Thursday, September 27, 2012

Werde named president of Affiance Coaching

WerdeErin.jpgErin Werde (MPP '07) is the new president of Affiance Coaching. In this role, Werde oversees all of Affiance Coaching's fiscal operations, marketing, and strategic planning. As president, Werde also dedicates herself to establishing and developing key relationships with clients. Previously, Werde was the capital campaign project manager at Camp Fire USA, Minnesota Council.


Asche accepts position with the Center for Small Towns

KAsche.jpgKelly Asche (MPP '10) is the program coordinator at the University of Minnesota-Morris Center for Small Towns. The Center for Small Towns provides services for communities with populations less than 5,000. These services include community development and support; data analysis and research; evaluation; convening and facilitation; and brokering resources (faculty and students) within the University of Minnesota system. Asche works with small communities to identify their needs in order to connect them with University resources. Asche's favorite aspect of his job is traveling around around the state to meet local officials and nonprofit representatives, visit farmers markets, and eat in cafes.

Asche lives in Hancock, Minnesota, where he tends to a tremendous garden (dozen pepper plants!), practices his mandolin skills at a bluegrass jam every Thursday evening, and rides his bicycle on the back roads.

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Blanks leads theater company in Liberia

JBlanks.jpgJasmine Blanks (MPP '08) is now the executive director of B4--Burning Barriers, Building Bridges--Youth Theatre in Monrovia, Liberia. In August, B4 Youth Theatre premiered Rights of a Child, a play written by students from the Children's Rescue Outreach Center Orphanage Mission in Sinkor, Monrovia. The play was written as a tribute to the passing of the Liberia Children's Law.

B4 Youth Theatre helps children advocate for themselves using the tools of the performing arts. Since 2010, more than 120 children have taken classes in music, dance and theater, producing three original plays that have been performed for audiences across greater Monrovia, Liberia. Leading government officials, including the President of Liberia, have been in attendance at their performances. The children have also played a large part in educating the wider community about issues pertaining to basic human rights for children. All of the issues the children have presented in their plays over the years have been addressed in the Liberia Children's Law that was passed this year. B4 Youth Theatre is planning to expand to five locations in 2013 by training young adults to implement this program model.

A display with more information will be set up at the The World Conference on Remedies to Racial and Ethnic Economic Inequality through the Wilkins Center at the Humphrey School; Blanks will be available to answer questions.

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Check out B4 Youth Theatre's blog:


Lindstrom joins League of Minnesota Cities

In August, Ann Lindstrom (MPP '07) accepted a position with the League of Minnesota Cities as a lobbyist. She continues to be the campaign manager for Representative Jim Davnie who is running for reelection in District 63A. Prior to her position with the League, Lindstrom was the prevention policy director at the Minnesota Department of Human Services, Minnesota Sex Offender Program.


Gadwa Nicodemus makes list of most powerful and influential leaders in nonprofit arts

gadwaheadshotval.jpgAnne Gadwa Nicodemus, (MURP '07) principal at Metris Arts Consulting, and Ann Markusen, Professor Emerita at the Humphrey School, were recently nominated and selected as two of the 50 most powerful and influential leaders in nonprofit arts; they were recognized as top "policy wonks" in the field. This is the fifth annual list produced by Barry's Blog, a service of the Western States Arts Federation.

Their joint paper, "Arts and Culture in Urban and Regional Planning: A Review and Research Agenda," Journal of Planning Education and Research, 2010, was the most downloaded of JPER articles published in 2009 and 2010. Gadwa Nicodemus and Markusen most recently collaborated on California's Arts and Cultural Ecology for the James Irvine Foundation, 2011.

Gadwa Nicodemus speaks widely on creative placemaking, artist spaces, and how to measure and communicate arts and culture's impact on communities. She gives frequent talks at universities, professional and academic conferences, and foundation convenings. This November she will be presenting at the Chinese Creative Industries Forum in Macau, China. For more information and to download publications visit

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Peters joins Imagining America

In August, Scott Peters (MA '93) was named co-director of Imagining America (IA), a consortium of organizations and universities dedicated to advancing the public and civic purposes of humanities, arts, and design. In his role as co-director, Peters serves as a professor in the Cultural Foundations of Education Department at Syracuse University's School of Education. He also is a faculty affiliate with the Program for the Advancement of Research on Conflict and Collaboration at the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs.

Peters has spent his career researching the intersections between higher education and democracy. He most recently published Democracy and Higher Education: Traditions and Stories of Civic Engagement (Michigan State University Press, 2010). Peters also is an associate professor of education at Cornell University.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Small begins work with Jesuit Refugee Services

Mary Small.jpgMary Small (MPP '10) is the assistant director for advocacy at Jesuit Refugee Services in Washington, D.C., where she is responsible for issues affecting forced migrants in North, Central, and South America. Small primarily focuses on Colombian refugees and internally displaced persons, stateless persons of Haitian descent in the Dominican Republic, U.S.-Mexico border issues, and conditions in U.S. immigrant detention facilities. Continuing her previous work, Small also provides evaluation consulting to the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation. Additionally, she volunteers at CASA de Maryland's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Legal Clinic and with Amnesty International to educate and mobilize Maryland voters about a November 2012 ballot initiative to affirm the Maryland DREAM Act.

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Yeo accepts position with Project Malawi

Sarah Yeo (MPP '10) is a program evaluation officer for Project Malawi, an organization that works towards HIV/AIDS prevention. Yeo writes that Project Malawi plans to expand its services to include research on Malaria and maternal-child health.

