Gina Caruso ’91

Gina Caruso '91

When the McLennan Center in Chicago was dedicated last November, Gina Caruso ’91 appreciated better than anyone present the facility’s Lakeview neighborhood. Caruso is a former executive director for the Lakeview East Chamber of Commerce, giving her special knowledge of resources at the fingertips of Cornell professors and students.

Caruso noted there is great proximity to transportation and many amenities with its upscale location. “This will be a wonderful opportunity for students,” she said.

Caruso is an enthusiastic supporter of experiential learning in Chicago. As a student, she spent a block studying there and considers this an important step to becoming an assistant commissioner in the Department of Housing and Economic Development. This puts her squarely in the middle of high profile initiatives in Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s administration.

Caruso has made a steady climb through the neighborhoods to get to City Hall. An art and sociology major, she said her journey reflects her liberal arts background.

“Trained for nothing, prepared for everything,” she joked.

The day after graduation, Caruso set up shop in Chicago by joining a ceramics arts co-op that rented a space in the Rogers Park neighborhood. She began coordinating art fairs for the Lakeview East chamber group and worked her way to the top of that organization. Along the way, she earned a master’s degree in urban planning and policy, founded a consulting firm that worked with the city on commercial district development, and was hired by the city.

Her art? While not doing urban planning, she creates ceramic bowls cast from a pregnant woman’s belly, called BellyBowls.

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