University of Illinois System

External Relations and Communications

HomeAbout UsNewsPortfolioResources

Staff Biographies

Marissa Brewer

Marissa Brewer

Director of Advocacy

Marissa Brewer leads the University of Illinois System’s grassroots advocacy program Illinois Connection. Originally from Texas, Marissa began her career as a legislative aide in Washington D.C. for a U.S. Congressman, advising him on a variety of issues, including education policy. While in D.C., she gained exensive experience in legislative advocacy, federal lobbying, politics, and elections. Marissa relocated to central Illinois in 2009 to work for Illinois State University as the Associate Director of Development and Governmental Relations. In 2013, Marissa joined the U of I System in 2013 to help lead the legislative adovcacy efforts. In her current role, she leads the legislative advocacy efforts including the Illinois Connection, the system's grassroots advocacy program with more than 30,000 members.

Marissa also consults for the Congressional Management Foundation, helping to train their clients in best practices regarding legislative advocacy.  She also serves on several committees and boards including the Steering Committee of Public Higher Education Legislative Advocacy Professionals, a national organization of higher education advocacy professionals who are dedicated to determining the best practices for advocacy in the higher education setting. 

Marissa has a bachelor’s degree in public administration from Texas State University and a master’s in political science from the University of Illinois Springfield. She also has a certificate in PAC and Grassroots Management from the Public Affairs Council and a certificate as a Master Online Teacher Advancing Practice and Innovation in Online Learning from the University of Illinois Springfield.

Contact Marissa


Kathy Sullivan

Kathy Sullivan

Assistant Director of Advocacy

Kathy Sullivan joined the U of I System advocacy team in July 2022. Kathy served as the senior assistant director for the U of I System's Institute of Government and Public Affairs (IGPA) since 2009 and lead efforts to identify opportunities and develop strategies for faculty experts to engage with federal, state and local legislators, staff, and policymakers. She also planned and executed the Institute's programming activities. She has a background in politics after working for President Obama when he was a U.S. Senator, and during his campaign.

Contact Kathy


Theresa Thomas

Theresa Thomas

Visiting Advocacy Specialist

Theresa Thomas joined the University of Illinois System in January 2020 as the Visiting Advocacy Specialist. A native Chicagoan, she graduated from the University of Illinois Chicago in 2019 and has a BA in Anthropology.

Contact Theresa