Bai begins work at UMN's China Center

Mandy Xue Bai (MPP '05) joined the University of Minnesota's China Center as assistant director in June. In this position, she focuses on corporate engagement and community outreach. Previously, Bai was the global enrichment program manager for the Carlson School of Management.


Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Swenson now communications advisor to Gov. Dayton

MSwenson.jpgMatt Swenson (MPP '07) serves as communications advisor to Governor Mark Dayton. Swenson is responsible for communication strategy, planning, and messaging.

Prior to joining Governor Dayton's staff, Swenson served as Director of Communications for the Minnesota Department of Commerce where he advised Commissioner Mike Rothman and department leadership on communication strategy and served as the commissioner's chief speech writer.

Nguyen joins the Northside Achievement Zone

ANguyen.jpgIn July 2012, Angelina Nguyen (MDP '10) started her position as Housing Navigator with the Northside Achievement Zone (NAZ), a nonprofit whose mission is to build a culture of achievement in a geographic zone in North Minneapolis to ensure that all children graduate from high school college-ready. Nguyen is responsible for collecting and channeling housing resources to NAZ families, working with each family to ensure affordable, dignified, and stable housing appropriate to their specific circumstances and needs. She trains and supports NAZ Connectors to improve families with access to housing resources and serves as a liaison between NAZ and its 50 partners.

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Fink awarded juris doctor degree

MFink.jpgMichael H. Fink (MPA '07) received a juris doctor degree cum laude from the New England School of Law in Boston on May 25, 2012.

A Dean's List student and a New England Scholar, Fink also was the recipient of a CALI Excellence for the Future Award for Contracts. He was a class representative, a member of the Student Bar Association and the Law Day Committee, and a volunteer for the Center for Public Health and Tobacco Policy. Fink completed internships at the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau, the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination, and the Massachusetts Department of Housing and Community Development.

Prior to attending the New England School of Law, Fink was the president and owner of the Minneapolis-based company, GWS Promotional Product Solutions, Inc.

Fink hopes to establish a practice in the Twin Cities in domestic relations and business litigation; he plans to serve as a volunteer in public interest law areas such as child protection, juvenile law, and consumer protection.

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Butler begins position with the Ministry of Gender and Development in Liberia

As a JSI Scott Fellow, Aurelius Butler (MDP '10) is now the special advisor to the Minister at the Ministry of Gender and Development in Liberia. In this position, he provides senior Liberian government officials with policy, speech writing, and administrative support. Butler conducted his MDP field experience in Liberia, where he and his team focused on a monitoring and evaluation project.

Anderson begins work with VTC Enterprises

In Janurary, Jerid Anderson (MPP '04) accepted a position as a one-on-one instructor at VTC Enterprises. Based in Santa Monica, VTC Enterprises is a nonprofit organization that provides training and job opportunities to people with disabilities.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Zhao hired as a budgeting analyst at Cirrus Aircraft

In July, Yizhuo (Serene) Zhao (MDP '10) began working as a budgeting analyst at Cirrus Aircraft in Duluth, Minnesota. Zhao's responsibilities include conducting cost-benefit analyses and budget forecasting. She writes, "What I learned in graduate school is helpful in my current work. The company merged with a Chinese general aircraft company last year, so it is interesting to have exposure to both cultures and business operations in the United States and China."

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Baumbach begins research on Norway's Somali population

brandon.pngAs a member of the Fulbright Scholar Program, Brandon Baumbach (MPP '10), recently began a year-long research project in Norway.

Baumbach writes, "Immigration and multiculturalism are at the forefront of Norwegian media and academic study, with a growing interest in the robust Somali Diaspora. It is at this intersection that I will be researching the integration practices of the Norwegian government and the effectiveness of its strategies through a case study of the Somali population in Norway."

Baumbach would like to remind fellow alumni that anyone with a bachelor's degree can apply to the Fulbright Scholar Program; many scholars are new to their careers, while others are mid-career professionals.

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Schommer will continue to work with USAID in Rwanda

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Heather Schommer (MPP '10) recently began working with the USAID Mission in Rwanda as the development outreach and communications officer. Over the summer, Schommer interned with USAID/Rwanda at the U.S. Embassy in Kigali. In this role, Schommer worked in the Mission's program office where she contributed to Mission-wide planning and also served as the organization's liaison with Washington.

She writes, "My time here has been exciting, being able to see both the wonderful progress being made here in Rwanda, as well as more fully understanding the challenges and coordination required to manage country-wide development strategies effectively in such a complex environment."

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Hansen joins staff of University of California-Davis


Britta Hansen(MDP '10) recently accepted a position with the Horticulture Collaborative Research Support Program (Hort CRSP) at the University of California-Davis. Established by USAID, Hort CRSP provides funding to support global horticultural development, improve food security, improve nutrition and human health, provide opportunities for diversification of income, and "advance economic and social conditions of the rural poor, particularly women."

In her new position, Hansen supports Hort CRSP's Regional Centers of Innovation (RCI) and works to establish strong relationships at and within these centers, starting with Thailand, Kenya, and Honduras. She will develop the centers' training and technology programs through collaborative efforts with the centers' host institutions (Kasetsart University, Zamorano University, and Kenya Agricultural Research Institute), USAID Missions, and Horticulture CRSP Project PIs.

Hansen writes, "I am very excited about this new opportunity and starting my career in California! The Humphrey school, especially the MDP program, has prepared me well for all that is to come."

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