Meet the Team

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.

Alex V. Hernandez, Production Editor and Cofounder

Alex’s reporting has appeared in the Block Club Chicago, the Chicago Tribune, Chicago Reader, Chicago Magazine, In These Times magazine and City Bureau. Previously, he was a researcher on the Chicago Reporter’s “Settling for Misconduct” interactive database. This investigative project created an easy to navigate, searchable database showing where, how and when police misconduct happens in the city of Chicago. The database was cited by the United States Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division in its 2017 report on the Chicago Police Department because “Until the Chicago Reporter created its database…little information about these settlements was publicly available.” He was a 2017 Peter Lisagor Watchdog Award finalist for his work on this database. Alex’s father came to the United States from Mexico City, Mexico in 1972 and his mother is a Tejana from El Paso, Texas. alex@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

Nissa Rhee, Executive Director and Cofounder

Nissa is an award-winning journalist whose work has appeared in The Christian Science Monitor and Chicago magazine. In her decade-plus 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

Claudia Hernández, Border Reporting Intern

Claudia is a senior student pursuing 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. One of her passions is photography, she has traveled around several continents photographing its beauty and the variety of cultures. After graduating, Claudia plans to pursue a master’s degree.

Cassidy Jackson, Engagement intern

Cassidy is a senior at Northwestern University studying journalism and French. She hopes to work as a social media director and freelance reporter focused on issues of immigration and race.

Francisco Velazquez, Reporting Intern

Francisco is a recent graduate from the School of Journalism at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He has a bachelor’s degree in Journalism and Anthropology with a certificate in Chicanx/Latinx Studies. Francisco was born and raised in Atlanta, Georgia and is influenced by his parents, who are natives of El Salvador. Francisco has interned at Harvard’s Immigration and Refugee Clinic and is a former fieldwork participant of the Undocumented Migration Project. He has worked as a translator for asylum seekers at detention centers in Southern Texas and Georgia. Francisco has also interned at the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism and served as writing fellow for the Center for Journalism Ethics. Most recently, he was awarded ProPublica’s 2020 Diversity Scholarship. In the Fall, Francisco will be attending the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism, specializing in international reporting and Spanish-language journalism. He hopes to work as an investigative reporter and on-air foreign correspondent focusing on issues of immigration, politics and equal rights.

Chelsea Verstegen, Marketing Volunteer

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 the International Association of Women and writes in her spare time.

Our Board

Yana Kunichoff, President

Yana currently covers public education for Chalkbeat Chicago and a special projects editor for Migratory Notes. She was born in the former Soviet Union, now Moldova, and most recently reported in Moscow for The Moscow Times on Syrian refugees. She has also covered immigration issues for a variety of news outlets including Migratory Notes, The Chicago Reporter and In These Times. Yana was project manager for Migrahack 2016 in Chicago. She has also produced feature-length documentaries and a pop-culture web series for Scrappers Film Group and worked as a fellow with City Bureau, where she won a March 2016 Sidney Hillman award for an investigation into fatal police shootings. Her work has appeared in The Guardian, The Atlantic, Pacific Standard and Chicago magazine among others.

Kavitha Selvaraj, Treasurer

Kavitha Selvaraj is a pediatric weight management specialist trained in clinical medicine, research, teaching and advocacy. As a double board-certified attending physician in pediatrics and obesity medicine, she takes care of children and families in Lurie’s Wellness and Weight Management Clinic. She is an Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, where her research involves screening for adverse childhood experiences and social determinants of health in the pediatric medical home, as well as improving the quality of care for children with obesity attending subspecialty clinics. As a pediatrician and former schoolteacher, she has worked with many patients, students, and families navigating the joys and challenges of life as immigrants. She is thrilled to support immigration journalism to highlight important issues related to the physical and emotional health of immigrant families, an issue near and dear to her heart as the daughter of two Indian immigrants herself.

Maria Ines Zamudio, Secretary

Maria is an award-winning investigative reporter. She covers immigration as part of WBEZ’s race, class, and communities team. Prior to joining WBEZ, she worked for American Public Media’s investigative team. She’s also worked as an investigative reporter for the Memphis Commercial Appeal and Chicago Reporter magazine. In 2015, Zamudio and a team of reporters from NPR’s Latino USA received a Peabody National Award for their coverage of Central American migrants. Zamudio’s story was reported from the Mexico-Guatemala border and it focused on the danger women from Central American face while traveling through Mexico as they try to reach the United States. Her work has appeared in The Associated Press, New York Times, National Public Radio, NBC 5 Chicago, Telemundo and Univision among others.