Meet the Team

Our Team

 

Diane Bou Khalil, Engagement Reporter

Diane grew up in Brummana, Lebanon and is fluent in Arabic. Before joining Borderless Magazine as an engagement reporter, Diane interned at the magazine and worked at the World Relief refugee agency. She studied sociology at Northeastern Illinois University and will graduate with a Master’s in international studies from DePaul University in 2022. diane@borderlessmag.org

 

 


 

Michelle Kanaar, Art Director and Cofounder

Michelle is a documentary photojournalist who focuses on immigration, labor, and education. She is thoroughly committed to social justice issues and is the proud daughter of immigrants from Colombia and the Netherlands. She grew up speaking Spanish and English and studied Arabic and Middle Eastern studies for her Bachelor’s. She has a Master’s in journalism from the University of Missouri. She is also a co-founder of the Prism Photo Workshop, whose mission it is to provide resources and support for young photographers of diverse backgrounds to tell the stories of underrepresented people and communities with dignity. She’s a big fan of plants and kindness. michelle@borderlessmag.org

 


Jen Montojo, Director of Development

Jen is an experienced development director and creative. She is a Connecticut native with over 15 years of non-profit experience in higher education, healthcare, social services and the arts. Jen has a background in graphic design and runs a travel and lifestyle blog. Born in the Philippines, and raised in a multicultural family, she considers herself a global citizen and has traveled to over 35 countries. She is fluent in English and Filipino. Her love for travel and culture inspired her to create The Arte Vista, a mission-driven e-shop that supports fair trade and provides sustainable income for women artisans in Southeast Asia and beyond. She likes Hemingway and has a penchant for Baroque art. She also likes gelato. jen@borderlessmag.org 

 


Nissa Rhee, Executive Director and Cofounder

Nissa is a Peabody-award nominated journalist whose work has appeared in The Christian Science Monitor and Chicago magazine, among others. In her 15-year career, she has covered global issues as a producer at Chicago Public Radio, served as a foreign correspondent in South Korea and Vietnam, and reported on police abuse and gun violence in Chicago. In 2019, she received the Chicago Headline Club award for best online feature story. Previously, she served as a reporting fellow at the Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma and a juvenile justice reporting fellow at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice. She holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Chicago and a Master’s degree in International Studies from the University of Queensland. nissa@borderlessmag.org

 


 

Claire Voon, Deputy Editor

Claire is a Chicago-based journalist, arts writer, and critic. Born in Singapore and raised in Maryland, she has written for publications including the New York Times, The Brooklyn Rail, Artnews,The Art Newspaper, Artsy, and Garage. She was formerly an assistant editor at Chicago Magazine and a staff writer at Hyperallergic. claire@borderlessmag.org

 

 


Camilla Forte, Photojournalism Intern

Camilla is a recent graduate of Columbia College Chicago, where she majored in photojournalism with a minor in cultural studies. She is also the digital news and photo producer for the Hechinger Report.  Formerly she was a photographer at the New York Times Student Journalism Institute and the director of photography for The Columbia Chronicle. She is passionate about exploring the intersection of identity and politics and how it plays out within personal and public spheres. camilla@borderlessmag.org 

 

 


Adriana Rezal, Reporting Intern

Adriana joins Borderless Magazine as this year’s summer reporting intern. Previously, she worked as a news reporter for Community Impact Newspaper covering local education, government and business news in the Greater Houston area. In 2019, she obtained a bachelor’s degree in international relations and global studies with a minor in journalism from the University of Texas at Austin. Adriana grew up in an English- and Spanish-speaking household. A child of immigrants, her mother came to the United States from Chihuahua, Mexico and her father from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. While volunteering as an Intake and Outreach Specialist at the Equal Justice Center in Austin, Texas—a nonprofit law firm providing legal counsel for low-income workers—Adriana often translated interviews and communicated with clients in Spanish and English. Through her experience, Adriana has developed a passion for telling impactful stories that are diverse and inclusive of all voices. adriana@borderlessmag.org

 

Our Contributors

 

