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CUPPA Student Ambassadors

Meet Our 2022-23 Ambassadors

The Student Ambassador Program in the College of Urban Planning and Public Affairs (CUPPA) is an opportunity for undergraduate students who are dedicated to serving and playing a special role in CUPPA. Student Ambassadors provide campus tours, serve as CUPPA representatives, and perform duties at various campus and community events. Student Ambassadors also perform duties within the Office of Academic Affairs over two-semesters with a commitment to a minimum of 40 hours of service.


Elvis O. Kouassi Heading link

Elvis O. Kouassi

Major: Urban Studies

Minor: GIS & French

Hometown: New Brunswick, New Jersey

High School: New Brunswick Health Sciences Technology High School

About Me

My name is Elvis and before you ask…no I am not named after Elvis Presley. I was born and raised in New Jersey by two West African parents. I’m the third (and last) child but I’m the first child to be born in the United States. One of the shared values across West African cultures is community which is what attracted me to CUPPA’s Urban Studies program. I have always been intrigued about the history of today’s thriving and declining communities. Although there are many factors that shape a community’s success, I believe urban planning is one of the most critical. When I’m not studying about how to create resilient communities, you can probably catch me cooking, listening to music, or exploring the city.


Chicago! I was drawn to the city from the moment that I arrived on campus. If I had to choose what I love about the city, I would say the food, people, music, and the city’s resilience. Chicago and CUPPA have been my home away from home. Living and learning in the nation’s third largest city has come with challenges but my experiences in CUPPA and Chicago have made it all worthwhile. My time in this city has transformed how I view the importance of urban planning and encouraged me to advocate for neglected communities throughout the world. As an out of state student, I was overwhelmed by UIC’s large student population, but CUPPA’s size allows staff and students to create one on one relationships with each other. In addition, I sought out organization to be more involved on campus. These relationships have strengthened my academic success and opened up unique opportunities to engage with the communities in my adopted city.

Campus Involvement

President of Pathways to Black Male Achievement, Vice President of Collegiate 100, Recent Inductee of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc., UPPF Fellow, and Peer Mentor for UIC Campus Housing

Marisa Miles Heading link

Marisa Miles

Major: History and Urban Studies

Minor: N/A

Hometown: Clinton, MD

High School: Oxon Hill High School

About Me: 

Hi! I am a part time dancer, full time bike lane enthusiast, and retired twitter ranter. I have interests in urban history, exhibition curation, city planning, and perspectives of the city through a marginalized lens. Recent funded projects have included Black and Irish Race Relations around Wentworth Ave, adolescent homelessness, and highlighting marginalized voices in UIC archives. Recent personal projects include co-directing the exhibition Generations at Woman Made Gallery in Summer 2022. You can alway catch me around campus wearing UIC Dancing Flames gear and riding around on a divvy bike!


CUPPA offers students the opportunity to study in a global city, at a top research university, with an interdisciplinary curriculum at an affordable price. What sets CUPPA apart from other urban-focused programs is their commitment to equity and social justice. Most professors pursue other community focused initiatives and bring those experiences into the classroom. CUPPA has a small college feel in a big school, so you get personalized attention from your professors and advisors. CUPPA students are from all across the world and life experience and bring those diverse perspectives into the classroom. CUPPA is a one-of-a-kind college and has given me an interdisciplinary one-of-a-kind education.

Campus Involvement

UIC Dancing Flames Fall 2020-Present, UIC Orientation Leader May 2021- January 2022, Chancellor’s Undergraduate Research Award August 2021- June 2022, Engaged Humanities Initiative Summer Research Experience May 2022-August 2022, Urban Public Policy Fellows September 2021- April 202

Juan Rosendo Heading link

Juan Rosendo

Major: Public Policy

Minor: Sustainable Cities

Hometown: Rogers Park, IL

High School: Chicago Math and Science Academy

About Me

A second year undergraduate student attending the University of Illinois at Chicago’s CUPPA and Honors College. I am currently studying Public Policy with a concentration in environmental policy, and I am exploring social Anthropology as a second degree. My passions are explorations, soccer, and video games. I love to explore nature
sites, such as local woods or mountains in Mexico. I am currently the esports coach for Chicago Math and Science Academy, where the team achieved a playoff position. My goals for the future involve participation in the environmental movement while fighting for equity and equality around the world.


CUPPA is a unique place that provides opportunities and guidance for those who seek to enhance the lives of the public. At first, CUPPA seems like a place where students take classes. However, it is a secondary home for those who seek to connect and make the world a better place. CUPPA ensures comfort to everyone and promotes the
pursuit of dreams without additional pressure. All in all, CUPPA holds a special place in my heart as it opened my eyes to endless possibilities of connections and opportunities.

Haniyyah Thomas Heading link

Haniyyah Thomas

Major: Public Policy                                                                                                                     ‘

Minor: Nonprofit Management & Instructional Design and Teaching

Hometown: Orland Park, IL

High School: Marist High School

About Me 

Life is funny because in the moment you don’t understand why things are happening– sometimes you’re sad or angry that they’re happening, but as time passes you begin to understand and the pieces come together. This sums up the formation of my passion for education. As a child, I moved a lot which meant I went to a few different schools, all in different neighborhoods. This exposed me to different qualities and philosophies of education and the effects thereof. This curiosity persists through my college years as I pursue field experience in education and youth mentoring in an effort to understand what it takes to facilitate a positive and effective learning environment.

Everyday I strive to fulfill my purpose one step at a time and I believe my purpose is enabling others to see the world in a different way. With that being said, aside from my pursuit of a career in education policy, I have a love for art. Painting is my escape from the stressors that can come with being a fulltime student; it allows me to communicate my feelings in a healthy way and diversify my impact on the world as more than just an academic.


Before even applying to UIC, I knew that I wanted to join CUPPA as a Public Policy major because during high school I grew a passion for civic engagement and giving a voice to the unheard. Although, I wasn’t sure exactly how I wanted to make a difference.  Within just one year, I was steered toward my path by interning, campus involvement, and notably, the opportunities of discovery presented in my freshman year CUPPA seminars that connected me with staff and students and showed me different ways I could thrive in my field.

Campus Involvement

Honors College, President of the Black Student Coalition, Assistant Director of Administration of NRHH