Eunice Adjei is the President of Adom Consulting LLC and founder of the Jugaad Leadership Program. At Adom LLC she provides Cultural Competency training to non-profit boards and their staff. Eunice serves on a number of boards including African Women’s Alliance, Minnesota Council of Nonprofits, St. Cloud Charity Commission , St. Cloud Technical and Community College Foundation Board, St. Cloud Regional Human Rights Commission and The Tri-County Action Program Inc. (TRICAP). Eunice Adjei was also the Administrator of Create CommUNITY, an initiative with a mission to dismantle racism through systemic change and make St. Cloud a welcoming place for all.
Joseph Allen is director of the Gizhiigin Arts Incubator in Mahnomen—a project of the White Earth Nation’s economic development division. Gizhiigin, which means “grow fast” in Ojibwemowin, assists Indigenous artists in achieving their artistic and entrepreneurial goals. Allen is a photographer with over three decades of experience in creating, exhibiting, and selling his art. He is also currently a Springboard for the Arts 20/20 Fellow. The 20/20 Fellowship is awarded to BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) and Native artists who are creating tools, pathways and systems of support for artists in their communities. Born in Eagle Butte, South Dakota, Joseph is a citizen of the Sicangu Lakota Oyate and currently lives in the rural Sugarbush Township in the White Earth Nation.
Sandy Andress is a family service worker for MAHUBE-OTWA Community Action Partnership. She previously spent 19 years as a small business owner and music instructor. Sandy sat on the boards of the Nemeth Art Center, the Region 2 Arts Council, and the Akeley Chamber of Commerce. She graduated with her B.A. in history, humanities and Indian studies from Bemidji State University, followed by five years as a community coordinator in underserved communities. With a deep interest in cultures and movements throughout history, Sandy developed a passion for studying the causes and possible cures for poverty. This passion continued during her time as an entrepreneur where she taught creative thinking and design at corporate retreats, community classes, and individual sessions at her studio.
Cory Boushee, program officer at Northwest Minnesota Foundation works across all programs to manage external grant funding and facilitate community collaboration. As winter approached, a grassroots, collaborative effort was established to address seasonal homelessness in Bemidji. As that effort proved successful in preventing homelessness deaths that winter, conversations turned toward the challenges in addressing systemic homelessness occurring through the 12-county region of Northwest Minnesota. In 2019, Cory become the coordinator of the Northwest Continuum of Care, a regional collaboration of diverse stakeholders working to end homelessness in the region. He transitioned from supporting all NMP programs to leading responses focused on ending homelessness in Northwest Minnesota. In this role as the lead of the burgeoning homelessness program, Cory allocates discretionary grant dollars and manages external grants funding projects.
Christopher Brown, is an acting dean of the College of Arts & Humanities and professor of Communication Studies at Minnesota State University, Mankato. He has published books chapters, encyclopedia entries, book reviews, and articles on a variety of topics focusing on discourses of white supremacy, white-male elites’ constructions of race and leadership, and phenomenology and race. His work appears in such journals as the Communication Monographs, Departures in Critical Qualitative Research, Communication Studies, Howard Journal of Communications, and Journalism and Mass Communication Quarterly. He is a co-author of Race and the Senses: The Felt Politics of Racial Embodiment (Routledge, 2020). Christopher holds a Ph.D.
Ashley Charwood received her B.S. degree in social work from Bemidji State University and has a minor in chemical dependency counseling and psychology. Ashley was a graduate teaching assistant at the University of North Dakota, where she has a master’s degree in social work. Ashley also studied abroad at Malmo University in Sweden. Ashley has held positions in the nonprofit sector in Pennsylvania and in the Bemidji area. Ashley is employed as an early childhood screener with the Bemidji School District, as a Cultural Responsiveness guide at Peacemakers Resources, and also works full time with Bemidji State University as admissions representative. Ashley has been an active governance committee chair and secretary on the Bi-County Community Action board of directors, and currently is a secretary on the Project for Change board.
Padam Chauhan works as an ESL instructor for Center for English Language Programs at Minnesota State University (MSU), Mankato. Padam earned a master's degree in English education from Tribhuvan University, Nepal, a master's degree in TESOL and doctor of education in educational leadership from MSU, Mankato. He has taught EFL/ESL at the high school and undergraduate levels in Nepal. He has also been a K-12 principal in Nepal. Padam is a regular participant and presenter at international conferences related to English language learning and teaching. He has presented at the NELTA, IATEFL, TESOL, and TESL conferences held in Nepal, UK, USA, and Canada. His current research interests include ESL students' academic reading and writing skills, second language assessment, teacher development and learning, ESL teacher leadership, and equity to English education/learning.
