Bold Ideas in Education with Harvard Graduate School of Education

A good education is the best – and least expensive – fix to most social ills. Schools that engage and succeed are in everyone’s best interest.Better_You_Harvard_Feature

No institution enjoys greater impact in education reform than Harvard. And no city has made greater progress in urban education reform than Chicago. So naturally, Harvard convened civic leaders, its alumni and others in Chicago for the first “Bold Ideas In Education” outreach of its Graduate School of Education capital campaign.

Harvard University in Chicago

(left to right): Honey Skinner, Lindsay Chase-Landsdale, Susan Noyes, Eileen Murphy and Terese Sommer

Chicago Board of Education Chairman David Vitale moderated the event at The Casino. Professors Monica Higgins, Tom Kane and Paul Reville presented compelling research and data. With thoughtful questions and comments, expert panelists and audience members continued the discussion of big ideas for improving schools. Everyone left feeling inspired and more connected to a hopeful future for all children and schools.

I was particularly proud to cohost this event that brought together thoughtful education philanthropists – like the leadership of the Chicago Public Education Fund, for which I was a founding board member 15 years ago.  It was a vivid reminder of the growing impact this type of philanthropy has on our city.

Ala’a Basetneh on the #FreeSyria Movement Need Your Help

ala'a Basatneh #freesyria“Your social network needs to know about the innocent Syrian children, women and other citizens being imprisoned, tortured, killed by their own government.” – Chicago’s Ala’a Basetneh,

Ala’a Basetneh prefers pink.  It predominates her attire and the décor of her suburban Chicago bedroom in the home she still shares with her parents. Even her fingernail tips are sometimes pink.  But don’t let this deceive you. Basetneh is made of steel. Courageous, compassionate, composed, determined steel.

By age 19, as a college freshman and despite death threats, Basetneh was facilitating protests within Syria of its repressive regime – via social network from that quiet suburban pink bedroom, in between classes, during breaks from a full-time job. Since then she also has lobbied or worked with appropriate officials at the United Nations, White House, UNICEF and other international organizations.  Basetneh even convinced her father to accompany her on two secret trips to Syria to deliver humanitarian aid.images-3

Four years on, the protest continues.  A full 75% of the people Basetneh has worked with in Syria have been killed – including a Fulbright Scholar journalist from Syracuse University, Bassel Al Shahade

Mainstream media attention has moved on from the Syrian government’s atrocities against its own people to ISIS atrocities within Syria against the world.

Fortunately though, others can still learn about the Free Syria movement and Basetneh’s extraordinary efforts through the documentary “#ChicagoGirl.” 

Thanks to the Family of Women Film Festival  at the Wilmette Theatre, which opened with this film and a Q&A with Basetneh, last night, a sold out North Shore audience was informed and inspired. Including me. When asked how we best could help, Basetnet’s answer was simple – and it reminded me how powerful your personal online voice can syria movment with ala'a basatneh

 “Please, just share our story – #freeSyria,” she said. “Your social network needs to know about the innocent Syrian children, women and other citizens being imprisoned, tortured, killed by their own government.  When you share an online post about our struggles, we see and are inspired by this support.”

The Film Festival continues through the weekend with two more films I recommend to you too:

“India’s Daughter”

Saturday, April 11, 7 p.m.

“The Supreme Price”

Sunday, April 12, 2 p.m.

But, before you see these, please take a few moments to share your support online for Chicago’s own Ala’a Basetneh and those struggling for freedom and democracy in Syria:

On Twitter: #freeSyria

On Facebook at :

Thank you.

Powerful Moms


From left to right: Susan Sholl (UNICEF’s Chicago Humanitarian Awards co-chair 2015); Sue Duncan; Wendy Serrino (U.S. Fund for UNICEF Midwest Board Chair); Susan Schmitt (UNICEF’s Chicago Humanitarian Awards co-chair 2015) “Mom’s philosophy was, ‘You are on this earth to make the world a better place…She built confidence that you could do anything, you could be excellent and she could help you get there.  She was, and is today, very powerful.”

Mom’s philosophy was, ‘You are on this earth to make the world a better place…She built confidence that you could do anything, you could be excellent and she could help you get there.  She was, and is today, very powerful.”  —Sarah Duncan, Honey Skinner and Keith Goldstein on Sue Duncan, Founder of the Sue Duncan Children’s Center.  

Honey Jacobs Skinner, Keith Kiley Goldstein and Sarah Duncan know about good moms and power.

