her personal and professional life to empowering and motivating others.  After playing Division I Volleyball in college, she began her career as a coach which led her on an international journey heading up clubs and teams in Europe. For over 20 years she lived in the Netherlands, where in addition to coaching and teaching, she worked with various organizations in Business Development with a focus on motivating sales teams to reach their highest potential.  Cheryl’s passion is unwavering in her commitment to helping the next generation live an authentic and inspired life through service.

Cheryl holds an M.A. in Kinesiology from University of Illinois at Chicago, as well as a B.S. in Psychology from Loyola University.

 


Dan Toplitt, Director


Dan is a Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Supervisor with Resolution Media, an Omnicom digital marketing agency in New York. Prior to joining Resolution Media, Dan was a Co-Founder and Vice President of Program Operations of Scholarship Strategies, the owner and operater of the Discus Awards program. He helped manage program operations and attract outstanding high school student applicants through SEO, SEM, social media and email marketing campaigns. Before working at Scholarship Strategies, Dan helped launch the Discus Awards program at Campus Direct. Dan received a BS in marketing from Fairfield University’s Charles F. Dolan School of Business.

 


Maja Muric, Director


Maja is a is a former professional tennis player and Olympian from Croatia, a war torn country that has inspired her to drive positive change around the world. When the war broke out in Croatia in 1991 Maja was 17 years old. She was one of the top juniors in the world and at the beginning of her professional tennis career on the WTA (Women’s Professional Tour). Experiencing war has had a huge impact on her tennis career, but more so, on her ambitions to have a positive lasting impact on others. Maja represented Croatia around the world by winning many international junior events and then as a professional tennis player for over a decade. Some of those events include all the Grand Slams, 1996 Atlanta Summer Olympics and Federation Cups. Winning two medals at the 1993 Mediterranean Games was one of the most memorable moments of her career as it was the first time Croatia competed as an independent country. Maja continued to play on the WTA Tour until the end of her career in 2000 when she dedicated the next 12 years to helping improve the quality of life for children with cancer. These experiences inspired her to expand her work and start her own not for profit organization in 2005 called Humanitarian Wave that works towards creating lasting positive effect in the quality of life of people and communities in need. In 2012 Maja took on her current role as the lead of Galactic Unite, a Virgin Galactic initiative that is harnessing the power of space to inspire and support the next generation to help solve many of our greatest global challenges. Maja is passionate about Galactic Unite and its unique opportunity to help change the perception of our place on this planet and in the cosmos through removing the barriers which have historically kept all but the elite few firmly on this side of the final frontier.

 


Therese Rowley, Ph.D., Director


Dr. Rowley is CEO of Accelerated Alignment, a trusted advisor to business leaders and executives. She partners with them through complex challenges of personal and organizational strategy and transformation, using innovative approaches and intuitive intelligence. As a skilled intuitive, she supports strategic decisions with intuitive data and supports leaders to deepen their access to intuition. In addition, her work with Fortune 500 as well as small company leaders in facilitating large scale change in industries such as telecommunications, manufacturing, market research, marketing/communications, real estate development, and financial services spans three decades. In 2008 Dr. Rowley founded The Conscious Business Network™ to highlight new business models and facilitate professional connections that are shaping the new marketplace of integrity, transparency and inclusion. She consults with YWCA-Chicago on Transformation and Social Innovation and is an 1871 Mentor. She believes conscious business and social enterprise are marketplace foundations for our future sustainability and is passionate about influencing youth to consider this mindset and have/co-create the tools to engage and co-design the future economy. Dr. Rowley has been adjunct faculty at the University of San Francisco, the University of Chicago Graham School and Booth School’s LEAD Institute, as well as Northwestern University’s School of Continuing Studies where she teaches on topics of leadership, strategy, intuition and transformation. Her book Mapping a New Reality: Discovering Intuitive Intelligence offers a conceptual foundation and developmental opportunities for clients who want to accelerate access to their innate wisdom.

 


Allison T. Davis, Advisor


Allison is a former director of Humanity Rising and a vice president of Equity International, with her primary responsibilities in communications. Previously, Allison directed communications and philanthropic programs at Equity Office Properties Trust (EOP) for seven years. During that time she worked with EOP leaders in such major U.S. markets as New York, Washington DC, Boston, Chicago, Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Denver to develop volunteer and giving programs that directly involved employees and benefited their local communities. During her time at EOP, the company was regularly recognized as a Best Place to Work in local markets, thanks to high levels of employee engagement fostered by internal communications. She holds an MS in integrated marketing communications from Northwestern University and a BA from Duke University.

 


Beth Coronelli, Advisor


Beth is a former director of Humanity Rising now serving as an advisor to the organization. She previously was Senior Vice President and Chief of Staff at Apollo Education Group, one of the world’s largest private education providers. Her experience includes a mix of corporate and non-profit positions, including leading investor relations for publicly-traded companies across a range of industries, serving as the director of the University of Iowa Executive MBA Program, and developing communications and programming for Rotary International. Beth believes education is the cornerstone to building a brighter future and is committed to empowering our future leaders to take the initiative to serve. She has an MBA from the University of Iowa and a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Iowa State University.

 


Lauren Poulson, College Intern


Lauren is a fourth year undergraduate student at the University of Chicago, double majoring in Linguistics and Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations. She is from Seattle, Washington and is passionate about refugee and immigrant rights and mental health advocacy.