Shantel Dow has been a music administrator and grants specialist for many arts organizations including the country’s largest youth orchestra, the Greater Twin Cities Youth Symphonies. As an amateur trumpeter, Shantel has had the opportunity to perform at the Sydney Opera House (Australia), Royal Albert Hall (England), Aotea Centre (New Zealand), on the Great Wall (China), and Carnegie Hall. She was a member of the McDonald’s All-American Band in 1980. Shantel founded Dow Artists, Inc. in 2004, offering over thirty years of arts management and arts granting experience to presenters and artists in the entertainment industry. She is a member of many professional arts organizations and was co-chair for the 2018 Arts Midwest Conference. Shantel is now serving as the executive director for The Reif Center in Grand Rapids.
Charles Fai is a mental health therapist. Charles works for the state of Minnesota as a program clinician with the Minnesota Sex Offending Program. Charles also has a private practice through the Duluth Counseling Center and specializes in working with teenagers and preteens. Charles provides trainings to organizations on equity, diversity and inclusion and holds a master of arts degree.
Katie Godfrey Demmer’s path to becoming a communications director is somewhat unconventional. After graduating from St. Olaf College with a degree in American studies, she worked on several organic farms before working for a nonprofit where she helped organize a large festival focused on food, art, and farming. She fell into the communications world initially as the tourism director at the Owatonna Area Chamber of Commerce and Tourism where she marketed the community to visitors for three years. Katie has served as the communications director at Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation since 2017. Her favorite part of the job is being able to share people's stories. Katie lives in Owatonna.
Ashley Hanson is a social practice and theater artist, community organizer, and advocate for arts in rural areas. She is the founder and director of the Department of Public Transformation, an artist-led organization that collaborates with local artists and civic leaders in rural areas to develop creative strategies for community connection and civic participation. She is also the founder and director of PlaceBase Productions, a theater company that creates original, site-specific musicals celebrating small town life. She was recently named a 2018 Obama Foundation Fellow and a 2019 Bush Foundation Fellow for her work with rural communities. She is a musician who plays with the folk-ensemble The Family Trade, and her solo album, The Kirkbride Sessions-recorded during a Springboard for the Arts Hinge Arts Residency-explores the hidden narratives of ruralness.
John Nehemiah Harper currently serves in the office of the president at South Central College as the director of diversity, equity, and inclusion and as the interim director of admissions. He holds a degree in political science and masters of educational leadership and administration from Minnesota State University, Mankato. John has experience in recruitment, inclusion development, and is passionate about access and equity within higher education. At South Central, John actively works with academic deans, faculty, and staff to examine policy, procedure, and assessments with an equity lens. He recently was accepted into Morgan State University and will begin his doctoral program this fall.
Misti Nicole Harper graduated from the University of Arkansas with her Ph.D. in history. Her forthcoming book project, Ladies of Little Rock: Black Femininity and Respectability Politics in the Fight to Desegregate Central High School (University of Georgia Press, 2021) explores the activism and visibility of middle-class black women during the 1957 school desegregation effort that culminated in racists’ massive resistance. Since 2018, she has served as the visiting assistant professor of US Women’s History at Gustavus Adolphus College in Saint Peter, and also serves the Department of History of the University of Arkansas as an online lecturer.
Stacy Johnston is a HR thought leader at Audacity HR, providing innovative HR solutions with a mission to support organizations in understanding and engaging their biggest competitive advantage: their employees. As the founder and business partner at Audacity HR, she is a licensed attorney in the State of Minnesota and holds the Society for Human Resource Management – certified professional and professional in human resources credentials.
Nancy Jost has been the director of early childhood at West Central Initiative for the past 17 years, advocating for the best possible start for children toward a healthy life of learning, achieving, and succeeding. With a sociology degree and licensure in parent/child education, Nancy has been a licensed family child care provider, a child care center teacher, worked in Early Childhood Special Education, Early Childhood Family Education, School Readiness, and Child Care Aware. For more than 40 years, this has been her work, her life, and her passion. She has been active on many early childhood boards, committees, and work groups in our region and the state. She was appointed by former Governor Dayton to be the chairperson for his Early Learning Council.