Claudia Hernández, Contributing Reporter

Claudia serves as the coordinator for the Translating Chicago Stories project that Borderless Magazine runs on behalf of the Institute for Nonprofits News. She earned her bachelor’s degree in multimedia journalism and digital media production at UT El Paso. Born in Ciudad Juárez, México, Claudia splits her time between her hometown and El Paso, Texas. She is a dual citizen and speaks both Spanish and English. Claudia has worked as a photo editor at bilingual publications such as The Prospector and Minero Magazine. She is the co-founder of Pasos en el Norte, a bilingual publication of short stories about the border and its unique culture. In 2020, she participated in NPR’s Next Generation Radio project. One of her passions is photography, she has traveled around several continents photographing its beauty and the variety of cultures.  claudia@borderlessmag.org


Chelsea Verstegen, Contributing Reporter

Chelsea moved from Texas to Chicago in 2017. She studied journalism in college. She appreciates how journalism can be used to shed light on important issues, like the stark contrast between the political climates of her two homes and the impact of those differences on so many lives. She currently works for Hireology and writes in her spare time.

 

 


Ata Younan, Contributing Reporter

Ata is a multimedia storyteller. As a first generation American Assyrian born in Iraq, she is interested in exploring the nuance at the intersection of origin, culture and identity. When she is not writing, she manages production at Northeastern Illinois University’s Stage Center Theatre and dabbles in video production. This year, she is producing her first short film.

 

 

 

Our Board

 

Sebastián González de León y León, President

Sebastián is a journalist, producer and digital strategist that has worked in award-winning newsrooms in Chicago and Mexico. He is based in Austin, Texas, but he is originally from Mexico City where he studied Political Science. His work has been published at news outlets like Univision Chicago, In These Times and Noticieros Televisa. As a journalist he has covered a wide variety of issues, including labor, education, politics, immigration, and culture. As a strategist he has worked with multiple brands and platforms. board@borderlessmag.org

 


Lekisha GunnLekisha Gunn, Secretary

Lekisha is a native of Montgomery, Alabama with professional background in the federal government and the nonprofit sector. She began her career as an AmeriCorps volunteer for the nonprofit organization Impact Alabama, which provided free income-tax preparation for low-income individuals. She later served as a Foreign Service Officer at the U.S. Department of State from May 2013 to May 2018 where she worked at  the U.S. Consulate General in Monterrey, Mexico as a Consular Officer and later at the U.S. Embassy in Vienna, Austria as a Political Officer where she covered anti-crime policy at the UN Office on Drugs and Crime. She is most interested now in immigration policy and access to justice for communities of color. Currently, she is based in the Chicago area where she works as a Research Assistant at Northwestern University. She holds a Master in Public Policy from Duke University and a Bachelor of Business Administration from the University of Alabama.


Alex V. Hernandez, Board Member and Cofounder

Alex V. Hernandez covers Lincoln Square, North Center and Irving Park for Block Club Chicago. The Chicago native has previously written for the Chicago Tribune, Chicago Reader, Chicago magazine, City Bureau, In These Times and is one of the co-founders of Borderless magazine.
Alex was a 2016 Peter Lisagor Watchdog Award finalist for his work on an interactive Chicago Reporter database that shows where, how and when police misconduct happens in the city of Chicago and a 2017 Peter Lisagor Award winner for Best Start-Up for his work with Borderless magazine. When not reporting he’s either riding his Vespa or camping.

Sarita Muley, Vice-President

Sarita is a marketing professional specializing in go-to market strategies for new product launches and digital marketing campaigns. She has her Bachelor’s Degree in Public Policy from the University of Chicago and MBA from Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business.  She is thrilled to be on the board of Borderless Magazine. She is a firm believer in the power of personal stories in influencing change and broadening people’s viewpoint. During her free time, Sarita enjoys reading, writing, and cooking new recipes.

 

 


Jessica Ramos

Jessica Ramos, Treasurer

Jessica is the Director of Community Engagement at Advance Illinois, an education policy and advocacy organization working to advance educational equity for students from cradle to career. As a proud first-generation Chicana with roots stemming from the Southwest side of Chicago, she is committed to elevating the experiences of Black, Brown, and other communities historically marginalized by the policy making process. She manages the organization’s Educator Advisory Council, executes on coalition strategy, and diversity, equity, and inclusion work on key education issues. Prior to joining Advance Illinois, Jessica taught 6th and 8th grade language arts, as well as 9th grade multicultural studies. With professional experience spanning from Colorado to Illinois, Jessica sees the urgency to organize to disrupt the inequities that continue to impact our communities. She studied broadcast journalism with concentrations in Latina/o studies and political science at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.