Thursday, February 9, 2012

Wera accepts position with Ameriprise Financial Services, Inc.

Martin Wera (MPP '02) joined Ameriprise Financial Services, Inc. in November as community relations manager. Wera's previous job was with as a program director for the Charities Review Council, where he oversaw, managed, and delivered the council's services to nonprofit organizations, donors, and grant makers.

Vidas completes work on Tamarack Nature Center project

Mary Vidas (MPA '05) recently oversaw construction of a $1.75 million outdoor nature play area and interpretive building expansion for Ramsey County's Tamarack Nature Center. The new site, called "Destination for Discovery," features several interactive nature discovery zones, water-ways conservation stream, and unique solar-powered petals that provide energy for a new garden house and kitchen. The project has won awards for its community engagement and design and has been featured in national tours. Vidas is completing a Ph.D. in public administration at Hamline University, with an emphasis in network governance and public/private partnerships. She can be reached at


Swenson accepts position with the Minnesota Department of Commerce

Matt Swenson (MPP '07) serves as communications director for the Minnesota Department of Commerce. Swenson advises Commissioner Mike Rothman and department leadership on communication strategy, manages media relations for the agency, and serves as the commissioner's chief speech writer. He directs the department's consumer and industry outreach efforts and is responsible for special projects. Prior to serving the Department of Commerce, Swenson was press secretary for Margaret Anderson Kelliher's gubernatorial campaign. Swenson joined the campaign after five years with the Minnesota House of Representatives in the House DFL Caucus Media Department. While at the House, Swenson developed and implemented earned media strategies for 18 state representatives. Swenson is very active in his community and local politics. He has served on the West Mississippi Watershed Commission, the Senate District 64 DFL Central Committee, and as precinct chair for his neighborhood DFL party. He also serves as a member of the Humphrey School Alumni Board.


Schurilla joins HACER as a research associate

In September, Allison Shurilla (MPP '10) accepted the position of research associate at Hispanic Advocacy and Community Empowerment through Research (HACER). Previously, Shurilla had done independent research and evaluation work on education and leadership and community engagement. Based on the Minneapolis campus of the University of Minnesota, HACER is a nonprofit, community-based research organization that provides the Latino community in Minnesota with the ability to create and control information about itself in order to affect institutional decisions and public policy. HACER was created as a collaborative effort between Ramsey County Human Services, Communidades Latinos Unidos en Servicio (CLUES), and Metropolitan State University. Currently, Shurilla's work includes research on English language learners education, school suspension rates and segregation, and evaluation of several health-based community programs.

Nix is now a legislative aide for St. Paul City Council member Carter III

In September, 2011, Noel Nix (MURP '08) joined the office of St. Paul City Council member Melvin W. Carter III (MPP '04) in the role of legislative aide. "This position is a perfect fit with my studies and experience in community development," said Nix. "From the St. Paul Promise Neighborhood and development issues along the Central Corridor line to the development of Selby Avenue, Council member Carter's ward is home to some of the most exciting initiatives in the region." In his new position Nix performs research on policy issues, works with constituents to resolve concerns, and helps oversee city projects and initiatives.

Monten receives Ten Outstanding Young Minnesotan award

Ross A. Monten (MPP '11) is a cancer survivor and military veteran. On the night of the great Halloween snowstorm in 1991, Ross was diagnosed with T-cell lymphoma, entering remission in June 1993. He began active duty service in the U.S. Air Force in 2005, following graduation from Northfield High School. Volunteering for combat, Monten served in Operation Iraqi Freedom in Kirkuk, Iraq, in 2007. He then completed his A.S. and B.A. in 23 months with high honors while on active duty, then served in the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C. in 2009. Earning a Master of Science from the London School of Economics in 2010 and a Master of Public Policy from the Humphrey School in 2011, Ross began working in both private equity for Grey Mountain Partners in Minneapolis and as a private energy and defense consultant. Through these efforts, 63 jobs were created in various Upper Midwest small businesses. Ross has published opinion pieces in the Minneapolis Star Tribune and Northfield News and has spoken to local groups about nuclear weapon policy in the 21st century. In December 2011, Ross was named as a Ten Outstanding Young Minnesotan (TOYM) by the Minnesota Jaycees. He currently attends the U.S. Navy Officer Candidate School in Newport, RI, and was commissioned as a Special Duty Naval Intelligence Officer in January 2012.