Cameron Kruger is the president and CEO for the Duluth Children's Museum and founder of Horizon Nonprofit Solutions, a consultancy focused on innovative communication strategies for community organizations. He is an avid techie and supporter of social causes. Cameron is a member of the board of directors and the Northeast Minnesota advisory committee for the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits.
Liz Kuoppala’s (she/her) commitment to securing upward mobility for others is deeply rooted in her own personal odyssey out of poverty and trauma. For more than 20 years, Liz has led organizations and advocacy to be more inclusive and effective in creating opportunity for people. Liz currently serves as executive director at MAHUBE-OTWA Community Action Partnership in Detroit Lakes. She serves on national, state, and local boards focused on service integration, leadership, and multi-generational strategies to ending poverty. She holds degrees in chemistry and political leadership. Liz lives in rural Otter Tail County.
Bethany Lacktorin is a performance artist, organizer, media producer, and musician. Her practice revolves around identity, displacement, and our connection through land, place, and shared experiences. Bethany's work has been presented on stages, galleries, and institutions across the U.S. and Europe. A sound engineer for 20 years, she's earned credit as sound designer for feature films, documentaries, television, and radio. Bethany studied violin at Lawrence University, receive her A.A.S. in music production at McNally Smith College of Music, and her B.A.F.A. in experimental media at Prague College School of Art & Design. Currently based in rural Minnesota, she is board chair, Crow River Players and New London Arts Alliance; program director, Little Theatre in New London; board treasurer, New London Food Co-op; and producer for the newspaper Lakes Area Review.
LeAnn Littlewolf (she/her), Anishinaabe/Maa'iingan doodem, Gaa-zagaskwaajimekaag Tribal Nation, is a senior program officer at the Northland Foundation. LeAnn works on Maada'ookiing (the 'distribution' in Ojibwe), which is a grassroots grantmaking initiative in partnership with Tribal Nations and Indigenous community. LeAnn has worked for 30 years in nonprofit, community organizing, and advocacy roles. With a masters degree in political leadership & advocacy and a masters degree in education, LeAnn brings a commitment to cultural and community-based strategies, equity, and Seventh Generation principles. LeAnn lives and works in Duluth.
Kara Lindaman is a professor of political science and public administration at Winona State University. Earning her Ph.D. from the University of Kansas, she studies the policy process and citizen engagement in wicked problems on campuses and in communities. She teaches courses in public administration in the fields of public service, public budgeting and finance, and public policy, and is fortunate to have advised many students-citizens into public service. This has led to numerous opportunities to work with colleagues and students as moderators and in deliberation. She is an ambassador of the National Issues Forum Institute board of directors and also serves as the NCAA Faculty Athletic representative for Winona State University and the faculty advisor to Pi Sigma Alpha, the College Democrats and College Republicans.
Alice Meyer is a licensed social worker in Minnesota. She has spent the last 20 years doing family service work to help families move out of poverty. Alice is currently working as a family coach mentor at MAHUBE OTWA Community Action Partnership Inc., where she is professionally mentoring staff in strength-based relationship coaching, and assisting staff in moving from a regulative mindset to a generative mindset model. She took it to heart when her dad told her that she should get her education because it is the one thing that can never be taken away once it is earned.
Ben Nwachukwu is currently the IT helpdesk manager at Southwest Minnesota State University (SMSU). He has been in this role for eight years. Ben oversees the day to day operation of SMSU IT helpdesk and conducts different tech workshops on how to utilize different software and tools like Office 365 apps and many more. Ben is a graduate of SMSU with a bachelor of science in accounting, finance, and management, with a minor in agribusiness. He also has a master’s in business administration.
Pablo Obregón is the community engagement officer for Southwest Initiative Foundation’s intergenerational, leadership, and Grow Our Own initiatives. He attended Lutheran Bible Institute in California, received his master of divinity degree from Luther Seminary, and spent several years in ministry. Most recently, Pablo served as Reentry Ready navigator with Pact for Families in Willmar, supporting youth in transitioning back into their community following a criminal offense. Pablo was born and raised in Lima, Peru. He loves southwest Minnesota for its mix of long-term residents and newcomers. He is a volunteer coach with the Willmar Soccer Association, volunteers with Willmar’s Cinco de Mayo celebration, is a member of the Willmar Lakes Area Vision 2040 steering committee, and is the co-chair for the Inclusion Focus Group.
