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Staff Bios


Clark Bell
Program Director

Clark Bell is the McCormick Foundation's Journalism Program director. Clark, who joined the foundation in October 2005, oversees journalism grant-making initiatives and shapes the program's focus on critical issues facing the news media. He manages an annual grantmaking budget of nearly $6 million.

Clark is a veteran reporter, editor, publisher and communications consultant. Prior to joining the McCormick Foundation, he was managing director for American Healthcare Solutions, where he developed communications strategies for hospitals, medical foundations and technology firms.

His extensive journalistic background includes serving as publisher of Modern Physician magazine, editor and associate publisher of Modern Healthcare magazine, executive business editor of the Dallas Times Herald and business columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times. Earlier, he served as a consumer affairs reporter for the Chicago Daily News and sports writer for the Des Moines Register.

Clark earned a bachelor's degree in journalism from Drake University and a master's degree in urban studies from Loyola University of Chicago. He was among the first group of journalists awarded a Sloan Fellowship to study economics at Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. Bell serves on the board of the Chicago Journalists Association Foundation and the advisory council of Northwestern Memorial Hospital’s Center for Integrative Medicine and Wellness.

"I decided to become a professional journalist at age 15," he said. "My passion for news is equaled by a desire to help widen opportunities for journalism students and young professionals. Directing the McCormick Foundation’s Journalism Program is my dream job."

Mark Hallett
Senior Program Officer

Mark Hallett is a senior program officer in the journalism program of the McCormick Foundation. Mark joined the foundation in May 1995, and coordinates grantmaking in a number of areas, including youth journalism, press freedoms, diversity in journalism, and First Amendment initiatives. He also has worked on conference and event planning, development of special initiatives, solicitation and review of proposals, project evaluation and foundation communications efforts.

In 1983, Mark was awarded a bachelor's degree in history and Russian language from Northwestern University. That same year he received a Richter Fellowship to study and interview Sioux artist Oscar Howe. In 1987, he completed a one-year Spanish-language program at the University of Madrid that covered Spanish and Latin American history, literature and culture. In 1991, Mark received a master's degree from Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism, where he focused on magazine publishing. In 2001, he completed the Media Management Center's Advanced Executive Program.

Mark served as a Volunteer in Service to America (VISTA) at the Logan Square Neighborhood Association in Chicago, and later edited and translated for the magazine Alfoz in Madrid. Prior to joining the McCormick Foundation, he was an editor at Safety + Health magazine, where he launched an international edition and researched, assigned and wrote stories on workplace safety and environmental issues.

Mark is an avid photographer and speaks fluent Spanish and Portuguese. He has traveled extensively and has lived in Mexico, Norway and Spain.

Mark serves on the board of directors of the Erie Neighborhood House and the Erie Elementary Charter School, and previously served as a board member for Changing Worlds. He and his wife, Carmen Vidal-Hallett, were awarded a grant from the Graham Foundation to research and do presentations around the innovative environmental policies of the city of Curitiba, Brazil. The two live in Chicago with their son, Gabriel Jose, and daughter, Emilia Maria.

Janet Liao
Program Officer

Janet Liao is a program officer in the journalism program of the McCormick Foundation. Janet, who joined the Foundation in May 2009, assists existing grantees with implementing and monitoring their projects and helps solicit and evaluate new journalism grant proposals. She guides grantmaking in a number of areas, including youth media, digital journalism and journalism training, and works on conference development, program evaluation and developing new strategic initiatives.

Janet joined the McCormick Foundation from Imagination Publishing, where she served as editor and project manager of customized media projects, including magazines, newsletters, advertorials, webcasts and online videos for Wells Fargo, Chick-fil-A and a number of other Fortune 500 companies and associations.

Janet was in the first class of McCormick Scholars at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. Her graduate work included training in business reporting, new media storytelling and the business & culture of journalism. Janet earlier earned a B.A. in English at Cornell University. She was named Beat Writer of the Year at the Cornell Daily Sun. She later was awarded a Chinese Cultural Scholarship to study at the Beijing Language and Culture University.

Janet’s published work has appeared in The Daily Herald, Northwest Indiana Times, Residential Lighting, Event Marketer, PM Network, The International Interior Design Association’s Perspective magazine, MSCI’s Forward magazine, lowesforpros.com and MasterCard.com.

In addition to her journalism skills, Janet is proficient in Mandarin and Spanish, as well as conversational in Taiwanese. She enjoys traveling, running, cooking and yoga.

Aaron Smith
Administrative Officer, General Fund

Aaron Smith joined McCormick Foundation in November 2000. As administrative officer, Aaron manages the grant making processes for the general fund, which encompasses the journalism, education and citizenship programs. Among other duties, he is responsible for scheduling payments, editing reports and correspondence, maintaining files, conducting technical training when necessary and coordinating internal and external events.

Aaron has a background in broadcasting and corporate communications. He also worked in the legal department of a major U.S. electronics company. He received a bachelor's degree in Radio & Television from Bradley University, a master's degree in speech communication from Morehead State University (KY) and took paralegal training from the City Colleges of Chicago.