Lee accepts position with Target Corporation

In June, 2011, Acooa Lee (MPP '06) joined the Target Corporation as a senior business development leader for supplier diversity. Prior to her newest post, Lee was appointed legislative aide to St. Paul City Council member Melvin W. Carter III, a fellow Humphrey School graduate, where she served form 2008 to 2011 and provided leadership on community development issues within the city's central ward. In her new position, Lee develops strategies to increase Target's spending with diverse-owned businesses, as well as ensures alignment with internal client groups' sourcing goals and objectives. She also provides insights and development guidance to minority and women-owned enterprises seeking to do business with Target. Lee says, "Today's social issues are growing increasingly complex. Effective solutions require the representation of multiple perspectives. I am excited to have the opportunity to bring the perspective informed by a rich experience at the Humphrey School to the corporate sector and become an even more rounded member of the workforce."

Kim accepts position with the Alzheimer's Association

Hye Kim (MPP '05) is now the associate director of policy development at the Alzheimer's Association in Washington D.C. In her new role, Kim supports policy development efforts on federal, state, and public health issues related to Alzheimer's disease, manages policy development projects, and undertakes data and policy research and analysis.

april 2011.jpg

Kasper enters Ph.D. program at the University of Sussex

Eric Kasper (MPP '09) recently began pursuing a doctorate degree at the Institute of Development Studies at the University of Sussex in the United Kingdom. Kasper is investigating the intersections of social capital, neighborhood community development, and urban poverty. Before beginning the Ph.D. program, Kasper taught statistics and political economics at LCC International University in Lithuania. Prior to that, Kasper spent a year with PACO (Pan-African Community Organization) where he taught English as a second language and facilitated a youth employment program through the City of Minneapolis.

Heggeness begins job with U.S. Census Bureau

Misty Heggeness (MPP '02) accepted a position as an economist at the Poverty Statistics Branch of the U.S. Census Bureau in September. Her previous position was as a development economist at the U.S. Department of Labor/International Labor Affairs Bureau. At the Census Bureau, Heggeness works on a team with economists, sociologists, and statisticians to produce official poverty estimates each year. As an economic demographer with a focus on the family, Heggeness is engaged in research on the supplemental poverty measure's (SPM) unit of analysis. She and her colleagues are using the American Community Survey to develop the SPM's unit of analysis so that local area poverty estimates can be produced. This work will allow states and local governments to report SPM estimates for their respective geographic areas. Heggeness also is conducting research on other aspects of the SPM, about how the SPM changes the dynamics of mother-only families living in poverty. She can be reached at

Driscoll appointed as Rhode Island state director with Obama for America

Devin Driscoll (MPP '11) recently was named Rhode Island state director with Obama for America, the president's re-election campaign. Driscoll worked as a field organizer for Obama's 2008 presidential campaign in the Ocean State and served as the chairman of the statewide College Democrats of Rhode Island. While at the Humphrey School, Driscoll studied public fiance student, was a teaching assistant for Center for the Study of Politics and Governance, and served as President of the Council of Graduate Students and treasurer of Public Affairs Student Association. Driscoll can be contacted at,, or onTwitter (@Short_Pants).


Dana joins the Office of Ecology and Conservation at the U.S. Department of State

Genya Dana (MS-STEP '03) accepted the position of AAAS Science and Technology Policy (AAAS) Fellow in the Office of Ecology and Conservation at the U.S. Department of State. As a AAAS Fellow, Dana handles international issues related to genetic resources, biotechnology, and the environment. She also continues to be a risk analyst at Dana and
Sharpe Risk Associates. Before joining the State Department, Dana was a public policy scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, a ORISE Research Fellow at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and a Christine Mirzayan Science and Technology Policy Fellow at the National Academies of Science

Cole looking to represent North Minneapolis in the House

Terra B. Cole (MURP '06) announced that she is seeking the DFL nomination to represent North Minneapolis residents in State House of Representatives District 58B. Cole has been a resident of North Minneapolis for more than 23 years and says her vision for her community is one of economic growth, neighborhood stabilization, and improvements in public education. Cole has spent the last several years as a planning analyst for the Hennepin County Department of Research, Planning, and Development, where she co-led the county's Census 2010 outreach and promotion campaign to ensure ethnic minorities were accurately counted. She has served on numerous boards and committees within the region, including the Hawthorne Area Community Council, the City of Minneapolis Redistricting Committee, the Minnesota Metro Area Chapter of the National Forum of Black Public Administrators, the Bike-Walk Advisory Board for Transit for Livable Communities, and the Pierre Bottineau French Immersion School. Cole also has served as chair for the Hawthorne Area Community Council, the City of Minneapolis Empowerment Zone, and as a director for DFL Senate District 58. To reach Cole, contact her campaign coordinator, and fellow Humphrey School graduate, Todd M. Stump at 612-564-8258 or She also can be contacted through LinkedIn:


Broussard joins Milwaukee County Department of Health and Human Services

In December, 2011, E. Marie Broussard (MPA '07) accepted a position at the Milwaukee County Department of Health and Human Services and Behavioral Health Division, where she is the director of strategic affairs. She was previously with Milwaukee County as deputy chief of staff to the county executive.

Brosnan accepts job with the Minnesota Land Trust

John Brosnan (MPA '11) joined the Minnesota Land Trust (MLT) in January 2012 as a project manager responsible for implementing conservation projects that lead to the protection of sensitive shoreline habitats in the heart of Minnesota's premier lake country of Aitkin, Cass, and Crow Wing counties. Brosnan works closely with other MLT staff, landowners, and project partners, including the Leech Lake Area Watershed Foundation, to advance conservation in this part of the state. He has more than 13 years of experience in conservation work, specifically in comprehensive and regional planning, stakeholder engagement, land protection, and program management. Brosnan spent five years as the Baylands program manager for the Sonoma Land Trust. Prior to that, he served as program coordinator for the San Francisco Bay Area Wetlands Restoration Program. He can be contacted at

John Brosnan_smaller.jpg

Bolstad joins economic development team at the City of Cottage Grove

In December, Laura Bolstad (MPP '11) accepted the position of economic development specialist at the City of Cottage Grove. She works with the economic development director to recruit new businesses and help with the retention and expansion of existing businesses. Bolstad will help in the planning stages for new residential developments and monitoring state and federal regulations relating to economic development. Bolstad reports, "both my studies at the Humphrey School and my research for Economic Development Services prepared me very well for this new job. Cottage Grove has a lot going for it, and I'm happy to have this opportunity to help the city reach its potential." In the summer of 2011 Bolstad also began doing independent consulting work for fellow Humphrey alumna Janna King of Economic Development Services, Inc. From 2005 to 2011, Bolstad was with the Greater Metropolitan Housing Corporation's (GMHC) Housing Resource Center; for the majority of her time at GMHC, Bolstad ran a number of home repair and down payment assistance loan programs.

Billig joins faculty of the University of Arkansas

Noah Billig (MUPR '07) is now the Garvan Chair and Visiting Professor in Landscape Architecture at the School of Architecture, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, AR; his position began in August, 2011 and will continue at least until the spring of 2013. Billig teaches a variety of classes, including landscape architecture construction, urban design studio, regional planning studio (using GIS analysis), digital design communications, planning and design theory, and public participation techniques. His research focuses largely on urban design, and is most interested in bottom-up, generative design and planning, squatter settlements (Istanbul in particular), and such other emerging issues in urban design as suburban retrofit and public perception of increased density. Billig has spent the past five years living, researching, and working in Istanbul, Turkey, and Vienna, Austria, and earned a Ph.D. in planning, design, and the built environment from Clemson University in August 2011. He can be contacted at and


Bauer honored as one of the 2011 Ten Outstanding Young Minnesotans

Jeff Bauer (MPP '00) was honored by the Minnesota Jaycees in December as one of the Ten Outstanding Young Minnesotans (TOYM) of 2011. The TOYM program recognizes young leaders who have made major contributions to the state of Minnesota through volunteer service, community involvement, singular expertise, innovative thought or entrepreneurship. Bauer is the director of public policy and civic engagement at the Family Partnership, a nonprofit in Minneapolis that provides counseling, education, and advocacy for the area's most vulnerable children and families. Before joining the Family Partnership, Bauer worked as special assistant to the Minnesota Attorney General, vice president of the West Side Community Organization, and served as the executive director of Youth Farm and Market Project.

Barnea accepts position with U.S. Department of Transportation

In August, 2011, Avital Barnea (MURP '11) joined the U.S. Department of Transportation in Washington, D.C., as a community planner in the Federal Transit Administration's Office of Planning and Environment. Her duties include working with transit authorities and other public agencies throughout the country on the New and Small Starts grant program for major transit investments, as well as evaluating project proposals and providing funding recommendations to Congress. Barnea obtained this position through the Presidential Management Fellowship (PMF) program, a two-year fellowship available for recent master's graduates students to pursue work in the federal government. Following the conclusion of the fellowship, PMFs have the opportunity to convert into a full-time permanent position. Barnea can be contacted through LinkedIn or at


Arcara begins Ph.D. program at University of North Carolina

Jennet Arcara (MPP '03) is in her first semester of the Ph.D. program in the maternal and child health department at the Gillings School of Global Public Health at the University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill. She is a foreign language and area studies fellow in Urdu, as she is hoping to conduct mixed methods dissertation research in India and Pakistan on violence against women and reproductive health. Arcara also is pursuing a minor in population studies. Before starting her doctoral program, Arcara received a Master of Public Health from Emory University and worked as a Country Programs Manager at Venture Strategies Innovations (Berkeley, CA) since 2007. She can be contacted at

Sporlein appointed to Minnesota Housing Finance Agency

On November 7, 2011, Barbara Sporlein (MA '90) began her appointment as deputy commissioner of the Minnesota Housing Finance Agency. As the state's affordable housing bank, Minnesota Housing offers products and services to help Minnesotans buy and repair homes and supports the development and preservation of affordable rental housing by offering financing and on-going asset management of affordable rental housing developments. Sporlein's primary responsibilities include talent management, agency-wide planning and operations, and credit risk management. Prior to this position, she served as the planning director for the City of Minneapolis, the deputy director of the St. Paul Public Housing Agency. Sporlein started her career as a planner for the City of St. Paul. She continues to be active in the Humphrey School community and has served as a volunteer mentor for 12 years. She can be reached at


Prahl joins Data Recognition

Paula Prahl (MA '93) accepted the position of senior vice president for strategy and marketing at Data Recognition in December 2011. Prior to this position, Prahl was the senior vice president for communications, public affairs, and corporate responsibility at Best Buy. She also serves on the Humphrey School Advisory Council.

Hang named to Minnesota Health Care Reform Task Force

MayKao Hang (MA '94) was appointed by Governor Mark Dayton to the Minnesota Health Care Reform Task Force on October 31, 2011. This 17-member panel develops strategies to improve access to health care for all Minnesotans, to lower health care costs, and address health disparities across the state. Hang is the CEO and president of the Amherst H. Wilder Foundation, a nonprofit based in St. Paul that combines direct service programs, research, and community development to address the needs of the most vulnerable people in the east metro. Wilder programs serve low-income and disadvantaged children, families, and older adults in the areas of mental health, school success, and aging services. Says Hang, "It is an honor to participate on the task force. This effort aligns closely with Wilder's work in health care services and systemic integration of primary care with community based services."

Hang serves as the chair of the Twin Cities Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC), is a trustee of the Saint Paul and Minnesota Community Foundations, and is on the advisory committee of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. Hang is a member of the Minnesota Women's Economic Roundtable, was named as a 40 under 40 Award Winner by the Minneapolis -St. Paul Business Journal, is a recipient of the Ann Bancroft Dream Maker Award for her role in supporting women and girls with a nonprofit she helped cofound called Hnub Tshiab: Hmong Women Achieving Together. She also received the Naftalin Award for Public Service from the Humphrey School in 1995. Hang and her husband Lu have four children and live in Woodbury. Hang is completing her doctorate in public administration at Hamline University. She can be reached at


Drescher accepts position at U.S. Bank

Patryk Drescher (MA 1994) is now the vice president and director of Regulatory Services at U.S. Bank in Washington, DC; he accepted this position in August, 2011. He was previously a trial attorney in the U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Division, Commercial Litigation Branch. Prior to government service, he was an attorney in private practice in Washington DC and in Minneapolis. After receiving his degree from the Humphrey School, Drescher completed a JD at the University of Minnesota Law School in 1999. He can be contacted at

Ohmann bids adieu to PSG

Laurie Ohmann (MA 1988) announced that she is leaving PSG, a consulting business she co-owned, after 21 years. "It's just time to start painting another panel on my career canvas," Ohmann said of her decision. Ohmann was PSG's financial officer and, most recently, its CEO while also leading a range of consulting engagements. Ohmann's work spanned federal, state, and local levels of government and non-profits in policy areas that included transportation, national drug control policy, early childhood education, housing, and support for the developmentally disabled. Ohmann was part of the PSG team that provided superintendent leadership to the Minneapolis Public Schools under a path-breaking contract in the mid-'90s and she also served as a key consultant to several systemic change efforts in the US Department of Education, the Illinois Department of Child & Family Services, and the State of Iowa. During a leave from PSG, Ohmann served in Governor Jesse Ventura's administration as the Executive Director for the Minnesota Center for Crime Victims Services.

Mendis travels the world promoting his new book

Patrick Mendis (MA 1987) was recently on his second eight-nation Asian-Pacific book tour promoting, Commercial Providence: The Secret Destiny of the American Empire (University Press of America, Inc., 2010), a history of U.S. global influence, specifically in the context of Sino-American relations. During his tour, he received Guangdong University of Foreign Studies' Diplomatic Award in Guangzhou, China and met with Dr. Eric Chou, mayor in Taipei, Taiwan, and Vatican's newly-appointed Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith in Colombo, Sri Lanka. The foreword to the book is written by Professor Stephen Joel Trachtenberg, president emeritus of the George Washington University and distinguished university professor at his name-sake Trachtenberg School of Public Policy and Public Administration at GWU (see photo). Mendis wrote his latest two books while serving as a visiting foreign policy scholar at Johns Hopkins University's School of Advanced International Studies. For the previous book, TRADE for PEACE, former Dean and Professor Brian Atwood of the University of Minnesota's Humphrey School of Public Affairs wrote the foreword. Mendis is currently an affiliate professor of public and international affairs and an adjunct professor of geography and geoinformation science at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia. He can be contact by email,, or via his bookpage,


University Professor Stephen Joel Trachtenberg, president emeritus of the George Washington University, wrote the foreword for Mendis' book

Anderson accepts position at New Perspective Senior Living

Eric Anderson (MA 1987) was named Vice President of Development and Facilities at New Perspective Senior Living, an organization based in Eden Prairie, MN that develops, owns, manages, and operates senior care communities that include independent living, assisted living and memory care units. Anderson is responsible for overseeing all new development, expansions and remodels and is currently working on 150-unit project in the Madison, Wisconsin market. Prior to his work at New Perspective Senior Living, Anderson spent six years with Ryan Companies US, Inc. as a commercial real estate developer where he worked on office, hotel, senior living and mixed use developments. He also served the City of Edina for 22 years, spending the last 8 years as their deputy city manager.


Montgomery's life was full of public service and family

Peter W. Montgomery (MA 1975) peacefully passed away at his home on December 15, 2011; he was 76 years old. His obituary reads, "Peter was a man of few words, great intellect, unconventional sense of humor and a kind heart, who marched to the beat of his own drum, and quietly contributed to his family and his community." Montgomery was a founding and long-term board member of United Family Medicine, a nonprofit provider of primary health care, physician training, health promotion and outreach services in St. Paul, Minnesota.