As the 11th of 13 children, Honey could have gotten lost in the pack.  Instead, she graduated from Harvard and became a partner at Sidley Austin with a powerful lobbying practice even while she was raising 2 great sons and is supporting her husband’s high profile career (Sam Skinner was Chief of Staff for George H. W. Bush, among other powerful jobs). Illinois state legislators consider Honey an angel for children because of her thoughtful work on behalf of Lurie Children’s Hospital.

Keith Kiley Goldstein earned a Wharton MBA and worked in commercial banking and real estate before deciding to exercise more power on behalf of children through organizations like the Ounce of Prevention, Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago and Civic Consulting Alliance while raising her two children and supporting her own powerful husband (Rodney Goldstein is a Managing Partner of Frontenac Fund).

Unicef Humanitarian Gala honoring Sue DuncanBecause they are inspiring women and moms in their own right, it really caught my attention when Honey & Keith wrote about Sue Duncan, because she so inspires them.

Sue raised 3 kids – including Sarah and current US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan – with them working at her side in an after school tutoring center that she founded in one of Chicago’s worst neighborhoods.

Sue’s compassion, determination and dedication transformed the lives of thousands of children who most needed help.  And she raised amazing kids in the process.  Please learn more about Sue’s work and watch the inspiring documentary shown at the UNICEF event where Sue was honored.UNICEF humanitarian Gals

A great mom like Sue Duncan is a powerful person indeed. Thanks for reminding us all of that, Honey & Keith.

11 Tips for Cyber Crime Prevention

We’re all more connected and more vulnerable to cyber crime than ever, thanks to the Internet, computers, devices and “smart” everything – like cars, homes, medical devices, even clothes.

Cyber crime feature

From a blackmailer’s nude photos of Miss Teenage America in the privacy of her own bedroom, taken with her own laptop’s camera, which he had hacked, to millions of credit card accounts hacked through Target and other major retailers, to burglars targeting subjects through their social media postings, evidence abounds of our need to be educated about and careful with our use of technology.

Fortunately, experts like Marc Goodman, founder of the Future Crimes Institute, Global Security Advisor and Chair for Policy and Law at Google- and NASA-sponsored Singularity University, are working hard to help society understand and fight such crime. Goodman recently spoke about this topic at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs.Marc Goodman, Future Crimes Institute

Goodman’s book, “Future Crimes,” is a must read for anyone connected to the Internet and thoughtful about our future. It includes the following 11 tips for protecting yourself and your family online:

1. Update Frequently.

Hackers and ill-willed others use the bugs that run rampant in everyday software programs. Update your software frequently to guard against this. Particularly vulnerable are operating systems software, apps, browsers, plug-ins and other computer programs.

2.Download Software and Updates Only From Official Sites.

Use Apple’s app store and businesses’ sites. Avoid “free” third-party software and pirated media. Use Windows and Mac operating system settings that allow you to “white list” for their approved software.

3. Update Passwords Frequently Using a Long Mix of Symbols, Numbers, Upper and Lower Case Letters.

Yes, it’s a pain to constantly change and remember the new combinations. But, yes, it’s that important that you do it.images-5

4. Use Administrator Accounts With Care.

Run your computer on a non-administrator account for everyday use. Switch to your administrator account only when absolutely necessary to update from a trusted source.

5. Turn Computers Off When Not In Use.

Don’t rely on sleep mode. Close all the way down to off. You reduce your cyber crime risk by over 33 percent with the simple act of turning your computer off while you sleep.

6. Encrypt Your Digital Life.

Both Windows and Mac have free programs for hard drive encryption (BitLocker and FileVault). Use them and a virtual private network (VPN) to protect your devices and Internet transmissions. Cell phones can and should also be encrypted and password or fingerprint protected.

stop cyber crime7. Use Common Sense With Your Email.

Don’t click on links or open attachments you don’t trust. When in doubt, check with the individual who purportedly sent the message.

8. Back Up Data Frequently.

External hard drives – like Mac’s Time Machine and Windows Backup – are quick and easy to use. If you use the cloud as backup, encrypt this data too.

9. Cover Up or Turn Off Cameras When Not in Use.

Remember that Miss Teen America reference at the beginning of this article? This happens all the time. Hackers take control of digital cameras and take photos. Close your computer, or at least cover up the lens when you aren’t using it. Be just as careful with your cell phone and other digital device cameras too.

stop cyber crime10. Use Only Trusted Devices and Networks Banking, Shopping and Other Sensitive Web Browsing.

Avoid using public Wi-Fi networks, other people’s computers or devices for your confidential online affairs.

