The Forest Preserve Foundation is pleased to announce the addition of three new members to its board of directors: Kandace Lenti, Managing Director, Executive Vice President, Government, Nonprofit & Healthcare Banking, Wintrust Bank; Dr. Michael Adkesson, President & CEO of the Chicago Zoological Society, Director of Brookfield Zoo; and Ankur Udani, Director, PwC.
We had the opportunity to learn a bit more about Ankur Udani, who joined the board last November. Read about his motivation to join the board, his commitment to the Foundation’s mission and his family adventure when a camping trip didn’t quite go as planned. Intending to meld his love of cycling, family, and nature, instead he found a heartwarming takeaway. The Foundation is fortunate to have his grounded optimism and dedication to healthy futures on the board.
How did you learn about the Forest Preserve Foundation?
I heard about the Forest Preserve Foundation through the Board Lead program. This is a program my company, PwC, works with to match and place candidates with non-profits seeking new board members. In reading through the foundation's profile, I was immediately attracted to the mission and started doing some research to learn more.
It was during the interview process however, where I learned the motivations of the other board members and the executive director. Hearing their passion for the foundation and its mission was both inspiring and confirmed for me that this was the right place for me.
Please share a bit about your professional background.
I've been in professional services for the entirety of my career. In my current role, I advise global companies in their approach to digital experience. I have a technology background but switched to management consulting when I joined PwC in 2010. These days, I work with senior leaders to drive value by reimagining how their company interacts with consumers, partners, and employees.
Why do you support the Foundation?
I wanted to be part of the solution in protecting our city's natural spaces, educating the public on their value, and making nature more accessible to our residents. These areas are critical not only for recreational use but also serving as a natural protection from the changes posed by climate change.
One of the most important programs the Foundation supports is the Conservation Corps. I am so inspired by the impact these kids make each summer. I love hearing their stories of not only how they have improved the Forest Preserves but also how the Forest Preserves have impacted them and influenced their longer-term goals.
What impact do you hope to have while serving on the board?
In my capacity as a member of the board, I want to bring attention to this amazing asset we have in our backyards. My goal is to connect more people to the Forest Preserves, making it a part of their lives in large ways or small. I will measure my impact through the work I do to make the Forest Preserves more available and accessible to all communities via my individual contributions as well as the collective effort of the entire board.
I notice that your board candidate statement mentioned that you are an avid user of the preserves both as a cyclist and picnicking or flying kites with your family. Can you share a brief story from one of your adventures in the preserves?
Last fall my family and I went camping at Camp Sullivan. We try to go camping in the forest preserves a few times each year. I didn't grow up camping, but I have three kids - ages 7, 8 and 10 - and I want them to experience and appreciate the outdoors even though we live in the city.
We brought our bikes down for the weekend with the intention of riding a few miles each day to explore the trails and the area nearby. Unfortunately, our luck was not with us that weekend. As soon as we set up camp, the rain started coming down and didn't stop. We did manage to catch a short break the first night and found a way to make s'mores on the camp stove, but we ended up having to spend most of our time in the tent.
Despite the weather, we had a great time spending the night in the woods, just being together. And it was already on the car ride back home when the kids were asking when we were going to go camping again...
How do you see the Forest Preserves of Cook County impacting your health and/or the health of the surrounding community?
When I think about the impact the Forest Preserves have on health, I think the impact can be measured on both our physical health and mental health. Take my recent camping experience for example; it was going to give us a chance to ride our bikes and get some physical exercise, but perhaps even more importantly, it was also going to give us a chance to get away from the day-to-day routine. We needed the break to step away and reconnect.
One of the lessons from the pandemic was the importance of self-care; this includes anything you do to stay physically, mentally, and emotionally well. For Chicago residents, we are so fortunate to have the Forest Preserves accessible and available to support us in maintaining our overall health. This goes back to the impact I hope to have as a member of the board, I want to do everything I can to raise the profile of the Forest Preserves so we can continue to impact the health and mental well-being of our community.