Annual Veterans Day Recognition 2023


Please join the University of Chicago in recognizing our nation’s veterans during our annual Veterans Day Recognition on November 10, 2023. We will have remarks by military-affiliated persons from across the academic and professional units.

We are honored to have military-affiliated persons from across the University share their experiences of military service, transition, and time at the University of Chicago.

This event is co-sponsored by the International House Global Voices Program and the UChicago Office for Military-Affiliated Communities.

This event is free and open to the public. Registration is required.

Persons with disabilities who may need assistance should contact International House in advance of the program at (773) 753-2274 or

Christian Mitchell

Vice President for Civic Engagement, University of Chicago

Christian Mitchell serves as Vice President for Civic Engagement for the University of Chicago. As Vice President for Civic Engagement, he is responsible for overseeing the Office of Civic Engagement, including state and local government relations, as well as the Office of Business Diversity and Commercial Real Estate Operations. In this role, Mitchell is tasked with building civic engagement partnerships with academic and administrative units at the University, and engaging community and corporate partners to build durable relationships and partnerships for economic opportunity on the South Side of Chicago and in the region.

Prior to becoming Vice President, Mitchell served as Deputy Governor for Public Safety, Energy, and Infrastructure for Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker. As Deputy Governor, Mitchell oversaw myriad state agencies, including the Illinois Department of Transportation, Department of Corrections, the Illinois State Police and National Guard, Emergency Management Agency, Environmental Protection Agency, Illinois Power Agency, Illinois Commerce Commission, and Cannabis Regulation and Oversight Office. 

Mitchell was also chief strategist for the Governor on several complex legislative initiatives, including the nation leading Climate and Equitable Jobs Act that put Illinois on an equity-focused path to 100% renewable energy, the legalization of cannabis, and Illinois’ $45 billion dollar Rebuild Illinois capital construction program. He was also point person on criminal justice reform, elections and election security, and Illinois’ assault weapons ban. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Mitchell led the state's procurement of a personal protective equipment (PPE) stockpile and other critical medical supplies for the hospitals and health care workers of Illinois.

Prior to serving as Deputy Governor, Mitchell was a state representative from Illinois’ 26th District, serving three terms representing the Chicago lakefront, from the Gold Coast to South Chicago. In 2018, Mitchell served as executive director of the Democratic Party of Illinois, becoming the first African-American to lead the state party. He began his career as a community organizer on Chicago’s South Side, working for Southsiders Organized for Unity and Liberation. 

Mitchell is a 2008 graduate of the College, with a degree in public policy. He graduated with his J.D. from the Loyola Chicago School of Law in 2019, and is a member of the Illinois bar.

Declan Binninger

Senior Advisor to the Illinois Secretary of State and (Major) US Army Reserve

Declan Binninger is currently serving as a Senior Advisor with the Office of the Illinois Secretary of State where he focuses his efforts on strategic initiatives in support of modernization. Previously, he served as the Chief of Staff for the Illinois Emergency Management Agency where he managed the responses to and recoveries from many crises including the longest flood in Illinois’ history, multiple industrial fires, tornadoes, civil unrest in major cities throughout the State and COVID-19.  Earlier in his career, he worked as a prosecutor in the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office and as a private attorney advocating for change at the legislative and executive levels of state government.  In addition, Declan serves as an officer in the reserve component of the Army JAG Corps and mobilized multiple times in support of Army active-duty elements.

Gerry Espinal Franco

Assistant Director of the Stone Center for Research on Wealth Inequality and Mobility, and US Marine Corps Veteran

Gerardo "Gerry" Espinal Franco is the Assistant Director of the Stone Center for Research on Wealth Inequality and Mobility. In this role, Gerardo handles myriad responsibilities including project management, marketing, and communications. He comprehensively oversees the Center's operations, fostering initiatives such as conferences, summer schools, and working groups. He generates website content, manages recruitment, and organizes the production of "The Inequality Podcast." 