11. Think Before You Share on Social Networks.

Stalkers, burglars and other criminals routinely monitor social media for information. Don’t let them learn about your family’s treasures, travel plans or other personal information that could enable them to do harm to you or your loved ones.


Learn more by reading “Future Crimes”, watch his TED Talk here and contact Goodman directly on Twitter @Future Crimes.

Top Ten Social Entrepreneurs of All Time

Looking for inspiration that you can make a difference, make money, make meaning? That is what social entrepreneurs do.  Here are my picks for the 10 Best Social Entrepreneurs of all time.  Hope they inspire you too.

1. BENJAMIN FRANKLIN, Founding Father, Inventor, Publisher, Statesman

Benjamin Frankline

One of our country’s most influential founders, this prodigious man never patented his inventions – including printing techniques, bifocal lens, lightning rods and the Franklin stove.  He believed “as we enjoy great advantages from the inventions of others, we should be glad of an opportunity to serve others by any invention of ours.” But Franklin’s social invention -“paying forward” – is probably his greatest contribution of all. It not only endures, the concept seems more influential than ever.

2. CLARA BARTON, American Red Cross Founder, nurse, educator, first female federal employee (patent office clerk)

A shy child with a calling to help others, the teacher cum civil war nurse developed into a very determined woman, activist and advocate – for the injured and lost, women’s rights and the need for a US version of the International Red Cross.   Ultimately Barton convinced the President and Congress to grant a unique charter that endures and has woven the volunteer disaster relief and aid society into our American fabric – thereby saving society hundreds of millions of dollars a year too.

3. KLAUS SCHWAB, Founder of the World Economic Forum & Schwab Foundation For Social Entrepreneurship, Professor, Connector Extraordinaire,

Klaus Schwab

This German engineer and economist created the World Economic Forum as an nonprofit foundation committed to finding solutions to global problems in 1971. He built it into the foremost community of world leaders in business, government, academia and civil society. An invitation to participate in its’ annual Davos Summit represents the epitome of power. In 1998, Schwab and his wife, Hilde launched the Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship to promote entrepreneurial solutions at the grassroots level too.

4. PATRICIA ALBJERG GRAHAM, Historian of Education, Author, Education Advocate & Activist

Graham was probably the first American to advocate that a good education for all children is the best route to a better world and work in powerful positions to accomplish this. She served as President of the National Institute of Education, Dean of the Harvard Graduate School of Education (and first female Dean at Harvard), President of global education research funder Spencer Foundation, consistently facilitating policies and programs that led to our current deep civic commitment to education reform efforts now.Pat Graham, social entrepreneur

Graham was probably the first American to advocate that a good education for all children is the best route to a better world and work in powerful positions to accomplish this. She served as President of the National Institute of Education, Dean of the Harvard Graduate School of Education (and first female Dean at Harvard), President of global education research funder Spencer Foundation, consistently facilitating policies and programs that led to our current deep civic commitment to education reform efforts now.

5-7. BILL & MELINDA GATES, WARREN BUFFET, Billionaire Founders of “The Giving Pledge”Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

As of January 2015, 128 billionaire individuals or couples have committed to give at least half of their wealth to philanthropic causes. If they all do so with similar thoughtful effort as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Warren Buffet, bill and melinda gates, this pledge could foster greater change for the better than any other initiative in history. Of course, even billionaires are human too…

8.  Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook Founder (and Giving Pledge Signer)

Facebook's Mark Zucke

Even if social ineptness did push Zuckerberg to launch Facebook, he is still the most successful online social entrepreneur in history – connecting 1.4 billion people around the world through a company whose About Us page emphasizes all the ways it helps.

The Jerusalem Post called this 30 year old the World’s Most Influential Jew too.

Because he is only 30 and seems to have married well – wife Priscilla is a daughter of boat refugees, former teacher and recent medical school grad – we should be hopeful that he can accomplish all the good inherent in his Giving Pledge too. The Zuckerbergs already have donated $120 million to help San Francisco’s public schools.

9. BLAKE MYCOSKIE, Founder of TOMS Shoes and Eyeglasses,

Creator of One for One ® Business Model


It might seem a stretch to put the founder of a business that has sold a mere 35 million shoes and even fewer glasses in the same category as founders of our country and other businesses generating billions of whatever. But, Mycoskie’s One for One® economic model seems to be a new iteration of Franklin’s pay it forward capitalism. And it’s working. For every pair of shoes sold, Toms donates another pair to needy children around the world. For every pair of glasses sold, Toms gives the gift of sight.

A growing number of savvy businesses are imitating this too.