Ayodeji Oyebola is the founder of Emmright Business Management & Consulting Services. The company bundles payroll, bookkeeping, electronic forms, human resources, technology, strategic management, and more to provide small and medium businesses with the expertise of large companies. Emmright also offers consulting services on leadership, organization development, strategic development, process improvement, and technology. Ayodeji holds a doctor of education in leadership and has professional experience in the healthcare and financial industries. He is the author of Caring: The Soul of Leadership, a book that discusses how leadership care sets the tone for leadership success. The book is available in paperback and e-book on Amazon.
Daniel Oyinloye, storyteller, with a background in music, digital arts, photography and filmmaking, is a co-founder of DanSan Creatives. He is currently an entrepreneur serving as an agent for other creatives with their company. He is a unique organizer and artist with incredible energy. DanSan Creatives is an organization that fosters a positive creative community. Committed to the empowerment of youths and creatives, they use arts and arts education to diversify narratives. DanSan's vision is to innovate with stories as hinges, connecting creatives to an authentic framework. Their mission is to work with the community to create spaces that promote healing through stories in order to cultivate connection around identities; especially for black families.
Tuleah Palmer is president and CEO of Blandin Foundation in Grand Rapids. She oversees grantmaking, community leadership training, and public policy initiatives, as well as stewardship of foundation resources. A lifelong resident of rural Minnesota, Tuleah served as executive director of Northwest Indian Community Development Center, which works to identify and deliver resources that promote wellness and equity for American Indian families in Northwest and North Central Minnesota. Tuleah was born in Deer River and has lived across Northern Minnesota. She holds a bachelor of arts degree in applied psychology from Bemidji State University. She has served as tribal planner and community development grant writer for Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe, as a nonprofit management consultant, and executive director of the Boys and Girls Club of Leech Lake Area.
Jason (Jay) Schlender is an Extension American Indian leadership and civic engagement educator. He is a member of the Lac Courte Oreilles Band of Lake Superior Ojibwe. He has served in many roles in his community, including vice chairman of the Lac Courte Oreilles Tribal Governing Board, chairman of Waadookodaading Ojibwe Language Institute, and chairman of the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission’s Voigt Inter-Tribal Taskforce. Prior to joining Extension, Jay served one 4-year term on the Lac Courte Oreilles Tribal Governing Board and spent 10 years as an instructor and adjunct faculty at the Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwe College.
Joanna Schnedler is executive director for the Minnesota Music Coalition, a statewide arts service organization for the state's independent musicians. Prior to this, her most recent role was as executive director of the Minnesota Theater Alliance, a statewide arts service organization for performing arts organizations and practitioners. Within a career in nonprofit administration and performing arts management, she has had roles with organizations including the Fitzgerald Theater/Minnesota Public Radio, the statewide social service organization Episcopal Community Services, the social enterprise Rebuild Resources, and several theater and opera companies. She is on the CreativeMN committee which champion's Minnesota Citizens for the Arts annual statewide and local arts economic impact studies.
Sachi Sekimoto is a professor and acting chair in the Department of Communication Studies at Minnesota State University, Mankato. As a native of Tokyo, Japan, who resides in the U.S., her scholarship and pedagogy are inspired by the experiences of traversing and adapting to multiple sensory borders and cultural paradigms. Her scholarly interests include phenomenological experiences of culture, identity, and embodiment in transnational contexts. She is a co-author of Race and the Senses: The Felt Politics of Racial Embodiment (Routledge, 2020) and Globalizing Intercultural Communication: A Reader (Sage, 2016). Sachi holds a Ph.D. designation.
Benjamin Winchester has been working in and for small towns across the Midwest for over 25 years. Ben is trained as a rural sociologist and works as a senior research fellow for the University of Minnesota Extension, Center for Community Vitality. He conducts applied research on economic, social, and demographic topics surrounding a theme of “rewriting the rural narrative” that are vital to rural America. Benjamin received his B.A. in mathematics and statistics from the University of Minnesota, Morris and M.S. in rural sociology from the University of Missouri, Columbia. He was a founding employee at the Center for Small Towns, an outreach and engagement program at the University of Minnesota, Morris and specializes in community development and moving communities away from anecdata. Benjamin lives in St. Cloud.
Bradley Wolfe is the regional coordinator for the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits' Southwest Minnesota Regional Chapter, based in Nicollet. Through his part-time position, Bradley provides local activities, initiatives, and connections to the resources MCN provides in the Southwest region of Minnesota. Bradley has a doctorate in educational leadership through which he studied the relationship between nonprofits and higher education. He regularly works for equity and justice through his role as diversity facilitator with the Greater Mankato Diversity Council.