Prior to joining the center, Gerardo was a Captain in the Marine Corps, where he served as a Manpower Officer from 2018 to 2023. In his first duty station in Okinawa, Japan, his work centered on crisis management during the COVID-19 pandemic and the reactivation and restructuring of logistical units. After three years abroad, he was assigned to Marine Corps Installations Command East in Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. There, he served as Deputy Chief Administrative Officer overseeing managerial processes for six installations. Before that, he worked as a high school teacher at YES Prep Southeast in Houston for two years, where he taught world geography, world history, and rhetoric. 

Gerardo completed his bachelor’s degree in public relations and philosophy from the University of Houston in 2014. He is also a former OMAC SkillBridge Intern and University of Chicago alumnus earning an MA in Humanities with a concentration in philosophy in 2015.

Greg Sanchez

Veterans Restorative Justice Project Liaison, US Navy Veteran, and M.A. Public Policy Candidate

Greg Sanchez served as a Machinist’s Mate in the U.S. Navy from 2002 through 2007 and completed two Post 9/11 deployments onboard the USS Ogden (LPD-5). In 2018, Greg became justice impacted when he was arrested and placed into Veterans Treatment Court (VTC)- a specialty court designed to support criminally convicted veterans. Since completing VTC, Greg earned his undergraduate degree in U.S. History from the University of California, Riverside, where he also collaborated with peer student leaders along with local and state politicians to bring $4-million dollars in annually recurring state funding to support justice impacted students across all nine University of California campuses. Additionally, Greg has been invited to speak with Congress on issues pertaining to student veteran education and restorative justice. He is currently a consultant for the Council on Criminal Justice Veterans Justice Commission as well as the Los Angeles County Military and Veterans Affairs. Now living in Chicago with his spouse, Misti, and daughter, Nicole, Greg is enrolled in the Harris School of Public Policy Evening Master’s Program while acting as the secretary for the Military Affiliated Students of Harris (M.A.S.H.) and liaison for the University of Chicago’s Veterans Restorative Justice Project.

Luke Magyar

Veteran Scholar and US Marine Corps Veteran

Luke Magyar served in the U.S. Marine Corps for five years from 2017-2022. During his time in active service, he deployed three times before choosing to pursue higher education. Luke applied and was accepted to the University of Chicago in 2021 to pursue his bachelor's degree and is currently in the second year of his program majoring in political science with a focus in international relations. During his first summer at the University Luke connected with an organization, Trust After Betrayal, focused on researching and reintegrating formerly armed actors and veterans. Luke completed an internship with the organization in the summer of 2023, and continues working actively with the amazing team at TaB and the Corioli Institute. Most recently, Luke traveled to Ukraine in the final weeks of September 2023 to meet with veterans and stakeholders in preparation for Ukrainian-led reintegration projects and programs in partnership with the Corioli Institute.

Connor Christensen

US Navy Veteran and MPP/MA Candidate

Connor enlisted out of smalltown Minnesota into the US Navy as a Corpsman. Following five years of service, he studied his Bachelor's Degree in History at Saint Louis University's Madrid, Spain campus. Since then, he has been a Critical Language Scholar in Azerbaijan, a Fulbright Scholar in Turkey, and is now a third-year Graduate student at UChicago, pursuing both a Master of Public Policy and a Master of Arts in Middle Eastern Studies. Connor has spent that last two summers conducting fieldwork in the space of veteran and ex-combatant reintegration in Colombia, Ukraine, and with the evacuated Afghans in Washington DC. 

Malorie Lewis

US Air Force Veteran and MA Candidate

Malorie enlisted in the US Air Force after completing High School in 2010, serving until 2016 on active duty. During that time, she traveled to over 7 different countries, mostly in the Middle East, most impactful was her time in Jordan. Following her six-year obligation, she enrolled in higher education and received two bachelor degrees from the University of Oklahoma, one in the Arabic Language and the second in International Studies. In 2021, Malorie received her acceptance into the University of Chicago Center for Middle Eastern Studies two-year Master Program. Currently, she is in her final year of the program working on her MA thesis, "Unsettled Identities: Exploring Palestinian Statelessness in Jordan". Malorie spent the summer teaching Arabic as a teaching Assistant for the University of Chicago and was awarded the Foreign Language and Area studies Fellowship for the 2023-2024 term.