Nadia Quarles, Esq.
Assistant Vice President for Business Diversity
University of Chicago
Nadia Quarles, is a thought leader and visionary diversity and inclusion strategist with a bold vision and mission to advance economic opportunities for minority and women-owned businesses. As the Assistant Vice President for Business Diversity at the University of Chicago, Nadia is responsible for implementing procedures throughout the University to help increase the University’s contractual relationships with qualified minority and women-owned businesses primarily within the goods/general services and professional services industries. Nadia advises University leadership on effective strategies to partner with local and national business leaders, civic leaders and elected officials to ensure that the University has access to the most diverse talent in the marketplace.
Nadia has taken a distinctive approach to diversify the University’s contract opportunities, by targeting the hiring of minority and women-owned firms within the difficult to penetrate professional services industries. In 2009, she instituted a first-of-its-kind symposium designed to connect local and national minority and women-owned firms within the communications, legal, human resources, money management, financial services, information technology and architecture/engineering industries to senior decision makers at the University and Medical Center. In 2010, her work influenced the historical hiring of first African American-owned asset management firms to invest University of Chicago endowment funds. As a result of her laser focus on these opportunities, the endowment has since allocated $1.24 billion to 25 minority and women-owned asset management firms. Over the years, the Professional Services Symposium has generated contracts with more than 90 MWBE’s.
Nadia’s approach has truly revolutionized business diversity practices. She is viewed nationally as an influencer and successful change agent in the area of business diversity and economic development. The University’s Professional Services Symposium is viewed as a national model for which other educational institutions, foundations and nonprofits emulate.
Nadia is a member of the Obama Foundation Inclusion Council which is charged with ensuring that the ongoing work of the Foundation is in alignment with diversity and inclusion values. She served on Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s Business, Neighborhood, and Economic Development Transition Committee. Nadia is a member of the YWCA Metropolitan Chicago Board of Directors, the Chicago Minority Supplier Development Council Board of Directors, and Chicago United Leaders Council.
Previously, Nadia worked for the City of Chicago Department of Procurement Services, where she managed the City’s target market and professional service contracts. She was also an adjunct professor at Northeastern Illinois University, where she taught courses in criminal justice studies and race and the law. Nadia holds a Juris Doctorate from Mitchell Hamline School of Law, in St. Paul, Minnesota, and has several years of legal experience. She earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Political Science and Public Policy from Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts.