Thursday, May 24, 2012

Okamoto joins Career Incubation, Inc.

Kiri Okamoto (MA '90) is now the manager of Career Incubation, Inc. in Tokyo, Japan. She had been previously a senior associate at Korn/Ferry International. She can be reached via Linkedin.

Karon continues work with Senator Franken

Michelle Karon (MPA '09) was offered full-time employment with Senator Franken's office in Washington, DC where she had been interning. She writes, "as part of Team Franken, I know I will continue to learn from some of the best and brightest and am thrilled to have the opportunity to contribute my own capacities and expertise to some great efforts."

Wu accepts position with ActionAid USA

Brandon Wu (MPP '10) just graduated from the Humphrey School this spring. He was the student speaker at the 2012 Humphrey School commencement ceremony, received the Class of '99 Paul and Sheila Wellstone Award for Public Action, and also received the Humphrey School's Diversity Paper Award for his professional paper entitled "Local Struggles in Global Paradigms: Afro-Colombians, Development and Human Rights." Wu was the Vice President of the International Perspectives on Interdisciplinary Development student group and was a core organizer in the recent effort to unionize University of Minnesota graduate assistants.

On May 24, Wu will begin a position as Senior Policy Analyst at ActionAid USA, focused on international climate change policy. In this position, he will lead the development and implementation of a U.S. advocacy strategy on climate adaptation and finance. This work will include working closely with ActionAid offices in Africa, Asia, Europe and the Americas, coordinating a domestic and international coalition of organizations campaigning on international climate policy, and engaging directly with members of Congress and U.S. administration officials and advocate for innovative approaches to generate new public funding for international climate programs. He will also develop ActionAid's work on tax justice, looking at how tax dodging by multinational corporations is draining money out of developing countries that could be used for climate adaptation and development purposes.

Wu can be contacted by email at and through LinkedIn at

Speck hired on at Greater Twin Cities United Way

In May, Rachel Speck (MPP '10), accepted the position of Associate Manager in Community Impact at Greater Twin Cities United Way. She has interned with United Way since October, 2011.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Reardon named executive director at Open Arms

timreardon.jpgTim Reardon (MPP '87) has recently been named the executive director of Open Arms, a nonprofit organization that cooks nutritious meals that are delivered to people living with chronic illnesses in the Twin Cities metropolitan area.

"I am delighted and grateful to be working with Open Arms," said Tim Reardon. "I have fallen in love with the Open Arms mission. Having lost a family member to cancer, I know how vital it is to have people in your life who can provide a good meal during a tumultuous time. I'm grateful to all the people who helped me and know how essential this program is to the most vulnerable people in our community."

Reardon was previously the chief executive officer of the Reardon Group and the executive director of The Bridge for Youth.

He can be contacted at Open Arms at 612.767.7344.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

McGrann speaks at Westminster Town Hall Forum

McGrann 2.jpgPatrick McGrann (MS-STEP '01) gave a lecture at Westminster Town Hall Forum; his talk, titled "Playing for Peace in Gaza," was broadcasted on Minnesota Public Radio. McGrann is a social entrepreneur and has created games and toys for the last 15 years in Sudan, Iraq, Somalia, Yemen, and Gaza. Listen to the lecture here.

Grubbs accepts position with Headwaters Regional Development Commission

Marcus 3.jpgMarcus Grubbs (MURP '09) began the position of Development Specialist at the Headwaters Regional Development Commission (RDC) in January, 2012. Headwaters RDC serves the Counties of Beltrami, Clearwater, Mahnomen, Lake of the Woods, and Hubbard; and the Red Lake, White Earth, and Leech Lake Tribal Nations. Headwaters RDC and its non-profit entities do work in the broad areas of community planning, transportation planning, economic development, housing, real estate development finance, and small business finance. Some of HRDC's initiatives are very traditional, such as land use planning, while others are much more innovative and entrepreneurial.

In his role of Development Specialist, Grubbs has the opportunity to serve the entire region in a variety of capacities. His current central responsibility is leading hazard mitigation planning efforts for the Counties of Clearwater, Mahnomen, and Lake of the Woods. Additionally, parts of his current work load--and a large part of his workload over the next year--are related to other areas of planning such as parks and transportation. He writes, "to a large degree, as I get settled in, I have the opportunity to work with communities in the region, helping them to identify and achieve their goals." For example, he is currently working with a community group that is focusing on energy related initiatives.

Grubbs can be contacted by phone at (218) 333-6533, by email at, or on Linkedin.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Walters joins HealthPartners

Paul Walters (MPP '08) joined HealthPartners in October, 2011; he works in the International Development Department as the International Development Project Coordinator. Walters provides program management support for two USAID-funded projects in Uganda and says he "absolutely loves" his job. His responsibilities are quite diverse and include engaging in capacity building with the staff in Uganda, project monitoring and evaluation, taking trips to the field, and ensuring financial accountability of the programs. To expand outreach, Walters seeks partnerships with international nonprofits, foundations, and other institutions engaging in similar work and also explores new funding opportunities. Previously, Walters worked for the American Refugee Committee in the International Programs Department. He can be contacted at

Friday, May 11, 2012

Gillette appointed to Obama's Domestic Policy Council

Jodi Gillette 1.jpgJodi Gillette (MPA '02), an enrolled member of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, was appointed senior policy advisor for Native American Affairs by President Obama on April 26th, 2012. By assuming this position, Gillette will become a member of the Domestic Policy Council where she will advise the White House on issues impacting Indian Country.

"She has been a key member of my administration's efforts for Indian Country, and will continue to ensure that Native American issues will always have a seat at the table," President Obama said in a statement.

Previously, Gillette was a Deputy Assistant Secretary in the U.S. Department of Interior. Before her work in the U.S. Department of Interior, Gillette worked as Deputy Associate Director of Intergovernmental Affairs and Associate Director of Public Engagement; in this role, she was responsible for the communication and interaction between tribal nations and the White House.

Read more here

Riley promoted at Blue Cross and Blue Shield

PRiley.jpgPatricia Riley (MA '90) was recently promoted to the position of senior vice president of government programs, policy and legislative affairs at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota, the state's largest health plan. She is responsible for $2 billion in revenue and 710,000 enrollees. She serves on the senior management team responsible for the success of the $9 billion Blue Cross enterprise, and also serves on the Board of Managers for the Northern Plains Alliance.

Riley has over 30 years of professional experience in health and human services concentrated in the area of government programs including Medicare and Medicaid. She served as vice chair of the American Health Quality Association (AHQA) CEO section and as treasurer of the AHQA Board. She has also served on the board of the American Heart Association Midwest Affiliate, Minnesota Community Measurement Project and the Minnesota e-Health Initiative. In 2000, Riley was awarded one of the 25 Most Innovative Woman award from Twin Cities Business magazine and was also awarded the Outstanding Member Award from the Women's Health Leadership Trust. In 2004, Riley was selected as one of Minnesota's 100 Most Influential Leaders in Healthcare. In 2007, Riley was selected as one of 25 Industry Leaders by the Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal.

Riley can be contacted at

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Maze honored for community service

Maze1.jpgHaila Maze (MPlanning '98) received the 2012 Outstanding Community Service Award for a Community Partner at an awards reception on April 23 sponsored by the University of Minnesota's Offices of Equity and Diversity and Public Engagement. Maze is a senior planner with the City of Minneapolis Department of Planning and Economic Development where, for the last four years, she has specifically partnered with the University of Minnesota, tackling complex issues dealing with many facets of planning. Some of the projects she has undertaken include facilitating partnerships within the Central Corridor LRT project and engaging the Cedar Riverside/West Bank community.

In accepting the Outstanding Community Service Award for Community Partner, Maze writes, "it continues to be a delight to work with the thoughtful, well-educated, and interesting stakeholders who populate this area - including when they challenge my own viewpoints with new information and perspectives."

Maze is in a unique position because the University of Minnesota's Twin Cities campus has constitutional powers to regulate its own land use and, as a result, many conflicts arise among stakeholders around development. Her nominators, Jan Morlock, Director of Community Relations, and Monique MacKenzie, Director of University Planning, note that "it would be the path of least risk and resistance for Haila to avoid the inevitable sturm und drang by keeping as great a distance as possible from the University ... [but] Haila changed the pattern. Her leadership and collaboration have been critical. ... The impact of Haila's thoughtful and creative work can be seen everywhere around the campus area communities."

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Union Gospel Mission to begin construction on new restaurant (news from Ben Johnson, MPA '09)

Ben Johnson (MPA '09) is the Director of Food Operations at Union Gospel Mission (UGM) in St. Paul, Minnesota. In February, UGM signed a lease for a 3100 square foot restaurant site for its food service training program on the northeast corner of University and Dale in Frogtown, St. Paul. The site is owned by Northeast Dale-University (NEDU) and managed by the Neighborhood Development Center (NDC). Johnson notes, "UGM values the partnership between our two agencies whose mission is to serve the community." Construction of the restaurant, named Café 180 to reflect the turnaround in the lives of UGM's clients, is scheduled to begin in May and will open to the public next fall.

Weimann accepts position with Page Township

In March, Kyle Weimann (MPP '08) began the position of Township Clerk at Page Township in the St. Cloud area.