Penny Smith is the associate director of the Early Childhood Leadership Academy (ECLA). She served as a consultant for the Illinois Early Childhood Fellows (IECF) program until 2013 and served as the program manager for both IECF and the Illinois Senior Leaders program until 2015. Previously, she was a program manager at The Chicago Community Trust (the Trust), where she managed two high-profile fellowship programs: The Fellowship in Arts & Culture Management program and the Chicago Community Trust Fellowship program.

Prior to joining the Trust, Smith was the technology and student vocational trainer for Chicago Lights, a community outreach program. There she developed the curriculum for the job training program and provided technology training for both children and adults participating in all areas of the Chicago Lights program.

Smith, a former industrial engineer, has also been a consultant providing recruiting, process improvement, software training, and database design services to both private and public sectors since arriving to Chicago in 2000.


  • Certified Professional in Learning and Performance (CPLP®), Association for Talent Development (ATD, formerly ASTD)
  • B.S. in Industrial Engineering, University of Cincinnati
  • 2-year Program Certificate (performance evaluations, interviewing, employee development), Cintas Corporation Management Trainee Program
  • M.B.A. in Management Information Systems, University of Illinois at Chicago (2 years of coursework completed)