10.  ADAM GRANT, Business Professor, Author, Consultant, Social Justice Advocate

Adam Gross, Photo Source: Forbes

Adam Gross, Photo Source: Forbes

The youngest tenured professor in Wharton’s history uses data and rigorous research techniques to prove that the most successful people in business look to help others.  Consequently, most successful businesses are rushing to work with Grant – including Google and Goldman Sachs.  In the process, Grant has become a champion for equality too, as evidenced by his recent NY Times OpEd co-written with Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg (author of “Lean In”) explaining how men also benefit when women succeed in the boardroom.

Food, finance, fashion, smart females to fete. We’ve come a long way baby!

If you don’t already subscribe to Make It Better’s twice weekly “Better Letter,” you should.  It’s really good – easily scanned, up to the minute articles, tips, trends and recommendations that will make your life better – and easy ways for you to help others, too.

Our recent Better Letter from March 4th really proves my point.  Every article, every recommendation, every Sec in the Suburbswriter – just great!  I’m particular proud to see tv & radio stations working our Val Haller, who launched Val’s List in tandem with, and our super talented Sex & The Suburbs columnist Marjie Kileen highlighted in it.  And please note that Val included a video of a band singing about “Making You Better” in her appearance too.  Of course, I enjoyed the CNBCSusan B. Noyes on CNBC Closing Bell opportunity too.

But I also need to give big call-outs to EIC Julie Chernoff for her cooking class with the pros article.  Brilliant idea.  Want to do every one of these classes with family or friends!

And aren’t we all proud to see that our own Maura Flaherty not only remind us of International Women’s Day.  She recommends celebrating it by honoring other smart, inspiring females that have smashed glass ceilings at work, like Crate & Barrel’s Carole Segal and the first female chair of the University Of Chicago’s Astronomy and Astrophysics Department, Angela Olinto.

We’ve come a long way baby.  Women and Make It Better Media.

Please subscribe now for Make It Better Better Letter.

Thank you.

Talk About It, As Graham Moore Did at Oscars: Teen Depression Affects us All

There, but for the grace of God—and many good professionals and others who understand teen depression—go I.

My family could have suffered the same tragedy as Dana Perry winner of best Documentary Short Subject for “Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1″ or thoseDana Perry oscars speech on suicide Lake Forest families who lost teens to suicide in 2012.

“We should talk about suicide out loud,” Perry said, also mentioning her own son who committed suicide at the age of 15. I couldn’t agree more. Graham Moore gave his moving acceptance speech as well, and I salute his comment: “I would like for this moment to be for that kid out there that feels weird and different … Stay weird.” You can see more on his speech in this article and video.

Depression strikes up to 20 percent of our adolescents, and suicide is the third leading cause of death for teens. If our society doesn’t get smarter about discussing, identifying and treating teen depression—bust the stigma better and faster—there will be others, too.Graham Moore on suicide

That’s why I was so delighted to hear Perry and Moore plead for more awareness and public discussion about suicide, particularly teen suicide.

Every parent and school faculty member working with students from middle school through college needs to know depression’s symptoms and be brave enough to address them when they appear in an adolescent. The symptoms include: loss of interest in activities, sadness, hopelessness, anger or hostility, changes in eating or sleeping habits, lack of energy and loss of enthusiasm.

However, it can be hard to discern between “normal” erratic teenage behavior and “depressed” behavior, as was the case with our child. It can also be hard to discuss with the teen or with others. As the mother of a depressed teen, I felt weak, beat-up, raw. I didn’t think I had the energy to “fight” with or for my misbehaving child any longer. Fortunately, others did and we established a network of support. Eventually, lots of talking about it helped heal our child and our family.

There are a growing number of excellent resources to help identify and deal with adolescent depression. Barrington High School implemented a curriculum developed by Johns Hopkins Medical School, and recently shared it with Lake Forest. Erika’s Lighthouse offers a program for middle schools, a parent handbook and extensive opportunities for teens. The Balanced Mind Foundation has a growing body of helpful content and connections, and several excellent online sites exist including, a nonprofit collaboration with the Harvard Medical School, and the U.S. National Library of Health.

Author Ned Vizzini wrote “It’s Kind Of A Funny Story” based on his own hospitalization for depression, and he speaks extensively on the topic to schools. Lake Forest has brought him in at least twice in the past two years.

Currently, professionals believe that only one in five adolescents suffering from depression receive treatment. Those numbers must improve. And the best way for that to happen is for all of us to help bust the stigma and talk about it more. Please also look at our Teen Depression Guide at Make It Better.